Tag Archives: Ossee Schrecongost

“The Rube was ever a Friendly Spirit”

15 Apr

Four years after Rube Waddell played his final game for the Athletics, The Philadelphia Bulletin told a story that, like much of the Waddell canon, may or may not be apocryphal:

Rube

Rube

“To those who know the steady, staid (Connie) Mack, the following may appeal:

“A ‘cub’ reporter in Chicago strayed into the clutches of the Rube one afternoon and impressed the great pitcher with the fact that he must have something startling in the way of news or be apt to lose his position.

“The Rube was ever a friendly spirit, sympathetic with the weak, even if he had to tap the strong to reimburse the fallen.”

So, said The Bulletin, Waddell was determined to provide the young reporter with a “Startling” scoop:

“I’d take you to see Connie,’ opened the Rube, ‘but he and (Michael) ‘Doc’ Powers are playing poker and ‘doc’ hates to be disturbed when they are gambling.”

Mack

Mack

He then told the reporter that Lave Cross was:

 “Off somewhere and I guess he is tending bar for a friend somewhere on State Street. (and) I don’t know any news to give you except that all this stuff about Ossee Schreck (Schrecongost) is a ‘kid,’ he never fools with the firewater and every time that Monte Cross gets off the wagon why they blame it on me or Schreck.”

Ossee Schrecongost

Schreck

The reporter hurried back to his paper:

“(T)uring over in his mind the thought that Mack was gambling with his players, Lave Cross was the wild man and that Monte Cross was the real culprit when it came to tapping the paint.  He whirled off a story on the machine and handed it to the sporting editor.  That dignitary looked at the cub, scratched his head and kindly asked the youth where he secured his information.

“’Why, it’s big news and ‘Rube’ Waddell gave it to me,’ answered that unsophisticated party.  ‘Well, young man,’ continued the sporting editor, ‘Connie Mack never wagers, drinks or smokes; Lave Cross is the quietest man in the world and does not tend bar, and Monte Cross is a white ribboner.”

Monte

Monte

The editor of the Chicago paper went to Mack and informed him about Waddell’s conversation with the young reporter:

“Connie, Lave and Monte had a quiet laugh and derived considerable interest watching Waddell load up with a bundle of newspapers each day to catch his red-hot interview.”

Lave

Lave

Lost Advertisements–PM Whiskey, “Rube Waddell, The One-Man Ball Team”

2 Oct

waddellad

A 1951 advertisement for PM De Luxe Blended Whiskey–part of a series of ads featuring “Pleasant Moments in Sports,” stories from Bob Considine, co-author with Babe Ruth of the “The Babe Ruth Story.”

This one features an oft-told Rube Waddell legend:

“Edward ‘Rube’ Waddell, pitcher for the old Philadelphia Athletics, was one of baseball’s zaniest ‘characters.’  It was in an exhibition game in 1902 that he pulled his most famous stunt.

“In the last half of the ninth, ‘Rube’ sent all his players off the field, leaving only the catcher behind the plate. Then with magnificent arrogance, ‘Rube’ struck out the last three batters on  nine pitched balls.”

As with all Waddell stories, there was some truth and a good deal of embellishment in Considine’s account.  While the contemporary coverage of the game differs on some aspects of the performance, they all agree that Waddell pitched to just one batter after members of the team left the field in the ninth inning.

The game in question was played in 1903 at Steelton, Pennsylvania against that town’s YMCA team. The Athletics won easily, 10 to 2, and Waddell pitched the eighth and ninth innings for Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“Waddell was the entertaining feature of the match, and in the last inning called in all the infielders after two men were out.”

The Harrisburg Daily Independent, which provided more in-depth coverage of the game, said:

“Rube Waddell was in all his glory at Steelton yesterday and his funny antics before and during the game were well worth the price of admission.”

