Tag Archives: Pittsburgh Pirates

“A Good Plumber’s Helper but an Inferior Umpire”

21 Apr

Edward F. Ballinger of The Pittsburgh Post described Bill Byron thusly:

“(He) is looked upon among the players as the man who rendered more peculiar decisions than any other official in diamond history.”

Honus Wagner singled out Byron for rendering “the worst decision I ever saw.”

Wagner included the incident in his 1924 series of articles about his career for The North American Newspaper Alliance. He said he was stealing third in a game against the Giants:

“The catcher threw the ball into my feet making it impossible for Devlin—I think it was Devlin— [Note: It was Milt Stock] to pick it up. We both got in a tangle as I slid through a cloud of dust. The ball was bound under my arm where nobody could find it.”

Byron

While the Giants looked for the ball, Wagner headed towards the plate:

“About ten feet from home the ball dropped on the baseline. Now here’s where McGraw got in his fine work. He rushed up to umpire Byron, who had run down to third base to make the decision and told him I carried the ball to the bench in my hand.

“’If you don’t believe it, go to the bench and make them give it to you,’ he urged Byron.

“About this time McGraw’s attention was called to the ball lying on the base path.”

McGraw then told Byron, “That proves it. See! Wagner just rolled it out.”

Wagner said a confused Byron called him out for, “Carrying the ball to the bench with your hand.”

Wagner’s recollection was a bit faulty, in addition to forgetting who was playing third base. The incident happened on July 17, 1914, during the sixth inning of what would turn out to be a 21-inning 3 to 1 victory for the Giants. The game was, to that point, baseball’s longest game and both pitchers, Babe Adams and Rube Marquard pitched complete games.

As for the play, Wagner was not attempting to steal; he was advancing to third from first on a hit by Jim Viox and the throw came from center fielder Bob Bescher.

Contemporaneous accounts in The Pittsburgh Press, The Dispatch, and The Post all said that when the ball fell from Wagner’s uniform, it was immediately picked up by Marquard who threw to third trying to retire Viox who was called safe, rather than Wagner’s version where McGraw called Byron’s attention to the ball.

McGraw, said The Press, came out on the field at that point, “and told Byron Wagner was out.” The umpire agreed and also sent Viox back to second The Post said:

“The Pirates gathered around the umpire and raised a hubbub. (Fred) Clarke read the riot act and was motioned off the lot by umpire Byron.”

Pittsburgh protested the game, but Byron’s ruling was upheld.

Fred Mitchell, manager of the Cubs, was also not a Byron fan, and told Billy Evans in 1920:

“He hasn’t improved much since the summer (1917) he gave a decision that cost me $100 and the game. We were playing in St. Louis and big Mule (Milt) Watson was on the rubber. Art Wilson was at the plate. Watson, as he started to pitch, stubbed his toe and in trying to hold back on the ball threw it wildly and hit Wilson in the back of the neck. Byron would not let him take his base, saying it was a slow ball. I protested and consequently was chased and later fined $100.”

Mitchell’s details of the September 3 game were all correct, except for the outcome of the game. The Cubs beat the Cardinals and Watson 6 to 5. Mitchell had also, “had a mix-up” with Byron the previous day, according to The Chicago Tribune, when the umpire had initially called Tom Long of St. Louis out on a play at the plate, “then called him safe, although (catcher Rowdy) Elliott held the ball.”

Cardinals owner John C. Jones held the same opinion Mitchell did off Byron.  Earlier that same season, Byron made another questionable call on another play involving Tom Long. The Cardinals outfielder hit a ball off Eppa Rixey that appeared to be fair for a double. Byron, despite “the fact that a gap in the whitewash marked the spot,” where the ball hit called it foul.

Long was called out on strikes on the next pitch The Cardinals lost 3 to 2 to the Phillies.

So incensed was Jones at the umpire, whom The St. Louis Star called, “a good plumber’s helper but an inferior umpire,” that he wrote an open letter to fans that appeared in St. Louis papers. He told fans who were present, “The good of the game demands,” that they wire league president John Tener about “Byron’s judgment.”

Jones’ message resulted in bottles and other items being thrown at Byron the following day. Two fans were injured. Cardinal President Branch Rickey disavowed Jones’ comments:

“I strongly advised against it. In fact, both (manager) Miller Huggins and myself wired President Tener that the message did not officially express the club’s sentiments.”

Despite his comment that he did not support the club owners’ position, Rickey was more critical of the umpire in his telegram to Tener than Jones had been in his message to the fans:

“(His) attitude and manners generally were extremely antagonistic to the crowd…If Byron will keep his face to the filed and not parade about in front of the stands, he will have no trouble.”

