Tag Archives: Oakland Oaks

“A Colorful Critter”

17 Feb

John Walter “Duster” Mails was another left-handed pitcher with talent who never lived up expectations and was labeled “eccentric,” or “Another Rube.”

John B. Foster of The New York Sun said:

“Mails’ ability is conceded so far as his arm is concerned, but when it comes to the illuminated phases of baseball Duster must have the center of the stage or he moans in a corner like a monkey with the pip. If he’d make the best use of his left arm, he should be able to win two games for every one he loses.”

Billy Evans, the American League umpire, and syndicated newspaper columnist called him, “A colorful critter.”

In 1925, when the St. Louis Cardinals acquired Mails from the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League for what would be Mails’ third and final shot at the big leagues, Evans wrote:

“Walter Mails has as much natural ability as Rube Waddell and no southpaw ever had more stuff than George Edward.

“Mails has a dazzling fastball. I umpired back of Waddell when he was at his best. If anything, Mails’ fastball had something on Rube’s.”

Mails

Evans concluded that Waddell “seemed to have uncanny control” of his pitches, which Mails lacked.

He argued that given Mails’ personality quirks, he would be “rival Babe Ruth” as a newspaper copy generator if he could recreate his short period of major league dominance in 1920:

“Joining Cleveland late in the season, when the Indians were on the ropes because of lack of pitching, Mails proved the man of the hour.

“Taking part in nine games he turned in seven victories and didn’t suffer a single defeat.”

The Indians won the pennant by two games over the White Sox.

“Late in the season when Cleveland met Chicago in the final and all series between the two clubs, Mails remarked to me before the first game:

“Those birds are made to order for me; If (Tris) Speaker starts me against them I won’t be satisfied with anything but a shutout.”

Mails shut the White Sox out and beat Urban Faber 2 to 0; the September 24 victory increased the Indians lead over the Sox to 1.5 games.

“In one inning, after walking three men a la Waddell, he continued Rube’s trick by striking the next three out.”

Evans’ recall was slightly off.

In the fifth inning, Mails retired Swede Risberg, then walked Ray Schalk, Faber, and Amos Strunk. 

Mails then struck out Buck Weaver and Eddie Collins, The Chicago Tribune said, with a full count, Collins:

“(H)it three fouls in succession, swung at a bad ball and struck out.”

Mails’ dream season continued through the World Series, he relieved Ray Caldwell in the first inning of game three, pitching 6 2/3 scoreless innings in a 2 to 1 loss to the Brooklyn Robins.

Evans said Mails told him:

“If Speaker had only started me that one run we made would have been enough to win. He says he is going to give me a chance against (Sherry) Smith the next time he starts. Those birds will be lucky any time they score on me.”

He shut out the Robins and Smith 1 to 0.

Mails posted a 1.85 regular season ERA in 1920 which ballooned to 3.94 in 1921 and 5.28 in 1922, before he was sold to Oakland.

Mails’ final big-league stint ended like his first two, flashes of brilliance punctuating an overall lack of control and discipline.

He returned to the minor leagues for another decade. 

Early in his career, Mails tried to explain his control issues to The Spokane Spokesman Review:

“In my younger days, my folks used to live just a short distance from the San Quentin penitentiary. It was always a hobby with me to throw stones at the guards on the ramparts to kid them. One day I thought I could get control by aiming at them, but the darn fools always used to be on the move and even today when I am out on the mound pitching, the home plate seems to act like those guards, always on the move. So, you can see I have an excuse coming.”

Coast League Stories

5 Dec

Abe Kemp began working at newspapers in San Francisco in 1907, when he was 14 years old, and spent the next 62 years primarily at The San Francisco Examiner where he covered his two passions, baseball and horse racing.

kemp

Abe Kemp

Over the years he collected a number of stories of baseball on the West Coast.

Catcher Tubby Spencer hit just .127 in 21 games for the San Francisco Seals in 1913. Contemporaneous reports said Spencer wore out his welcome with manager Del Howard in Portland. Years later, Kemp said the decision to let Spencer go was made during a team stopover in Sonoma County, and not by Howard. Kemp said he saw:

“Spencer staggering down the highway at Boyes Hot Springs one morning and President/Owner Cal Ewing yelling at him, ‘Hey, ‘Tub,’ where are you going?’

“’I’m going for a little air,’ yelled back Tub.

“’Then keep going,’ shouted Ewing, ‘because you will need it. You’re through.’”

tubbyspencer

Tubby Spencer

Harry “Slim” Nelson was a mediocre left-handed pitcher and weak hitter who played a half a dozen years on the West Coast. Kemp told of witnessing him “hit a home run through the screen at Recreation Park” in San Francisco when Nelson was playing for the Oakland Oaks.

“(He) became so excited when he reached second base that he swallowed his cud of chewing tobacco. Later on the bench, Slim was asked how the home run felt and he replied ‘it would have felt a whole lot better if I could have cut it up into singles to last me the season.”

Kemp said when George Van Haltren made the switch from Oaks player to Pacific Coast League umpire in 1909 he told Kemp and umpire Jack McCarthy “umpiring would be easy…because he had so many friends,” throughout the league. Kemp said McCarty responded:

“You mean you had so many friends. You haven’t any now.”

McCarthy appears to have been correct. Van Haltren was criticized throughout his short time as a Coast League umpire, and became a West Coast scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates the following two seasons. Van Haltren made one more attempt as an umpire, joining the Northwestern League staff in 1912; he was no more successful, lasting only one season after incurring the season-long wrath of Seattle Siwashes owner Dan Dugdale who demanded Van Haltren not be retained for the 1913 season.

