Tag Archives: Philadelphia Athletics

“I Saw this Same Proud Bird of Freedom, the American Eagle, Soaring Aloft”

21 Apr

“Land and Water” was a British magazine that existed in various incarnations from the early 1860s until 1920.

In 1874, the magazine opined on the Boston Red Stockings and Athletics of Philadelphia crossed the Atlantic to play baseball in England:

“The Yankees have come over to show Englishmen what baseball really is in its pure, unadulterated state.  America swears by baseball, and when America swears the earth totters.  You want, I admit, to see the Yankees at work before you can understand the science and niceties of the sport.  They are wonderful in all reality when they are stripped and ready for the fray.  Baseball encourages fielding more than anything, and the Yankees are perfect marvels in the matter of fielding.  Kittens are dull and apathetic by comparison if you estimate their playfulness.”

The British were impressed with the way the Americans practiced:

“You see them all over the ground before the real business begins in different groups, all at exercise of some sort.  The first thing that strikes you will be their skill in catching, and their extraordinary aptitude for fielding and returning the ball smartly, in whatever position they may be placed, or in whatever fashion it comes.  You see no respect for persons, for the ball is thrown as hard as ever it can be hurled, and yet, though the distance is only a few yards, it is caught like lightening, and there is the action for return as the game were in progress and one of the bases empty.”

The magazine asked Cricketer Tom Brown his opinion of the American game:

“Cricket is more than a game, it is an institution, and baseball will never supersede or do the slightest injury to our own natural sport in any way.”

In spite of Brown’s assessment, the magazine conceded that baseball would “prove a pleasant relief after some of our own British amusements.”

 

woodcut

A “Harper’s Weekly” woodcut from the 1874 tour.

 

And, the magazine said, the relative speed of a baseball game might appeal to some British fans:

“It is not everyone that can afford to spare three days or one whole day for sport, however much his inclinations may lead him. It is this drawback alone prevents the acclimatization of cricket in America, and it is by a parity of reasoning the absence of all the waste of time that makes baseball such an enthusiasm over the Atlantic.  You will have to see a game before you can appreciate its advantage.  You may come to scoff, but in all probability, you will go away to pray.  A game at baseball rarely, if ever, exceeds two hours in duration.”

But, watching the exhibition would be nothing close to experiencing a game in Boston or Philadelphia, the magazine said:

“A contest between Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire at cricket is perhaps the nearest approach in an English way, but the roar that proceeds from every Yorkshire throat when a Nottingham wicket falls at Sheffield, is a mere whisper compared with the hubbub that attends a baseball game of interest from the first ball pitched to until the last strike.”

The game was explained to readers by comparing it to cricket:

“The positions of pitcher and catcher are closely akin to those of our bowler and wicket-keeper, though the latter is more of a combination of wicket-keeper and long-stop. Much of the success of the nine depends on the manner in which these two posts are filled, as to succeed they should thoroughly understand each other, and be well acquainted with each other’s movements…A fieldsman at baseball must have good nerves, and not be easily disconcerted.  He is especially to be perfect, or else every mistake is registered to his disadvantage.  It is without s doubt an excellent plan, but the records of the game are pitiless, and every error is registered by the scorer with the same merciless severity and strict impartiality.”

As for the game itself, the magazine’s correspondent said:

It was on Thursday afternoon last (July 30) that I saw this same proud bird of freedom, the American Eagle, soaring aloft. It was the first appearance of the American champions on English soil; and for one, I was curious to see the Yankees disport themselves in England at their own pastime…(the teams) were wonderfully well matched, too, in every way the competing nines; and the wonderful aptitude and agility shown by the catcher, the unerring accuracy displayed by all fieldsmen, and the general dash and briskness of the play all around, elicited frequent applause.”

