Tag Archives: Philadelphia Phillies

“Keister was Bogus”

5 Apr

In March of 1901, second baseman Bill Keister jumped the St. Louis Cardinals for the Baltimore Orioles; St. Louis signed Dick Padden a week later to replace him.

Patsy Tebeau, who had managed the Cardinals to a 42-50 record before being let go in August, had no shortage of vitriol for his former player. He told The St. Louis Globe-Democrat:

“Padden has Keister beaten in every department of the game, and when it comes to ‘inside play’ the Baltimorean is entirely lost sight of.”

Keister had been purchased by the Cardinals with John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson before the 1900 season. The purchase of Keister had, said Tebeau, cost St. Louis “a good round chunk. And while not “Knocking any, it was illy spent.”

Tebeau

Then more knocking:

“Keister was bogus, a gold brick, a nonentity or what you will, and much of our ill-success in the early part of the race was due to his bobbling.”

Keister was not just bad, but historically bad, he said:

“If I live to be as old as Henry Chadwick, I never will forget a play Keister made in Philadelphia. We were playing a red-hot game with the Phillies, with a score of 2 to 1 in our favor along about the seventh inning. (Roy) Thomas and (Jimmy) Slagle both began by getting on base and (Ed) Delahanty sacrificed them along. (Napoleon) Lajoie followed with a stinging bounder straight at Keister. It came to him quick as a flash and on the first bound.  Fast as Thomas is, he was a goner at the plate had Billy slapped the ball home.

“But he didn’t, nor did he play it safe and shoot to (first baseman Dan) McGann. He balked for a moment and then slammed the sphere to the third corner. McGraw wasn’t within 15 feet of the sack but seeing the throw he ran over best he could. Biff came the ball, McGraw, and Slagle all in a heap.

“Slagle was safe, McGraw had his ankle turned, and the sphere kept on to the fence. All three runners scored, we were beaten, and McGraw, besides, was laid up for several weeks.”

Keister

Tebeau called it, “the worst play that was ever made by a professional.”

The play in question happened on May 25, and he got most of the details correct; except the score was 2 to 0 and it happened in the sixth inning. The Globe-Democrat described the play less dramatically the previous spring:

“Lajoie hit fast and high to Keister. The little second-sacker threw to McGraw at third, in an attempt to head off Slagle. The ball and runner reached ‘Muggsy’ at the same time. In the collision McGraw was spiked in the foot and the leather rolled to the fence, giving the Quakers their lone three runs in the contest.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The Republican both wrote that McGraw was on the bag awaiting Keister’s throw, contrary to Tebeau’s recollection.

All three papers agreed that McGraw was badly injured beyond having his “ankle turned.” In addition to the collision, the Cardinals captain was spiked in the foot. The Post-Dispatch said the game was delayed 10 minutes before McGraw returned to the field—he was removed from the game after the end of the inning. The Republic said his toe was “badly split” and that he, “dropped like a poppy cut down by a cane twirled in the hands of a careless stroller.”

With McGraw in and out of the lineup over the next several weeks, the Cardinals went from 3 ½ games back to 11 games back after a disastrous 5-15 June.

Tebeau held a grudge:

“I consider that Keister was a star in Oysterville in 1899, but out in Missouri, where the ‘fans’ have got to be shown, he was about the worst I ever saw.”

“The worst” Tebeau ever saw played three more seasons in the major leagues; Keister was playing outfield and hitting .320 for the Phillies in August of 1903 when he tore a ligament before the August 26 game in Brooklyn. He never played in the major leagues again but played eight more seasons in the minors.

Tebeau never managed in the big leagues again. He killed himself 18 years later; Louis Dougher of The Washington Times said Tebeau wrote in a suicide note:

“I am a very unhappy and miserable man.”

Lost Advertisements: Delehanty and Lajoie–Stuart’s Dyspepsia Tablets

22 Jan

A 1900 advertisement for Stuart’s Dyspepsia Tablets featuring Phillies Ed Delehanty and Napoleon Lajoie.

“The $30,000 Stars of the Baseball World.”

The ad includes brief biographies of both and said:

“’Del’ looks the part of a heavy batter, for he is the personification of strength. He is brawn and muscle from top to toe and swings on the horsehide like a trip hammer. He is a wonder at the plate. The was he punishes the ball is a caution. He is swift as a meteor, slamming th ball on the nose nearly every time he goes to bat.”

