Tag Archives: Rochester Bronchos

Slagle Climbs a Hill

20 May

Wilbur Goode had just been traded to the Chicago Cubs by the Boston Rustlers in an eight-player deal in June of 1911, when Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Record-Herald asked the 25-year-old to describe the greatest play he had ever witnessed:

“Of course, I haven’t been in fast company long enough to tell much about great plays, maybe not long enough to pretend to judge which are really great.”

goode.jpg

Goode

But Goode said Jimmy Slagle, his teammate the previous season with the Baltimore Orioles in the Eastern League made the greatest play he had ever seen:

“The play was made on the Rochester grounds and by Jimmy Slagle. The fans in the big circuit know Slagle perhaps better than I do and they have seen him make some wonderful plays—but perhaps never one under such circumstances.”

Goode said Slagle still had enough speed to live up to his nickname “Rabbit” even though he was 36 and playing his final season of professional baseball.

He said the field conditions in Rochester were thus:

“The grounds are rather strangely laid out. The diamond and outfield are cut down to a perfect level, and to make the outfield level part of a hillside was scraped down, leaving a terrace around the field, which in some spots is six feet higher than the field itself.”

Goode said it was late in a game with the Orioles holding a one-run lead over the Bronchos; Rochester had runners on first and second with no one out:

“The next batter raised the ball high and far to left center.

“Slagle had been playing deep, expecting a long fly, or at least to prevent a long hit from going through and beating us right there. The ball went high and on the line. There was a row of carriages and autos on the terrace. The runners held their bases for an instant, saw that the ball was going far up on top of the terrace, and believing no one could reach it, they both started for the plate.”

slagle.jpg

Slagle

Slagle raced to the base of the terrace:

“He leaped, put one foot against the side of the embankment and leaped again, shooting himself upward and landing on top of the terrace. The ball was going over and straight at a big red automobile. I remember the women in the machine screeched and dodged. Just then Slagle came bounding up onto the terrace, leaped again, stuck up both hands and grabbed that ball.”

After making the catch:

“Slagle ran to the edge of the bank, shot the ball in, and although the runner got back to first, the one returning to second was doubled and the game was saved.”

“One of the Greatest Shortstops the Game has ever Known.”

26 Dec

Ed McKean had played 12 years in Cleveland before being part of the mass player transfer to the St. Louis Perfectos before the 1899 season.  The career .302 hitter was struggling, and according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, he requested his release:

“Ed is very sensitive to criticism, and the papers have been roasting him lately, until he got into such a nervous state that he couldn’t play ball a little bit.”

Buck Ewing said he was “forced out of the game,” and “one of the greatest shortstops the game has ever known.”

McKean’s release opened the door for Hall of Famer Bobby Wallace’s switch to shortstop.

mckean

Edward [sic Edwin] J. McKean

McKean, like his former teammate Cupid Childs had a large build, and according to the St. Louis papers needed to shed a few pounds to get back into playing shape.

The St. Louis Republic said McKean intended to spend the next several months preparing to “play in Cleveland” the following season.

McKean, said The Buffalo Courier, had a “peculiar stand at the bat,” which “often balked” pitchers

“Instead of striking the conventional side or profile position in the batman’s box.  McKean gave the twirler a three-quarter view of his burly figure.”

The paper also said before becoming a ballplayer McKean had made a name for himself as a wrestler—contemporary news accounts occasionally referred to him as “Sandow,” because of his physique; a reference to Eugen Sandow the “father of modern bodybuilding”

McKean filled his time away from baseball by becoming a wrestling and boxing referee in Cleveland—if he was looking for a job that shielded him from criticism, he chose wrong.  McKean served as referee for at Cleveland’s Business Men’s Gym, between Art Simms and Tommy White in December on 1899.  The St. Louis Republic described the situation:

“Sandow Ed McKean, the burly grounder-copper, who secured a divorce from St. Louis on the ground of incompatibility of temperament, finds life as a referee of pugilistic encounters no less a bed of roses than playing short before a critical local crowd…Experts and common spectators asseverate that White was a winner by a mile, but Sandow fumbled the points of the game, let the strikes registered by White go over without calling them, and said it was a draw.  The people yelled for a rope, and McKean thought he was again staggering at short in League Park…It was not the hated yet harmless ‘Take him out!’ that was heard, but ‘Hang the robbing rascal.’”

McKean was accused of “being in cahoots” with Simms’ manager, who the paper said was a former Boston sportswriter who McKean knew from his playing days.

