Tag Archives: Players League

“I lay Awake All-Night Suffering from the Pain”

3 Sep

After taking in three Yankees games upon his arrival in New York—the first major league games he had seen in 20 years—New assistant Polo Grounds superintendent, Amos Rusie talked to Robert Boyd from The New York World, who asked “What impressed you the most,” after twenty years away.

“Babe Ruth.

“We had great hitters in my time, Napoleon Lajoie, (Honus) Wagner, and Ed Delahanty. But they didn’t hit the ball near as hard as this boy.”

Rusie, having seen the current baseball for three games, conceded it was livelier, and said, “I suppose the fans want hitting, and it looks like their getting it.”

Rusie

The Hoosier Thunderbolt also refused to say if pitchers of his era were better, telling Boyd he wanted to see a few more games before weighing in. He did share his general philosophy:

“I don’t approve of being too severe with pitchers. Do not curb their development. In my time we were not allowed to soil the ball. There were no freak deliveries. The spitter and shine were not heard of. We had to depend on speed and fast breaking curves, and we had a great advantage over the batsman. But today the batter has the edge. The livelier ball and the rules imposed on the pitcher are the cause of it.”

Rusie said he was pleased to see the large crowds at the Polo Grounds:

“Baseball has grown into a great national institution.”

He also said he felt the Black Sox scandal, “did not hurt the game much,’” and lauded the selection of Kennesaw Mountain Landis as commissioner, saying his presence would make the game “grow infinitely more powerful.”

Three weeks into his return to New York, the city’s baseball writers had not tired of talking baseball with Rusie.

John B. Foster of The Daily News walked the ground of Manhattan Field—the former Brotherhood Park built for the Players League in 1890 and the Giants home park beginning the following season, Rusie’s second with the Giants—with the former pitcher, who said

 “Remember the old wooden stand after you got in, and the little old lake in left field and center field after every heavy rain and high tide?

“Sometimes there’d be a lake in right field too. Remember that old two-story shed for the visiting club, and how the players used to cuss (Giants owner Andrew) Freedman because he didn’t build a better place.

“The old wooden stand wasn’t an old wooden stand when it was built. We used to think it was some theater. It was four times bigger’n the stands out West. The first time I saw it I didn’t think there’s ever’d be enough people to fill it.”

He stood firm on the question of whether the game had changed substantially:

“Nope, not as I’ve been able to see.”

Rusie talked more about his “gone” arm:

“I was sent from New York to Cincinnati. I pitched a little there (he appeared in three games and pitched 22 innings) but after a game I lay awake all-night suffering from the pain in my shoulder. I made up my mind to quit…if I couldn’t pitch the kind of ball that I had been accustomed to pitch when I was good, I wasn’t going to pitch. No bush league for me.”

At that point, New York pitcher Fred Toney—having eavesdropped on the conversation—said:

“’We are going to have him in a game before the season is over.’

“Rusie grinned and shook his head negatively

“’My old wing might break off if I took such a chance,’ replied Amos laughing.”

Despite his response, Rusie did wish he could face one more batter:

Fred Toney

“Sometimes, I’ve thought that I’d like to pitch just once against Ruth if I was up to my speed. Just for an experiment. I ‘don’t say that I could fool him anymore’n pitchers fool him now, but I’m like the kid and the buzz saw. I want to monkey with it just once.”

Rusie worked at the Polo Grounds until June of 1929—he picked a poor time to return to Washington and buy a farm—just months before the stock market crashed. His views about the modern game had also changed during his eight years back at the ballpark. 

More Rusie Monday

The Quiet Town of Hingham is in Turmoil”

28 Apr

The Boston Post said:

The quiet town of Hingham is in turmoil over a proposed addition to its population.

The Boston Globe said:

“Enveloped in a maze of spreading branches of beautiful elm and Rock Maple trees is a quiet corner of the quiet town of Hingham, stands the elegant residence to be presented to M. J. Kelly, the famous ballplayer.”

The New York World said:

“The great ballplayer and enthusiastic Brotherhood man was presented with a house and lot valued at $10,000 and containing furnishings and adjuncts worth at least $3500 more.”

King Kelly had been feted on August 12, 1890, “After being cheered to the echo,” that day at the Congress Street Grounds; Kelly’s Boston Reds lost to Ward’s Wonders but maintained a one and a half game lead in the Payers League pennant race.

Mike “King” Kelly

After the game:

“King took a train for Hingham. He was followed by about 50 of his personal friends in a special train.”

A dinner was held the Cushing House; a then more than 200-year-old home that is one of the town’s earliest and was added to the National Historic Register in 1973.

