Tag Archives: Portland Beavers

The PCL and the Goldsmith Baseball, 1912

24 Aug

In 1912 the Pacific Coast League opted to replace the Spalding cork-centered baseball, which they used the previous season, with the Goldsmith ball which had a solid rubber core.

The decision sparked an advertising war between the two companies in West Coast newspapers.

The Goldsmith ads bragged:

“After severest tests, the Pacific Coast League, with many others all over the country, have officially adopted the Goldsmith baseball…The Goldsmith Guaranteed Baseball will be used in all Pacific Coast League games, beginning with this season.  It is guaranteed for 18 innings against softening, ripping, losing shape or elasticity.”

Spalding countered with ads which said:

The Cork Center Ball is the only Ball recognized by the Official Baseball Rules and the only Ball that can be played with in the World Series games for the next twenty years.  Do you realize this?  Every professional base ball player, every professional base ball manager, every professional club owner should insist upon The Cork Center Ball.  The Official Ball of the World Series.

“Of what value are players’ percentages to compare with the records of the National and American Leagues unless they play with The Cork Center Ball.”

1912spaldingcork

In another version of the ad addressed directly to “Mr. Ball Player,” the Spalding Company asked:

”Don’t you want to compare your playing and the records of your team with the playing of men on National and American League teams, and how can you do so if you do not play with a Cork Center Ball?  Your accurate throwing, your perfect stick work, your long throws, and above all that perfect confidence which all ball players need, all depend upon a standard ball and the real standard ball is the style used in the World Series games.  The Spalding.”

1912spaldingmr

Spalding even warned players in another ad:

“You are shutting the door to your further advancement if you have hopes of getting ahead in professional base ball if you play with anything but a Cork Center Ball.”

1912spalding

While the company’s battled, The (Portland) Oregonian suggested a more sinister reason for the switch during spring training:

“When the czars of the Pacific Coast League adopted a new official ball for a period of five tears at Los Angeles last winter, little did the younger generation dream of an impending disaster.

“The opening of the practice season, however, reveals a deep, dire plot to rob the corner-lot Ty Cobb in embryo of his unlawful spoils, the ‘dollar an’ two-bit’ spheres fouled over the fences and so seldom returned.

“Every ball put out by the new Cincinnati firm (Goldsmith) has the name of the home club indelibly stamped into the horsehide, along with the signature and stamp of approval of President A. T. Baum…This safeguard means that Coast League moguls will be able to identify every ball sneaked away by the crafty kids of the sand heaps.

“When one stops to consider that close to 1000 balls, or approximately $1200, went scampering away to the rendezvous of the juveniles last season in Portland alone, the effect of a crimp in the visible supply can readily be seen at a glimpse.

“Of course a mere Bertillonizing (a reference to the criminal identification system developed by Alphonse Bertillon) of the ball cannot absolutely stop the depredations, but with the penalty of a stiff fine and possible imprisonment hanging over their heads like the sword of Damocles, the magnates believe the small youth will lay off the petty thievery from now on.”

The paper said Portland Beavers Manager Walter McCredie had received seven dozen balls, “and these are expected to last until the start of the season.”

There was no word on how many balls were recovered from young criminals as a result of the stamp.

At the end of the 1912 season The Oregonian said they had not:

“(H)eard any kicks on the Goldsmith ball, which is giving the old-line companies quite a scare all over the nation.”

There didn’t seem to be a significant impact on offense.  Twenty players hit better than .290 in 1911; 24 did so in 1912.  Buddy Ryan led the league with 23 home runs in 1911; Bert Coy led with 19 in 1912.  Six players hit 10 more home runs in 1911; eight did so in 1912.

After the five-year contract with Goldsmith expired, the Reach Baseball, which had a cork center, became the official ball of the Pacific Coast League

“There is only one Thing against him—he is Very Dark”

13 Jul

Vernon Ayau became professional baseball’s first player of Chinese descent when he appeared briefly in the Northwest League in 1917.

But he was the not the first Chinese player a West Coast team attempted to sign.  Two years earlier, Walter McCredie of the Portland Beavers tried to bring one Ayau’s teammates with the Chinese Athletic Club of Honolulu to the Pacific Coast League.

Fong Lang Akana was born in Hawaii in 1889 to a Chinese father and Hawaiian mother.

In the winter of 1914, McCredie announced that he had signed Akana.  The (Portland) Oregonian said:

“Akana is a big, rangy fellow and bats left-handed.  He weighs about 180 pounds, according to the dope given to Mack.”

Lang Akana

Lang Akana

The Oregon Daily Journal said he was 5’ 10” and quoted Bert Lowry, the sports editor at The Honolulu Commercial Advertiser:

“He swings from the left side and hits the ball hard at all times, Akana is well-educated, has pleasing manners and is willing to learn.”

Two former major leaguers Jack Bliss and Justin “Mike” Fitzgerald, barnstorming with Pacific Coast Leaguers in Hawaii, were impressed with Akana.  Bliss said he was a great fielder who “had eyes all over his head.”  Fitzgerald said:

“He is a good fielder and very fast.  He is by far the best player in the islands.”

One additional observation from Lowry and Fitzgerald foretold that there would be trouble ahead:

Lowery: “He is a bit dark.”

Fitzgerald: “There is only one thing against him—he is very dark.”

McCredie told The Daily Journal that Akana would likely join the club at their Fresno, California training camp in the spring, the paper noted:

“Cubans, Indians, Poles and Italians have made good in baseball, but no Chinese or Japanese has yet won his spangles.”

Akana, top row second from left, with Chinese Athletic Club, 1909

Akana, top row second from left, with Chinese Athletic Club, 1909

It took less than a month for the plan to bring Akana to Portland to begin to fall apart.

The San Francisco Chronicle, while getting Akana’s name and position wrong, reported that:

“Portland players won’t play with a Chinese.”

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin said:

“Narrow racial prejudices, or possibly the fear that if the bars are let down someone will lose his regular job, threatens to work a grave injustice to Lang Akana.”

