Tag Archives: Polo Grounds

“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.

“You Could Feel his Resentment”

22 Feb

After spending years as one of the loudest voices for the integration of professional baseball, Wendell Smith broke his own color barriers. He was the second African American member of the Baseball Writers Association of America–after Sam Lacy– and the first to have a byline in a big city white daily paper leaving The Pittsburgh Courier and joining the Hearst owned Chicago Herald-American in 1948.

Smith

Years later, William Rhoden quoted Smith’s widow Wyonella in his column in The New York Times regarding smith’s move:

“When he came to Chicago to write, he told the Hearst people. ‘I will not be your black writer. I’m not going to just write about blacks in sports. If you want me to be a sportswriter here, I’m going to right about all sports, and I’m going to do it fairly.’”

In 1963 he became a sports anchor, first at WGN-TV and later WBBM-TV in Chicago.  He also began writing a weekly column for The Chicago Sun-Times; but never gave up his new crusade for the recognition of Negro League stars; in 1971 he made the case for Josh Gibson’s enshrinement in Cooperstown:

“He hit home runs higher and farther than any batter of his time, including George Herman (Babe) Ruth, whose feats are immortalized in the Hall of Fame.

“He was a big, strong, intelligent catcher. He was as magnificent behind the plate as any of his major league contemporaries, including Bill Dickey, Mickey Cochrane, and Gabby Hartnett, all of whom have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

“He played someplace summer and winter, spring and fall over a span of 16 years. He had the endurance and stamina of Lou Gehrig, who played in 2130 consecutive games from 1925 to 1939, a major league record. Gehrig is in the Hall of Fame. He is not.”

Gibson

Smith said of Gibson’s presence in the batter’s box:

“When he planted his immense, flat feet in the batter’s box, bent his knees slightly and cocked his bat with the most muscular arms and hands in baseball, apprehension invariably seized the defenders in the field.”

Because, said Smith, ”There are no authentic records, unfortunately to substantiate the thunder in Josh Gibson’s bat, nor his skills behind the plate,” he turned to “reliable former teammates who were there with him,” and other contemporaries to tell his story:

Roy Campanella told Smith about the night Gibson hit three home runs off Andy Porter in Wheeling, West Virginia. Campanella told a slightly different version of the story than he had 12 years earlier in his book “It’s Good to be Alive:”

“’He hit three home runs that night,’ Campanella recently recalled, with a note of awe and excitement in his highly pitched voice. ‘Each one was farther than the other.’

“’There was a mountain there, a good distance behind the left field fence…His first drive landed at the bottom of the mountain. The next one landed dead center, and the next almost cleared the mountain. When he came to bat the fourth time, I said to Porter, ‘what are you going to do with him this time?’ He said, ‘I’m going to walk him. ‘And we did.’”

In the book, Campanella said Gibson hit four runs in four at-bats, with each being longer until the fourth cleared the hill.

Bill Yancey told Smith about another Gibson three-home run performance, this one in New York:

“He walloped three that day and one of them was the quickest home run I ever saw. It was out of the park before the outfielders could turn their heads to watch it. It landed behind the Yankee Stadium bullpen, some 500 feet away. He didn’t loft it, he shot it out of there.”

Alex Pompez the one-time owner of the Cuban Stars and the New York Cubans, then a scout for the Giants, and had just joined Smith as a charter member of the Hall of Fame’s Special Committee on the Negro Leagues, told a story about a game at the Polo Grounds:

“Dave Barnhill was pitching for the Cubans. There were two on in the ninth and we were leading 3 to 2. Showboat Wright [sic, Dave “Showboat” Thomas] our first baseman, called time and walked to the mound. ‘Let’s walk him’ he said to Barnhill.

“Barnhill as a cocky pitcher. He refused (the) suggestion and insisted on pitching to Josh. He threw Gibson a curve ball and Josh hit it in the top tier of the left field stands. The last we saw the ball was when it went through an open door up there and disappeared.”

Pompez

After Pat Scantlebury gave up three home runs to Gibson in another game, he told Pompez:

“I pitched him high the first time and he hit it out of the park. So, the next time I pitched him low and he hit that one out, too. The third time, I pitched him tight and it followed the others out. When he batted the fourth time, I started to roll it to him, but instead I walked him.”

Smith also sought out Gibson’s sister, Annie Mahaffey and Ted Page who was “closer to Josh than any other player.”

Smith visited Mahaffey in her home in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood on Pittsburgh’s Northside. He noted “Strangely, there are no pictures of Josh Gibson,” in her home:

“The resemblance between Annie Mahaffey and her brother, Josh, is striking indeed. She has the same round, brown face. Her gentle smile is contagious.