 After the dinner, speeches were made by Kelly, “General” Arthur Dixwell—the Boston super fan, Hugh Fullerton called ‘the greatest” “crank” of all-time. John Montgomery Ward, Arthur Irwin, Julian B. Hart, the director of the Boston club, and John Graham—of the Boston Athletic Club, who, seven years later, helped originate what became the Boston Marathon—also spoke.

“King, in the course of his speech, remarked that he was overpowered, thanked his friends in San Francisco, New York, New Orleans, Chicago, and Boston who had contributed to the gift, and promised a ‘small bottle on the ice’ to any and all who might call during the winter months. After the speech making, the entire party were conveyed to the new home.”

The House

The Philadelphia Times‘ Boston correspondent said, “this present has been arranged by his friends as a tribute to him not only as a brainy ballplayer, but an all-around good fellow, ever ready with his last dollar to aid a friend.”

Kelly’s generous nature, even towards rivals, was the subject of a story that same month in The Cleveland News. Patsy Tebeau was badly injured by a batted ball during a July game with Kelly’s Reds:

“In the game in which Pat met with the accident in Boston, which laid him up for a couple weeks, Kelly was playing, and, as Kelly often does, he was chafing Tebeau all through the game.

“When Tebeau dropped senseless, after being struck by the ball, Kelly, thinking it one of Tebeau’s tricks, called out ‘Never touched him.’ When the third baseman failed to rise, however, he hurried to where he was lying on the ground and helped carry him to the carriage.”

Tebeau was confined to bed for five days.

“Naturally enough, he was blue and almost heartbroken at not being able to play. No one had been near him all morning, and in his own language he was ‘all broken up.’ He had hardly time to think over the situation when there was a knock on the door and in walked King Kelly. He carried in his hands a big basket of fruit of all sorts, and after leaving it within Tebeau’s reach he left with a few words of cheer.

“’I’ll tell you,’ says Pat, ‘the way that man treated me brought tears to my eyes.’”

Not to be outdone, friends of heavyweight champion John J. Sullivan decided to buy him a home in Hingham. 

That was a bridge too far for the residents. The Boston Post said:

“The inhabitants of the puritanical old town, who swear by their lineage and recognize only blue blood, being as conservative as any people on the New England coast, are much disturbed over the prospect of having a pugilist in their midst, and they freely give vent to their indignation. They swallowed Kelly with a grimace, but Sullivan is too much for them, they say, and steps are being taken to purchase the property and any other that Sullivan’s friends have in view.”

John L. Sullivan

Sullivan never got his home in Hingham, Kelly, who he called, “the greatest ball player in world,” didn’t spend a lot of time in his.

In April of 1893, The Boston Globe said the home, which also included a stable and a two acre lot, was sold for back taxes of $123.

Kelly died of pneumonia the following year; he died like lived, broke; primarily because, as The Fall River (MA) Daily Herald said:

“His many kindly acts to his fellows in want or illness endeared him to the baseball world, and hosts of friends will mourn his loss.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things: Ed Delahanty

27 Apr

Post Death Sighting

When Ed Delahanty died, Like Elvis and other icons, there were of course those who claimed to see him alive. The most publicized example involved a sighting at an establishment owned by two other players. The Associated Press reported:

“A traveling man named O’Brien, who is well acquainted with Edward Delehanty [sic], the famous Washington fielder whose body was said to be taken from the river at Buffalo, claims to have seen Delehanty about George (Nig) Cuppy and Lou Creiger’s [sic, Criger] cigar store at Elkhart, Indiana yesterday. O’Brien approached the man he is positive was Delehanty, but the latter conducted himself as if he did not want to be known. O’Brien heard of Delehanty’s reported suicide, and for that reason paid particular attention to the individual.”

delahanty

Delahanty

Delahanty’s “Mascot”

After Delahanty’s death, The New York Herald said Delahanty had a “mascot” who helped him make money at the racetrack:

“Felix Carr, the old-time negro jockey and trainer for (prominent thoroughbred breeder and owner) Barney Schreiber, was responsible for Delahanty’s success on the racetrack and during the winters of 1900 and 1901 the great batsman made as high as $10,000 a season playing the horses at the winter meetings. Felix Carr supplied him with all the stable information at his command and it was on Schreiber’s two-year-olds that Delahanty made his biggest killings.”

Carr was “in Delahanty’s company at the Commercial Hotel,” (now the Hotel Monteleone) in New Orleans “the night before he was killed.”

The paper said Carr, with $2500 in his pocket, left the hotel, disappeared and was later found “in the Bayou St. John, a stream that passes very close to the Fair Grounds racetrack at the Crescent City.” The Herald called it “a strange coincidence” that Carr and Delahanty met “death in the water.”