The Athletics won the game 14-11 in 10 innings, in front of a crowd of just 500.  The magazine’s correspondent was too polite to mention the small crowd:

“Towards the end, we had got thoroughly excited, and the interest was universal.  It may be that we should have enjoyed it more throughout had we only understood, some of us, the state of the game…Nevertheless, there was but one feeling amongst us, that the Americans had shown us some excellent sport, and taught us, unintentionally perhaps, more than one useful lesson.  There was such backing up, as one would like to see in every cricket match if there was only a chance.  There was an amount of discipline, too, among the players that would have gratified the most inveterate martinet, and an air of unselfishness among the players that was devoid of anything like the taint of personal gratification.  It may be that baseball will show up conspicuously some of the faults of our English game. If so the American invasion will not have been in vain.”

 

Chance versus Mack

31 Oct

On the eve of the 1910 World Series, Chicago Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers made the case in The Chicago Herald that his manager was better than the manager of their American League opponent:

Johnny Evers,

Johnny Evers,

“It is but natural that I should favor Chance.  Just the same sentiment alone does not sway me when I say that he will outwit Connie Mack and that his managerial ability will be one of the greatest assets of the Cubs.

“Chance is without an equal in putting fight into a team.  Here is a concrete example of his ability to fight against odds.  Incidentally, it throws a mighty interesting sidelight into our fight for the pennant of 1908.

“In the latter part of the season, we were playing in Philadelphia.  We lost a game which seemed to put us hopelessly out of the race.”

After losing 2 to 1 to the Phillies on September 18, the Cubs dropped 4 and ½ games behind the league-leading New York Giants.

“In those days we were riding to and from the grounds in carriages and we were pretty thoroughly licked that evening.

“We didn’t have a thing to say, for it seemed that our last hope had vanished and that we could not possibly get into the World Series.

“I think it was (Joe) Tinker who finally broke the silence.  ‘Well, cap, we are done and we might as well celebrate our losing tonight,’ he said.

“Chance thought a few minute.  ‘No, we won’t,’ he answered.  ‘Boys, we have been pretty good winners.  Now let’s show the people that we can be good losers.  Let’s show then that we never give up; that we are never beaten.  Let’s show then we play as hard when we lose as when we win, and that we fight for the pure love of fighting, whether it means victory or defeat.’

“Well, sir, you can’t imagine how that cheered us.  We did fight and the baseball world knows that we won.”

Frank Chance

Frank Chance

The Cubs went 13-2 after that loss to the Phillies, setting the stage for the October 8 game with the Giants to decide the pennant—the replay of the September 23, Merkle’s boner game:

“Chance’s ability as a fighter is not his only asset, for he mixes shrewdness with his fighting.

“And to my mind, he never gave a better illustration of his shrewdness than he did on that memorable afternoon that we met the giants in that single game.”

Evers said “a scheme had been framed up to beat” the Cubs, and when the team was six minutes into their allotted 20 minute of batting practice:

(John) McGraw came up with bat and ball. We were told that we had been given all the time that was ours and would have to quit.  Well, we were careful to find out just how long we had been batting, and Manager Chance then went up to protest.

Joe McGinnity, the old pitcher, shoved him from the plate and struck him on the chest with a bat.  The first impulse of Chance was to strike back.  He restrained himself, and, looking the old pitcher squarely in the eye, he told him that he would smash his nose the first time they met outside the ballpark.

Joe McGinnity

Joe McGinnity

“Chance returned to the bench and we talked it over.  Chance guessed the scheme in an instant, and within a few hours what we suspected became a fact.  McGinnity was there to invite an attack.  Had Chance fought him, a policeman would have been called and both men would have been escorted from the field.  The Giants would have lost a man they had no intention of losing, while the Cubs would have lost their manager as well as their first baseman, and the team would have been demoralized.”

Evers said Chance’s restraint “gave me a better insight into his real character than anything I ever witnessed before.”

Evers continues making his case for Chance on Wednesday.

