Tag Archives: Northern League

“I was Weak as a cat. Then I Began to Feel Old-time Form”

18 Apr

When Rube Waddell signed with his final team, the Virginia (MN) Ore Diggers of the Northern League, a reporter from The Duluth News-Tribune tracked him down at the team’s hotel in Duluth:

“’I am just as good as when Connie Mack found me.’

“Thus spoke George Edward Waddell, better known as Rube in the world of peanut eaters, pop drinkers and umpire roasters, as he sat in a big leather arm chair in the Hotel Lenox lobby.  The reporter had trouble spotting the former star slab-man of the Athletics, who is now a full-fledged member of Spike Shannon’s Virginia Ore Diggers.  A glance at the hotel register disclosed the name ‘G. E. Waddell.’ Then a careful survey of the rainy-day loungers discovered a big, lanky individual, the center of an admiring group, unrolling tales of the diamond between puffs of a perfectly good cigarette.

“When he learned the newspaper’s mission, the Rube waved the others away gently to one side, enclosed our mitt in his big and famous left lunch hook, and began a rapid-fire discourse.

with a jitney in the pot.  Say, I have had two attacks of pneumonia and blood poison all within three months!’  And the big fellow fished out another pill and lighted it from the stump of the late departed one.”

rubesigningorediggers

Cartoon of Waddell that appeared with the original story

Waddell’s first game with Virginia was rained out:

“’Gee, I am sorry it rained and spoiled the game, but I was in hopes it would clear up so I could try my new fishing tackle.  I hear this is a great country for fishing, and believe me; I am going to find out how the steams around here will produce.  But I guess I will try my skill at pool this afternoon.  I can beat them all at pool.  I am going down to the bowling alley before I leave this town and show up a few of the local cracks, too.

Waddell told the paper he was surprised to have been sent to the Northern League by the Minneapolis Millers’ Joe and Mike Cantillon in the spring:

“’I was weak as a cat.  Then I began to feel old-time form and I said:’

“’Mike, I’m ready to join the club.’

“’Why, you belong to the Northern League,’ he told me, ‘Now what do you think of that?’ ‘Had the contract all signed up and didn’t say anything to me.  It made me pretty sore.  Everyone got the impression that I was going back.  There is nothing to it.  My arm is in good shape and I can pitch just as good a game as any of the big fellows today.  Why, I had offers from every Federal League club in the country.”

rube

Rube Waddell

Waddell said he was excited about the future of the Northern League:

“There is a great opportunity for the Northern League.  The clubs are playing good baseball.  Well, I am contented, and I am going to like it fine. I have known Spike Shannon for years.  Well, I am off now to play pool.’”

The paper predicted:

“Waddell will be a big drawing card in the Northern League.  That is certain—if he stays here.”

Waddell only stayed another five weeks, he pitched his last professional game on June 28; he was dead the following April.

“Rube was a Jester, Baseball’s First and Only”

16 Apr

In 1914, Roy J. Dunlap was a reporter for The St. Paul Pioneer Press.  He had come to the paper the previous year from The Duluth News-Tribune where he covered baseball and served as official scorer for the Duluth White Sox in the Northern League.

Shortly after Rude Waddell’s death on April 1, 1914, Dunlap told readers about the final game Waddell appeared in as a pro July 3, 1913 (In his original version, Dunlap said the game was played on June 28, but The Virginia Enterprise and other papers confirm the game was played on the 28th).  Waddell was pitching the Virginia (MN) Ore Diggers against the White Sox.

“Waddell made millions of dollars—for the club owners.  His big, jolly nature never permitted him to turn his jesting to his own pecuniary benefit.  For Rube was a jester, baseball’s first and only.  Beside him Germany Schaefer and Nick Altrock are only superclowns.”

rube

Rube

Dunlap said of Waddell’s final game:

“Those 2,000 or more fans who sat on the bleachers or in the grand stand and doubled up with laughter at the jester’s antics probably never will forget that eventful day.  Perhaps Rube knew it would be his last fling.  The more one thinks of his work in the twelve grueling innings the more he is impressed that Rube felt the intuition of an invisible fate.  Rube ever has been fate’s plaything. Fate molded him into a jester, and has criss-crossed his eventful life since.

“Rube admitted it.  He never could explain why he went fishing the day he was scheduled to pitch while fans called for him and irate managers scoured his old haunts, gnashing their teeth; he never could explain why he went to a fire in the midst of an exciting game or why he rescued drowning men from the bottom of a lake.

“Rube’s last year in baseball was filled with misfortune.  He was stricken with a fever in the training camp at Minneapolis American Association team at Hickman (Kentucky, where Waddle came down with pneumonia after helping to the save the city from a devastating flood) and was not in shape to pitch at the opening of the season.”

Waddell began the 1913 season with the “Little Millers,” the Minneapolis club in the Northern League, and as Dunlap put it:

“The old listless, wandering spirit nature seemed to grip him and he became careless.”

rube

Rube Waddell

Waddell was released by Minneapolis, then:

Spike Shannon…manager for the Virginia team, which was in last place, put in a bid for Rube.  Probably Shannon figured him from a gate standpoint.  His team was a poor attraction because of its cellar position almost from the start.  If that were his motive he made a shrewd move.  Rube Waddell was a drawing card and this power he held until the last.

