Tag Archives: Philadelphia Phillies

“Old Pete Probably Saved my Life”

7 Dec

In a syndicated article for World Wide Features in 1942, writer Jack Smith talked to the “Chippewa Indian whom grandpa called ‘the game’s greatest money pitcher,’” Charles “Chief” Bender.

Smith said at 58, Bender “can still toss a pretty mean baseball.”

bender.jpg

Bender, 1942

Bender told Smith “he might be around,” anymore if not for Grover Cleveland Alexander, who “performed an operation” on Bender with a pen knife:

“It started on a lurching train carrying a Pullman-car-load of Phillies towards Boston in 1917, Bender, then a National Leaguer, started a playful wresting match with Eppa ‘Jeptha’ Rixey—and inadvertently stuck his arm through a Pullman window pane.”

Mike Dee, who was the Phillies trainer treated the six-inch gash in Bender’s arm, but he told Smith:

“’(T)here weeks later on another train my arm swelled like the head of a rookie pitcher after a no-hit game.

“’So I rolled out of my bunk and awakened Grover.  I showed him the poisoning and offered him my knife.  Old Pete said he wouldn’t mind at all.’”

Bender said he and Alexander sterilized the knife in boiling water, then after tying off the infected area, Alexander used the knife to drain the wound.

Bender said when he showed his arm to Dee the following day, “’Doc told me he couldn’t have done a better job himself.  He said Old Pete probably saved my life.’”

oldpete.jpg

Old Pete

Smith said seeing Bender work out with the Philadelphia Athletics during the spring of 1940 in Newport News, Virginia, and in 1941 in Wilmington, Delaware,

“At an age when most men creak at the joints and swell in the middle, he is still rangy and trim, still has that powerful arm, those long, sinewy fingers.”

Most importantly, Smith said, Bender was extremely humble:

“This man whose name is mentioned in the same breath with those of Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson, whose million dollar arm helped make baseball the national pastime, who’s been in the game since he started playing for Pop Warner at Carlisle back in 1902 (note: Bender graduated from Carlisle in 1902, and began playing for Warner there in 1899) will tell you his career is without highlights.

‘”All games were the same to me,’ he says.  ‘I worried about each pitch and that was all…In 1910 I pitched a no-hit no-run game and didn’t know it—not until somebody told me.”

A few days after Smith’s article appeared, Bender was named minor league pitching instructor for the New York Yankees.  The Associated Press said the Yankees minor leaguers should “Get your track pants on…’When a man’s legs and wind are right, he’ll be able to pitch.”

Bender kept running and continued pitching batting practice into his sixties.  He died at age 70 in 1954.

“It is a sad and Pitiful Story”

21 Nov

Thomas Frank “Tully” Sparks had a reputation for being a bit more cultured than his contemporaries: The Nashville Tennessean said of the Georgia born pitcher::

“(A)lthough so successful in his business as a ball tosser, has decided to acquire a professional education.  He is temperate and studious in his habits and is always in condition to pitch a star variety of ball.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer called him a “silent and modest gentleman.”

Sparks attended the University of Georgia and Beloit College in Wisconsin, and spent his off seasons working for prosperous cotton firms in Louisiana as a cotton sampler and buyer, so there was a great surprise in the Southern press when he became part of what would be a tabloid scandal today.

sparks.jpg

Sparks

Sparks had spent the off season after posting a 22-8 record and 2.00 ERA working in Opelousas, Louisiana for the New Orleans based Oliver, Voorhies & Lowery cotton company.  After he had returned to the Phillies for the beginning of the 1908 season after a brief holdout, The Monroe Star reported “a sad story which arouse the tenderest sympathies of everyone in Monroe.”

The paper said:

 “Bride secretly married to Frank Sparks, Phillies’ pitcher, goes insane on hearing he deserted her.

“The principal in this sad story was formerly Miss Mabel Winter, the beautiful and accomplished instructor of the kindergarten department of the City High School, who was serving her fifth term in the school prior to her sudden and almost secret departure from the city one week ago tonight.

“Frank Sparks, the man who won her love, secretly married her and caused this bright and beautiful woman to go insane by deserting her.”

The Star said the couple had married just five months earlier on New Year’s Day:

“After the wedding the couple visited Galveston.  The marriage was kept a secret and Miss Winter returned to the city and resumed her position in the school and Mr. Sparks went to Opelousas.”

