Tag Archives: Philadelphia Athletics

“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.”

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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.”

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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.”

 

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

“Say, Rube, he ain’t Quite Dead yet”

16 Apr

In 1912, Arthur Irwin told William A. Phelon of The Cincinnati Times-Star:

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Irwin

“Rube Waddell was even a richer card than was usually supposed and nobody unless he were to put it all down in a large, thick book will ever have an actual summary of the things G. Edward said and did during his long career in the fast company.”

Irwin said Waddell, despite his reputation for erratic behavior “had a kindly heart, always open to the cries of the unhappy, and especially gentle towards the ladies.”

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Rube

He told Phelon a story about  a dance they both attended in Philadelphia:

“Mr. Waddell arrived early and was quieted by being presented with a gorgeous badge denoting him as floor marshal. Armed with this, Mr. Waddell was as nice and polite as Lord Chesterfield himself and gave no trouble. The managers soon ceased to worry about Rube—and were given other things to trouble them.

“About midnight a prizefighter named Seiger of some repute as a rough, hardy slugger, came into the hall and at once started making war medicine.”

According to newspaper accounts, there were at least four fighters named Seiger or Sieger who had bouts in Philadelphia during the first decade of the 20th Century—the most prominent were both lightweights: Joe Seiger and Charley Sieger

Irwin picks up the story:

“Inside of ten minutes I had to go in and help the floor committee drag him off some inoffensive fellow who hadn’t kowtowed to his sovereignty. About 10 minutes later we had to sally in again and rescue some well-dressed gentleman from Seiger’s clutches. ‘Better cut it out,’ said I ‘you are looking for a trimming and you will get it, sure’

‘”Ain’t nobody on this floor goin’ to hand it to me,’ jeered Seiger, and back he went, shouldering through the throng.”

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Rube

A minute later, Irwin said:

“I heard loud noises and then the thud of fast falling blows. In I rushed and beheld Mr. Seiger going rapidly round the floor under the mighty fists of Rube Waddell. Before the Rube’s gigantic strength and pile driving blows the prizefighter was helpless. Seiger was receiving a frightful beating, but he had it coming to him and no one interfered. Finally, Seiger fell against the wall, and the Rube, his eyes blazing with murderous delight, simply hailed blows upon the dazed and bleeding pugilist. Just as he was drawing back his great fists for another wallop, there was a shrill shriek and a woman fainted.”

Waddell turned away from the boxer, and:

“(R)an to the spot where the girl had fallen and picked her up. He bore her to an anteroom, poured ice water on her forehead and cared for her like a trained nurse till she revived.”

Someone told Waddell, as he administered to the woman:

‘”Say, Rube, he ain’t quite dead yet.’

“Rube shook his head, ‘Chivalry,’ said Waddell, ‘comes before pleasure. I ain’t going to move from here till this lady gets her thinks back. Soon as she’s all OK I’ll go finish him but I won’t stir a step till then.”

“This Little Comedy of Superstition”

29 Jan

Billy Evans wrote a nationally syndicated column throughout his time as an American League umpire; he also wrote occasional articles for “St. Nicholas Magazine,” a monthly for children that operated from 1873 until 1943.

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 Evans

In the April 1914 edition, Evans told a story to illustrate how “Baseball players are perhaps the most superstitious class of people in the world.” Evans’ story was from the 1913 World Series:

“The Athletics, a team made up mostly of college men, and supposed to possess more intelligence than the average ball team, were the actors in this little comedy of superstition. For years the Philadelphia club stayed at the same hotel in New York, one very close to Forty-Second Street.”

Evans said Connie Mack decided:

“Perhaps it might be better to have the players stay at a hotel further uptown during the series. He thought his would enable the team to be free from the noise and excitement in the downtown hotels. Arrangements for the change had been practically completed when the players heard of the proposed shift.”

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Mack

Evans said the players met in small groups, then convened in one large group to discuss the move.