“Waddell joined the Virginians at Duluth one rainy day early in June.  He was still suffering from a ‘game’ leg, although it was on the mend, and he was able to be in a game once in awhile.”

Then, said Dunlap, Waddell disappeared:

“Shannon knew where he was, but beyond an evasive answer he would shed no light on Rube’s whereabouts.

“The team traveled about the circuit and the fans called for Rube, but Rube was not there.  Then one day, press dispatches carried a thrilling story, and the secret was no more.”

Dunlap here claimed while Waddell was away from the team “camping” he saved two men from drowning—the story likely a conflation of the oft told story of Rube saving a woman from drowning, and his role in recovering the body of a drown man in Tower, Minnesota on July 9, 1913, The Associated Press said Waddell recovered the body, “after several good swimmers had failed.”

At some point in late June, Waddell rejoined the team, pitched and played outfield, and was scheduled to pitch June 28:

“Waddell was advertised to pitch the first game.  The curious fans filled the grand stands and bleachers.  When the big fellow stepped out to warm up he was cheered to an echo.  But underneath it all there was a note of sadness.  None could help recalling his career.  They saw, in their imagination, Rube Waddell standing in the pitcher’s box at Shibe Park, Philadelphia.  They saw him in the height of glory striking out man after man, and heard again the plaudits of the fans.  Then in reality they saw him in a minor league, one of the newest and greenest in organized baseball and Waddell was pitching for the tail enders.

“Waddell had the art of jesting down to a fine point.  He never displayed it to a better advantage than that day.  He knew when to pull the funny stuff and when to tighten.  He did his best to win that game because he knew the crowd expected it.  But he was pitching against a youngster (Harry “Pecky” Rhoades) who was hitting his best stride, and it was youth against ill health and stiffened joints.  Duluth won the game 2 to 1.  Rube fanned 12, but his team did not give him the slugging support.  His opponent struck out 17 Virginians.”

peckyrhoades

Pecky Rhoades

Dunlap continued his story, telling the story of how Rube began the game:

“Rube walked to the plate, keeping step to the hand clapping of the crowd.  He surveyed carefully the pitcher’s box, gave his outfield a careful glance, turned, bowed to the crowd, motioned to the batter to get closer to the plate and put over the first pitched ball-a strike.  The catcher returned the ball, but Rube’s back was turned.  He was looking at something out in centerfield.  The fans shouted but he never looked around.  Suddenly he made a quick step, his face still turned away, put his hand behind his back and caught the ball.

“He retired the batter in short order on strikes.  Rube smiled.”

Both The Duluth News-Tribune and The Virginia Enterprise reported the same score and strike out totals the day after the game, The News-Tribune called the game “One of the great pitching duels seen here.”

Said Dunlap of Waddell’s death:

“Before the end he sent out a little message.  He said in it a few words, but it was a sermon.  Had this commandment been followed by the author the name of Rube Waddell might have been with that of Mathewson today, and fans would be speculating on when he would be too old to pitch.

“This is the sermon-message:

“Tell the boys to cut out the booze and cigarettes.”

“If I ever get this Football Junk out of my Head”

23 May

George Henry Capron had a brief and relatively undistinguished professional baseball career.  He said football was what held him back.

Capron first made a name for himself at the University of Minnesota in 1906.  He excelled at football, track and field and baseball, The Minneapolis Tribune called him “a ten-second track man, a weight thrower, and a splendid ballplayer.”

The Golden Gophers football team was 2-2-1 that season; Capron, the starting halfback and drop kicker scored 44 of the team’s 55 points.  He accounted for all 12 of his team’s points (three four-point field goals) in a loss to Amos Alonzo Stagg’s University of Chicago team.  The Tribune said Capron “Figured in two-thirds of the offensive plays” for Minnesota.

Capron

George Capron

The Chicago Daily News said of Capron:

“(He) is an athlete of exceptional muscular development, although not above the normal size (the 5’ 10” 185 lbs).  he can punt from 50 to 60 yards with little effort with either foot.  The ball after leaving his toe acquires a most peculiar spiral motion, which makes it exceedingly hard to hold…In the work of scoring fielding goals, which appears to be Capron’s specialty, he is unquestionably a star.”

Capron kicking

Capron kicking

Early in 1908, there were rumors that Capron would leave Minnesota at the end of the baseball season and transfer to an Eastern school.  The New York Times said West Point football coach Bob Forbes was attempting to get Capron to accept an appointment, The New York Sun said he was headed to Dartmouth.

Capron chose instead to stay at Minnesota and was unanimously elected captain of the football team on September 14—although later the university would claim he wasn’t elected, but simply called local newspapers claiming an election had been held.  Two days after the “election,’ a scandal caused him to quit the team.

A story in The Chicago Tribune charged that Capron had played professional baseball for the Meridian Ribboners in the Cotton States League during the summer under the name “George Robb,” other reports said he played under the name “George Rapp.”  (The Sporting Life identified him as “Rapp” and “Robb” at various times in 1908).

The story also claimed that he met with “Captain Adrian C. Anson.  The later inquired of Capron’s ability as a ballplayer among local college men.”  Capron, the paper said, wanted to join the semi-pro Anson’s Colts.

Anson told paper:

“I didn’t sign Capron because he didn’t put on a suit and come out…I don’t remember that he said he played professional ball before.  I don’t care, anyhow.  There is no such thing any longer as a strictly amateur college team…They want their real names withheld.  I don’t care, I tell them.  (As long as) they can hit the ball on the snoot and can field decently.”