One Minute Talk: Jack Coombs

21 Oct

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

With the Brooklyn Robins in first place by four games after beating the Boston Braves 5 to 2 on August 14, Jack Coombs said:

Coombs

Coombs

“Baseball is a peculiar game.  The life is hard and the game fast but there is a fascination about it that just holds one.  There is something that comes of matching your eye against a sweeping curveball that can be found in no other game in the world. Once you get inside the flannels you hate to lay them aside.

“We Brooklyn men should win this pennant.  We have a fair lead and at the clip we are traveling should not have much trouble in holding our position.

“We arrived at the top through good baseball and no one can down us.  However, there are 55 games to  play and accidents may cut us down.”

The “Brooklyn men,” managed to hang on to first place through the final 55 games, beating the Boston Braves by two and a half games.

Coombs, who won 80 games for the Philadelphia Athletics between 1910 and 1912, missed nearly all of the next two seasons battling typhoid fever.  Signed as a free agent by Brooklyn in 1915–he was 15-10 2.58 that season and was 13-8 with a 2.66 ERA for the 1916 pennant winners; he posted Brooklyn’s only victory in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox–a 4 to 3 victory in game 3.

Coombs was also true to his observation that “Once you get inside the flannels you hate to lay them aside.”  After a brief, unsuccessful tenure as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1919, Coombs was a coach for the Detroit Tigers in 1920. He then spent the next 32 years as a college baseball coach at Williams College, Princeton, and Duke–remaining in the game until he was forced to retire from Duke at the age of 70.

Coombs at Williams College, 1921

Coombs at Williams College, 1921

When he arrived at Williams, in Williamstown, Massachusetts in the spring of 1921, The New York Tribune said Coombs, having discovered that “training rules had not been observed,” by Williams players in previous years–the two previous coaches at Williams were former teammates of Coombs with the Athletics, Ira Thomas, and Harry Davis, “(A)sked the student body to encourage the members of the squad to train, to criticise them if they did not, and to help them with their studies.”

 

“Some Players seem Terribly Stupid”

7 Sep

Henry Beach Needham was a journalist and fiction writer, best known for being a long-time friend, and occasional biographer of President Theodore Roosevelt.  In 1906, he approached Connie Mack with a request to travel with the Philadelphia Athletics and publish a profile of the manager and his players.

Needham

Needham

Initially apprehensive, Mack allowed Needham to accompany the club and two became close friends.

Over the next nine years (until he was killed in a plane crash in France while covering the war) Needham would write many profiles of his friend Mack in pages of “McClure’s Magazine,” and syndicated in many newspapers.

In 1911, just before the start of the World Series, he asked Mack:

“What is the first thing you demand in a youngster?’

“’Speed!’ replied Mack.  ‘Double plays are what lose you your games.  A slow man gets doubled up at first.  The only excuse for having a slow man—unless he’s a first-class pitcher or a splendid catcher—is that he can play the hit-and-run.  If he can’t signal to the base runner and then connect with the ball, he will hit into a double play—and there goes your game.”

Next, Needham asked if “baseball brains” were next in importance:

“’Y-e-s,’ replied Mack, with some hesitation, and then he qualified:

“’Hold on!  There’s something to be said about gray matter.  Some players seem terribly stupid.  Why—you can tell ‘em a thing over and over, and they will go into the game and do exactly opposite to what you have told them.  Then—all of a sudden it will come to them—and then they have it.  Why—I know a great player in our league.  For two or three years he was as stupid a player as you ever saw.  Then—suddenly it all came to him.  Now he won’t make the wrong play twice in a season.’”

Mack

Mack

Needham asked about players staying in condition:

“’I take that for granted,’ said Mack.  “Major league players have got to be in condition—or their clubs can’t win.  I haven’t any rules.  Why—I never have had any.  But my men always take care of themselves.  This may interest you:

“’Before the World Series last year I got my team in a room together.  Why—I told them that, no matter what the results, we didn’t want to have any regrets.  I reminded them how in other years it was said that the losing team hadn’t taken care of themselves.  Then I said that I wanted every man who could honestly promise to say that he wouldn’t take a drink until the series was over.’