The previous season, Byron “wrote” an article for The Pittsburgh Press. He said he became an umpire in 1896 only because he couldn’t find enough work in his “first love, steamfitting.” Over two decades he worked his way from the Michigan State League to the National League.

Before steamfitting and umpiring, Byron had briefly played minor league ball:

“As for myself, I am frank to admit that I was the worst ball player that ever broke into the Texas League. I managed to hold my job with the Dallas club for a while, but the race was too fast. It nearly ruined a good steamfitter. Afterward I played semi-professional ball occasionally in Michigan but gave up the game—and what was baseball’s loss was the plumbing trade’s game.”

After four seasons in the Michigan State League, he worked his way up to South Atlantic League, then the Virgina League, followed by International League and finally the Eastern League before his big-league career began.

He became well known—and versions of the story were told for the next two decades—for a call he made on August 31, 1909. In an Eastern League pitchers duel between the second place Newark Indians, with manager Joe McGinnity on the mound and Big Jeff Pfeffer pitching for the fourth place Toronto Maple Leafs.

The game was scoreless in the sixth inning with Newark batting:

The Detroit News said:

“Two were out and the batter (Joe Crisp) raised a high foul within the easy reach of both the Toronto catcher and third baseman.”

Toronto Third baseman Jimmy Frick and catcher Fred Mitchell both stopped when Newark “coacher” Benny Meyer yelled “I’ll take it.”

“The catcher backed away and the ball fell on the Dominion of Canada. Great glee broke out among the Newark contingent, who seemed apparently to conclude that the strategy of the coacher had won the batsman another chance to connect. But they reckoned without Mr. Byron.

“’Batter out!’ yelled the ump.”

McGinnity and “his entire team” came out on the field.:

Byron told the Newark manager:

“’He’s out on interference.’

“This set McGinnity fairly crazy and he frothed at the mouth, ‘But there wasn’t a man within 10 feet of Mitchell when he backed away,’ he screamed.

‘”He’s out on vocal interference; get into the field and finish the game.’ And Byron pulled his watch.”

Pfeffer and McGinnity both went the distance in a 13-inning game won by Toronto 1 to 0. McGinnity filed a protest with the league, but Byron’s decision was upheld.

Byron said the “secret of umpiring” was that “The umpire must keep his head and let the other man lose his.”

The umpire retired before the 1920 season saying he could make more money at his first love.  Evans said of his seven seasons in the National League:

“Like the rest of the umpires, he had his faults. No umpire is infallible, so Bill made mistakes like the rest of us, but they were always honest mistakes.”

He said Byron “always looked trouble in the eye,” and “no gamer fellow” ever wore a mask.

Despite his contentious relationship with McGraw, Evans told a story about a game in New York.  The previous day while making a ruling on a play involving fan interference, “the umpires were criticized” by reporters for their long deliberation. The following day:

“At an amusement park near the Polo Grounds, it was customary for an aviator to do a series of stunts. Usually the aviator paid the Polo Grounds a visit before landing. On this occasion, he flew unusually low over the grounds, so that it was easily possible to see him greet the big crowd with a wave of the hand. Evidently Bill Byron had given some thought of the criticism of the day previous unjustly heaped on the arbitrators for what was called a needless delay.

“Calling time and turning toward the New York bench, he addressed manager McGraw of the Giants thusly.

“If the ball hits the airplane, John, while it is flying over fair territory, it is good for two bases. If it lands in some part of the machine and stays there while flying over fait territory, the runners shall stop at the base last touched when such thing occurs. If the ball lands in some part of the machine while the machine is outside playing territory, it will be good for a home run. Play.”

Evans said McGraw “was shaking with laughter.

The press box was as well:

“Byron’s retort courteous to their slam had not gone over their heads.”

L. C. Davis of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said of Byron’s retirement:

“It will always be a moot question whether Lord Byron was greater as a singer or an umpire. But whether singing or umpiring the fans agree that he displayed all the earmarks of a good plumber.”

More Byron, Friday.

“The Kaleidoscopic Possibilities of the Game”

19 Mar

“Isn’t he just lovely?

“Oh, I think he is splendid!

“He is so graceful.”

The Chicago Daily News said this was “the sort of chatter” heard from women in the grandstand in the past, but, in 1909, those days were gone:

“Well-known women, those whose names you see in the society column regularly, fans—or perhaps fannettes are better—who cheer the Cubs and White Sox on to victory. And they know the game.”

