Tag Archives: Old Hoss Radbourn

“The only Great Game in the Country”

7 Aug

Smiling Mickey Welch spent his post-baseball years operating various businesses in Holyoke, Massachusetts, but visited Boston and New York often—until he eventually moved back to New York.

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Welch

In 1908, Welch, “one of the most famous pitchers of half a generation ago,” talked to Tim Murnane, the baseball writer for The Boston Globe, on a trip to visit his former teammate Tim Keefe in Cambridge, Massachusetts:

“’It certainly seems to me,’ said Welch a few days ago, ‘That the players of today have nothing over the stars of the past. I’m not at all prejudiced and I believe that I am at least fairly competent to judge, as I have kept right up with the many changes that have been made since I left the business.”

Murnane said of Welch:

“Mickey finished his career in the baseball world 15 years ago [sic, 16], but he still retains his deep interest in the great national game, and each season always plans to come to Boston or to go to New York to watch the work of the present-day players and compare them with those of his time, when by his superb work in the pitcher’s box he assisted in winning a couple of pennants and world championships for Gotham.”

Welch, who had just sold his salon in Holyoke, “to engage in the milk business with his oldest son, Frank,” asked Murnane:

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Welch, with wife Mary and seven of the couple’s nine children

“Where, for instance, is there today any greater baseball player than Buck Ewing was? Ah, he was the greatest of ‘em all—indeed the grandest that the game has ever known. Universally acknowledged by all followers of the sport as the king of catchers, he also shone in other departments, for he was a hard natural hitter, could run bases with the top-notchers and could play any of the infield or outfield positions as well as any of the regulars holding down those berths.”

Welch said he and Ewing—who died in October of 1906–were “the warmest of friends for years and that friendship dated from the days when as a member of the Troy team, I first became acquainted with him while he was with the Rochester club (in 1880).”

Welch said from the day Ewing joined Troy later that season and after they went to New York together when the Trojans disbanded after the 1882 season:

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Ewing

“Buck and I were chums and for all that time used to room together.”

Murnane said that Welch, who “always made it a point to take the very best care of himself,” was in “as splendid condition,” as he was when he pitched:

“One of his favorite hobbies is walking, and on every pleasant day in the fall and winter he and Jack Doyle, also a famous old-time ball tosser, may be seen setting from the Welch home to take a jaunt to Mt. Tom, which is between Holyoke and the neighboring town of Northampton.”

Some nights Murnane said the two went out in the evening and “they sit for hours and talk over the good old days when they were players of mark in the fastest company.”

After all of those talks with Doyle about their days in baseball, he maintained:

“I’m throwing no bouquets at myself but have there ever been any better pitchers than Tim Keefe, John Clarkson and Charlie Radbourn? I say ‘no’ emphatically. Then look at the rest. Dan Brouthers has never been excelled as a batsman and I don’t believe he ever will be. He could land a ball farther and with less apparent effort than any ballplayer that ever swung a bat. I faced him many a time and I could never discover that he had any weakness.

“(Cap) Anson was also a fine hitter, as were Deacon White, Hardy Richardson, Jim O’Rourke, Mike Tiernan, (Ed) Delahanty, and George Gore, to say nothing of a dozen more whom I might mention. Jerry Denny has never been excelled as a third baseman, and Johnny Ward is the headiest man that has ever played shortstop. ‘Dickie’ Johnston, pride of Boston for years, and Curt Welch of the old St. Louis Browns and (Jimmy) McAleer of the Clevelands were easily the most brilliant outfielders of the past.”

Welch also believed “the best club in the history of the game,’ were the 1888 and 1889 Giants—Welch was 26-19 1.93 in ’88 and 27-12 3.02 in 1889 for those New York teams.

“Buck Ewing was the captain, and a magnificent one he was too. Buck used to catch nearly all of the games.”