The paper said before the game Waddell entertained the fans chasing “flies in the hills until he was perspiring,” and spent part of the early innings taking a “nap in his private carriage which carried him from (Harrisburg) to Steelton.”

rube

Waddell

As for his time on the mound, the paper said Waddell struck out the first two batters he faced in the eighth, then after getting two strikes on the third batter, named “Irish” McManigal:

“(W)hen he pitched the third ball (he) remarked, ‘Take your seat.’ ‘Irish,’ however, surprised the Rube and rapped out a pretty single to center field.”

Waddell gave up another hit in the eighth and the YMCA scored a run.

“The next inning Rutherford hit to Waddell and the Rube did a cake walk to first base to catch Rutherford.  Berry then hit to Monte Cross, but he threw wild to first and Berry reached third base.  Then the Reuben settled down and struck Lawlor out.”

The Daily Independent said Waddell did not call in the fielders, but instead, on their own:

“The Athletic players behind Waddell left the field and with a man on third base he and (Ossee) Schreck (Schrecongost) were left to put out the side.

“The Rube did not know his teammates had deserted him and when told to look around by Schreck he discovered the fact.  Then to make more complete the comedy Schreckengost [sic] sat down and the Rube struck out Albright while the crowd howled with merriment.”

The Harrisburg Telegraph provided a third set of contemporaneous “facts:”

“In the last inning when two men were out all the Athletics left the field except Waddell, Powers and L. Cross.”

The paper likely misidentified Schrecongost as Michael “Doc” Powers–Schrecongost had replaced him behind the plate in the eighth, and Lave Cross had already left the game–so the player who stayed on the field might have been shortstop Monte Cross.  The Telegraph also added another detail missing in the other reports:

“(Waddell) gave the batter three balls and the crowd was wild, but their last hope faded rapidly away as Rube put three fine ones over the plate and the striker was out.”

The Box Score

The Box Score

Considine likely cribbed his version from Harry Grayson, the sports editor of The Newspaper Enterprise Association syndicate.  Grayson told the three-batters-nine-pitches story several times throughout the forties, and that legend stuck.

 

“He was the Greatest Receiving Catcher”

23 Sep

Freeman Ossee “Schreck” Schrecongost’s was most famous for being Rube Waddell’s catcher with the Philadelphia Athletics.

Ossee Schrecongost

                Ossee Schrecongost

Years later, Connie Mack told Harry Grayson of the Newspaper Enterprise Association that Schrecongost was “the fizz powder in the pinwheel that was Waddell.”  He also told the reporter that Waddell’s catcher “was the wilder of the two in many respects.”

Schrecongost lived at least as hard as Waddell and caused his manager as many headaches, but more than 30 years after his final game, Mack said he did “more with gloved hand than any other catcher who has come along.”

Allan Gould, the long-time sports editor for The Associated Press said of the catcher:

“Schreck had the eccentric habit of doing as much of his backstopping as possible with his gloved hand only. This worried Mack, who considered it careless workmanship until Schreck convinced his manager he could do a better job one-handed than with two.”

His teammates felt the same.

Three years after Schrecongost’s final major league game, Harry Davis told Gordon Mackay of The Philadelphia Times:

Walter Johnson is some grand pitcher with a barrel of speed.  But I’ll tell you one old boy who would sit on a chair and catch the big fellow.  That’s old Schreck.  He’d catch Walter with that big glove on his fin, and then after he had eaten up the old smoke to the limit he’d yell to the big chap to put something on the ball.

“I’ve seen Rube Waddell cross Ossee six or seven times, and Schreck wouldn’t pay the least bit of attention to it.  Suddenly Schreck would go out to the box and tell the Rube with a bunch of billingsgate trimmings that would make your hair curl that he stop crossing him.

Rube Waddell

                                 Rube Waddell

“There never was a backstop like old Ossee.  He could catch all the speed merchants in our league with one hand, and then only use the other one to throw with.  He was the greatest receiving catcher, receiving alone, I mean, who ever tripped down the pike.  He was a wonder, that old boy.”

