Tag Archives: Philadelphia Phillies

“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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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:

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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:

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.

“So, Great Buck Ewing is Dead”

21 Aug

“So, great Buck Ewing is dead.”

That was Sam Thompson’s reaction when told by The Detroit News that Ewing had died at age 47.

Ewing was less than five months older than Thompson, who had come out of retirement to play in eight games for the Tigers just two months earlier.

“They’re slipping away, aren’t they, those fine old fellows who by their head work and lovable natures made the game what it is today! It was such men as Ewing, (Tim) Keefe, (Roger) Connor and a score of others who inspired me.”

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Ewing

Although roughly the same age, Ewing was in the major leagues for five seasons before Thompson made his debut:

“As a boy I used to read of the great Ewing, and I set him up as my ideal. He and Connor were always my idols.  Later, when I began to play in the big leagues and (later) went to Philadelphia, I roomed with Roger (in 1892), my acquaintance with—while it in no way lessened my regard for him—sort of pulled him from the pedestal. Ewing, however, I never became so closely attached to, and there was always the baseball idol worship about the man for me.”

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Thompson

Thompson said when he did interact with Ewing, it added “to this setting him higher as the ideal” of a baseball player:

“He was such a whole-souled, lovable chap. His wonderful work on the diamond in no way affected his disposition. He was always modest and retiring.”

And he said:

“There never lived a greater catcher or all -around ballplayer.

“Mike Kelly? Well, Kelly was a grand ballplayer all right, but he was the cunning player, the fellow with startling tricks. Ewing, on the other hand, was the thinker, the deep student of the game. His was the inside game. No player ever lived who could play the same kind of game that Kelly put up, but Ewing was of the different type. He was the more consistent thinker.”

Thompson said he believed Ewing was “the first catcher to get the infield signaling down t anything like a system,” and:

“He was the pioneer of present-day headwork behind the bat. He always had us hugging the bases. He devised tricks that are now common in baseball. They were figured out long before the game started. Kelly’s greatness, on the other hand, lay in his marvelous ability to grasp a situation quicker than lightning.”

He said when he played “with the old Detroit team we used to anxiously await who going to catch,” for the Giants:

“If it was (William ‘California’) Brown there was a sigh of relief. Not that we were belittling the work of Brown; it was simply that Ewing was so much better. He dazzled us. He had the infield under his control all the time. He had tricks of pulling us off the sacks that were new and we did not know what to do. That old Detroit bunch could win with Brown catching almost any day in the week, but with Ewing it was different.”

One man was responsible for New York’s success:

“It was Buck Ewing who won all those championships for the old Giants.

“Tim Keefe stood out as a wonderful pitcher. It was Keefe and Ewing. That old battery was the talk of the country.

“And yet Tim Keefe told me time and again, when they were at their best, that without Buck Ewing he would be no better than any other fairly good pitcher.

“’It’s all Buck,’ he would say, ‘he’s the boy who steadies me and gets the work done.”

Thompson’s first major league game—July 2, 1885–was against the Giants, with Keefe on the mound (although he misremembered Ewing being behind the plate that day—it was Pat Deasley):

“I don’t recall whether I did anything in the game (Thompson replaced Gene Moriarty in right field after the latter was in the 5th inning, he was 1 for 2 and scored a run) but I do remember we won. We beat the Giants 4 to 0.

“That victory did more for me among the players than any one thing. They called me their mascot. New York had been beating them right along.”

 

Thompson said when he left the Phillies in 1898, he nearly played for Ewing:

“I had left Philadelphia and had decided to give up the game. Ewing was then managing the Reds and wrote me asking if I would come to Cincinnati. He said he thought he could put through a deal whereby I could sign up all right.

“I was sorely tempted, as I had always wanted to play in Cincinnati. I had always been given a good reception there and had played some of my best games there.

“I didn’t accept, however. I thought that I might not do as well as I had, and I didn’t want to show poorly after all the good work I had done in that city.”

“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.

munzel

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.”

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.”