One such “fannette” was “Mrs. Hobart Chatfield-Taylor;” the former Rose Farwell, daughter of one-time US Senator from Illinois Charles B. Farwell:

“Once at the field she sees nothing, hears nothing, but the game. She is oblivious to her surroundings and applauds clever plays enthusiastically.”

The Daily News said that Taylor, “Unlike many fair enthusiasts…indulges in the slang’ of baseball. She said:

“It’s distinctive slang and to me explanatory of the game. ‘Tinker died stealing’ is far more expressive than ‘Mr. Gibson, the Pittsburgh catcher, noticed Mr. Joseph Tinker, the Chicago shortstop, in the act of purloining second base, and therefore threw to the gentleman playing second base, who tagged Mr. Tinker with the ball in ample time to put him out.”

Tinker

Taylor said, “I love baseball…Of course to fully appreciate the sport one must thoroughly understand it, but when you master the plays and comprehend its technicalities it becomes the greatest of outdoor sports.”

One of the other “well known” Chicago fans was “Mrs. W.J. Chalmers,” whose husband had turned the company started by his father—Fraser & Chalmers—into one of the world’s largest manufacturers of mining equipment. She was the former Joan Pinkerton—daughter of detective Allan Pinkerton. She said:

“There is a strange fascination about a ball game that endears it to me, although I can’t say just what it is.”

“Miss Phoebe Eckles,” the daughter of a Chicago bank president, said:

“Often, I try to analyze one of the great crowds, drawn to a game by the same unknown quality that impels a moth to flutter to a flame. The tragedy and comedy, the kaleidoscopic possibilities of the game, have endeared it to me.”

“Mrs. Potter Palmer II,” the daughter of Chicago newspaper publisher Herman Kohlsaat, said she did “not thoroughly understand the game,” but is “learning rapidly,” and the paper promised she would be “as ardent a fan” as the others soon.

Chicago’s Society Women attend a game


“Mrs. Orville E. Babcock,” was the wife of a Chicago financier; his father was a civil war general and served—controversially and amid scandal—as President Ulysses S. Grant’s secretary. She said:

“I use the slang because I believe in ‘When in Rome etc…,’ Some of the reporters stretch the English language almost to the breaking point, when writing base ball stories, but many of the expressions they coin are amusing and cute.”

The Daily News said “One might go through Chicago’s” social register and “name hundreds” of society women who were baseball fans:

“It merely shows the advance of the national game, which a few years ago was conducted in a manner that effectively barred women and kept thousands of men away, that city a city’s most exclusive set is proud to admit a fondness for the sport.”

“Outpitched by a Nineteen-year-old Country yap”

17 Mar

By 1911, Jack Chesbro had been two seasons removed from professional baseball. Lou Guernsey of The Los Angeles Times said:

“Only a year or two ago Jack Chesbro’s praises were sung throughout the length and breadth of the land. Everyone knew who Jack Chesbro was. Everyone from the slant-jawed-son-of-the-slums to the Boss Barber knew that Jack originated the spitball and was the great big calcimine applier in the American League…his appearance at the bat or on the field was the signal for a great outburst of cheers. He was idolized.”

Jack Chesbro

But, said Guernsey, “the inevitable” followed:

“He started to slip. He lost control, couldn’t get his spitter working right and he was banged all over the lot by opposing swatsmen. He looked around one day after he had twirled a losing game and found his friends had gone and that tremendous thing we call fame struggling around somewhere in the vortex of oblivion…Chesbro went, or rather was sent away.”

Guernsey said he had recently visited Massachusetts:

“I stopped at a little town called Whitinsville. It was necessary for me to pass several hours in the little puritanical hamlet in order to catch my train on another road.” I followed a thin line of people out to a typical country baseball field in the afternoon to see Whitinsville hook up with a team from a nearby town.”

Sitting on the bleachers, he said re related:

“Is Chesbro going to pitch today?’ I heard one bewhiskered individual ask of a Whitinsville fan sitting next to him.

“’I guess they’re goin’ to put the big dub in today,’ replied the fan rather hopelessly.”’

And there on the bench sat:

 “Happy Jack Chesbro of international fame once upon a time sitting with his fellow players. He was chewing a wad on Navy plug and fingering his glove.”

Chesbro took the field to, “Not a handclap or cheer,” while Guernsey recalled just three years earlier in New York hearing “25,000 frenzied fans shout the name of Chesbro until the very grandstand trembled.”