Sunday's "idol" "Cap" Anson

Sunday’s “idol” “Cap” Anson

Capron denied the charges.   He claimed he had never played professionally and “had never in his life” met Anson.  His denials were quickly dismissed, as his identity was something of an open secret in the South—his election as Minnesota’s captain was reported by several papers, including The Atlanta Constitution, The Atlanta Journal, and The (Nashville) Tennessean –each mentioned his election and that “he played (with Meridian) under the name of Robb,” and that his contract had been purchased by the Mobile Seagulls in the Southern Association.

Faced with overwhelming evidence, he admitted he had played professionally, but continued to deny that he had met with Anson.  It was also reported that Capron had been drafted by the New York Giants, The Minneapolis Tribune said:

(John) McGraw drafted Capron on the recommendations of one of the New York club scouts…but if McGraw was informed as to the real identity of the brilliant young diamond performer he has carefully kept the facts under his bonnet.”

He left school for good in September, and The Sporting Life reported he was “captaining a professional football team in Minneapolis” that fall.   He also admitted, in a letter to the National Commission that he had played professionally under the assumed names “Kipp” and “Katt” for the Mattoon Giants in the Eastern Illinois League in 1907 and in the Northern League with the Crookston Crooks 1905.

In the spring of 1909, The New York World said:

“Capron, the former diamond star of the University of Minnesota, has notified the management of the New York Nationals and of the Mobile Southern League team that he will not join either of them, but has decided to play outlaw ball.”

Capron signed with the Seattle Turks of the Northwest League and immediately went on a tear.  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer said he was hitting a league-leading .324 in his first 19 games.

He also found time to elope with the former Ednah Race, a Minneapolis resident.

At the end of the season, with his average down to .275, Capron told a reporter for The Post Intelligencer:

“’If I ever get this football junk out of my head, I’ll make good in baseball yet.’”

The problem he said, was taking out his frustration:

“’When I got mad when playing football I could charge the line or make a fierce tackle and let off steam,’ continued the greatest kicker Minnesota ever had, ‘but when I get mad playing baseball it is back to the bench for me with a fine plastered on me like as not.’

“’It doesn’t do a man a bit of good to get mad while playing baseball…that rough stuff does not go.”

The paper agreed:

“So many times during the season just closed, Capron was no good to himself or the team because he could not see anything but red and he wanted to fight someone or something.

“Capron had a world of natural ability.  He is far above the ordinary as a fielder and he is a dangerous man at the bat.”

Capron

Capron

Capron was sold to the Vancouver Beavers the following season, but was limited to 35 games as the result of a knee injury.  He hit just .207.

The following spring, the 25-year-old said he was finished.  He told The (Portland) Oregonian:

“No more baseball for me.  I am going to retire.”

The paper said “His teammates sniffed” and were sure he would return, but noted that “he is being sought by several clubs of the Northwest league this year and was tendered contracts by Seattle, Vancouver, and Tacoma, but has returned them unsigned.”  He said his new wife had encouraged the decision.

Capron left baseball and football for real estate.  He sat out the 1911 season.

In January of 1912, The Pittsburgh Gazette-Times said Barney Dreyfuss, president of the Pittsburgh Pirates sent a personal letter and contract to Capron:

“The contract is a ‘blank’ paper with the salary figure to be filled in by the recipient.

“Apparently, Dreyfuss was prompted in this move by some strong boosting out on the Pacific Coast, for in his letter he told George that information had reached him that a first-class ballplayer was going to waste.”

But despite the blank contract, Capron told The Oregonian:

“I guess (Dreyfuss) knows I can murder (right-handed pitching).  My wife says no, however, so it’s me for the bleachers.”

Capron also told the paper he expected his brother Ralph—a former Minnesota Quarterback– to make the major leagues soon—Ralph played one game that season with the Pirates and two the following year with the Philadelphia Phillies.  Following in his brother’s footsteps, Ralph abruptly quit baseball at age 25, before the 1915 season.  George told The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review, his brother “expects soon to marry the daughter of a wealthy Minneapolis merchant, who is strongly opposed to a professional athlete for a son-in-law.”  Opposition from his father-in-law doesn’t appear to have stopped Ralph from dabbling in professional football.

Capron moved from the Pacific Northwest to Long Beach, and later Fresno, California, and found real estate to be more lucrative than either baseball or football.  In 1964, he was worth more than $30 million dollars, when, after 55 years of marriage, Ednah was awarded a $16 million dollar divorce settlement which The Associated Press said was “the largest ever.”

He died on October 26, 1972.

“King of the Bushes”

23 Apr

Edward Francis “Ned” Egan was called “The Connie Mack of the minors” and the “King of the Bushes” during his managerial career.

It is likely that most of the statistics listed under Egan’s name on Baseball Reference and other sources  are for another player or players with the same surname.  Egan’s grave, burial record, birth and death record confirm that he was born on January 13, 1878, in St. Paul, Minnesota–which would make him 10-years-old for the first playing records for the “Ned Egan” listing.  Contemporary references to Egan’s playing career are vague–most say he played semi-pro ball in Minnesota beginning in 1897, and some sources say he was with St. Paul Saints in the Western League in 1901; although his name does not appear on any roster for the team.

What is certain is that his managerial career began 1902 and that he won eight pennants in 16 seasons.

