Tag Archives: Pacific Northwest League

“Mr. Borchers has Merely made Excuses.”

12 Feb

After two arrests and a season-long suspension in 1889, and another arrest and stints with four teams in 1890, George Borchers seemed to have settled down.

The San Francisco Chronicle said in January of 1891 that he was “taking excellent care of himself and will be ready to play winning ball.”

George Borchers

George Borchers

From 1891 through 1893 he pitched in the Pacific Northwest and California League’s and seems to have stayed sober and out of jail.

He was essentially a .500 pitcher, with less than average control; when he was with the Los Angeles Angels in 1893 he walked 210 batters, hit 24 and had 17 wild pitches.

The Los Angeles Herald regularly noted Borchers’ wildness.  In his first appearance for the Angels in April of ’93 he walked six and hit two batters in the first inning, yielding four runs, and was removed in the second after another walk and two more hit batsmen.  After a 21-12 May victory against Stockton the paper said:  “Borchers did himself proud, allowing 13 men to walk to first base, 12 for base on balls and one for being hit.  How the Angels managed to win with him in the box is a marvel.”

From 1894 through the 1896 season he was a baseball nomad, playing for nine teams in six leagues, including a single, disastrous final major league appearance with the Louisville Colonels in May of 1895—he started a game against the Brooklyn Grooms, lasting just two-thirds of an inning, giving up a hit, three walks, a wild pitch and two runs—earning the loss as the Colonels went down 11 to 0.

Caricature of Borchers from The San Francisco Call

Caricature of Borchers from The San Francisco Call

Borchers was out of organized baseball in 1897 and it’s unclear what he was doing and where he was doing it, but he resurfaced the in 1898 as a minor league team owner.  The Pacific Northwest League, which folded after the 1896 season, was resurrected as a four-team circuit organized by Dan Dugdale and William Works.  Dugdale took the Seattle franchise; Works took Tacoma, a Spokane “newspaperman” named Hutchinson took that town’s team, and George Borchers was awarded the Portland club.

The league struggled, and Borchers was stripped of his franchise in early July.  The Tacoma Daily News explained the problem:

“George Borchers is beginning to look upon matters of baseball in a new light.  The (league) is holding an inquest on his official corpse this afternoon, sitting in Portland.  The chief is not to figure any longer as manager of the Portland baseball team…The trouble has all arisen over Borchers’ treatment of his men.  He has not distributed cash since the opening of the season and as he is still short on the amount due the league will be displaced…Mr. Borchers has merely made excuses.”

Borchers returned to California and appeared in games for three Pacific Coast League teams during the remainder of the season: Santa Cruz, Stockton and Watsonville.

Borchers would continue, on and off, as a player until 1903—including a season as player/manager with the California League’s San Jose Brewers in 1899.  But in 1901 he made headlines when he became embroiled in a scandal.

 

Borchers was pitching for the Oakland Commuters in the California League, and failed to show up for a game he was scheduled to pitch on May 1.  The San Francisco Call said:

“George Borchers, the star pitcher of the Oakland baseball nine, has disappeared…None of the missing player’s close friends in baseball circles can explain why he decamped so suddenly nor where the absent ballplayer has gone.”

“Some of the Oakland players are injecting a bit of romance into the story, the names of some of the fair enthusiasts of Golden Gate being introduced as the possible cause for the handsome pitcher’s sudden leave taking.  But none seem to be able to tell with certainty the story that he has fallen victim to the charms of some fair one.”

The plot thickened the following day when Oakland owner J. Cal Ewing hired a private detective to track the missing pitcher, and an angry father went public.

J. Cal Ewing

J. Cal Ewing

While Ewing’s investigator hunted, an Oakland real estate developer named Don Miller told The San Jose Evening News his daughter Grace had disappeared:

“(Miller) is convinced that she has gone with the ballplayer.  Neither Borchers, who has a wife in Portland, not Miss Miller has been seen since last Monday, when they boarded an eastward-bound train.”

Miller told the paper:

“I am endeavoring to locate them now, and if I ever find the man who has broken up my home he’ll need nothing but a coffin.  I’ll find them yet.”