Welch said of the team:

“We won the pennant rather easily in the National League in ’88, and fully as easily beat out the St. Louis Browns for the world’s flag. But the next season of ’89, we had to go some right up to the very last notch to pull away from the Bostons in the National League, the championship not being decided until the final day of the season when we won in Indianapolis while the Bostons lost in Pittsburgh. Then we met the Brooklyns, champions of the American Association. In a series of nine games, we won five”

Welch got two details wrong; while 1889 was the first pennant decided on the season’s final day and Boston did lose to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, the Giants beat the Cleveland Spiders that day; also, in the series the Giants won six of the nine games with Brooklyn.

Welch vowed to Murnane, “I shall never lose my interest,” in “the only great game in the country.”

 

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #36

17 Jul

Bancroft on Radbourn

In 1900, in The Chicago Record, Frank Bancroft said of one of his former players:

“Charlie Radbourn did more scheming than any man that ever played baseball. When I had him in Providence, he always was springing something new and some of his ideas were exceedingly far-fetched.

“I remember on one occasion and at a critical period in a game Rad drew back his arm as if to pitch, then instead of delivering the ball to the batsman he threw it around his back to Joe Start, who was playing first base for us. It was only by the greatest effort that Start managed to get the ball. Had it gone wild the game would have gone against us as there were several men on the bases. When I questioned him regarding the throw, he claimed that it was a new idea, and that if Start had been watching himself he would have retired the runner on first.”

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Radbourn

National League Facts, 1880

The Chicago Tribune reported before the 1880 season that every National League charged $15 for a season ticket, except for the Providence Grays who charged $20.

The paper also calculated the miles each team would travel during the season (listed in order of finish):

Chicago White Stockings 6,444

Providence Grays 6,200

Cleveland Blues 5,592

Troy Trojans 4,990

Worcester Ruby Legs 6,470

Boston Red Stockings 6,240

Buffalo Bisons 5,356

Cincinnati Reds 6,294

Dan Brouthers and “Dude Contrivances”

In 1893, The Buffalo Courier reported that Brooklyn Grooms manager Dave Foutz told his players “there was nothing better than good bicycle practice to keep in condition.”

Dan Brouthers said back home in Wappinger’s Falls, New York, people “never would recognize him again if they heard he had been riding one of those dud contrivances.”

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Brouthers

The paper corrected the first baseman: “Dan evidently needs a little education in cycling. The day has passed when a rider was regarded in the light of a dude.”

“I was Pretty Fast in Those Days”

3 Jul

“We did everything 30 years ago they do today, with the possible exception of sacrificing. Little of that was done, and I consider the game was better.”

So said “The hero of the first unassisted triple play in baseball,” to a reporter for The Pittsburgh Press in 1913:

“Holding a good position in the department of agriculture, Washington D.C., is a blonde individual of comfortable corpulence who answers to the name Paul A. Hines.”

Later, The Associated Press would say he got the government position because he, “became a favorite of Rep. William McKinley, who later became president, and when Hines retired from Baseball McKinley found a government job for him.”

The Press described Hines, who would turn 58 that year, as:

“Well preserved, genial a comfortable looking businessman (who) little resembles the dashing outfielder of three decades ago.”

He told the paper that Charlie Buffinton, Tim Keefe, and Old Hoss Radbourn where the greatest pitchers he saw. He said Ned Williamson was the greatest player he witnessed, and that Silver Flint was “the most banged up and best catcher that ever lived.”

Hines also gave the paper a first-hand account of his most famous moment:

“It was made May 8, 1878. I was playing a deep center field and there were runners on second and third when a short fly was hit over the second base.

“I ran in after the ball, believing I had the speed to reach it, for I was pretty fast in those days. Both base runners thought the ball would fall safe and ran for the plate.

“I got the ball off my instep, near second, touched the base and then ran to third, reaching that base before the runner who had occupied it could return, thus completing the play.

“The play has been questioned, but I see that Umpire (Charles F.) Daniels, who worked that day vouched for it recently.”

Daniels’ version of the play differed from Hines’ however, as did the contemporary accounts of the play; even Hines told a different version that year in the October issue of “Baseball Magazine”—none of those versions included the part where Hines claimed to have touched second base before going to third base.