George Van Haltren

Another player who had similar training habits to Tubby Spencer, according to Kemp, was Charles “Truck Eagan. Kemp said he was with Vernon Tigers manager Wallace “Happy Hogan” Bray one day when Eagan played for the Tigers near the end of his career in 1909:

“Eagan, suffering from the effects of a bad night (told) manager Hap Hogan he was suffering from an attack of ptomaine poisoning.

‘”What did you eat’ the artful and suspicious Hogan asked.

“Eagan scratched his head a minute, then said guiltily, ‘It must have been the (bar) pretzels and herring, Hap.”

The Baseball Bandit

28 Jun
Frank Quigg hit .313 and went 1-0 as a left-handed pitcher for the Topeka Capitals in the Western Association in 1893; no statistics exist for the remainder of his career which included stops in the Southern Association and Texas League.

After he was done playing, Quigg became a pioneering figure in Oklahoma, organizing professional ball in the state with the creation of the Southwestern Association in 1901.  Quigg managed the Oklahoma City team in that league until 1903.  He also spent some time as an umpire in the California League.

An article in The Wichita Eagle in 1901 about the Southwestern Association provides interesting insight into the finances of turn of the century minor league baseball:

  “The salary limit of the league is to $450 per month and room and board for the Players…home teams paying the visiting club $25 per scheduled game, rain or shine.”

“The umpires are to receive $2.50 a game plus transportation.”

Later Quigg became an umpire in several leagues.

Bobby Eager, a former Pacific Coast League catcher, claimed he was the instigator in an incident that led to Quigg quitting his job as an umpire. Writing in The San Jose Evening News, Eager said the incident took place in Los Angeles during a game with the Oakland Oaks:

“Quigg was umpiring and he seemed to have an off day. I kept after him about not calling (strikes) and (Bill) Red Devereaux happened to be at the bat when (Quigg) missed one that was squarely over the middle.”

Eager said the pitch should have been the third strike and “hollered” at the umpire:

Bobby Eager

Bobby Eager

“And Devereaux immediately took up the umpire’s part by saying ‘What’s the idea? Are you going to let Eager run the game and do the umpiring too?  Throw him out of the game and take some of his money, he’s trying to make a bum out of you.’”

Devereaux singled on the next pitch, driving in a run. Eger said he “put up a holler” and was ejected and fined $10.

The next day Eager sought to pay Devereaux back:

“I kept telling Quigg that all that Devereaux did was try and bull the umpires and that he boasted downtown that he got him, meaning Quigg, to chase me out and that he knew that he was out on the third strike.  This statement made Quigg pretty sore and about the fifth inning he called bill out on third on a close decision. Red Dog sure told him a few things and the result was he ran Bill out of the game and fined him $10.”

Devereaux

Devereaux

Devereaux attempted to attack Quigg and police were called to escort him from the field and the fine was raised to $25.

Devereaux, now in the stands, began to heckle Quigg to an extent that the game was again halted and the police officer escorted Devereaux to the clubhouse.  According to Eager, and contemporary accounts, Devereaux was just getting started.

“He was on the roof waving a red flannel shirt and running up and down like a monkey; everybody laughed and enjoyed it more than the bad game.  Somebody went over and slipped Bill a pair of false whiskers and about the eighth inning he came back to the bench and sat there, and when the umpire wasn’t looking he went over to third base and was getting ready to play, when Quigg saw him.  Of course Bill wouldn’t be allowed to play, but it was some minutes before the umpire got wise as to who he was.  I never saw such a demonstration in my life, and people just went wild.”

The day after the incident, The Los Angeles Examiner said Devereaux was suspended “for his abuse of Quigg” and:

“Umpire Quigg resigned his position.”

The paper said his decision was the culmination of the events the previous day, and an incident two weeks earlier when San Francisco Seals pitcher Clarence “Cack” Henley threw a baseball at Quigg during an altercation.

The umpire joined the Texas League the following season.

Throughout his career, Quigg had an excellent reputation in baseball circles. His father was a Civil War veteran, and according to The Associated Press, his brother George served under Theodore Roosevelt with the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War.  Contemporaneous newspaper accounts described the family as being extremely wealthy—already well off; Quigg’s mother married another wealthy man after the death of her first husband.

All of which made what happened next so unusual.

On December 31, 1909, Quigg and four other men attempted to rob the bank and post office at Harrah, Oklahoma.  Newspaper accounts said the robbery was well planned but that one of Quigg’s associates had discussed it with a friend who reported the plan to postal authorities.

John Reeves “Catch-‘em-alive” Abernathy, who was appointed as Oklahoma’s first US Marshall by his good friend, and Quigg’s brother’s former commanding officer, President Theodore Roosevelt, staked out the post office and attempted to the apprehend the robbers as they entered through a back door. Abernathy didn’t “Catch-‘em alive” that day.

abernathy

Abernathy

As the robbers attempted to escape Abernathy and his men shot three members of the gang. Quigg, who was living under the alias Barney and an associate named Frank Carpenter were killed.  One robber was wounded and captured while two escaped.

In the aftermath of Quigg’s death, it was reported by several newspapers, including The Abilene Daily Reflector, his hometown paper, that the gang had recently pulled off successful post office robberies in Trinidad and Golden, Colorado.

Most newspapers continued to paint Quigg as a good man gone wrong for no apparent reason, other than a vague observation about his mother’s remarriage:

“The match did not please the son.”

But one paper, The Arkansas City (KS) Traveler saw it differently:

“(Quigg) worked this town for several hundred dollars a few years ago, got the money, organized a club, went to Enid (OK) and that was the last ever seen of him by his backers.  He was a booze-fighter by the full meaning of the word and if there was any good in him it never came to the surface so the public could catch a glimpse of it.