After a week, he turned up in Ogden, Utah, pitching for that town’s club in the Inter-Mountain League.  The Santa Cruz Evening Sentinel said:

“He says he left simply to better his position and justifies his action on the ground that the California League takes players who skip out on other leagues and the local players are in competition with them all the time.  He thinks he had the right to skip out likewise and better his position.  He claims the reason he left secretly was because he feared Ewing would cause him trouble.

“He was worried over the account that he had left with Miss Grace Miller, but denied it.”

The paper noted that while Borchers wife remained in Portland, he had received two train tickets from the Ogden club.

Eventually, the truth came out.  Borchers returned to California to secure a divorce from his wife and married the former Miss Miller.  He spent 1902 playing and managing for a team in Salt Lake City, and managing a bowling alley there.

The second Mrs. Borchers became ill in November of 1902 and died two weeks later from peritonitis.

His last scandal behind him, Borchers married again and operated a large dairy in Sacramento until his death in 1938.

 

 

“Show yourself a man, Borchers, and Leave Boozing to the Weak Fools”

10 Feb

After defeating the Boston Beaneaters and “Old Hoss” Radbourn in his major league debut, George Borchers returned to the mound five days later in Chicago and beat the Philadelphia Quakers and William “Kid” Gleason 7 to 4.

With two wins in two starts the 19-year-old Borchers was, according to The New York Evening World, one of the most sought after players in the National League:

“There are several league clubs who would like to get hold of Borchers, the latest Chicago wonder, the only thing in the way of his acquisition is the $10,000 (the White Stockings were asking).”

Chicago probably should have sold Borchers while there was interest.  He injured his arm sometime in June, missed most of July, and according to White Stockings Manager “Cap” Anson “lacks the heart to stand heavy punishment.”

George Borchers

George Borchers

After his fast start, Borchers was just 4-4 in 10 starts when Chicago released him and Chicago’s other 19-year-old “phenom” Willard “Grasshopper” Mains (1-1 in 2 games) on September 6.

The Chicago Tribune said Borchers was on his way to Cincinnati to play for the Red Stockings, “he has plenty on speed and good curves, and it will not be surprising if he makes a success in the American Association.”

After the Cincinnati deal failed to materialize, Borchers accepted $100 in advance money to join the Stockton franchise in the California League.  After receiving the money he never showed up in Stockton.

No less a figure than the “Father of Baseball,” Henry Chadwick held out hope that Borchers would eventually be a successful pitcher:

“There is a chance that a first-class pitcher, who played in the Chicago team last season, is going to reform the bad habits which led to his release by Captain Anson in August (sic) last. I refer to Borchers.   (John Montgomery) Ward told me that Borchers was a very promising pitcher, and had he kept himself straight be would undoubtedly have made his mark. I learn that be is going to try and recover his lost ground, and if be shows the possession of the moral courage to reform, and the intelligence to keep temperate, he will yet find his way to fame and fortune. Show yourself a man, Borchers, and leave boozing to the weak fools of the fraternity who indulge in it at the cost of a fair name and of pecuniary independence.”

Borchers didn’t appear ready to “reform.”  Between the 1888 and ’89 season, according to The San Francisco Chronicle, he signed a contract to play for the Canton Nadjys in the Tri-State League, receiving $100 in advance money and also signed a contract with that Kansas City Cowboys in the American Association, receiving a $300 advance.

In February of ’89 Borchers was awarded to Canton.  Kansas City offered to purchase his contract.  Canton Manager William Harrington said in The Sporting Life that “Borchers will play in Canton or not at all.”

Borchers left for California.

Upon arriving in Sacramento Borchers was arrested as a result of the Stockton contract.  The Los Angeles Herald said:

“George Borchers, the well-known baseball player, was arrested this afternoon on a warrant from Stockton, charging him with having received money by false pretenses.”

Borchers pleaded guilty and paid a fine in March.  In April he attempted to sign with the Sacramento Altas.  The San Jose Evening News said:

“Sacramento being in need of a pitcher, induced Borchers to agree to play there and asked the Stockton Club to allow him to do so.  This President Campbell (of Stockton) refused and the league directors have sustained the action.”