“’He’d come here whenever he was in town,’ Annie recalls with a note of pride in her voice, ‘and he’d have us laughing about the funny things that happened on the road. He would sit here and talk, have a sandwich maybe, and just keep us amused with his stories. He loved life, Josh did.’”

Page said:

“He’d never talk about himself. I never heard him say one thing about himself that was intended to impress someone.

“He was extremely modest. I roomed with him in this country and South America and got to know him well.  If he hit four home runs in a game—which he did many times—you’d never know anything about it if you were getting your news of the game from him. He’d never walk up to you and say, ‘Well, I hit four of ‘em today.’”

Page

Page said Gibson was the opposite of Satchel Paige:

“When Satch pitched a no hitter, he told the whole world about it. We got little or no space in the daily papers, so he’d sit around and those third-rate hotels we lived in, and in taverns and restaurants, and tell everybody about his achievements. Everyone would gather round Satch and he’d spin tall tales for them, and they’d go away laughing and talking about him. Josh would never do that.”

Sportswriters, Page said, “always complained that he wouldn’t open up and talk about himself.”

Gibson’s sister said “he talked baseball all the time at home. He talked about other players and how good they were, and how many games were won or lost on certain types of strategy…Josh used to laugh so hard when telling a story he’d shake all over.”

Page said Gibson “loved baseball, never got bored with the game nor the terrible conditions we had to tolerate at times.”

Gibson also did not join his teammates “playing cards or meeting girls,” Page said:

“Josh was seldom with them. We’d go to an ice cream parlor or some other harmless place and talk baseball.”

Gibson’s sister and Page saw his reaction to baseball segregation differently.

Mahaffy said:

“There were all kinds of racial problems in those days, but Josh never let them get him down. If they ever bothered him, he never said so. He never once mentioned the fact that the color bar in the majors was a terrible injustice. He laughed off most of the things that happened to him.”

Page said:

“Josh never talked about the organized baseball ban against us. But he was always aware of it and it finally killed him. He kept things to himself, but if you knew him you could feel his resentment. We went to see a lot of big-league games and when he saw players who were inferior to him, he became sullen and the bitterness seemed to just ooze from him.”

Both agreed that Gibson didn’t drink until his final years.

After Jackie Robinson signed, his sister said:

“This was just about the time he started having dizzy spells and blackouts. He also became a heavy drinker.”

The dizzy spells, said Page, caused him to “stagger and stumble, whenever he looked up,” and “Josh’s drinking was a symptom of his affliction. He knew his time was short and that he’d never get a break in the majors…He tried to submerge his misfortune in drink.”

Smith closed:

:”The deadly curse that had been upon Josh Gibson all his life finally claimed him…Eighty days later Jackie Robinson became the first Negro player in modern big league history.

“That was 23 years ago.

“Josh Gibson should be immortalized in Cooperstown.

“What price, Hall of Fame?”

Less than a year later, Gibson was enshrined along with Buck Leonard; Smith died nine months later, he was 58. He was awarded the JG Taylor Spink Award 21 years after his death.

“He Made Base Ball More Dignified”

18 Feb

Oliver Perry “O. P.” Caylor’s death from tuberculosis in October of 1897 at age 47 took one of the most important chroniclers of 19th Century baseball.

The New York Herald, his last paper, said:

“Mr. Caylor’s fight for life was pathetic in its boldness.”

Caylor

Caylor, who had left the paper a month before his death to go to Winona, Minnesota to seek treatment from a “throat and lung specialist” in a sanitarium, engaged in a “one-sided” struggle, “but on his part it was heroic.”

The paper recounted Caylor’s final visit to the Polo Grounds before he departed for Minnesota:

“(Arriving in) a carriage, accompanied by his wife, and though scarcely able to reach his old seat in the stand, his courage never faltered.”

Caylor had been ill for several years. William “Billy” Norr, the sports editor of The New York World had a morbid wager with Caylor, Sporting Life said:

“(Norr) had made a bet with Caylor every New Year’s Day for seven years that he (Caylor) would die in twelve months.”

The 33-year-old Norr died seven weeks before Caylor after contracting Typhoid Fever:

“Caylor chuckles between hemorrhages, tickled with the idea that he has outlived Norr and is $35 ahead of the game.”

The tragedy of Norr’s early death was compounded when, just a week after the New York Giants and Brooklyn Bridegrooms played a benefit game for his family, his widow, Olga Norr, took her own life, The World said:

“So generous and so greatly beloved had her husband been that it was intended she should never need. She took her life because her heart was broken.”

Caylor’s friends and family were briefly optimistic about Caylor’s chance for recovery:

“He reached (Minnesota) as he predicted he would, and lighthearted letters were returned. He advised that he had gained in both strength and flesh…buoyed with the hope as he was that his fight for life might after all be successful.”