“Then the meeting ended, and one of the players, a college graduate, (likely the notoriously superstitious Eddie Collins) made his way to manager Mack. He called the latter aside, and advised him, in substance, as follows:

“’The boys understand that you intend changing hotels.’

“’Only During the World Series,’ answered Mack. ‘I thought they would like to get away from the noise and bustle,’

‘They have delegated me to request no change be made in hotels during the World Series.’”

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Collins

Mack argued that the new hotel “far surpassed” the team’s current lodgings. The player responded:

“We have won several pennants, and always stayed at this hotel. When we beat the Giants for the World Series in 1911, we stayed at this hotel. And the boys would much prefer staying here during the present series. Most of them think a change in hotels would surely ‘jinx’ or ‘hoodoo’ them.”

Mack backed down, “Right here then is where we’ll stay.”

Said Evans:

“The player who had acted as a committee of one rejoined the others and made known the outcome of the conference. And then to justify their superstition, the Athletics went out and beat the Giants.”

“Take him out”

27 Jan

Stanwood Fulton Baumgartner pitched in parts of eight seasons for the Phillies and Athletics, then spent thirty years as a baseball writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Sporting News.

In 1945, he said his former manager Connie Mack:

“(I)s a kindly person. His 62 years in baseball have been marked by few displays of emotion.

“When the Athletics made their famous 10-run rally in the fourth game of the 1929 World Series he merely wigwagged his scorecard a bit faster. Even when Burleigh Grimes thumbed his nose at him in 1931, Connie merely smiled.

“Yet he once shook his fist at Babe Ruth—and that gesture cost him $5,000.”

Baumgartner said the story was about a young pitcher who, 1924 “(H)ad sold himself to Connie Mack,” after a successful minor league season in 1923.

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Stanwood Fulton Baumgartner

The pitcher, he said:

 “(W)asn’t a success. Every time he stepped out of the dugout fans would shout, ‘Take him out.’”

The pitcher “pleaded for one last chance,” before Philadelphia would have to pay the pitcher’s purchase price of $5000 if he stayed on the roster after May 30.

“That very morning, Mack made up his mind to send the young pitcher back to New Haven. He ordered a train ticket.

“Eddie Rommel was starting (the second game of a double header that day) for the Athletics. As Rommel started to warm up, the young left-hander went to his locker. There he found the ticket for New Haven.

“The young fellow felt a terrific emptiness. But he changed his shirt and went back to the bench.”

Early in the game, Baumgartner said Mack told the young pitcher he would take the mound if Rommel needed to be relieved.

The Yankees scored two runs in the fourth and sixth innings—including a Babe Ruth two-run home run—and Rommel was lifted for pinch hitter Paul Strand in the seventh, with Philadelphia trailing 4 to 1.

The young pitcher came out for the bottom of the seventh inning with the Athletics still trailing by three runs. He retired New York in order for two innings while Philadelphia scored four runs in the eighth on three singles and a Bing Miller home run off Sad Sam Jones.

With a 5 to 4 lead, Mack sent the young pitcher out for the ninth inning:

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Connie Mack

“Wally Shang, first Yank at bat in the ninth inning, fanned; then Everett Scott was caught at first for the second out (Baumgartner’s memory was faulty more than twenty years later, the contemporaneous account in The Philadelphia Record said Scott struck out, and Fred Hofmann was retired for the second out). The Athletics breathed a sigh of relief. Only one more man to go! But (pinch hitter) Joe Bush got a one-base hit. Then the left-hander hit Aaron Ward with a pitched ball; and Joe Dugan made first base after an easy grounder took a bad hop against Chick Galloway’s chest.”

Here again, Baumgartner’s memory was faulty.  Bush did single, but the next two batters were pinch hitter Wally Shang, who walked, then Dugan, who did not reach on error, but was hit by a pitch—Galloway’s error had come earlier in the game.