The California League ruled Borchers ineligible for the season.

With too much time on his hands, Borchers couldn’t stay out of trouble.  The Associated Press reported on June 27:

“Shortly after 11 o’clock tonight a barn belonging to Mrs. Borchers, mother of George Borchers, the well-known baseball pitcher, was destroyed by fire, causing a loss of nearly $1000.  When the Fire Department arrived on the scene George Borchers tried to prevent the firemen from fighting the flames.  He was drunk and very boisterous.  Finally Chief Engineer O’Meara ordered his arrest.  When two officers took him in custody he fought desperately, and had to be handcuffed and placed in a wagon before he could be got to prison.”

The story said Borchers, who “has been loafing about town (Sacramento) for several months, drinking heavily” had made threats that he’d burn down the barn because his mother would not give him any more money.  Mrs. Borchers had “recently expended a large sum of money to get him out of trouble at Stockton.”

Whether his mother paid his way out of this or not is unknown, but the charges against Borchers went away, and he spent the remainder of the 1889 baseball season pitching for a semi-pro team in Merced, California.

He returned to the California League on March 23, 1890 when he pitched for Stockton in the season opener against the Haverlys at San Francisco’s Haight Street Grounds.  Borchers and Stockton lost 11 to 5.

His time in the league would be short.

In Early May he began complaining of a sore arm; The San Francisco Call said that “Borchers is known to have received an offer from the New York Brotherhood (Players League) Club and the Stockton directors think he’s playing for his release.”

On May 11 Borchers, according to The Sacramento Bee arrived at the ballpark in Stockton, on horseback and “extremely drunk.”  Catcher/Manager Mike DePangher sent Borchers home.  Borchers instead went on a bender that ended the following evening in a Stockton restaurant where he was arrested for being drunk and disorderly.

The Call said:

“If he took this means to sever his connection with the Stockton Club and join the Brotherhood, he not only brought disgrace in more sense than one upon himself, but has probably ruined his chance of an Eastern engagement.”

Borchers was fined $10 in court, the Stockton club fined him $100 and suspended him for the remainder of the season and sold his contract to Portland in the Pacific Northwest League–but not before the Sacramento Senators attempted to use him in a game.  The Call said Stockton protested:

“(Sacramento) Manager (George) Ziegler thought it best not to play him.  When George was informed that he was not to play he good-naturedly said:  ‘All right, old man,’ and then added, ‘One suspension, one release, all in two weeks.’”

George Ziegler

George Ziegler

On June 1 he won his first start for Portland, beating Spokane 7 to 6.  The Oregonian said “Borchers pitched a splendid game for the Portlands.”

Borchers split the remainder of the season between Portland and Spokane, compiling a 14-14 record with a 1.44 ERA.  When the Pacific Northwest League season ended Borchers returned home to play in the California League again; The Sacramento Record-Union printed a letter from his manager at Spokane, William “Kid” Peeples:

“Borchers has been pitching ball out of sight, and has not tasted a drop of liquor while up north.  He says he is going to stay straight, and finish the season with the Sacramentos.  He will have all the California boys guessing, as he did here.”

The San Francisco Call said Borchers was “a dismal disappointment” after he lost his first two starts for the second place Senators—both losses were against the league-leading San Francisco Haverlys.  San Francisco Manager Mike Finn filed a protest with the league, claiming Borchers should be declared ineligible because he was still on the reserve list of the Spokane club.

Mike Finn, manager, San Francisco Haverlys

Mike Finn, manager, San Francisco Haverlys

In his third start Borchers allowed Stockton to score three runs in the first inning on five walks and a wild pitch, but settled down and won 7 to 6. He beat Stockton again three days later, 15 to 10. The Record-Union criticized all four of his performances and said he had reverted to “his old ways.”

The 21-year-old finished the 1890 season with a 2-2 record for the second place Senators; San Francisco won the championship.  At the end of the season the California League upheld Finn’s protest over Borchers and fined Sacramento $500.