Ned Egan

Ned Egan

Egan won championships in 1902 and 1903 with the Winnipeg Maroons in the Northern League,  then won six more with the Burlington Pathfinders (1906 Iowa League of Professional Baseball Clubs, 1908 Central Association), the Ottumwa Speedboys-Packers (1911,12 and ’13 Central Association), and the Muscatine Muskies (1916 Central Association).  The Washington Post called him “The Central Association’s chronic pennant winner.”

Egan was credited with helping develop several major leaguers including Burleigh Grimes, Lee Magee, Cy Slapnicka, Hank Severeid, and Cliff Lee.

Egan finally got his chance in the high minors in January of 1918, but it happened as a result of a fluke.  Al Timme, owner of the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association announced that Egan would be his new manager.  The Milwaukee Journal said:

 “A very peculiar circumstance brings ‘Ned’ Egan to the local club. When President Temme attended the meeting of the International League in New York some months ago the local prexy opened negotiations with Jack Egan, manager of the Providence club in 1917.  Jack Egan’s name was made public as the possible leader of the Brewers, but the press reports from the east said that ‘Ned’ Egan was being considered by Owner Temme [sic].

“The local baseball headquarters were immediately flooded with recommendations from major leaguers who unanimously stamped ‘Ned’ Egan as the logical man to lead the locals.  Subsequently, Temme [sic], who had not met the St. Paul man, realized that these endorsements of Ned Egan were worth taking stock of and finally he opened negotiations with him.”

Egan was signed to a “provisional contract for 1918, 1919 and 1920.”

Al Timme told reporters he had confidence in his new manager despite the mix-up, and despite the fact he had denied he had any interest in hiring him as recently as a week earlier:

“Ned Egan has devoted his entire life to baseball—is one of the best posted and able men in the game today.  No one has a wider or more favorable acquaintance, especially with major league club owners.  His development of players and many pennants prove conclusively Mr. Egan’s superior ability to build and handle a team.”

Egan returned home to Minnesota in late January, and while ice skating another skater ran into him, knocking him down.  Egan sustained what he thought was a minor back injury.

Ned Egan, 1918

Ned Egan, 1918

In February Egan contacted Timme and told the Brewer owner that the injury was more serious than originally thought; he had fractured two vertebrae and said that a doctor had recommended he resign.  The Journal said:

“Mr. Timme prompted Egan to reconsider.”

A month later after “his fighting spirit kept him on the job constantly,” Egan’s injury became so severe that he was no longer able to walk.  The Journal said:

“The St. Paul man is at present confined to the Sacred Heart sanatorium here, at the expense of the Milwaukee ball club.  He is a nervous wreck…Physicians cannot predict how long Egan will be incapacitated.”

The Brewers then hired Jack Egan, the manager Timme originally sought, to replace Ned Egan.

Egan was still in the sanatorium on May 4 when he was released for 3 days in order “to visit Chicago” and checked into the Grand Pacific Hotel.  On May 6 The Chicago Tribune said:

“Edward F. (Ned) Egan…was found dead with a revolver at his side in the Grand Pacific Hotel shortly after midnight this morning.  He had apparently been dead for hours.  Despondency, brought on by ill health, is believed to have led him to commit suicide.”

The Grand Pacific Hotel Chicago

The Grand Pacific Hotel Chicago

Timme told The Journal:

“So far as I have learned, his condition while at the sanatorium was improving.  I will have Mr. (Tom) Hickey (president of the American Association) obtain the facts from the police at Chicago.”

It was reported that Egan, who “owned considerable property in St. Paul,” was to be married in June.  His first wife had died in 1912, just more than a year after their marriage.  The day following his death, the Cook County Coroner confirmed the cause of death was suicide and said Egan was despondent over his injury.

The Milwaukee Sentinel published a eulogy for Egan written by long-time minor league umpire Oliver Otis “Ollie” Anderson:

“Umpires are supposed to have no feelings—to shed no tears, but they do bow their heads occasionally, and mine is bowed in thought, I have just read of the death of Ned Egan.

“As a baseball genius he was worthy of being compared to Comiskey, as a developer of players he was a Connie Mack, as a winner of pennants he was king of the bushers.  As a friend he was loyalty itself.

“What more can we say.”

Samuel H. Apperious

6 Jan

Samuel H. “Sam” Apperious (incorrectly identified as William Apperious  on Baseball Reference and other sources) led two separate boycotts that contributed to keeping William Clarence Matthews out of organized baseball—four decades before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.

Apperious was born in Montgomery, Alabama; fellow Alabamian Matthews was born in Selma (some contemporaneous accounts wrongly claimed both were born in Selma).

The wealthy Apperious attended Georgetown University.  Matthews, after studying, and playing baseball and football, at Tuskegee Institute and Phillips Andover, enrolled at Harvard University.

Apperious was part of Georgetown teams (1900-1904) that sent several players to the big leagues, including Leon “Doc” Martell, James “Hub” Hart, Charles Moran, and Art Devlin.  Apperious, who was first a catcher and later a center fielder, was considered one of the team’s best prospects.

In 1903, the Boston press reported that Boston Americans manager Jimmy Collins, in need of a second catcher, “tried to get Sam Apperious, of Georgetown, but he declined to enter the professional ranks.”  The following year The Sporting Life said among college players, Apperious was “the hardest-hitting outfielder of them all.”