Whatever the reason for his descent into a life of crime, it appeared Quigg hadn’t completely given up on baseball at the time of his death.  According to The Fort Wayne Sentinel he “Had an application in (to work as) an umpire in the Central League” for the 1910 season.

I published a  shorter version of this post was published in September of 2012.

“Probably the ‘Boniest’ Bonehead Play Ever”

22 Jun

While some of the details changed in subsequent tellings, this story stayed substantially the same from when it was first presented in a column by sports writer William A. in 1913, until the final published version in 1957 in The New Orleans Times-Picayune.  One version called it, “Probably the ‘boniest’ bonehead play ever”

The story was told by and told about lefty Evan “Rube” Evans.  Born on April 28, 1890, in Sebring, Ohio, Evans was a career minor league pitcher who, when the story first appeared, seemed to be headed to the big leagues. 

Rube Evans

Rube Evans

The tall–he was reported by various sources as anywhere from 6′ 2″ to 6′ 4″–began his professional career with the Dallas Giants in the Texas League in 1910; he was 15-12 for the pennant winners, but The Dallas Morning News said he didn’t “take baseball seriously” until the following year, when he was 18-16 for the Giants:

“Before that, it seemed, the big, husky flinger looked at playing baseball something in the light of a joke.  Last season, though he came back into the game with a different viewpoint. He seemed to realize that ball playing was a man-sized business.”

After his 1911 performance, Evans’ contract was purchased by the New York Giants, and he joined the team for spring training in Marlin, Texas in 1912.  The Morning News said if he maintained his new found focus “and works as hard as he knows how to work he ought to stick.”

Evans quickly impressed the Giants with a pitch “takes a most freakish break,” according to The Washington Times:

“Rube Evans, the Giants left-handed recruit pitcher from Dallas, surprised bot Manager (John) McGraw and Coach Robby (Wilbert Robinson) by showing them a curve that is entirely new to the big league…The ball is delivered in exactly the same manner as the spitball, but he does not moisten it.”

The paper did not elaborate on how Evans’ “dry spitter” was different from versions reported on during previous seasons–including the one thrown by Christy Mathewson of the Giants–but according to The New York World, “McGraw says he will try and teach it to Rube Marquard.”

Despite his “dry spitter,” Evans failed to make the team and was returned to Dallas where he posted a 22-12 record for the Giants.

In 1913, he joined the New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern Association but appeared to be headed to the Cleveland Naps before he threw a pitch in the regular season for the Pelicans.  In March, Evans shut down the Detroit Tigers 3 to 1 on five hits and followed that up with a four-hitter (and 3 to 1 victory) against the Naps.

The Cleveland Press said, “(Naps Manager Joe) Birmingham plans to cut down his squad considerably.  It is said recruits (Hugh) Peddy, (Pete) Shields and (Ward) McDowell will be left here in trade for one good pitcher, probably Southpaw Rube Evans.”

With Evans apparently on the verge of joining the Naps, the story of his “bonehead” play was told by Phelon, then repeated widely:

“(Evans) has one curious habit—a trait which has aroused much wonder on the part of every manager under whom the southpaw has been toiling.  When given an order by his manager or captain, Mr. Evans always stops, cocks his ears, and demands a repetition of the directions.  Naturally he is first taken for a simp, or bonehead, but when further acquaintance with him shows that he is a gentleman of intelligence and high mentality, the field leaders are muchly puzzled.

“’I always want my orders repeated,’ quoth Mr. Evans, ‘so that I will never again make such an error.”

(The 1913 version of the story, which quotes Evans,  places the incident in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, some later versions say it happened in 1913 with the Pelicans, still others say it was in Portland, Oregon; however, the original publication predates Evans’ time on the West Coast which did not begin until May of 1914).

Evans said he had pitched into the ninth inning when the opposing team put a runner on third with one out, when his manager told him if the other team attempted a squeeze play to “bean him.”  Evans said:

“’I knew no more what a squeeze play was than the man in the moon, but my orders rang in my ears as I started winding up.  Just as a swung up my arm, the fellow on third tore for the plate…I took careful aim at the oncoming runner, and pickled him with a fine shot to the back of the cranium.  Three seconds later the crowd was coming towards me with roars of fury, and I got over the back fence just in time.

“’Well how was I to know that I should have hit the batter and not the runner?  Ever since I have insisted on duplicate orders, so that I would know just what to do.’”

His acquisition by Cleveland never materialized and he had a disappointing 12-15 record in 1913, in a season split between New Orleans and the Birmingham Barons.

It is also in question whether Phelon’s characterization of Evans as a “gentleman of intelligence and high mentality,” was entirely accurate given his inability to stick with clubs who were impressed with physical abilities.  After his second chance to pitch in the majors didn’t materialize, the remainder his of career was marked by long stretches of mediocrity, charges of bad behavior and comparisons to another left-handed “Rube.”

In August of 1913, he was suspended for the remainder of the season by the Birmingham Barons for, according to The Birmingham Post-Herald, “Failure to keep in condition.”  The Sporting Life’s Chandler Richter called him “Erratic,” The Oakland Tribune said he was”Eccentric,” a wire service retelling of the “beanball” story from 1915 said he “earned a nationwide reputation as a ‘squirrel,” another called him “the real eccentric,” when compared to Rube Waddell.

