Tag Archives: Philadelphia Athletics

“I Know I Made a Bum Play”

4 Jun

Harry George “H.G.” Salsinger spent nearly 50 years as sports editor of The Detroit News and was posthumously honored with the J. G. Spink Award in 1968.

In a 1924 article he said:

“Baseball historians, setting down how a pennant was won, often point to one series that was the break in a season’s race. One can point to a certain game as the deciding one of that particular series and that game probably had one play that was the break of the game and that one play came on a certain pitched ball.”

Salsinger said in the Tigers 1907 pennant winning season:

“All who studied the matter were agreed that one series decided the pennant, a series between Detroit and Connie Mack’s crack Philadelphia machine, played late in the season (September 27 and 30). And one game decided that series, a 17-inning tie that broke the Athletics.”

The pennant, he said, was won because “that game was snatched from Philadelphia” when Ty Cobb hit the game-tying home run off Rube Waddell in the ninth.

“The most important hit of the season of 1907,” was “because Cobb outguessed” Waddell.

The story of how the pitcher was “outguessed” was told to him by Waddell himself:

“Up comes this Cobb, and I feeds him a fast one on the inside where he wasn’t supposed to particularly like to see ‘em pitched. I always figured that if this fellow had any weakness is was on a ball pitched close in. The way he stood at bat made him shift too quick to get a good hold of the ball.

“Well, I shoved the first one in over the inside corner of the plate an’ he never looks at it. The umpire calls it a strike, but he pays no attention to it. I immediately figures this bird is looking for a certain ball, thinking I’d give him just what he wanted on the next one or the one after that. He figures I’m going to be working him. So, I see my chance to cross him up. I says to myself, ‘I’ll feed this cuckoo on in the same spot an’ get him in a hole then guess what’s coming.’”

Rube

Waddell threw the next pitch:

“Once more I shoots a fast one for the inside corner an’ the second the ball leaves my hand I know a made a bum play. This Cobb, who didn’t seem to have noticed the first one, steps backlike he had the catcher’s sign, takes a toe hold and swings on her. I guess that ball is going yet.”

Waddell told Salsinger he talked to Cobb about the pitch:

“Later on, I meets this Cobb on the street, and I says to him, “Listen here Cobb, it’s all over an; everything, an’ there ain’t no hard feelin’ or nothin’, so tell me, why don’t you swing at that first one, the fast one I sends over. You don’t give it a look an’ you’re all set for the same thing when I repeats. Did you have the catcher’s signal or something.”

“An’ this Cobb says to me: ‘Why I figures if I lets the first one pass and makes out I don’t notice it and is lookin’ for somethin’ else, you’ll try to cross me up and shoot the next one over the same spot, feeling sure you double crosses me. I feel so sure that so soon as the ball leaves your hand I jumpback, take a toe hold an’ swing. Sure enough I was right. You hand me the same thing back.’

“An’ I says to this Cobb, ‘Kid you had me doped 100 percent right, an sure enough the lucky stiff did.”

Cobb

Cobb, Salsinger said, “made this observation,” to the reporter, about outguessing pitchers:

“Most pitchers follow a set system of pitching to you. You can get them once or twice. If they throw you a fast ball, slow ball, curve, fast one, in that order the first time at bat it is almost certain that they will throw you the same thing in the same order the next time you come up. Few pitchers vary from the system, and the few that do are the leading pitchers.

“Knowing what is coming is one thing but hitting the ball is another. You often know just where the ball will be pitched, but often it carries so much stuff that you cannot get the proper hold on the ball and you fail to hit safely even when you have the advantage of knowing what it is.”

“Nearly Every fan one Meets has a Grievance”

12 Apr

“Baseball, on the whole, isn’t a profitable game to magnates,” wrote Frederic Patrick O’Connell in The Boston Post in 1906.

“More men have been ruined by baseball than one can imagine.  Only a few clubs make money. Every season several minor league clubs go to the wall.

Frederic O’Connell

While many more minor league clubs were organized with the understanding that the team would lose money:

“In the smaller towns, men can always be found who will take a chance, and who, for the sake of the sport are willing to lose money. Most of the minor league teams have the backing of the street railroads. The railroads make big money out of baseball and are willing to help out some.”

O’Connell asked his readers to, “think of the money made” by the Boston Elevated Railroad “in this city,” the previous season:

“At the very lowest the L Road received around $25,000 from the fans who witnessed the big league games…The L Road owns the Huntington Avenue park. (Americans owner) John I. Taylor pays around $7500 rental.”