White hailed from Chicago, and one of his hometown papers The Inter Ocean was even harsher in their assessment of McKean.  The paper claimed:

“(White) took Mr. Art Simms in hand and administered probably the most terrific beating that had been handed out to a pretentious lightweight in recent years…(but) McKean, who used to be a fair sort of infielder, under Patsy Tebeau, called the bout a draw.”

The Chicago paper not only questioned McKean’s integrity but claimed that three of the four recent fights he had refereed “have been marked by decisions almost as ludicrous.”

Curiously, both papers failed to mention that Simms had participated in three of the four fights in question—coming away with a 2-0-1 record for the three bouts (Simms was 33-14-9 for his career and 5-0-1 in fights officiated by McKean.)

Throughout the 1900 season McKean’s imminent return was reported—usually bound for the Cleveland Lake Shores in the American League.  The Sporting News said in June:

“McKean is hard at work practicing to get into the game.  He goes to League Park every day, and the way that he works indicates that he is not out there for fun.”

Cleveland used six different shortstops during the 1900 season, but McKean was never signed.  Published reports that he would sign with the New York Giants never materialized either.

mckean2

McKean

His sitting out the entire season might have saved a life—while working at his bar The Short Stop Inn on St. Clair Avenue and Seneca (present day Third Street) in Cleveland in August of 1900, he, according to press reports, stop a potential lynching.

The Cleveland News said a news boy threw a rock at a black man, and when the man confronted the rock thrower:

“(Twenty) news boys took up the trouble. They followed the negro threatening him until he turned on them (near McKean’s saloon).”

Another confrontation took place in front of the saloon and “a volley of stones were fired at” the man who then ran into McKean’s business.

“Other newsies joined their companions until 150 boys were standing in front of the place.  Their noise attracted a crowd of men and all became excited when they explained that a negro had attacked them.

“’It’s nothing but a boys fight,’ said McKean, trying to quiet the crowd.  But he did not succeed.  Men and boys collected stones and clubs, and the situation was becoming dangerous when McKean took the negro out the back way while employees guarded the front entrance.  McKean boosted the man over the back fence and he made his escape through Noble Street.”

McKean spent all of 1901 managing his bar, working as a referee—without any further charges of crookedness—and training wrestlers; Although The Cleveland Leader reported in the spring that McKean was again working out at League Park and had “many offers from the American League.”

He finally returned to baseball in 1902, signing to manage and play first base for the Rochester Bronchos in the Eastern League.

McKean hit .314 but the club struggled all season and The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle said McKean had for some time “wanted to be released from the team” to attend to his bar.  His wish was granted on August 18—with the team in sixth place with a 42-53 record, he was replaced by Hal O’Hagan—the team went 15-21 under O’Hagan.

McKean returned to his bar, managing wrestlers, and umpiring amateur games in 1903 and 1904, all the while, promising another comeback.  Several newspapers reported he was either considering, or on the verge of joining various minor league clubs as manager.

He returned again in 1905.  McKean signed to manage and play shortstop for the Colorado Springs Millionaires in the Western League. He struggled at the plate—hitting .191 in 22 games–and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said his arm was gone and he was “slated for the junk pile.”  Released by Colorado Springs in June, McKean appeared with seven more teams through the 1908 season: the 44-year-old called it quits for at the end of the 1908 season.

McKean refereed the occasional fight, organized semi-pro teams around Cleveland, and maintained his bar, which was the meeting place for baseball, boxing, and wrestling fans.  At some point he appears to have closed his bar and gone to work for Cleveland boxing promoter

When he died in 1919, The New York Sun noted that McKean was:

“(O)ne of four big league shortstops who had a life’s average batting .300 or better.  Jack Glasscock, Hughie Jennings, and Honus Wagner were the others, and it might be added that this quartet were classed as the greatest shortstops in the game.”

A Goat and a Dog

9 Jul

Edward John “Goat” Anderson played just one season in the major leagues, hitting .205 for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1907.  He also played 10 seasons in the Central, Eastern and Western Leagues.

Described as eccentric, he made an impression on The Fort Wayne Sentinel in 1903, his first professional season with the South Bend Greens:

“’Goat’ Anderson who made it a rule during the games here to leave his post and come into the infield to argue every point raised by the umpire’s decisions, has stamped himself as the prize rowdy of the association.”