In a letter to friend in St. Louis, Caylor said the specialist he was seeing , “speaks confidently of pulling me through.”

The illness had robbed Caylor of his voice in the last months of his time in New York, but “he wrote column after column in his old-time forcible style, clearly defined, and then smiled at his friend who were astonished with the determination shown and the strength he displayed.”

Of Caylor’s legacy, The Herald said:

“Mr. Caylor was never rugged, but his blows for the welfare of the national game were those of a giant. Delinquent players were never given any quarter. Pitiless sarcasm in the face of abuse and threats of bodily harm were showered upon them, and reformation alone caused his suspension. He deemed it criminal to disappoint the public, and when the lapse of a player was due to his own folly his pointed allusions to the offending cut as a two-edged sword.”

He was, a, “Master of humor, he made giants appear as pygmies, but was quite as ready with words of praise and encouragement as he found them deserved.”

Al Spink of The Sporting News agreed with the assessment, and said that Caylor was unpopular among many players because of his style, but:

“The base ball world will sincerely mourn him, and he will be missed by all newspaper men, for he was a newspaper man in the truest sense. He was sincere in his though, he was above caprice or prejudice in his judgment, he was beyond the reach of corruption in all things. He made base ball more dignified, honorable, and more commendable to honest men by his thirty ears of labor in the legitimate field of sport.”

Francis Richter, the founder and editor of Sporting Life said:

“Hurlburt [sic, Hulbert] and Mills have no successors. There will never be another Harry Wright in our day, nor a successor to Anson when he, too, shall retire. No player is in sight to take up the mantle of the inimitable Latham; no magnates to duplicate the brilliance of Spalding, Reach, Young, Soden, and Byrne, all grown gray in the service of the king of sports; no writer to equal the brilliance of our dead brother Caylor.”

“The Longest hit ever Secured in a Ball Game”

3 Feb

On June 4, 1913, Joe Jackson hit a home run in the second inning of a game at the Polo Grounds with the New York Highlanders.

The New York Tribune said the blast, off a Russel Ford Spitball that cleared the roof of the rightfield grandstand was:

“(S)et down immediately as the longest hit on record at the grounds.”

Jackson

The ball ended up in Manhattan Field—the previous Polo Grounds which was sold and renamed when the new stadium was opened in 1890

The New York Sun said it was “the longest hit ever made in New York.”

The New York Times was more measured:

“The hit, while perhaps not the longest ever made at the field, has not been approached in this section of the Polo Grounds since the new stands were built.”

The discussion of the longest home runs hit was taken up by infielder turned sportswriter Sam Crane in The New York Journal, who declared Jackson’s:

“(The) longest hit ever secured in a ball game.”

He also reported that the “small boy” who retrieved the ball from Manhattan Field was rewarded with a “$10 bill.”

The Baltimore Sun and a previous generation of fans and players were not going to accept Jackson’s homerun as the longest:

“(T)he present generation, cocksure that everything exceptional happening on the diamond nowadays could not have been eclipsed in the good old days, is wrong again.”

The paper said the longest hit ever made, “happened in 1894” off the bat of Dan Brouthers and lined up five witnesses; Brouthers, his Baltimore Orioles teammates John McGraw and Hughie Jennings, Tom Murphy, the groundskeeper at Oriole Park, and “Abe Marks, scorecard man.”

Brouthers said of his home run:

“I remember distinctly hitting a ball over the right field fence at Baltimore…This hit was a line drive clearing the fence by about 15 feet…I have talked to groundskeeper Murphy regarding this matter, and he says the fence was fully 500 feet from the home plate.”

Brouthers

Brouthers also said he had, “made several other hits that I know equaled the one made by Jackson, particularly one in Boston, one in Columbus, one in Springfield, and one in Raleigh.”

And while Brouthers insisted he did not “wish to detract in any way from the credit due Jackson,” he said he was present at the Polo Grounds when Jackson hit his home run and told an entirely different story about where the ball landed–and who recovered it:

“I saw the hit, and the ball did not go entirely over the grandstand but landed on the top. I had a man go up and get the ball and bring it to Jackson, who gave him 50 cents for it.”

McGraw conceded that he didn’t see Jackson’s hit, but said:

“I have never seen a hit to equal the one made by Brouthers in Baltimore.”

Jennings said, “Jackson’s (hit) isn’t in it at all,” compared to Brouthers.

Jennings also said the Baltimore home run was not Brouthers’ longest; he said the one Brouthers mentioned in Raleigh—also in 1894 on the Orioles “training trip.”

The Sun’s comparison of Brouthers’ homerun versus Jackson’s–also shown is the landing spot of Frank Baker’s homerun in the 1911 World Series

The scorecard vendor, Abe Marks, declared Brouthers’ hit “has never been equaled.” He claimed the ball, after clearing the right field fence, “never stopped until it hit something sticking up in Guilford Avenue.”