Davis wasn’t Schreck’s only teammate who claimed he was a “wonder,” Tully “Topsy” Hartsell told The Philadelphia Press he saw the catcher perform “the greatest stunt” he had ever seen in 1904:

 “Schreck had a bad finger, and the other catcher (Michael) Doc Powers, was also laid up.  The third catcher, who was Pete Noonan, was doing all the backstopping.  He got hurt one day and Schreck had to go in in the first inning.  He couldn’t let the ball strike his wounded and uncovered hand, and Topsy says he caught the whole game only using his gloved hand.

“’Not only did he (only) use the glove to catch them,’ said Topsy, “’ but there wasn’t a stolen base or passed ball by him.  That’s the greatest catching feat I ever saw.”

Forever tied to Waddell, who died at age 37 on April 1, 1914, Schrecongost died just three months later, on July 9, at age 39.

The Associated Press said in his obituary:

“Grief over the death of the brilliant but eccentric Waddell…probably had much to do with hastening the end of the former great catcher.  Schreck told friends at the time that he ‘did not care to live now.  The Rube is gone and I am all in.  I might as well join him.’”

Rube and Ossee

10 Mar

Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics were expected to repeat as American League champions in 1906.  The 1905 team won 92 games, finishing two games ahead of the Chicago White Sox, and lost to the New York Giants in the World Series.

The 1906 Athletics were in first place as late as August 11, but faded to fourth, losing 33 of their last 52 games and finishing 12 games behind the champion White Sox.

Much of the blame for the poor finish was directed at Rube Waddell.

Rube Waddell

Rube Waddell

Waddell, 27-10 in ’05, dropped to 15-17 after fracturing his thumb in May of ’06.   The Philadelphia Inquirer said he was driving a rented carriage, “At Twenty-second Street and Ridge Avenue he became involved is a collision with a delivery wagon…he turned his horse quick to avoid the wagon, and when he found that the wagon was sure to hit the carriage he jumped and landed on his thumb.”  He sat for two weeks and never found his form from the previous season.

Waddell’s recovery was slowed, it was suspected, because of his off-field habits.  The general opinion of the fans and press was summed up by The Wilkes-Barre Times which said:

“Waddell has refused to appreciate that the modern ballplayer positively must keep in condition and ‘deliver the goods.’  The famous Mike Kelly could spend a $100 bill the night before playing a championship game and not report the next day.  It was regarded in those days as a joke.  That day has gone by.”

Waddell’s personal catcher, Ossee Schreckengost—Schreck—was also blamed for the collapse.  Schreck was sent home by Mack for the remainder of the season on September 22.  During a series in St. Louis he failed to return to the team hotel after a night out with “some German friends.”  Schreck said:

“Mack told me to pack up and go home.  That’s all there is to it.  We did not have any argument.

“Mack wants to try out a lot of juveniles this trip.  I do not think he is sore at me, and do not think I stand suspended.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer disagreed:

“For the good of the cause, Ossie [sic] Schreckengost was sent home by Manager Mack tonight suspended for the rest of the season.

“Schreck has not taken care of himself this year (as) an athlete should, and to his shortcomings more than anything else Manager Mack attributes the slump of the team in mid-season.  To Schreck St. Louis is the most attractive town on the circuit.  Yesterday he succumbed to its blandishments.”

Ossee Schrecongost

Ossee Schrecongost

Either as a result of their drinking, the fact they were said to have “tanked” the Athletics season, or both, The Washington Post suggested that “Waddell and Schreck should be dubbed the tank battery.”

The battery mates and road roommates were sent their contracts for 1907.  Waddell was threatened with a pay cut if he didn’t stay in shape.  He quickly signed.

Mack is quoted by many sources over the years saying Schreck refused to sign his contract until Waddell agreed to no longer eat crackers in the double beds they shared on the road.

It is generally considered an apocryphal story invented by Mack years later—and often even said to have happened before the 1904 or ’05 seasons rather than 1907.

But, the story was not the invention of Mack.  There was actually a letter purported to be written by Schreck “from his home in Cleveland” (it is not known who actually wrote the letter), and reprinted in several newspapers between the 1906 and ’07 seasons:

“Dear Connie:  This is not a touch for any advance, or an increase in salary, but something much more serious, and as it won’t be long before the Athletics start south for spring practice, I am going to ask you to put Waddell under another charge this year.