Delahanty was said to be “continually worrying” that his friend’s assailants were not captured and that “With Carr’s demise” so went Delahanty’s success betting on horses.

The story was correct that Delahanty’s “mascot” disappeared with $2500, but wrong that his body was found.

Carr went missing in March of 1902, but just three months after Delahanty’s death, the former jockey was located in Havana; the $2500 he disappeared with had belonged to his boss.

The Chicago Daily News said Schreiber was so happy to have found out that Carr was still alive, “he will not prosecute him, but will, on the contrary, give him a life position,” to continue training horses at Schreiber’s Missouri farm.

Delahanty’s signing

Two weeks after Delahanty’s body was discovered, The Louisville Courier Journal told the story of how he signed his first major league contract in 1888:

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Delahanty

“(Charlie) Bastian, who was one of the best fielders in the business, was a weak batsman, and it was decided to secure a good sticker for second base.”

The club sent a James H. Randall to Wheeling, West Virginia to secure Delahanty’s release.

Randall was once described by The Philadelphia Inquirer as:

“Detective James H. Randall…known as an expert in base ball cases and has heretofore been in the employ of the League. He signed (Kid) Gleason, (Pop) Schriver, (Jack) Clements, and (Joe) Mulvey for the Philadelphia club.”

Randall was also said by The Inquirer to have been employed by the Players League in 1890 to help induce talent to jump to the Brotherhood, He also managed some Pennsylvania based minor league clubs in the early 1890s.

“When Randall arrived in Wheeling, he found William McGonigle [sic, McGunnigle], manager of the Brooklyn club and Billy Barnie of the Baltimore club, both of whom were there for the purchase of players, and Delehanty [sic] in particular.”

Randall was able to outmaneuver the competition and “purchased Delahanty’s release,” for $1800.

“He had been told not to pay over $1000 but was so impressed with what he learned about the player that when the other people bid, he raised the amount.”

The Wheeling club was playing a series in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Randall headed there to sign Delahanty. When he arrived, Al Buckenberger, the Wheeling manager:

“(H)ad not been consulted about the sale and was very indignant when he was informed that Delehanty had been sold. He was also very anxious to beat Kalamazoo in the series, so Randall allowed Delehanty to play two games at Kalamazoo before he signed him.”

Randall said at the close of the series he met with Delahanty at the team’s hotel in Kalamazoo:

“I asked him how he’d like to play in the big league. He said: ‘All right, but I can’t get away.’ When asked how much he salary he would want in case he could get away, he replied that he ought to have about $225 per month to start with.”

Randall said he signed Delahanty for $250 a month and the two left for Chicago where Delahanty made his major league debut on May 22.

“The Great American Public is with us”

25 Mar

In 1890, The New York Star provided a dramatic version of how Mike “King” Kelly let National League officials—meeting in New York–that he planned to join the Players League, beginning with one of the best descriptions to be found of Kelly’s sartorial splendor:

“King Kelly was in high feathers Thursday afternoon. He sauntered down Broadway with a yard-wide smile on his face. His box topcoat was open in front, revealing a perfect-fitting Prince Albert, a pair of English check trousers, a beautiful fancy vest of brown silk, cut low, and exposing to view an immaculate shirt front, in the center of which was a Kohinoor of wonderful brilliancy. He swung a heavy gold-headed cane with the careless abandon of a man thoroughly pleased with himself.”

kingkelly

Mike “King” Kelly

Kelly then entered the meeting:

“He turned into the Fifth Avenue Hotel and acknowledged the salutations he received on all sides by raising his shining beaver. The Boston magnates soon surrounded their late captain and so did some other delegates.  They got very little comfort out of the ‘King.’

“‘You are all pretty good fellows, but you won’t do. The great American public is with us, and it’s pretty hard to beat them. We will play the greatest ball ever seen on this earth. Every man is a star—not a ham in the lot. Whenever you fellows want to borrow, come around an see me. Good day.’”

Kelly’s Boston Reds won the first and only Players League pennant, and the King hit .325 and stole 51 bases appearing in 90 games.

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #35

1 Jul

Comiskey versus Anson

In 1888, Ren Mulford, writing in the Cincinnati Times-Star compared Charlie Comiskey to Cap Anson:

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

“Charlie Comiskey, who for several years has successfully piloted the St. Louis Browns to victory, possesses many of the characteristics which made Anson famous. He teaches his men to sacrifice everything in order to advance the interests of the club, but unlike Anson he never humiliates his men on the field. When it is necessary to reprimand any of them for an error or misconduct, he does it quietly. He uses good judgment in picking up players but lacks patience in developing the men.”