“’Now, if there is one of you who can’t do without his drink,’ I said to them, ‘I want him to say so.’ Then I went down the line, and they all promised, every one of the 23.’

“’Why—I’m morally certain that not one of those 23 men touched a drop in those two weeks.  And a few of them are accustomed to have their bottle of beer every day of their lives.’”

The sober Athletics

The sober Athletics

Needham said there was discipline on Mack’s club, but it was “discipline through force of example:”

“Connie Mack does not smoke or drink—merely because he cares for neither—and he is clean as a hound’s tooth.”

Needham, who said “No one can get (Mack) to prophecy” made a prediction about the manager, then 48-years-old:

“Twenty years may elapse before Connie Mack wins his last pennant.”

Mack did win his final  pennant twenty years later in 1931.

“The Nomad of the Interstate League”

25 Jul

There have been several incarnations of the Interstate League, the first began in 1885 and the final one played its last game in 1952.  None was more precarious than the one that operated in the 1890s, which newspapers annually announced was on the verge of collapse.  One Interstate League franchise, in particular, was always a little closer to collapse than the rest.

Frank J. Torreyson became the owner of the Wheeling (WV) Nailers in 1897.  He had been part owner of the Dayton franchise but just as that partnership was disintegrating the Wheeling team went on strike because they hadn’t been paid.  The league solved two problems by awarding the Nailers to Torreyson.

Torreyson had been a semi-pro player in Pennsylvania and managed teams in the Tri-State League. His first effort at team ownership involved starting a Pittsburgh franchise in the Pennsylvania State League in 1892.  By July He moved the team to Wilkes-Barre citing poor attendance.

His brother, Thayer “Heavy” Torreyson, was a 2nd baseman who had some excellent seasons in the Pennsylvania State and Atlantic Leagues; but by 1897 Thayer had literally grown into his nickname, and his best playing days were behind him.

Thayer joined Frank in the ownership of the team and continued to play and serve as captain.

In 1898, the Torreyson brothers moved the Wheeling franchise to Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Frank had necessitated the move when, immediately upon acquiring the franchise, he sold off the best players and alienated the Wheeling fans–he also played the two towns against each other.  While he was already aware he had worn out his welcome in Wheeling, he told The Grand Rapids Herald:

“I would very much like to have charge of an Interstate team here though Wheeling is a pretty good ball town.  We can’t play Sunday there, though, unless we get the grounds outside of the town which we expect to have if we stay there.”

He managed to get the city of Grand Rapids’ “West Side businessmen to bear half the expense “of readying two ballparks for the season—the team played most of their games at Recreation Park, but Sunday games were played at nearby Alger Park

The first home Sunday game was a harbinger of what was ahead for Torreyson in Grand Rapids.

Despite each person who “Patronized the grandstand” receiving “‘The Art Gallery of Prominent Baseball Players of America,” fans stayed away in droves.  Bad weather limited the crowd to “a few hundred,” and “stern luck was ‘agin’ the Cabinetmakers,”  Grand Rapids lost the game 6 to 5, and their record for the young season slipped to 2-5.

Things never really improved.

Throughout the 1898 season, Torreyson complained about the lack of support from the Grand Rapids community and threatened to move the team.

For their part, the citizens of Grand Rapids, while not actually coming out to games in great numbers, seemed to appreciate Torreyson’s effort.  In August, with the team in fourth place, The Herald announced that a benefit—whereby blocks of tickets would be purchased by the city’s leaders—would be organized to try to get the owner out of the red:

“Torreyson has given the city the best team it has ever had and this being a bad season f0r the game, there has been no money in it for him.”

There was no report of how much the August 19 benefit raised, but Torreyson, at least for the moment, expressed his gratitude in a letter to the people of the city he was desperately attempting to flee:

“The results show that Grand Rapids people appreciate honest endeavors for clean baseball.  Hoping to continue to please all, I am, respectfully yours, Frank W. Torreyson.”

