Tag Archives: Ray Morgan

“The Chief Menace to Baseball”

5 Feb

“To my mind the chief menace to baseball, under its present handicaps, is the presence of so much big money behind certain clubs.”

So said Robert Hedges to John E. Wray of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch after he sold the St. Louis Browns in December of 1915.

“There are in the game today certain capitalists financially able to force a winner.”

Frank Menke of the National News Association asked:

“Is Hedges right—or wrong?”

Hedges

Menke said the “greatest team ever welded together in American League history was Connie Mack’s Athletics.”

Mack, he said, “didn’t pay much more for his stars than the ordinary man pays in one year for cigars.”

In the National League he said the Giants were “supposed to be backed by wealth…and unlimited bank roll was at the command of John McGraw in 1915,” but the Giants had finished last.

Charles Comiskey, he said “spent more than $100,000 in trying to ‘buy’ a pennant winner. He failed.”

The National League pennant winning Phillies, he said, “are not wealthy yet they breezed in under the wire a winner,” and did so with “a bunch of misfits making u the club.”

Menke concluded:

“Money can’t make ‘em win a pennant.”

Hedges might have been carrying a grudge about other owners who, he alleged, refused to make deals with him.

Sid Keener of The St. Louis Times claimed Indians owner Charles Somers “Lied” to Hedges and told him Joe Jackson was not available before trading him to the White Sox for three players and $31,500 in August of 1915 (The $31,500 price is according the Baseball Reference; contemporaneous accounts in the Chicago and Cleveland papers reported the sale price between $15,000 and $25,000, while The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the sale price as $30,000).

Jackson

Hedges said he offered $20,000 but was told by Somers, “Jackson is not for sale at any price.”

The Post-Dispatch’s coverage of the sale seems to refute the claim that Hedges was misled about Jackson’s availability, implying that the Browns “bid $20,000,” for Jackson and were simply outbid by Comiskey’s offer which included three players.

The Cleveland News said that early in the negotiations for Jackson, Comiskey offered only $20,000:

“Friday, (the day before the deal was finalized) Clark Griffith offered $20,000 for Jackson and later tendered a proposition which carried $12,500 in cash and infielder Ray Morgan. Hedges might have landed the Indians’ slugger for $15,000 and a couple of players.”

Hedges apparently ended up making quite a haul on his investment in the Browns. When he sold the club to Philip De Catesby Ball, who owned the Federal league St. Louis Terriers in 1914-15, Keener said in The Times:

“Hedges, long dubbed “Tail-End Bob” by his fellow magnates, is quitting the game with $500,00, quite an increase over the $30,000 he had when he came in with the American League with the first baseball raid, investing that amount with the Milwaukee franchise. Although the Browns have been the joke team of the circuit, and although Hedges has been panned time and time again for seemingly inexcusable errors, no one doubts his business ability.”

Keener estimated that Hedges walked away with $252,000 from the sale alone.

The Post-Dispatch was less sure of Hedges’ business acumen. The paper had reported on the day of the sale, December 24, the same figure as Keener—that Hedges made $225,000 from the sale—however, on Christmas Day, Post-Dispatch reporter William J. O’Connor told a different story:

“That Col. R.L. Hedges was only a spectator during the final days of negotiations for the sale of the Browns and that he didn’t realize fully on the profits made on the stock of the minority shareholders who sold to a Cincinnati syndicate for $500 the share, are the latest developments in the local baseball plot.”

O’Connor claimed Hedges “lost control of stock” in the club before the sale and the majority of the estimated $400,000 sale price—Ball told the paper $400,000 wasn’t “near the real price,” but he was “pledged to secrecy” regarding the actual amount—went to the Cincinnati syndicate that bought out the minority stockholders.

Lynn Carlisle “L.C.” Davis of The Post-Dispatch concluded that Hedges did not make the amount originally reported, but:

“While Col. Hedges may have received the hot end of the poker in disposing of the Browns stock, it is though that the Colonel will have enough to tide him over the winter and discourage the wolf from hanging around the portcullis next winter.”

Davis, on another occasion, told readers about the “peculiar case’ of the Browns owner being called “Colonel” Hedges:

“His title was not earned on either the field of battle or politics. It just grew on him and stuck.”

Hedges, who was rumored to be interested in purchasing another club—most notably the Cincinnati Reds, never returned to baseball.

He died in 1932.

“This whole Trouble, Disgraceful to be sure, may be Blamed directly on Jack Sheridan”

14 Mar

On April 7, 1901, The San Francisco Call reported that John F. “Jack” Sheridan had accepted an offer from President Ban Johnson to continue working as an umpire in the American League—which operated as a minor league the previous season.  The paper said “The National League also made a bid for his services.  He will receive $400 a month and expenses.”  It was said to be “the largest salary ever paid to an umpire.”

Sheridan was a former player, a second baseman and outfielder, who played for several San Francisco teams in the California League, including stints with the Haverlys from 1883-85.  He went East in 1885 and appeared in six games for the Chattanooga Lookouts in the Southern league, and that same season began working as an umpire.

sheridanpix

Jack Sheridan

Years later, Mique Fisher, long-time California and Pacific Coast League manager and executive told The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review that Sheridan was signed by the Lookouts after he “sold himself to Chattanooga through a glowing personal description of his own ability,” but Fisher said:

 “Sheridan couldn’t field a ball with a fish net or hit one with a tennis racket.  When the Chattanooga manager saw Sheridan in action, he swore out a warrant charging him with obtaining money fraudulently.  Sheridan had to work out the expense advance in a cigarette factory.”

He worked as an umpire in the Southern League (1885, ‘93), the California League (1886-89, ’91), the Players League (1890), the National League (1892, ’96-97), and the Western/American League (1894-95, 1898-1900).