While the Phillies were training in the South, the paper said the couple “spent several days together’ in Atlanta.  In late April, Winter quit her job at the school and left for Philadelphia to join her husband:

“The secret of her marriage to Sparks then became public and has since been the subject of gossip.”

The Star said Sparks’ wife “became so violent” in her room in Philadelphia’s Hotel Walton, she was taken to the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane as a result of the desertion, which she learned about when a man met her at the railroad station and “pressed a note into her hand,” from Sparks.

The paper concluded:

“It is a sad and pitiful story”

The story was picked up by many papers in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia, but virtually ignored in the North; limited to brief articles in a handful of papers in National League cities.

By May the story was forgotten.  Troubled by shoulder pain—which led to a trip to Youngstown, Ohio to consult with the famed John “Bonesetter Reese, according to The Philadelphia North American—the 34 year-old Sparks had his final winning season 16-15, 2.60 ERA in 1908.

Sparks’ big league career came to an end in June of 1910; he was 6-13 during his final two seasons.

By the time his major league career was over, the story of Mabel Winter was so forgotten, that when Sparks was granted a divorce from her in October of 1910, he claimed he was seeking the divorce because she had deserted him, Sporting Life said:

“(Sparks) testified that his wife left him in June of 1908, and has refused to live with him under any consideration.”

When Sparks died in Anniston, Alabama in 1937, his hometown paper, The Anniston Star said he was “modest and retiring and never sought the limelight of publicity.”

“The Foxes of Balldom are Listed”

4 Sep

After the publication of Franklin Pierce Adams’ “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon” in The New York Evening Mail in 1910, two poems were written three years later to mark the end of the double play combination and relationships that had devolved into public feuding.

James P. Sinnott, Adams’ colleague at The Evening Mail, penned “Said Tinker to Evers to Chance,” lamenting the fate of the three—all three now managers, Johnny Evers’ Cubs finished third, Frank Chance’s Yankees and Joe Tinker’s Reds finished seventh.

Then there was a poem commissioned by The Day Book, the Chicago-based Scripp’s-McRae owned free daily paper and written by poet Berton Braley, called “Ballads of Past Glories.” Which ended with the line:

“Fans, we may rightly be blue, over the land’s vast expense;

Busted this trio—boo hoo! ‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

 

tecpix

But they were not the only two poems to pay homage to Adams.  One poem appeared about a month after the publication of “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon.”   First, in The Chicago Daily News, then later printed in papers across the country, attributed only  to “some other near poets:

“Piteous in Gotham’s the oft written phrase,

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

This is the dope that has Grif in a daze,

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

Cardinals, Dodgers and Doves, Phillies

fairish

All know the play that is neat if not

garish

Know how their ambitious rallies can

perish

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

Get down your coin on the double-play

kids

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

Under the Pirates they’ve slickered the

skids

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance,’

Not of the boneheads whose noodles get

twisted,

These with the foxes of balldom are

listed—

Grabbing a pennant almost unassisted,

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

Aye, there is a dolor in Smoketown at

this:

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

But in Chicago it’s pretty fine biz,

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

Here are the regular Wind City

queries:

Hunting a pennant pole, ain’t they the

Pearys?

Think they will cop the post-season series.

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’”

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

24 Apr

Ty Cobb Rates American League Fans

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

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

cobb

Cobb

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

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

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

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

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

The not as Smart Coveleski

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

harrycoveleski

Harry Coveleski

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

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

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

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

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

An Umpire’s dilemma

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

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

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

Segregation and Spring Training, 1961

11 Apr

Will Grimsley was a New York based sportswriter for The Associated Press for nearly forty years; he covered 35 World Series and at least that many spring training’s.

Before teams opened their camps in 1961, he reported on segregated living arrangement.

Grimsley introduced readers to the woman who housed the Milwaukee Braves

“Mrs. K. W. Gibson’s boarding house at 211 Ninth Avenue is a modest, spotlessly clean two-story dwelling which stands out in the dilapidated Negro section of Bradenton.

“Mrs. Gibson prides herself on “setting the best table in town.”

“The tiny, gray-haired matron for years has been house mother for Negro members of the Milwaukee Braves baseball team.  ‘I’ve treated them like my own sons,’ she said.