In late December, McCredie was ready to bend to the pressure, telling Roscoe Fawcett the sports editor of The Oregonian:

“His skin’s too dark…The Coast Leaguers who played at Honolulu on that recent barnstorming trip came back vowing boycott.  I have received a couple of letters from players telling me Akana is as dark as Jack Johnson, so I guess I will have to give him a release.”

Walter McCredie

Walter McCredie

Pitcher “Seattle” Bill James, who also played against Akana in Hawaii, disputed the account that players were refusing to play with Akana, telling The Oregonian:

“I don’t think any ballplayer will object to playing on the same team as him.  But he might have some trouble around the hotels.  He is not black like a negro, more sepia colored—and his hair is straight.”

But in January, McCredie, who was by far the most progressive PCL magnates on the issue of race, switched direction, and vowed to keep Akana when Fawcett showed him a photograph of the outfielder:

“Dark or not dark, we’ll  have Lang Akana report to us at Fresno…This photograph shows him to be extremely dark-skinned…(PCL umpire) Jack McCarthy saw him at Honolulu this winter and says Lang is just as white as most ballplayers after they have been out all summer in the sunshine.

“He doesn’t look any blacker than Barney Joy, who used to pitch for San Francisco.”

Apparently, McCredie found a way out without explicitly saying he refused to put a Chinese player on his club.  Shortly before the Beavers headed to California, The Oregonian said:

“The Hawaiian, Akana, will not be considered unless he pays his own expenses to the spring camp at Fresno.”

The paper had said earlier that it would cost $175 to bring Akana over from Hawaii.  Akana, whose father was a doctor, and whose family, according to several accounts were “wealthy,” likely could afford the cost of transportation. So, it is unknown whether he refused to pay for his own way or if the paper’s account was incorrect.

The Beavers went to California and started the season without Akana, but there was still talk of his joining the team.  In May, The Honolulu Star-Bulletin said McCredie was still considering adding Akana to the roster:

“Portland is wavering between the first and second division…’What we need here are bat artists,’ writes the sporting editor (Fawcett) of The Oregonian to a Honolulan…Naturally, Lang is watching the Portland field from a distance;  Manager Mac has not made good and Lang is playing the ‘watchful waiting’ polity to perfection.”

“Summed up, the situation now is: if Portland can gain a foothold in the Coast race within the next month or six weeks, it is probable that Akana will celebrate the Fourth of July and Christmas in Honolulu, if not then a demand for strengthening the team with a few good hitters will be forthcoming…’McCredie is silent on the Akana contract,’ (Fawcett) continued, ‘and I think that the Hawaiian-Chinese’s chances to play with the Beavers are good, unless Portland takes a sudden leap upward in the percentage column soon.”

The prediction was wrong.  Portland struggled all season, finishing in last place with a 78-116 record, but the call never went out to Hawaii for Akana to join the team.

Akana, bottom row, left, 1915

Akana, bottom row, left, 1915

McCredie finally saw Akana in person two years later when he brought the Beavers to Honolulu for spring training.  Fawcett said in The Oregonian that “Akana played left field and did not show up particularly well, owing it is said, that he had played little ball for several months.”

Akana continued to play in Honolulu—interrupted by service in the Hawaii National Guard in 1917—into the 1920s, but was “Too dark” to ever appear in a professional game.

Biographical notes: Some sources, including his Hawaii Birth and Christening (B&C) record list his name as Lan rather than Lang, the same B&C record lists his complete name as C. Fong Lan Akana.  Several sources, including the B&C record list his date of birth as April 15, 1890, several others, including his WWI and WWII Draft Registrations list the date of birth as April 15, 1889.

“Probably the ‘Boniest’ Bonehead Play Ever”

22 Jun

While some of the details changed in subsequent tellings, this story stayed substantially the same from when it was first presented in a column by sports writer William A. in 1913, until the final published version in 1957 in The New Orleans Times-Picayune.  One version called it, “Probably the ‘boniest’ bonehead play ever”

The story was told by and told about lefty Evan “Rube” Evans.  Born on April 28, 1890, in Sebring, Ohio, Evans was a career minor league pitcher who, when the story first appeared, seemed to be headed to the big leagues. 

Rube Evans

Rube Evans

The tall–he was reported by various sources as anywhere from 6′ 2″ to 6′ 4″–began his professional career with the Dallas Giants in the Texas League in 1910; he was 15-12 for the pennant winners, but The Dallas Morning News said he didn’t “take baseball seriously” until the following year, when he was 18-16 for the Giants:

“Before that, it seemed, the big, husky flinger looked at playing baseball something in the light of a joke.  Last season, though he came back into the game with a different viewpoint. He seemed to realize that ball playing was a man-sized business.”

After his 1911 performance, Evans’ contract was purchased by the New York Giants, and he joined the team for spring training in Marlin, Texas in 1912.  The Morning News said if he maintained his new found focus “and works as hard as he knows how to work he ought to stick.”

Evans quickly impressed the Giants with a pitch “takes a most freakish break,” according to The Washington Times:

“Rube Evans, the Giants left-handed recruit pitcher from Dallas, surprised bot Manager (John) McGraw and Coach Robby (Wilbert Robinson) by showing them a curve that is entirely new to the big league…The ball is delivered in exactly the same manner as the spitball, but he does not moisten it.”

The paper did not elaborate on how Evans’ “dry spitter” was different from versions reported on during previous seasons–including the one thrown by Christy Mathewson of the Giants–but according to The New York World, “McGraw says he will try and teach it to Rube Marquard.”

Despite his “dry spitter,” Evans failed to make the team and was returned to Dallas where he posted a 22-12 record for the Giants.

In 1913, he joined the New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern Association but appeared to be headed to the Cleveland Naps before he threw a pitch in the regular season for the Pelicans.  In March, Evans shut down the Detroit Tigers 3 to 1 on five hits and followed that up with a four-hitter (and 3 to 1 victory) against the Naps.

The Cleveland Press said, “(Naps Manager Joe) Birmingham plans to cut down his squad considerably.  It is said recruits (Hugh) Peddy, (Pete) Shields and (Ward) McDowell will be left here in trade for one good pitcher, probably Southpaw Rube Evans.”