All agreed that the ball rolled a long way after it landed and ended up resting from 1300 to 1500 feet from home plate.

While Jackson received his home run ball (or two of them) on the day he hit his long drive, it took Brouthers more than a decade to get his.

When a reunion was held for the 1894 National League Champion Orioles in Baltimore in 1907,

The Sun said the ball had been in the possession of “S.C. Appleby…who is one of the hottest of Oriole fans,” Appleby gave a speech at the reunion held at the Eutaw House, one of Baltimore’s finest hotels, and “toss(ed) it back to Dan Brouthers across the dining table.”

Brouthers said of the presentation:

“This ball went so far that I never expected to see it again. Now that it has been given to me, I shall ever keep it as a memento of my connection with the champion Orioles.”

“If he Started Drinking, they were to lay their Bets”

9 Dec

Hugh Fullerton wrote about pregame “jockeying…that count(s) for much in a championship race” for The Chicago Herald Examiner in 1919.

Fullerton

Both stories Fullerton told in the column were likely apocryphal—at least in terms of the participants mentioned—but like many Fullerton tales, worth the retelling.

The first involved two Fullerton story favorites, John McGraw and Rube Waddell:

“I remember one day getting to the Polo Grounds early. The Giants were to play, and Rube Waddell was expected to pitch against them.”

The two could not be the participants if the story is based on an actual incident given that Waddell pitched in the American League from 1902 until his final game in 1910 while McGraw was managing the Giants.

 “A batter was at the plate driving out flies and in right center John McGraw was prancing around catching flies and throwing the ball back to the catcher, it is not fun to watch a fat man who has retired from active survive shag flies in the outfield.”

Rube

Fullerton said McGraw’s long throws to the plate “were not fun” to watch, but “McGraw kept it up patiently and gamely.”

At this point in Fullerton’s story, Rube Waddell walked towards McGraw in the outfield.

“Rube looked interested, stopped and talked.

“’I’ll bet you five you can’t outthrow me,’ snarled McGraw in response to Rubes ‘kidding.’

“Rube grabbed the ball and threw it to the plate. For ten minutes they hurled the pill, then McGraw reluctantly admitted that the Rube could outthrow him and paid over the five dollars.

“Rube went to the slab and lasted the greater part of the first inning. McGraw had laid the trap, had kidded Waddell into making six or seven long distance throws and had won a ballgame thereby.”

The second story was about another Fullerton favorite, Bugs Raymond:

“There was a bunch of petty larceny gamblers who hung out around the West Side park in Chicago for years looking for the best of it, who got caught in one of their own traps once.

“The St. Louis club was playing in Chicago and poor Arthur Raymond, better known as ‘Bugs,’ was to pitch a game. The gamblers knew Bugs and knew his weakness.

“Just across the street from the park was a bar kept by a fine little Italian, as grand a little sportsman and a square a man as ever lived. In some way he overheard the plot of the cheap sports, which was to waylay Raymond and invite him to drink. If he started drinking, they were to lay their bets.”

Fullerton said the plan unfolded:

“Raymond was greeted by a bunch of admiring ‘friends,’ who led him to the bar more than an hour before game time. The ‘friends’ invited him to have a drink, and the proprietor winked at Raymond. Bugs was not as foolish as many believed. Without a minute of hesitation, he grabbed the cue as the bartender reached for a bottle a bottle labeled gin. The crowd drank. Bugs invited them to join in, but they insisted he was the guest of honor.

“In the next half hour, he swallowed more than half the contents of the bottle. The plotters exchanged winks and an agent was rushed out to place the bets, Meantime, the others remained to buy more for the Bug. He swallowed three or four more doses and finally said:

“’Say, fellows, I’ve got to break away. I’m pitching today.’

“With that, he lifted the gin bottle, poured all the contents into a tumbler, drained it off at one gulp and walked out on them.”

Bugs

Of course, said Fullerton

“Raymond beat the Cubs in a hard game. It was all over before the pikers realized that the little saloon man had given Raymond a bottle of plain water instead of gin and that Arthur had gone through with the play.”

Like the Waddell story, the facts don’t square with Fullerton’s story; Raymond never beat the cubs during the Cubs in Chicago during his two seasons with the Browns.

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #41

21 Apr

King Kelly, ‘Conceited Ass,’ 1891

When King Kelly Jumped from the Boston Reds to the Boston Beaneaters in 1891, The Baltimore World was not pleased:

kelly

King Kelly

“Kelly, in his jump from the Association to the League, has but proven conclusively that he is just as contemptible as the people had about decided him to be. He may be a great ballplayer, but his record this season doesn’t show it. He is a loud-mouthed, conceited ass. That’s about the build of Kelly, and the Association will not die over the loss of him.”