The other versions said he threw to second baseman Charlie Sweasy, but that the throw was unneeded because both runners had rounded third and had been retired. The only version that matched Hines’ The Pittsburgh Press recollection was William Wrothe Aulick’s description of the play that appeared in a syndicated article that eventually became part of the book “The National Game,” published in 1912

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Hines, standing at left, with Providence Grays, 1882

In Hines’ “Baseball Magazine” version–in addition to getting the date wrong, he said May 15, rather than May 8–he claimed he went to second and stepped on the bag after stepping on third, then:

“Sweeney [sic], our second baseman, took the ball and danced around with it, cutting up monkey shines.”

Hines told the The Press that after he completed the play:

“Of course, I remember distinctly how the crowd, when it realized what had happened, went wild. It was one of the proudest moments in the life of Paul Hines, I tell you.”

Hines likely had one of his worst moment years later; he was arrested when caught stealing a pocketbook from a policewoman at the corner of Ninth Street and New York Avenue.

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Hines circa 1900

The Washington Evening Times said:

“The gray-haired man has been under surveillance for some time. When his room was searched at 233 Rhode Island Avenue, a number of purses and pocketbooks were found in it, as well as twenty-five pairs of eyeglasses and spectacles.”

The Washington Star said Hines was released on $1000 bond, and:

“According to the police, Hines, who is 69 years old, when confronted with the charge broke down and said: ‘I have played my last game and lost.’”

Hines, almost completely deaf—his longest obituary, written by Guy M. Smith, who wrote for The Sporting News, and knew Hines, said the deafness was the result of a beaning by Grasshopper Jim Whitney in 1886—and destitute spent the last years of his life at the Sacred Heart Home in Hyattsville, Maryland, he died there in 1935.

Lost Pictures: Griffith Dedicates Radbourn Memorial

28 Jun

 

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Clark Griffith dedicating the Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn plaque at Bloomington (IL) Cemetery, May 1, 1941.

Griffith told a reporter for The Associated Press:

“It’s been 20 years since I’ve been back where I spent part of my boyhood. I lived in Normal (the town separated by only a street from Bloomington from my seventeenth to twenty-first year and it was Ol’ Hoss who taught me the first rules of pitching.”

Griffith said of Radbourn:

“He was a husky, durable fellow, but to watch him was to be impressed by his keen pitching brain rather than by his strength. I pitched against him in several town games and was always amazed with the way he worked on tough hitters seldom giving them the kind of pitch they liked.”

The plaque, which like Radbourn’s grave and Hall of Fame plaque, spells his name with an “e” at the end. The one  dedicated by Griffith was apparently replaced–either because the original was damaged or stolen–by a nearly identical version. When Griffith died in 1955, The Bloomington Pantagraph said the original plaque was still place–however, several articles in the paper after the Bloomington City Cemetery and the Evergreen Cemetery were combined in 1963 said the plaque was “put there by Pontiac Correctional Center inmates” sometime after 1955. None of the 1941 stories mentioned the origin of the plaque.

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The plaque 

 

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The current grave site photographed before the dedication of the new wood carving made from the trunk of a dead 150 year-old tree adjacent to Radbourn’s grave.

“Radbourn Never Thought of Quitting”

10 Jun

In 1911, The International News Service published an article “written by” Hardy Richardson about “the gamest man who ever stepped in the box:” Old Hoss Radbourn.

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Richardson

Richardson said he knew Radbourn “perhaps better than anyone who played with him or against him,” but still did not know him well:

 “Really I do not believe anyone had better opportunity to penetrate the reserve of this unassuming little fellow than myself. I spent one whole winter with him near Bloomington, Illinois. We were together almost continually, hunting or knocking about the open country. But I soon realized that the more I associated with him the less I knew him.”

Richardson told a story that he said exemplified Radbourn’s determination—although after more than 20 years, he got many of the facts wrong:

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Radbourn

“It was in 1890 during the Brotherhood days.”

