Tag Archives: Philadelphia Athletics

“I am Glad to be Away From Mack’s Team”

14 May

The winter of 1914-1915 was eventful for Eddie Collins.  There were stories which claimed he would never actually appear in a game for the Chicago White Sox, how close he came to not being sold to the Sox because of his wife, and a story about a letter that nearly destroyed his reputation in Philadelphia.

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Eddie Collins

Collins was sold by the Philadelphia Athletics to the White Sox on December 8, 1915, four days after The Chicago Tribune reported that Walter Johnson had jumped to the Federal League’s Chicago Whales, or the “Tinx” as I. E. Sanborn of The Tribune called the club managed by Joe Tinker.  The paper’s headline said:

“Johnson Signs with ‘Feds;’ to Play With Tinx”

The Chicago press greeted the Collins sale with as much excitement as the Johnson signing, and after the dust cleared a month later, Johnson was back with Washington having come to terms with Clark Griffith.

One of the January stories about Collins was borne out of the belief in some quarters in Chicago that Charles Comiskey only bought Collins because, as Ed Grillo of The Washington Star said: “If Johnson had not jumped to the Chifeds, Collins undoubtedly would have (been sold to the New York Yankees).”

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Charles Comiskey

The Chicago Daily News implied that Comiskey only made the deal to steal the press thunder from the Federal League club’s signing of Johnson and that Collins would be sold to the Yankees before the 1915 season.  Comiskey vehemently denied the story to James Crusinberry, The Tribune’s sports editor:

“The Walter Johnson affair never entered into our plan of getting Eddie Collins.  I wanted a second baseman and a great hitter, and the reason I wanted him was because I want to win a pennant…Eddie Collins will be playing for the white Sox for the next five years if he lives.”

According to Collins, his wife–Mabel Harriet Doane Collins–almost kept the deal from happening in the first place.  According to Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Herald-Examiner:

“Eddie Collins came near never being a member of the Chicago White Sox because his wife refused to believe the biggest men in baseball wanted to see him.”

According to Fullerton, Collins was out when the phone rang:

“’Hello,’ said a voice.  ‘This is President (Ban) Johnson of the American League.  I want to speak to Mr. Collins.’

“’We’ve had practical jokers call us up before,’ replied Mrs. Collins sweetly, as she hung up the receiver.

“Five minutes later the telephone rang again, and a voice said,’ This is President Comiskey of the Chicago White Sox, I would like to speak to Mr. Collins.’

‘”Our friend Mr. Johnson must have lost his voice and asked you to call,’ responded Mrs. Collins, and hung up again.

“Another five minutes passed.  Then Connie Mack called up.  Mrs. Collins recognized his voice…’Did Mr. Johnson and Mr. Comiskey really telephone?’ she asked surprised.

“’Yes,’ answered Mack.

“’Eddie is at a friend’s house, but I’ll get him right away.’

“If Mrs. Collins had had the telephone cut off, Collins might still be a member of the Athletics.”

mrscollins

Mabel Collins, with sons Eddie Jr. and Paul (1925)

But the last story about Collins that winter nearly caused a rift with his former manager and threatened to tarnish the Collins’ image as the era’s most gentlemanly ballplayer.

In January, The Detroit News said White Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte told a reporter that Collins had written him a letter regarding his enthusiasm to play in Chicago.  According to Cicotte, Collins said:

“(H)e is glad to get away from Philadelphia because the fans there are not as loyal to the players as they ought to be.”

The News—in an article with no byline–quoted the letter:

“Here is one thing I have been waiting to say, I am glad to be away from Mack’s team.  I say that sincerely, and of all the cities of the American League I prefer Chicago.  The fans are loyal there.  A player’s mistakes of the day (and we all have them) are overlooked because it is known a man is doing his best.  I have always wanted to play in Chicago; now that I’m with the team I am going to give it my best efforts.”

cicotte

Ed Cicotte

Collins denied he said the things The News quoted and told The Philadelphia Press:

“I not only did not write anything of the kind to Cicotte, but never did say any such thing.  I do not believe either that Cicotte ever said that I wrote him the letter which was published.”

Collins told The Press he had received a telegram from Cicotte, but said his response to the Sox pitcher simply said:

“Dear Eddie—I have just received your wire of congratulations and say that I greatly appreciate it.  I am glad that the members of the club feel as they do about the deal.  We ought to have a good club next season and I am sure we will be up in the running for the pennant.”

