Tag Archives: Providence Grays

“I’ll Break your Head if I ever get out Again”

8 Dec

Before a game against the Philadelphia Quakers in 1883, Providence Grays outfielder Samuel “Cliff” Carroll was drinking from a hose.  He then turned the hose on a Providence fan named Jimmy Murphy.

After the game, an 8 to 4 Grays victory, Murphy returned to the Messer Street Grounds with a gun.

Cliff Carroll

Cliff Carroll

The Providence Evening Press said:

“Shortly after the ball game, Wednesday afternoon, the neighborhood of Messer Street was thrown into a state of great excitement by the announcement that a member of the Providence baseball club had been shot.”

The paper said the initial hysteria included reports that the player had been killed.

“A well-known baseball crank named “Jimmy” Murphy, has been in the habit, for some time past, of frequenting the ball grounds during the hours of practice, and imagining himself to me a player of extraordinary merit.  Owing to his eccentricities he was a source of great amusement to the players, and was made by them the butt of many practical jokes.  ‘Jimmy,’ who is said to be slightly ‘off’ mentally speaking, occasionally resented his treatment, but never until Wednesday did he report to violent means.”

The Evening Press said after Carroll “thoroughly drenched” Murphy with the hose:

“Murphy immediately departed, nursing his wrath, and in the afternoon returned, and waited outside the grounds until the players issued, after the game.  Carroll came out with a number of men, among whom was (Joe) Mulvey, the change shortstop, and ‘Jimmy’ at once drew a pistol and deliberately fired at Carroll, but owing no doubt to his excitement, he missed his man, and the bullet struck Mulvey in the right shoulder, inflicting a painful, though not dangerous wound.”

Murphy, the shooter, fled from the scene, and was pursued by police, citizens, and Grays second baseman Jack Farrell.  He managed to escape, but was arrested later in the evening.  Neighbors told the paper “Murphy is a ‘crank’ in other matters besides baseball, and is not considered responsible for his actions.”

It was later learned that the wound to Mulvey was superficial, the ball never penetrating his skin:

“Mr. Mulvey quietly walked to his home on Crary Street, congratulating himself upon his narrow escape.”

The following day in court, Murphy was found “probably guilty in the justice court,” and “bound over to the court of common pleas.”  While being led out of the courtroom, Murphy spotted Carroll and said:

“I will get even with you yet, I’ll break your head if I ever get out again.”

The eventual adjudication of Murphy’s case is lost to history.

Carroll was part of the 1884 “World Champion” Grays team, and remained with Providence until the club folded at the end of the 1885 season. He played with five more National League teams through 1893; although he sat out the 1889 season to operate a farm in Bloomington, Illinois.

There is no record of Murphy having ever having the opportunity to “get even.”

Carroll died in 1923 in Portland, Oregon.  The Oregonian said:

“One of the greatest baseball players of the game died in Portland recently, but so modest was he that few even knew he had been spending his last years here.”

The Providence Morning Star reported on the day of the shooting that Grays Manager Harry Wright had agreed to “loan” Mulvey to the Quakers.    Mulvey joined Philadelphia in early July.  He was switched to third base, and was a member of the Quakers through 1889, he played until 1895

Joe Mulvey

Joe Mulvey

Mulvey remained in Philadelphia after his playing days and worked as a watchman at Shibe Park.  The Associated Press said on August 20, 1928, the man who had a brush with death at a ballpark in 1883, “attended a boxing show at the ballpark,” and “was found dead of heart failure in the club locker room,” the following morning.

“This kind of Argument is the Veriest kind of Twaddle”

1 Dec

After just one season in the National League—a 24-36 record and a fifth place finish in 1878–the Indianapolis Blues disbanded.  Four members of the Blues joined the Chicago White Stockings—Silver Flint, Joe Quest, Ned Williamson, and Orator Shafer.

The 1879 White Stockings

The 1879 White Stockings

The White Stockings had been a disappointment in 1878, finishing in fourth place with a 30-30 record under Manager Bob Ferguson.  President A.G. Spalding, who had named Ferguson as his successor when he retired from the field, announced that first baseman “Cap” Anson would replace Ferguson for 1879.

The changes gave the Chicago press high hopes for 1879.

But, The Cincinnati Enquirer did not agree.  The paper said while the Chicago club was “greatly strengthened where it was very weak,” they would still finish no better than fourth place unless they were “properly managed.”  Boston Red Stockings Manager “Harry Wright could take this team and run it up to second place at least.”

In January The Enquirer implied that in addition to questionable management, Chicago’s new players were going to be a detriment:

“A prominent baseball official of Boston, in a private letter written recently, sententiously remarks: ‘Look out for the Indianapolis element in the Chicago Club next year.’  There’s a text for everybody’s thoughts.”

The Chicago Tribune quickly fired back with an article under the headline:

“Harmony” vs. Energy

 “There has been a great deal said at one time and another concerning ‘harmony’ in nines, and those who had the most to say on the subject contended that it was an essential point to be carefully looked after in the formation of any club which hoped for success on the diamond field.  Now The Tribune does not wish to set itself up in opposition to the judgment of men who have made baseball and the management of those who play it a study and a business venture, but it does say that many of them have harped so long upon this matter of ‘harmony’ that it has become a kind of second nature, whereby their judgment has been sadly warped.  Of late a paragraph, started in Cincinnati, has been going the rounds, in which the general public is solemnly warned to ‘look out for the Indianapolis element in the Chicago Club’ during 1879.