With Evans apparently on the verge of joining the Naps, the story of his “bonehead” play was told by Phelon, then repeated widely:

“(Evans) has one curious habit—a trait which has aroused much wonder on the part of every manager under whom the southpaw has been toiling.  When given an order by his manager or captain, Mr. Evans always stops, cocks his ears, and demands a repetition of the directions.  Naturally he is first taken for a simp, or bonehead, but when further acquaintance with him shows that he is a gentleman of intelligence and high mentality, the field leaders are muchly puzzled.

“’I always want my orders repeated,’ quoth Mr. Evans, ‘so that I will never again make such an error.”

(The 1913 version of the story, which quotes Evans,  places the incident in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, some later versions say it happened in 1913 with the Pelicans, still others say it was in Portland, Oregon; however, the original publication predates Evans’ time on the West Coast which did not begin until May of 1914).

Evans said he had pitched into the ninth inning when the opposing team put a runner on third with one out, when his manager told him if the other team attempted a squeeze play to “bean him.”  Evans said:

“’I knew no more what a squeeze play was than the man in the moon, but my orders rang in my ears as I started winding up.  Just as a swung up my arm, the fellow on third tore for the plate…I took careful aim at the oncoming runner, and pickled him with a fine shot to the back of the cranium.  Three seconds later the crowd was coming towards me with roars of fury, and I got over the back fence just in time.

“’Well how was I to know that I should have hit the batter and not the runner?  Ever since I have insisted on duplicate orders, so that I would know just what to do.’”

His acquisition by Cleveland never materialized and he had a disappointing 12-15 record in 1913, in a season split between New Orleans and the Birmingham Barons.

It is also in question whether Phelon’s characterization of Evans as a “gentleman of intelligence and high mentality,” was entirely accurate given his inability to stick with clubs who were impressed with physical abilities.  After his second chance to pitch in the majors didn’t materialize, the remainder his of career was marked by long stretches of mediocrity, charges of bad behavior and comparisons to another left-handed “Rube.”

In August of 1913, he was suspended for the remainder of the season by the Birmingham Barons for, according to The Birmingham Post-Herald, “Failure to keep in condition.”  The Sporting Life’s Chandler Richter called him “Erratic,” The Oakland Tribune said he was”Eccentric,” a wire service retelling of the “beanball” story from 1915 said he “earned a nationwide reputation as a ‘squirrel,” another called him “the real eccentric,” when compared to Rube Waddell.

The other left-handed Rube

The other left-handed Rube

His two-year tenure with the Portland Beavers in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) began when he wore out his welcome in New Orleans in May of 1914 and was sold to the Beavers.  It was particularly rocky.  The Spokane Daily Chronicle said Evans and Beavers manager Walter “Judge” McCredie “got along like a pair of strange bulldogs.” He was suspended at least once, again for the euphemistic “failure to be in proper condition,” and gave up a game-winning home run to Jack Ness of the Oakland Oaks when he accidently threw a pitch over the plate while attempting to intentionally walk Ness.  At the close of the 1915 season, Portland let him go for what The Portland Oregonian called “His inability to take care of himself.” Of his 9-22 record the paper said:

“Rube ran into gobs of adversity.”

After leaving Portland, Evans played parts of three seasons for the Salt Lake City Bees in the PCL–in 1917 he was 21-9, but when McCredie was named manager of the Bees in 1918, Evans time with the team was nearly over.  Before the season, The Oregonian said, “Evans did not take kindly to the idea of having to take orders” from his former manager and was threatening to jump the club.  He finally did jump in June after appearing in 14 games and posting a 3-8 record.

Evans went to Portland and finished the 1918 season in the semi-pro Shipyards League, The Oregon Daily Journal said upon his arrival:

“Rube Evans was through at Salt Lake and McCredie was probably saved the trouble of wearying his hand by writing out Rube’s release, when Rube left.”

In 1919, he played for the Rupert franchise in the semi-pro Southern Idaho League; while successful, his reliance on the emery ball for his success didn’t make him friends.  The Twin Falls Times said:

“When Rube Evans lugged the emery ball into the S.I.L. he failed to do anything beneficial to the league.  Rube will win a few more games for the Rupert club, but he has lowered the standard of sport in the league.”

Evans had one more season in professional baseball, posting a 10-7 record with the Regina Senators in the Western Canada League in 1920.  In an August 15 doubleheader against the Edmonton Eskimos Evans was ejected for arguing with the umpire while facing the second batter of the first game; he came back to lead the Senators to 5 to 3 victory in the second game, giving up two runs in 7 2/3 innings, and hitting a three-run home run in the sixth.

Rube Evans

Rube Evans

After the 1920 season, he returned to Ohio and spent the next decade playing semi-pro baseball there and in Western Pennsylvania.  His last headlines came in 1924 when he pitched six innings for the Sharon (PA) Elks team in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees.  The Elks lost 10-8, Babe Ruth went 2-4 with a double for the Yankees.

Evans’ playing days ended in Akron, Ohio.  He pitched for and managed the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company team, and stayed on with the company as a rubber worker.  He died on January 30, 1950.

A clue to some of Evans’  erratic behavior is contained in his death certificate.  The pitcher spent the last three and a half years of his life in Ohio’s Cambridge State Hospital; his cause of death was listed as “General Paresis,’ brought on by syphilis.

A shorter version of this post appeared on June 3, 2013

“A Pork Jinx on the Club”

4 Mar

To mark the Oakland Oaks 1916 home opener, J. Cal Ewing, generally known as “The Godfather of the Pacific Coast League” presented Oakland Manager Harold “Rowdy” Elliott with a gift:  The Oakland Tribune said:

“Ewing gave to the Oaks a mascot in the shape of a real ‘rooter,’ a yearling pig, which was kept on the players’ bench throughout the game.”

The Oaks cruised to a 10-2 victory over the Portland Beavers in front 15,000 enthusiastic Oakland fans, and the superstitious among the ball club and their fans attributed the win to “Margaret,” the new mascot.

The Oaks played well in April, and were in first place until the end of the month, but by mid May they were 16-21, fifth place in the six-team league—and it was noticed that no one had seen “Margaret” for some time.