Annoying Vendors, 1891

After spending five seasons in the major leagues from 1881 to 1885, Dasher Troy was a fixture at the Polo Grounds—he had a liquor concession on and off from 1891 through 1900. During his first season at the ballpark, The New York Sun did not approve:

dashertroypix

Dasher Troy

“The refreshment privilege at the Polo Grounds is held by John Troy, an ex-ballplayer. He maintains a bar under the grandstand and also one in the rear of the men’s stand. The only part of the grounds in which waiters are permitted to peddle beer is on the bleachers. Some weeks ago one of the directors of the club compelled Troy to close the bar in the men’s stand and cease peddling beer in the bleachers.

“By some means he managed to resume and is now working in full blast. In the covered stands, a score of sandwich, peanut, and soft drink men are constantly at work, and annoying spectators by their continuous bawling. It is strongly asserted that the management can not afford to maintain these nuisances to the annoyance of its patrons.”

Clarkson’s Scouting Report, 1887

A reporter for The Detroit Free Press briefly eavesdropped on John Clarkson providing fellow pitcher Mark Baldwin with a scouting report on the Wolverines while the White Stockings were in Detroit for three game series in July of 1887:

clarkson

“Clarkson was overheard giving Baldwin some private lessons: ‘Now,’ said Clarkson, ‘there’s Hardy Richardson. Just send ‘em shoulder high at the outside corner of the plate, or a little beyond, and he’ll go after ‘em every time.’ Baldwin made a careful note of this. ‘Then there’s Dan Brouthers,’ continued the craft instructor: ‘Never give him a low ball.’ ‘Will he hit a low one?’ inquired Baldwin. ‘Will he hit it?’ said Clarkson: he’ll kill it.’

“This way of foreshadowing the fate of a regulation league ball unwisely delivered to the bat seemed to impress Baldwin powerfully, and he then and there resolved never to give big Dan any low ones. At this point the teacher and his pupil carried on the lesson in softer tomes, and the remainder of the interesting kindergarten session was lost to the world.”

“A Good Ballplayer must be Temperamental”

15 Feb

 

Idah McGlone Gibson was the most famous female journalist of the early 20th Century; in addition to publishing several books, she wrote for the syndicated Newspaper Enterprise Association, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Evening Herald, and The Toledo Blade.

idahmgibson

Idah McGlone Gibson

She also interviewed New York Giants Manager John McGraw twice, five years apart.

Their first meeting took place in New York shortly before the end of the Giants’ pennant-winning 1912 season.  McGlone told her readers:

“McGraw is surrounded by more ‘buffers’ to keep the public from him that Maude Adams (a notoriously press-shy actress), who is never interviewed, and that’s going some.

mcgrawgibson

Gibson and McGraw in 1912

“Neither his telephone number nor his home address is obtainable unless you reach one of his close friends, and at the Polo Grounds. he is never on view until you have passed all the police force and plain-clothes men.”

McGlone said former Giant turned New York attorney, John Montgomery Ward provided her with an introduction to McGraw.

“It was after the game that I saw the Giants’ manager, well-groomed, well-dressed, well-mannered. McGraw was evidently at peace with himself and the world…He is the most serious ballplayer I ever talked to.  He seldom smiles, and told me that he put one on to order when he had his picture taken with me.”

Gibson asked how McGraw thought the Giants would fare in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox:

“Of course, we are going into the game to win, not because of any glory attached to it, but because it is our business.  However, I feel that I shall be able to live through the winter if we lose the world’s championship.  I am not able to get up that high-water mark enthusiasm which exhilarates the fans to whom the game is a pleasure and not a business.”

She also asked McGraw about the biggest source of gossip surrounding his ballclub; the relationship between Rube Marquard, his 26-game winning pitcher and vaudeville star Shirley Kellogg—during August and September several newspapers published erroneous reports from Marquard’s mother that the couple had married:

“’Indeed, I don’t know whether he is married or not,’ he answered suavely, but his brown eyes narrowed and his lips came together firmly.  ‘You know I have nothing to do with the private lives of my men.’

“Marquard’s name and love affairs, however, did not bring a rosy glow to the manager’s face, and I imagine McGraw has helped make the course of true love run a little crooked, as ‘the Rube’ has lost the jump to his fast ball since his reported marriage.”

Rube Marquard

Rube Marquard

 

McGraw touted his other pitchers, telling Gibson that the greatest pitching performance “he had ever seen was in training camp last spring” when Jeff Tesreau and Al Demaree faced each other for 12 scoreless innings in an intersquad game in Texas.