Sam Apperious

Sam Apperious

Matthews played shortstop at Harvard and received equally as glowing reports.  Samuel McClure’s “Outing” magazine, a monthly sports publication, said Matthews was the best shortstop in college baseball each year from 1903 through 1905.  The Boston Post said he was “the best infielder” in Harvard’s history—this included teammate Eddie Grant who went on to a 10-year big league career.

Apperious and Matthews met for the first time on April 18, 1903.  When the Harvard team arrived in Washington D.C. for a game, Apperious, the Georgetown captain, refused to play.  The Associated Press said in addition to Apperious’ boycott “There were some wild demonstrations of displeasure at the Negros’ appearance in the field but Matthews won the crowd by his brilliant plays.”

The Colored American said:

“Mr. Apperious is no doubt feeling pretty mean, that is, if he is capable of such a sensation.  His want of hospitality, his conspicuous rudeness and their absolute futility must be subjects of unpleasant recollections to him.”

The paper noted that Apperious’ name “indicates his un-American traits,” and said after Matthews demonstrated his talent, several of the other Georgetown players “grew ashamed of their conduct and acclaimed Matthews as heartily as they had sneered at him, but this foreign importation was not sure enough of his own status to imperil it in a contest of brawn and skill with a colored gentleman.”

Harvard won the game 8 to 0.  Apperious would also choose to sit out two additional games against Harvard (one later that season and one in 1904) which led to a short rift between the schools, and a suspension of scheduled games.

In 1905, Apperious was appointed Graduate Coach of the Georgetown team.  He summed up his coaching philosophy to The Washington Times:

“In short the choice of men must be wholly on the man’s worth for the position for which he is trying.”

1905 Georgetown baseball team. Apperious is second from left in the center row

1905 Georgetown baseball team. Apperious is second from left in the center row

Later that year Apperious failed to apply his philosophy to Matthews.

In the summer of 1905 Apperious went to Vermont, as he had the previous summer, to play in the state’s “outlaw” Northern League—the league was notorious for having multiple college players performing under assumed names to retain their eligibility.  Apperious played both seasons for the Montpelier-Barre club (known in the local press as the Inter-Cities or Hyphens).

During his first summer in Vermont,  Apperious had raised some eyebrows on July 21, 1904, when he did not participate in an exhibition game between the Inter-Cities and the barnstorming Cuban X Giants.  The Bennington Evening Banner said the “Southerner refused to play against the colored team.”

Matthews joined the Burlington club at the end of June 1905 to immediate controversy.  The Montpelier Argus said a pitcher named Smith “from the south” had left the team as a result, and Apperious made it known he would not play on the same field as Matthews.  When the Burlington club arrived in Barre for a July game with the Inter-Cities, Apperious made good on his threat and watched the game from the bleachers.

Apperious was condemned in the Vermont press:

The Newport Express and Standard:

“(Matthews) may be his equal in every respect: not only in intelligence, but in performing the part of a gentleman as well.  Certainly so in this instance, so far as Mr. Apperious  is concerned, the much aggrieved white individual in this case…Mr. Apperious had better retire to those places where peonage is still in practice—where he can still vent his spite on the Negro as his little, narrow-minded, measly soul desires.”

The St. Albans Messenger:

“If Apperious wants to show his loyalty to and affection for his native Southland, which is a commendable thing in any man, he could do it better by helping his generation t forget some rank nonsense that used to pass for ultra-refinement and chivalry.”

The Poultney Journal:

“(Apperious) Hails from a state where the best citizens” burn people alive…Good chap.  Too good to play ball with a graduate of Harvard college.  If he goes to heaven will want a box stall all to himself.  Scat! Vermont has no use for him—believes in the doctrine “all men were created free and equal.” Apperious is as good as a colored man—if he behaves himself as well.  Better wash and go South.”

  The Wilmington Times:

“Vermonters like to see good, clean ball, and they are not fussy as to the color of the player who can deliver.”

One of the few exceptions in Vermont was The Montpelier Argus which said Apperious was simply following his “traditions, sentiments and interests,” and “it is rank foolishness to expect everyone to bend to our ideas.”

Apperious also found support from The Washington Post which said: “The college players in the Vermont League (sic) are following the lead of Sam Apperious in ‘cutting’ Negro Matthews.”

The paper also repeated an allegation that Matthews “had played (professional) summer ball every year since he entered Harvard.”  While Matthews had played four seasons on the baseball team and graduated from Harvard, The Post, with no evidence, alleged Harvard “dropped Matthews,” because of the allegations.

Despite Apperious’ refusal to play against him, and reports throughout the season that, as The Boston Globe said,  some opponents were “laying for “ Matthews and he “had been spiked several times,” he completed the season with Burlington. But after a quick start (.314 through 14 games) his average dropped off to .248.

There were rumors in the Boston press that summer that Matthews might become a member of the National League’s Boston Beaneaters, but he never played professional baseball after his controversial season in Vermont and his second run-in with Sam Apperious.

Matthews became an attorney, was actively involved in politics and served as legal counsel for Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey.  He died in 1928.

William Clarence Matthews with Harvard Baseball Team

William Clarence Matthews with Harvard Baseball Team

The rest of Apperious’ story on Wednesday.