Rowdy Elliott with Margaret

Rowdy Elliott with Margaret

The Tribune was convinced the disappearance of the pig was responsible for the team’s decline:

“Suffering Pigs!  A Pork Jinx on the club!…The wrathful shade of a female porker is responsible for the Oaks’ slump.  Maggie the Pig was compelled to shuffle all her porcine coil to the accompaniment of roast apples and cranberry sauce, which is no nice way to treat an emblem of Good Fortune.”

The paper also noted that the club’s secretary also worked as a cook, and Ewing should have “had sense enough” to take that into account before presenting the team with a pig.

And, the paper composed a poem:

O Maggie, dear, and did ye hear

   The news that’s goin’ round?

The Oaks are losing day by day

   And soon they won’t be found.

They’ve ingestion badly.

   And they’re looking for the hook

They can’t play ball at all, at all

   Since you went to the cook.

It became a bit of a scandal.

The Oaks quickly denied that the pig had been eaten:

“They say the trouble is that they haven’t eaten her pigship.  Margaret was given to the ground keeper to preserve, and that personage refuses to produce the pig.”

Rowdy Elliott was quick to tell The Tribune the reason for the club’s slump had nothing to do with the team mascot.  He said the blame was clearly the result of another team’s mascot:

“Elliott says the Oaks’ slump can be attributed to no less a personage than Erasmus Pinckney Johnson.”

Johnson was the mascot for Frank Chance’s Los Angeles Angels—The Los Angeles Times said the young African American boy had been found, on Chance’s orders, in late April in order to break a week-long losing streak. The Times routinely described “the good luck charm” in the most racist terms.

Part of the “luck” Johnson brought was derived from rubbing the young mascot’s head.  Elliott claimed during the Oaks’ last series in Los Angeles he had rubbed the Johnson’s head “the wrong way.”

“Since that moment Rowdy has had little luck, winning only two games out of the last fourteen played.  Erasmus hasn’t been doing much for the Angles of late, for Chance’s crew has been in a slump, but he has at least succeeded in wrecking the Oakland club.”

Frank Chance

Frank Chance

So desperate were the Oakland fans for answers that The Tribune enlisted two prominent fans, an Alameda County Circuit Court judge and a local doctor to do a “psychological study of the team.”

“Judge Wells…has come to the conclusion that the team has worked itself into a jinx, and needs the aid of the pig mascot they had in the opening game to pull them through.  Dr. Halsey agrees that hits, pitching fielding and psychology and all may have something to do with it, but the real reason, according to the doctor, is that the boys are suffering from a nervous breakdown that followed shortly after seeing such an enormous crowd at the opening game.”

Things quickly got worse for the Oaks. Elliott was suspended for several days for throwing a ball at umpire Jack Doyle, and the team continued to lose in June, and then for the rest of the season.

At the end of July Elliott was sold to the Chicago Cubs, George “Del” Howard, who had purchased the club during the season, replaced him as the Oaks’ manager.

Oakland finished 1916 in last place with a 73-136 record.  Chance’s Angels overcame their May slump and easily won the championship with a 119-79 record.

Margaret the pig was never heard from again.

“A Ballplayer can’t chase ‘Chickens’ and Chase Flies”

25 Feb

With money borrowed from his brother Clarence, an oil speculator, Henry “Hen” Berry stepped in to take over ownership of the Los Angeles Angels in 1906.

"Hen" Berry

“Hen” Berry

Berry’s Angels won the Pacific Coast League championship in 1907 and ’08, and that success, along with his own profits in the oil business, made Berry a wealthy man in his own right.

He also managed, during his tenure with the Angels, to sell a player to a big league club for the highest amount ever received by a Coast League Club to that point, when he was paid $5,000 by Charles Comiskey of the Chicago White Sox for 18-year-old Lee “Flame” Delhi in 1911; Delhi appeared in just one game for the Sox the following season and was out of organized ball well before his 25th birthday.

Berry was also the driving force in getting the league to finally adopt a two-umpire system in 1912.

He also had a theory about what the type of lifestyle that best suited his players.  In 1914, he talked about it with a reporter from The Los Angeles Examiner:

“’A ballplayer can’t chase ‘chickens’ and chase flies at the same time with any degree of certainty that he’ll land the flies.’

“That is ‘Hen’ Berry’s way of saying that a player whose head is turned by the hero-worship of the fair patrons on the diamond stands a mighty slim chance at high fielding averages or of shining in the .300 batting class…Wedding bells for all players, he believes, would result in the highest possible efficiency.”

Eighteen of the 21 members of the Angels were married, and it was that way by design:

“’It is his susceptibility to the attentions of pretty hero worshippers that keep many a promising athlete from reaching the high place that otherwise would be his in the world of sport,’ asserts Berry.

“’The ballplayer is perhaps more constantly beset by these fair idolizers than any other professional athlete because women frequent the diamond more generally by far than any other sport.’

“’So we have the very thing which keeps baseball keyed up to concert pitch—the element of personal admiration for the players—becoming the most dangerous possibility in pulling a good man down or keeping him mediocre.’”

"Hen" Berry caricature

“Hen” Berry caricature

While Berry conceded that marriage didn’t guarantee that a player would be “immune from lionizing” by women, it would at least reduce the “social diversions which frazzle a man’s nerves.”

Marriage, said Berry, resulted in “Emotional calm” and provides “stability which goes far towards winning pennants.”

Berry’s theory had not resulted in any recent success; after his two pennants in 1907 and ’08, the Angels had experienced a drought that would continue in 1914 when his predominately married club finished second to the Portland Beavers.

Berry sold the Angels after the 1914 season and moved north, purchasing the San Francisco Seals.

He picked up two more championships with the Seals—it is unclear how many of the players on each pennant-winning club were married– and sold the team to group headed by former Coast League catcher Charlie Graham before the 1918 season.

San Francisco Seals owner Charlie Graham

Charlie Graham

After leaving baseball, Berry managed the family’s oil holdings in California.  On March 13, 1929 the steering broke on Berry’s car as he rounded a curve while driving near his home in Maricopa.  The car plunged 100 feet into a ravine, and the former West Coast baseball magnate was dead at age 59.