Further complicating the finances of teams, O’Connell said, was that, “There isn’t one club in the two big leagues” that didn’t exaggerate attendance numbers:

“They do it at the South End (home of the National League Beaneaters) and they do it at Huntington Avenue, but at Huntington Avenue they pad the figures less perhaps than any other city. In Chicago and St. Louis, the figures given are farcical.”

Why they insisted on padding attendance was, “hard to explain” because it caused harm to the magnates who padded figures:

O’Connell said how can players be blamed “for kicking” about salaries when “Daily he reads the attendance figures.”

But despite “how ruinous baseball has been” to many owners, “You will always find men willing to take a chance.”

O’Connell warned that anyone wanting “to hold public office had better leave baseball alone,” because the rabid fan “seldom forgives and never forgets.”

He said, he was stopped on the street the previous week by a fan angry for an error O’Connell, as official scorer, charged Freddy Parent in a game three years earlier.

“It took me off my feet, and while the game had long ago been forgotten by me, my new friend went into every detail, telling me just how it was played and who scored the runs.

“It is now some time since (Boston) Mayor (John F. ) Fitzgerald desired to buy the local American club. Does anyone for a moment suppose he would now be mayor if he happened to own the Collins team last summer?”

The Americans, under manager Jimmy Collins, were never in the race and finished in fourth place, 16 games behind the Philadelphia Athletics.

Jimmy Collins

Had the mayor owned the club:

“Not a single fan would have forgiven him because he didn’t make Collins take out (Norwood) Gibson one day last August, because he didn’t order Collins to send someone to bat for (George) Winter another day…Mayor Fitzgerald has no doubt congratulated himself for this. He is now mayor of the city, and as owner of a losing team he would have surely been beaten, for nearly every voter in Boston is a fan, and nearly every fan one meets has a grievance.”

The ire that Fitzgerald avoided by not buying the team was visited upon the manager, said McConnell:

“When Jimmy Collins won the world’s series from Pittsburg he was hailed as the greatest ever by fandom…How different now.”

Collins lasted until August 25 in the 1906 season, he was let go with a 35-79 record. 

McConnell came from a prominent Massachusetts family; his brother Joseph helped organize the first football team at Boston College and served two terms in Congress.

He became baseball editor at The Post at the age of 23 but died just three years later.

He was with the Americans in the spring of 1907 in West Baden, Indiana when he contracted pneumonia and died after a three-week illness.

Jim Nasium on Rube

10 Mar

Edgar Forrest Wolfe—who wrote and drew cartoons under the pen name Jim Nasium for The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Sporting News, among others—said in 1931:

“I knew Rube Waddell before he ever broke into the big leagues.”

Rube

Wolfe recalled a game Waddell pitched in “an open field” in Butler County, Pennsylvania:

“A friend of his drove into the field in a buggy. This fellow drove up along the third base line and yelled to Rube, who was in the box pitching at the time.

“’Hey, Rube!’ he called, ‘come on and take a buggy ride!’

“Rube immediately dropped the ball and walked over and climbed into the rig and taking the lines from his friend’s hands he drove out of the baseball field and left the ballgame flat. All the entreaties of the other players couldn’t get him out of that buggy.”

On another occasion, Wolfe said Waddell was hired to pitch for the Homestead Athletic Club in a series versus their rival the Duquesne Country and Athletic Club:

“Each of those organizations supported strong semi-pro baseball teams that would be the equal of the average minor league clubs of today.”

Waddell was expected ‘to pitch one and possibly two of the games,” in the four-game series and was not scheduled to pitch in the opener:

“But when the regular star pitcher of the Homestead team walked out into the middle of the diamond to pitch that opening game, the Rube walked out and took the ball away from him. He had been hired to come down there and pitch and he was going to pitch. And what’s more he did pitch—and how? He shut out (Duquesne) with two hits, fanning 16 of them.

“When they got ready to start the game the next day, there was Rube marching out to the pitcher’s box again. They couldn’t get him out of it.”

Wolfe said Waddell won again, but Duquesne scored one run, “which so riled Rube that he went out and shut them out,” in the third game.

Later, Wolfe said while Waddell was pitching for the Athletics:

“Rube had just pitched the first game of a double header on a torrid July afternoon with the thermometer around 100 in the shade–and no shade. He had pitched such air-tight ball in this game, shutting out his opponents and striking out most of them, that Connie Mack thought he would kid him a little as he walked into the bench after retiring the last man.

“’Do you think you could pitch the second game Ed?’ Connie asked him.

“’I don’t know Connie, till I get warmed up,’ replied Rube.”

“The People’s Pastime”

24 Feb

In 1911, The Chicago Tribune invited American League President Ban Johnson to write about the state of the game in the Twentieth Century.

Johnson said:

“I desire to state that I do not subscribe to the opinion entertained by a majority of the patrons, that the game’s progress in prestige and popularity in recent years is due solely to the improvement in individual and team work on the ballfield.”