Radbourn faced Ward’s Wonders in Brooklyn on May 5:

“It was one of Radbourn’s few poor days, and Brooklyn simply hit him here, there, and everywhere. The smothered Radbourn by the very disconcerting score of 27 to 6 (the actual score was 20 to 4). It was one of the real slaughters of the season. But Radbourn never thought of quitting. His teammates asked him to retire but Charlie stuck to his guns. The more they hit him the harder he gritted his teeth and the harder he tried. He took his medicine like a little gentleman, without a whimper. To the taunts of Brooklyn, he would simply grunt to his teammates: ‘Well, we’ll get then yet, see if we don’t.’”

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The Box Score

Here is where Richardson’s memory fails him:

“The next day Radbourn declared he was going to pitch again. His teammates laughed at him. When he went out to warm up they thought him a fit subject for an insane asylum…But there was no stopping Radbourn. And he got his revenge on Brooklyn all right. He shut out the team that had massacred him the day before, allowing only one Brooklynite to reach first.”

Richardson was correct that Radbourn refused to leave the game on May 5. The Brooklyn Eagle said he was “plucky and refused to retire,” despite the drubbing, being hit in the neck with a pitch by Brooklyn pitcher George Van Haltren, and later being struck in the leg by a Van Haltren base hit:

“The ball that Van Haltren hit struck him fair on the shin, making a report that sounded as if the leg was broken. So hard did the ball land that it bounced back from the pitcher’s box to foul ground.”

He was also correct that Radbourn insisted on pitching the following day. The Boston Globe said:

“Radbourn was going in to pitch today.  He said he was anxious to show the Brooklyn men they were in big luck when they hit so hard the first day. Rad was very sore on Umpire Gaffney, who he says would give him nothing over the plate in the first game unless he split it in two.”

That’s where Richardson’s imagination took over. Radbourn warmed up but the game on May 6 was rained out. Bill Daley pitched the next two days for Boston, beating Brooklyn 8 to 4, and 11 to 10; Radbourn did not appear again in the series.

The 35-year-old Radbourn finished the 1890 season with a 27-12 record and 3.31 ERA and led the Reds to the Players League’s only pennant; he would only pitch one more season. Thirty-five-year-old Richardson had his last great season in 1890, hitting .328 and led the league in home runs (16) and RBI (152).

Richardson summed up his late teammate:

 “Radbourn was a man who never despaired of a victory no matter how the tide of fortune flowed. He did not know the meaning of the word ‘quit.’”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #33

7 May

Radbourn on Rule Changes

Old Hoss Radbourn told The Boston Journal that he thought the new rule changes for 1887—including the four-strike strikeout and abolishing the rule that allowed batters to call for high or low pitches—would have very little impact:

“Radbourn says it is a mistake on the part of anybody to think that (Dan) Brouthers can’t hit anything but a low ball. He thinks they will find that when it is absolutely necessary Brouthers can hit almost anything. When asked what effect the thought the new rules would have on Anson’s batting, Radbourn smiled and said: ‘Anson’s all right. He has more chances than anyone else. A man has to get five strikes on Anson before the umpire will call him out. Umpires don’t like to call strikes on Anson. I don’t know why, but they don’t. The pitcher who strikes out Anson does a big thing.”

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 Radbourn

Brouthers’ average dropped 32 points to .338, but he still led the league in runs, doubles and on base percentage.  Anson’s fell 24 to a league-best .347—he had 18 strikeouts in 533 plate appearances. Radbourn posted career highs in walks (133) and ERA (4.55) for the fifth place Boston Beaneaters.

Comiskey on ‘Friends’

Charles Comiskey said he had no friends in the American League. He told The Pittsburgh Press before the 1902 season:

“There’s Connie Mack, if he thought I could use one of his players he would keep him around until the Fourth of July, and then, if I hadn’t got that place filled, he would take the player out behind the grandstand and shoot him rather than turn him loose so I could sign him. The rest are getting as bad as Connie too.