“Fatty Weakened and Portland scored four runs”

24 Jan

Walter “Judge” McCredie went ahead with the scheduled spring series in California between his Portland Beavers and the Chicago American Giants despite criticism from Pacific Coast League (PCL) President Allan T. Baum and other league executives.

Much of the concern was the result of the Negro League team beating the Beavers four out of five games in the spring of 1913.

The results of the 1914 series were much different.  Foster, and most of the rest of the pitching staff were injured, and catcher Bruce Petway missed most of the games with a bad ankle.

The series began in Santa Maria with an 11-inning 8 to 8 tie.  “Smokey” Joe Williams, of the New York Lincoln Giants joined Rube Foster’s club for the series.  The Beavers pounded him for 14 hits.

"Smokey" Joe Williams

“Smokey” Joe Williams

Portland won the second game in Santa Maria 5 to 0.  Harry Krause (who would win 22 games for Portland in 1914) shut out the American Giants on eight hits; Lee Wade struck out 9, but allowed 11 hits and took the loss.  The Portland Oregonian said Krause’s:

“Southpaw slants and spitballs stood the Negro Giants, of Chicago, on their heads.”

The series moved to Santa Cruz.

Portland beat “Smokey” Joe Williams again in game 3; 6 to 2.  The Santa Cruz Evening News said Williams “Had a nice curve, plenty of speed, but was a little wild.”  The American Giants loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth, but 19-year-old rookie Elmer Hanson struck out pinch hitter Frank Duncan to end the game.

Watsonville was the site of the fourth, and final, game.

The Santa Cruz Evening News said while McCredie and Foster made the trip together to Watsonville, McCredie asked which pitcher Foster was starting the next day:

“Foster replied that he did not know, as all were ailing, one way or another.

“McCredie suggested that he (Foster) pitch.  Foster said that he would pitch if McCredie would play, and an agreement was made.”

McCredie’s last season as a regular was 1909.  After playing in 61 games in 1910, he had appeared in just eight games from 1911-1913.

“(McCredie and Foster) appeared on the ball field in uniform and the Portlanders went to bat first, big Foster began to pitch and retired the side…Then it was that McCredie got cold feet.

“He refused to carry out his side of the agreement to play, and all coaxing and teasing and jibes from  both teams could not feaze him.”

Foster pitched five innings of one-hit ball, but in the sixth “Fatty weakened and Portland scored four runs.”

Rube Foster

Rube Foster

After the final game The Oregonian said:

“Perhaps it was taking unfair advantage, but in the recent Beaver-Negro series the Portland Coasters knew in advance nearly everything the twirlers tossed up the plate.

(James) Hi West and (Irv) Higginbotham were out on the coaching line every game stealing the catcher’s signs.”

The American Giants salvaged their West Coast trip in their series against Nick Williams’ Portland Colts. They won the opener on March 28 in Santa Rosa 6 to 0 behind a “Smokey” Joe Williams no-hitter.  Williams struck out nine of Portland’s  Northwestern Leaguers.  The Oregonian said:

“Williams, a tall, rakish looking mulatto (Williams’ mother was a member of the Comanche nation) set the Colts down without a hit or a run.”

The American Giants committed two errors, including one by third baseman Bill Francis.  The paper said:

(Duke) Whitt rolled one infield grounder toward third that might have been construed a safety, but the scorers graciously agreed to swallow race prejudices.  It was scored as an error.”

The series then went to Chico, California, and Medford and Grants Pass, Oregon, before finishing in Portland.

The Colts only managed one victory, beating the Giants 9 to 8 in Medford.  Although the colts won the game The Oregonian said the highlights were two long home runs hit by American Giants shortstop John Henry “Pop” Lloyd, including “one of the longest hits ever seen on the local field.”

John Henry lloyd

John Henry Lloyd

The American Giants continued the spring tradition of traveling west to play Portland teams through the 1916 season.

Walter “Judge” McCredie later created some doubt that playing Foster’s team was simply a business relationship and not an expression of his opinion of the color line in baseball.  When he was criticised by PCL executives in 1914 he said: “the games are nothing more or less than training affairs.”  Later that season his attempt to sign a Hawaiian player of Chinese decent named Lang Akana was thwarted by PCL officials and his own players who threatened to revolt. In 1915 McCredie was quoted in The Chicago Defender:

“I don’t think the color of the skin ought to be a barrier in baseball…If I had my say the Afro-American would be welcome inside the fold.  I would like to have two such ball players as Petway and Lloyd of the Chicago Colored Giants who play out here every spring.  I think Lloyd is another Hans Wagner around shortstop and Petway is one of the greatest catchers in the world.”

It wouldn’t be until 1917 that a Chinese player would play professional baseball.

The Color Line and the PCL

22 Jan

In the spring of 1913 Walter “Judge” McCredie brought Rube Foster’s Chicago American Giants to the West Coast to play five games against his Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League (PCL).  The American Giants won four of the games and also split a two-game series against Nick Williams’ Portland Colts of the Northwestern League.

Walter "Judge" McCredie

Walter “Judge” McCredie

When McCredie made arrangements with Foster for the American Giants to return west in 1914 it created a stir in the PCL.  Joe Murphy of The San Francisco Call wrote:

“Some of the magnates and officials of the Pacific Coast League are bitterly opposed to Manager Walter McCredie’s plan of playing a series of games with the Chicago Giants, an aggregation of colored ball players.  The Beavers played the colored tossers during their training trip last season and were badly beaten by them.”

Murphy said “no official action can be taken against McCredie to prevent his team engaging in games with the dusky tossers,” but said several prominent PCL figures “do not mince any words” regarding the games.

Dan Long, who had managed the San Francisco Seals from 1908 through 1912, was now a West Coast scout for the Chicago White Sox and booked the team’s 1914 spring games in California.  Long said he turned down a request for the Sox to play the American Giants:

“Colored players are barred in organized baseball, and I can see no reason why white players should even meet them in exhibition games, if they are barred by the baseball powers.  Baseball is a sport that must be elevated, and it is up to the managers and players to keep it free from criticism.

“I never arranged or played in any games with colored players, and I doubt Mr. (Charles) Comiskey, owner of the White Sox, would allow his team to play with the colored men.”