The other left-handed Rube

The other left-handed Rube

His two-year tenure with the Portland Beavers in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) began when he wore out his welcome in New Orleans in May of 1914 and was sold to the Beavers.  It was particularly rocky.  The Spokane Daily Chronicle said Evans and Beavers manager Walter “Judge” McCredie “got along like a pair of strange bulldogs.” He was suspended at least once, again for the euphemistic “failure to be in proper condition,” and gave up a game-winning home run to Jack Ness of the Oakland Oaks when he accidently threw a pitch over the plate while attempting to intentionally walk Ness.  At the close of the 1915 season, Portland let him go for what The Portland Oregonian called “His inability to take care of himself.” Of his 9-22 record the paper said:

“Rube ran into gobs of adversity.”

After leaving Portland, Evans played parts of three seasons for the Salt Lake City Bees in the PCL–in 1917 he was 21-9, but when McCredie was named manager of the Bees in 1918, Evans time with the team was nearly over.  Before the season, The Oregonian said, “Evans did not take kindly to the idea of having to take orders” from his former manager and was threatening to jump the club.  He finally did jump in June after appearing in 14 games and posting a 3-8 record.

Evans went to Portland and finished the 1918 season in the semi-pro Shipyards League, The Oregon Daily Journal said upon his arrival:

“Rube Evans was through at Salt Lake and McCredie was probably saved the trouble of wearying his hand by writing out Rube’s release, when Rube left.”

In 1919, he played for the Rupert franchise in the semi-pro Southern Idaho League; while successful, his reliance on the emery ball for his success didn’t make him friends.  The Twin Falls Times said:

“When Rube Evans lugged the emery ball into the S.I.L. he failed to do anything beneficial to the league.  Rube will win a few more games for the Rupert club, but he has lowered the standard of sport in the league.”

Evans had one more season in professional baseball, posting a 10-7 record with the Regina Senators in the Western Canada League in 1920.  In an August 15 doubleheader against the Edmonton Eskimos Evans was ejected for arguing with the umpire while facing the second batter of the first game; he came back to lead the Senators to 5 to 3 victory in the second game, giving up two runs in 7 2/3 innings, and hitting a three-run home run in the sixth.

Rube Evans

Rube Evans

After the 1920 season, he returned to Ohio and spent the next decade playing semi-pro baseball there and in Western Pennsylvania.  His last headlines came in 1924 when he pitched six innings for the Sharon (PA) Elks team in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees.  The Elks lost 10-8, Babe Ruth went 2-4 with a double for the Yankees.

Evans’ playing days ended in Akron, Ohio.  He pitched for and managed the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company team, and stayed on with the company as a rubber worker.  He died on January 30, 1950.

A clue to some of Evans’  erratic behavior is contained in his death certificate.  The pitcher spent the last three and a half years of his life in Ohio’s Cambridge State Hospital; his cause of death was listed as “General Paresis,’ brought on by syphilis.

A shorter version of this post appeared on June 3, 2013

“A Pork Jinx on the Club”

4 Mar

To mark the Oakland Oaks 1916 home opener, J. Cal Ewing, generally known as “The Godfather of the Pacific Coast League” presented Oakland Manager Harold “Rowdy” Elliott with a gift:  The Oakland Tribune said:

“Ewing gave to the Oaks a mascot in the shape of a real ‘rooter,’ a yearling pig, which was kept on the players’ bench throughout the game.”

The Oaks cruised to a 10-2 victory over the Portland Beavers in front 15,000 enthusiastic Oakland fans, and the superstitious among the ball club and their fans attributed the win to “Margaret,” the new mascot.

The Oaks played well in April, and were in first place until the end of the month, but by mid May they were 16-21, fifth place in the six-team league—and it was noticed that no one had seen “Margaret” for some time.

Rowdy Elliott with Margaret

Rowdy Elliott with Margaret

The Tribune was convinced the disappearance of the pig was responsible for the team’s decline:

“Suffering Pigs!  A Pork Jinx on the club!…The wrathful shade of a female porker is responsible for the Oaks’ slump.  Maggie the Pig was compelled to shuffle all her porcine coil to the accompaniment of roast apples and cranberry sauce, which is no nice way to treat an emblem of Good Fortune.”

The paper also noted that the club’s secretary also worked as a cook, and Ewing should have “had sense enough” to take that into account before presenting the team with a pig.

And, the paper composed a poem:

O Maggie, dear, and did ye hear

   The news that’s goin’ round?

The Oaks are losing day by day

   And soon they won’t be found.

They’ve ingestion badly.

   And they’re looking for the hook

They can’t play ball at all, at all

   Since you went to the cook.

It became a bit of a scandal.

The Oaks quickly denied that the pig had been eaten:

“They say the trouble is that they haven’t eaten her pigship.  Margaret was given to the ground keeper to preserve, and that personage refuses to produce the pig.”

Rowdy Elliott was quick to tell The Tribune the reason for the club’s slump had nothing to do with the team mascot.  He said the blame was clearly the result of another team’s mascot:

“Elliott says the Oaks’ slump can be attributed to no less a personage than Erasmus Pinckney Johnson.”

Johnson was the mascot for Frank Chance’s Los Angeles Angels—The Los Angeles Times said the young African American boy had been found, on Chance’s orders, in late April in order to break a week-long losing streak. The Times routinely described “the good luck charm” in the most racist terms.

Part of the “luck” Johnson brought was derived from rubbing the young mascot’s head.  Elliott claimed during the Oaks’ last series in Los Angeles he had rubbed the Johnson’s head “the wrong way.”

“Since that moment Rowdy has had little luck, winning only two games out of the last fourteen played.  Erasmus hasn’t been doing much for the Angles of late, for Chance’s crew has been in a slump, but he has at least succeeded in wrecking the Oakland club.”

Frank Chance

Frank Chance

So desperate were the Oakland fans for answers that The Tribune enlisted two prominent fans, an Alameda County Circuit Court judge and a local doctor to do a “psychological study of the team.”