While The Sporting News quoted the same version of the letter as The Detroit News, The Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger chose to accept Collins’ version of events:

“The efforts of some sporting writers to construct ‘stories’ from material gathered from the surrounding atmosphere indicate two things:  First that the writer not only has a glaring disregard for the truth but that he is even willing to injure the standing of a person in a community for the sake of putting over a fake ‘story.’ The dispatch which came from Detroit purporting to give a portion of Eddie Collins’ letter to Eddie Cicotte was false from start to finish…that writer took it upon himself to write a quotation which contained not one iota of truth.  It made the fans of Philadelphia who have always been loyal to Collins angry and no matter what is stated later there will always be some people here who believe that Collins wrote that letter who will still be his enemies.  And all because someone writing a story in Detroit has regard for neither truth nor for the feelings of an individual.  Such a person, if his identity were known, should be barred in the future from writing anything whatever.  Any man who attempts to to enter the field of sport writing should at least stand on his merits and not try to advance his personal cause by unfair, underhand, despicable means.”

Collins played the next 12 seasons with the White Sox, returning to Mack and the less “loyal” Philadelphia fans in 1927.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #22

24 Apr

Ty Cobb Rates American League Fans

In 1907, The Washington Evening Star asked Ty Cobb was asked how he was treated by fans in all of the American League cities:

“All ballplayers coming in sometimes for a little guying, but that is what makes the game.  If the fans did not do this it would show they had lost interest and baseball would soon die.  The fact that I am a Southern man has never made any difference in the way I have been treated by the public in the North.  The fans all over the American League have always been kind to me.”

cobb

Cobb

However, Cobb said, fans in some cities were tougher on visiting players:

“Take Philadelphia, for instance, old Philly is sometimes rough with the visiting clubs, and we have been treated to a little warm reception once or twice.

“Chicago is not as kind to visiting players as some of the other cities. They are so loyal to their city and their clubs that sometimes a go too far with the guying.

“In New York the people are fair and clever, and so is Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Boston.  St. Louis is somewhat like Chicago.

“I am sure that the fact that I am from the South has never influenced the fans in the slightest.  If it has, it has been in my favor.”

The not as Smart Coveleski

Billy Murray managed Harry Coveleski during the pitcher’s three years with the Philadelphia Phillies from 1907-1909.  Years later, he told Bozeman Bulger of The New York World, that Harry was not as bright as his brother, Hall of Famer Stan Coveleski, who was “Smart as a whip” according to Bulger.

harrycoveleski

Harry Coveleski

“Coveleski got out of a tight predicament mostly by luck and came back to the bench to face an enrages Murray.

“’What do you mean by taking that wind up with men on bases, especially on first and second?’

“’I didn’t know there were any men on the bases. Nobody told me,’ Coveleski replied

“’Now listen men,’ Murray turned to the players on the bench, don’t let this happen again.  When there are runners on the bases you go out and tell ‘Covvie’—you hear me?  We’ll have no more secrets on this club.’

“’That’s right, Billy,’ agreed the unperturbed Coveleski, oblivious to Murray’s biting sarcasm.  ‘Keeping secrets always hurts a ballclub.’”

An Umpire’s dilemma

The Associated Press reported in 1912 about an umpire’s dilemma during a game played in an unincorporated town near Boulder, Colorado called Canfield:

“Albert Billings kicked his cork leg across the home plate yesterday afternoon in the ninth inning, the score a 5 to 5 tie, the umpire called the runner safe.  Then the last baseball game of the season broke up in a row.  However, umpire Jerry Carter consulted the rule book, declared that there was no precedent, and held to his decision.

“Billings had knocked a beautiful two-bagger.  He stole third and started home when the batter tapped one to the infield.  The ball was thrown to the catcher in time to get Billings out by at least ten feet.  Billings cork leg flew off, however, and hit the plate.  The catcher tagged Billings as he lay on the ground ten feet from the plate.  The umpire ruled that the foot at the end of the cork leg touched the home base first.  Billings was therefore called safe with the winning run.”

“I was Weak as a cat. Then I Began to Feel Old-time Form”

18 Apr

When Rube Waddell signed with his final team, the Virginia (MN) Ore Diggers of the Northern League, a reporter from The Duluth News-Tribune tracked him down at the team’s hotel in Duluth:

“’I am just as good as when Connie Mack found me.’

“Thus spoke George Edward Waddell, better known as Rube in the world of peanut eaters, pop drinkers and umpire roasters, as he sat in a big leather arm chair in the Hotel Lenox lobby.  The reporter had trouble spotting the former star slab-man of the Athletics, who is now a full-fledged member of Spike Shannon’s Virginia Ore Diggers.  A glance at the hotel register disclosed the name ‘G. E. Waddell.’ Then a careful survey of the rainy-day loungers discovered a big, lanky individual, the center of an admiring group, unrolling tales of the diamond between puffs of a perfectly good cigarette.