Frank Torreyson

Frank Torreyson

Over the next twelve months, he visited a number of cities in Ohio and Indiana soliciting the best offer to relocate the team.  Attendance in Grand Rapids decreased further in 1899—while Torreyson’s club had hovered near .500 throughout the 1898 season, they were wire-to-wire doormats, mired in last place for all of 1899– and the already struggling Interstate League was in danger of having a team fold during the season.

In order to keep the eight-team league intact, an unusual trade was made.  The Columbus Buckeyes in the Western League would move to Grand Rapids and Torreyson would take his team to Columbus, Ohio.  The move would benefit both leagues by reducing travel costs.

In mid-July of 1899, the move was made official.  Fans, thrilled to be rid of the cellar-dwelling Interstate League club, filled the ballpark for the first home game of the Grand Rapids Furniture Makers of the Western League.  Newspapers estimated the crowd between 1600 and 2000; at least double the best crowd Torreyson’s team had ever drawn.

Columbus fans were less enthusiastic; 167 attended the first home game of the Columbus Senators of the Interstate League, a 4 to 1 loss to the first place New Castle Quakers.  The Herald said of Grand Rapids’ former club’s first game in their new town:

“That same old story comes from Torreyson’s team.”

The low attendance—they drew just 288 fans for their first Sunday home game– and  not very  friendly reception from the city of Columbus made Frank restless again.  Less than two weeks later, he relocated once more, this time to Springfield, Ohio, where his team was appropriately dubbed The Wanderers.  The team finished the season 49-91, 38 games out of first place.

 

In less than two years, Torreyson had incurred the wrath of the league and each member city.  The Fort Wayne News called for the league to take the franchise away from him. The Toledo Bee said Torreyson was “Ruining the Interstate.”  The Mansfield (OH) News said the transfer of the teams would have been better for the league “If Torreyson had been lost in the trade.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“The managers of the various other teams in the league say that Torreyson has done more to injure baseball in the Interstate League since he got into it than all other drawbacks combined.  The say that if Torreyson is permitted to wander about the country with a club in Columbus this week, in Kalamazoo next week, Erie the following week, Saginaw of Bay City the week after, and God only knows where after that, the league might as well disband.”

Early in 1900, a deal was struck to buy him out of the franchise.  The Youngstown Vindicator said the league had contributed to the purchase price in order to rid them of Torreyson, who they called “The Nomad of the Interstate League.”  Torreyson, The Vindicator said, “(M)ilked at least three towns as dry as tinder. But then the fan is the legitimate prey of the magnet.  Torreyson is now running a billiard hall in Braddock (PA).”

That wasn’t the end of Torreyson’s story.

He did, along with “Heavy,” open a billiard hall in Braddock—then two more in Homestead and McKeesport.  But Frank also became a successful thoroughbred owner and managed dozens of boxers out of a gym in Braddock.

Thayer "Heavy" Torreyson

Thayer “Heavy” Torreyson

Both made headlines one more time.

In October of 1911, The Pittsburgh Dispatch said Thayer was on his way to New York and, “He took with him $21,000.  He will wager this amount that the Philadelphia Athletics will defeat the New York Giants for the world’s championship.”

In 1912, The Pittsburgh Gazette-Times said Frank paid passage for two boxers from Whales to come fight for him in Pennsylvania.   Leslie Williams and David John Bowen never made it to the United States; they went down with the Titanic on April 14.

Frank Torreyson died on April 10, 1918.

Thayer “Heavy” Torreyson continued to operate the billiard halls—and as The Pittsburgh Press said he was known to sell “horse race pools and (make) book on races.”  He also remained active in Pittsburgh area amateur baseball until his death on May 7, 1939.

A shorter version of this post appeared in September of 2012.