 

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #4

22 May

A Ballplayers Hands

Joe Ardner played second base in the National League for the Cleveland Blues in 1884 and the Cleveland Spiders in 1890; he played another 12 years in the minors.  In 1888 he was with the Kansas City Blues in Western League and provided the following explanation of the care and maintenance of an infielder’s hands:

“A ballplayer’s hands should not be hard, they should be soft.  When my hands are in perfect condition they are almost as soft as a lady’s.  Hard hands on a ballplayer will crack and get sore, but when the skin is pliable and tough there is little danger of the hands bruising, cracking or puffing.  Some folks imagine a ballplayer’s hands to be as hard as a board, but they are wrong.”

Joe Ardner

Joe Ardner

They have realized that the Umpire is Almost Human

National League President Harry Clay Pulliam was very pleased with how civilized his league had become by 1908.  In an interview with The Chicago Tribune he said:

“The game is getting cleaner all the time.  Why, I’ve only suspended about half a dozen men this year, to about forty last year, and I want to say that the players are trying harder to keep the game clean…They have realized that the umpires are almost human.  It’s business with the player now, and they’re banking instead of boozing…It’s a grand game, clean, wholesome, and it’s the spirit of contest that gives it its virility.  Civic pride is another vital adjunct to it.  Every town likes to have its own team a winner.  Sort of local pride or another form of patriotism, I call it.”

Harry Pulliam--National League President

Harry Pulliam–National League President

Soo League Night Games

The Copper Country Soo League was recognized as a league for the first time by the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues in 1905; its last season in operation.  The four-team league located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was made up of mining towns along the Soo Line Railroad: the Calumet Aristocrats, the Sault Ste. Marie Soos, the Hancock Infants and the Lake Linden Lakers.

Nearly no records or roster information survives, other than that three future Major Leaguers played in the league: Donie Bush and Fred Luderus played for Sault Ste. Marie and Pat Paige played for Calumet.

In an effort to boost sagging attendance in June, the league first  attempted to merge with the Northern League, and when that effort failed announced a scheduling change.

The Duluth News-Tribune said:

“An innovation…will be introduced by managers of the clubs comprising the Copper Country Soo League.  Owing to the peculiar conditions which exist in some of the cities, it has been decided to play some of the games after supper as an experiment as it is believed the attendance will be larger.”

The Chicago Tribune‘s Hugh Fullerton said:

“(I)n the copper country baseball depends on miners for support…the plan proved quite a success…The miners would come out of their shift at 6 o’clock, the games were called at 6:30 and finished about 8:30 at twilight.  There were few games called by darkness.”

While the move helped three of the teams at the gate, the Sault Ste. Marie Soos failed to draw fans and disbanded late in August.

Calumet won the championship, and along with Hancock and Lake Linden  merged with the Northern league to form the Northern-Copper Country League–Calumet won the league’s first championship in 1906, playing a schedule of day games.

 

Future Phillies star Fred Luderus was a 19-year-old rookie with the Sault Ste. Marie Soos

Future Phillies star Fred Luderus was a 19-year-old rookie with the Sault Ste. Marie Soos

“King of the Natural Hitters”

25 Jan

Percival Wheritt “Perry” “Moose” Werden began his baseball career as a pitcher for the semi-professional team of his employer; the Ira Perry Pie Company in Saint Louis.  He was discovered by the St. Louis Browns who offered him a contract but ultimately signed with the Saint Louis Maroons in the Union Association.

(An oft-repeated story that Werden’s discovery involved him leaving a pie wagon unattended to join a game, resulting in the wagon being destroyed is almost certainly apocryphal, although it has been repeated as fact with little or no support by several writers)

In 1884 the 22-year-old was 12-1 with a 1.97 for the Maroons who at 94-19 won the Union Association pennant by 21 games; despite the strong start, Werden would never pitch in the Major Leagues again.

The Maroons joined the National League the following season and Werden ended up with the Memphis Reds in the Southern League.  He was primarily a catcher a first baseman, and his career as a pitcher pretty much ended; he appeared on the mound in only three games that season and had only 14 more minor league appearances over the next 10 years because of arm trouble.

Perry Werden, 1908

Perry Werden, 1908

From 1886-88, Werden played with five minor league teams and played three games in the National League with Washington in 1888.  In 1889, Werden joined the Toledo Black Pirates in the International League, where he became a great hitter.

Werden hit .394 for Toledo; in 424 at-bats, he had 167 hits, which was the hit record for the franchise for nearly 100 years, finally broken by Greg “Boomer” Wells in 1982 (Wells had 182 hits in 541 at-bats).

Toledo became a Major League franchise the following season, joining the American Association as the Maumees, Werden was the their starting first baseman, hit .295 and led the team in hits, runs, triples, and RBIs.  The Maumees finished 68-64 in their only season.

Werden was sold by Toledo to the Baltimore Orioles in 1891 and had another solid season, leading the team in hits, triples and RBI’s.  The following season he was signed by the Saint Louis Browns to replace Charles Comiskey at first base; Comiskey had jumped the Browns to join the Cincinnati Reds.

Werden hit .256 and .290 in two seasons with the Browns.  In 1894, he returned to the minor leagues with the Minneapolis Minnies in the Western League.  That’s where he became a legend.

In 1894, Werden exploded.  He hit .417 with 43 home runs.  In 1895, he improved to .428 with 45 home runs.