As for Lajoie:

“His mental alertness and his quickness of though enable him to anticipate every dodge of the ableist pitcher. Brains will tell on the field as well. As ‘Larry’s’ batting proves. He has a ‘hit and run’ look about him that makes cold shivers run down the back of the average pitcher.”

The two “always created a small sized panic when they have their batting clothes on.”

Both sung the praises of Stuart’s, “a powerful digester, preventing acidity and discomfort,” said Delehanty, who “would not be without them.” Lajoie “heartily” recommended them and said the cured “all stomach troubles.”

Lajoie apparently never met a patent medicine he didn’t like; he also appeared in ads for Heptol Splits, “The only perfect laxative,” and the “miracle drug,” Nuxated Iron.

“A New Era in the Sport”

6 Jan

“The baseball world is beginning to roll itself into its usual spring prominence, and while managers are busy signing the players assigned to them, the public is awaiting patiently the beginning of what is predicted will be a new era in the sport.”

O.P. Caylor’s prediction in The New York Herald was made before the National League began the 1892 season as 12-team league playing a split season after the collapse of the American Association, and Caylor sought out the opinions of several players, managers, and executives about the coming season; they shared their “sanguine feeling on their part in the success,” of the game.

O.P. Caylor

Brooklyn’s Dave Foutz said:

“I don’t believe it will be necessary to make any changes in the rules. We have got our hands pretty full with testing the policy of a twelve-club league and a double season without trying any new rules to perplex the public.”

Foutz said the league was now composed of “the twelve best cities in the country to play in, and the best players will be put in the field.”

Chris von der Ahe, owner of the St. Louis Browns said:

“While I opposed the twelve-club league when the idea was first broached, I feel now that the interests of baseball are best subserved by the new agreement.”

He said the dissolution of the Association benefitted his team:

“The St. Louis club is stronger than it ever was, and we will show the patrons of baseball all over the country a championship form.”

Harry Wright, manager of the Philadelphia Phillies said:

“Never in the history of baseball has the prospect for a successful season been brighter; never has there been such a perfect harmony among the baseball powers in this country. This fact, in my opinion, leads to the hope that the game of baseball will be revived to all its pristine glory.”

Harry Wright

Wright said he felt the distribution of American Association refuges had been “fair and equitable” and said:

“As far as the two-season idea is concerned I believe it will be a success, and I think that the public generally will watch the finish each time with the same intense interest that has marked the great and close finishes of the past.”

New York Giants manager Pat Powers said:

“This twelve-club league, it strikes me, will be a decided success. Coming, as it does, in a presidential year is very fortunate.”

His rationale was that during every other presidential year “interest in baseball would decrease” as the election drew closer, and the new league format would mitigate that loss of interest.

Powers said the “twelve most representative cities “ were included and “the different clubs are composed of the very best players of the baseball profession.”

Powers said the split season would “keep the public interested,’ the larger league would be successful, and “the game will boom.”

Charles Byrne, the President of the Brooklyn club said the split season would allow fans to “witness the most exciting finish es baseball has yet known.”

The Boston Beaneaters won the first half, the Cleveland Spiders the second; Boston beat Cleveland five games to none for the championship.

Foutz and Byrnes’ Brooklyn Grooms finished third, Wrights’ Philadelphia Phillies fourth, Powers’ New York Giants eighth, and von der Ahe’s Browns 11th.

The split season was dropped before the 1893 season.

“He was a Rube Waddell, a Cy Young”

22 Sep

In 1905, Napoleon Lajoie told a story to a reporter for The Cleveland News about “a wizard in the person of a pitcher who applied for a job in Philadelphia<’ when Lajoie played for the Phillies in 1899:

Napoleon Lajoie

“We were out for morning practice one day when a tall, angular, awkward man, who looked more like a sailor than an athlete, gained admittance to the park and asked permission to work with us.”

Lajoie said the man was sent to the outfield and “did fairly well catching fungoes;” he then asked to pitch.

“Big (Ed) Delahanty made two or three swings at the twisters y=the stranger served up to him, and then he turned around to me: ‘Nap, that fellow’s a ringer,’ he said. We all laughed at Del’s remark, but the laugh didn’t last. I was as helpless before him that day as I am nowadays before Jack Chesbro’s spitball, when it is worked right. Duff Cooley was mad all over because he couldn’t hit the new-fangled curves.”

Delahanty

Lajoie said when he stood behind the man as he pitched, he:

“(W)atched in open-mouthed wonder the zigzag, round-the-corner, hide-and-seek curves he pitched against the grandstand. It was hard to tell whether you were on a ballfield or in the delirium tremens ward of an inebriate hospital.”

