Tag Archives: Pittsburgh Pirates

“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

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

“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.”

“For That is a Very bad Business”

2 Apr

After winning the National League pennant in 1903, Barney Dreyfuss told The Pittsburgh Dispatch that he intended to further improve his team but:

“I do not want any ‘sports’ on the Pittsburgh team, and that’s why I’m so careful and go slowly in my selection of what new talent we want for next season.”

“By ‘sport,’ I mean the player who will bet on himself or his team to win games.”

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Barney Dreyfuss

Dreyfuss, the paper said, was committed to a fourth straight first-place finish for his club and knew what to avoid:

“I don’t want any man who will wager that his team will win, that the other fellows will be shut out, etc…for that is a very bad business, and there entirely too much of it in baseball now. I know pitchers who will, when they have the money, bet as high as $100 on themselves when they go in the box.”

He said he didn’t want “any of these people,” and currently had “no such players on” the Pirates:

“At first it looks like a good game; it looks as though the club owner should be proud to have in his employ men who will wager their own hard-earned money that they will beat the other fellows, but when we look at it more closely and examine records it proves to be very bad baseball.”

And, he said his colleagues had stories:

“Many are the club managers and owners who could tell, if they would, where such and such a game was lost by a certain player having bet and becoming too anxious.”

Dreyfuss said he had passed “on what seemed to be first-class men,” including “two very fast pitchers,” for being “sports,” because he said in addition to the problems on the field:

“(It) leads them into loafing with the betting element.”

Dreyfuss didn’t care if they never bet against their own club:

“They always bet on themselves of course, but they cannot play on the Pittsburgh club”

Despite his efforts to not sign any “sports,” the 1904 Pirates broke the three-year string of pennants, finishing fourth.

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #40

1 Apr

Minor League Salaries, 1897

In 1897, Ren Mulford of The Cincinnati Times-Star compiled a list of the average monthly salaries in some of the minor leagues:

“Eastern League–$100 to $180 for youngsters, $200 to $250 for stars.

“Western League–$75 to $150 for young men, nominal–$200 limit—real limit, about $300.

“Western Association–$65 to $115.

“Southern League–$70 to $100.

“Texas League–$60 to $100

“New England League–$75 to $125.”

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Ren Mulford

Mulford said:

“Most of the minor league contracts are from four and one-half months. While they are in force the players have their boards and traveling expenses paid when away from home. Seven months in the year these players can earn money doing other work. And yet they are down-trodden! There are many business and professional men who would be willing to be as down-trodden as are ball players.”

Small Market Woes, 1887

Horace Fogel was the third manager of the Indianapolis Hoosiers in 1887; the last place club finished the season 37-89; 20-49 under Fogel.

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Horace Fogel

After the season Fogel told The Indianapolis News:

“(I)t is a fact that it is impossible for a weaker League club to compete against such clubs as New York, Chicago, Detroit, or Boston when one of these begins to negotiate with the players. There is no use trying to get him by the offer of more money, for it will do no good. The young players would rather play on the big clubs for $500 less than they would get in the Indianapolis club. They do not recognize they would have a chance for improvement in a weaker club, while in one of the big clubs they must be on an equality with the best or they cannot stay. Young ball players will learn that they will have to begin at the foot of the ladder.”

Indianapolis, under manager Harry Spence finished 50-85 in seventh place in 1888.

Barney’s Favorite Scout, 1910

Barney Dreyfuss told The Pittsburgh Press in 1910 that the “best scout in the country” worked for him despite having “never secured a ballplayer.”

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Barney Dreyfuss

Dreyfuss said, “And as long as he wants to stay on my payroll, he can do it.”

The scout was Pittsburgh’s man on the West Coast, George Van Haltren. Dreyfuss said:

“He is an excellent judge of ballplayers, When we are tipped off to some player who is said to be a wonder, George hikes out and takes a look at him.”

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Van Haltren never signed a prospect for the Pirates but remained Dreyfuss’ favorite scout.

“The Spitball Suffers from Nothing so much as its Vulgarity”

10 Jan

Louis Lee Arms became well known for being the husband of actress Mae Marsh and publicist for studio head Samuel Goldwyn, but before the age of 30 he was sports editor for The St. Louis Star and a sports columnist for The New York Tribune.

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Louis Lee Arms

In 1918, after it was reported in The Washington Post that Pittsburgh owner Barney Dreyfuss and “other big league magnates (would be) behind a movement to legislate the spitball and other freak deliveries,” at that year’s winter meetings, Arms wrote in The Tribune:

“It is apparent that for the first time in its gay young life the spitball is going to be placed seriously on trial.”

Arms said there were good cases on each side of the debate over “the saturated slant.”

He laid out the arguments:

“Those most opposed to this effective style of delivery make general claims against it, as follows:

  1. From its nature it is not legitimate

  2. It leads to other illegal styles of delivery

  3. It retards hitting

  4. It mars fielding

  5. It delays the game by delaying pitching

Each one of these claims is more or less justified. In opposition, those who favor the spitball submit the following:

  1. From its nature it is NOT illegitimate

  2. It depends upon skillful manipulation

  3. It greatly increases pitching effectiveness

  4. It is an effective substitute for a pitcher who is unable to develop a first-class curve ball

  5. Its abolition would greatly weaken, if not destroy the major league usefulness of many established pitchers.”

Arms had a theory that the pitch was not so much targeted for extinction for baseball reasons, but for changing social mores:

“It is our humble opinion the spitball suffers from nothing so much as its vulgarity. As a nation we are being taught more and more that it is usually unsanitary and largely unlawful to spit in public places. A ballpark is certainly public enough for anyone.