The rest of the George Borchers story on Wednesday.

“Demoralizing a Successful Organization For the Sake of a Few Unimportant, Mediocre Ball Players”

19 Sep

When Charlie Babb jumped from the Indianapolis Indians of the American Association to the Memphis Egyptians in the Southern Association in June of 1902, he was not alone.

Pitcher Jim St. Vrain, recently released by the Chicago Orphans and under contract with the Tacoma Tigers in the Pacific Northwest League, signed with Memphis rather than going to Tacoma.

Another American Association player, Second baseman Bill Evans of the Columbus Senators, also jumped to Memphis.  The Cincinnati Enquirer said he jumped being suspended by the Senators for being “too drunk” to take the field on June 18.

Memphis manager Charlie Frank’s three new players would be a source of controversy in the Southern Association for the remainder of the season and a continuation of an ongoing feud over the league’s salary limit which The Sporting Life said: “a majority of the clubs are known to have violated.”

Charlie Frank

Charlie Frank

Southern Association President John Bailey Nicklin, acting on orders from Patrick T. Powers, president of National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (NAPBL), ordered Frank not to play any of the three.  Frank not only defied the order but according to The Atlanta Constitution, gave Nicklin a “lecture in abuse,” and threatened to “break the league.”

Throughout July, the situation became increasingly absurd.

On July 11 Nicklin ordered umpire Ed Cline (the same Ed Cline who may, or may not, have initially approached Babb about jumping) to not allow St. Vrain to pitch against the Nashville Volunteers, managed by Frank’s biggest ally in the league, Isaac Newton “Ike” FisherThe Atlanta Constitution said Cline became mysteriously “sick and could not work,” although he “was upon the grounds while the game was being played.”  St. Vrain and the Egyptians beat the Volunteers 8 to 5 with “Red” Ehret and Nashville’s Bill Dammann acting as umpires.

After the game Frank was suspended for 10 games and threatened with being blacklisted if he played St. Vrain again.  Later that week Frank received a temporary injunction allowing him to continue using St. Vrain. And while Babb and Evans had been suspended by the league and were not covered by the ruling, Frank continued to put both in the lineup.  Frank also continued to manage the team despite his own suspension.

On July 25 Frank was again ordered by Nicklin not to play Babb and Evans.  This time, he complied, for one day.  The two players sat out an 8 to 4 victory over Atlanta (St. Vrain pitched for Memphis).  Both were again in the lineup the following day, and on July 27 Frank filed a suit against the league and Nicklin seeking $10,000 in damages.  He also sought and received an injunction “restraining President Nicklin from interfering with the playing of Babb and Evans.”

The Constitution began calling the team the “Memphis Injunctionists.”

The Sporting Life said Frank was:

“Demoralizing a successful organization for the sake of a few unimportant, mediocre ball players.”

Nicklin, the league, and the NAPBL blinked first.

Two days after the suit was filed an agreement was reached.  Babb and Evans would remain with Memphis and were reinstated from suspension; the fourth place Egyptians agreed to forfeit every game in which Babb and Evans participated in while under suspension—dropping the team to fifth place.

The controversy appeared to be over.  It wasn’t.

On August 4 the Egyptians arrived at Athletic Park in New Orleans to play the second place Pelicans.  The New Orleans Times-Picayune said:

“Under orders of (Pelicans) manager Abner Powell a big policeman today refused admission to St, Vrain, Evans and Babb, of the Memphis club, when they tried to enter.”

The game was canceled

The following day:

“Manager Frank again took his team to out to the park, but admission was refused to St. Vrain, Evans and Babb.”

The umpire, picked by the Pelicans, “declared the game forfeited to New Orleans,” and Powell shared with the press a telegram from the Little Rock Travelers which read:

“Congratulations upon your firm methods.  We will stand with you.”

Despite the earlier agreement, the NAPBL announced that Frank and St. Vrain were still under suspension.

Jim St. Vrain

Jim St. Vrain

On August 9 the Shreveport Giants refused to allow St. Vrain into the ballpark for a double-header.  Memphis took the field for each game with only eight players and no pitcher.  They forfeited both games to the Giants.