“Now the President and Manager of the Chicago Club are probably about as astute and far-seeing as any in the business and in view of this fact and reflection on their judgment or sagacity is in bad taste, and the parties who make ill-advised criticisms on the course of any club in hiring men, are very apt to undergo the unpleasant experience of persons not brought up in New Zealand who indulge in the pastime of throwing boomerangs; their weapons may come back and inflict considerable damage on those who threw them.  Whether or not the White stocking nine of next season will be a ‘harmonious’ one, it is doubtful if anybody knows, and still more doubtful if anybody cares.

“At the risk of being howled at by several papers, the baseball columns which are presided over by young men whose practical ignorance of the game is exceeded only by their ability to construct tables which not even themselves can understand when printed.”

One of the “Young men” referred to was The Enquirer’s sports Editor Oliver Perry “O.P.” Caylor.

One of O.P. Caylor's tables "which not even themselves can understand when printed.”

One of O.P. Caylor’s tables “which not even themselves can understand when printed.”

The Tribune will say that the question of whether or not the Chicago nine of next season ‘harmonizes’ will probably make very little difference with its play.  Some of the men who enjoy the reputation of being first-class kickers and disorganizers are nevertheless very handy individuals to have around when a base hit or good field play in wanted.  Without intending either to arouse the wrath or flatter the vanity of the very amiable and stalwart young man, Anson, it may be said that his reputation as an experienced and prolonged kicker is one that any man might be proud of; but, in spite of those who preach that harmony is everything, he is acknowledged to be one of the best and most useful ball-players in the country.  (Cal) McVey, of the Cincinnatis, can also make quite a conspicuous kick, even when not specially called upon to do so; still he is a good ball-player.

Lip Pike is a disorganizer of the first water, but last season, when he used to hoist a ball out among the freight cars on the lake shore, people who were presumed to know a good player yelled themselves hoarse in his praise.  The list could be extended indefinitely, but such action is not necessary.  Those who organize nines on the basis of ‘harmony’ alone will never grow rich at the baseball business.  It is not possible to get together nine men who could travel around the country eating, sleeping, and playing ball together that would never get out of tune.  Nine angels could not do it, much less nine mortals, subject to the little idiosyncrasies that human nature is afflicted with. “

The Tribune likely assumed the “prominent baseball official of Boston,” was Manager Harry Wright, and next turned its attention to him, his brother, and his championship teams.

“Harry Wright has always been the prophet whom the ‘harmony’ men delighted to honor, and the success of the Cincinnati and Boston Clubs under his management has been laid entirely to the dove-like dispositions of the men engaged by him.  This kind of argument is the veriest kind of twaddle, and the history of the Boston Club proves the truth of this assertion.  George Wright and Tommy Beals went many a day without the interchange of a friendly word, and George and (Charlie) Gould did the same thing.  For one whole season Ross Barnes and Gould never exchanged a word, and glared at each other like opposing game chickens, but the Boston’s won the pennant that year (1872—National Association) all the same harmony or no harmony.

“Other instances of like character could be adduced were there any necessity therefore, but these, from the fountain head of ‘harmony,’ will suffice.  If a club wins the championship it will be because its men play ball, not because they are ‘goody-goody’ boys.  Your man who gets hot at something during a game, and then relieves his feelings by making a two or three base hit, is much more valuable than one who, although possessed of a Sunday-school temperament at all times, manifests a decided aversion to reaching first base., when the occupancy of that particular bag of sawdust would be of some value to the men who pay him high wages for playing ball.”

O.P. Caylor

O.P. Caylor

Caylor would not let the insult to him and to Harry and George Wright, go unchallenged:

The Chicago Tribune published some strange statements against the argument that in harmony there was always strength.  To prove that harmony was not always necessary to create strength in a baseball club, the writer made bold to say among other things that Tommy Beales [sic] when a member of the Boston Club, went many a day without the interchange of a friendly word with George Wright, and that the same feeling existed between George and Gould.  The writer knew from the first these statements were fiction, but in order to crush the fallacious argument our reporter left it to George Wright himself for an answer.  The letter is before us from which we quote, though we half suspect George would demur to its publication out of modesty if he knew it. “

Wright wrote to Caylor:

“(The Tribune) said Tommy Beales [sic] and I went many a day without the interchange of a friendly word, and that Gould and I did the same thing.  While they were with the Boston nine they were about my best friends.  Most of the time Beales [sic] boarded at my house, while Charley and I roomed together on trips.  I think the reporter was wrong in his argument against ‘Harmony’ as it was the great cause of the Boston Club’s success.  The credit for this mostly belonged to Captain Harry Wright.”

George Wright

George Wright

Although it appears Wright spelled the name of his good friend Tommy Beals incorrectly, he got the spelling right 12 months later when he named his son—tennis Hall of Fame member –Beals Wright after his former teammate.

The Tribune allowed Wright, and Caylor, the last word, and dropped the dialogue regarding “harmony.”

Despite Caylor’s prediction, the White Stockings, under Manager Cap Anson, led the National League from opening Day through August 15.  Anson became ill during July, and as his performance slipped, so did the team’s fortunes.

Suffering from what The Tribune called “an acute affection of the liver…that had sadly impaired his strength and capacity for play,” Anson left the club on August 26 with a 41-21 record, in second place, just a game and a half back.

With Silver Flint serving as manager, and without Anson’s bat—he led the team with a .317 average—the White Stockings were 5-12 in the last 17 games, and a fourth place finish.

Harry Wright’s Boston Red Stockings finished second; his team, winners of the previous two National League championships lost some of the “harmony” that made them winners when his brother George Wright and Jim O’Rourke signed with the Providence Grays.  George Wright, in his only season as a manager, led the Grays to the 1879 National League championship.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #11

22 Sep

Floto on Baseball’s Most Powerful Men

Otto Clement Floto was one of the more colorful sportswriters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s.  The Denver Post’s Woody Paige said of the man who was once worked for that paper:

“In the early 1900s Floto was The Denver Post’s sports editor and a drunk, barely literate, loud-mouthed columnist–sounds like a description of that guy in my mirror–who didn’t believe in punctuation marks, wrote about fights he secretly promoted on the side, got into shouting matches with legendary Wild West gunman–turned Denver sportswriter–Bat Masterson.”