The Western League was no doubt a hitter’s league; eight players with at least 100 at-bats hit .400 or better in 1894 and 11 did so in 1895.  And the Minnies home field, Athletic Park, where Werden hit most of his home runs, was by all estimates a hitter’s paradise with a short (some sources say 250 feet) fence.

Regardless, 45 home runs would remain a professional baseball record until 1920. The Duluth News-Tribune said several years later that Werden hit seven home runs in a double-header in 1895; under the headline “Perry Werden was King of the Natural Hitters:”

“It was one of the greatest batting feats ever seen on a baseball lot anywhere.”

Werden had one last season in the Major Leagues.  At 35-years-old in 1897, he hit .301 for the Louisville Colonels, then returned to the minor leagues where he continued to hit well; .330 for his minor league career.

Werden became an umpire in the American Association in 1907, and became a baseball pioneer in 1908 when he joined the Indianapolis Indians in the same league; he was one of the first full-time coaches in professional baseball.  The Associated Press said:

“Perry Werden will go to Indianapolis to act as assistant manager, coach and advisor in general of the Indianapolis baseball club this year.”

In October The Indianapolis News declared Werden a success in the new role:

“Werden was one of the biggest factors in bringing Indianapolis her first pennant since 1902.  Without his services it’s highly probable the flag would have flown elsewhere”

The Indianapolis Star predicted that Werden’s “novel position,” would become the norm with the Indians, and throughout baseball.

Werden eventually returned to umpiring, working in the western, Dakota, South Dakota and Northern leagues.

His 43 home run season became news again in 1920 as Babe Ruth was closing in on Werden’s professional record.  Werden said there was one player in his era who was Ruth’s equal as a hitter.  Who was it?

Read about it on Monday.

Anger Management

27 Dec

Thomas Timothy “Tim” Flood just couldn’t control himself.

Flood was a solid infielder and somewhat erratic hitter.  As a 17-year-old he hit .364 with the New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern Association in 1894 but hit .266 in his minor league career and .233 as a Major Leaguer.

He had a late season 10-game trial with his hometown St. Louis Perfectos in the National League in 1899.  He was given his next shot in the National league in 1902 when he was signed by Ned Hanlon’s Brooklyn Superbas to fill the void left at second when veteran Tom Daly jumped his contract to join the Chicago White Sox.

Flood was an upgrade in the field, and while a weaker hitter than Daly, he quickly became a favorite of Hanlon who named him Brooklyn’s captain for the 1903 season.

Tim Flood

Tim Flood

1903 was not a good season for the new captain; he continued to struggle at the plate and dealt with a knee injury that limited him to 84 games.  He was also suspended for two games in July for a physical altercation in Cincinnati with umpire James “Bug” Holiday.  Holiday, a former Major Leaguer had a stormy half season as a National league umpire and resigned several days after tangling with Flood.

Flood was released by Brooklyn in March of 1904 and joined the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League.

He was a very popular player in Los Angeles and captained the Angeles in 1904 and part of 1905 until he assaulted Ira “Slats” Davis, another former Major Leaguer turned umpire during a game in June of 1905. Eugene Bart, president of the league suspended flood indefinitely.

Newspapers reported that Flood said he would “never fight another arbitrator whether he is in the right or wrong.”

In 1906, he signed with the Altoona Mountaineers in the “outlaw” Tri-State League, where he appears to have kept his pledge and had an incident-free season.

In 1907, he joined  the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern League and managed to play 29 games before he was in trouble again.  Flood assaulted an umpire named John Conway during a game in Toronto; the attack included a kick to the umpire’s chest.

Flood was arrested.

He was charged with assault and ordered to appear in front of a magistrate. Friends told Flood the hearing would be a formality and that he should plead guilty and receive a small fine.

No one told Magistrate George Taylor Denison who said, “This sort of thing must be discouraged,” and sentenced Flood to “Fifteen days in jail with hard labor.” At the same time Patrick Powers, president of the Eastern League, banished Flood from the league.

Toronto fans were outraged and immediately began circulating petitions which “included the names of several clergymen” and were presented by team officials to Minister of Justice Allen Bristol Aylesworth in hopes of getting Flood pardoned.

Opinions of the punishment varied.  Several newspapers carried the following poem which lamented Flood’s fate for “Sassing” an umpire:

“’Holy Moses!’  In Toronto

There is news to make you pale

Sass the umpire if you want to—

That is, want to go to jail!

There is woe among the batters,

As around the field they scud;

And their pride is torn to tatters

By the fate of poor Tim Flood

Fifteen days in jail for Timmy

Soon the parks will close so tight

That you couldn’t with a jimmy

Let in one small streak of light.”

Others, including two former players, said Flood got what he deserved and implied that his behavior was not limited to the three well-publicized incidents.

Charles “Count” Campau, a former Major Leaguer and umpire, who had been a teammate of Flood’s in New Orleans said:

“I am sorry to see anyone go to jail, but, for the good of baseball. I am glad to see Tim Flood out of it for good. Rowdies of the Flood type are a disgrace to any sport or business, and especially baseball. He was always mixed up in just this way and was chased out of California, where b« was playing, for the same kind of tricks. Umpire baiting was always his long suit, and, from what I can understand, his attack on Umpire Owens [sic] was a most cowardly one: Flood is a good ballplayer, but his hasty temper, his meanness has put him out of the game forever, and incidentally Into Jail.”