“When (Tom) Loftus came back into the league I thought I would have at least one friend. Now he puts blinders on his players every time I get anywhere near them. Just to show you; before Loftus went East recently, I framed it all up for him to get a good second baseman for his team. I knew (John) McGraw couldn’t use all his infielders, so told Loftus to go after either (Bill) Keister or (Jimmy) Williams. McGraw would talk to Loftus, but not to me, when it came to players.”

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 Comiskey

Loftus ended up signing Keister as a free agent.

“Well, Loftus got Keister, you know, and I figured that would solve my third base problem, for he can’t use both (Harry) Wolverton and (Bill) Coughlin at third, and neither is much good anywhere else. So, when Tom came back, I led him up to the subject gently and proposed taking one or the other of them off his hands. Then what do you think Loftus sprung on me? He said he though of playing Keister in the outfield next year so he would need all his infielders. He looks like all the rest to me now.”

Keister and Coughlin remained with the sixth place Washington Senators all season—Coughlin at third, Keister splitting time at second and in the outfield—Wolverton, who had jumped to the Senators returned to the Philadelphia Phillies mid-season. Comiskey tried to solve his “third base problem” by acquiring Sammy Strang from the New York Giants. Strang hit .295 but committed 62 errors and was released in September.

Warner on Revenge

In 1906, Washington catcher Jack Warner told The Boston American how he had gotten even with Cupid Childs for spiking him. The incidents occurred, he said, in 1895 when he had recently joined the Louisville Colonels and Childs played for the Cleveland Spiders.

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Warner

Warner said he had received the throw to the plate well ahead of Childs:

“Well, sir, Cupid came in like the Empire State Express, feet first and his body high in the air. And say, he planted those mudhooks of his on my right side with such force that I flew twenty feet. Then there was absolutely no excuse, as the play was not close, me being there waitin’ there to receive him. I put up a howl but that was useless, so I made up my mind to work the next day and watch for a chance to get even. I was lucky to have the same sort of play come off.

“Up in the sky went Mr. Cupid again. But this time I was not there, only thereabout. I had plenty of time to look him over and pick out a soft spot in his architecture. They had to pry the ball out and it took half an hour to bring him back from dreamland. That’s the way to do it when you know a lad it trying to get you. And you can always tell if he is on the level after a couple of encounters.”

“Since I was a boy, I Have Heard this Question Asked”

9 Jan

Jack “Death to Flying Things” Chapman began his career in 1860 with the Putnam Club in Brooklyn, after spending 50 years in baseball, “Baseball Magazine” asked him to weigh in on the best players he had ever seen.

Chapman hedged on who was the greatest pitcher:

“Ever since I was a boy, I have heard this question asked.  I maintain that it cannot be answered, for the simple reason that there have been so many really wonderful pitchers…Let us go ‘way back in the old days.  There was Tom Pratt, Dick McBride, (Phonney) Martin, Jim Creighton, Arthur Cummings, Bobby Mathews, and Al Spalding, all first-class men.”

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Jack Chapman

Of Spalding, Chapman said, “He had speed and command.  He knew how to use his head to fool and opponent.” McBride could “outwit” opposing hitters, and Mathews and Cummings were “foxy.”

Chapman also described what he said led to Creighton’s death in 1862—this version of events appeared later that year in Al Spink’s book, “The National Game,” and remained the narrative surrounding Creighton’s death until the home run story was debunked in recent years.

Chapman said of Creighton’s death:

“(B)aseball met with a most severe loss.  He had wonderful speed, and with it, splendid command.  He was fairly unhittable.”

creighton

Chapman rattled off another 20 names, then said:

“Now mind you, I am not undertaking to mention all the crack pitchers that ever lived—just those who occur to me.  Of course, I never knew one who was a bit better than Charley Radbourn, a man who would go in the box day in and day out and work under any and all conditions, who would pitch when men of the present day would shrink from undertaking.  Rad would go in the box when his arm was so lame that he could not lift it as high as his head when he started to warm up; yet he would keep at it and pitch a game his opponents could not fathom.  He was a very strong man, full of pluck, and used splendid judgement in his pitching.”