Otto Floto

Otto Floto

Floto, in 1910, provided readers of The Post with his unvarnished opinion of baseball’s most powerful figures:

John T. Brush—The smartest man in baseball, but vindictive.

Garry Herrmann—Smart, but no backbone; the last man to him has him.

Ban Johnson—Bluffs a great deal and makes it stick.  Likes to talk.

Charles Comiskey—Shrewd as can be.

Connie Mack—Shrewd and clever; knows the game better than anyone.

Charles Murphy—A hard fighter, but backs up at times.

George Tebeau—More nerve than any other man in baseball, very shrewd.

Barney Dreyfus—Smart, but always following, never leading.

As for John McGraw, Floto allowed that the Giants’ manager was “Pretty wise,” but attributed his success to the fact that he “has lots of money to work worth.”

Too Much Money for Players, 1884

The Cleveland Herald was not happy when pitcher Jim McCormick jumped his contract with the Cleveland Blues in the National League to the Union Association’s Cincinnati franchise.  Although teammates Jack Glasscock and Charles “Fatty” Briody also jumped to Cincinnati, the paper saved most their anger for the first big leaguer to have been born in Scotland.

Jim McCormick

Jim McCormick

The paper noted that McCormick, who was paid $2500 by the Blues, had received a $1,000 bonus to jump:

“(A) total of $3,500 for joining the Cincinnati Unions to play the remainder of the season.  This is equal to $1750 a month, which again divided makes $437.50 a week.  Now McCormick will not play oftener than three times a week which makes his wages $145.83 per day for working days.  The game will average about two hours each, so that he receives for his actual work no less than $72.91 an hour, or over $1.21 a minute for work done.  If he was not playing ball he would probably be tending bar in some saloon at $12 a week.”

McCormick was 21-3 with a 1.54 ERA in 24 games and helped pitch the “Outlaw Reds” to a second place finish in the struggling Union Association.  After the Association collapsed was assigned to the Providence Grays, then was sold to the Chicago White Stockings.  From July of 1885 through the 1886 season McCormick was teamed with his boyhood friend Mike “King” Kelly—the two grew up together in Paterson, New Jersey and were dubbed “the Jersey Battery” by the Chicago press—and posted a 51-15 record during the season and a half in Chicago, including a run of 16 straight wins in ‘86.

He ended his career with a 265-214 record and returned home to run his bar.  In 1912 John McGraw was quoted in The Sporting Life calling McCormick “the greatest pitcher of his day.”

The pitcher who The Herald said would otherwise be a $12 a week bartender also used some of the money he made jumping from Cleveland in 1884 the following year to purchase a tavern in Paterson.

Not Enough Money for Owners, 1885

In 1885 J. Edward “Ned” Allen was president of the defending National League Champions –and winners of baseball’s first World Series—the Providence Grays.  He told The New York Sun that baseball was no longer a profitable proposition:

“The time was when a man who put his money into a club was quite sure of coming out more or less ahead, but that is past.  When the National League had control of all the best players in the country a few years ago, and had no opposition, salaries were low, and a player who received $1,500 for his season’s work did well.  In 1881, when the American Association was organized in opposition to the league, the players’ salaries at once began to go up, as each side tried to outbid the other.  When the two organizations formed what is known as the National Agreement the clubs retained their players at the same salaries.

“Several other associations were then organized in different parts of the country and were admitted under the protection of the National Agreement.   This served to make good ball-players, especially pitchers, scarce, and forced salaries up still higher, until at the present time a first-class pitcher will not look at a manager for less than $3,500 for a season.  (“Old Hoss”) Radbourn of last year’s Providence Club received the largest amount of money that has ever been paid to a ball-player.  His wonderful pitching, which won the championship for the club, cost about $5,000 (Baseball Reference says Radbourn earned between $2,800 and $3,000 in 1884), as did the work of two pitchers and received the pay of two.

The Providence Grays--Champions and unprofitable

The Providence Grays–Champions and unprofitable

“Some of the salaries which base-ball players will get next season are; (Jim) O’Rourke, (Joe) Gerhardt, (Buck) Ewing and (John Montgomery) Ward of the New York Club, $3,000 each.  (Tony) Mullane was to have played for the Cincinnati Club for $4,000 (Mullane was suspended for signing with Cincinnati after first agreeing to a contract with the St. Louis Browns).  (Fred) Dunlap has a contract with the new League club in St. Louis for $3,400.  These are only a few of the higher prices paid, while the number of men who get from $2,000 to $3,000 is large.  At these prices a club with a team costing only from $15,000 to $20,000 is lucky, but it has not much chance of winning a championship.  To this expense must be added the ground rent, the salaries of gate-keepers, and the traveling expenses, which will be as much more.

“As a high-priced club the New York Gothams leads, while the (New York) Metropolitans are nearly as expensive.  The income of these two clubs last year was nearly $130,000, yet the Metropolitans lost money and the New York Club (Gothams) was only a little ahead.  The first year the Metropolitans were in the field(1883) their salary list was light, as were their traveling expenses, and at the end of the season they were $50,000 ahead.”

The Grays disbanded after the 1885 season.

The Wealthiest Ballplayers, 1894

19 Sep

In 1894, major leaguer turned sportswriter, Sam Crane wrote about the wealthiest players in baseball in The New York Press:

(Cap) Anson is probably the wealthiest ball-player on the diamond today.  His wealth has been estimated anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000.  It is, without doubt, nearer the latter sum than the former.”

