Tag Archives: Patsy Donovan

“The Big League Ballplayer has the Easiest job”

5 May

Malachi Kittridge was nearly a decade removed from major league baseball in 1915 but had plenty of opinions about how easy current players had it.  He told The Cleveland News:

“The big league ballplayer has the easiest job there is. He does not even have to pack his uniform. That is done for him in the clubhouse. His hand baggage is taken to the train for him. He rides in a lower berth. Arriving at another town, he is met by a taxicab while his baggage is taken to the hotel in a wagon. He does not even have to write his name on the hotel register. He finds his room and a good one with a bath reserved for him.”

And once in town, it was even easier:

“He has nothing to do except to report at the grounds at 2 pm, practice and then take part in the game. His evenings are his own as are his mornings, except at home, when some clubs have practice sessions. He has more idle time upon his hands than any man engaged in any other profession, yet he fails to take advantage of it by fitting himself for some other profession or business to take up when his baseball days are over.”

Kittridge

Kittridge said players idled away their time on the road taking walks and playing cards in the morning, or at a theater or pool hall in the evening, rather than devoting “some of his time to study” of a future career.  But, he warned, “he cannot study too much and run the risk of injuring his eyes.”

The News said Kittridge also resented, “the oft printed story that the old-time baseball player was rough neck,” compared to the modern, “college-bred” players:

“I guess they forgot about the famous old Chicago White Sox. Of that team, John K. Tener became governor of Pennsylvania and president of the National League; (Cap) Anson was county clerk of Cook County, which means Chicago; Mark Baldwin is a famous surgeon in Pittsburgh; Ad Gumbert was Sheriff of Pittsburgh [sic, Allegheny County]; (Bill) Hutchinson, the great pitcher, is a railroad official out West; Walter Wilmot is a banker in Minneapolis, and Clark Griffith is pretty well up in the baseball game.”

Kittridge challenged the reporter to “investigate,” and said, “you would find that the majority of the old-timers have done well since quitting the game, indicating that they were not the rowdies later day writers would have the public believe.”

Kittridge himself was a fairly successful minor league manager, but his one stint running a major league club was a disaster. Kittridge’s 1904 Washington Senators were 1-16 when the player-manager was replaced by Patsy Donovan.  The Boston Globe provided an example of how he counseled pitchers to face the league’s leading hitter, Napoleon Lajoie:

“Place the ball at a medium rate of speed over the middle of the rubber, or cut the plate with a slow, arched curve whenever Lajoie is facing you. The big Frenchman will write an obituary in the shape of a double, triple, or homer on any ball that has steam behind it and veers over the outside or inside corners. I have seen him soak a high one in the inside on a level with his Adam’s apple, and the next one he plucked off his socks knee high and on the inside.”

Fighting Jimmy Burke

2 Jan

James Timothy Burke had a stormy tenure with the Saint Louis Cardinals from 1903-1905, including a disastrous 35-56 record as player-manager in 1905, replacing Kid Nichols (who remained on the pitching staff)—Burke resigned in August, and the Cardinals were in such disarray that owner Stan Robison eventually took over the team for the remainder of the season.

Burke had been with five teams from 1898 through 1902 before being traded to the Cardinals.

Jimmy Burke

Jimmy Burke

During his time with the Cardinals Burke had various fights and feuds, it was said he was the ringleader in a group of players trying to undermine manager Patsy Donovan in 1903; he had a long-standing feud with shortstop Dave Brain and the two seldom spoke, and he feuded with Robison throughout his short tenure as manager.  After his resignation he said:

“When I took charge of the team it was with the understanding that I was to be manager or nothing.  I have suffered as Donovan and Nichols with too much interference.”

Burke also had trouble with a Saint Louis sportswriter named Joe Finnegan.  Their contentious relationship came to a head at the Victoria Hotel in Chicago in September of 1904 after Finnegan had written an article in which he called Burke “a cow’s foot,” (apparently those were fighting words circa 1904).

The Pittsburgh Press provided the colorful blow-by-blow of the fight:

“First round–Burke hit Finnegan in the lobby, and followed the blow with a left hook on the back of the neck, breaking the scribe’s collar.  Burke pressed the advantage and struck Finnegan near the cigar stand.  Finnegan blocked cleverly, uppercut with the left and caught Burke in the snout.  Finnegan crossed his right and landed on Jimmy’s potato-trap.  Burke jolted Finnegan in the rotunda and followed with a short swing near the Turkish parlor.  Finnegan shot the right to the ear, and the left to the lamp.  They clinched.  Terrific short-arm fighting, completely wrecking Finnegan’s collar and cuff.  Johnny Farrell separated the men. Time.

“Second round—The house detective threw both fighters out in the alley.  Time.  Decision to Finnegan.”

Burke’s Major League career ended after the 1905 season.  New Cardinal manager John McCloskey said he wanted to retain Burke as his third baseman, but Robison, against his manager’s wishes (and continuing the pattern which led papers to call Cardinals managers “figureheads”) waived Burke.

Burke became a successful minor league manager and returned to the Major Leagues as a coach with the Detroit Tigers in 1914.  He also served as a coach with the St. Louis Browns and managed the team for three seasons.

Jimmy Burke, Cubs coach

Jimmy Burke, Cubs coach

Burke served as Joe McCarty’s right hand from 1926-1930 with the Chicago Cubs and followed him to the New York Yankees where they continued together until a stroke necessitated Burke’s retirement after the 1933 season.  McCarthy had played for Burke with the Indianapolis Indians in the American Association in 1911.

Burke died in St. Louis in 1942.