He said he asked the man what he did for work:

“’Oh, most anything,’ he said ‘Anything that will earn me bread and butter and a place to sleep. Help load ships, sweep crossings—anything.’”

Lajoie said the man was told he could “earn $500 or $600 a month.”

He said he invited the man out the next day to meet manager Bill Shettsline.

“He was there at the appointed time and showed Shetts his paces. (Bill) Bernhard, (Red) Donahiue and the other pitchers looked on him with voiceless astonishment. He was a Rube Waddell, a Cy Young, a John Clarkson, a Charles Radbourn and Eddie Beaton [sic, Beatin], and a Clark Griffith combined in one.

“Shettsline told him to come to the office the next day and signa contract. That night we all had dreams of the pennant and of the consternation the new pitcher’s debut would create in the ranks of the other clubs.”

But it was not to be.

“He disappeared as suddenly as he appeared and as completely as if he had jumped into the muddy waters of the Schuylkill. Detectives hired by the club hunted high and low for him, and we even advertised in the papers, but we got no trace of him whatever.

“And never before and never since have I seen such a marvelous exhibition of masterful pitching as that unknown man in shirtsleeves and overalls gave that day in the presence of the most famous hitting team ever organized.”

“He is Thoroughly Incompetent and Could do no Better”

12 May

After the Cincinnati Reds traded for Piggy Ward in June of 1893, Alonzo Flanner of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said of his first visit to play the Browns with his new club:

“Ward, one of Comiskey’s latest acquisitions, is a great baseball player. He got his base every time he came to bat yesterday. He steals bases with a gavotte step and coaches like a cow with a cough but can’t field a little bit.”

Flanner had more to say later the same month:

“Ward, the young man with the waddle and voice like a catarrhal cow, who essayed to play right field for Cincinnati. He shows the happiest faculty for muffing, fumbling, and wild throwing of any young man masquerading in a League uniform and drawing salary.”

The observations appear to be accurate; in 42 games with the Reds, Ward hit .280, stole 27 bases, and made 13 errors in just 75 chances in the outfield. The Reds released him in August.

piggyward

Frank Gray “Piggy” Ward

The Cincinnati Enquirer said of Ward’s two-month tenure with the club:

“His opening was a dream. For weeks after he started in with the Reds, he was the talk of the town. He stood on the topmost pinnacle in the esteem of the local enthusiasts. Then came the awful exhibition of yellow fielding in the Fourth of July games.”

Ward played right field in the first game and left field in the second against Philadelphia on July 4. He was charged with two errors in the first game and one in second, and the paper said, “His miserable work in the field,” accounted for “no less than six” of Philadelphia’s 15 runs in their 15-14 victory in the first game, but allowed:

“Ward should not be blamed too harshly, because he is thoroughly incompetent and could do no better.”

After the Fourth of July debacle, The Enquirer said:

“No one could be found to fill his place as well, and again Ward had a chance to show himself. So well did he take advantage of this opportunity that it is safe to say of all the players that have been released by the Cincinnati Club none of them ever left behind such a feeling of universal regret as this same Ward.”

ward4thofjuly

The Cincinnati Enquirer after the July 4 double header

The Enquirer was so appalled by Ward’s performance that the paper referenced it at length a year later on Independence Day:

“The Exhibition of how not to play the game of ball given by Piggy that day will never be forgotten by those unfortunate enough to witness it. Such fielding was nauseating.”

The Cincinnati Commercial Gazette said, “There is nothing that that so disgusts a Cincinnati base ball crowd as poor fielding.”

Ward had arrived in Cincinnati with a reputation. He appeared in a major league game at age 16—playing third base for the Philadelphia Quakers on June 12, 1883; he was 0 for 5 and reached on an error. The Philadelphia Times description of Ward’s debut is ironic given later assessments of his skills:

“(Ward) fielded well but was weak at the bat and a very slow runner.”

After that single game, he bounced all over the US and Canada—and made two more brief stops in the big leagues between 1887 and 1891—after his first game in the outfield for the Quakers in his second trial with the club in 1889, The Philadelphia Enquirer said, “he proved conclusively he cannot play the outfield.”

He was also, by all accounts, a bit eccentric:

While playing with the Hamilton Hams in the International League, The Toronto Mail said he, “tried one of his supposed funny fakes.”

Ward handed a potato to pitcher Bill Pfann who was supposed to throw the potato over first baseman Ed Swartwood’s head.  Pfann was apparently slow on the uptake and threw the potato to Swartwood “and (Toronto Canucks Tom) McLaughlin was therefore not caught by the trick.”