In any event, what Baumgartner recalled correctly was that the Yankees had loaded the bases trailing by one run, with Babe Ruth due up.

“As the Babe walked to the plate, a wave of futility engulfed the pitcher. Tomorrow, he knew, he would be back in New Haven—in the minors and oblivion.

With a shrug of despair, he looked at catcher Frank Bruggy for a signal. But Bruggy was looking for a sign from Connie to bring in another pitcher.”

Baumgartner said Mack stood up in the dugout, and the pitcher’s “heart sank,” but then:

“Connie did the most amazing this baseball fans had ever seen. He shook his fist at Babe Ruth. The pitcher watched that fist and a wave of confidence surged up within him. Now he saw only Ruth and his catcher.

“Bruggy signaled for a curve and Ruth swung and missed.

“Bruggy signaled for another curve. Again, Ruth swung; missed.

“The third pitch was a slower curve. Ruth swung with every ounce of his 220 pounds. There was click as the bat met the ball. But it was only the click of a foul ball. Bruggy smothered it in his glove for the third out, and the game was over.

“Hundreds of cushions whirled out of the stands onto the diamond. Connie Mack Draped his arm around the pitcher.

‘”Give me that ticket to New Haven,’ he whispered. ‘You won’t need it now.’

“That night Connie Mack made out a check to the New Haven club for $5000.

“How do I know? I was the pitcher”

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Baumgartner

Neither The Record nor The Inquirer mentioned the embellishments of Mack’s fist shake, the “Hundreds of cushions,” nor that Ruth’s strikeout was foul tip in their coverage of the game. He likely overstated his imminent return to New Haven as well—Baumgartner, although used sparingly,  had pitched well and won two games in relief before the May 30 game–—but what was true is he had learned to tell a good story in the intervening two decades.

“The most Aggravating Pitcher”

13 Jan

Louis Lee Arms, writing for The St. Louis Star in 1913, like many of his contemporaries, presaged the pitch clock when reporting on the ace of the Philadelphia Athletics pitching staff:

“The next time Eddie Plank pitches at American League Park many fans who desire to get home approximately during the same month that they started for the ball yard, so that their friends may not think they have been upon a European tour or some other long vacation, will forego the pleasure of watching even such  a brilliant baseball scientist as Plank in action.”

Arms called Plank “the most aggravating pitcher” in the league.

plank.jpg

“He draws himself within himself after the fashion of a mud turtle once he finds himself in a pinch and there is nothing but the shell.”

Arms said in his last start against St. Louis, Plank “consumed from thirty to sixty seconds” between each pitch:

“Plank’s reasoning is obvious. He figures that wit a man in the batting box anxious to hit, the longer he hesitates in throwing the ball the more perturbed and overwrought becomes the batsman, with the result that he cannot hit normally, highly psychological as anyone can see.”

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Plank

Arms described Plank’s routine after a pitch:

“Receive the ball from the catcher.

Then drop it.

Rub dust on it.

Expectorate upon the glove.

Rub the ball vigorously upon the glove.

Turn and talk in an animated way to Eddie Collins.

Step upon the pitching slab facing the catcher.

Nod dissent to several signals.

Expectorate again upon the glove.

Nod an assent to the signal of the catcher.

Back off the pitching slab.

Pluck several blades of glass.

Walk up to it again.

Turn and gaze about the ball field to see that the outfield is properly placed.

Wave one outfielder into position

Make a sarcastic remark to the umpire.

Make ready to pitch.

Consume five seconds in looking steadfastly at the ground.

Pitch.”

Arms concluded:

“Exaggeration Not a bit of it. This is exactly what Plank did on several occasions Monday in the first and second innings when he was in a pinch.”

Plank slowly won 18 games and one more in the World Series for the World Champion Athletics.

When he died 13 years later, Umpire Billy Evans said of Plank’s routine:

“No pitcher in the history of the game ever kept the batter or umpire as much on edge.”