According to Guernsey:

“The game commenced. The nearby villagers fell against Jack’s curves and shoots for a total of seventeen hits totaling thirty-one bases. Whitinsville couldn’t do anything with the lanky twirler for the opposing team and they lost the game 11 to 3. Chesbro outpitched by a nineteen-year-old country yap.

“After the game the manager of the Whitinsville team paid Chesbro his $10 for pitching the game and informed him that services would no longer be needed. He went, or rather was sent away.”

Chesbro’s fate had become part of a cycle:

“The fickle crowd throws itself at the feet of the hero for the moment only to rise soon to cast itself before another idol and forget the one upon whom it showered praises at first.”

Chesbro made one last attempt to return to pro ball in 1912, failing to get signed after tryouts with Pittsburgh and Brooklyn in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He returned to Massachusetts and continued pitching in semi-pro leagues well into his 50s.

Rube with a Gun

25 Jan

When Rube Waddell was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates before the 1900 season, The New York Telegram presented some “interesting facts” about the “serio-comic pitcher.”

The paper said:

“He is greatly desirous of spreading his circle of acquaintances, and it is not an uncommon thing for him to walk over to the grandstand and shake hands with all the front row after he has pitched a good inning.”

Rube

Tom Loftus, who briefly managed Waddell with Columbus in the Western League in 1899, and would again be his manager in Chicago in 1901, said “he has as much speed” as any pitcher in baseball.

Loftus also told a story about Waddell:

“When he first joined the Columbus nine, he purchased a revolver and took it out to the grounds with him. He practiced with the fence for a target and was severely reprimanded by the captain of the club, George Tebeau, who told him that he might shoot some passerby.

“When they entered the dressing room the argument was resumed again, and Tebeau, losing his temper, slapped Waddell’s mouth. The youngster may have deserved it, but didn’t see it that way, and promptly laid the irate Tebeau in a heap in the corner with a left hander that would have knocked a hole in a stone wall.

“Waddell immediately fled to his hotel, frightened at the possibility of punishment that awaited him. He expected to be expelled from the league”

Tebeau

Loftus “solemnly lectured” Rube on “the enormity of his offense,” and told the pitcher “all would be forgiven,” if he won the next day’s game.

“Waddell promised to do his best and succeeded in holding the other nine down to two hits. “Tebeau complimented Waddell on his good work, and then the eccentric pitcher journeyed through the league telling all the other players how badly he had whipped his captain.”

“The Nearest Approach to a Baseball Machine ever Constructed.”

18 Dec

After the Pirates barnstormed in several Midwest cities before the 1912 season, The Pittsburgh Press acknowledged that an out of towner’s assessment of the city’s biggest star revealed that local reporters, “have seen so much of him that they ceased to marvel at his astounding stunts, and take many of them as a matter of course.”

The sports editor of The Kansas City Star wrote several articles about Wagner, and, “The Kansas City man points out several things which have seldom been commented upon by local writers, who have come to regard ordinary doings by Wagner as of little importance, and only mention him particularly when he pulls off some herculean—something which no one else would attempt.”

Among the observations in The Star:

“Hugh Fullerton, who writes once in awhile on baseball topics, has said that Hans Wagner is the nearest approach to a baseball machine ever constructed. ‘Constructed’ is good. Wagner is put up solidly, after the fashion of government architecture.”

Wagner

And, he was built, “like a piano mover above the waist and below it resembles a pair of parentheses.”

Wagner, said the paper:

“(H)as as much fun playing ball as a kid on a corner lot. He romps about and kids the opposition, most of whom are ex Pirates in this town, and nags good naturedly at the umpire. For Hans is field captain this year and feels that he must do some beefing. But beefing is hard word for Hans. He is too good natured.”

He was a dichotomy; “a born comedian, though so bashful he will hide himself under a bat rack if he sees a reporter coming.”

The Star marveled at the 38-year-old’s fielding:

“He has a style that is all his own. No bush leaguer would dare try to play short like Hans Wagner. He plays wherever he pleases, frequently retreating to the edge of the outfield, whence only his mighty arm would carry to first in time to head off a fast runner. When he goes after a ground hit, he goes after it like a runaway gondola loaded with coal—but he gets it if it is getable. And when once one of those ponderous hands clamps down on the pellet there it remains quietly until the great shortstop wings it on its way.

“Wagner’s pegging is something to ponder. Several times in the Kansas City series he would field a sharply hit drive lazily, merely lobbing the ball over to first and beating the runner only by a step.

“’Shucks,’ remarked some of the bugs who were watching Honus for the first time, ‘that guy’s as slow as molasses: A fast man would have beat him.’