Latham on Comiskey

Arlie Latham and Charles Comiskey were together with the St. Louis Brown from 1883-1889, and Latham jumped the Browns to join the Players League with Comiskey in 1890, helping to form the Chicago Pirates–“The greatest team ever organized.” But from the beginning the team was beset with discipline issues and struggled.

lathampix

 Latham

Comiskey benched Latham, who was hitting just .229, in July.  The Chicago Tribune said several attempts were made to trade Latham, and when nothing materialized, he requested to be released and he was on July 29.

Latham returned to the National League, joining the Cincinnati Reds, then aired out his grievances with his former boss and friend when he was with the Reds in Boston in August. The Boston Globe’s Time Murnane said Latham was at the United States Hotel talking to members of the Pittsburgh Burghers who were in town playing Boston’s Brotherhood club:

“Some of Pittsburgh’s Players League boys were anxious to know why Latham was released from Chicago.

“’Comiskey did it,’ was his answer. ‘He has been after me for some time, and said I was playing crooked ball. I was laid off in St. Louis last season for the same thing, but this year Commie was cross and ugly all the time.’

“’You see, he has plenty of money and can afford to be stiff. I dropped three short fly balls in the last game I played in Chicago and Comiskey came and told me that he was on to me and would stand it no longer.’

“’I asked for my release and got it that night. My arm was very sore, but the other men would not believe it. I wanted to stay in the Players’ League and sent word to Al Johnson (owner of the Cleveland Infants) saying I was open for engagement.’”

Latham alleged that Comiskey or someone connected with the Chicago club had a role in blackballing him from the league:

“’I heard from (Johnson) once and then he stopped. I suppose the Chicago people interfered.’”

The Chicago Tribune said Latham actually received an offer from Cleveland but joined the Reds when they offered more money.

Murnane said when Latham arrived in Cincinnati, in an attempt to “get some good work out of the ‘Dude,’” that Reds manager Tom Loftus made him captain:

“(Latham) has been known for years as one who could keep the boys all on the smile while he shirked fast grounders.”

But Murnane claimed he had already worn out his welcome with some of the Reds:

“Since Latham’s release by Chicago he has taken pains to run down the Players’ League until the members of that organization have soured on him (two days earlier) he went out of his way to abuse the Brotherhood, and the result is that he is already getting himself disliked by several level-headed members of his own team.”

Latham stayed with the Reds with five seasons, and Comiskey again became his manager from 1892-1894.

Blame it on Hulbert

After winning the inaugural National League pennant in 1876 with a 52-14 record, expectations were high for the Chicago White Stockings in 1877.

hulbert

Hulbert

After a 26-33 fifth place finish, The Chicago Evening Post said the blame rested in one place:

“There are a great many men in America who do not know how to run a ball club, and Mr. (William) Hulbert, President of the Chicago club, appears to be one of the most conspicuous. The public is familiar with the fact that this year’s White Stocking Nine was more of a disgrace to the city than a credit and there was a considerable wonderment as to why a nine that in 1876 swept everything before it, was in 1877, obliged to content itself with the last place in the championship struggle [sic, Chicago finished fifth in the six-team league).

“From all that can be learned, it would seem that part of the season’s ill success should be attributed to the manner in which the men have been treated by Mr. Hulbert. There are complaints that he was continually finding fault, until the men became discouraged and lost heart in their work. Just how true this is The Post does not propose to determine, but simply gives publicity to a letter from Mr. Hulbert to Paul Hines, in which he distinctly charges Hines with not trying to play.”

According to The Chicago Tribune, the letter, sent in July, suggested that Hines was not “playing half as well,” in 1877 as he had the previous season—Hines’ average dropped from .331 to .280.

The Post said the letter showed how little Hulbert knew:

“To those who have attended the games this season this charge will bring a smile, as Hines is notoriously one of the hardest working and most reliable ballplayers in the country.”

The White Stockings finished fourth the following two seasons, but won back-to back pennants in 1880 and ’81, the final two before Hulbert’s death in April of 1882—the White Stockings won their third straight pennant that year.

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.

weyhing1890s.jpg

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.

weyhing2

Weyhing 1950s

The Courier-Journal said in his obituary:

“He had never known a sore arm during his 15 years of top-flight pitching.”

“As a Trickster he was a Marvel”

12 Jun

Dan Brouthers was working at the Polo Grounds in 1917—after John McGraw got Brouthers hired, he held a variety of jobs there according to contemporary news accounts, including night watchman, custodian, and operating the gate at the press entrance to the ballpark—when The New York World asked him to reminisce about some of the his experiences as a player.

brouthers

Dan Brouthers

Brouthers said he was told by McGraw when he had earlier scouted for the Giants, “brains and speed are what you are to look for.”

Brouthers said:

“If you get hold of a good, speedy man, with something more than a bone above the ears, you probably have the makings of a good ball player.”