Despite her fondness for McGraw, Gibson told her readers they “may trust a women’s intuition” and correctly predicted the Red Sox would win the World Series.

Gibson met McGraw five years later during a September series in Cincinnati, with the Giants on their way to another National League pennant. She said:

“I hope I have changed as little as he has in that time.

“His hair, the Irish hair that turns white early, has grown just a bit more optimistic—that is all.

“’Twenty-nine years is a long time to be in the game,’ he said as his eyes wandered over the field—‘longer than most of those boys can count their entire lives.’”

Gibson asked about temperamental players:

“In my nearly three decades of baseball I have learned one thing thoroughly—a good ballplayer must be temperamental, just as an artist, a musician, or a writer must have temperament.”

Gibson asked how he makes “a man’s temperament,” benefit the team:

“’By ignoring it,’ he answered.  ‘I must make every man think he has no temperament, even while making him use that most desirable quality in a ballplayer to its fullest capacity.’”

McGraw refused to say which player on the team was the most temperamental, but offered to tell who was the least.  Gibson said:

“’(Christy) Mathewson, I interrupted.’

“’Yes, Mathewson is always to be depended upon.  When he knows a thing is to be done he just does it.  Some men play best when a team is winning and some play best when spurred by defeat.  A baseball manager must not only be a good picker, but he must study each man individually and handle all differently.’

“’At the end of a season with a winning team you have to be more than ever on your guard.  Every man is a bundle of nerves, drawn taut.  At this time every little prejudice, every little idiosyncrasy, every little vein of superstition is laid bare and raw.  You get to know your men better then than at any other time during the season.’”

Christy Mathewson with John McGraw

McGraw and Mathewson

Gibson asked if the best ballplayers came from a particular nationality.  McGraw said:

“’I cannot answer that.  I think perhaps the Irish are the quickest thinkers and the readiest to take a fighting chance, but I would not like a team made up entirely of Irish.  You must have temperaments like the German to ballast the Irish.  Truly I think a winning ball team must be a melting pot of all nationalities.  This year there are more Germans among the Giants than any other nationality and they are just as temperamental as any other but they don’t show it in just the same way.’”

Gibson did not make a prediction about the World Series as she had done five years before; McGraw’s temperamental Giants were beaten four games to two by the Chicago White Sox.

“Soldiers ‘Over There’ Sore on Baseball Players”

25 Jan

In August of 1918 Harry “Moose” McCormick returned to the United States from the front lines in France—he served in the 42nd Infantry, The Rainbow Division, and according to The Washington Herald “has been in the front line trenches for nearly six months.”

Moose McCormick

Moose McCormick

The former outfielder-pinch hitter, who played his final big league game with the New York Giants in 1913, was at the Polo Grounds to watch the Giants sweep a doubleheader from the Boston Braves, and he came to deliver a message; one that had come repeatedly from the general public, but not yet from someone within baseball.

McCormick told reporters that while baseball was hugely popular among the troops in Europe, the major leagues were not.  The Washington Times said, under the headline:

Soldiers ‘Over There’ Sore on Baseball Players

“It may surprise the professional ball players of the United States to know that the American soldiers now fighting in France do not hold them in high esteem; that they do not scramble for news of how the big league races are going, and that they do not care whether (Ty) Cobb, and (Tris) Speaker, and (Frank) Baker are hitting .300 or 3,000.

“The fact that the ball players aren’t hitting in the big, big game across the water is the reason for this feeling.”

The Washington Times said McCormick, then a Lieutenant, “who had just returned from the shell-swept front,” and was in the states “under orders, the nature of which is secret.”

There were various reports as to why McCormick had returned.

The New York Globe said he had come home with “Wound Chevrons on his arm,” having received the badge after being “Mussed up considerably by a German shell.”  The New York Tribune said he had been “Invalided home” suffering from “Shell shock.”  The New York World said he returned with “A hacking cough caused by gas.”

McCormick told reporters:

“The feeling among the boys over there seems generally to be that the ball players haven’t acted on the level.  The soldiers feel that there has been too much evasion, too much hanging back, too much side stepping by the ball players when other men, just as good, have given up paying places and gone into the big game.  That seems to them the ONLY thing for real men just now.

“The boys are generally incensed over the statements they read to the effect that ball players have sought work in munitions plants and shipyards, where they can keep playing ball.  They regard that as ducking, as a sort of dodging of the issue.”

McCormick said, so complete was the disgust with baseball that “Stars and Stripes, the soldiers’ paper, has stopped printing the big league scores and standings.  That, it seems to me, ought to make baseball men, both players and owners, wake up.”

He said the men at the front were still “interested in baseball,” and “like to play ball,” but were having trouble getting enough baseballs:

Baseball game with members of the Twenty-eighth Division, Three Hundred and Second U.S. supply train in France

US Soldiers play in France

Governor (John) Tener sent me two every week, and they were worth their weight in gold.  The soldiers get plenty of chance to play it themselves.  They don’t take any interest in men playing it here anymore.”