“Wait a bit, though. There goes a fast man—and his hit was a slow one. But he’s out by the same distance. And if you want to see Honus really peg, watch him finishing up a double play. The big frame moves like a streak. He gets the ball away in a twinkle—and it nearly knocks the first baseman off the bag.”

At the plate, “He is one of the few celebrities who can stand bowlegged and pigeon-toed at one and the same time, and he does it with ease and aplomb…He steps into the pitch with a long, swinging stride and meets the ball with a heave of his whole powerful frame.”

Off the field, The Star noted that Wagner, “can’t bear to see a dog hungry. If he can’t provide for them elsewhere he ships them home…And he is a great old boy, is Honus.”

Fred Clarke: “How I Win”

17 Sep

“Hit and hustle.

“The whole secret of winning is contained in those two words.”

So said Pittsburgh Pirates manager Fred Clarke, as part of a series of syndicated articles which asked some of baseball’s biggest stars to talk about “How I Win,” Joseph B. Bowles, a Chicago journalist, interviewed Clarke before the 1910 season.

Clarke

Clarke said:

“There is less difference between the ability of players to perform than most persons think. The great difference is in their courage, nerve and determination to win.

“I believe in hitting and in hitting to help the team, for after all the work of the individual player is not worth much unless he directs every effort to helping the other players on the club. The thing that makes (Honus) Wagner the greatest hitter in the world is his willingness to help baserunners, combined with his ability to help them. He is the best man playing the hit and run game, either on the bases or when at bat, in the world, and his willingness to spoil his own record to win for the team shows the difference between him and some others.”

Clarke told Bowles that style of play is how his team won the 1909 World Series and “is the way every winning team I ever have played with or against has won.”

A team was like a machine, he said, and “One might as well throw a wrench into the engine as to put a discordant player into a good club.”

Clarke addressed “much talk” of the importance of intelligence players:

“Of course, a player must have intelligence and be able to think and remember, but I think the greater part of baseball ‘brains’ consists of close attention to the game every instant, and both on and off the field. The worst mistakes made by players are not those that come from lack of brains so much as from lack of attention to what his own team or members of the other team are doing or trying to do.”

As for his managerial style:

“My players think I am something of a crank on discipline, and on keeping in condition. Perhaps that is so. I believe in careful training in the spring, and still more careful training and conditioning during the entire season.

‘The modern player must study himself if he is to succeed and continue to succeed. He must know his own condition and avoid either growing stale or indulging himself too much either in eating or drinking. I think cigarettes are the worst things possible for a player, both for his wind and for his eyes.  If a player takes a drink of ale or beer, he ought to do it after a hard game, or when he feels himself in danger of going stale.”

Clarke with a different take on smoking, three years later

Finally, of what it takes to win; Clarke said:

“Also, a winning team ought to fight for every point; claim it and go after it; not rowdyism, but aggressiveness is the point. It makes the other side less confident and helps get an ‘even break’ which is all any team should ask.”

Clarke’s defending World Series champions slipped to an 86-67 record and third place finish in 1910.

“The one man who Understood his Foibles and Frivolities”

27 May

J.G. Taylor Spinks said, “The names of Connie Mack and Rube Waddell are synonymous in baseball…It was Mack who was the first and the last to tolerate Rube, the one man who understood his foibles and frivolities.”

I

mack

Mack

n 1942, Mack told The Sporting News editor about acquiring Waddell for the first time in 1900, after Waddell had been suspended by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“I was managing Milwaukee in the newly formed American League…We were in a pennant fight with the Chicago White Stockings—now the Sox—managed by Charles Comiskey. I needed pitchers badly. I had a good club, except that I was weak in the box. I remembered the Rube—no one could forget him—after he shut out my club in Grand Rapids with two hits the year before.”

Mack said he knew Waddell was “hard to handle,” and did not get along with Pirates manager Fred Clarke:

“(B)ut I knew that Clarke was a bad disciplinarian and hot-headed to boot. I had an idea I might be able to handle the Rube.”

Mack said he traveled to Pittsburgh to meet with Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss and asked, “if it was all right if I tried to get Rube.”

Dreyfuss consented and said, “We can’t do anything with him maybe you can.”

Mack called Waddell who was playing for a semi-pro team in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania:

“’Hello,’ he growled.

“’Hello, is this you, Rube?’ I asked.

“’Who in the hell are you?’ he roared.

“I knew I had made a mistake. I remembered I had heard he did not like the name Rube, so I started again.

“’Hello Eddie, how are you? This is Connie Mack of Milwaukee. I’d like to have you pitch for my club.’