Ward made at least one other documented attempt at the hidden ball trick—this time without a potato—during his brief stop with the Baltimore Orioles in June of 1893 in a game with Louisville. The Baltimore Sun described the play:

“Ward walked to the pitcher’s plate as if to advise (Kirtley) Baker on some point of the game. Then he walked back to first base. Baker resumed his position on the plate as if to pitch, but (Fred) Pfeffer had seen Ward take the ball and did not remove his foot from first base.”

Pfeffer pointed out the situation to umpire Michael McLaughlin and Baker was charged with a balk.

Pfeffer told the paper:

“I did intend at first , for the fun of the thing, to let Ward touch me with the ball by stepping off the base and then calling the umpire’s attention to the balk, but it occurred to me that the umpire might not have seen the play and would therefore decide against me. You have to be careful on such points.”

Ward’s was also considered by many to be a clubhouse cancer throughout his career. He started the 1893 season with the New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern Association. After Ward left the Pelicans, The New Orleans Times-Democrat said team president Charles Genslinger called Ward “a dissenter of the worst type and kept the local club in constant internal turmoil until his departure.”

Among Genslinger’s charges were that Ward had been the “sole cause” of an early season uprising that caused several of the team’s best players—including Count Campau, Pat Luby, and Mark Polhemus– to attempt to secure their releases, and that manager Abner “Powell ordered Ward to stop smoking in uniform, and as he persisted in the disobedience to orders he was compelled to impose a heavy fine.”

More of Ward’s story tomorrow.

“He was Neither Lucky, Dumb, nor Awkward”

22 Apr

On the occasion of the sale of the land which once stood “the old major league ball grounds at Broadway and Twenty-Eight Street,” in Louisville, James Jerpe of The Pittsburgh Gazette-Times reminisced and Fred Clarke bringing “the foundation of those habitual tail-enders to Pittsburgh.”

Jerpe said:

“Louisville is proud of Fred Clarke-maybe prouder than Pittsburgh or Winfield, Kansas, or Madison County, Iowa, where he was born. It was in Louisville that he won his spurs as a player and showed the qualifications that made him a great leader.”

He said future Louisville residents of the homes built on the ballpark site, “may point with pride to the fact that on their home sites great men like Clarke and Honus Wagner reached their prime.”

clarke

Clarke

Twenty-one-year-old Clarke joined Louisville in June of 1894:

“They called him the freshest busher of the period. He had cost Barney Dreyfuss the munificent sum of $100. With him the little recruit brought a little red bat that was the butt of derisive jokes from veteran players.”

Jerpe said Clarke’s “little red bat” caught the attention of the opponents when he made his debut in a game with Philadelphia:

“’Why, kid, these pitchers will knock that toothpick out of your hands,’ exclaimed Billy Hamilton.”

Years later, Jerpe said Hamilton told Clarke:

“Do you remember how you got four hits in that game and then topped it off with a home run that made me run like mad to the clubhouse?”

Clarke—still so unfamiliar that The Louisville Courier Journal left the “e” off his last name—had five hits in his debut, but did not hit a home run as Hamilton recalled; he had four singles and a triple off Gus Weyhing, but the Colonels lost 13 to 6.

Three years later, Clarke, just 24, became manager of the Colonels; he told Jerpe about the wire he received from club president Harry Pulliam in June of 1897 informing him of the move:

“I didn’t know what to make of that telegram. I thought some of the other players had faked up a message to kid me. You know they always roasted me about being fresh and I thought that they wanted to get my goat. But I talked with several of them and found out that the message was on the level. A fellow named Rodgers [sic, Jim Rogers] had been acting in the capacity of manager. He advised me to accept the job. I was younger than any of the men playing regularly on the Pittsburgh club today, and I couldn’t hardly realize that Pulliam had picked me for a boss job.”

Jerpe said the Colonels under Clarke were “a rough and ready crowd,” and Clarke himself was “a tough nut.”

Clarke told him in 1912:

“You know they had the outfielders pegged as bad men, reckless base runners, vicious spikers and so on. But we were not as bad as they tried to paint us. Managers had a fashion of expecting the outfielders to run bases that way and to intimidate the infielders for the opposition. If one of their men spiked or bumped into one of our men the order always went out to get back at them. Of course, an outfielder was picked to bump the offending player on the other team because the outfielder covered no bases and therefore there would be no chance for them to come back at us again. If the third baseman on the opposing team blocked or bumped our shortstop the manager very promptly tipped his outfielders to get back at the third baseman.”