Chapman said the Providence Grays teams that Radbourn was a part of were “the best balanced” of their time.  Chapman mentioned third baseman Jerry Denny could “play with either hand,” and that:

“Rad was about as capable with his left as he was his right and was a wonderful fielder.  He liked to go on the field and warm up with the boys and would go in the infield or the outfield—it mattered not to him—anywhere there was an opening—he loved the game so well.  Rad could hit a little bit, too.”

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Radbourn

Chapman also singled out Charlie Ferguson, “who died in the zenith of his career.  Chapman said Ferguson, “could doubtless play every position better than any one man ever could.  He was also a very fine batsman and a speedy chap on the bases.”

Chapman said of Cy Young:

“No man ever had better command of the ball than did this pitcher.  Here certainly is a model ball player, just as modest as he is skillful.”

While Chapman named as many as 20 “greatest” pitchers, he settled easily on the best player of all-time:

“To name the best man in baseball history in any position is almost invariably a matter of opinion and often one is just as good as another.  I know of but one ballplayer upon whom I firmly believe the burden of opinion will rest as the best ballplayer ever produced, and that man is John Henry [sic, Peter] Wagner— ‘Honus,’ as he is known.  He certainly is the best card and is strong in every particular.  He is a wonderful batsman, base runner and fielder.  He makes easy work of the most difficult plays, and he would certainly excel in any position to which he were assigned—whether in the outfield or the infield.  Wagner is fairly in a class by himself.  Others have shown for awhile then lost their glory, but Wagner shines forever.”

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Wagner

When Chapman died six years later, The Brooklyn Eagle mourned the loss of “one of the few remaining links between the pioneer days of baseball and the present.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things–Quote Edition 2

22 Oct

More random quotes and observations that follow no theme or thread:

Cap Anson told The Chicago Daily News in 1904:

“I consider (Charles) Radbourn and John Clarkson the greatest pitchers I ever saw.  Buck Ewing was just about the best catcher that ever wore a mask.  He could catch, throw, bat and run and had a good head.”

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Cap Anson

After Frank Baker hit home runs off Christy Mathewson and Rube Marquard in the 1911 World Series, he told The Philadelphia American:

“There seems to be much speculation as to what sort of balls were thrown me when I made my home runs…Well, I hit them and I know what they were.  Matty threw me an inshoot, but what would have been an outshoot to a right handed batter, while the Rube threw a fast one between my shoulder and waist.

“Connie Mack told me when I went to the bat that I would not get a fast one, and he was right  I set myself and looked them over against Mathewson and when he tossed me that curve and I saw her starting to break, I busted her, that’s all.”

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Frank Baker

Thirty-four year old Bill Bernhard told The Cleveland News about seeing 38-year-old Cy Young in Hot Springs, Arkansas in spring of 1905:

“There is no use talking, there is only one Cy Young.  When the rest of us pitchers report in the spring, we act as if those alleged deceiving arms of ours were made of glass and humor them accordingly.  But not so with old Cy.  The very first day that Cy reached Hot Springs, a week or so ago, he cut loose as if he had been pitching all winter.  Great Scott, but he had speed to burn and the next day and the next it was just the same. And curve them? Well, you ought to have seen the old boy.”

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Cy Young

In 1915, The Chicago Daily News noted that Charles Comiskey “isn’t given to boosting players very often,” but that Catcher Ray Schalk was an exception:

“Schalk shows more life than any other player I have ever seen.  He is level headed and his thinking and natural ability stamp him as one of the greatest catchers in the world today, and he can claim equal distinction with the great and only Buck Ewing, considered in his day the peer of all backstops.