“I’m satisfied here,’ he said.

“’I’ll give you good money. A great pitcher like you can win the pennant for me. You’d like it in Milwaukee, and the people will like you, too.’

“’No, I’ll stay here,’ Rube replied. ‘They like me here. They do everything for me, and I couldn’t let ‘em down. I’m not going to run out on ‘em.’ Then Waddell hung up the receiver.”

rube3

Rube

Mack said:

“I guess I should have spent my time talking about beer.”

He returned to Milwaukee but continued to send Waddell “a telegram every day and bombarded him with letters.”

Two weeks later, Mack received a wire:

“Come and get me.”

Mack said he traveled to Punxsutawney and met Waddell at his hotel:

“We went downstairs and had breakfast, and how he ate—four eggs, a stack of cakes, coffee and home-fried potatoes.”

Waddell told Mack he had “a few odds and ends” to take care of before they left for Milwaukee.

Mack said:

“’Wait until I get my hat,’ I was thinking I’d better not let him out of my sight.

“We walked down the main street and into a dry good store. ‘How much do I owe you?’ asked Rube. ‘Ten dollars and a quarter,’ said the owner and handed me the bill.

“I paid it. Rube then took me into a hardware store. ‘How much was that fishing rod, line and rest of the stuff I bought a month ago?’ ‘Twelve dollars and 35 cents,’ said the clerk. I paid that.”

Next said Mack, they stopped at a saloon to settle up a tab, then a dozen more stops at various businesses, finally arriving at the Adams Express Company:

“He owed $8 there. A friend had shipped him a dog C.O.D. I don’t know how he ever got the dog without paying for it.”

He told Waddell he was running out of money, but Rube assured him he only had one stop left—Mack paid $25 at “one of those three-ball places” to get Waddell’s watch back.

Mack told Spink he was concerned some local fans might be upset about losing the great pitcher, so he and Waddell stayed in the hotel room the rest of day and left 15 minutes before they were due to board the train for Milwaukee. When they arrived at the station:

“I saw a group of men coming up the platform—six or seven of them, big fellows, too. They stopped about 20 feet away and beckoned Rube.

“As rube left me, a fellow walked over. ‘You Connie Mack? He asked brusquely. ‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘Well, I want to shake your hand. My friends and myself have come down here to thank you. You are doing us a great favor. Waddell is a great pitcher, but we feel that Punxsutawney will be better off without him.’”

Mack and Waddell went to Milwaukee, and a trade was completed with Pittsburgh for a player to be named later (Bert Husting), with the stipulation that Mack would have to return Waddell to the Pirates before the end of the season, if requested.

Mack said of Waddell’s stay in Milwaukee:

“He became a sensation. He had everything—color, ability, and an innate sense of what to do. He made the fans laugh, he made them cheer.”

Waddell spent just more than a month in Milwaukee—he won ten games; two of which came on August 19. After beating Chicago 3 to 2 in 17 innings in the first game, Mack asked him to pitch the second game—Mack and Chicago captain Dick Padden had agreed the 2nd game would only be five innings so the Brewers could make their train:

“’Say, Eddie, how would you like to go fishing at Pewaukee for three days instead of going to Kansas City?’ I knew Pewaukee was Rube’s favorite spot. He cut loose with a big grin, ‘All you have to do is pitch the second game,’ I said. ‘Give me the ball,’ said Rube. He pitched the five innings and won by shutout.”

The Chicago Tribune said of Waddell’s performance that day:

“(H)is feat of pitching both games and allowing Comiskey’s men only two runs in the whole twenty-two innings captivated the fans so completely that he had the whole 10,000 of them rooting for him before it was over.”

The next day, Mack said he received a telegram from Dreyfuss requested that Waddell be returned to Pittsburgh.

Mack, in Kansas City, wired Waddell in Wisconsin to tell him he was going back:

“Rube wired right back, ‘I’ll quit baseball before I play for the Pirates again. Will join you in Indianapolis.”

Mack said he knew the move would cost him the pennant but “played fair with Dreyfuss.”

He wrote a letter to the Pittsburgh owner explaining the situation and suggesting someone be sent to Indianapolis to get the pitcher.

“Dreyfuss sent his veteran catcher, Chief Zimmer, and Zimmer came to me. ‘There’s only one way to get Rube to go back with you,’ I told him. ‘You have to take him out, buy him a suit of clothes, some shirts and some ties—even some fishing stuff if he wants it.

“Zimmer took the tip. Rube got a new suit—and I lost a pitcher who won ten and lost three and fanned 75 men in 15 games.”

