Tag Archives: Norwood Gibson

“Nearly Every fan one Meets has a Grievance”

12 Apr

“Baseball, on the whole, isn’t a profitable game to magnates,” wrote Frederic Patrick O’Connell in The Boston Post in 1906.

“More men have been ruined by baseball than one can imagine.  Only a few clubs make money. Every season several minor league clubs go to the wall.

Frederic O’Connell

While many more minor league clubs were organized with the understanding that the team would lose money:

“In the smaller towns, men can always be found who will take a chance, and who, for the sake of the sport are willing to lose money. Most of the minor league teams have the backing of the street railroads. The railroads make big money out of baseball and are willing to help out some.”

O’Connell asked his readers to, “think of the money made” by the Boston Elevated Railroad “in this city,” the previous season:

“At the very lowest the L Road received around $25,000 from the fans who witnessed the big league games…The L Road owns the Huntington Avenue park. (Americans owner) John I. Taylor pays around $7500 rental.”

Further complicating the finances of teams, O’Connell said, was that, “There isn’t one club in the two big leagues” that didn’t exaggerate attendance numbers:

“They do it at the South End (home of the National League Beaneaters) and they do it at Huntington Avenue, but at Huntington Avenue they pad the figures less perhaps than any other city. In Chicago and St. Louis, the figures given are farcical.”

Why they insisted on padding attendance was, “hard to explain” because it caused harm to the magnates who padded figures:

O’Connell said how can players be blamed “for kicking” about salaries when “Daily he reads the attendance figures.”

But despite “how ruinous baseball has been” to many owners, “You will always find men willing to take a chance.”

O’Connell warned that anyone wanting “to hold public office had better leave baseball alone,” because the rabid fan “seldom forgives and never forgets.”

He said, he was stopped on the street the previous week by a fan angry for an error O’Connell, as official scorer, charged Freddy Parent in a game three years earlier.

“It took me off my feet, and while the game had long ago been forgotten by me, my new friend went into every detail, telling me just how it was played and who scored the runs.

“It is now some time since (Boston) Mayor (John F. ) Fitzgerald desired to buy the local American club. Does anyone for a moment suppose he would now be mayor if he happened to own the Collins team last summer?”

The Americans, under manager Jimmy Collins, were never in the race and finished in fourth place, 16 games behind the Philadelphia Athletics.

Jimmy Collins

Had the mayor owned the club:

“Not a single fan would have forgiven him because he didn’t make Collins take out (Norwood) Gibson one day last August, because he didn’t order Collins to send someone to bat for (George) Winter another day…Mayor Fitzgerald has no doubt congratulated himself for this. He is now mayor of the city, and as owner of a losing team he would have surely been beaten, for nearly every voter in Boston is a fan, and nearly every fan one meets has a grievance.”

The ire that Fitzgerald avoided by not buying the team was visited upon the manager, said McConnell:

“When Jimmy Collins won the world’s series from Pittsburg he was hailed as the greatest ever by fandom…How different now.”

Collins lasted until August 25 in the 1906 season, he was let go with a 35-79 record. 

McConnell came from a prominent Massachusetts family; his brother Joseph helped organize the first football team at Boston College and served two terms in Congress.

He became baseball editor at The Post at the age of 23 but died just three years later.

He was with the Americans in the spring of 1907 in West Baden, Indiana when he contracted pneumonia and died after a three-week illness.

“That is something Mr. Chesbro”

5 Feb

In 1905, The Chicago Tribune promised readers that an interview would “Undoubtedly cause a sensation.”

The subject?

“Jack Chesbro for the first time tells of the ‘spit ball,’ by which he won forty-one victories last year”

According to The Tribune:

“All last summer Chesbro persistently refused to tell the secret. Manager Clark Griffith did not know how Chesbro got his control and scores of pitchers in the two big leagues vainly tried to emulate him.”

chesbro

Jack Chesbro

Chesbro attributed “over thirty of the forty-one victories” to his use of the spit ball, and the paper said:

“Many baseball pitchers will be surprised when they read Chesbro’s explanation, and, according to him, fans and experts who have thought they really knew something of the ball have been groping in the dark.

“The wetting of the ball by Chesbro is done simply and solely in order in order that the ball may slip off the index and middle fingers first and from the thumb last…It has been supposed that the spit ball must be pitched slowly. Chesbro, on the contrary, says the ball is only effective when pitched with speed.”

Chesbro told the paper:

“The spitball has come to stay and is easily the most effective ball that possibly be used. It is easy to pitch once you have acquired its secrets. I have never yet read an explanation of it that was anywhere near correct.”

Chesbro said he injured the fingers of New York’s catchers Deacon McGuire and Red Kleinow early in the season, but later he was able to let them know “just how far the ball would drop and whether it would drop straight or outside,” before throwing a pitch.

Chesbro said old time players would find the pitch impossible to hit:

“Cap Anson couldn’t hit the spitball in a hundred years. In fact, I would be willing to bet Anson couldn’t even catch it.”

Chesbro said Norwood Gibson of Boston had “better control of the ball” than any spitball pitcher he saw.  Chesbro said his wild pitch that “gave Boston the pennant” on the final day of the season was because “I simply put a little too much force on the ball,” and because Boston pitcher Bill Dinneen was throwing the spitball too, “so that it was slippery.”

norwood

Norwood Gibson

Chesbro who had seen Elmer Stricklett throw the spitball in Sacramento in 1902 and again in the spring of 1904, said of the second encounter:

“It was down at New Orleans last spring. I saw Stricklett throw one, and I quickly said: That is something Mr. Chesbro, that you must acquire. I watched Stricklett closely and noticed how he wet his fingers. I did the same and soon discovered it was the thumb that did the work”

The Tribune sad Chesbro was spending the winter tending to “two of the fastest horses in western Massachusetts,” one purchased for him by Highlanders owner Frank Farrell which “bears the name spitball.”

After revealing the secrets of his spitball after his 41-12 season in 1904, Chesbro was 66-72 for the remainder of his career which ended in 1909.