Johnson

While Johnson said he did “not yield in admiration and appreciation,” for the players, he could not, “withhold recognition from other agencies” in putting “the people’s pastime on a higher plane.”

Johnson cited, “The splendid governmental system under which baseball has been operated since 1902,” enforcement of discipline, first class players, and providing patrons with superior accommodations as “potent factors “in the growth of the game.

“Skill and sportsmanship in the players, fairness and firmness in the umpires, well-kept fields of such dimensions that a fast runner may complete the circuit of the bases on a fair hit to their limits in any direction, skirted with mammoth fireproof stands crowded to their capacity with real enthusiasts from all walks of life, are from my viewpoint, essential elements in Twentieth Century baseball.”

Johnson said baseball had reached the “exacting requirements of the ideal game,” the previous season when every major league city had a “modern baseball plant,” and he said the “guarantee of the American League goes with the purchase of every ticket to one of its parks that the game will be decided on merit and will not be marred by rowdyism.”

The “best asset” of baseball was “public confidence,” and Johnson insisted that fans understand the “difference between a team in a championship race” and playing in exhibition games:

“At the close of the American League race last fall a team composed of (Ty) Cobb, the champion batsman of the year, (Ed) Walsh, (Tris) Speaker, (Doc) White, (Jake) Stahl, and the pick of the Washington club under Manager (Jimmy) McAleer’s direction, engaged in a series with the champion Athletics at Philadelphia during the week preceding the opening game of the World Series.

“The attendance, while remunerative, was not as large as that team of stars would have attracted had it represented Washington in the American League.

“Although the All-Stars demonstrated their class by repeatedly defeating (Connie) Mack’s champions, many admirers of the Athletics preferred reading the scores to seeing the contests. It was not lack of loyalty to the home team or appreciation for the visitors that was responsible for this apathy, but simply indifference toward baseball of a high quality unless it be vouched for by a league.”

The All-Stars, dubbed “the scintillating bunch” by Jim Nasium (Edgar Forrest Wolfe) of The Philadelphia Inquirer took the first four games, the Athletics won the final game.

Jim Nasium cartoon after game 3 of the All-Star–Athletic series

Johnson pointed out that “26,891 people saw the Athletics defeat the Cubs, and 24,597 came back the next day.”

The attendance at the first all-stars versus Athletics game in Shibe Park was announced as 5,000; there was no announcement of the attendance at the other three games in Philadelphia—game four was played in Washington D.C., and the crowd was reported as 1500.

Johnson said of the difference:

“No better ball was played in (the World Series) games, for which advanced admission rates were charged, than in the All-Star—Athletic series, but the World Series games were conducted under the auspices of the National Commission and the result of each figured in the winning of the game’s highest honors.”

The American League president vowed that everything was being done to ensure that there was not widespread ticket scalping “and kindred evils.” He said, “Nothing will do more to estrange patrons,” than the “treatment accorded” to fans in Chicago during 1908 World Series, when it was alleged that wide-spread scalping took place with the approval of Cubs management. Johnson said:

“It is a prudent and sensible club owner who does not have the dollar always in mind in the operation of his baseball property. The national game’s best asset is the public’s faith in its honesty. Destroy that confidence and baseball will decline rapidly as the nation’s sport.”

Johnson lauded the Athletics as an organization for whom “one of the main planks…has been clean ball.”

He said during the 1910 season he had not had to discipline a single member of the club.

“The enactment and enforcement of wholesome laws, the confidence of those who supplied the capital when investment was a speculation, as well as the conduct of those who have played and are playing baseball for a livelihood, are factors in giving the American people twentieth century ball.”

“The Reformation of Rube Waddell”

30 Dec

After the Browns purchased Rube Waddell from the Athletics in 1908, The St. Louis Star implored its readers:

“Absolutely refuse to buy a drink for Rube Waddell, lead him not into temptation.

“Each and every fan in St. Louis should use his influence and good offices to keep Rube straight.

“No bartender or saloonkeeper should sell Waddell a drink under any pretext whatever.

“No one should offer ‘Baseball’s Buffoon’ any beer or whiskey.”

Rube

Fans, the paper said, thought they, “must show their gratitude to players and loyalty to the club by getting the diamond artists drunk.”

If all of St. Louis came together, the paper said:

“If you do your duty, next fall a sensational melodrama will be staged entitled ‘The Reformation of Rube Waddell.’”

While Rube had not yet arrived in St. Louis, The Star decided by April 1 that Waddell had found the cure:

“’Mother’s angel child’ could not be a more perfect little gentleman.

“How was the ‘reformation of Rube Waddell’ accomplished?