McCormick, who would be promoted to the rank of captain by the war’s end, concluded that the consensus at the front was that America’s game had failed the country:

“The talk of the soldiers is that the ball players should have volunteered in a body and made up one big organization and gone into the country’s service to fight right at the start.  That would have been a great thing to do.”

On the Road with the Giants, 1912

18 Jan

As the New York Giants were cruising to the National League Pennant in 1912—they won by 10 games and were never in second place after May 20—New York’s catcher John “Chief” Meyers provided fans with a look at life with the Giants.

Chief Meyers

Chief Meyers

The article was written for The Associated Press—most likely by Jim McBeth of The New York American, who acted most often as Meyers’ ghostwriter:

“After the last ball of the game is fielded and the crowd begins to pour out of the park and the players disappear into the clubhouse—what then?

“The fans read in their papers next morning: ‘New York at Pittsburgh’ or ‘New York at Boston,’ or something like that.  And until the bulletin boards begin to put up the score, inning by inning, in the afternoon, they know little of nothing about the men they have been watching and cheering.

“What have ballplayers been doing in the meantime?”

Meyers explained life on the road:

“Well, suppose we’ve just finished a game on the Polo Grounds.  Our schedule calls for a battle with the Pirates in their home park.  Of course, the first thing is to get there, and we get there in easier and better fashion than any other sort of a traveler.

“We have two private Pullman cars of our own, always, and they are our traveling home We assemble at the railroad station—sometimes forty strong—and just pile aboard and make ourselves comfortable.

“In the first place, I might mention the make-up of our party.  We carry twenty-five players, as many as the rules allow; John McGraw, the manager; Wilbert Robinson, coach and assistant manager; the club secretary and his assistant; Dr. Finley the club physician;  Ed Mackall, the club trainer; Dick Hennessy, our kid mascot, and as many as ten or twelve newspaper writers especially towards the end of a close race.”

The 1912 Giants

The 1912 Giants

As for accommodations:

“If he is a regular he takes possession of a seat which indicates that his berth when it is made up will be a ‘lower.’ That’s an absolute rule.  Nothing but the cream for the first string players.

“As soon as the train pulls out the boys go to their favorite amusements—card playing, reading, ‘fanning.’  Don’t think a player finishes a game when he sheds his spangles.  He doesn’t.  Many a game is played all over again as soon as the boys get together.

“There’s a little quartet of us who are pinochle fans—(James ‘Doc’) Crandall, (Art) Fletcher, (David ‘Beals’) Becker and myself—a fine lot of Dutchmen we are.  We’re the ‘tightwads’ of the club because we don’t  risk as much as a nickel on our games.

“There was a time when there was tall gambling by the players on trains while traveling from one town to another.  I’ve seen as much as $6,000 or $7000 on the table in a poker game. But that’s past; the player of today holds on to his money, and, besides, he knows that high betting causes ill feeling between friends and heavy losses get a man’s mind off his playing.  The Giants play a little poker, of course, but it’s only a 25-cent limit game, where a man in hard luck may lose as much as $4 or $5 in a session.

“Occasionally you’ll hear a little singing.  Some of the boys have really good voices.  Others fancy themselves as vocalists, anyhow.  Larry Doyle, for instance…Leon Ames gets up sometimes and gives us his specialty.  He recites Kipling’s poem, ‘On the Road to Mandalay,‘ (with an affected speech impediment). That always gets a laugh.  The younger, smaller players buzz around Big Jeff Tesreau like a flock of mosquitoes attacking an elephant, giving him a good-natured kidding until he sweeps his big arms and chases them. “

Big Jeff Tesreau

Big Jeff Tesreau

Meyers said the Giants were “like one big family—a lively, noisy bunch of pals.”   He said a player occasionally “gets a grouch and sits off by himself,” but:

“I never saw a group of men in any business so genuinely attached to each other…Occasionally some stranger tries to horn into our cars but he quickly finds he isn’t wanted.”

The Giants, he said, drew crowds at the ballpark and at their hotel:

“There’s nothing tight about us when we travel. We’re an attraction and we know it, and that helps box office receipts.  People always want to see this club that’s got Matty and a real Indian, and sometimes  (the previous season) Charley Faust  or a Bugs Raymond as an added attraction. So we don’t keep our light under any bushel.

“We’re always pretty well sized up in our hotel in a strange city.  We can hear people say ‘So they are the Giants eh?’  The native can always spot me because of my Indian appearance, so I’m usually the one they make for.