"Cap" Anson

“Cap” Anson

Anson’s fortune would be long gone, due to a series of poor investments and other financial setbacks, by the time he died in 1922.

“From the time he joined the Chicago club he has enjoyed a big salary.  In his nearly 20 years’ connection with the club he has acted as manager and captain since the retirement as a player of A.G. Spalding in 1877.  Anson, of course received extra salary as manager, and has also been a stockholder in the club…He has been fortunate, too, in real estate transactions in the “Windy City,” under the tutelage of Mr. Spalding, and could retire from active participation in the game without worrying as to where his next meal was coming from.”

The men who Crane said were the second and third wealthiest players managed to keep their fortunes.

Jim O’Rourke is thought to come next to Anson in point of wealth.  Jim came out as a professional player about the same time as Anson.  He did not get a large salary at first with the Bostons, which club he joined in 1873.  He remained with the team until 1878, when he went to Providence.  Jim was young and giddy when he came from Bridgeport to Boston, in 1873, and did not settle down into the staid, saving player he now is…He was a ‘sporty’ boy then, and liked to associate with lovers of the manly art.  Patsy Sheppard was his particular friend in the ‘Hub,’ and James made the boxer’s hotel his home for some time.  When he went to Providence in 1879 Jim began to think of saving his money, and from that time on his ‘roll’ began to increase.

Jim O'Rourke

Jim O’Rourke

Dan Brouthers has received big salaries only since 1886, when he, as one of the famous ‘big four,’ was bought by Detroit from Buffalo.  But since then he has pulled the magnates’ legs and socked away the ‘stuff.’  He has been situated so that he has been able to make the magnates ‘pony up’ to the limit, and Dan had no mercy.  He said he was out for the ‘long green,’ and he got it.  When the Boston club bought Brouthers, (Abram “Hardy”) Richardson, (Charlie) Bennett, (Charles “Pretzels”) Getzein and (Charlie) Ganzell, Dan grasped the opportunity and got a big bonus and also a big salary.  He made the Detroit club give up a big slice of the purchase money before he would agree to be sold.

Dan Brouthers

Dan Brouthers

“The Brotherhood war, when Dan jumped to the Boston Players league was another favorable opportunity for him, and he grasped it and the boodle with his accustomed avidity.  Dan has planted his wealth in brick houses in Wappingers Falls (NY), and can lie back at his ease with his 30,000 ‘plunks’ and laugh at the magnates.  It is this feeling of contentment that has made Dan almost too independent and has affected his playing lately (Brouthers appeared in just 77 games in 1893, but hit .337, and hit .347 in 123 games in 1894).  Dan is what ballplayers call ‘hard paper,’ which was a most distinguishing characteristic of every one of the ‘big four.’”

Detroit’s “Big Four” consisted of Brouthers, “Hardy” Richardson, James “Deacon” White and Jack Rowe.

“Hardy Richardson was not so awful bad, but Jim White and Jack Rowe took the whole bake shop for being ‘hard papes.’  They have both been known to start on a three weeks’ trip with 80 cents each, and on their return Jim would ask Jack, ‘How much have you spent?’  Jack would reply:  “I haven’t kept run of every little thing, but I’ve got 67 cents left.’   Jim would remark gleefully: ‘Why, I’m three cents ahead of you; I’ve got 70 cents.’  And Pullman car porters are blamed for kicking when a ball club boards their car!  Jack and Jim would sleep in their shoes for fear they would have to pay for a shine.  The only money they spent was for stamps in sending home papers, which they borrowed from the other players.  They are both well off now, however, and can afford to laugh at the players who used to guy them.”

Deacon White

Deacon White

(Charles) Comiskey has been fortunate in getting big money since 1883.  (Chris) Von der Ahe appreciated the great Captain’s worth and paid him more and more every year.  The Brotherhood business enabled him to make a most advantageous contract, and as manager and Captain of the Chicagos he received $7,000 salary besides a big bonus.  His contract with Mr. (John T.) Brush to play and manage in Cincinnati called for $23,000 for three years and $3,000 in cash.  This was made in 1891 and runs this year (1894).  Comiskey has his money invested in Chicago real estate, which is paying him a good income at the present time.

(John “Bid”) McPhee, (William “Buck”) Ewing, (Harry) Stovey, (Paul) Radford, (Ned) Hanlon, (Jack) Glasscock, (Tim)Keefe, (Charles “Chief”) Zimmer, (Charlie) Buffington, (Charlie) Bennett, and (Fred) Pfeffer are players who are worth from $10,000 to $15,000, which has all been made by playing ball.  There are only a few more players who have much in the ‘stocking.’”

“Sweeney was Drunk, but I didn’t Know it”

22 Aug

In 1884 Frank Bancroft’s Providence Grays won the National League pennant and defeated the American Association’s New York Metropolitans in the World Series—the first post-season exhibition to be called the World Series.  Late in 1896 he told a reporter for The Boston Post his version of the story of the turning point in that season:

Frank Bancroft

Frank Bancroft

 

“We were leading the championship race (the Grays were in 2nd place at the time of the game in question).  Both (Charles) Sweeney and (Charles “Old Hoss”) Radbourne were pitching in grand style.  In those days you couldn’t take a player out of the game and put another one in his place unless he was sick.  I wanted to save my pitchers all I could.  One day we were playing the Bostons (Bancroft was incorrect; the game was against the Philadelphia Quakers on July 22).  I had (Joseph) Cyclone Miller in right field and Sweeney in the box.  I told Joe Start, who was captain of the team that if we got far enough ahead in the game to take Sweeney out of the box and bring in Miller.  I did this to save Sweeney’s arm.  In the sixth inning we had a lead of 7 to 2 (the score was 6 to 2).  I told Start to make the change.  He asked Sweeney to go out in the field.  Sweeney was drunk, but I didn’t know it.  Start’s request made Sweeney mad.  He didn’t take it in the way it was meant.  He walked off the field.  I went after him, but couldn’t get him to come back.