“Papa (Jimmy) McAleer, a stern father, has worked wonders.

“Under his management. Rube has been the best-behaved little boy in the entire camp.

Not once has he broken loose and set about to ‘lap up all the booze’ in Shreveport.”

So complete was his ‘reformation,’ said the paper that:

“Sober and sedate, Rube now reviews complacently the days when he was ‘the village cut-up’ and ‘hell-raiser.”

Clark McAdams who wrote a humor column for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggested a scenario where the city’s leaders would get together and grant Waddell free fishing privileges in St Louis’ Forest Park:

“This should be easily arranged. While we do not permit fishing in the park, there is a fish hatchery there, and the fishing must compare very favorably with any in the world. I am sure no one with the welfare of St. Louis at heart would object to letting Mr. Waddell fish there.”

The efforts—real and imagined—of the people of St. Louis and McAleer to keep Rube in check seem to have paid off.  The 31-year-old was 19-14 with a 1.89 ERA for the resurgent Browns who improved from 69 and 83 in 1907 to 83 and 69 in 1908; attendance at Sportsman’s Park increased by nearly 200,000 with an effective, generally sober, Rube.

“Waddell is not a Rowdy”

14 Dec

Rube Waddell struck out 12 and shut down the St. Louis Browns 4 to 1 on July 17, 1903; he also, as The Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“(B)y way of variety, rushed into the pavilion and made a spectator look even work than (Browns outfielder Emmet) Hendrick, who struck out each of the four times he was at bat.”

A group of fans at Philadelphia’s Columbia Park, “made a persistent attempt to break up Waddell” throughout the game.

During the seventh inning, Waddell responded to “all sorts of coarse epithets.” After striking out Browns pitcher Roy Evans to end the inning, and his response to the fan of “Shut up you knocker,” ignored:

“Waddell made a rush for the stand, and jumping over the railing, ran up the stairs, where he seized Maurice Blaw [sic, Blau], a well-known ticket speculator.”

Rube and friend

The fight was broken up before Waddell could inflict significant damage (although reports varied on the extent) and Blaw was arrested and help on $600 bond.

The following day, Charles Dryden wrote in The Philadelphia North American:

“While crushing the already crumbled Browns, the ever-surprising Mr. Waddell paused long enough yesterday in the game at Columbia Park to break the nose of a man who insulted him, then watched the victim of his wrath depart in a police wagon.”

Dryden said Blau and his cohorts had bet on the Browns and Waddell’s dominance led to the catcalls which came to a head when Rube retired the side in the seventh:

“Like an enraged panther Waddell covered the distance from the box to the stand in half a dozen bounds, the muscles in his bared arms swelling and his face white with passion.

“There is a door in the bulkhead front of the stand near the bench, but Rube did not stop for that. His last leap carried him over the railing and landed his long, lean figure three rows back.”

As Waddell attempted to reach Blau, “an old man arose, and handed Rube an upper cut.”

“He did not stop to ask the reason why or offer the old man a rain check. Two more leaps and Rube was on top of Blau, who is a man of girth and weight. He might as well have tackled a white automobile.”  

 Dryden said, after punching Blau in the face and ripping off “his coat, shirt, and collar,” “half a dozen struggling coppers” broke up the fight and arrested Blau:

“Waddell is not a rowdy, despite his peculiar action. The ordinary procedure in such cases is for the offended player to approach the stand and pour out a flood of profanity sufficient to sicken all within hearing.

“This is not Rube’s way. With all his queer capers he possesses a gentlemanly instinct and a sense of right and wrong. To his notion, the talk and abuse from the stand disturbed not only himself but outraged the comfort and decency of the better grade of baseball patrons of both sexes who were sitting near.”

Dryden concluded that the fans present “recognized the valor of the act…as stated before, Rube is not a rowdy, and he is gentle with those who treat him right.”

Rube

American League President Ban Johnson, who attended the game, didn’t completely agree with Dryden’s assessment:

“I was present and saw the entire occurrence. While Waddell was given great provocation, he must be punished for his action, and perhaps it will be a lesson to clubs to give better protection to their players. I insist that rowdyism must be cut out of American League base ball, and if that cannot be accomplished one way, we must try other methods. Waddell’s sentence is suspension for five days.”

Waddell rejoined the Athletics in Washington D.C. on July 23, arriving with his wife at the team’s hotel. The Washington Times said:

“’Mr. and Mrs. George Edward Waddell,’ written in a bold free hand, adorns a page of the Riggs House register, and is a fine example of the Rube’s chirography.”