“Judge Wells…has come to the conclusion that the team has worked itself into a jinx, and needs the aid of the pig mascot they had in the opening game to pull them through.  Dr. Halsey agrees that hits, pitching fielding and psychology and all may have something to do with it, but the real reason, according to the doctor, is that the boys are suffering from a nervous breakdown that followed shortly after seeing such an enormous crowd at the opening game.”

Things quickly got worse for the Oaks. Elliott was suspended for several days for throwing a ball at umpire Jack Doyle, and the team continued to lose in June, and then for the rest of the season.

At the end of July Elliott was sold to the Chicago Cubs, George “Del” Howard, who had purchased the club during the season, replaced him as the Oaks’ manager.

Oakland finished 1916 in last place with a 73-136 record.  Chance’s Angels overcame their May slump and easily won the championship with a 119-79 record.

Margaret the pig was never heard from again.

“Either they think that Everybody is Gullible, or else they are Weak Mentally themselves”

19 Nov

Until a broken ankle in 1902 slowed him, George Van Haltren was one of baseball’s best leadoff hitters; a .316 hitter with 2544 hits during his 17 seasons.   After a disappointing 1903–.257 in  84 games—his major league career was over, and he went home to the West Coast where he spent six seasons in the Pacific Coast League (PCL).

George Van Haltren

George Van Haltren

A member of the Seattle Siwashes during his first year in the PCL, Van Haltren was asked by The Oakland Tribune—the paper called him “an ultra-scientific batsman,” to share his expertise:

“Every ball player occasionally meets other players who call themselves ‘place hitters.’  The assertions of the majority of these players are such that either they think that everybody is gullible, or else they are weak mentally themselves.  They tell you they ‘can put the ball where they please,’ and that ‘it is easy when you know how.’

“Never take any stock in such twaddle.  These place-hitters would be just the men to have around when the ‘fans’ are calling on the home team to ‘hit ‘em where the fielders ain’t!’  But when it comes to delivering the goods, I have noticed, they are generally short.

“As a matter of fact, the batter often tries to hit to a certain field, and sometimes he is successful, but no man can give a guarantee when he goes up that the ball he hits will take any special direction.  If place-hitting could be carried out to the fine point that some players say they have it, they would be able to hit safely every time they came up.

“To the young player I would say: Don’t get in the habit of planting your feet on the ground and not moving them until you have swung at the ball.  Get a stride and advance a little toward the ball as you hit.  Do not step too far and accustom your eyes and hands to the change such a step makes.  Learn to hit squarely every ball that passes over any part of the plate between the knee and shoulder, and devote the most practice to what you are weakest on.

“Learn to think and act quickly and to keep your head at all times.  In a contest do not always do the same thing under the same circumstances.  Give your opponents a surprise whenever you possibly can.”

By the time he arrived on the West Coast, Van Haltren was no longer able to give his opponents “a surprise” as often as he could before the ankle injury; he hit .270 for Seattle in 1904, he played five seasons with the Oakland Oaks, hitting .255 before retiring in 1909.

Van Haltren died in 1945 without ever drawing serious Hall of Fame consideration.  A good argument for his enshrinement can be found here.

Franz Hosp

19 May

Franz Philip Hosp Jr. was born in Cincinnati in 1884 (some records, including cemetery documents and his grave say 1883).  His father was a well-known landscape architect and horticulturist who moved the family to Riverside, California in 1888.

The elder Hosp was responsible for many projects in the Southwest and Southern California; he is probably most famous for his landscaping of Victoria Avenue in Riverside, which remains a tourist attraction and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and for planting the gardens at the El Tovar Hotel in Grand Canyon National Park.

The family also ran a successful nursery in Oceanside, California  and Hosp worked with his father while playing baseball in the San Diego area.

Franz Hosp

Franz Hosp, 1909

In December 1906 he pitched for the San Diego Pickwicks (sponsored by San Diego’s Pickwick Theater) of the California Winter League.  Hosp quickly caught the eye of West Coast professional teams; according to The Los Angeles Times he had a streak of thirty-one scoreless innings that winter and “fanned as many as eighteen men in a single game.”

The Los Angeles Herald said two teams, The Butte Miners and the Seattle Siwashes of the Northwestern League, had already “tried hard to secure his services,” when he pitched against the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) in a February exhibition game in San Diego.

The Associated Press said the game

 “(W)as the first time in which he allowed as many as seven hits, and after doing, he took a brace and fanned out an equal number of Los Angeles’ best artists, with the result being that the Angels’ manager (Henry ”Hen”  Berry) lost no time in annexing Hosp to his own aggregation.”

Hosp said he chose to play with Los Angeles so he could continue working at the family business in Oceanside.

The pitcher was a popular member of the Angels.  The Los Angeles Herald said:

“Pitcher Franz Hosp is not only one of the best twirlers in the coast league, but he is also one of the most genial boys who ever donned a baseball uniform.  Hosp has forgotten more baseball, young as he is, than many of the swell headed players who roar at decisions have ever learned.”

The Times said of Hosp, who also played second base and shortstop:

“His work in the field and at the bat is equal to his performance in the box making him one of the best all-around men in the business.”

Hosp was 12-7 with a 2.73 ERA for the PCL champion Angels in 1907; he also played 13 games in the infield, hitting just .105.

franzhosppix

Franz Hosp

The following season Hosp (22-14 2.02), William “Dolly” Gray (26-11, 2.12), and Walter “Judge” Nagle (24-10, 1.94) led the Angels to another league championship.  On July 26 he had the most embarrassing moment of his career during a game with the San Francisco Seals.  The San Francisco Chronicle said:

“Hosp of the Angels established a unique and startling record yesterday afternoon, one that bids to stand a long time in baseball circles.  Not only did he literally pitch the game away, but in one inning—the fourth—he walked six men and hit two more, forcing in five runs across the plate without a hit by the Seals.  Not a ball was hit out of the diamond.”