“He called me a vile name.  The president of the club (J. Edward “Ned” Allen) went to him and asked him what he meant, and he called him everything vile on the calendar.  Sweeney was very drunk.  We had to finish the game with eight men, and the Bostons [sic] beat us out (Providence lost 10 to 6).  The directors of the club had a meeting that night, expelled Sweeney and came within an ace of breaking up.  In fact, they did vote to disband.”

Charlie Sweeney

Charlie Sweeney

With Sweeney gone, the team was left without their two top pitchers.  Bancroft had suspended Radbourn earlier in the month, and he was still sitting out at the time—Radbourne was unhappy sharing the pitching duties and was rumored to be heading to the St. Louis Maroons in the Union Association–The Providence Evening Press in describing Sweeney’s July 22 outburst said he had “caught Radbourn’s complaint.”

Picking up the story in The Post, Bancroft said:

“They said there was no use of going on with one pitcher.  I said to President Allen: ‘If you will give me authority to tell Radbourne that you will not reserve him at the end of the season, I can get him to pitch all the rest of the games this year.’  ‘All right,’ said Allen, ‘you have that authority.’  I found old Rad at his boarding house.  I told him about the proposition.  ‘It’s a go,’ said Rad.  ‘I’ll get rid of reservation if I lose my arm.  I’ll pitch all the other championship games this season.”

Radbourn did not pitch “all the other” games that season but did pitch 75—with 73 complete games, 678 2/3 innings.  Bancroft said of his pitcher:

“It was the greatest feat of endurance I ever witnessed.  Rad was in awful shape before it was all over…Why, (his arm) hurt him so bad when he would get up in the morning that he couldn’t get it up high enough to fasten his collar button.  He had to comb his hair with his left hand.  It used to make me shudder to look at him, but he was gritty.  He would go out in the afternoon before the game, and instead of loosening up by easy pitching, as pitchers do nowadays, he would go in the field and throw the ball just as far as he could.  He would throw for ten or fifteen minutes, until he got wound up, and then he would go in to pitch a winning game.”

"Old Hoss" Radbourn

“Old Hoss” Radbourn

Bancroft said the pitcher “could split the plate any time he wanted to,” and that during “morning practice, to show what he could do, Radbourn would set a pop bottle on the home plate and knock it down three out of four times.”

The release of Sweeney had an immediate positive effect on the Grays.  On the day of the incident, The Evening Press said: “The pennant is no doubt out of the reach of Providence this year.”

The following day, after Radbourn pitched the team to an 11 to 5 over the New York Gothams, the paper’s outlook brightened:

“The summary expulsion of Sweeney for crookedness seemed to have a salutary effect, on Wednesday, for the purging of the club of such a bad egg resulted in a better class of patrons on the grand stand than for many weeks.  The attendance throughout was better than the management had looked for after the airing of Sweeney’s revolt, about 700 being present. “(There were just 450 in the stands the day before for “Sweeney’s revolt”)

Sweeney had not yet left for St. Louis and the paper took the opportunity to take one final shot at the pitcher:

“Sweeney is still about town, and wherever he goes the women whom he escorted to the ball game on Tuesday are seen with him.  The conduct of this fellow is shameful, and he will regret it when he fully wakes up to its enormity.”

The twenty-one-year-old Sweeney pitched the Maroons to the Union Association championship with a 24-7 record and 1.83 ERA.  Whether his arm couldn’t handle the strain, or as a result of his off-field habits, he would only win 16 more games (losing 30), and was out of the major leagues at age 24.

He returned to his home in California and played for teams in the California, Central California Leagues, after his retirement he worked for a short time as a police officer and later worked in saloons around San Francisco.

By the time Bancroft shared his reminiscences of 1884 with The Post, Sweeney was incarcerated in California, and Radbourne was dying in Illinois.

In July of 1894, Sweeney shot a man named Cornelius McManus during an altercation in a bar.  The San Francisco Chronicle said when he was informed the following day that the victim was dead “he broke down and wept bitterly.”  Sweeney was convicted of manslaughter four months later and sentenced to eight years.

The Chronicle said he was released after serving “a little over three years of his sentence,” after which “his health broke down.”  Sweeney died of Tuberculosis in 1902—most sources say he died on April 4—The Call and The Chronicle both said he died on April 3.

Radbourn pitched 1311 innings in 1883 and ’84, and started and won all three games in the 1884 World Series.  Bancroft said that after the Grays won the championship:

“President Allen kept his word, and gave him his release; but Rad didn’t take it.  The club offered him just twice as much salary for the next year.”

Radbourn pitched seven more seasons and finished his career with a 309-194 record.  After being accidentally shot in a hunting accident, and suffering from a variety of ailments, he died in February of 1897.

Bancroft remained in baseball until January of 1921 when he retired a business manager of the Cincinnati Reds. He died two months later at age 74.

“Go to Providence”

18 Jul

After Ned Hanlon guided the Brooklyn Superbas to horrible back-to-back seasons in 1904 and ’05 (56-97 sixth place, 48-104 eighth place) it was time for a parting of the ways between Hanlon and Brooklyn—it was announced that Hanlon had signed to manage the Cincinnati Reds in 1906.

Ned Hanlon

Ned Hanlon

During fifteen years with the franchise (eight in Baltimore, seven more in Brooklyn) Hanlon led them to five pennants and three second-place finishes, and according to The Brooklyn Eagle his departure “caused no end of regret among the wide circle of friends he had gained during his seven years stay here as head of the Superbas.”