“The Fourth of July in Baseball has Always been a Day of Reckoning”

4 Jul

During the 19th Century, when completing any given season in the black, or finishing the season at all, was not a foregone conclusion for a large percentage of professional teams; in 1892 O.P.  Caylor of The New York Herald said of Independence Day:

“The Fourth of July in baseball has always been a day of reckoning, as it were.  All clubs, associations or leagues endeavor to retain their breath of life until after America’s natal day so that they may partake in the feast of the turnstiles upon that baseball festival.  The great anniversary of liberty has served many times to lift a weakened club out of financial distress and give it a chance to continue in business probably till the season’s end—at least for a month or two longer.”

O.P. Caylor

O.P. Caylor

Caylor said everyone in baseball held their breath two years earlier during the run up to the holiday:

“In the early fight between the League and the Brotherhood in 1890, old League generals declared that if the Fourth of July that year should be a rainy day, generally on the circuit many of the Brotherhood clubs would be compelled to suspend before the season ended, but if the day should be fair they might pull through to the season’s end. The day was fair, and the attendance everywhere was large.  That meteorological condition was a blessing not only to the Brotherhood but to the old League clubs as well.”

According to The New York World, on the day after the holiday in 1890, Caylor’s recollections were mostly correct; while the weather was “mostly fair” in several cities, the paper said there was “Bad weather in Boston, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh.”  Overall, the Players League won the day, drawing more than 48,000 fans, followed by more than 38,000 for the American Association.  The “old League clubs” were not quite as “blessed“ as Caylor indicated; with home games in two of the three “Bad weather” cities, the National League drew just more than 31,000 fans.

Caylor said while the 1892 season—which included the National league’s only scheduled split-season schedule, with a 12-team league which included four clubs picked up from the defunct American Association —was a struggle for the National League, the only remaining major league would not face the fate of some minor leagues.  The Eastern League’s New Haven franchise folded in June, and in order to not play out a schedule with a nine-team league, “The Athletics of Philadelphia were a little more than willing to ‘cash in,’ and so the circuit was hewed down to an octagon.”

Caylor called the situation in the National League “not so promising,” but said:

“(A) club franchise in that body is so valuable as a piece of property the year around that no fears are entertained of even the most unfortunate of the twelve putting up its shutters and turning its grounds into a sheep’s pasture before the season ends.”

Despite the fact that no team would be “putting up its shutters” before the end of the season, Caylor said that as of Independence Day, only the Pittsburgh Pirates, who “Not one reader in a hundred would have picked,” were operating in the black for the first half of the season, and only because Pittsburgh “has a cheap team.”

Caylor said:

“Of the other eleven clubs a few were about even on receipts and expenditures and some were far behind with losses.  Especially was this the case with the New York and Chicago Clubs.”

Hindsight being Hindsight, just six weeks later, Caylor would suggest that the decision made by league magnates to pare down rosters and institute across-the-board pay cuts at mid-season (July 15), was, at least in Cincinnati, “(A) way to squeeze the old hen into more active and valuable work (laying golden eggs), and on the squeezing they killed her.”

But on “America’s natal day,” he seemed to support the decision of baseball’s executives:

“(They decided the) remedy much be retrenchment. Clubs must employ only the minimum number of players…and salaries must come down…The fact that at least four of the twelve clubs pay over $50,000 each in team salaries proves the ruinous and unbusinesslike height to which baseball salaries were forced by the two years of conflict between the fighting factions.  (John Montgomery) Ward and (Charles) Comiskey each receive $7,000 salary for seven months’ service—a sum proportionately larger than that paid to United States Senators and more while the service lasts than is received by the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.”

John Montgomery Ward

John Montgomery Ward

The most egregious example, according to Caylor was:

“The present New York team is a whole sermon against expensive teams.  It draws $50,000 from the club treasury and is one of the bitterest disappointments ever placed upon the field.  There is not even the excuse of ‘hard luck’ or accident to lift the team out of its disgrace.”

The Caylor of August—who called the season “a Dog’s Day Depression,” still held out hope in July:

“There is every reason to believe that this (the second half) will be a much more exciting fight than the first.  The clubs will all start into it with much more certainty of equality, and those that have been weak will make a mighty effort to strengthen the vulnerable places of their teams.”