“When he learned the newspaper’s mission, the Rube waved the others away gently to one side, enclosed our mitt in his big and famous left lunch hook, and began a rapid-fire discourse.

with a jitney in the pot.  Say, I have had two attacks of pneumonia and blood poison all within three months!’  And the big fellow fished out another pill and lighted it from the stump of the late departed one.”

rubesigningorediggers

Cartoon of Waddell that appeared with the original story

Waddell’s first game with Virginia was rained out:

“’Gee, I am sorry it rained and spoiled the game, but I was in hopes it would clear up so I could try my new fishing tackle.  I hear this is a great country for fishing, and believe me; I am going to find out how the steams around here will produce.  But I guess I will try my skill at pool this afternoon.  I can beat them all at pool.  I am going down to the bowling alley before I leave this town and show up a few of the local cracks, too.

Waddell told the paper he was surprised to have been sent to the Northern League by the Minneapolis Millers’ Joe and Mike Cantillon in the spring:

“’I was weak as a cat.  Then I began to feel old-time form and I said:’

“’Mike, I’m ready to join the club.’

“’Why, you belong to the Northern League,’ he told me, ‘Now what do you think of that?’ ‘Had the contract all signed up and didn’t say anything to me.  It made me pretty sore.  Everyone got the impression that I was going back.  There is nothing to it.  My arm is in good shape and I can pitch just as good a game as any of the big fellows today.  Why, I had offers from every Federal League club in the country.”

rube

Rube Waddell

Waddell said he was excited about the future of the Northern League:

“There is a great opportunity for the Northern League.  The clubs are playing good baseball.  Well, I am contented, and I am going to like it fine. I have known Spike Shannon for years.  Well, I am off now to play pool.’”

The paper predicted:

“Waddell will be a big drawing card in the Northern League.  That is certain—if he stays here.”

Waddell only stayed another five weeks, he pitched his last professional game on June 28; he was dead the following April.

More Superstitions, 1884

2 Jun

Superstitious ballplayers are as old as baseball.

When the Philadelphia Athletics visited Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for an exhibition game 1884, a reporter from The Harrisburg Telegraph talked to “an old base baller” who was attending the game.

The reporter asked:

“’Are base ball players superstitious?’

“’You betcher life,’ said the veteran; ‘why there is Harry Wright (who) always carries a black cat in the bat bag, just for luck.  Al Spalding  of the Chicago carries a buckeye in his pocket for luck, and Bob Ferguson begins to hedge in his bets if he meets a cross-eyed man while on his way to the grounds.’”

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Harry Wright

The “old base baller” also told the reporter:

Bobby Matthews will never pitch unless he has an old copper cent in his pocket, and Monte Ward, of the New Yorks, carries a mascot around his neck in the shape of a gold coin.  (Jim) Whitney, of Boston, loses heart if he forgets to put his bunch of keys in his pocket before pitching.  Just before the Athletics-St. Louis game last year to decide the championship, (Bill) Gleason, of the St. Louis, got as pale as a sheet when he saw a red-headed boy carry in the bat bag.  He said it was bad luck, and, sure enough, it was.”

gleason

Bill Gleason

Philadelphia won the September 23 game 9-2, giving them a 3 ½ game lead in the American Association race, and held on to win the pennant by 1 game.

And the old player told the paper:

“Big (Dan) Brouthers, of the Buffalos, carries a barlow knife for luck.  Oh, yes, base ball players are superstitious, an’ don’t ye forgit it.”

Another Rube Waddell Story

19 May

John Ganzel played seven seasons in the major leagues for five teams, and he claimed he only had one beer his entire life.

 

 

While managing the Rochester Red Wings in 1912, Ganzel told a reporter about the circumstances.  The story appeared in numerous newspapers—including The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Ganzel, a teetotaler, went into a bar with a friend in Marlin, Texas in 1907.  Ganzel and the Cincinnati Reds were training there, as were the Philadelphia Athletics—and pitcher Rube Waddell:

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Rube Waddell

Ganzel ordered a ginger ale.

“A moment later in walked Waddell and ordered a glass of beer.  The drinks were untouched when Connie Mack, also a teetotaler, stepped into the barroom to use the telephone.

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Connie Mack

“Connie spied the Rube.  But the Rube had seen him first in the mirror behind the bar.  Quick as a flash he switched the drinks then held the ginger ale aloft in a conspicuous way and hailed Mack.

“’Hello, Connie, come over and have a ginger ale with me,’ he said.  Mack joined him and they drank ginger ale together.

“In order to spare the Rube embarrassment and a possible fine, I had to drink the Rube’s beer, the first and only alcoholic indulgences of my life.”

“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.”

 

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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.