But, the paper said, one man “learned of the change with greater dismay than anybody else.”  John Montgomery Ward, the former player, manager and leader of the Brotherhood was, by then, a successful Brooklyn attorney.

Ward and Hanlon were long-time friends and Hanlon had been an active member of the Brotherhood, but Ward said, more than that, he “owed my start as a successful ballplayer,” to Hanlon.

John Montgomery Ward

John Montgomery Ward

“I had begun my career as a professional that year with the Binghamtons, but along about June the club disbanded.  I received offers from Rochester and Providence to finish the season in the box. For I was pitching in those days, and went to Rochester to look over the field.  I was a boy of eighteen then, and inexperienced, and I was taken aback when the manager and players clamored for me to sign immediately.  Hanlon was captain of the team and he joined in the request for me to sign.  I asked them to give me a little time to think it over and went back to the hotel for that purpose.  Hanlon, and a well-known player of those days, Ed Caskin, followed me there, and continued their importunities.

“’I told them that it was my first year in the game, and then turning to Hanlon said ‘Mr. Hanlon, put yourself in my place and tell me what to do.  Advise me just as if you were speaking to a brother.’

“’Hanlon flushed up, looked at the floor, then at Caskin.  Then he turned to me.’

“’Go to Providence.’ He said.  Caskin coincided, and I took my bag and went to Cincinnati where the Grays were playing.  I made good with them (22-13 1.51 ERA) and gained fully five years of my career because of the sacrifice of Hanlon, who wanted me in Rochester.  We’ve been firm fiends ever since, the bonds being strengthened during his stay here.  I’m sorry he has gone, but I am confident he will have better success with the Reds.”

Despite Ward’s confidence, Hanlon was only slightly more successful with the Reds in 1906 and ’07 than he had been during his final two seasons in Brooklyn–64-87, 66-87, sixth place finishes.

Miah Murray

7 May

Jeremiah “Miah” Murray appeared in only 34 major league games, with four teams between 1884 and 1891.  In 31 games a catcher, he made 29 errors and was charged with 28 passed balls.

During that short career, he also became the subject of two stories which highlighted his shortcomings behind the plate.  Both stories appeared after the fact, so are subject to the usual caveats of 19th-century baseball stories.

Jeremiah "Miah" Murray

Jeremiah “Miah” Murray

In 1894 The New York Sun wrote about the most embarrassing episode Murray’s career—said to have taken place during his rookie season, 1884:

“(Murray) tells about a game he once caught in at Buffalo when he was a member of the Providence team.  There were three men on bases and he threw to (Jerry) Denny to catch a man napping, but the ball never got there.  It hit Jim O’Rourke, who was the batsman, on the side of the head and bounded into the grandstand, three men scoring and winning the game for Buffalo.  Jim staggered and cried out with pain, but the crowd simply cried with glee, O’Rourke’s hurt being entirely lost sight of in the enthusiasm.”

Murray’s manager during that 1884 season was Frank Bancroft who led Providence to the National League championship and a three games to zero victory over the New York Metropolitans of the American Association earning for the first time the title “World Champions” from The Sporting Life.

Frank Bancroft

Frank Bancroft

Bancroft compiled a 375-333 record over parts of nine seasons as a big league manager, before becoming an executive with the Cincinnati Reds.

It was while serving as the Reds’ Business Manager that Bancroft related another story about Murray’s brief time with Bancroft’s championship team.  The story first appeared in The New York  American in 1915:

“’Take it from me,’ said Frank Bancroft, while some of the fans were discussing famous bonehead plays, ‘the old timers pulled some bones that had all you youngsters blocked off the map.  Best I recollect, right now, was sprung by Miah Murray when he was catching for me…With a runner on first Miah steamed back to the stand a made a magnificent catch of a foul fly.  The crowd broke into roars of applause; Murray, leaning against the stand, took off his cap and bowed right and left—and the runner, sizing up the situation, lit out from first, kept right on going, and came all the way around while Miah kept bowing and the rest of the team were screeching and raving, all in vain.”

Murray later became a National League and college umpire; he was also a prominent boxing promoter and matchmaker in Boston where he operated the Lincoln Athletic Club of Chelsea, and later the Armory Athletic Club.  He died in Boston in 1922 at age 57.

Bancroft retired as business manager of the Reds in January of 1921; he died two months later at age 74.

“King of the Bushes”

23 Apr

Edward Francis “Ned” Egan was called “The Connie Mack of the minors” and the “King of the Bushes” during his managerial career.

It is likely that most of the statistics listed under Egan’s name on Baseball Reference and other sources  are for another player or players with the same surname.  Egan’s grave, burial record, birth and death record confirm that he was born on January 13, 1878, in St. Paul, Minnesota–which would make him 10-years-old for the first playing records for the “Ned Egan” listing.  Contemporary references to Egan’s playing career are vague–most say he played semi-pro ball in Minnesota beginning in 1897, and some sources say he was with St. Paul Saints in the Western League in 1901; although his name does not appear on any roster for the team.

What is certain is that his managerial career began 1902 and that he won eight pennants in 16 seasons.

Ned Egan

Ned Egan

Egan won championships in 1902 and 1903 with the Winnipeg Maroons in the Northern League,  then won six more with the Burlington Pathfinders (1906 Iowa League of Professional Baseball Clubs, 1908 Central Association), the Ottumwa Speedboys-Packers (1911,12 and ’13 Central Association), and the Muscatine Muskies (1916 Central Association).  The Washington Post called him “The Central Association’s chronic pennant winner.”

Egan was credited with helping develop several major leaguers including Burleigh Grimes, Lee Magee, Cy Slapnicka, Hank Severeid, and Cliff Lee.