The paper also warned Washington fans:

“A tip, however, to the wise! Don’t let your remarks become too personal. Only last week the long, lank, and lean pitcher pulled a spectator from the grandstand in Philadelphia ad spoiled his countenance by breaking his nose. Rube was suspended for the ‘gentle reprimand,’ which suspension expires today.”

Waddell and the Athletics beat the Senators 11 to 3.

“I just Escaped Being a Second Rube Waddell or a Bugs Raymond”

7 Dec

In a 1912 interview with the Continental News Service, Joe Jackson said he nearly derailed his career during his two brief stints with Philadelphia in 1908 and 1909:

Jackson recounted failing to appear for a game:

“I know that I was wrong, but I don’t suppose that excuses my conduct any. There are few people who know what this same Mack stood from me before he turned me loose”

Joe Jackson

Jackson said Mack tried to change him, “with tears in his eyes, but I wouldn’t listen.”

“(O)ne afternoon I was scheduled to play center field for Philadelphia , and on my way to the grounds I took a notion that I’d like to see a show and hopped off the car without a word to anyone and spent the afternoon watching a burlesque show.

“I just escaped being a second Rube Waddell or a Bugs Raymond. Mack did everything possible to make me see the folly of my ways, but he finally lost patience and but me on the blacklist, where I would have remained for the rest of my life if he hadn’t been the kind man he is.”

Failing to change Jackson’s ways, in the spring of 1910, Mack:

“(T)old me to pick out the club I’d prefer to go with and he’s see what could be done.’

“A few days later he came to me and said: ‘I’m sorry, Jackson, that you refuse to settle down and take ball playing seriously, because you have the makings of a crackerjack player in you.”

Jackson was sent to New Orleans:

“It wasn’t until I was well on my way South that I began to realize what an opportunity I had lost. Mack was not the first manager whose friendship I had sacrificed by my foolish actions, but it was he who brought me to my senses. I made up my mind long before I reached New Orleans that I’d cut out my kiddish way and then try to get Mack to give me another chance.”

He said of his time in New Orleans, where he hit .354 in 136 games:

“Having made up my mind to attend to my knitting, I played every game and never missed a morning’s practice.”

Jackson was traded to the Naps and hit .387 in 20 games with Cleveland.

As another example of his behavior before his New Orleans epiphany, he told a story about a run in with umpire Fred Westervelt when both were in the South Atlantic League in 1909.

Jackson, 1909

Jackson said he and teammate Ed Lauzon, “who was the official troublemaker,” on the Savannah Indians:

“Along about the second inning…left the field and took seats in the grandstand with the spectators. Manager (Ernest) Howard sent Harry King [sic, Kane] to get us, and we persuaded him to gather around the festive board. When Howard, who was a player as well as a manager, saw the three of us lined up eating peanuts he also joined the gathering.”

Westervelt gave the four players two minutes to return to the field, when they refused, Jackson was fined $50, King was fined $35 and Lauzon and Howard received suspensions.

“I don’t tell you this because I think now it was funny, but merely to show you how much interest I took in baseball when I got my name on Manager Mack’s list of what, I believe, he calls his ‘daffy players,.’ No one regrets these incidents more than myself, and you can bet it’s me for the straight and narrow hereafter as long as I am in the game.”

“The Realization of Their Carelessness”

1 Jun

After the 1910 season, Hugh Fullerton, writing in “The American Magazine” said baseball had no universal language.

“Each team has its different system of coaching, its different language of signs, motions, cipher words, or phrases, and no one man can hope to learn them all.”

Fullerton said the “worst of trying to study” the signs of various clubs was trying to track when they changed:

“If Arlie Latham jumps into the air and screams ‘Hold your base!’ it may mean ‘Steal second,’ today and tomorrow it may mean ‘Hit and run.’ One never can tell what a sign means. Hughie Jennings hoists his right knee as high as his shoulder, pulls six blades of grass and Jim Delahanty bunts. You are certain that Jennings signaled him to sacrifice, so the next day when Ty Cobb is bat and Jennings goes through the same motions, you creep forward and Cobb hits the ball past you so fast you can’t see it.

“If Connie Mack tilts his hat over his eyes and Eddie Collins steals second as the next ball is pitched, naturally you watch the hat, and lo, Jack Barry plays hit and run. You hear Clark Griffith yelp ‘Watch his foot!’ and see two of his players start a double steal. The next time he yells ‘Watch his foot!’ you break your neck to cover the base, and both players stand still.”

latham2

Arlie Latham 

Fullerton said most fans gave up trying to figure out signs but they “mustn’t do that. Someday right in the middle of a game, you’ll strike the key to the language and read through clear to the ninth inning.”

He compared that moment to getting “away one good drive,” in golf, “forever afterward you are a victim,” and can’t stop.