Lost Advertisements–Home Run Baker, Ide Silver Collars

15 Jun

hrbakeradAn advertisement for Ide Silver Collars, featuring John Franklin “Home Run” Baker:”

“Your silver collars have certainly made a big ‘hit’ with me.  The buttonholes are the easiest and best ever.”

bakerpix

After Baker returned to baseball with the New York Yankees in 1916, he “wrote” a very short syndicated newspaper piece, part of a series which asked some of the game’s best hitters to name “The Six Hardest Pitchers I ever Faced.”

Baker said:

“In naming my six hardest and best pitchers, I must invade my old club for three of them, though I never batted against them in championship games.  From my standpoint, the six best during my career were:

“Walter Johnson–Washington Americans.

“Edward Walsh–Chicago Americans.

“‘Dutch’ Leonard–Boston Americans

“Eddie Plank–Philadelphia Americans

“Albert Bender–Philadelphia Americans

“John Coombs–Philadelphia Americans.

“Johnson is the present-day wonder; Walsh was the king in his prime, and young Leonard is a puzzle among present left-handers, but I must award the plum to my three great old pals.”

Baker 1916

Baker 1916

Rube in L.A.

1 Jun

Bobby Eager was a popular, if not enormously talented, catcher for eight seasons in the California and Pacific Coast Leagues.  After his career, when he wasn’t at his job with Standard Oil, The San Jose News said he could be seen in town “any afternoon when the weather is right, fanning with a bunch of fans.”

The paper decided he enjoyed telling stories about his career so much, they offered him an occasional column to tell his stories and share his opinions.

One of his favorite subjects was Rube Waddell, who spent part of the 1902 season on the West Coast.  Eager called him “The greatest southpaw pitcher” he had seen.

Eager behind the plate.

Eager behind the plate.

“When Rube Waddell was with Los Angeles he was the life of the club.  There was never a dull minute with Waddell on the bench.  If ever there was a nut he was it.  They called him a rube.  Don’t know where they picked up the name, but he was anything but what his name would indicate.  With all his antics Waddell was a wise coot, and if you think he wasn’t I would like to have the extra money it cost (Angels Manager) Jim Morley to keep him on the team.

“It was a cold day that Rube didn’t ‘touch’ Jim for a five-spot.  Rube was getting a fat salary—as fat as salaries went in those days… Never knew exactly what Waddell got, but I know it was more than any other player on the club pulled down.

Rube

Rube

“While Rube was on the club Morley slept with one eye open.  He was always afraid of losing him.  On this occasion, Waddell had just made a borrow off Jim of a twenty-spot when word drifted into Morley’s billiard parlor that Waddell was seen going toward the railroad station. The rumor was sufficient to stir Morley.”

The manager quickly took action.

“Morley rang up the depot and found a train left in 10 minutes for the East.  He dashed out on the street, jumped into the first carriage he saw and drove pell-mell to the train.  Into the Pullman car he hiked and sure enough, there was Waddell. He had bought his ticket and was going back to report to Connie Mack, who had come through with more money.  At first, Waddell denied he was leaving.  He said he just came down to see a friend off, but he soon had to admit that he had a ticket.

“Jim came through with another piece of change and Waddell surrendered his ticket and returned to the team.  But he wasn’t with it very long before he beat it.”

Waddell “beat it” for good on June 20, leaving the West Coast for Philadelphia.  He was 11-8 with a 2.42 ERA with the Angels, with the Athletics he was 24-7, 2.05–he pitched a total of 444 innings that season.

Eager said despite the money Los Angeles was out, “I doubt if Morley lost much on Waddell for he was always a drawing card when he pitched and one good thing about Rube he was never lazy.  He would pitch every day if you would let him.”

“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

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #18

7 Mar

Tener on Anson

In 1917, John Tener wrote an article in “Baseball Magazine” about Cap Anson, his former manager with the Chicago White Stockings.

