Tag Archives: Pete Meegan

“The Game was not Exactly ‘On the Square’”

21 Mar

After the 1886 season, Jim Hart brought a team composed of members of his Louisville Colonels and other American Association players west.  The team played their way out towards California, winning twenty games against minor league, semi-pro and “picked nines.”

Jim Hart

Jim Hart

They finally lost their first game of the tour in San Francisco on December 26 to the Haverlys of the California League.  Dave Foutz, who had won 41 games for the champion St. Louis Browns pitched for Hart’s club.  Foutz allowed three runs on four hits in the first inning then shut out San Francisco on one hit the rest of the way, but Pete Meegan of the Haverlys held the American Association players to just two runs.

Pete Meegan

Pete Meegan

The San Francisco Morning Call said that Foutz who was “rather superstitious” and tried to “have a lemon in his possession whenever he steps on the diamond,” attributed the loss to the fact that the he had purchased a lemon “but was careless and did not put it in the pocket of his uniform.”

After the loss, Hart’s team defeated every California League team, including a Foutz one-hitter against the San Francisco Pioneers.

Dave Foutz

Dave Foutz

On January 23, with some of his players injured, Hart added three local players to his roster for a game with a “picked nine’ of local players in Alameda.  The game was tied 4 to 4 after seven innings, but Foutz gave up two in the seventh and four in the eighth and lost 10 to 4. The San Francisco Chronicle said:

“A large crowd was in attendance at the Alameda Baseball Grounds yesterday to witness the game between the Louisvilles and a picked nine of California players… the impression of many of the spectators was that the game was not exactly ‘on the square’…The cause of suspicion was as to the fairness of the game was caused by the appearance among the spectators of men well known at baseball games offering large odds against the Louisvilles.  At about the seventh inning these men were offering odds of twenty to one against a team that has hitherto been almost invincible.”

The Morning Call headline said simply:

“Hippodrome!”

There was no doubt, said the paper, that the game had been “pre-arranged” and “made up for the picked nine to win.”

In St. Louis there was more concern that Foutz had “broken down,” having given up fourteen hits rather than speculation that he might have thrown a game.  The Globe-Democrat said:

“Regarding the reported break down of Foutz in California… (Manager Charles) Comiskey received a letter from Foutz in which he denied that he had broken down, and said he was as good as ever.”

No one reported whether the pitcher had carried a lemon into the contest.

The evidence of a fix consisted of the activity of the gamblers, Foutz’ performance in the seventh nd eight innings, and an alleged conversation between Louisville’s second baseman Joseph “Reddy” Mack and Ed Morris the pitcher for the “picked nine.” Discussing how the result of the lightly attended game would improve attendance at the next game Louisville was scheduled to play in Alameda two days later.

reddymack

Reddy Mack

Jim Hart was indignant and wrote letters to West Coast papers denying that anyone on his team could have been involved:

“I wish to say that I have made the fullest and most searching investigation and can find no foundation for the charges.  Not one of my men wagered a dime.”

Hart blamed the loss on the “weakened condition” of his team and noted that three local players filled in with his squad for the game.  The players he “brought out here all enjoy national reputations, and they could not afford to hazard their good names for the small amount of gain there would be for them.”

In another letter, written to The Sporting Life, Hart attacked the credibility of the unnamed writer of the article in The Morning Call:

“(I)t was not much of a surprise to in the issue of a sensational morning journal last Monday the flaming headline ‘Hippodrome!’  The journal referred to, I understand, instructs its reporters and correspondents in the following language—‘Make your articles sensational even at the expense of the truth,’ and the young man who wrote the article under the above referred-to head line was evidently closely following instructions…What the young man who wrote the article don’t [sic] know about baseball would make a very large book.”

Hart went on to detail his additional complaints with “the young man” from The Morning Call, but as with his letters to West Coast newspapers, he never addressed the allegations regarding the abrupt changes in the odds offered on the game, and instead of asserting that “Not one of my men wagered a dime,” as he said in the earlier letters, the letter in The Sporting Life said:

“I have investigated the whole matter religiously, and if any of the boys were implicated in any way, they are too smart for me to find out.”

The California League conducted the only official” investigation into the allegations; that inquiry was limited to determining if any of their players were involved in any wrongdoing and according to The Chronicle, simply determined that no California League players “had anything to do with it or were cognizant of it,” and made no statement regarding whether there was evidence of a fixed game.

The Chronicle evidently didn’t think the case was closed and said:

“If Foutz, Mack or (Hubert) Hub Collins expect to come out here again, they must arise and explain to the entire satisfaction” of the league president.

The Louisville team wrapped up the tour in early February; Hart resigned his position and relinquished his interest in the team in order to take over the operation of the Milwaukee Cream Citys in the Northwestern League.  Mack and Collins returned to Louisville, Foutz headed to St. Louis and another 19th Century allegation of dishonest play disappeared into the ether.

“Each Club has its own Particular Omens”

29 Jan

James Aristotle “Jim” Hart gave one of the earliest interviews on the superstitions of ballplayers.

Hart sold his interest in the Louisville Colonels of the American Association before the 1887 season—he was an original investor in the team in 1882 and managed the club in 1885 and ’86—and bought controlling interest in the Milwaukee Cream Cities in the Northwestern League.