The best-paid umpire in the game, who was also a San Jose undertaker during the off-season, traveled from his California home to Chicago in early April of 1901, but a detour in Missouri nearly cost him his job.

The Chicago Tribune said Sheridan left the train “and was taken into custody on account of his strange actions.”  The Fort Wayne Sentinel said among the “strange actions” Sheridan “donned his uniform and started to umpire an imaginary game in the middle of the street.”

Johnson sent fellow American League Umpire “Pongo” Joe Cantillon to Missouri to get Sheridan released and accompany him to Chicago.  Sheridan was admitted to St. Elizabeth Hospital.  The Tribune said he was suffering from “nervous prostration,’ while The Cincinnati Enquirer said the league president said Sheridan was “on a protracted drunk.”

The day after he was admitted to the hospital two friends were given permission to take Sheridan out for a walk, The Chicago Inter Ocean said:

“As they reached Milwaukee Avenue and Division Street, a (street) car whirled by, and Sheridan swung himself on the rear coach.  His friends yelled in vain to the conductor to stop the train, and lost sight of Sheridan.

“They at once notified the police department to look out for Sheridan…Detective Fitzgerald found Sheridan wandering aimlessly on Jackson Boulevard near Wabash…Sheridan did not know where he was, nor could he tell where he had been since escaping from his friends.”

As Sheridan waited to appear in court to determine whether he was insane, newspapers speculated that Johnson would replace the umpire with either former player Warren “Hick” Carpenter or former Western and National League umpire Al Manassau—Manassau was appointed to the American League staff two days before the season began.

Before he could be adjudicated insane Sheridan made a miraculous recovery just one week into the season.  The San Jose Evening News said:

“Mrs. Sheridan, the mother of Jack Sheridan, the noted baseball umpire, has received a telegram from her son, who is in Chicago, stating that he has fully recovered from his derangement and that he could now continue with his contract.”

Sheridan was back on the field before the month of April of over.  He was competent, served as the American League umpires “chief of staff,”  and umpired in four World Series (1905, 07, 08 and 10); he was also selected, along with National League umpire Bill Klem, to join the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants on their world tour after the 1913 season.

But he also demonstrated erratic behavior for the rest of his career.

Just a month after returning to the field The Sporting Life said “Sheridan became frantic and ran up and down the field like a crazy man,” after a disputed call at home plate in the bottom of the ninth of a May 31 game in Detroit between the Tigers and Baltimore Orioles, which led to Sheridan awarding the game to the Tigers by forfeit.

The Sporting Life’s Baltimore correspondent said Sheridan was “held by President Johnson as a competent man,” despite his “habits.”

He resigned on at least three occasions.  After the 1905 and 07 seasons he said he was retiring to return to San Jose and become a full-time undertaker, only to return the following spring and in June of 1910, he abruptly quit minutes before a game in Washington, but returned within several weeks.

When Sheridan again took the field The Washington Post said he would “establish a precedent, as he will be the only major league umpire wearing glasses.”

Sheridan was also arrested in October of 1907 after a barroom brawl that began over a dispute over $120.  The Associated Press said when police searched Sheridan he was carrying $2700.  He was released from jail the following day after being fined $10.

On July 30, 1914, Sheridan called Ray Morgan of the Washington Senators out on a close play at first base in Detroit.  The Washington Post said Morgan, who had slid, “came up with a handful of dirt and threw it on the ground at Sheridan’s feet…Sheridan evidently thought that Morgan intended to hit him, and did not even give the National’s second sacker time to put up his guard, but whaled away at his smaller opponent.”

Ray Morgan

Ray Morgan

Morgan punched Sheridan, and after both dugouts emptied, Sheridan was also punched by Washington’s Eddie Ainsmith.  The disturbance spilled over to the stands with a few Washington players, including Morgan and Ainsmith, taking on Detroit fans before police restored order.

The Post said:

“This whole trouble, disgraceful to be sure, may be blamed directly on Jack Sheridan, the umpire, who has been at fault so many times this year.  In the first place Sheridan has threatened to beat up several of the Washington players.  Sheridan told (David “Mutt”) Williams and (Joe) Engel that he would punch them in the nose, the same as he had Morgan, if they did not do as he told them.”

Ban Johnson never took action against Sheridan for the incident in Detroit, but Morgan and Ainsmith drew suspensions from the league.

On August 1, 1914, The Associated Press reported that “The baseball players fraternity intends to take steps to have Umpire Jack Sheridan retired from service on grounds of incompetence.”

The incident, and dust up on August 12 with Jack Fournier of the White Sox inspired a poem from The Chicago Tribune’s Ring Lardner:

Making Night Hideous

Oft in the stilly night,

Ere slumber’s chain has bound me

Fond memory brings the sight

Of athletes crowding round me;

The scowls, the sneers

Of Jack Fourniers

And Morgans strike my vision;

I hear the barks

And rude remarks

That greet each close decision.

Thus in the stilly night,

Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,

I sometimes get tight up and fight

The chairs and tables round me.

At the end of the 1914 season, Sheridan returned to California.  On October 31 The Associated Press reported that Sheridan would not be returning as an umpire:

“Sheridan will probably be retained as a sort of supervisor of umpires, spending his time roaming around the circuit.”

Just three days later Sheridan died of heart failure in San Jose at age 62—he was said to have suffered sunstroke during an August game and never fully recovered.  Ban Johnson supported him to the end; just weeks before the umpire died the American League president told a reporter:

“I sincerely doubt if the baseball game will ever know another Jack Sheridan.  He had all of the virtues of other arbiters, and none of their mistakes.”