Memphis was due to travel to Little Rock for a three-game series from the 11th through the 13th.  The Travelers announced that they “would not play with St. Vrain and Frank in the game.  Babb and Evans will be allowed to play (but) under protest.”

On August 12 Nicklin resigned at a meeting of league owners in Chattanooga (Memphis and Nashville refused to attend).  He said he was “almost helpless to enforce the rules of the league,” because of Frank’s numerous injunctions.  He was replaced by vice president William Kavanaugh.  A motion was passed to suspend Frank and St. Vrain indefinitely, but Babb and Evans were officially reinstated.  Again.

In response, Frank filed another $10,000 lawsuit naming every team in the league except Nashville.

On August 27 in Nashville, St. Vrain started for Memphis.  President Kavanaugh fined Nashville $1000 and “suspended that club for the balance of the season,” he threatened “drastic measures’ towards Memphis as well, but for the several injunctions that kept him from acting.  Two days later the suspension was lifted.

On August 30 a Little Rock judge enjoined Frank from “playing or attempting to play St. Vrain in any state.”

The Atlanta Constitution headline summed up the opinion of most Southern baseball fans on September 22:

To The Relief of All the Season is Now Over

As an appropriate end, Memphis beat Atlanta on the final day of the season behind the pitching of the still suspended Jim St. Vrain.

The no longer suspended Nashville Volunteers won the pennant.

The Indianapolis Indians, the team Charlie Babb jumped, won the American Association pennant.

Charlie Babb

Charlie Babb

The Indianapolis papers had predicted that Babb’s career would be doomed when he jumped.  In 1903, he was purchased by the New York Giants.  He played in the National League with the Giants and Brooklyn Superbas through the 1905 season.  In 1906, he became a minor league player/manager; with the Memphis Egyptians.  He stayed with Memphis until 1910 and managed to become embroiled in one more controversy.

Jim St. Vrain was only 19-years-old during that 1902 season.  He finished 12-4 with Memphis.  He went to the West Coast in 1903.  His career was over after the 1905 season.

Bill Evans played in the Southern Association until 1906; he eventually became a member of three different teams who refused to play against him in 1902: New Orleans, Shreveport, and Little Rock.

Charlie Frank did just fine in the end.  More on that next week.

“Baseball will be in Utter Disrepute”

18 Sep

As common as contract jumping was during the first 30 years of organized baseball, there are very few cases in which the particular inducements that led to the player breaking his contract are available.  Such is the case with Charlie Babb.

Before the 1902 season, Babb, a 29-year-old journeyman infielder, signed to play with the Indianapolis Indians in the newly formed American Association (Indianapolis was a member of the Western Association in 1901).

The Sporting Life described  as “a base-hit killer,” but “anything but a graceful fielder.”  The St. Paul Dispatch said:

 “He covers all kinds of ground, and it is next to impossible to lay down a bunt and get away with it.”

Charlie Babb takes batting practice in Indianapolis in 1902.

Charlie Babb takes batting practice in Indianapolis in 1902.

Babb was installed at third base where The Indianapolis Times said he would be an improvement over previous third baseman Eddie Hickey who had committed 49 errors in 101 games in 1910; Babb told The Indianapolis News “he will try his best to make Indianapolis fans forget that there ever was a third-baseman by the name of Hickey.”

Babb quickly became a favorite with fans and the press.  When the Indians moved into second place in June The Times said Babb won games for the team with “his hands, feet and bat.” The News said:  “Babb can borrow a dollar from the left field bleacherites any time he wants to.”

Babb was hitting .308 in 182 at bats through June 22, and his popularity in the city was why a small item that appeared in several Midwest and Southern papers that day was largely ignored in Indianapolis.

Charlie Babb

Charlie Babb

It said that earlier in June, while the Indians were playing in Louisville, Babb was approached by Philip “Red” Ehret, a Louisville native who knew something about jumping, and currently played for the Memphis Egyptians in the Southern Association (some versions said it was a Southern Association umpire named Ed Cline who approached Babb).  The story said Ehret had “urged” Babb to jump and that “Babb turned him down.”