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Ray Schalk

Dave Landreth was a baseball promoter from Bristol, Pennsylvania who had a brief foray into professional baseball when he served as director of the Baltimore Terrapins in the Federal League.  He told a story to The Bristol Courier about Lew Richie—Richie was born in nearby Ambler, Pennsylvania, and pitched for Landreth in semi-pro leagues before making is pro debut in 1906 at age 22:

“Landreth hired Richie to pitch the morning game of a holiday twin bill for the county championship, and after winning and fanning 18 men, all for five dollars, Richie came back in the afternoon and insisted on hurling that game , too, for nothing.

“Somebody ‘kidded’  him about winning the morning game on a fluke, and Lew wanted to show them—and he did, winning that game as well.”

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Lew Richie

Tim Donahue had a reputation for being tough during his eight seasons in the major leagues.  The catcher told The Chicago Evening Post he had only encountered one man who made him back him down:

“I was never put down and out but once.  It was when I was playing semi-professional ball too, and was quite a young lad.  There was a big fellow named Sullivan on the other side and I tried to block him at the plate.  He swung on my jaw and I thought a load of bricks had dropped on my head.  I finally came to, but I didn’t block Sullivan any more.  That’s the only time I would ever clear out.”

“Baseball has Kept me so Happy”

27 Sep

Like every ballplayer of his era, Jim O’Rourke spent a lot of time in his 1910 interviews with Tip Wright of The United Press comparing the current game to his days on the diamond:

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Jim O’Rourke

“They talk about their speed and curves these days, but the raise ball little (Candy) Cummings—he weighed only 115 pounds—used to throw is a lost art.

“The present day men can’t do it.  The nearest thing is a little upshot, which (Joe) McGinnity of Newark through last year.  You simply couldn’t hit Cummings’ raise ball squarely.  It was bound to climb the face of the bat, and the best you could get was a little pop-up.”

O’Rourke told Wright, “The greatest catcher I ever knew was ‘Buck’ Ewing,” of his former Giants teammate, he said:

“He led in batting, running, catching, fielding and base-stealing, and he could think quicker than any other man I ever saw in a game.”

As for pitchers:

Amos Rusie leads them all, and he promised to make  a record no pitcher in baseball, unless he were a genius could outdo; but poor old Amos disappeared!  I think Tim Keefe was a great curve pitcher, but for endurance I have to hand the laurels to Charles Radbourn, of the Providence Nationals.  In 1883, when his team was after the pennant, Radbourn pitched 72 games [sic 76] 37 of which were consecutive, and of the 37 games 28 were victories (Radbourn was 48-25, Providence finished third).

“If you ask me the difference between the pitchers of today and the pitchers of former days, I would say that the pitchers today have the cunningness not to go into a box oftener than once or twice a week, while the old timers used to think nothing of pitching six or seven games a week.”

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“Old Hoss” Radbourn

O’Rourke saved his greatest praise for his Boston Red Stockings teammate Ross Barnes.  He told Wright:

“Before telling you about Ross Barnes as a batter, I want to tell something about his work at second base…Barnes had long arms that he could snap like a whip.  His throws from second to the plate were the most beautiful I have ever seen.

“His speed was so tremendous that the ball did not seem to have any trajectory at all and it landed in the catcher’s hands at the same height it started from.”

O’Rourke said, Barnes was “even more wonderful,” at the plate:

“It was Barnes’ wonderful third base hits that caused the rule to be made that a ball, even if it struck within the diamond, must be declared a foul if it rolled outside the baseline…He had a trick of hitting the ball so it would smash on the ground near the plate just inside of the third base line, and then would mow the grass over the line (in foul territory)…No third baseman could get away from his position quickly enough to stop one of Barnes’ hits.”

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Barnes’ “third base hit”

O’Rourke mentioned two other “wonderful hitters” he saw “when a mere boy;” Dickey Pearce and Tom Barlow:

“I have seen these men with little short bats, which I believe were later ruled out of the game, make the wonderful bunt hits which we have taken to calling a modern institution.”

O’Rourke said both became “ordinary players” after they were no longer able to use the shorter bats, “not realizing that a bunt could be made with a long bat.”

