Tag Archives: Norfolk Tars

Defending their own Honor

12 Aug

In 1909 the Atlanta Crackers won their second Southern Association championships in three seasons.  Big things were expected for 1910; the team’s two 20-game-winning pitchers Tom Fisher and Harold Johns were returning.

The team the Southern press called “the hitless wonders,” which hit .222 while winning the championship added two new bats, outfielder Arista DeHaven, .336 with the Terre Haute Hottentots in the Central League and Charlie Seitz, .326 with the Norfolk Tars in the Virginia League.

But it took very little for near panic to take hold in Atlanta.

Only eight games into the season the Crackers were 3-5, tied for sixth place.  The Birmingham Age-Herald was ready to pronounce the defending champions finished, and said “there was dissention and dissatisfaction in the ranks.”   The article said that manager Adolph Otto “Dutch” Jordan had already lost control of his team.

The 1910 Atlanta Crackers:  Standing, from Left to right: Arista DeHaven, Charlie Seitz, Paul Sentell, Brown Rogers, Hyder Barr, Roy Moran, and Ed Hohnhorst,  Seated from left: Scott Walker, Hank Griffin, Syd Smith, Otto Jordan, Bick Bayless, Erskine Mayer, Harry Matthews, Harold Johns and Tom Fisher.

The 1910 Atlanta Crackers: Standing, from Left to right: Arista DeHaven, Charlie Seitz, Paul Sentell, Brown Rogers, Hyder Barr, Roy Moran, and Ed Hohnhorst, Seated from left: Scott Walker, Hank Griffin, Syd Smith, Dutch Jordan, Dick Bayless, Erskine Mayer, Harry Matthews, Harold Johns and Tom Fisher.

It wasn’t enough for the team to simply deny the charges; in an unprecedented move they went right to the fans to assure them they were trying to win and happy to be members of the Crackers.

On May 1, The Atlanta Constitution ran a letter “gotten up without solicitation by the boys and the autographs of each and every man is attached hereto:”

A Card to the Faithful Fans of Atlanta:

We the undersigned players of the 1910 ballclub, appreciating to the full the kind of loyal support always accorded us by the good citizens of Atlanta, desire hereby to register an emphatic protest against a statement recently made in a Birmingham paper to the effect that there was dissention among us, and that this dissention, so it was alleged, was the cause of our defeats on the last road trip.

Without stopping to discuss the real reasons which gave us more defeats than victories, we wish to state that it gives us much satisfaction to put our friends on notice that there is not one word of truth in this malicious slander, and further, that we know of no reason why there should be any dissention in our club…It should be further interesting to state, as we do, that the very best of feeling prevails among us all, and there is not one of us who is not doing his very utmost to land another pennant for Atlanta.  We simply ask our friends to continue to put their faith in us, and in return, we desire to give them the assurance that, whether we win another pennant, or not, we are firmly determined to play the best and sincerest ball of our careers—at least so far as honest and persevering effort can aid in bringing about so happy a result.  We confidently hope to amply show both friend and foe, long before the summer of 1910 has passed into baseball history, just how basely we have been misrepresented by this idle and empty charge.

The signatures of the 1910 atlanta Crackers that appeared with their open letter to the fans.

The signatures of the 1910 Atlanta Crackers that appeared with their open letter to the fans.

After the slow start, and their pledge to “play the best and sincerest ball” of their careers,  Atlanta played well the remainder of the season, finishing with a 75-63 record, but the New Orleans Pelicans, behind “Shoeless Joe’ Jackson’s league leading .354 average, and the pitching of 41-year-old Ted Breitenstein (19-9, 1.53 ERA), and 31-year-old Otto Hess (25-9), went wire-to-wire, winning the pennant with a record of 87-53.

Atlanta would not win another pennant until 1913.

A Really Complete Chronology, and Quite a Reason to End up on the Disabled List

10 Oct

The Reach Guide, founded by Major Leaguer turned sporting goods magnet Alfred Reach in 1883, along with the Spalding Guide, founded by Major Leaguer turned sporting good magnet Albert Spalding in 1878, were the annual bibles of baseball.

Both publications prided themselves on providing the most complete chronology of the previous season.

An example of just how complete the Reach Guide could be is found in the 1906 edition.

The entry is about a young pitcher named Gus Bonno.

Bonno was born November 27, 1882 (Baseball reference incorrectly lists his birth year as 1881) in Ohio.  Records for his career are spotty.  After playing for a semi-pro team in Urbana Ohio in 1901 and part of ’02, late that season Bonno appeared in two games with the Toledo Mud Hens in the American Association.  Bonno returned to semi-pro the following season and played for the Paducah Indians in the Kitty League in 1904.

Bonno pitched for the Newark Sailors in the Eastern League and Norwich Reds in the Connecticut State League in 1905.

The Kentucky New Era referred to the Bonno as: “The handsome black haired, black-eyed debonair Italian twirler.”  In fact, nearly every contemporaneous newspaper article about Bonno referred to his ethnicity, which underscores the domination of players of Irish and German heritage in 19th and early 20th Century baseball.

Back to the Reach Guide.

On page 160, for the date September 23, 1905:

“Pitcher Gus Bonno at Cincinnati broke his ankle jumping from a second story window of a young woman’s home to avoid being shot by a jealous rival suitor.”

1906 Reach Guide

Bonno recovered enough to join the Augusta Tourists in the South Atlantic in the spring of 1906, but was sold to the Norfolk Tars of the Virginia League at the beginning of season.  He continued to pitch until 1911 with stops in the Western League and Bluegrass League.

He passed away in Cincinnati in 1964.