“Pithy placards in our subways, surface cars, and ‘L’s’ and in theaters and public places remind us that two years in prison or $500, or both, may be the penalty for even a first offence. We think now ere we spit. Back in grandfather’s salad days the town bloods may have sat before the grocery store and spit with formality and greater accuracy. But if grandfather had happened along in 1918, he would have smoked Egyptian cigarettes and saved the coupons.

“Assuredly the spitball is vulgar, it is a highly effective pitching asset. Ed Walsh and Jack Chesbro will be remembered as among the greatest pitchers in baseball and the spitter made them that. Dozens of other pitchers have owed the greater part of their success to the (Elmer) Stricklett discovery.”

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Stricklett

Of the pitch itself, he said:

“In effect, it is an artistic and astonishing delivery, as showing the ‘stuff’ that may be put upon a ball over a flight of sixty feet. There is no curve that has to it the arrogant viciousness of the spitter. No delivery is harder to control. By control we mean the ability to ‘break’ the spitter either way as well as to regulate the angle of the break.

“The spitter that carries the biggest break is not necessarily the most effective. It was only the other day that Miller Huggins was saying he had seen Bill Doak, eminent among modern spittists. Knocked from the box when his ‘spitter was breaking a foot,’ only to come back the next day with a delivery that jumped but a few inches and pitch unbeatable ball.

“It is unfair to the spitball to attribute to its influence the discovery of such illegal pitches as the resin and emery balls. Why not indict the knuckle ball on the same score? Yet no word is heard against the knuckle ball, which breaks like the spitter, requiring, albeit highly talented knuckles to control.

“We shall continue to believe the main objection its antagonists find against the spitball is that it isn’t polite. Yet they do not to be thought so softened by civilization as to admit that.”

It would take until the winter between the 1919 and 1920 seasons for the first stage of the spitball ban which allowed two pitchers per team to use the pitch, and the second after the 1920 season  which grandfathered in 17 pitchers.

“There’s a Player the Newspapers Made”

14 Aug

In 1907, Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss told The Pittsburgh Press:

“There’s a player the newspapers made.”

The player in question was Tommy Leach.

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Leach

“Leach is a pure product of the newspapers, but a product of which the newspapers should be proud.”

Dreyfuss said it made Leach “mad to tell him that,” but that the Louisville papers were responsible for his career:

“They roasted him so hard (when he played for Dreyfuss with the Colonels in 1898 and ’99) trying to drive him from out of the business that I got mad and said I’d stick to Leach as long as I had a dollar, and I did.”

Dreyfuss said Leach, “was very bad at that time I must admit.”

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Dreyfuss

But, he said he felt the papers “had it in” for Leach:

“I knew he could do good work, for I had seen him perform in the New York State League, but when he went to Louisville he seemed to scare at the cars and his fingers were all thumbs. My, how the papers did roast that boy. I suppose if they hadn’t done so, Leach might have been released, but when they took to devoting columns to his bad plays, simply singling him out for a mark, I took his part and our day soon came.”

Dreyfuss said he was sure that had he bent to the “newspaper roasts” of Leach and released him, “he would likely have never been given another chance in fast company.”

Leach played for Dreyfuss’ Pirates through the 1912 season, and finished his career with the team in 1918 when the 40-year-old, whose last major league game was in 1915, appeared in 30 games for the club whose roster had been depleted because of World War I.

“Smashing Circuit Clouts all Over the Island”

22 Apr

Edgar Forrest Wolfe was a cartoonist and feature writer who wrote under the pseudonym Jim Nasium at several Eastern newspapers including The Philadelphia Inquirer from 1907-1922.  In 1920, he told readers about “the Black Babe Ruth.”

Wolfe had seen Cristobal Torriente play against barnstorming major leaguers in Cuba:

“While Boston Babe Ruth is insisting that he will not be thumping home runs next season unless he receives $20,000 a season for the service (Torriente) is smashing circuit swats all over the island for a percentage of the gate receipts and doing it with such consistent regularity that one is led to believe he might be able to take ‘Boston Babe’s’ place.”

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Torriente

Wolfe said against the barnstorming major leaguers including Jeff Pfeffer and Leon Cadore of the Brooklyn Robins and Elmer Ponder and Hal Carlson of the Pittsburgh Pirates:

 “Torriente, ‘The Black Babe Ruth’ pasted the pellet for the healthy batting average of .377 (and) in six games against the All-Americans, batting against Jack Quinn, Bob Geary, and ‘Mule’ Watson, Torriente managed to compile a batting average of .408.”

Torriente, he said:

“(I)s the surest and hardest hitter Cuba has ever produced. He broke up one of the Pittsburgh games with a terrific home run belt off pitcher Carlson that traveled so far into right-centerfield that he had completed the circuit of the bases before outfielder Max Carey had reached the ball.”

When facing Bob Geary in another game, Wolfe said Torriente hit a ball ‘so far into the same pasture,” and:

“(He) loafed coming up the third base line and had crossed the plate on a slow trot before the ball had been returned to the infield.”

Wolfe said the home run gave the Cubans a victory in a game that appeared “hopelessly lost,” and the fans threw money at Torriente who “collected thirty-two dollars from the grass around home plate.”

Wolfe noted that in another game, Torriente homered twice, one to left field, the other to right “with equal force.”

He called Torriente “the perfect picture of a natural hitter,” and gave the final word on his ability to Frank Schulte who while watching the games in Cuba called Torriente “one of the best-looking hitters he had ever seen:”

“He looks natural up there, and he takes the right kind of cut at the ball that doesn’t swing at any bad ones. If they could whitewash that bird he’d help some big league club a lot.”