James Calvin “Cal” Ewing, the owner of the San Francisco Seals, who was one of the PCL’s founders and a former president of the league, was equally as outspoken:

“If I were a player working for McCredie, and he asked me to go out and play against these colored fellows, I would refuse to do it for him.

“There are two classes I bar from playing on my ball park—colored tossers and bloomer girls.  They will never use any park I control.”

Cal Ewing

Cal Ewing

Allan T. Baum, entering his third season as the PCL’s president said he was against the games, but was powerless to act because the games were played outside of the league’s regular season:

“I have no jurisdiction in the matter, but my sentiments are strongly against it.  I am sure that there is not another manager in the league who would consider playing with the Chicago Giants.”

Lester Aglar Walton, managing editor of the East Coast’s largest circulation black newspaper, The New York Age, responded to “the vicious article” from the West Coast:

“Joe Murphy, in an heroic effort to start needless agitation relative to the drawing of the color line in organized ball, does a journalistic stunt which, while humorous for the absurdities contained therein, is a curious document for the lamentable ignorance which this writer and other show on the subject.”

Walton said the color line was borne solely out of fear:

“The cowardly practice of using the color prejudice subterfuge as a cloak to hide the white man’s fear in open competition with the colored man in various avenues of endeavor will someday lose its effectiveness.  The truth of the matter is some white managers and players are not opposed to playing colored teams solely on account of color, for if their aversion was based purely on color the Indian would not be permitted to join organized baseball, nor would teams of the two major leagues journey every winter to Cuba to engage in games with native players, many of whom are as black as the ace of spades.”

“Manager Walter McCredie is the only game white man in the Pacific Coast League.  He is not afraid to permit his team to meet a strong colored nine and fight it out on the diamond.  There would not be a word of complaint today about the beavers and Giants playing a series of exhibition games had not the colored team given undisputed evidence of its supremacy last spring.”

Lester Aglar Watson

Lester Aglar Watson

McCredie claimed he wasn’t making a social statement.

He told The Portland Oregonian he needed to schedule the games in order to compete with teams like San Francisco in the regular season.  The Seals, he said, were preparing for the season by playing the White Sox, and taking in between $15,000 and $20,000 in the process:

“Yet they rave because I book the Beavers for four or five games against the Negroes, although they furnish the only stiff opposition available.

“It is to laugh.  Likewise the statement that playing against the Negroes hurts baseball.  It might, were we to consider them on an equal footing because of the strong race prejudice that exists here on the Coast. But the games are nothing more or less than training affairs.”

Despite the objections, Foster and his team arrived on the West Coast in March of 1914.

The rest of the story on Friday

“One of the most Astonishing Pennant Drives in Minor League History.”

16 Oct

After the Pacific Coast League’s (PCL) war-shortened 1918 season, John “Buddy” Ryan joined a team in Seattle’s Puget Sound “Shipyard League,” as a player/manager, but suffered a leg injury in September.

When the PCL reorganized for the 1919 season The (Portland) Oregonian said in an article about the Salt Lake City Bees:

“Buddy Ryan, who hits .300 year after year, is one of the holdouts.  (Manager Eddie) Herr does not know exactly whether Ryan is a holdout or whether he means to retire from baseball, but we who have watched the red-faced (Ryan) year after year know that Buddy wants more coin to cavort in the outer garden, hence the fact that he is secluded at a farm on the outskirts of Denver while the Salt Lake team is doing its best to get into shape.  Ryan has a bum pair of props, but still travels at a pretty fair gait.”

John "Buddy" Ryan

John “Buddy” Ryan

Whether it was about money or his “bum pair of props,” Ryan sat out all of the 1919 season.  In July of 1920 he returned to the PCL, signing with the Sacramento Senators.  The Oregonian said Portland Beavers owner Walter “Judge” McCredie “made strenuous efforts to sign him,” but “(Sacramento manager) Bill Rodgers seems to have pulled off a good stunt in signing the veteran slugger.”

Despite bad legs, the 34-year-old Ryan hit .298 in 105 games for the Senators; he hit .320 and .305 in 1921 and ’22, and retired again after hitting just .256 in 1923.

In September of 1924 Ryan, who operated several gas stations in Sacramento and did some scouting, was the surprise choice to replace Charlie Pick as manager of the last place Senators.  While he remained popular is Portland, The Oregonian was not encouraging about Ryan’s prospects:

“Buddy inherits a hard job.  Sacramento managers last about two years, win, lose or draw.”

Despite the prediction Ryan would remain manager of Sacramento until September of 1932; his best finish was second place in 1928 and he compiled a record of 825-927.

During the 1926 the usually mild-mannered Ryan, who The Berkeley Daily Gazette said typically “never so much as shouted from the sidelines,” was suspended three times for altercations with umpires.

In May The Los Angeles Times said the “rotund and soft-speaking manager” had “cuffed” umpire Augie Moran over “a decision at first base” during a game with the Hollywood Stars.  PCL President Harry Williams suspended Ryan indefinitely; he was reinstated after a week.

In August, after a ten-minute argument with Moran over a call at third base in Oakland, The Associated Press said:

“Moran ordered Ryan from the game, but the Sacramento manager refused to go, so three police men escorted him from the field.”

Williams again announced that he had suspended Ryan indefinitely; that suspension lasted a week also.

Three weeks after Ryan’s return, during a loss to the Los Angeles Angels, The Associated Press said:

“Manager Buddy Ryan of Sacramento took a healthy wallop at umpire (’s chin…With (John) Monroe on second in the first inning, (John) Knight drove a grounder at (Johnny) Mitchell, whose throw to second caught Monroe.  It was a close play, but Van Graflan ruled him out.  Ryan then walked to the field and in the course of an argument flattened Van Graflan with a perfect right to the chin.  He was chased from the field.”

Ryan was again suspended indefinitely, and again returned to the bench after a week.

He never had a similar incident during his nearly 30-years in baseball.

By the time Ryan resigned as Sacramento’s manager in 1932 he had become extremely wealthy, owning a chain of gas stations.  His business interests were cited as the reason for his resignation.