“He’d Deliberately do Something to Rile a Hostile Crowd”

9 Aug

Edgar Munzel covered baseball for Chicago Newspapers from 1929 until 1973; he, along with Gordon Cobbledick, from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, received The J.G. Taylor Spink award in 1977.

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Munzel

While writing for The Chicago Sun in 1943, Munzel was in a French Lick, Indiana hotel, “seated in a circle on lobby chairs.” With Harry Heilmann, then a Tigers broadcaster, Jimmie Wilson and Kiki Cuyler, Cubs manager and coach, and Tigers pitcher Dizzy Trout.

Munzel said Trout was there “only as a sideline agitator to keep Heilmann in a reminiscent vein,” while the three former players told stories about players fighting with fans after Wilson said how a group of soldiers in the stands “were really on me, Must’ve been from Philadelphia.”

Wilson said:

“Boy, how they used to give it to you there, even when you were the home team. Did you ever have them hollering at you Harry?”

Heilmann said:

“I’ll never forget those Philadelphia fans as long as I live…Ty Cobb had injured his hand in a fight with some butcher in Detroit and I had to play centerfield for the Tigers. Well, those Philly fans had paid to see Cobb and they took it out on me—called me every variety of busher they could think of.”

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Heilmann

Wilson, a Philadelphia native who spent 11 seasons with the Phillies, said the city’s fans loved watching Cobb play the Athletics:

“I think they got half their enjoyment trying to get him mad. I still remember watching a game as a kid when Cobb got so hot, he charged right into the stands and challenged everybody.”

Heilmann, who played with and for Cobb, said:

“(He) was always doing something and quite often it was with an eye towards the gate. He actually considered it a personal affront if only a few thousand turned out and he’d deliberately do something to rile a hostile crowd on the road so the next day there’s be 40,000.”

He said is Boston, Cobb “threw a bat at Carl Mays’ head

“He did it in his usual clever way. Mays always looked at the ground during his one point in his underhanded delivery just before he let go of the ball. Cobb started heading for the pitcher’s mound just at the split-second Mays turned his eyes toward the ground. Thus, he was able to take a half dozen steps forward before Mays looked up again. By that time, he had let fly with the bat and it missed Mays’ head by inches.

“That day we had to have a police escort get us out of the park.”

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Cobb

Heilmann recalled a fight he participated in:

“(O)ne day a couple guys in the stands were giving us a brutal riding. Right after the game Cobb charged after one of them underneath the stands and I was right behind him.

“He swung at his man and I tried to reach over his shoulder at the other fellow. But it turned out our two annoyers were just a small part of a gang of about a dozen. What a going over they gave us. We wore adhesive from head to foot when it was over. But I always remember when they knocked Cobb down, he tackled his man around the legs as he was falling. He hauled him down with him and battled there underneath the pile, oblivious of everything else going on around him. He had the man he was after.”

Wilson said when he was managing the Phillies, he “got my man once, too.”

He said he had “been telling my players all year,” to ignore the heckling from their hometown fans:

“But there was one particularly obnoxious guy one day and I walked out towards the stands to bark back at him after the game. And when I did, he leaned over the railing and spit in my face.

“That infuriated me, so I ran into the stands and grabbed him by the lapels.”

But, Wilson said, he took pity on the man and let him go, despite fans “hollering for me to ‘let him have it.’”

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Wilson

Cuyler then told the story of the “funniest thing” he recalled about a player fighting a fan:

“(It) happened to Hack Wilson in Wrigley Field. Somebody was riding him unmercifully one day from a front row box. Hack went over to the grandstand rail at that point and put his legs up to climb over and –wham—the heckler knocked him back onto the field. Hack tried it again but before he could get his short legs over, he was smacked down once more. I think it happened a third time before somebody hauled the befuddled Hack away.”