Waddell’s time in Pittsburgh ended the following May when he was sold to the Chicago Orphans. Mack said:

“Clarke and Rube were unable to get along…they were in constant arguments.”

“He is a Disorganizer”

13 May

Piggy Ward’s 1891 season provides both a glimpse of the life of the itinerant 19th Century ballplayer and his tendency to be his own worst enemy.

He started the year out West, playing for John McCloskey’s Sacramento Senators in the California League. Along with a teammate named Jack Huston—who had been on clubs with Ward in Galveston, Texas and Spokane, Washington in 1890—he skipped town on May 28. Both players had joined the Sacramento club in the first place despite being on the reserve list of Spokane.

According to The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Ward was hitting a league-leading .361, had 24 stolen bases and had scored 41 runs in 36 California League games before he jumped.

The Sacramento Record-Union said of his departure:

“Ward was, in one sense, a valuable man in the team. He was only ordinary as a fielder, or center-bag-guarder, but he exercised the best judgment. He is a good bunter, and his success in base running lies on the fact that he always knows when to take advantage of a chance. But, on the other hand, he is a disorganizer, and caused many a rupture in the Sacramento team.”

Both players left California headed to meet their new club, the Spokane Bunchgrassers of the Pacific Northwest League, owing the Sacramento team’s management money—Ward $141, and Huston “$121, besides a $15 suit of clothes”—and both were arrested when they arrived.

The Record-Union said, John Barnes, the Spokane manager, squared the debt for the two jumpers, who were in the lineup for Spokane the next day—Ward had four hits (and committed two errors) and Huston pitched the final two innings in a 12 to 3 victory over Seattle.

wardhustonbarnes

Ward, standing far right, Huston, standing second from left, and Barnes, seated center, with the 1890 Spokane club

Huston, apparently, felt some loyalty towards his new club, and remained with them for the remainder of the season, while Ward was heading east days later to join the Minneapolis Millers of the Western Association.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune said after Ward went 1 for 2 with a walk, stolen base, and two runs—and played error free ball in right field—in his debut:

“(T)he California phenomenon…is a good batter, coacher, and base runner. The general consensus of opinion was that he’ll do.”

Ward hit .357 in 54 games, which caused the injury-decimated, National League cellar dwelling Pittsburgh Pirates to purchase his contract.

The Pittsburgh Post noted his tendency to jump teams, but said the “rumpus” over his California to Spokane jump had been “amicably settled,” and of the jump to Minneapolis:

“This wrong-doing was also amicably settled.”

Ward was acquired on August 12 but chose to visit his home in Altoona before reporting to the Pirates and apparently did not bother to let the team know. On August 22, The Pittsburgh Press said team president J. Palmer O’Neil “is using the telegraph wires freely today trying to trace the player.” Ward finally arrived the following day; The Press said he reported with a sore back and because “all the men are now playing good ball, Manager (Bill) McGunnigle will not put him in until he is in perfect condition.”

As a result, he appeared in just six games, hit .333 in 18 at bats and made one error in six total chances in the outfield before being released on September 7.

After being let go by Pittsburgh, he headed back to Spokane, but on his way, The Saint Paul Globe said, “The fat all-around ball player seen in a Minneapolis uniform this season,” played briefly with the Oconto club in the Wisconsin State League. The Oshkosh Northwestern reported on September 10 that Ward had signed with Oconto, and he played the following day—Oconto lost 9 to 5 to Oshkosh.

Ward arrived back in Spokane in mid-September and rejoined Huston and the Bunchgrassers. When he returned, The Post-Intelligencer complained that “Ward will receive a salary that will run far above the limit in this league.”

He finished the season with the club—and hit .412 in 12 games –but wore out his welcome. Spokane was struggling to hold onto first place in the closing days of the season—they would lose the pennant the Portland Gladiators by one game—and Ward seemed to succumb to the pressure. The Spokane Review said, during a frustrating 12 to 8 loss that Ward punched Portland’s John Darrah in the stomach as Darrah rounded first in the fifth inning.

He was fined $25 and thrown out of the game. The Spokane Review said:

“If Ward used the vile language during the game attributed to him, he certainly should be disciplined by Manager (John) Barnes. In addition to punching Darrah he also hit (Milt) Whitehead in the stomach with his fist when the latter touched him out in the fifth.”

Ward ended his 1891 season where it began, playing for John McCloskey in Sacramento. The San Francisco Call said he “came jumping back again in a penitent mood.”  The Record-Union said, “cranks were greatly surprised to see Ward playing in the center garden,” when he took the field for his first game back on October 18. The San Francisco Call said he left the team a month later, a week before the close of the season, because of an unknown illness.