“Did you ever watch Hugh Jennings on the coaching line near first base during a hard-fought game? He doubles his fists, lifts one leg and shakes his foot, screams ‘E-yah’ in piercing tomes and stooping suddenly plucks at the grass, pecking at it like a hen. It looks foolish. I have heard spectators express wonder that a man of ability and nearing middle age could act so childishly. Yet hidden somewhere in the fantastic contortions and gestures of the Tigers’ leader there is a meaning, a code word, or signal that tells his warriors what he expects them to do.”

Jennings said of his signs:

“I change almost every day. I change every time I suspect there is a danger of the meanings being read. I am a believer in as few signals as possible and of giving them when they count, and I find that a lot of antics are effective in covering up the signals.”

Fullerton said Mack was “one of the most successful men” at “interpreting” opponents’ signs:

“Before the Chicago Cubs went into their disastrous series against the Athletics they were warned that if such a thing were possible Mack would have their signals. At the end of the game they called a meeting to revise signals, changing entirely, being certain the Athletics knew almost every kind of ball that was going to be pitched.”

Fullerton allowed that the Cubs instead might be tipping their pitches, because he was sitting with Ty Cobb during the series, and:

“(He) repeatedly called the turn on the ball that would be pitched before it was thrown, judging from the pitcher’s motion, and the Athletics may have been doing the same thing.”

Fullerton also said of the Cubs, that although they were “the cleverest baseball team in America, composed of smart men and a great manager, for years paid less attention to active coaching on the baselines,” than other teams.

“Possibly the reason was the confidence in their own judgment and their continued success, Frank Chance’s men made few blunders and the neglect was not noticeable, except to constant observers until 1908. Any player who happened to be idle went to the coaching lines and most of the time inexperienced substitutes did line duty. In 1908 during their fierce fight for the pennant, the realization of their carelessness was brought home to them and since then Chance has employed quick-thinking, clever men on the base lines, principally relying on (Ginger) Beaumont and (John) Kane.”

john kane

John Kane

Fullerton dated Chance’s new appreciation for competent coaching to July 17, 1908; that day the Cubs beat Christy Mathewson and the Giants 1 to 0 on an inside the park home run by Joe Tinker. Heinie Zimmerman was coaching third base for the Cubs.

The Chicago Inter Ocean described the play:

“Joe, the first man up in the fifth, hit one of Matty’s best as far as any ball could be hit in the grounds without going into the stands. Where the center field bleachers join the right field 25 cent seats is a V-shaped inclosure. Joe drove the ball away into this dent, and it took Cy Seymour some time to gather the elusive sphere. When Cy finally retrieved the ball, Tinker was rounding third.

“Zimmerman grasped this as the psychological moment to perpetrate one of the most blockheaded plays ever pulled off. He ran out onto the line and seized Joe, trying to hold him on third, when the ball was just starting to the diamond from deep center field. Joe struggled to get away, as his judgment told him he could get home, but Heinie held on with a grip of death. Finally, Tink wriggled away and started for the plate.”

 

heinie

Zimmerman

The paper said Tinker would have been thrown out had Al Bridwell’s throw to the plate been on target:

“Had Tinker been caught at the plate the 10,000 frenzied fans would have torn Zim limb from limb. Chance immediately sent Evers out to coach at third base and retired Zim to the dark confines of the Cubs’ bench.”

Thus, said Fullerton:

“Chance began to develop scientific coaching, and discovering its full value, took the lead in the matter, employing skilled coachers.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #43

28 May

A Record, 1906

Hall of Fame umpire Tom Connolly claimed to have been part of a record-setting achievement; in 1907 The Washington Star told the story of a game the previous season:

“It is seldom that a game in either of the big leagues is played through with only two balls.”

connoly

Connolly

Connolly said it happened in St. Louis, the Browns were playing the Philadelphia Athletics:

“The first ball put into play by umpire Connolly lasted seven innings, and the game might have been finished with that ball had it not been for a funny accident…a foul tip hit the wire netting that protects the patrons of the grand stand and stuck there.  All efforts to dislodge it were in vain.”

The paper said it was “rather remarkable” given that the grandstand was “only a short distance back of the home plate,” at Sportsman’s Park:

“Tommy Connolly says he believes that two balls for a big league game is pretty nearly a record. How happy the magnates would be if all games could be run through so cheaply.”

Browning’s Honesty, 1887

In 1887, The Louisville Courier Journal said of Pete Browning:

“(He) may have his shortcomings as a ballplayer, but no one has ever questioned his honesty. He never resorts to trickery and always admits the truth when he is declared either safe or out in a close play. Umpires know this. Whenever Pete claims that he has not been touched by the baseman in a close play if can safely be put down that Pete is right.”

browning

Browning

Browning “seldom makes a kick, but justice is generally on his side when he does.” The Gladiator “won’t tell lies about any play that comes up, no matter whether it be to his advantage or against it.”