Charles "Count" Campau

Charles “Count” Campau

Tim Murnane, Major Leaguer turned baseball writer said:

“Tim Flood has a new record, and will now be in a position to go back to his trade and give up the game he was unfitted for.  The courts all over the country should follow the example of the Canadian judge, who sent a ballplayer to lock-up for assaulting an umpire.  It wouldn’t take many decisions of this kind to drive the bad men out of the sport.  Imagine a player taking a running jump at a man and hitting him in the breast with his spiked shoes!”

Tim Murnane

Tim Murnane

After serving 10 days, Minister of Justice Aylesworth ordered Flood released.  The player, in various reports, claimed he lost between 10 and 16 pounds during his incarceration, citing the poor quality of the food.

President Powers rejected pleas from the Toronto management to reinstate Flood and permanently banned him from the Eastern League; however, contrary to Campau’s and Murnane’s wishes, Flood was out of baseball for less than a month.

Flood was signed before the end of July by the Saint Paul Saints in the American Association and vowed, as he had before, that he was a changed man.

It appears 10 days in jail might have made a difference.  Flood was named manager of the Saints in 1908 and continued to play and manage in the minor leagues for five more seasons, apparently without incident.

In 1914, The Sporting Life reported, with no irony, that Flood was hired as an umpire in the Northern League.

Flood died in St’ Louis in 1929.

A Few Veteran’s Day Remembrances

9 Nov

Lester Wirkkala

PFC Lester Rudolph Wirkkala, pitcher for seven seasons in the Northern League, Nebraska State League, Ohio State League and American Association; killed in action near Gravelotte, France, September 7, 1944.

Roman Wantuck

PFC Roman Wantuck, 34-13 record in two seasons with the Sheboygan Indians in the Wisconsin State League; killed in action on Biak Island, New Guinea, June 16, 1944.

James Whitfield

Staff Sergeant James J. Whitfield, outfielder for the Albany Cardinals in the Georgia-Florida League in 1941; killed in action Angaur, Palau, September 22, 1944.

 

Support Homes For Our Troops.

 

George Treadway

16 Oct

A small item in the Louisville Courier-Journal near the end of the 1893 season created a major stir.  And while the story was almost immediately shown to be untrue, several books and articles over the years have tried to imply that it’s still an open question.

The story about George Treadway was written by Courier-Journal Baseball Editor Sam McKee who was traveling with the Baltimore Orioles of the National League:

“There can be little doubt that Treadway, Baltimore’s right fielder is a Negro…all the players say he is.”

Treadway attributed the story to a former teammate he refused to name, and told The Baltimore News:

“The story is the result of a piece of spite work on the part of a former member of the Baltimore team, and knowing the man as I do, I am not surprised that such a thing could emanate from him.”

Treadway went on to say that he had information about the player which would “Kill him eternally, as far as the baseball profession is concerned, but I prefer not to act in that underhanded way.”

Treadway said the story about him came out of an incident when he was playing with Denver in the Western Association when an opposing player had directed a racist epitaph at Treadway.

George Treadway

Both The Baltimore Afro-American and baseball columnist O.P. Taylor reported that the story was investigated and was untrue.  At the same time it came to light that Baltimore owner Harry Vonderhorst and manager Ned Hanlon had heard similar rumors and conducted an investigation before signing Treadway, The Sporting Life said:

“Manager Hanlon felt satisfied the report was without truth and Treadway was made a member of the team.”

The story quickly went away, but in recent years has been revived, and mostly in the absence of the facts.  For example:

“. . . the writers . . . compared Joe (Jackson) to Treadway . . . but they did not mention that Treadway had been driven out of baseball by opposing players and fans who bombarded him with taunts and slurs about his alleged or real Negro blood.” – From Say It Ain’t So, Joe!: The True Story of Shoeless Joe Jackson

This reference to Treadway, like most, ignores critical facts.  The taunts and slurs must not have been very effective—Treadway remained in the Major Leagues for two full seasons, and part of a third after the story broke, and he was “driven out of baseball” a full 11 years later at the age of 37.

Had there been any evidence that Treadway was African-American his tenure in professional baseball would have been similar in length to that of William Clarence Matthews a decade later.

As the starting shortstop for Harvard University, Matthews faced four years of racial tension and boycotts—when the Crimson faced Georgetown in 1903 Georgetown’s manager,  and the team’s catcher, Samuel H. Apperious (Baseball Reference lists him as “William”) refused to participate in the game.

After graduating Matthews attempted to play professional baseball, signing with the Burlington team in the Vermont-based “outlaw” Northern League.  Upon arriving in Burlington Matthews was faced with another player boycott led by the same Sam Apperious, who was playing for the Montpelier-Barre team in the lead.  While there were rumors that Matthews might play Major League ball it never rose beyond speculation.

Matthews was, in effect,  “driven out of baseball.”

William Clarence Matthews with Harvard Baseball Team

George Treadway was in and out of professional baseball until 1904, but his absences were about the economics of early baseball and not questions about his race: from 1899-1901 Treadway played baseball for various teams in the Chicago area, including the White Rocks in the Chicago City League, while working for the Pullman Palace Car Company.

After leaving Chicago, Treadway played in the Pacific Northwest League and Pacific Coast League.  He stayed on the West Coast and settled in California until his death in 1928.

Matthews became an attorney, was actively involved in politics and served as legal counsel for Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey.  He also passed away in 1928.