“At Mrs. Gibson’s place, the Negro players have basic comfort and ‘eat high on the hog’ as the saying goes.  Yet, they sleep two to a room; queue up for use of the two bathrooms and sometime bicker over the choice of a television program on the single set in the living room.”

Hank Aaron said:

“Sometimes the place is so crowded they have two guys sleeping in the hall.  You wake up in the morning and rush for the bathroom and if you’re the last one all the hot water is gone.”

mrskwgibson

Mr. and Mrs. K.W. Gibson in their Bradenton home.

Grimsley said of their teammates’ accommodations:

“The white members of the team meanwhile have headquartered in a Bradenton motel. This year they move into a new motel in the center of town—glistening glass and stone, wall-to-wall carpeting, private baths, television sets and a modern central dining area”

“Aaron, Wes Covington and Andre Rodgers have been most outspoken in criticism of Jim Crow treatment.”

aaroncovington

Aaron and Covington

Duffy Lewis, traveling secretary of the Braves, expressed shock that Aaron and some of his teammates were not thrilled with the situation:

“Why, we thought they had an ideal setup and we’ve never heard a fuss.  That Mrs. Gibson sets the best table I’ve ever seen.  I’ve eaten there myself.”

bravesbradenton

Braves in Bradenton

Grimsley conducted “A reporter’s survey” of each team’s spring training quarters with details provided by the teams and/or their spring training hotels. He said hotel managers were, “generally jumpy and gun-shy on the issue but many (were) ready to acknowledge that the problem soon must be met head on—maybe next year.”

Some highlights:

Yankees:  “Have trained at St. Petersburg for years.  The Soreno, a resort hotel, has politely said ‘no’ to Yankee owner Dan Topping’s request that all players…be housed ‘under one roof.”

Tigers: “Local ordinance in Lakeland, FL forbids four Negro players to stay at club headquarters, New Florida Hotel.

Athletics:  General Manager Frank Lane told Grimsley “We are not spearheading any political movements,” when asked why Bob Boyd, the only African-American with the club would not be staying with the rest of the team at the George Washington Hotel in West Palm Beach, FL.

Reds:  “Eight Negros on roster to be housed and fed in private homes, not at team headquarters at Floridian Hotel, Tampa.  Both club and hotel said they never had difficulty and not rocking the boat.”

Pirates:  “Headquarters at Bradford Hotel, Fort Myers, FL.  ‘We don’t anticipate any trouble,’ said the hotel’s resident manager, Howard Green.  ‘The colored players will get excellent accommodations in private homes.”

Phillies:  “Again will stay at Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater.  General Manager John Quinn wants all players in same hotel, but no immediate prospect.”

Twins:  “Five Negro players to be housed in new motel, while headquarters will be Cheery Plaza in Orlando, FL”

Senators:  “(T)o train at Pompano Beach, FL. The chamber of commerce is working on housing which will be segregated.”

White Sox: “Bill Veeck, president, is negotiating with Sarasota, FL., civic leaders to have six Negro players…stay with rest of team at Sarasota Terrace.  Negroes likely will wind up at motel.”

Orioles: “McAlister Hotel in Miami…says there has been no correspondence on the matter.”

According to Grimsley, the Cubs, Giants, Dodgers, Indians, Angels, and Red Sox all had integrated accommodations—the Dodgers—who housed all players “together at old air base in Vero Beach,” were the only team in Florida with such an arrangement.  The other five trained in Arizona and California.

Grimsley concluded:

“Next year or the year later perhaps, but not now—the baseball clubs must abide by the traditions of the people whose land they have invaded for a couple of months of each year.”

Bill Nunn Jr., sports editor of The Pittsburgh Courier, interviewed Aaron a week after the original story:

“’I’ve said it before and I’ll keep repeating that I don’t like the situation the way it now stands,’ Aaron disclosed here.  ‘I think it’s wrong for us to have to live apart from the rest of the team.’

“At the same time Aaron went out of his way to emphasize that he didn’t want the numerous Negro friends he has made in Bradenton to be offended by his stand on this matter.

“Aaron was speaking specifically of Mr. and Mrs. K. W. Gibson, the people in whose home he and members of the Braves stay while in Florida.