John Tener

John Tener

The former pitcher and outfielder, who went on to serve in the United States Congress and as Governor of Pennsylvania, and who in 1917 was president of the National League said:

“Pop Anson was the Greatest Batter who ever lived.  You may look up his record, compare it with others and draw your own conclusions.  When I say this I am well aware of the claims of Ed Delehanty, Hans Wagner and many other great hitters.  I give them all due credit, but in my opinion, Anson was the greatest of them all.

"Cap" Anson

Anson

“He was, first of all, a free hitter. He loved batting…He had that true eye which enabled him to hit the ball squarely on the nose.  His hits were line drives.  They were solid smashes with the full force of his muscular shoulders behind them.”

[…]

“He was an excellent judge of the precise fraction of a second that he needed to swing that heavy bat of his against the best the pitcher could offer.  He didn’t exactly place his hits, but he contrived to drive the ball behind the base runner about where he wanted to drive it…He was big and strong and heavy.  Some hitters of the present day fatten their averages by their nimbleness in reaching first.  Anson drove the ball solidly into the outfield and took his time in going to first.”

Conte on Mendez

Jose Pepe Conte was a well-known sportswriter in Havana, Cuba. Frank Menke of Heart Newspaper’s International News Service (INS) said of him:

Jose Pepe Conte

Jose Pepe Conte

“Pepe is a fellow who knows heaps and heaps about ancient history, European customs, chemistry, baseball and prize fighting.”

The Pittsburgh Press called him:

“(A) Cuban newspaperman, political personage, and unearther of baseball talent.”

In 1912, the INS distributed an article Conte wrote about the pitcher he thought was the best ever:

“American baseball fans can talk all they want about their (Chief) Benders, (Christy) Mathewsons, (Ed) Walshes and (Mordecai) Browns, but down in our country we have a pitcher that none of the best batters in the country can touch. This is the famous Black Tornado, (Jose) Mendez.  Talk about speed.  Why, when he cuts loose at his hardest clip the ball bounces out of the catcher’s mitt Talk about speed, Mendez has to pitch most of the time without curves because we haven’t a catcher who can hold him.  To make things better, Mendez can bat like (Ty) Cobb.  He has won his own games on various occasions with smashes over the fences for home runs.  He weighs about 154 pounds and is a little fellow.”

Jose Mendez

Jose Mendez

[…]

“No one has been found who can hold him when he really extends himself.  He has shown his skill in the past when he has faced the best batters of the Cubs and Detroit teams when those teams were champions, and when the Athletics went there last year.  Mendez has more curves than any pitcher in America, and if some inventive genius could produce a whitening process whereby we could get the fellow into the big leagues he could win a pennant for either tail-end team in either league.”

Sullivan on Comiskey

In his book, “The National Game,” Al Spink said Ted Sullivan was “the best judge of a ball player in America, the man of widest vision in the baseball world, who predicted much for the National game years ago, and whose predictions have all come true.”

Ted Sullivan

Ted Sullivan

Sullivan was a player, manager, executive, and in 1921, he wrote a series of articles for The Washington Times called “The Best of my Sport Reminiscences.”  He said of Charles Comiskey, who he was crediting with “discovering” at St. Mary’s College in Kansas:

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

“As a player, Comiskey was easily the best first baseman of his time…His intuition in defining the thoughts of his opponents and making his play accordingly placed him head and shoulders over any man that played that position before or after.

“Comiskey was with John Ward and King Kelly one of the greatest of base runners.  I do not mean dress parade base running, either, merely to show the crowd he could run.  Comiskey’s base running was done at a place in the game when it meant victory for his side.  He was far from being the machine batter that Anson, Roger Connor and some others were; but as a run-getter, which means the combination of hitting, waiting, bunting and running, he outclassed all others.  Jack Doyle, when in his prime with Baltimore and New York, was the nearest approach to Comiskey in brainwork.  There are no others.”