“Coacher” Decorum, 1887

The Detroit Free Press did not approve of “coachers,” the paper complained in 1887:

“There is no use having base ball rules if they are not enforced. A coacher has no right to say a word to anyone except a base runner. Imploring the batter to ‘hit her out for three bags,’ is out of order.”

Oyster Joe Martina

26 May

Joseph John “Oyster Joe” Martina made a name for himself in New Orleans before he threw his first professional pitch. Martina’s father Anthony was at one time the city’s largest oyster dealer, a business he passed on to his sons.

Martina was playing semi-pro ball for the Sam Bonarts—a team sponsored by the owner of a local clothing store, and for a club called the Beavers  when he decided in addition to pitching, he had a talent for distance throwing.

He won $25 in a contest at Pelican Park in July of 1909, The New Orleans Times-Democrat said Martina “threw the sphere from home plate over the back fence.”

martina

Martina, circa 1909

The throw was said to be 394 feet; just 11 feet short of what was considered the world record—there was some dispute in contemporaneous accounts about who actually held the record, some credited it to Larry Twitchell, said to have accomplished the feat in 1888 and others to Same Crane, whose was made in 1884.

Martina made his next attempt on July 31.

The New Orleans Picayune said:

“Joe Martina met with success this afternoon in his effort to break the world’s record for throwing a baseball, his best throw being 416 feet and 2 inches.”

The paper said he “threw a standard league baseball, which was inspected by several representatives of the southern division of the American Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).”

The event was of interest to local gamblers and when Martina made the record-setting throw it created a stir:

“Disputes also arose over Martina being allowed five throws. Those placing wagers against his breaking the record claimed that only three throws should be allowed. It was on the fifth throw that Martina made the record.”

There was also initially some doubt that the record would be accepted by the AAU because of the five throws. The Times-Democrat said:

“Usually only three throws are allowed. But as there are no definite rules governing contests of that kind, Martina’s record will likely stand. Whether it was his fifth of fiftieth it was a great heave and one which should go as a record.”

The Picayune said there might be another problem with the record:

“One regret remains, that the throw was not measured with a steel tape. It was measured with a linen tape, and may not be accepted by the AAU officials, although the throw was so much over the record the is no question of it being farther than Crane’s”

The record, and Marina’s performance in New Orleans’ semi-pro league earned him a tryout the following spring with the Atlanta Crackers in the Southern Association—pitching three innings in the first game of Atlanta’s exhibition series with the Philadelphia Athletics. Marina gave up one run and struck out three.

The Atlanta Georgian and News said:

“Martina is nothing if not confident.

“After his try-out against Philadelphia he said: ‘Why, it’s just as easy to pitch against those big leaguers as it is against the New Orleans semi-pros. I don’t see anything very hard. I think I can make good in the Southern league all right I certainly had the steam against the Athletics. How many his did they make, anyhow’”

The Crackers did not agree, and sold the 20-year-old to the Savannah Indians in the Sally League

Martina bounced from Georgia, to Louisiana, to Mississippi and then Texas over the next four years.

In the spring of 1914, entering his third season with the Beaumont Oilers in the Texas League, Martina faced the New York Giants.  The Giants beat him 5 to 2, but The New York Sun said:

“The Giants had practice hitting speed the other day. Joe Martina, who prescribed the medicine for the National League champions, had it in caloric quantities…I yearned for a chance in the majors, felt I had more stuff than many pitchers sent up from the South but the big opportunity always passed me by.”

Red Murray of the Giants, barely avoided getting hit in the head with a Martina fastball, and told the paper:

“’That fellow’s got as much speed as I ever saw.’ Said John after the game, and the other Giants corroborated him. He’s as fast as (Chief) Bender.”

The Sun took notice of more than the pitcher’s speed:

“This Martina is something of a character. In the course of the game the umpire announced that Mathewson would pitch today. ‘Mathewson?’ queried Martina, who appears to be n iconoclast. ‘What busher’s that?’

“’Say,’ exclaimed the skeptical Martina to Chief Meyers when the latter made a base hit after several fruitless tries in that direction, ‘you’re lucky to get a hit off of me,’ and then, by the way of an afterthought: ‘All the hits you ever get are lucky.’

“Evidently, Mr. Martina is no hero worshiper.”

When he struck out Fred Snodgrass, he asked, “How do you like that, busher?”

Throughout his 20s, Martina was considered an “iron man,” pitching from 261 to 330 innings every year from 1910 through 1915; he also, according to The Picayune regularly pitched Sunday games in New Orleans throughout each off season.
In 1916, he injured his arm—or as The Arkansas Democrat said, his “arm cracked after hard usage.”