James Hart, 1886

James Hart, 1886

 

Before he left the Colonels, Hart accompanied the team on a tour of the  West Coast in December of 1886, and talked to a reporter from The San Francisco Chronicle:

“Why my dear fellow you have no idea to what ridiculous extremes most ball players allow their superstitious inclinations to carry them.  It’s a wonder to me that none of you newspaper men have ever written them up.”

Hart said “Each club has its own particular omens, you know there are four or five favorite beliefs which are held in general esteem by all.  In the East the boys always go to the grounds on the day of the game in hacks, and if they should win they go next time in the same carriages if they can get them, but anyway by the same route, around the same corners and along the same streets.  Should fortune prove averse and defeat be their lot another route is chosen next time and different carriages selected.  To meet a funeral procession on the way to the ball grounds it is also considered good luck, but should their driver be so rash as to cross the road and break through the line of mourners’ carriages I verily believe the boys would murder him.  It is considered such a bad omen that the boys would remain on one side of street all day rather than cross the line.”

“To meet a cross-eyed person is the worst kind of luck.  The only antidote for it is to turn around immediately and spit over your left shoulder before you speak.  It’s kind of amusing sometimes to see half a dozen or so fellows suddenly whirl around altogether like pivot machines and spit over their shoulders while walking quietly along the street, and without saying a word, too.  It was done here on Market Street a few days ago by some of my boys, and I guess the people must have thought then either drunk or crazy.  Another good mascot is to have a dog run across the diamond either just before or during a game.   The Pittsburgh team carried a dog around with it all last season that had run across the field early in the summer.  It didn’t matter that the poor brute had no tail, and was all over sores and all that, he was a mascot just the same and the boys were proud of him.  I reckon there has never been a dog so handsomely treated as that one was.”

“One of the greatest jonahs we have is to commence packing up the bats before the game is finished.  No matter how the score stands at the time, your luck is sure to flop right over and give the victory to the other side.  To illustrate it to you more clearly, I will relate an incident that occurred to our nine early last season at home (the game was actually played August 16, 1885).  We were playing a match game with the Pittsburgh team.  Luck went clear against us all day, and at the beginning of the ninth inning the Pittsburghs (Alleghenys) had ten runs to our five.  It seemed an utter impossibility to catch up that difference in one inning, and I can tell you we felt pretty blue.  Victory looked so sure for the Pittsburghs that Pete Meegan, an extra man belonging to that team, who was sitting on the bench, begin packing up the bats when the last inning was commenced.  You may not believe it, but it’s an actual fact and a matter of record; our luck changed from that instant (Louisville won 11-10).  Manager (Horace) Phillips of the Pittsburghs was crazy with rage, but he didn’t blame any of his players.  He could have murdered Meegan though for bringing on a jonah by packing up those bats before the game had finished. I don’t remember very clearly, but I think Meegan got let out subsequently.  At any rate he was fined heavily for his offense (Meegan never played in the major leagues after 1885; whether he was “let out” by Phillips because of this incident or his 14-20 record in two American Association seasons is unknown).

Pittsburgh Alleghenys Manager Horace Phillips

Pittsburgh Alleghenys Manager Horace Phillips

Another funny idea we’ve got is to pick out a saloon we think to be lucky, and drink a glass of beer there on the day of the game and have the glass set on one side for us.  If we win, then we go to that saloon every day after and drink out beer out of the same glass.  Of course if our luck should change then we try another saloon.  This don’t apply to every nine, because some of them are not allowed to drink at all during the season, under penalty of a heavy fine.  In addition to these things, some clubs belonging to the league are called jonah clubs.  That is, there are some clubs against which it is useless for us to attempt to play.  It doesn’t make any difference whether we consider our own the best team or not, they are jonahs and we can’t beat them.  Loss of confidence has a great deal to do with it, I suppose.”

“The Chicagos’ mascot for the past three seasons has been a little boy in short clothes named Willie Hahn.  The tiny fellow is just able to talk and always sits on the bench during the game.  The Chicagos have the greatest confidence in him as a promoter of success and make a great fuss over him.  Two seasons ago, when the Chicagos won the championship of the league, they hired an open landau upon their return home, put Master Willies in it, bedecked him with flowers and wreaths and hauled him all over the city by hand.  It was a regular triumphal march, you bet. “

Willie Hahn, Chicago White Stockings mascot with Ned Williamson

Willie Hahn, Chicago White Stockings mascot with Ned Williamson

Hart said Willie Hahn, who was white, was unusual.  Most of the teams had black mascots and the players rubbed their heads before batting:

“Sometimes the black boy is kept in a closed hack during the game to prevent contamination from other hands.  The kid then has to duck his head out of the carriage window when the boys want to rub it.”

Hart said the Pittsburgh Alleghenys kept a seat in the stands open for an old black woman “Just before the game commenced the boys would invariably look up to see if old aunty was in her place, and if by chance, she was not there they would lose heart, say the game was ‘jonahed,’ and in all probability, lose it.”  He said the Alleghenys also had two sets of uniform pants “one pair white and the other blue.  One color would be worn so long as the club was successful.”

More from Hart on Friday.