Disinterest over the story in Indianapolis turned to outrage two days later.  Babb had not turned Ehret and Memphis down; he jumped the Indians to join the Egyptians.

The News said:

“Babb, the deserter, was one of the most popular players ever in this city, and by his action it is doubtful he ever again will have such a place in the affections of any city.”

The Indianapolis papers provided precise details of just what was offered:  Babb would receive $45 more a month, a $300 bonus, $80 transportation expenses, and a winter job in Memphis.

The News said “Contract jumping is the greatest evil that afflicts baseball at present,” and warned that “baseball will be in utter disrepute,” if something wasn’t done to end the practice; Ignoring the “evil” of the reserve clause.

Orville “Sam” Woodruff replaced Babb at third base.  Within days, The News, which less than a month earlier had called Babb “the best third baseman” to ever play in Indianapolis; said Woodruff had played so well that “Indianapolis fans don’t care if he never comes back.”  The Times said “Babb has nothing on Orville Woodruff in the field or at the bat.”

Orville "Sam" Woodruff

Orville “Sam” Woodruff

Babb was not the only jumper to join Memphis is June.  Bill Evans, a Louisville native and friend of Ehret left the American Association’s Columbus Senators to join the Egyptians and Jim St. Vrain, after being released by the Chicago Orphans, signed with Memphis despite being the property of the Tacoma Tigers in the Pacific Northwest League.

Tomorrow: the fallout from Babb, Evans and St. Vrain signing with Memphis.

Ernest Nichols

6 Jun

Ernest Nichols seemed destined for stardom.  He was the subject of a bidding war before he ever pitched in a professional game.  The San Francisco Chronicle said that his hometown San Francisco Seals wanted to sign him, but had a lot of competition:

Parke Wilson wanted him for the Pacific Coast League in Seattle (the Siwashes), Matt Stanley recommended him to (Dan) Dugdale for the opposition team in Seattle (the Chinooks of the Pacific National League), and Spokane came along with a contract calling for a large figure and took Nichols away from the other bidders.”

Ernest Nichols

Ernest Nichols

The 21-year-old, six-foot, 190 pound right-hander was in high demand after pitching for the amateur Reliance Athletic Club team of Oakland in Northern California’s Mid-Winter League, and an independent team in Vancouver in 1902.  The Chronicle said:

“Speed and control were Nichols’ strong suit, and he had the remarkable record of thirty-five strikeouts in two consecutive games (with Vancouver).”

Upon joining the Spokane Indians Nichols immediately lived up to the hype.  By mid July he had started 24 games, winning 20.  During a one week stretch in June he beat the Tacoma Tigers four times.  The Chronicle said Nichols, who supported his mother and sisters had his salary “raised voluntarily by the Indians.”

On July 20 Nichols and two teammates went swimming at the pool in Natatorium Park, park of the amusement park that also included the Indians’ ballpark.   After swimming, the three began to watch a ballgame between two local teams.  The Spokane Spokesman-Review said:

“(Nichols) complained of cramps.  The three started to walk to catch a car.  When a car arrived he was lifted aboard and speeded to Dr. Kimball’s office.  The doctor saw that he was dead.”

He died of septic endocarditis.  Two days later The Spokesman-Review said:

“The last sad rites were rendered to the remains of pitcher Ernest Nichols yesterday afternoon by his friends and associates who knew him intimately and by a great mass of the public who knew him only through his baseball fame. “

Nichols’ body was returned to San Francisco and plans were quickly made to play a benefit game in his honor in Spokane.  The game between the Indians and the Butte Miners raised $1025.

In October of 1903 The Chronicle said:

“In all the league averages no box man is found with a record approaching that of the late Ernest Nichols, the San Francisco boy who won 20 out of a possible 24 games before death called him.”

“Begged the Crowd for God’s Sake not to Kill Him”

21 May

Edward Siegfried Hengel (often misspelled Hengle during his career) was a well-known umpire and manager in the 1880s.