(Just more than a year later, August 28, 1909, Hosp’s former teammate Dolly Gray, now a 30-year-old rookie with the Washington Senators, set the major league record by walking eight Chicago White Sox batters in one inning).

Hosp was 16-14 in August of 1909 when he was signed by the Cincinnati Reds for 1910.  Within a week he hurt his arm and did not pitch again for the remainder of the season.

By the spring of 1910 there were conflicting reports about the condition of Hosp’s arm.

The Times reported that according to Angels pitcher Andy Briswalter:

“Franz Hosp, whose clever pitching resulted in his purchase by the Cincinnati Reds, may never play ball again.”

The Herald said Hosp:

“(D)enied with considerable indignation the story purporting to be an interview with Andy Briswalter.  According to this story, Hosp’s arm was said to be in such condition that he might never play ball again.  While Hosp was overworked last season, when his sensational work with the Seraphs resulted in his being purchased by the Cincinnati Reds, he stated that he never felt better and that the rest of the past winter overcame any inconvenience or ill effects.  Hosp says he hasn’t seen Briswalter in six months.”

Hosp joined the Reds in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and was first tried in the outfield.  The Cincinnati Enquirer said after his debut:

(Ward) Miller and (George “Dode”) Paskert will have a dangerous rival for the right field job in the person of Franz Hosp, the recruit from the coast, who was signed as a pitcher but will try out as a fielder…He is a right-hand hitter, a good-sized, well-built fellow, and meets the ball square on the nose.  He came to bat five times; made a double and two clean singles…He showed a lot of speed on the bases and appears to be a kid who will bear watching.”

When finally given a chance to pitch, against the Boston Red Sox on March 25, after two scoreless innings, he gave up four singles and doubles to Harry Lord and Tris Speaker, in the third, resulting in three runs and was lifted for a pinch hitter the following inning.

Hosp was also tried in the infield where he “has made a fine impression.”  But it wasn’t enough to stick with the Reds.

The Herald reported in early May:

“Franz Hosp, one of the best pitchers who ever worked in the Coast League and who was released to Los Angeles by Cincinnati almost ten days ago because his pitching arm is kafluey for a time is warming up with the Angels every day and Hen Berry thinks he will get back into pitching form again soon.  He is a crack infielder too, and a heavy sticker, so it is dollars to cents that he will not be idle long.”

Hosp made his mound debut for the Angels on May 20; he pitched a complete game, losing 5 to 3.  The Herald said:

“Hosp showed excellent form for a pitcher who has been out of the game as long as he, and with a weak and sore arm, and he should be able get back to his best form with a little patience and careful slab work until his arm is ripe again.”

The paper was wrong, the extent of Hosp’s activity as a pitcher after that game was four innings in three games over the next year and a half.

Hosp was released by the Angels on June 15, along with Briswalter, who The Times claimed four months earlier had said  Hosp’s arm was shot; Briswalter had not recovered from a hip injury sustained during the 1909 season, he developed Tuberculosis of the injured bone and died in 1912.

Andy Briswalter

Andy Briswalter

 

Hosp continued to play for a decade.

Within weeks he was signed to play shortstop for the Vernon Tigers.   He hit just .240 for the Tigers, but The (Portland) Oregonian called him “a nifty fielder.”

Hosp became the team’s regular shortstop, through their move to Venice, California.  He hit .261 in 1911, and 1912, .255 in 1913, and then slipped to .208 in 1914.  He was released before the 1915 season and played for the Wichita Witches in the Western League.  He returned briefly to the PCL at the end of 1915, but was released by the Oakland Oaks prior to the 1916 season.  He returned to the PCL in 1918, playing for four teams over the next three seasons, ending his career after 56 games with the Salt Lake City Gulls in 1920.

Hosp returned to Southern California where he played and managed for semi-pro and industrial league teams and lived in Los Angeles.

On June 30, 1928 he was killed in a car accident on Coast Highway (US 101) 16 miles north of Oceanside.

“One of the most Astonishing Pennant Drives in Minor League History.”

16 Oct

After the Pacific Coast League’s (PCL) war-shortened 1918 season, John “Buddy” Ryan joined a team in Seattle’s Puget Sound “Shipyard League,” as a player/manager, but suffered a leg injury in September.

When the PCL reorganized for the 1919 season The (Portland) Oregonian said in an article about the Salt Lake City Bees:

“Buddy Ryan, who hits .300 year after year, is one of the holdouts.  (Manager Eddie) Herr does not know exactly whether Ryan is a holdout or whether he means to retire from baseball, but we who have watched the red-faced (Ryan) year after year know that Buddy wants more coin to cavort in the outer garden, hence the fact that he is secluded at a farm on the outskirts of Denver while the Salt Lake team is doing its best to get into shape.  Ryan has a bum pair of props, but still travels at a pretty fair gait.”

John "Buddy" Ryan

John “Buddy” Ryan

Whether it was about money or his “bum pair of props,” Ryan sat out all of the 1919 season.  In July of 1920 he returned to the PCL, signing with the Sacramento Senators.  The Oregonian said Portland Beavers owner Walter “Judge” McCredie “made strenuous efforts to sign him,” but “(Sacramento manager) Bill Rodgers seems to have pulled off a good stunt in signing the veteran slugger.”

Despite bad legs, the 34-year-old Ryan hit .298 in 105 games for the Senators; he hit .320 and .305 in 1921 and ’22, and retired again after hitting just .256 in 1923.