“’Mrs. Gibson was hurt over all the things she heard concerning our statements about Bradenton.  She thought we were being critical of her and her home.’

“’Actually that wasn’t the case at all.  We were trying to get over the point that we didn’t like being segregated against our will.  I explained all this to Mrs. Gibson.  I told her about the moral issues concerned.  I think she’s on our side now.'”

United Press International (UPI) reported the following spring that, “The Braves switched their Bradenton hotel headquarters to nearby Palmetto this spring to permit integration of their athletes.”

UPI said six clubs “still have the integration problem:” the Orioles, Tigers, Athletics, Twins, Senators, and Pirates.

Lost Pictures: Mickey Doolan’s Glove

23 Jun

doolanglove

In June of 1913, the Philadelphia Phillies were in first place.  The Associated Press said one of the reasons for the Phillies success was the fielding of shortstop Mickey Doolan.  A photo of Doolan’s glove was included with the story:

“See the glove.

“it is a baseball glove.

“The glove belongs to shortstop Doolan, of the Phillies.

“Doolan is one of the best shortstops that ever played ball.

“He and his palmless glove are two reasons why the Phils might win the National League pennant.

“The ragman wouldn’t give five cents for the glove.  Doolan wouldn’t take a hundred dollars for it.

“Doolan credits this ragged glove for the base hits he kills off every day.

“The center of the glove is the same things a doughnut surrounds.  The covering is ragged and the lining frayed.  Back of the hole, Doolan’s hand is a callous.”

doolan

Doolan

Doolan hit just .218 but finished tied for 13th in the Chalmers Award voting.

The New York Giants knocked the Phillies out of first place at the end of June and ran away with the pennant.  The Phillies finished second, 12.5 games back.

“I Haven’t Heard of any Club Owners Refusing to accept the Patronage of Colored People”

24 Apr

Damon Runyon called Dan Parker, “The most consistency brilliant of all sportswriters.”

Parker wrote a column and was sports editor of The New York Daily Mirror from 1926 until the paper folded in 1963.

 

danparker

Dan Parker

 

Parker often used his column, “Broadway Bugle” to agitate for change in sports.  He crusaded against fixed wrestling matches, disreputable “Racetrack touts,” and the influence of organized crime in boxing—these columns led to several investigations, the disbanding of the corrupt International Boxing Club, and several criminal convictions, including Frankie Carbo, a member of the Lucchese crime family.

Parker was also an early crusader for the integration of professional baseball.  In 1933, Parker lent his name and influence to The Pittsburgh Courier’s “Crusade for comments from baseball celebrities” who supported integration.

Parker wrote to Chester Washington, The Courier’s sports editor:

“I don’t see why the mere accident of birth should prove a bar to the Negro baseball players who aspire to places in organized baseball.  I haven’t heard of any club owners refusing to accept the patronage of colored people. Rutgers didn’t draw any color line when Paul Robeson proved himself the best man for the place he was fighting for on the football team.  The All-American selectors didn’t go into a huddle about Paul’s complexion when they picked him for a place on the mythical eleven, football’s highest honor.

 

robeson

Paul Robeson

 

“The U.S. Olympic Committee didn’t consider Eddie Tolan’s or Ralph Metcalfe’s lineage when they were picking the strongest sprinting team possible for last summer’s games.  If the Negro athlete is accepted without question in college football and amateur track and field events, which are among the higher types of sports, I fail to see why baseball, which is as much a business as it is a sport, should draw the line.

“In my career as a sports writer, I have never encountered a colored athlete who didn’t conduct himself in a gentlemanly manner and who didn’t have a better idea of sportsmanship than many of his white brethren.  By all means, let the Negro ballplayer play in organized baseball.  As a kid, I saw a half dozen Cuban players break into organized baseball in the old Connecticut League.  I refer to players like (Armando) Marsans, (Rafael) Alameda, (Al) Cabrera and others (Almeida, Marsans, and Cabrera played with the New Britain Perfectos in the Connecticut State League in 1910). I recall the storm of protest from the One Hundred Per Centers at that time but I also recall that all the Cubans conducted themselves in such a manner that they reflected nothing but credit on themselves and those who favored admitting them to baseball’s select circle.