He said players with the combination of brains and a willingness to flout the rules had won many games when he was playing:

”It may be that the poorer team had a fox on it somewhere, and every time the umps are asleep or looking the other way, he pulls one over…There are of course, some people who believe in playing baseball on the level. But a good many other birds realize that it is played on a diamond, and so take advantage of all corners.”

One player stood out in that category for Brouthers:

“Mike (King) Kelly was a shark for that sort of thing. He could have sold earmuffs in the Philippines or palm-leaf fans in Alaska. He was a wonder as a baseball player, but as a trickster he was a marvel. Whenever he was on the field the umpires spent half their time combing the wool away from their eyes.”

Brouthers described The King:

“He was very little short of six feet tall, weighed in the neighborhood of 180 pounds, had a fine, full mustache which was the fashion in those days and a bluff, genial manner that disarmed suspicion and made you like him from the first.”

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Kelly

He said:

“Mike was the idol of the fanatics, and anything he did was right…He was so popular that he had three nicknames—The King of the Diamond, The Only Kel, and the $10,000 Beauty…Kelly was as full of tricks as a monkey, and couldn’t stand to lose a game if he could win it—by any means at all.”

Brouthers provided his version of the most famous story about Kelly, which he said happened when they were both with the Boston Reds in the Players League in 1890:

“One afternoon Kel was sitting on the bench, while (Charlie) Bennett was catching.”

Brouthers is confusing his former teammate with the Detroit Wolverines—Bennett–with Morgan Murphy and William “Pop” Swett who were the other two catchers in addition to Kelly on the club.

“The game was close, but Kel had made up his mind we had to win it and had his peepers skinned for a chance to put one over. Suddenly the man at bat knocked a high foul that Kelly saw (the catcher) could not catch. It is hardly likely that what Kelly did would have occurred to any other manager. What Kel did was jump up and run for the foul ball at the top of his speed. And while running for it he kept shouting to the umpire that he had taken (the catcher) out of the game and had substituted himself. Then he caught the foul ball.

“According to Mike’s way of doping it out, it was strictly according to Hoyle.”

Brouthers said Kelly then walked over to the catcher and took his mask and glove:

“Then the astonished umpire and the spectators came out of their trance at the same time and there was a yell from both of them. Kel insisted everything was O.K. In fact, he didn’t even concede there was room for an argument. There was nearly a riot over the affair, but it ended by Kelly being shooed back to the bench, and the batter being called safe. That one was a little too raw for the ump. But Kel wore an injured air all the rest of the game, and although the crowd knew he was wrong, they all sympathized with him.”

kellycartoon.jpg

Cartoon by Herb Roth of The New York World which accompanied the article

Brouthers said Kelly had more success with other stunts:

“When I was with Detroit Kel was playing with Anson’s Chicago club. At a game in Detroit, when I came to bat in the ninth inning, there were two out and three on base. Moments like that are big ones in a batter’s life, and I got a toe hold and made my mind to tear the cover off the first good one that came across. I believe we needed three runs too. Kel was playing in the field that day. I picked out one that I liked and hit it hard enough to drive it out of the lot. I was sure the ball was going over the fence, because Kelly was running in that direction like a mountain goat. Just as he got near the fence, he made a wonderful jump and got the ball. That made three out; the game was over, and Kel kept running into the clubhouse, taking the ball with him. We lost the game, of course.

“Some time later Kel confessed to me that the ball he apparently caught he had never even touched. It had cleared the fence by 10 feet!”

Brouthers said Kelly often hid a ball in the outfield, “opposing teams didn’t know this at the time. If they had, Kel probably would have died a violent death.”

“One foggy afternoon in Philadelphia, with Phil Powers umpiring, Philadelphia had a man on base when Sam Thomson came to bat. Sam picked out one he liked, and, as we found out later, poled it clear over the right field fence. But because of the fog the umpire couldn’t follow the flight of the ball.

“Now Kelly had a ball hidden in the long grass near the fence, and when Thompson made his hit, Kelly never looked at the ball in play at all, but dived for the extra ball. He fumbled around a bit as though he were looking for it and then picked it up and made an accurate throw to home, putting out the man who had been on first when the ball was hit.”

Brouthers said Thompson was sure the ball had cleared the fence and, “roared like a lion and called down the vengeance of high heaven” on Powers.

“And while he was ranting and roaring, Kelly, with an injured and innocent air, was calmly proving that the ball never went near the fence at all. Powers believed Kelly and his own eyesight, and Thompson, almost crying with rage, was fined for kicking.”

Brouthers said Kelly showed of his “foxiness” coaching third base as well.