“’Say, Chief, which is Matty?’ they ask.  ‘Which one is Johnny McGraw?’ ‘Who’s going to pitch today, Chief?’ The other boys give me the laugh because I’m the goat for all questioners.  The fans don’t recognize the other players.”

Meyers said most of the Giants were not great dressers, ‘content with two changes of costume.”  The exceptions were Rube Marquard:  “He travels with a steamer trunk and sometimes has six or eight suits with him,” as well as Josh Devore and Art Wilson.

Meyers said every player shared one fashion statement:

“Everybody…sports a diamond.  That seems to be the badge of big-league class.  As soon as a ballplayer gets out of the ‘bushes’ and into the big show the first thing he does is buy a spark.  Some of the boys have half a dozen. “

Meyers also insisted that drinking was not a problem among the modern players:

“One thing we hear from strangers most frequently is ‘Have a drink, old man let’s drink one for good luck in today’s game.’  That invitation is invariably refused. Few of the boys drink anything at all, and those who do take a glass of beer occasionally do it among themselves always.  The present day player differs greatly from the old timer, who mixed with everyone.

“Pleasant strangers, with sensible questions, we don’t mind, but they are in the minority t the butters-in who simply want to tell their friends they are associates of ballplayers.”

Meyers said he and his teammates were also very popular with deaf fans, many of whom began following the Giants when Luther “Dummy” Taylor (1900-01, 1902-08) pitched for the club:

“(N)ow they’re friends of all of us.  Most of the Giants learned the finger talk from Taylor.”

He said Mathewson, Doyle and Fred Snodgrass were all very conversant in sign language and “are the idols of” many deaf fans.

Fred Snodrass

Fred Snodgrass

Meyers frequented art museums on the road.  As for his teammates: billiards for most, chess or checkers for Mathewson during the day, and the theatre at night, he said, were the “favorite pastimes” of the Giants.

No matter the activity after a road game, he said: “Everybody must be in bed” by 11:30 pm.  “That’s one of McGraw’s rules, and the boys are on their honor to obey it.”

Meyers drew one conclusion from the lifestyle of the modern ballplayer.  He and his brethren were “(A) trifle better off, both physically and morally, than the average young man.”

Lost Advertisements–Ty Cobb, Lewis 66 Rye

11 Dec

cobblewis66

A 1912 advertisement for Lewis 66 Rye Whiskey from The Strauss, Pritz Company, a Cincinnati-based distiller:

“Away Above Everything”

Ty Cobb–‘The Georgia Peach’

“Baseball never saw Ty Cobb‘s equal.  The Chalmers Trophy Commission, appointed to name the most valuable American League player in 1911, unanimously gave every possible point to Cobb (he received all eight first-place votes–the commission consisted on one sportswriter from each league city).  In 1911, Cobb led his league in hits, runs, and stolen bases.  Hits 247; batting average .417; runs 149, stolen bases 85 [sic 248; .420; 147, 83].”

Cobb was presented with a Chalmers “36” at Shibe Park in Philadelphia on October 24, 1911, before game four of the World Series. Jack Ryder, covering the series for The Cincinnati Enquirer said of the presentation:

“President (John T.) Brush of the Giants declined to allow this ceremony at the Polo Grounds, so it was pulled off very quietly here this afternoon…The event took place 10 minutes before the game and was coldly ignored by the Giants though the Athletics took a keen interest in it and several of them had their pictures taken with Cobb. Ty now has three cars, but he says this one is much the best of the lot, and he expects to drive it to his home in Georgia as soon as the series is over.”

Cobb in his Chalmers at Shibe Park

Cobb in his Chalmers at Shibe Park

While Cobb was the unanimous choice of the eight-man commission, the second place finisher in the American League received a more valuable car.

The Chicago Inter Ocean said Chicago White Sox fans, unhappy that pitcher “Big Ed” Walsh finished second to Cobb, “Undertook to raise a fund to purchase an automobile,” for him.

But, said the paper, the fans:

“(F)ound themselves confronted with a dilemma–they had too much money in the fund to buy a duplicate of the Chalmers touring cars presented to Ty Cobb and (National League winner, Chicago Cubs outfielder) Frank Schulte.”

Two days before Cobb received his Chalmers in Philadelphia, Walsh was presented with his car before a charity game at Comiskey Park.

Ed Walsh

Ed Walsh

No Chicago newspaper reported the make and model.  The Daily News called it “A handsome automobile.”  The Inter Ocean said it was “A $4,000 automobile,” and The Tribune said simply that he had received an “(A)utomobile subscribed for by the fandom of the city.”  The Examiner also failed to mention the type of car Walsh received but said the Cubs’ Schulte “gave $25” to the fund.

According to The Tribune, Walsh promised to “‘(L)earn how to run it before spring,’ and the stands cheered loyally.”