In 1912, Clarke also told Jerpe about the first time Honus Wagner worked out with his team; less than a month after Clarke became manager in 1897:

wagner1897

Wagner 1897

“We called him the luckiest, dumbest, and most awkward Dutchman we ever saw, but we later learned how badly mistaken we were. He was neither lucky, dumb, nor awkward.

“He played in most every position during his first few days at practice. I was one of the loudest shouters about his blind luck and awkwardness. The way he broke down his hits, fielded anything hit above him or around him and the way he handled himself in general had us all guessing. He stood awkwardly at the bat but hit like a fiend. He ran bases, it seemed, very awkwardly, but he got there. After watching him about two weeks I turned toward a fellow named O’Brien and said, ‘That Dutchman isn’t lucky. He is a wonder. He knows what he is doing, and he can do it better than any of us. I want to take it all back.’”

Wagner, Clarke said, fifteen years after his debut:

“(H)as never changed. He is playing ball the same way he played it during his first week with Louisville. He didn’t seem any more awkward then than he does now. So you fellows might take from this that it is not always the best policy to figure that your first impression of a young ball player is correct. It takes a couple weeks sometimes to see a real good man and often it takes much longer.”

“Quit Chasing Baseball Flies to Chase the Devil”

8 Apr

Rodney C. Wells was the editor of The Marshalltown (IA) Times-Republican; in 1909 he interviewed the world-famous evangelist, and second-best player to have gotten his start in Marshalltown; Billy Sunday.

billysunday

Billy Sunday

The article appeared in “The Literary Magazine,” a Chicago-based syndicated newspaper insert that appeared primarily * in newspapers in smaller (20,000 to 40,000 population) markets.

Wells said:

“Although since Billy Sunday quit chasing baseball flies to chase the devil he has been tremendously busy preaching the gospel and saving the souls of tens of thousands of men and women, the is still a thoroughbred ‘fan,’ and there isn’t a devotee of the great national game anywhere who keeps in closer touch with it than he.”

Sunday was asked the perfunctory question about the quality of the modern game versus the 19th Century:

“The individual ballplayer of today is no better than he was twenty or twenty-five years ago. In fact, I believe that taking everything into consideration, the fellows of a quarter of a century ago excelled in some ways. To be true what a man does nowadays counts for more in a game, for now they have teamwork down to perfection. In the old days we hardly knew what ‘teamwork,’ as the word applies today, was. We knew nothing about a hit and run game or the double steal—that was all unknown dope to us. Consequently, playing more as individuals, more rested on us as individuals. Hence my reason for saying that, perhaps in some ways, the boys of the old days excelled the stars of today.”

Wells told the story of Sunday coming to Marshalltown after being recruited from his home in Nevada, Iowa—where he was known as a fastest runner in town–to come to Cap Anson’s hometown to participate on the hose team of the local fire department in the state tournament.  Sunday was required to live in town for a month in order to compete with the local fire department.

“Incidentally, Sunday liked to play ball, and he was out in the pasture for practice regularly. He began to command attention in this line, not so much for his proficiency in the game, as his fleetness of foot and his great base running.”

He was recommended to Anson who “looked Sunday up and down and made him a proposition,” to join the White Stockings.  Sunday said upon his arrival:

“The first thing they ran me up against in Chicago was Fred Pfeffer, the crack second baseman of the then celebrated White Stockings. Pfeffer was the fastest man on the bases in Chicago and one of the fastest in the league. Anson had told some of the boys about my running, and they were inclined to doubt the old man’s word. It didn’t take long to settle matters, however, and the first thing I knew I was matched with Pfeffer in a foot race. It is needless to for me to go into details, but I made Pfeffer look like and ice wagon.”

pfeffer

Fred Pfeffer

Sunday acknowledged he “won a place” with Chicago “even though I wasn’t much of a batter,” because of his speed.

“Then, we hardly ever had a sub, and it was seldom that a fellow was not in his position. We played season after season with eleven or twelve men, while now it is not uncommon to see as high as thirty men in the big-league teams. Why, they carry nearly as many pitchers alone in these modern days as we did in our entire team then.”

Sunday asked:

“Where do you find a ballplayer today who was Cap Anson’s equal at all-around ball when Anson was at his best? And where can you find a catcher who would beat old Mike Kelly?