In September of 1924 Ryan, who operated several gas stations in Sacramento and did some scouting, was the surprise choice to replace Charlie Pick as manager of the last place Senators.  While he remained popular is Portland, The Oregonian was not encouraging about Ryan’s prospects:

“Buddy inherits a hard job.  Sacramento managers last about two years, win, lose or draw.”

Despite the prediction Ryan would remain manager of Sacramento until September of 1932; his best finish was second place in 1928 and he compiled a record of 825-927.

During the 1926 the usually mild-mannered Ryan, who The Berkeley Daily Gazette said typically “never so much as shouted from the sidelines,” was suspended three times for altercations with umpires.

In May The Los Angeles Times said the “rotund and soft-speaking manager” had “cuffed” umpire Augie Moran over “a decision at first base” during a game with the Hollywood Stars.  PCL President Harry Williams suspended Ryan indefinitely; he was reinstated after a week.

In August, after a ten-minute argument with Moran over a call at third base in Oakland, The Associated Press said:

“Moran ordered Ryan from the game, but the Sacramento manager refused to go, so three police men escorted him from the field.”

Williams again announced that he had suspended Ryan indefinitely; that suspension lasted a week also.

Three weeks after Ryan’s return, during a loss to the Los Angeles Angels, The Associated Press said:

“Manager Buddy Ryan of Sacramento took a healthy wallop at umpire (’s chin…With (John) Monroe on second in the first inning, (John) Knight drove a grounder at (Johnny) Mitchell, whose throw to second caught Monroe.  It was a close play, but Van Graflan ruled him out.  Ryan then walked to the field and in the course of an argument flattened Van Graflan with a perfect right to the chin.  He was chased from the field.”

Ryan was again suspended indefinitely, and again returned to the bench after a week.

He never had a similar incident during his nearly 30-years in baseball.

By the time Ryan resigned as Sacramento’s manager in 1932 he had become extremely wealthy, owning a chain of gas stations.  His business interests were cited as the reason for his resignation.

Buddy Ryan

Buddy Ryan

Three years later he managed the Portland Beavers for 52 games (23-29) before stepping down due to “ill health.”

After nearly a decade away from baseball Ryan joined the Oakland Oaks as a scout and coach for new manager Dolph Camilli—Camilli played for Ryan for four seasons in Sacramento and the two remained close.

Dolph Camilli

Dolph Camilli

After Camilli left Oakland Ryan became manager of the Wenatchee Chiefs, a Western International League team which had just been acquired as a farm team of Sacramento.  He led the team to a pennant in 1946, but was fired after a 31-59 start the following season.

In 1948 Ryan became a team owner.  Along with a partner he purchased another Western International League franchise; the Spokane Indians.  His first act as owner was to install himself as manager, replacing Ben Geraghty who had just led the team a second place finish, .001 behind the Vancouver Capilanos.

Ryan’s move set the stage for his friend Camilli’s greatest moment as a manager; what The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review called “one of the most astonishing pennant drives in minor league history.”   On August 3 Ryan was hospitalized with pneumonia and Camilli was enlisted to take over the team.  The Indians 59-52, in fourth place, 9 ½ game out of first.

Under Camilli Spokane won 45 of their last 57 games—27 of the last 31—and won the pennant by 2 ½ games.

Camilli turned the team around; he said his friend Ryan had been too soft on the players:

“The first day I walked in there, here they were drinking beer in the clubhouse—I raised holy hell about it—before the game.  I woke ‘em all up.”

Ryan sold his interest in the team after the 1948 season and retired, for the final time, from baseball.

Ryan died in 1956 at age 70—The Oregonian called him “one of the greatest baseball favorites old Vaughn Street (Portland’s ballpark from 1901-1956) ever knew.”

“The Disappearing Oakland Infielder”

7 Aug

James Ernest “Jimmy” Frick began his career with the Iola Gasbags in the Missouri Valley League in 1904, hitting .331 in 106 games.  While Frick began the 1905 season with the Oklahoma City Mets in the Western Association, a “C” level league, press reports said he could have played at a higher level and The Sporting Life said St. Louis Cardinals, Hall of Famer pitcher Charles “Kid” Nichols “cannot understand why Jimmy Frick of Oklahoma City persists in hiding out it the bushes when he can make good in fast company.”

Frick was hitting above .300 in July when he was sold to the Seattle Siwashes in the Pacific Coast League; he hit .252 in 18 games until August 18 when The Associated Press said Frick “disappeared mysteriously.”

Four days later The Seattle Star said Frick who “was very popular” with local fans had jumped the Siwashes and rejoined Oklahoma City having been promised “$1000 and a chance to manage the team next year.”

Whether the reported deal was actually promised to Frick is unknown.  While he returned to Oklahoma City he never joined the Mets and finished the season with the Wichita Jobbers.

At the end of the 1905 season multiple teams laid claim to him.  The Associated Press said:

“The case of J. Frick who was claimed by Indianapolis, Wichita, Seattle and Oklahoma City was referred to Secretary (John) Farrell (of the National Association).”

In February of 1906 Frick was awarded to Wichita then immediately traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern League.  He spent the next five and a half years in the Eastern League with Toronto, the Baltimore Orioles and the Newark Indians.

On July 16, 1910, while with Baltimore, Frick was hit in the head with a pitch.  In August The Sporting Life said he had not yet returned to the lineup:

 “(Frick) is in a bad way in this city, as the result of being hit on the head by a pitched ball during the last home series of the Birds. Although the accident happened at least three weeks ago, Frick’s head is still in bad condition, his face is swollen and dizziness seizes him on the slightest provocation. It is doubtful if Frick will play again this season.”