And, like all old-timers, O’Rourke knew how to “fix” the modern game:

“The one big question in baseball today is how to make the game more interesting.”

O’Rourke advocated for removing the foul strike rule to increase hitting and wanted to “place the pitcher farther away from the plate.”

O’Rourke summed up his forty plus years in the game to Wright:

“Baseball has kept me so happy and healthy that there is not a minute of my past life I would not willingly live over.”

 

 

“I’m the Only Michael”

12 Sep

The Chicago press treated Michael “King” Kelly’s return to Chicago like a coronation.  Kelly was sold by the White Stockings for a then record $10,000 in February of 1887, and arrived for his first series in Chicago on June 24.

kingkelly

Mike “King” Kelly

 

The Chicago Tribune said he was greeted at the Leland Hotel on Michigan Avenue with a brass band, a crowd estimated at 5000, and a song:

“Michael Kelly, he came down to sing a little chanson; says he, ‘I’ve come from Boston Town to do up Baby Anson.  I love Chicago, but you know the Hub spondulicks bought me—I hated like the deuce to go, but $10,000 caught me.  I’ve come to lay Chicago flat and knock you all to blazes, for I’m a corker don’t forget—the daisy of the daisies.  Away with every Bill and Jim that’s in the baseball cycle—the dickens take the whole of thim!  Sure, I’m the only Michael.’”

The Chicago Inter Ocean described the “King” as “terribly bored…fast losing his good nature by this ovation business.”  Despite his boredom, The Chicago Daily News said:

“Kelly was taken to the grounds in a four-horse carriage, escorted by a band and all the players.”

There were more than 12,000 fans in the stands when the procession arrived

The Tribune described the arrival at the ballpark:

“(Fans) kept on yelling as the procession wended its way past third base, back of the home plate and over towards Anson’s territory.  When the carriage with its four proud horses stopped in front of the grand stand and the Hon. Mr. Kelly stretched his red-hosed legs and hopped out to the ground the volume of yelling was doubled.  The Hon. Mike took off his grey cap and smiled.  The crowd howled some more.  Then the Bostons scattered themselves over the field and began practice.  Every play, good, bad, or indifferent of the ex-member of the home team was applauded.”

The game itself was interrupted on at least three occasions, according to The Inter Ocean “to allow presentations of flowers,” to Kelly, and at another point to present Cap Anson “a pillow in white roses with the words ‘Old Man’ in red with roses therein.”  The paper noted that the “interruptions wasted several moments of the playing time.”

The Tribune said Kelly was also presented with “a gay satin jockey cap of red, white, and blue, which the Hon. Mr. Kelly was induced to wear during a part of the first inning.”

The game, and Kelly’s performance, according to The Inter Ocean were anti climatic after the buildup.

Chicago and John Clarkson, beat Boston and Old Hoss Radbourn 15-13, the paper said:

radbourn

“Old Hoss” Radbourn

“Strange to say, however, the expected Kelly tactics in base running was not made manifest during the course if the game.  He did not play with the vim that used to make him the great man when he played here.  Kelly misses his place, and all the flowers and gold watches in the country will never make him the same ‘Old Kel’ of yore.  Kelly with the Chicagos may be worth $10,000, but Kelly with any other team would not bring $2000.”

Kelly was 3 for 6 and made two errors at second base.

Chicago took three of four games  from Boston , Kelly 6 for 11 with six errors in the first three games, and sat out the final game, a 19 to 6 Chicago victory.

The Tribune noted that Kelly’s return brought 34,000 fans out for the series:

“Fully 17,000 represented 75 cents each and the others 50 cents each.  This gives a total in the neighborhood of $21,000.  They got $10,000 for Kelly and the club is still playing winning ball.  This is some evidence of good business management on President (A.G.) Spalding’s part.”

The Kelly-less White Stockings finished in third place.  Boston ended the season in fifth.  Kelly, who led the league with a .388 average in 1886, hit .322 for Boston in 1887.