“While I consider Johnny Kling perhaps the best catcher in professional baseball today, I do not believe he was a better catcher than Mike Kelly. And Kelly wasn’t only a great catcher, but he could play anywhere. If needed he could go on any base and be perfectly at home, or he could make good in the outfield. And he was a cracking good base runner, too, even though he was heavy.

“Then there was our other catcher, Frank Flint. I shall never forget him. Grit? One never saw his equal. We didn’t wear the big mitts in those days, and a catcher behind the bat, although he was getting just as swift balls as the catchers of today, had much less protection on his hands. I saw Flint get a hard one on his left hand, that split the poor fellow’s fingers down a clean inch. Quick as a flash he reached for his shirt pocket, grabbed a rubber band, snapped it around his bleeding fingers, and gave a signal for another ball. Every finger on both of poor old Flint’s hands had been broken at some time or another, and there was never a man who played baseball who had as many marks to show for the game.”

Sunday said he regretted that “the bunting game” was not “down to the science that it is now there were a few of us who could have made good.”

He said when he played in Philadelphia he and Billy Hamilton could “do 100 yards in 10 seconds” and batting first and second in the order and would have benefited from more bunting.

Sunday told Wells he had no regrets about retiring when he was 27 years old to begin evangelizing:

“Of course, Billy Sunday is glad he left baseball, for he felt his duty in life lay elsewhere. While the evangelist has a large income from his preaching, and much larger than he would ever have had in baseball, it was not so when he voluntarily gave up baseball for his religious work.”

billysunday

Sunday

Sunday was paid $83 a month when he first began working at Chicago’s YMCA.

“This was true self-sacrifice on Sunday’s part, for he knew not what the future held in store for him.”

“There is a Fault in the Armor of the Greatest Slugger”

21 Feb

 

babe

In 1927, a News Enterprise Association syndicated series of columns promised readers the secrets to “Fooling the great batters.”

Of Babe Ruth, the article said:

“There is a fault in the armor of the greatest slugger of them all, the man who has inspired more fear in the breasts of more pitchers than any other hitter, present day or past.”

St. Louis Browns pitcher Hub Pruett’s success against Ruth as a rookie in 1921 was noted as the gold standard for shutting him down—in six appearances against the Yankees that season, Pruett struck Ruth out 10 times; overall, Ruth was 2 for 13 with a home run and three walks in his 16 plate appearances against the 21-year-old lefty:

“(Pruett)  found that Ruth couldn’t hit a slow curve ball which sank close to the knees…Time and again it came up, slow and twisting, so that you could almost read the Ban Johnson signature, and time out of mind the Great Ball Murderer swung and missed.”

The scouting report on Ruth:

“A curve which sinks towards the batter can be hit by the Babe, but one which sinks away is harder. That was the great Pruett discovery. It is still in the big leagues, but Pruett isn’t”

Pruett, was 14-18 over three seasons for the Browns with a 3.55 ERA, and had less success against Ruth in 1923 and ’24 than he had during his rookie season. He never faced Ruth after 1924. He spent two years in the Pacific Coast League then returned to the major leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1927 and ’28; and in between two stints in the International League, he pitched for the New York Giants in 1930 and the Boston Braves in 1932.

“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.

baumg

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:

mack

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.

“That Night I was as Chesty as a Pouter Pigeon”

23 Aug

Red Donahue spent five seasons, and part of a sixth, during his 13-year major league career as a teammate of Napoleon Lajoie. In 1905, he told The Cleveland News that before they became teammates for the first time in 1898:

“For just a few days once, I imagined I had discovered how to cut down Larry’s batting average.

“I was with the Cardinals and Lajoie was with Philadelphia, when someone told me the big Frenchman could not hit a slow ball. When my turn came to face the Phillies, I handed up a slow teaser to Lajoie and he hit the ball to me for an easy out. Four times I tossed him out at first and each time on a high slow one.

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Donahue

“That night I was as chesty as a pouter pigeon and told the other pitchers to hand slow ones to Larry and he was easy money. Later, I again pitched against the Phillies and with visions of retiring the king I cut a fast wide one over and followed it with a slow ball just like those he had failed to get out of the diamond the last time I faced him.

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Lajoie

“Well, Larry met the ball and it went out of the lot. Next time I served him a high fast one, but the result was the same. He had a three-base hit.  I tried everything I had that day, but no matter where the ball went, high, low, wide or in close. Fast or slow, when Larry got ready to wallop it he did, and I was chalked up with four hits to my discredit.”

Everyone had Donahue’s number in 1896 and ’97–he was 17-59 with a 5.99 ERA—in 1898 he joined Lajoie in Philadelphia.