“If a ball had been fouled by the man at bat and hit the grandstand, Kelly would demand that the pitcher throw it to him, in order that Kelly might be sure it was not cut or ripped. He only pulled this stunt when there was a man on base. Then the pitcher, if he were not wise, would throw the ball to Kelly. Kelly, instead of catching it, would dodge it, and allow it to roll past him, and the man on base would streak for home. And probably get there before the ball could be returned. Of course, this only worked once on the same man, but it sometimes helped to win a game.”

Brouthers also said Kelly attempted to use a potato as a ball in the 1880s:

“I can remember one time he took a potato to right field with him, and when a hit ball bounded past him, he made believe he had caught it, and then turning whipped the potato to the second baseman. The second baseman relayed the potato to third in order to get the man trying for that base. And he might have got him but for the fact that the potato was not a solid one and burst when the third baseman caught it.”

Brouthers said Kelly “was the most genial fellow in the world off the diamond,” but considered umpires “an eyesore.” He said “he would stand as close to him as he could and jaw him until the ump would run up a $100 fine on him in $5 and $10 clips. But that didn’t work the King any, because someone else always paid his fines.”

“Radbourn Never Thought of Quitting”

10 Jun

In 1911, The International News Service published an article “written by” Hardy Richardson about “the gamest man who ever stepped in the box:” Old Hoss Radbourn.

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Richardson

Richardson said he knew Radbourn “perhaps better than anyone who played with him or against him,” but still did not know him well:

 “Really I do not believe anyone had better opportunity to penetrate the reserve of this unassuming little fellow than myself. I spent one whole winter with him near Bloomington, Illinois. We were together almost continually, hunting or knocking about the open country. But I soon realized that the more I associated with him the less I knew him.”

Richardson told a story that he said exemplified Radbourn’s determination—although after more than 20 years, he got many of the facts wrong:

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Radbourn

“It was in 1890 during the Brotherhood days.”

Radbourn faced Ward’s Wonders in Brooklyn on May 5:

“It was one of Radbourn’s few poor days, and Brooklyn simply hit him here, there, and everywhere. The smothered Radbourn by the very disconcerting score of 27 to 6 (the actual score was 20 to 4). It was one of the real slaughters of the season. But Radbourn never thought of quitting. His teammates asked him to retire but Charlie stuck to his guns. The more they hit him the harder he gritted his teeth and the harder he tried. He took his medicine like a little gentleman, without a whimper. To the taunts of Brooklyn, he would simply grunt to his teammates: ‘Well, we’ll get then yet, see if we don’t.’”

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The Box Score

Here is where Richardson’s memory fails him:

“The next day Radbourn declared he was going to pitch again. His teammates laughed at him. When he went out to warm up they thought him a fit subject for an insane asylum…But there was no stopping Radbourn. And he got his revenge on Brooklyn all right. He shut out the team that had massacred him the day before, allowing only one Brooklynite to reach first.”

Richardson was correct that Radbourn refused to leave the game on May 5. The Brooklyn Eagle said he was “plucky and refused to retire,” despite the drubbing, being hit in the neck with a pitch by Brooklyn pitcher George Van Haltren, and later being struck in the leg by a Van Haltren base hit:

“The ball that Van Haltren hit struck him fair on the shin, making a report that sounded as if the leg was broken. So hard did the ball land that it bounced back from the pitcher’s box to foul ground.”

He was also correct that Radbourn insisted on pitching the following day. The Boston Globe said:

“Radbourn was going in to pitch today.  He said he was anxious to show the Brooklyn men they were in big luck when they hit so hard the first day. Rad was very sore on Umpire Gaffney, who he says would give him nothing over the plate in the first game unless he split it in two.”

That’s where Richardson’s imagination took over. Radbourn warmed up but the game on May 6 was rained out. Bill Daley pitched the next two days for Boston, beating Brooklyn 8 to 4, and 11 to 10; Radbourn did not appear again in the series.

The 35-year-old Radbourn finished the 1890 season with a 27-12 record and 3.31 ERA and led the Reds to the Players League’s only pennant; he would only pitch one more season. Thirty-five-year-old Richardson had his last great season in 1890, hitting .328 and led the league in home runs (16) and RBI (152).

Richardson summed up his late teammate:

 “Radbourn was a man who never despaired of a victory no matter how the tide of fortune flowed. He did not know the meaning of the word ‘quit.’”

“He has not a Single Friend on the Team”

18 Mar

Having been called “The greatest team ever organized,” by The Chicago Tribune, the 1890 Chicago Pirates of the Players League turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments in baseball history, finishing fourth in the eight-team league.

The club suffered from a “lack of discipline” according to The Chicago Times. Charlie Comiskey was cited often for his inability to maintain order on the team. The most glaring, and most reported example took place on September 4.