Buddy Ryan

Buddy Ryan

Three years later he managed the Portland Beavers for 52 games (23-29) before stepping down due to “ill health.”

After nearly a decade away from baseball Ryan joined the Oakland Oaks as a scout and coach for new manager Dolph Camilli—Camilli played for Ryan for four seasons in Sacramento and the two remained close.

Dolph Camilli

Dolph Camilli

After Camilli left Oakland Ryan became manager of the Wenatchee Chiefs, a Western International League team which had just been acquired as a farm team of Sacramento.  He led the team to a pennant in 1946, but was fired after a 31-59 start the following season.

In 1948 Ryan became a team owner.  Along with a partner he purchased another Western International League franchise; the Spokane Indians.  His first act as owner was to install himself as manager, replacing Ben Geraghty who had just led the team a second place finish, .001 behind the Vancouver Capilanos.

Ryan’s move set the stage for his friend Camilli’s greatest moment as a manager; what The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review called “one of the most astonishing pennant drives in minor league history.”   On August 3 Ryan was hospitalized with pneumonia and Camilli was enlisted to take over the team.  The Indians 59-52, in fourth place, 9 ½ game out of first.

Under Camilli Spokane won 45 of their last 57 games—27 of the last 31—and won the pennant by 2 ½ games.

Camilli turned the team around; he said his friend Ryan had been too soft on the players:

“The first day I walked in there, here they were drinking beer in the clubhouse—I raised holy hell about it—before the game.  I woke ‘em all up.”

Ryan sold his interest in the team after the 1948 season and retired, for the final time, from baseball.

Ryan died in 1956 at age 70—The Oregonian called him “one of the greatest baseball favorites old Vaughn Street (Portland’s ballpark from 1901-1956) ever knew.”

“Johnson can Hit the Ball as far as Anybody”

14 Oct

After Hal Chase replaced George Stallings as manager of the New York Highlanders, Otis “Ote” Johnson was given another opportunity to play for the team.

Highlanders’ second baseman Frank LaPorte and third baseman Jimmy Austin were traded to the St. Louis Browns for third baseman Roy Hartzell.  Chase said he’d move shortstop John Knight to second and playing Johnson at shortstop.

The Sporting Life quoted Chase saying he planned to play Johnson at short “for his batting,” but noted that Johnson “only batted .223 in the fast Eastern League last season.”

Otis "Ote" Johnson

Otis “Ote” Johnson

New York scout Arthur Irwin agreed with Chase that the team needed Johnson’s bat in the lineup, and told The New York Globe:

“Johnson can hit the ball as far as anybody, and what is more he can hit often.”

The New York Herald said:

“Johnson is a beautiful fielder as well as a good hitter, and it is Chase’s intention to have him take the shortstop job.”

That’s where Johnson was on Opening Day, a 2 to 1 victory over the defending World Champion Philadelphia Athletics; Johnson batted seventh, went 0 for two with a walk and a sacrifice, and scored a run.

After sweeping Philadelphia in three games, New York split a four game series with the Washington Senators.

The Washington Herald said New York’s new shortstop “sure looked good, he fielded his position in fine shape,” and “keeps the infield alive with his funny remarks.”

A month after the season began The Indianapolis News said Johnson was “called home (to Muncie, Indiana) by the serious illness of his mother.”  Three days later the paper said he returned to New York “his mother’s condition having considerably improved.”  Within a week of his return the New York papers reported that Johnson had filed for divorce from his wife.

Less than two weeks later Johnson lost his starting job; Knight moved to short and Earle Gardner played second base.

Ote Johnson

Ote Johnson 1911

The San Francisco Chronicle said of the former Pacific Coast League star:

“Ote Johnson has been benched for his weak hitting.  He put up a star game in the field…but Ote did not respond with the hitting which featured his work when he was with Portland.”

Three days after he was benched Johnson left the team again to finalize his divorce.  After returning Johnson became New York’s primary utility infielder until he fell out of favor with Hal Chase.  The manager had been criticised as the team slumped for, as The Globe said “utterly lacking in the qualities for successful management.”

By August the team was fourteen games out of first place and The Herald said:

“Hal Chase, who has been very lenient with his players, is drawing the string tighter.”

The paper said Johnson “has been suspended without pay for violating the club’s rule of discipline.”  It was never revealed what rule was violated, but Johnson was suspended for about a week.  Johnson also hurt his throwing arm in August, further limiting his playing time.

Many in the New York press questioned Chase’s ability as a manager; Wilton Simpson Farnsworth of The New York Evening Journal was the exception.  Farnsworth said of Chase, when the team was 13 games back in August:

“Hal Chase, the game’s greatest first baseman, has made good as manager of the new York Yankees…Knockers claim that poor management is keeping the Yanks down, but forget it! A bad break in luck plus innumerable injuries is the cause.”

Hal Chase

Hal Chase

Regardless of the reasons, 1910’s second place team was limping to a sixth place finish. Chase resigned as manager in November.  Johnson hit just .234 and committed 31 errors in just 65 games.  He was released to the Rochester Hustlers in the International league in December.

Johnson spent just one season in Rochester; he hit .268 and got married; after the season his contract was sold to the Binghamton Bingoes in the New York State League (NYSL).  Johnson protested the pay cut his Binghamton contract called for, and initially threatened to jump to the PCL, he eventually signed a contract and became popular with fans.  He hit the Bingoes first home run of the 1913 season and was awarded with a free daily shave from a local barber and fan named Billy McCann.

He played most of the next three seasons in the NYSL—with the exception of 45-games with the St. Paul Apostles in the American Association at the beginning of the 1914 season.

After playing for the Elmira Colonels in 1915 Johnson recommended two players to his friend Walter “Judge” McCredie on the Portland Beavers—his teammate, pitcher Frank Caporal, and Syracuse Stars first baseman Owen Quinn—and it appeared the 31-year-old Johnson might be heading back to Portland where he remained very popular.

On November 9 Johnson went hunting with friend in Binghamton.  The (Portland) Oregonian said:

“Ote Johnson, famous ‘Home Run’ Ote of the Portland Pacific Coast team of 1907, 1908 and 1909, is dead…It seems Johnson, in company with a party of friends, went forth in search of game and while chasing a wounded fox stumbled and fell, both barrels of the shotgun he was carrying discharged into his abdomen.