Born in 1855, Hengel managed the Union Association franchise that began the season in Chicago, and relocated to Pittsburgh in August, 1884.  His career is occasionally confused with Emery “Moxie” Hengel (also often misspelled Hengle) who played second base for 1884 Chicago/Pittsburgh club, and had a long minor league career.  (The two were born two years apart in Chicago, but there is no indication they were related).

Emery "Moxie" Hengel

Emery “Moxie” Hengel

In 1886 Ed Hengel was an umpire in the Southern Association.  On August 5 he was working a game between Savannah and the Charleston Seagulls.  The Macon (GA) Telegraph said, in the sixth inning:

“”At this point of the game it became apparent to the audience, as well as to the players of the local team, that Hengle (sic), the umpire, had sold the game to Savannah; but notwithstanding his adverse decisions, the locals kept the Savannah team down to one run till the end of the ninth inning.  During the latter half of this inning (Hengel) gave the visitor three runs, letting them score in the following manner:  (John “Tug”) Arundel was at the bat. There were two out.  He hit a grounder to (Henry “Heinie”) Kappel who stopped it and threw it to first.  Arundel had stopped running and left the line when (first baseman Jim) Powell   failed to catch the ball”

Arundel then came back onto the field and ran to first, Hengel declared Arundel safe and a  run scored; the next hitter, Joe Miller, drove in two more runs, to win the game for Charleston, 4 to 3

The Telegraph said:

“As soon as the crowd caught on to the steal the grand stand and bleaching boards emptied their male contents on the ground, and for five minutes (the umpire) was in danger of getting very badly hurt, if not killed, by the infuriated crowd.”

The management of the Charleston team helped keep the fans at bay until police arrived:

“It were (sic) best for (Hengel) to get transferred immediately as another disgraceful piece of umpiring will cost him some inconvenience.  The people of Charleston will not stand another robbery.

“(Hengel) was scared nearly to death; he was as white as a sheet, and it is said begged the crowd, for God’s sake, not to kill him.  He did not deny having sold the game when charged with it by a director of the baseball club after he was safe.”

Hengel did not work another game in Charleston that season.

In October of 1887 The Aurora (IL) Daily Express credited Hengel with signing “(Charlie) Hoover crack-backstop of the Western League” for the Chicago White Stockings—within weeks Hoover’s long series of troubles would begin.

HOOVER_LG

Charlie Hoover

Hengel continued as an umpire, including stints in the Tri-State and Pacific Northwest Leagues,  and minor league manager for the next decade.  While managing the Hamilton (OH) club in the Tri-State League, Hengel saved a young girl from drowning, and “her grateful parents presented him a pair of diamond sleeve buttons.”

Hengel disappears from the newspapers after 1892;  he died in Great Britain in 1927; presumably not at the hands of angry Charleston fans.

Note:  Henry “Heinie” Kappel does not appear on surviving rosters for the 1886 Charleston Seagulls, but contemporaneous accounts in The Sporting Life and other newspapers confirm he was with the team.

“An Umpire Nearly Lynched”

11 Mar

The above headline appeared on an Associated Press story in August of 1890.  Former Major Leaguer Jimmy Manning, then managing the Kansas City Blues in the Western Association had interceded to quell a riot at the end of a game with the Denver Grizzlies in Kansas City:

“Two questionable decisions by umpire Jovin (Sic) in the ninth inning, when Kansas City was about to tie the score, angered the crowd to such an extent that they swarmed into field, hooting and jeering the umpire.  Two young boys got hold of a rope, and in fun proposed to lynch him.  This added to the excitement, and it looked for a time as if the umpire would be mobbed.  Jimmy Manning climbed up to the top of the fence and addressed the mob.  He said the umpire had decided rightly and advised that no violence be attempted.  This quieted the mob to a degree.  In the meantime the players of both clubs formed a hollow square around the umpire and conducted him to the clubhouse.”

Jimmy Manning

Jimmy Manning

“Jovin” was actually Fred Jevne, a 26-year-old minor league veteran who had become an umpire just a month earlier.  After joining the Spokane franchise in the Pacific Northwest League in April, Jevne was suspended in May for punching an umpire.