Egan finally got his chance in the high minors in January of 1918, but it happened as a result of a fluke.  Al Timme, owner of the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association announced that Egan would be his new manager.  The Milwaukee Journal said:

 “A very peculiar circumstance brings ‘Ned’ Egan to the local club. When President Temme attended the meeting of the International League in New York some months ago the local prexy opened negotiations with Jack Egan, manager of the Providence club in 1917.  Jack Egan’s name was made public as the possible leader of the Brewers, but the press reports from the east said that ‘Ned’ Egan was being considered by Owner Temme [sic].

“The local baseball headquarters were immediately flooded with recommendations from major leaguers who unanimously stamped ‘Ned’ Egan as the logical man to lead the locals.  Subsequently, Temme [sic], who had not met the St. Paul man, realized that these endorsements of Ned Egan were worth taking stock of and finally he opened negotiations with him.”

Egan was signed to a “provisional contract for 1918, 1919 and 1920.”

Al Timme told reporters he had confidence in his new manager despite the mix-up, and despite the fact he had denied he had any interest in hiring him as recently as a week earlier:

“Ned Egan has devoted his entire life to baseball—is one of the best posted and able men in the game today.  No one has a wider or more favorable acquaintance, especially with major league club owners.  His development of players and many pennants prove conclusively Mr. Egan’s superior ability to build and handle a team.”

Egan returned home to Minnesota in late January, and while ice skating another skater ran into him, knocking him down.  Egan sustained what he thought was a minor back injury.

Ned Egan, 1918

Ned Egan, 1918

In February Egan contacted Timme and told the Brewer owner that the injury was more serious than originally thought; he had fractured two vertebrae and said that a doctor had recommended he resign.  The Journal said:

“Mr. Timme prompted Egan to reconsider.”

A month later after “his fighting spirit kept him on the job constantly,” Egan’s injury became so severe that he was no longer able to walk.  The Journal said:

“The St. Paul man is at present confined to the Sacred Heart sanatorium here, at the expense of the Milwaukee ball club.  He is a nervous wreck…Physicians cannot predict how long Egan will be incapacitated.”

The Brewers then hired Jack Egan, the manager Timme originally sought, to replace Ned Egan.

Egan was still in the sanatorium on May 4 when he was released for 3 days in order “to visit Chicago” and checked into the Grand Pacific Hotel.  On May 6 The Chicago Tribune said:

“Edward F. (Ned) Egan…was found dead with a revolver at his side in the Grand Pacific Hotel shortly after midnight this morning.  He had apparently been dead for hours.  Despondency, brought on by ill health, is believed to have led him to commit suicide.”

The Grand Pacific Hotel Chicago

The Grand Pacific Hotel Chicago

Timme told The Journal:

“So far as I have learned, his condition while at the sanatorium was improving.  I will have Mr. (Tom) Hickey (president of the American Association) obtain the facts from the police at Chicago.”

It was reported that Egan, who “owned considerable property in St. Paul,” was to be married in June.  His first wife had died in 1912, just more than a year after their marriage.  The day following his death, the Cook County Coroner confirmed the cause of death was suicide and said Egan was despondent over his injury.

The Milwaukee Sentinel published a eulogy for Egan written by long-time minor league umpire Oliver Otis “Ollie” Anderson:

“Umpires are supposed to have no feelings—to shed no tears, but they do bow their heads occasionally, and mine is bowed in thought, I have just read of the death of Ned Egan.

“As a baseball genius he was worthy of being compared to Comiskey, as a developer of players he was a Connie Mack, as a winner of pennants he was king of the bushers.  As a friend he was loyalty itself.

“What more can we say.”

“Radbourn would only Accept the Money on Condition that the Money be bet on him”

28 Feb

Like most 19th-Century players, Arthur Irwin was convinced the game didn’t get any better after he played.  He talked to a reporter from The Buffalo Times in 1906 and said there still had never been a pitcher who was better than one of his former teammates.

Arthur Irwin

Arthur Irwin

Irwin said:

“In my opinion (Charles “Old Hoss”) Radbourn was the greatest pitcher the world ever saw and I doubt if his equal will appear.  He had a spit ball and worked it to perfection, only it was not known under that name.”

Irwin’s recollections of Radbourn highlight how open gambling was in 19th Century baseball:

“I remember on one occasion when we (the Providence Grays) were playing the Boston team one of our stockholders came to the hotel the night before the game and said he had wagered $6,000 on the Providence club.  Then he told Rad that he would give him $500 if he would pitch.  Radbourn would only accept the money on condition that the money be bet on him and the $500 was so placed.  The afternoon of the game found Radbourn in grand form and he made the Boston players look like a bunch of minor leaguers, not one of them scoring.”

If the story is not apocryphal, it could refer to Radbourn’s 4-0 shutout of the Beaneaters on August 12, 1884 in Boston—it was his only shutout there while he and Irwin were teammates.

"Old Hoss" Radbourn

“Old Hoss” Radbourn

Irwin also told the reporter about an exhibition game in 1884 against the Toledo Blue Stocking in the American Association:

“When we arrived the night before the game we found that they were betting $10 to $7 against us.  That same evening the mayor of a small town some few miles away drifted into the hotel and during the conversation remarked that he guessed we were not very anxious to win the game.  Naturally, we asked why he said that and he said the odds were against us, with no Providence money in sight, but he was willing to bet $2,500 on us if Radbourn pitched.  It was not Radbourn’s turn, but when the mayor supplemented his remarks by offering to give Rad $100 if he went into the box, the offer was snapped up.  Toledo had such stars as Curt Welch and (Tony) Mullane.  Welch, who was the first man up, got to first base.  After that there was nothing to it and not another man reached first during the entire game.”