“While I did not mind Rube bringing mocking birds and a reptile or two into our sleeping apartments down south, I do object to his habit of eating crackers in bed.  This Rube does nightly.  Not a single night last spring did Waddell retire without his south paw containing a dozen crackers, many of them resembling animals.

“By the time Rube, or Eddie, as he wishes to be called in southland, had got outside of these crackers, I was in anything but a sleepy mood, due in a measure to his crunching of the crackers.  It did not seem to interfere with Eddie.  He would turn over and go to sleep at once when through.

“Had it stopped here, all would have been lovely.  It didn’t however, and the natural result was that the bed was full of crumbs.  This had been going on for years, and frequently have I welcomed a night on the road with an upper berth, so as to escape Waddell and his crumbs.

“This complaint may seem trivial to you, after your varied experiences with Rube, but I can assure you that the crumbs that came from those crackers were anything but ‘crumbs of comfort’ for your humble servant.  In closing, I would like to suggest that if you can put a clause in Waddell’s contract that he is not to eat crackers in bed during the season of 1907.  I am sure Waddell and I will continue to be real good friends as of yore.  Yours truly, Ossee Schreck

“P.S.—I wish all of the boys, and of course this takes in you, a happy new year.  Am doing light training.  O.S.”

Whether or not the “cracker clause” was inserted in Waddell’s contract, the Rube/Ossee battery was together for all but four of Waddell’s 33 starts in 1907, but the relationship between “the real good friend’s of yore” began to deteriorate that season;  likely because Schreck had cut back his drinking considerably, while Waddell continued to be Waddell.

Despite a 19-13 record for the second place Athletics in 1907 Waddell had become a distraction and more trouble than he was worth.   The Inquirer said he was sold to the St. Louis Browns after “Ruben made himself objectionable to his club mates, and for the good of the club’s future Manager Mack concluded that it would be the part of wisdom to let him out.”  Waddell was 33-29 in parts of three seasons in St. Louis.

Schreck remained in Philadelphia until September of 1908 when he was sold to the Chicago White Sox, his big league career was over at the end of that season, after eight games with Chicago.

The two old teammates died just three months apart in 1914, Waddell was 37, and Schreck was 39.  The Inquirer said:

“’Thuh batt’ries for today: for Philadelphia, Waddell and Schreck!’  It has lo these many days been but a memory, and now there is only memory left of the famous diamond combination.  They flashed in dazzling brilliancy across the baseball horizon and disappeared as quickly as they came.  And both died old young.”

The Tribune’s First All-Star Team

21 Feb

In 1933 The Chicago Tribune underwrote the first All-Star game, created by Arch Ward, the  paper’s sports editor,  to coincide with the Century of Progress World’s Fair—more than 30 years earlier The Tribune published one of the earliest  sportswriter selected “all-star teams.”

Near the end of the 1902 season, The Tribune polled sportswriters from American League cities to pick “An all American League Nine.” (No similar poll was done for the National League)

The writers polled:

Jacob Charles Morse—The Boston Herald

Joseph M. Cummings—The Baltimore News

John Arnold HeydlerThe Washington Post

Frank Leonardo HoughThe Philadelphia Inquirer

Joseph Samuel Jackson—The Detroit Free Press

Henry P. Edwards—The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Alfred Henry SpinkThe St. Louis World

Irving E. (Sy) Sanborn—The Chicago Tribune

The only unanimous choice was Cleveland Bronchos second baseman Napoleon Lajoie—Lajoie appeared in just 86 games, but hit .379.

Napoleon Lajoie --the only unanimous choice

Napoleon Lajoie –the only unanimous choice

The most disagreement was behind the plate; four different catchers received votes:  Billy Sullivan of the Chicago White Sox and Lou Criger of the Boston Americans received three votes each;  Freeman Ossee Schrecongost who played 18 games with Cleveland and 79 with the Philadelphia Athletics, and William “Boileryard” Clarke of the Washington Senators each received one vote.