The Pirates, 11 1/2 games out of first place, were playing the Pittsburgh Burghers.

The Pittsburgh Press said:

“Jimmy Ryan and Tip O’Neill, two of the Chicago Players’ League club outfielders, had an animated spat after Ryan had been retired at third base…Jimmy claimed that Tip had not coached him properly, and made use of some very offensive language. He then turned round to Comiskey, who had been an eyewitness to the whole proceeding, and with an oath said that unless O’Neill was laid off that he—Ryan—would lay himself off.”

The Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette said the incident was “one of the dangers” the papers had warned of when speaking against the formation of the Players League:

“(S) of the players might take advantage of a condition of affairs brought about by the brotherhood movement, and, with and idea that they had as much to do with the running of things as anybody else, refuse to submit to necessary discipline.”

Comiskey immediately suspended Ryan and told him to return to Chicago.

“Jimmy was accordingly paid up to date and furnished with a ticket for the Windy City.”

The Press said Ryan’s teammates applauded the move:

“’You have no idea of how mean that fellow Ryan has been this year,’ said a Chicago player. ‘He has not a single friend on the team today. He is a good ballplayer, he does not drink and no man on the team takes better care of himself then the same Ryan. He has a bad attack of his old complaint, the swelled head. Comiskey has been very lenient with him and he has been playing good ball.”

Ryan was the team’s leader in batting average and RBIs at the time, but Comiskey vowed to make an example of his best offensive player in order to restore discipline, and had no problem calling out a few others, although not by name.

Charles Comiskey

Comiskey

He told The Chicago Inter Ocean:

“Yes, I am through with this man and he will not play under me any longer. He has been trying to have his own way on everything. There are three or four men in this club whom I have been compelled to take, and they have an idea that they can run things to suit themselves.”

Comiskey said Ryan “acted very ungentlemanly” and blamed the play at third on him. He said Ryan was thrown out because he failed to slide, but none of the news reports mentioned whether O’Neill told him to slide.

Comiskey stayed true to word that he was “through” with Ryan—until 11 days later, when the Pirates returned to Chicago from their road trip.

Ryan was back in the lineup for the second game of a September 15 double-header with the Buffalo Bison.

The Tribune said:

“When the second game was called, Jimmy Ryan appeared to take his place at center. He was warmly received and responded by hammering the ball around in desperate fashion.”

Ryan was 3 for 4 with a triple in a 7-3 Chicago victory and continued to hit for the last two weeks of the season; he led the Pirates with a .340 average and 89 RBIs.

“The greatest team ever organized,” was broken up when the Players League folded after their inaugural season. Ryan returned to the Chicago Colts. Comiskey and O’Neill went back to the St. Louis Browns.

“This Player has More Honor Than 99 Business men out of 100”

17 Sep

James Palmer O’Neill was the President of the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys—one of baseball’s worst teams of all-time.  With mass defections to the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Players League, the club won four of their first six games, then began a free-fall that ended with the team in eight place with 23-113 record.

O’Neill, who held an interest in the club, but bought controlling interest from Owner William Nimick before the 1891, kept the team afloat during that disastrous 1890 season, and according to The Pittsburgh Dispatch, never lost his faith in the prospects of National League baseball in the city right through the final road trip:

“(The team) landed at Jersey City, bound to play the last series of the disastrous season…They had great difficulty in raising the  money to pay ferryboat fares to Brooklyn and things were awfully blue.  It was raining hard when I met Mr. O’Neill later that morning at Spalding’s Broadway store, and the prospects of taking the $150 guarantee at the game in the afternoon were very slim…(reporters) asked Mr. O’Neill about his club and the outlook for the League.

‘”Never better!  Never Better! We shall come out on top sir, sure.  We’ve got the winning cards and we mean to play them.’”

The paper said O’Neill’s luck changed that day as “he wore his largest and most confident smile, and used the most rosy words in his vocabulary…such pluck compelled the fates to relent.”

The rain stopped and O’Neill was able to leave Brooklyn “with $2000 or more in his clothes,” to meet expenses.

Before the 1891 season, O’Neill told Tim Murnane of The Boston Globe, just how difficult it was to run a National League club during the year of the Brotherhood:

“I think I could write a very interesting book on my experience in baseball that would be worth reading.  How well I remember the opening game in Pittsburgh last spring, and how casually President Nimick was knocked out—and O’Neill laughed heartily at the thought of Nimick’s weakening

“After witnessing the immense crowd of nearly 10,000 people wending their way to the brotherhood grounds, Nimick and I went to the league park.  As we reached the grounds, Nimick walked up to the right field  fence and looked through a knot hole. ‘My God,’ said he, and he nearly fell in a heap at my feet,  ‘Can it be that I have spent my time for 10 years trying to build baseball up in this city and the public have gone entirely back on me?’”