He did return at the tail end of the season, but only appeared in a few games.  In 1911 he was sold to Newark, and after hitting just .200 in 28 games he was sold to the Troy Trojans in the New York State League.

Jimmy Frick

Jimmy Frick

Before the 1912 season, Harry Wolverton, third baseman and manager of the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League, was named manager of the New York Highlanders in the American League.  Oakland hired Bayard “Bud” Sharpe to manage the team; one of his first moves was to purchase Frick from Troy to fill the void Wolverton left at third.

By March 7 The Associated Press said Sharpe was “somewhat exercised about infielder Frick.”  The new third baseman had arrived in Oakland by train several days earlier, but had not arrived at the Oaks training camp in Livermore, California and had not been heard from him.  Sharpe showed up the following day, but it was reported he had spent several days in an Oakland hospital—it was not reported why he was hospitalized.

Frick began the season as the Oaks starting third baseman, but after hurting his foot in April, August “Gus” Hetling filled in and Frick never returned to the regular lineup.

On September 17, with Oakland in a battle for the pennant with the Vernon Tigers, the team was in Los Angeles when Frick, according to The Associated Press left his room at the Hotel Rosslyn and “dropped from sight.”

The Los Angeles Examiner said the Oakland team and the Los Angeles Police Department had looked for Frick for more than a week and found no sign of the infielder.  The Associated Press said “all of Frick’s haunts have been searched,” and that the disappearance “may hurt Oakland in their fight for the pennant, as he is considered the best utility infielder on the team.”

Herb McFarlin, Secretary of the Oaks, said:

“Frick has always been a steady player, not inclined to drink or run around.  He always has been absolutely dependable.”

On October 4 The Associated Press said “the disappearing Oakland infielder” had been found by his wife:

“He had been ill in a Los Angeles Hospital, assuming an alias so that he would not be bothered.”

As with his spring disappearance there was no mention as to why Frick was in the hospital.

On October 5 he was with the Oaks in Portland for a game with the Beavers, he did not play, but was “out on the coaching line rooting for his team.”

Frick was with the team on October 27 when they took both games of a double-header in Los Angeles; Vernon won both games of a doubleheader from Portland, and Oakland took the pennant with a winning percentage of .591 to Vernon’s .587.

Frick saw little action in the final weeks of the season, his replacement Hetling hit .297 and was awarded a Chalmers Automobile as the league’s most valuable player.

Gus Hetling, Frick's replacement at third

Gus Hetling, Frick’s replacement at third

Frick and his wife went to Portland at the end of the season, and in late November planned to leave for Oklahoma City where they owned a farm.  On November 20 Mrs. Frick went to pick up tickets for the trip, when she returned home, she found Jimmy Frick dead.  He committed suicide by drinking carbolic acid. (Baseball Reference incorrectly lists his date of death as November 18),

The Portland Oregonian said Frick had been “ill and despondent,” and said he was suffering from “brain fever.”  (Brain fever is an antiquated and vague term used for inflammation of the brain).

None of the stories about Frick’s suicide and “brain fever” mentioned the severe injury he had received when he was hit in the head in 1910, so  it’s impossible to determine whether it contributed to the erratic behavior that year, hospital stays, or death of the disappearing Oakland infielder.”

“Branding us as if we were a Band of Convicts”

1 Aug

When the directors of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) met in Los Angeles in January of 1912, The Los Angeles Examiner said the league would be introducing a new innovation:

“President (Allan) Baum said each player will be given a uniform bearing upon the left arm a number he will wear throughout the season.  On all score cards sold at games every man of each team will be named in consecutive order.”

The plan wasn’t immediately embraced.  The Portland Oregonian said several players on the Portland Beavers were against the idea, pitcher Frederick “Spec” Harkness said:

“Of course, I don’t like this branding us as if we were a band of convicts…Hap Hogan (Wallace “Happy Hogan” Bray, manager of the Vernon Tigers) must have been the man who got this freaky legislation past the magnates at Los Angeles for the numbers go nicely with Vernon’s convict suits.”

Frederick "Spec" Harkness

Frederick “Spec” Harkness

The idea was actually the inspiration of Oakland Oaks president Edward Walters.

Major League players and executives also objected to the idea, Tigers president Frank Navin was quoted in The Detroit Times:

“It is a 10-1 bet that the players would rather suffer salary cuts all along the line than be labeled like a bunch of horses.”

Despite early objections, PCL players eventually accepted the inevitable, even Harkness who caused a stir among superstitious teammates when he requested number thirteen.

Roscoe Fawcett, sportswriter of The Portland Oregonian said:

“(Harkness) has put superstition to rout by sending in a request for number 13 under the new Pacific Coast League system of placarding players.”

By March the numbering idea gained some acceptance, and the desire for number 13 had caught on; there was a competition for the number among the Portland Beavers.  The Oregonian said Harkness “now finds his claim disputed by Benny Henderson, Walter Doan and others.”

In the end Harkness (who was born on December 13) received the number.  Given the rampant superstitions of early 20th Century players, most teams simply didn’t issue number 13 to any player.  The only other player in the PCL reported to have worn the number was Oakland pitcher Harry Ables.

Harry Ables

Harry Ables

The PCL’s experiment in uniform numbers was largely unsuccessful.  The Oregonian said the armbands were too small and “cannot be read from 90 feet away.”

By the end of the season, Vernon manager Hogan and Portland manager Walter “Judge” McCredie both of whom enthusiastically supported the numbers, were of the opinion that “the present trial has been a fizzle.”

The biggest criticism of the experiment was the failure of the system to achieve its chief goal, “numbering the men did not help out the sale of scorecards.”

Numbers were eliminated before the 1913 season and the PCL did not use uniform numbers again until the early 1930s.