In July The Spokane Falls Daily Chronicle said Jevne and teammate Tom Turner “quit the nine because they were excessively fined and ill-treated.”  According to the paper the two players showed up at the July, 1 game “in an intoxicated condition and acted like ruffians in the grand stand.” Turner was eventually reinstated and finished the season in Spokane, Jevne did not.

Since 1885 Jevne had played for a variety of teams in several leagues, including the Southern, International, and California.  When he was signed by Spokane to play center field and serve as captain, The Daily Chronicle said:

“Jevne is rather short.  He is a good batsman and a good player generally.  The San Francisco papers, when he played there, alternately praised him and berated him, but all agree that he was a good player.”

Jevne made one more attempt at playing, joining the Evansville Hoosiers in the Northwestern League in 1891.  He then returned to the Western Association as an umpire.

Fred Jevne

Fred Jevne with the Minneapolis Millers, 1889

In December of 1894 Jevne was named to the National League umpiring staff, where his work received mixed reviews.  In June The Baltimore Sun called him “As good an umpire as there is in the business.” In August, after a he worked a game between the Boston Beaneaters and Chicago Colts, The Boston Globe said “Umpire Jevne did poor work, both sides suffering from his yellow decisions.”  The Pittsburgh Press called Jevne’s performance in a September game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Athletics “By far the worst exhibition of umpiring given this season.”

Jevne was not offered a position in the National League for 1896, and went to work in the Southern Association, where he seems to have a continued his fighting ways.  In July, The Birmingham Age-Herald said Jevne had missed the previous day’s game between the Montgomery Senators and Columbus River Snipes:

“Jevne, the regular umpire, arrived in town last night, but this morning loaded himself up with the spirit of hilarity, got into a fight with a citizen and when the hour for playing arrived was in the hands of the police, and failing to make bond was unavoidably absent from the field.”

Despite his troubles, or because of them, Jevne was asked to join the Interstate League at the end of the 1896 season because, according to The Sporting Life, umpires were losing control of games:

 “(Interstate League President Charles) Powers to-night wired for Fred Jevne the ex-National League umpire, who is so handy with his fists, to report for duty.”

Jevne was not popular with players or the press down south, and said his time in the Southern Association was difficult:

“It was no snap umpiring down South.  Fines didn’t go—were never paid—and so I used to remove men from the game.  Sometimes I would have to take out about half of a team before they would behave, and then the papers would roast me good and plenty the next morning…I had a scrap with a player named (Al) Gifford (Atlanta Crackers shortstop), and punched him in a car going from the grounds.  The local paper came out the next morning and urged the chartering of a special car for the umpire. So that he could be alone in his dignity, and another paragraph hinted that a cigar sign or dummy could be put in the special car for the umpire to punch”

Jevne appears to have returned to the Southern Association for parts of the 1897 and ’98 seasons.  He spent at least part of 1899 and 1900 in his hometown, Chicago, where he worked as an umpire in some college games.  In 1901 Jevne became a Western League umpire and that year met with a violent and mysterious end.

Initial newspaper reports said Jevne had fallen from a third story window in Denver’s Hotel Victor on August 2; he lingered for two days before dying. His body was returned to Chicago and he was buried at Graceland Cemetery.

However, several months after his death, Jevne’s brother Lloyd, a well-known three cushion billiard champion, told The Associated Press he was certain he had been murdered, and that before dying Jevne had said he was pushed:

“I saw Fred’s body after it was shipped back to Chicago, where the burial took place, and the most prominent feature of his injuries was the bruise on his nose.  Doctors I saw believe that he was struck across the face with some blunt object… When he was about to die it is not probable he would have told a falsehood.  He would not have said at that time that he had been pushed out the window.”

Lloyd Jevne

Lloyd Jevne

Whether Fred Jevne fell or was pushed from that hotel window has never been positively determined.

George Treadway

16 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George Treadway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William Clarence Matthews with Harvard Baseball Team

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

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

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