More of Ward’s story tomorrow.

“He Dresses as he Darn Well Pleases”

1 May

In 1914, writing about Honus Wagner in “The Baseball Magazine”, William A. Phelon said:

“Wagner’s dislike for fancy clothing is well known. I have seen the massive Teuton lounging in the swellest hotels with a grey flannel shirt and no sign of a necktie, while the fashionables were trooping by. Eccentricity? No—Honus doesn’t pose as an eccentric. Boorishness, ignorance of etiquette? Not that bird, for Hans Wagner is as pleasing a country gentleman as anyone could hope to meet.

“Presswork, publicity stuff? He does not need any. He is as independent as he is powerful; as solid and determined in mind as he is in body, and he dresses as he darn well pleases. He is Hans Wagner and he is worth five or six dressy dudes that look in agony upon his tieless flannels.”

wagner2

Wagner

Phelon shared several stories about Wagner—Phelon, like Hugh Fullerton, was known for his active imagination—the magazine said in the sub headline of the article: “We shall not endeavor to trace their origin any farther.”

Phelon described a night in Hot Springs with the Pirates shortstop:

“He commands attention and gets respect, even before folks know him for the great ballplayer…Wagner, correctly clad, a splendid picture of strength and manly perfection, was listening to the music in the big ballroom. Sitting beside me was a Chicago plutocrat who has his millions, all won by hustling every minute of his business hours. This man who did not know Hans Wagner, was studying the ballplayer’s general makeup. Finally, turning in his chair, the rich man exclaimed, ‘Who the devil is that man? He’s the sort of fellow I’d like to have working for me. Bulldog, fighter; think; learn a trick and never lose it; honest as the day is long—I wish I had him. Say, Bill who is that?’

“’Hans Wagner, Mr. ——-,’ I answered, strangling a grin. The millionaire took another long, long look. ‘So, that’s Wagner, hey?’ he murmured. ‘Now I understand why he has his reputation.’’

Phelon said it “delights a crowd” to see Wagner strike out “especially if the feat is performed by some kid pitcher.”

He then suggested:

“Perhaps I am wrong, but it has seemed to me, on several occasions, as if Honus deliberately struck out just to give the crowd a ration of glee and flatter the youngster on the slab. When the Pirates are safely ahead, and some young hurler has been sent to the hill by the losing foe, Hans actually seems to strike out far oftener than at any other time, and it always looked to me as if he did so—always making a terrific wild swing at the last one—just through good heartedness.

“And how the crowd always yells and bellows in sheer ecstasy! And how the kid pitcher swells up and hugs himself, while he thinks of the glory that is his—the joy of telling everybody, to the last day he lives, about the time he struck out Hans Wagner—and made him miss the big one by a mile.

“Of course, all these strikeouts may be accidental, and the old boy may be trying—but why is it that you will so often see Wagner miss three under such circumstances, while it’s blamed seldom you’ll see him fan is a tight game, with men on, and some star pitcher working against him?”

Wagner’s Glove

30 Apr

A Newspaper Enterprise Association syndicated article in 1920 told the story of the glove Honus Wagner refused to replace:

“Many another would be ashamed of it, but not the only Honus Wagner. Wagner would not part with it for love or money. There is a history to the glove.”

wagnerpix

Honus Wagner

Wagner could not recall exactly when he received the glove, but guessed it was 1902:

“Honus knows that Herman Long, once the greatest of all shortstops, then playing with the Boston team, gave him the glove. It is a fact that Long always used a glove with a big hole in the center of it. He would buy a new glove and at once cut it to pieces, leaving an open spot in the center about twice the size of a baseball.”

Eight years later:

“The glove is now a worn-out relic, but Hans hangs onto it like grim death. He figures it would be the worst luck in the world for him to lose it.

“Fans have time and again watched Wagner take that glove off his big left hand and throw it down towards third base. And they can always see the hole in it, for it is too big not to be noticed.”

wagnergllove

Wagner’s glove

Wagner was often asked about replacing the glove:

“(H)e will only say that he has no money to pay for one. But back of that there is the one fact that remains always prominent—Wagner is just as superstitious or sentimental as any other ballplayer, and he has always felt that the Herman Long glove has brought him luck. That’s why he hangs on to it, It is worn to a frazzle. There is nothing to it but the bare edges. The center is all worn away, and Wagner grabs those hard line drives really with the bare hand.”