Not only were no current pitchers as good as Radbourn, Irwin said no current catcher was nearly as tough as another of his teammates with the Worcester Ruby Legs in 1880:

“One of the most remarkable exhibitions of catching I ever saw was performed by Charles Bennett…As you know, we did not use gloves in those days and the pitcher was allowed to take a hop and step before throwing the ball from the box, which was only 45 feet from the batter.  On three successive days Bennett caught 14, 15 and 16-inning games without any protection.  The following day we were booked to play New York and Bennett went in to catch.  After half a dozen balls had been pitched , Charley suddenly dropped his hands and walked away from the plate.  I at once ran over to him and a glance at his hands told me all I wanted to know.  Both hands were black and blue from the base of the fingers almost to the wrist and the bruises went clear through the hands.  Of course it was impossible for him to continue, but imagine the torture he must have suffered before he was forced to quit.  I don’t believe you could find a catcher today who would go through that experience.”

Charlie Bennett

Charlie Bennett

Irwin also didn’t have much use for the belief that the game had progressed in terms of strategy since his playing days:

“It is amusing to hear (John) McGraw and other talk about the wonderful progress made in playing scientific baseball.  I am sure we put up just as clever a game in the 80s as they do today, but we did not have fancy names for our plays.  We worked the squeeze, hit and run and other tricks.  When I first came to the Philadelphia club (1886) I worked the trap play and got away with it.  There were men on first and second and the ball was hit into short left field.  I yelled for (George) Wood to let me have it, although it was his ball.  Then I let it drop through my hands and the bleachers let out an unearthly holler.  I picked up the ball; shot it to second in time to tag the man there and then the other man was easy.  We had taken our places on the bench before the crowd got wise to the play and then the cheers more than made up for their hisses.”

Em Gross

5 Feb

Emil Michael “Em” Gross was one of the best hitting (.295) and worst fielding (233 errors) catchers of the 19th Century during five major league seasons between 1879 and 1884.  The Chicago Tribune’s Hugh Fullerton, no stranger to hyperbole, called Gross “perhaps the heaviest hitting catcher that ever donned a glove.”

Em Gross

Em Gross

Gross, a Chicago native, didn’t need baseball in order to earn a living.  In 1884, when he played with his hometown team, the Browns,  in the Union Association (the team relocated to Pittsburgh in August), The Chicago Daily News said he “owns $50,000 worth of real estate in Chicago.”

Gross’ professional career came to an end after the 1884 season, but he played one more year for a Chicago semi-pro team called the Heavyweights.  The Tribune said of the team:

“While they do not count a man who weighs less than 200 pounds, they have some great baseball talent.”

Fullerton is responsible for the story that was most often told about Gross’ career in the years before his death in 1921.

Like many of Fullerton’s stories, the first telling appeared more than a decade after the fact and contained vague details,  little corroboration and was likely apocryphal.

This one made its first appearance in a Fullerton column in 1907.  He said Gross’ biggest weakness “was in catching foul flies.  He tried for everything in sight, ran circles around the ball and sometimes speared it, but he never felt at ease when one of those tall, twisting fouls went up.”

The columnist claimed the story was “vouched for by two old ballplayers who watched it come off:”

“(Gross) was catching in Providence one day when a Philadelphia batter poked up a fly that looked 50 feet high.  There was a wind blowing and the ball began to twist around in circles, with Em doing a merry-go-rounder under it.  Finally, seeing that it was escaping he made a desperate effort to turn quickly and fell flat on his back.  To his amazement he discovered that, for perhaps the first time in his career, he was under the ball which was descending like a shot straight toward his nose.

“Instinctively he threw up his feet and hands to protect his face.  The ball struck the sole of his shoe, bounded up into the air, and, as it fell again, Em reached out and caught it.

“And the next morning the Providence papers had the nerve to say he did it on purpose.”

A cartoon which appeared with the 1914 retelling of the Gross story

A cartoon which appeared with the 1914 retelling of the Gross story

Fullerton continued to retell the story, with minor alterations, after he left The Tribune to join The Chicago Record-Herald, then The Chicago Examiner and The Tribune repeated the story several times over the years, with no byline, as well.

Gross was an important man in Chicago during the years Fullerton’s story circulated.  He owned several properties in the city, including two hotels, and his nephew, Fred A. Busse, was mayor of Chicago from 1907-1911.

Mayor Fred Busse

Mayor Fred Busse

Gross was known to help former baseball players in need; The Examiner called him “a refuge in time of trouble for all the old timers.”  When it was reported in 1907 that Joe Quest, a former National League, and American Association infielder, was “near death” from  tuberculosis in Georgia, he was living on, and managing a plantation owned by Gross—Quest survived and lived until 1924.

Joe Quest

Joe Quest

Gross told a story to Fullerton, then at The Examiner, about his attempt to help another player, William Henry “Bollicky Bill” Taylor during the 1890s.

“Taylor made an entre into Chicago without cash or credit and immediately swarmed upon Em and renewed old friendships. That was in November and along about midnight Em made the discovery that his friend had no money nor any place to sleep.  So he wrote a note to the manager of his hotels saying, ‘Take care of my friend Mr. Taylor, and give him what he needs.’  Em didn’t see ‘Bollicky’ again, but early in March his manager called him in the phone and inquired; ‘Say, how long do you want me to take care of your friend?’

“’What friend ‘inquired Em, who had forgotten all about it.

“Why the fellow you sent here with a note.’

“’Bollicky’ had wintered there and kept out of the path of his host, and when Em got through laughing, he ‘phoned back:

“Keep him as long as he has the nerve to stay.”

Gross never confirmed whether or not he made the catch Fullerton claimed he did.  He died in Eagle River, Wisconsin in 1921.