Cy Young of Boston led pitchers with five votes, with Philadelphia’s Rube Waddell being the choice of the other three.

Four first basemen were also chosen, but Harry Davis of the Philadelphia Athletics was the consensus choice with five votes.  Cleveland’s Charlie “Piano Legs” Hickman, Washington’s George “Scoops” Carey, and “Honest John” Anderson of the St. Louis Browns all received one vote.

Cleveland’s Bill Bradley edged Boston’s Jimmy Collins four to three, with Philadelphia’s Lafayette “Lave” Cross getting the remaining vote.

Bobby Wallace of St. Louis was the shortstop consensus with six votes, Boston’s Freddy Parent and Chicago’s George Davis received one vote each.

Booby Wallace, the choice at shortstop

Bobby Wallace, the choice at shortstop

Washington’s Ed Delehanty got four votes in left field, Philadelphia’s Tully “Topsy” Hartsell two; one vote each went to Boston rookie Patsy Dougherty and Philadelphia’s Dave Fultz (who played center field)

With or without his vote as a left fielder, Fultz was the consensus in center field.  He received four votes at that position; Chicago’s Fielder Jones got two votes, Jimmy Barrett, the only Detroit Tiger to make the list received a single vote (from Joseph Samuel Jackson of Detroit) and Harry “Deerfoot” Bay of Cleveland received one vote.

Jimmy Barrett, the only Tiger

Jimmy Barrett, the only Tiger

Right field included a couple more out of position players, Charlie Hickman picked up one vote despite being primarily a first baseman and playing just 27 games in the outfield in 1902.  Delehanty, almost exclusively a left fielder in 1902, received one vote in right.  Elmer Flick of Cleveland was the consensus with four votes.  Danny Green of Chicago received two votes.

The Results

The Results

The 1902 effort was not repeated by the paper.

“Greatest Baseball Game Ever Contested”

13 Feb

The Philadelphia Record headline called it the “Greatest Baseball Game Ever Contested, “ the September 1, 1906 game at Boston’s Huntington Avenue Grounds between the Philadelphia Athletics and the Boston Americans:

“What will go down in history as the most remarkable ball game ever played in a major league lasted 4 hours and 47 minutes to-day, and the champion Athletics beat the Bostons 4 to 1 in 24 innings.  It was a heart-breaking struggle all through, and to the astonishment of 18,000 people who saw the contest, the pitchers hung on until the last gun was fired.”

Rookie Jack Coombs pitched for Philadelphia, Joe Harris was on the mound for Boston.

Philadelphia scored a run in the third inning; Boston tied the game in the sixth:

“After that plenty of opportunities were offered, but owing to fast fielding and good pitching neither side could cross the plate.

“In the twenty-fourth, when darkness was fast covering the field, (Topsy) Hartsell led off with a single.  (Bris) Lord struck out, but Hartsell stole second…Shreck (Ossee Schrecongost) sent him home with a single over second.”

The Athletics added two more Runs as “The immense crowd filled out around the field.”

Coombs closed the Americans out in the twenty-fourth and “was cheered to an echo, some of the fans wanting to carry him on their shoulders from the field.”

The box score:

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“It was well that the game was concluded as it was, for it was too dark to go another inning, and the crowd began to murmur that the light was too dim when the last round began.  But the players themselves interposed no objection, for they were all deeply anxious to fight it out.”

Jack Coombs, 1906

Jack Coombs, 1906

Coombs would go on to a long career, highlighted by a 31-9 record, and three more wins over the Chicago Cubs in the World Series for the champion Athletics in 1910; overall he was 5-0 in World Series play.  He also pitched for the Brooklyn Robins and Detroit Tigers.

Harris is one of the ultimate hard-luck pitchers in the history of baseball.  He ended the 1906 season with a 2-21 record (the Americans were shut out 8 times when he pitched).  His Major League career was over after he went 0-7 in 1907; Harris ended his career with a 3-30 record.