“A Perfect Infield Machine”

8 Jul

In his column in Collier’s Magazine, Grantland Rice said their was a “heated argument” among experts as to whether the current infield of the Philadelphia Athletics—Stuffy McInnes, Eddie Collins, Jack Barry, and Frank Baker—or the recently broken up infield of the Chicago Cubs—Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, Joe Tinker, and Harry Steinfeldt—was  “the greatest infield that ever played.”

Rice took the question to Dan Brouthers, who:

“(H)as been a good bit closer to ringside and who should know.

“Daniel has been on some fair infields himself…He has played on the best and has seen the others pass in parade before him year after year.”

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Brouthers

Brouthers told Rice:

“Why, a choice between Cubs and Athletics for greatest infield? They were both good and the Athletics are still in business. But neither ranks as the best—not for me when I think of that Boston infield of 1897, with Fred Tenney at first, Bobby Lowe at second, Herman Long at short, and Jimmy Collins at third.”

Brouthers said the Beaneaters infield was:

“(T)he best combination of batting and fielding power, brains, speed, and smoothness. It has them all beaten, and I doubt if its equal will ever be gathered together again. There wasn’t an angle of the game at which they were not stars. They may have no more power than the Athletics four and but little more smoothness than the Cubs, but in the combination of all things that go to make up a perfect infield machine they must be set out in front of the others with something to spare.”

Brouthers said of the question of whether the Chicago or Philadelphia infield was better:

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Steinfeldt, Tinker, Evers, and Chance

“As between the old Cub infield, now scattered to the eternal winds, and the Athletics quartet, the former was a smoother-running machine, but it lacked the crushing wallop which has always graced the Mackian avalanche. One had the edge in alertness, the other leads with the punch. Between these rival qualities the competition in the way of supremacy is still a matter for open debate.”

 

 

 

 

 

Weyhing’s “Malicious Mischief”

26 Jun

In 1900, The Brooklyn Eagle used the example of pitcher Gus Weyhing running afoul of a New York brewery by vandalizing the ceiling fresco as an example of how in the “old days” when baseball was “in its prime,” such incidents were covered up.

The incident was actually covered quite extensively in the press and resulted in an elaborate practical joke played on Weyhing—which received extensive coverage as well—and the prank caused Weyhing more trouble.

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Weyhing

Shortly after the end of the 1890 season—on October 10–Weyhing, who led Wards Wonders to a second-place finish in the Players League—winning 30 games—was with several friends at the Piel Brothers Brewery on Sheffield Avenue in Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn Times said Weyhing engaged in “malicious mischief,” at the brewery.

The Pittsburgh Post described the “mischief,” after Weyhing and his party:

“(W)ere served with numerous sandwiches and plenty of beer. In the course of time they became very frolicsome. Weyhing took several slices of bread, which he plastered over with thick coatings of butter and mustard. Then he bet that he could make them stick to the ceiling.”

According to the paper, Weyhing was successful and:

“One slice covered the nose of a frescoes figure of King Gambrinus. Another covered over his glass of foaming beer, and another hit his Schuetzen Corps medal. Weyhing and his friends laughed boisterously at the joke, and then departed.”

The Times said Piel’s Brewery had become “a favorite resort for Captain Johnny Ward’s ball players ever since the opening on the Players’ League ballpark.”

Weyhing had been there that day with “a half dozen of his brother leaguers” and “a well-known official under the local government.”

The Brooklyn Eagle said Brooklyn catcher Tom Kinslow had been present “and thought it a huge joke.”

And, said The Eagle, it was Kinslow who was behind a prank played on Weyhing:

Kinslow, accompanied by a detective friend, approached Weyhing at another bar. Weyhing was “served” by the detective with the fake subpoena and Kinslow and the other members of the party told him they had been served as well:

“’You’ve got us all in a nice box,’ said Kinslow.”