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O’Neill trying to catch a championship, 1891

O’Neill said:

“I looked and could see about two dozen people in the bleachers, and not many more in the grand stand (contemporary reports put the attendance at 1000).  Nimick and I then went inside the grounds, and when the bell rang to call play we started up the stairs to our box, carrying the balls to be used in the game.  When about half way up, the president staggered and handed me the balls.  I went up to throw one out for the game.  Nimick turned back, went home without seeing the game, and was not in humor to talk base ball for several weeks.”

O’Neill then told how he managed to keep the team going for the entire season while Nimick planned to fold the team:

“When he came around about four weeks later it was to disband the club, throw up the franchise and quit the business.  I talked him into giving me an option on the franchise for 30 days.  When the time was up I put Nimick off from time to time, and as I didn’t bother him for money he commenced to brace up a little.  I cut down expenses and pulled the club through the season, and now have the game on fair basis in Pittsburgh, with all the old interests pulling together.”

Despite the near collapse of the franchise—or maybe because the near collapse allowed him to get control of the team—O’Neill had good things to say about the players who formed the Brotherhood:

“I have great admiration for the boys who went with the Players’ League as a matter of principle, and will tell you one instance where I felt rather mad.  About the middle of the season, Captain Anson was in Pittsburgh and asked me if I couldn’t get some of my players to jump their contracts (to return to the National League).  “All we want,’ said Anson, ‘is someone to make the start, and then (Buck) Ewing, (King) Kelly, (Jimmy) Ryan, (Jim) Fogarty and other will follow.’

“I told Anson that I had not tried to get any of my old players back since the season started in, but that Jimmy Galvin was at home laid off without pay, and we might go over and see how he would take it.  The Pittsburgh PL team was away at the time.

“We went over to Allegheny  , where Galvin lived, and saw his wife and about eight children.  They said we could find him at the engine house a few blocks away, and we did.  Anson took him to one side and had a long talk, picturing the full downfall of the Players’ League and the duty he owed his family.  Galvin listened with such attention that it encouraged me.  So I said: ‘Now, Mr. Galvin, I am ready to give you $1000 in your hand and a three year contract to return and play with the League.  You are now being laid off without pay and can’t afford it.’

“Galvin answered that his arm would be all right in a few days, and that if (Ned) Hanlon would give him his release he might do business with me, but would do no business until he saw Manager Hanlon.  Do what we would, this ball player, about broke, and a big family to look out for, would not consent to go back on the brotherhood.”

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Galvin

O’Neill said he told Anson after the two left Galvin:

“’I am ashamed of myself.  This player has more honor than 99 business men out of 100, and I don’t propose any more of this kind of business.’ I admire Galvin for his stand, and told Anson so, but the Chicago man was anxious to see some of the stars make a break so the anxious ones could follow.”

O’Neill, after he “lit a fresh cigar,” told how Murnane how he negotiated with his players:

“At the close of (the 1890) season (George “Doggie”) Miller came to me and wanted to sign for next year, as he had some use for advance money.  I asked him how much he thought he was worth, and he said $4000 would catch him.

‘”My goodness son, do you what you are talking about?’ said I, and handing him a good cigar asked him to do me a favor by going home, and while he smoked that cigar to think how much money was made in base ball last season by the Pittsburgh club.  I met Miller the next day at 3 o’clock by appointment, and he had knocked off $800, saying he thought the matter over and would sign for $3200.

“’Now you are getting down to business,’ said I.”

O’Neill sent Miller home two more times, and after he “smoked just for of my favorite brand,” Miller returned and signed a three year contract at $2100 a season.

O’Neill said:

“You see that it always pays to leave negotiations open until you have played your last card.”

Murnane concluded:

“For his good work for the league and always courteous treatment of the players’ league, Mr. O’Neill has the support of not only his league stockholders, but such men as Hanlon, John M. Ward, and the entire Pittsburgh press.  He has the confidence of A.G. Spalding, and is sure to give Pittsburgh baseball a superior quality next season.”

Reborn as the Pirates under O’Neill, the club improved slightly in 1891.  O’Neill, who according to The Pittsburgh Press, lost as much as $40,000 during the 1890-91 season “a blow from which he never recovered financially,”  left Pittsburgh to start the Chamberlain Cartridge Company in Cleveland; he returned to Pittsburgh and served as president of the Pittsburgh Athletic club—which operated the Pirates—from 1895-1898.

He died on January 6, 1908.  The Associated Press said in his obituary:

 “(He was) known from coast to coast as the man who saved the National League from downfall in 1890, ‘the brotherhood year.’”

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