“The only possible objection I can find to lifting the color line in baseball is that the Yankees might then lose their great mascot.  I refer to my good friend, (Bill) “Bojangles” Robinson, who chased away the Yankee jinx last season with his famous salt-shaker. The Yanks didn’t draw the color line on their World Series special to Chicago for Bill accompanied us on the trip.  On the way back, at every town where we stopped for a few minutes, the crowd hollered for Babe Ruth. Babe would make an appearance and then introduce Bojangles who would tell a few stories, go into his dance and make the fans forget about baseball as he ‘shuffled off to Buffalo.’

 

bojangles

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson

 

“I read your paper every week and find your sports pages well edited and thoroughly enjoyable.”

Parker’s letter was released shortly after Heywood Broun of The New York World-Telegram made waves at the 1933 Baseball Writers Association dinner when he said:

“I can see no reason why Negroes should not come into the National and American Leagues.”

Broun and Parker were joined by another prominent sports writer, Gordon Mackay, who had been sports editor at three Philadelphia papers—The Enquirer, The Press and The Public Ledger—who wrote to The Courier:

“I believe that there are scores of Negroes who would make good in the big minors and in the majors.  Take some of the men I used to know—John Henry Lloyd, Rube Foster, Big (Louis) SantopPhil Cockrell, Biz Mackey and others—why, Connie Mack or the Phillies would have been strengthened with any of them on the best teams they ever had.”

The Courier’s Washington was hopeful that the sentiments of three powerful sportswriters would have some impact:

“Fair-minded and impartial writers like Broun, Mackey, and Parker can do much towards breaking down the barricaded doors of opportunity to capable colored ballplayers which lead into the greatest American game’s charmed circle.  And we doff our derby to ‘em.”

Chance versus Mack

31 Oct

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

Johnny Evers,

Johnny Evers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frank Chance

Frank Chance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joe McGinnity

Joe McGinnity

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

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

Evers continues making his case for Chance on Wednesday.

One Minute Talk: Jack Coombs

21 Oct

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

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

Coombs

Coombs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coombs at Williams College, 1921

Coombs at Williams College, 1921

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

 

“It is a democratic game for Americans”

7 Oct

Charles Phelps Taft, owner of the Philadelphia Phillies and brother of President William Howard Taft, told The Cincinnati Times-Star his brother’s visit to Chicago’s West Side Grounds for the September 16, 1909, Cubs-Giants game was meant to send a message to the American public:

Charles Phelps Taft

Charles Phelps Taft

“That is one of the reasons why my brother attended (the game) just after starting on his long tour around the country…He wanted to put his stamp of approval upon what he and I regard as our country’s greatest outdoor institution for pleasure.  He was as glad to shake hands with the players that day as they were to meet him.  My brother is very fond of the game for the mere sake of personal enjoyment as well as to observe its bearing on the country at large.”

President Taft at West Side Grounds

President Taft at West Side Grounds

Taft told the paper that he and the president were of the same opinion:

“Baseball…is strictly American in every particular.  It deserves  its great popularity because it is clean and wholesome.  It offers opportunity for the rich boy, the poor boy, the educated boy and the uneducated boy.  It is a democratic game for Americans.  Professional baseball has an important effect upon the young men of the country.  It offers to many of them the chance of quitting vacant lots, where unhappily, a number would otherwise become mere idlers.”

Baseball, Taft said, was aspirational:

“Once they become proficient enough as ball players to reach the big league they get an insight into the better things in life and immediately they become ambitious.  They realize then what it means to neglect education. It stimulates them to go higher and higher, and when they return to their homes then stimulate those left behind by example.

“The future of baseball is in keeping the game clean.  The players must be manly.  The day is coming when so called toughness will be a thing of the past in baseball.  The personnel of the players is improving every year and will continue to improve.

“Any game that can give the unfortunate youth of neglected training a chance to rub elbows with the boy from college on an even footing is a great game.  Both the college boy and the less fortunate boy are benefitted.  It is democracy.”

President Taft meets Giants catcher John "Chief" Meyers after the game in Chicago

President Taft meets Giants catcher John “Chief” Meyers after the game in Chicago

When asked about his personal experience playing baseball, Taft, born in 1843,said:

“Oh, no, I got old before baseball got to be so popular.”

And about the president, fourteen years his junior:

“As to whether my brother played or not—well, I don’t really know whether he ever played at Yale.  Anyway, we both like the game just as well as if we had played.”