“To the older generation of Portland fans Johnson will be remembered for his prowess in poling out long bingles.  He was one of the longest hitters that ever wore the livery of a Coast League club.  Some are prone to argue that he eclipsed the performances of (Frank) Ping Bodie and Harry Heilman, who are now the long-swat stars of the circuit.  Johnson also had a peculiar throw from third that will be remembered–He had a perfect underhand throw and was a wonder at handling bunts.”

He was buried in Johnson City, New York–his pallbearers included several players: Mike Roach, Charles Hartman, Mike Konnick, and William Fischer,

“The Longest Hit in the World”

10 Oct

Walter “Judge” McCredie, longtime Portland Beavers player, manager and president said the longest home run he ever saw was hit by Otis L. “Ote” Johnson when Johnson played for him:

“The drive of Ote Johnson’s at Los Angeles (in 1909) was the longest clout I have ever witnessed.  Out in center field they had a pavilion 150 feet long.  Hits at Chutes Park in Los Angeles had never come within fifty feet of the pavilion…Johnson put the ball clean over the pavilion and the ball bounced into the bandstand for what I call the longest hit in the world.”

By the time he hit that ball in Portland he had already been called “Home run” Johnson for at least five years, a name earned in the Texas League when he hit 22 home runs in two seasons for the Dallas Giants—he finished third with 12 in 1903 and led the league with 10 in 1904.

Otis "Ote" Johnson

Otis “Ote” Johnson

Johnson was born in Fowler, Indiana in 1882, and grew up in Muncie.  The Dallas Morning News said fellow Indianan Claude Berry recommended Johnson to Dallas.  Primarily a shortstop, Johnson also played first, third and outfield, and appeared in more than 30 games as a pitcher during his professional career.

Johnson was sold to the Little Rock Travelers near the end of the 1904 season; he remained with Little Rock through 1906 but hit just .210 against “A” class Southern Association pitching.  He was sold to the Charleston Sea Gulls in the class “C” South Atlantic League before the 1907 season and hit .263, leading the team in doubles (27), triples (13) and home runs (10).

His performance in Charleston earned him another shot in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) when his contract was sold to Portland.  After a slow start at the tail-end of the 1907 season, Johnson regained his form, hitting .280 with 10 home runs in 1908 and .293 with 13 home runs (including his “longest hit in the world”) in 1909.

McCredie said the day Johnson hit his home run against Los Angeles scouts from the New York Highlanders was in the stands:

“(A)fter the battle they asked me to put a price on Ote.  I did, and a few days later the deal was consummated.”

The price was $4,000.

As Johnson prepared to join the Highlanders and manager George Stallings for spring training in Georgia, the New York press was excited about the team’s new prospect who was spending the winter in Muncie working and playing goalie Muncie’s professional roller polo team.  The New York Globe said:

“There is a ‘terrible Swede’ coming to New York next season.  He is a glass blower and makes from $6 to $7 a day in a factory at Muncie, Ind., and in the summertime he makes his living at swinging a large club and gathering bad and good bounders on the baseball field…The boy we’re harping about is Ote Johnson, who will be a member of the New York Americans. (In the PCL) he is known as ‘Home Run’ Johnson.  They say he has driven many a pitcher to the bench.”

George Stallings

George Stallings

Phil Cooney, a New Yorker, who played with Johnson in Portland, told The Globe:

“They seem to think that this boy Johnson can’t hit a curve ball, but Stallings will find out that he can hit any kind.”

On March 23 Stallings told The New York American that Johnson, who was playing third base and shortstop, “couldn’t hit.” Two days later The American said:

“Ote Johnson this afternoon gave an apt illustration of a home run and for the first time since he reported to Stallings the Portland demon found his batting eye.  But for the most daring burglaries on the part of (William) Birdie Cree, the big third sacker would have hit for 1.000 during the afternoon.  As it was he had a single and a homer in three times at bat.  His single might have been a homer had not (2nd baseman) Earle Gardner sprang into the air and retarded its progress by a blind stab.  But the four-base smash was beyond reach.

“Johnson got to one of (Dick) Carroll’s choicest curves and knocked the ball further than any had ever before traveled in Georgia.  Birdie Cree was playing deep for the big fellow.  The ball went so far that Cree had not gotten to it by the time Johnson crossed the home plate, and he only jogged from second.  The ball rolled to the fence, which is fully 300 yards from the plate.”

As late as April 1 it looked like Johnson might stick with New York.  The Trenton Evening Times said:

“The latest ‘phenom’ to be discovered is Otis Johnson, the New York Americans’ third sacker.  This recruit has been playing sensational games around the last station since he joined the club…Johnson is also quite a slugologist.  In the last few games the youngster has been batting like a Tyrus Cobb.  In a recent game at Athens, Ga., he made four hits in as many times at bat.  Among them was a home run.  Manager Stallings says he thinks Johnson will make a great name for himself this season.”

Despite the build up, and the reports of his prowess at the plate, Johnson did make Stallings’ club.  His contract was sold to the Jersey City Skeeters in the Eastern League.

The (Portland) Oregonian said New York “farmed out” the former Beaver star despite the fact that:

“New York critics credit Ote, nevertheless, with having more promise than some of the players retained by Stallings.”

Johnson hit just .223 with 9 home runs (second in the league) with Jersey City, but would benefit from unrest in the New York clubhouse.  Manager George Stallings accused his star first baseman, Hal Chase, of trying to throw a game in St. Louis (the first of what would become many accusations against Chase). Stallings said he would resign if Chase wasn’t let go; Highlander owner Frank Farrell sided with Chase and forced Stallings out in September; Chase was named manager.

Hal Chase

Hal Chase

After the season ended the New York papers said Johnson would on Chase’s club the following season, either at third base in place of Jimmy Austin (who was rumored to be on the market, and eventually traded to the St. Louis Browns), or to play shortstop in place of John Knight  who would be moved to second base to replace Frank LaPorte (also on the market, and also eventually traded to St. Louis with Austin).

More Otis Johnson on Monday.