Speed Johnson of The Chicago Record Herald compared Martina to White Sox ace Ed Walsh, “The spitball king of other days now is a bench-warmer.”

Johnson said Chattanooga Lookouts manager Kid Elberfeld was the culprit:

“Performing under orders from (Elberfeld) Martina pitched seven games in the first sixteen games of the season. From May 1 to May 13 he officiated in five engagements, toiling with a sore arm.”

Elberfeld claimed that Martina injured his arm throwing too many spitballs, Johnson said, “it behooves young pitchers bent on winning fame as iron men to work only in their turn.”

Despite the reported injury, and a release from Chattanooga, Martina pitched 278 innings in 1916 with three teams.

Martina went back to the Texas League for four more seasons—including a 28-win season for Beaumont in 1919.

In 1921 he came back to the Southern Association, with his hometown Pelicans. From 1921-1923 he won 56 games, including a 22-6 mark in 1922. He told The Times-Picayune:

“It’s the old story, “You don’t learn how to pitch until your arm is gone.”

His three-year run with the Pelicans finally earned him a major league contract in 1924.  Umpire Billy Evans said in his nationally syndicated column:

“Speaking of miracle workers, supermen, and rookie phenoms of baseball, don’t overlook pitcher Joe Martina of the Washington Nationals.

“At the age of 34, when most big leaguers are wondering how much longer they will be able to stand the pace, Joe Martina is making his debut.”

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Martina, 1924

Martina told Evans:

“I had as much stuff fifteen years ago as I have today, and with-it youth, but somehow the major leagues scouts would annually pass me up.”

He was 6-8 for the World Series Champion Senators, he pitched one perfect inning in game three of the World Series. In the off season, Washington Manager Bucky Harris told The Washington Post that Martina “will win at least 15 games this year and may reach the 20 mark.”

He was due to join the Senators in Tampa, Florida on February 19, 1925, but failed to show up. The Post said Martina wired President Clark Griffith and asked to report later because he was having a new home built. Griffith refused and he was “notified by telegraph” that he was suspended. The Washington Evening Star said he would be fined and forced “to labor at a smaller salary,” for the season.  The paper suggested that the pay cut would not impact him greatly because:

“The Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans, with the resulting big crowds in attendance and the consequent increase in the oyster business conducted by Martina probably mean that the pitcher can suffer these financial setbacks and still be ahead of the game.”

He arrived in Tampa on March 1; The Star said Griffith withdrew the fine because Martina claimed he had received a letter from the Washington owner that he could report late:

“Griff admitted that in the stress of arranging for the annual pilgrimage South of his club he might have forgotten the original letter to Joe.”

On April 9, Martina, along with left-handers–Jim Brillheart and Jim McNamara—were released by Griffith. The Star said

 “(Martini’s) work this spring indicated he has passed the peak of his form which is not quite good enough for fast company.”

He returned to New Orleans for four more seasons—winning 77 games and leading the Pelicans to Southern Association championships in 1926 and 1927. The 39-year-old went back to the Texas League for one more season in 1929; after a disappointing 10-13 campaign for the Dallas Steers, Martina purchased—or bartered for—his release. The Times-Picayune said:

“Martina has been given his unconditional release at the price of two barrels of oysters. This was the price demanded by Fred McJunkin, president of the Dallas club.”

He played two more seasons in the Cotton States League and took a crack at managing with the Baton Rouge Standards in 1931—he was released mid-season at age 41.

With both the Pelicans and the Knoxville Smokies hopelessly out of the 1931 Southern Association pennant race, Knoxville signed Martina to pitch against New Orleans on the final day of the season. He started the first game of a double header, gave up six runs over eight innings and lost his final game as a professional.

Zipp Newman, sports editor of The Birmingham News and official scorer for the Birmingham Barons for 44 years said Martina’s strong arm was with him to the very end::

“After pitching a full game for Knoxville against New Orleans Sunday, Joe went to the outfield and made the longest throw-in. Joe threw the ball right up to the grandstand. There wasn’t a youngster on the field who could come close to him. Joe Martina arms are few and far between in baseball.”

Martina, who died of a heart attack in 1962, said in an interview with Newman in 1941:

“I am convinced I had more human endurance than any man who ever lived. In all my life I was never tired, even when it was 110 out there on the mound. The answer is simple: I was a good boy. I behaved myself and every at 8 o’clock I was in bed…When my arm was live the ball would sail slightly upward, and nobody could hit me. When it was dead, although the pitch was just as fast, the ball went straight, like on a string, and I was a goner.”