The detective told Weyhing he was being placed under arrest. Weyhing said he could not go to jail and his friends suggested he go see a friend at a bar “on the corner of Atlantic and Alabama Avenues” in Brooklyn to borrow bail money.

The pitcher, accompanied by the detective and Kinslow went to the bar; there all the other members of the original party were gathered and suggested that they summon a former judge to help Weyhing—he appeared along with another friend of the group who worked for the district attorney:

“The (attorney) began to score the pitcher for the trouble he had got them into and talked to him for fully half an hour.

“Poor Weyhing sat at a table, with his head in his hands, and said not a word while the (attorney) was talking. Then he raised his face and said in a husky voice:

“’I’ll pay whatever damage was done, for heaven’s sake, let up.’” But he wouldn’t let up. He took particular pains to let Mr. Weyhing know that the punishment for his crime was a year’s imprisonment in the penitentiary.”

The Eagle said “the fun continued” until Weyhing “was about $10 poorer” buying drinks to calm everyone’s nerves—at that point he was told it was joke:

“Unfortunately for Mr. Weyhing some outsider enjoyed the joke and quietly related the proceedings to Mr. Piel. Thus it was that the warrant was procured for Weyhing’s arrest.”

With a real warrant issued, he left town and spent the winter at home in Louisville.

Weyhing had jumped the Philadelphia Athletics to join Brooklyn in 1890 and was returned to the American Association club for the 1891 season.

On April 22, he was on board the New Haven Railroad traveling from Boston to Washington. A New York police officer:

“Received word that the train on which Weyhing was a passenger would reach the New Haven depot, on the Harlem.”

He was taken into custody and “occupied a cell” in the tenth precinct jail for several hours.

The Eagle said, Weyhing appeared before judge, “refused to make a statement,” and a “well known sporting man” posted $500 bail.

At this point, it appears the dispute was settled with no further legal action. The Citizen said the case was being presented to a grand jury, but there is no record of an indictment or any further legal proceeding in the case, so The Eagle’s statement, ten years later, was partially true it appears. The incident itself was not swept under the rug and received extensive coverage, but once he posted bail, there were no public consequences for Weyhing.

He had one more bizarre brush with the law the following season. Weyhing, along with his former teammate Lave Cross, collected and bred pigeons. The Boston Post said:

“(They) are pigeon fanciers. They have great collections of fantails, carriers, and pouters, and exhibit at many shows.”

The Louisville Courier-Journal said Weyhing was attending a pigeon show when he was found to have in his possession “two very fine Blondinottes, valued at $50 each.” The paper said Weyhing had the birds in a basket with his other pigeons as he was leaving the show.

Weyhing was taken to a jail in Louisville where he initially “gave his name as William Joyce,” and was charged with grand larceny.

The Philadelphia Times said of Weyhing, who won 31 games for the Athletics in the final season of the American Association, and would pitch for the Phillies in the National League in 1892, said of the arrest:

“Weyhing has a weakness for fine pigeons…It does not however, seem possible that a man in Weyhing’s position, and with such an income as he enjoys, would be guilty of such a deed over a couple of birds. Weyhing has in the past been in trouble through indiscretion, but nothing more serious than conviviality, and consequent excess, was ever charged against him.”

The Philadelphia paper said it would be “a hard blow” to to the Phillies if he were found guilty, but if he was “the club, of course, could not afford to keep him.”

He was held for trial and appeared in court on January 30. The Courier-Journal said:

“Weyhing was acquitted of the pigeon-stealing charge in the City Court. The prosecuting witness was absent, but judge Thompson heard other witnesses and honorably discharged Weyhing.”

Weyhing won 32 games for the Phillies in 1892, and appears to have stayed out of trouble for the remainder of his life.

He worked as a doorman at a theater and night watchman at the Louisville Water Company. He died in 1955.

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Weyhing 1950s

The Courier-Journal said in his obituary:

“He had never known a sore arm during his 15 years of top-flight pitching.”