The Pittsburgh Leader said Pirate outfielder Tommy Leach had recommended the team sign Anderson, and told a reporter in the spring of 1907 that Anderson made the team because he was willing to stand up to Manager Fred Clarke while training in Hot Springs, Arkansas:

“(Clarke) had told Anderson to bunt at the signal from a man on first…The ball was pitched five feet outside, and of course, the catcher flagged the man going to second.  Anderson made no move to bunt or even to strike at the ball.  Clarke started to call him.  ‘Shut up,’ you don’t know all there is in the books,’ Anderson replied.  The answer made Clarke gasp…’All right, son,’ grinned Clarke.  ‘I guess you haven’t got stage fright when you can give it to your manager that way.’”

Edward John “Goat” Anderson

Edward John “Goat” Anderson

 

His excellent fielding, .343 on base percentage and 27 stolen bases with the Pirates impressed the local press, if not the fans.  George Moreland of The Pittsburgh Press said:

“Some fans are of the opinion that “Goat” Anderson, the hustling little right fielder of the Pittsburgh team, is not much of a general use to the Pirates, and that a good move would be made to get another man for the job.  These same fans are the ones who believe that a ballplayer is not worth his salt unless he is a slugger of the Wagnerian stripe…Manager Fred Clarke knows how to win games, and he also knows where to place a player in the batting order to get the most out of him.  That is the reason that the ‘Goat’ has been put at the top of the list to lead off.  It is not that Anderson makes a large number of hits.  Even when he does hit, he has difficulty in getting the ball out of the diamond.  But, somehow or other he manages to get to first base just about as often as any of them and when he does get there he is not slow about getting around the circuit.”

The Leader was even more enthusiastic about the new outfielder:

“The way little Goat Anderson has been hitting the ball and running bases insures him a permanent berth in the outfield.  Anderson has proved one of the finds of the season.  If there ever was another Wee Willie Keeler it is Anderson.  He is a ‘drop hitter’ of the Keeler style, and can run bases and bunt with the star of the New York Highlanders.  As a matter of fact, Anderson is of more value to the team than Keeler, because the latter’s star seems to be sinking.”

Despite the praise, Anderson was sold to the Rochester Bronchos of the Eastern League in January of 1908.

While with Rochester, Anderson attempted to get a patent on a sliding pad he invented; there is no record of a patent being awarded.  He also suggested a novel idea for improving his batting average.

The Lexington Herald said Anderson, who trained in Kentucky with the Bronchos before the 1909 season made this recommendation:

“Cut down the size of the home plate and I’ll hit .500 as long as the season lasts.  Where the front of the home plate is seventeen inches wide make it 10 or 12.  Then the batter will be able to get an even break with the pitcher, who now has everything in his favor.  With a home base half its present size a pitcher would need perfect control to get the ball over.  All this business of cutting across the inside and outside would be a thing of the past.  There wouldn’t be enough of the plate to give the pitcher the advantage of feeding outside low ones that can only be hit into someone’s hands…With a home base ten inches wide the ball would have to look pretty good right from the start, and if it didn’t a batter could easily pass it up.  There would be more bases on balls at the start, and that would mean a base on balls or a hit, or a hard liner that would bring a fine fielding play.  A smaller plate seems to me to be the thing.”

The small plate was the wish of a man who hit .222, .201 and .138 from 1908-1910 in Rochester.

Goat Anderson saved his greatest moment for his final season in professional baseball.  As the manager and leftfielder for the Terre Haute Terriers (or Terre-iers) in the Central League, he filed one of the most unusual game protests in history.

Goat Anderson (2), with the Terre Haute Terriers.

Goat Anderson (2), with the Terre Haute Terriers.

The Terriers were leading the Fort Wayne Champs 6 to 0 in the bottom of the seventh inning during the first game of a doubleheader.  Fort Wayne had a runner on first base with no outs with catcher Harry Martin at the plate.  The Fort Wayne Daily News picks up the story:

“Martin poked a drive into left field.  The ball rolled almost to the club house with ‘Goat’ Anderson in full cry after it.  Then came the cause for the protest in the person of Don.”

“Don” was a Great Dane who belonged to a Fort Wayne man named Ed Longfield.

“Don can’t bite, and wouldn’t if he could, but Anderson didn’t for sure know that, so ‘Goat’ hesitated a second in chasing the ball and Martin got a triple, Ted Anderson scoring. “

Fort Wayne went on to score six runs in the inning to tie the game and scored a run in the 10th to win 7 to 6.

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette said:

“Toothless Don, Ed Longfield’s dog, is supposed to be harmless.  Goat Anderson, Terre Haute manager and left fielder evidently doesn’t think so and because dog Don jumped at him during the seventh inning romp in the first game yesterday Goat will file a protest with President (Louis) Heilbroner, requesting the game be played over.”

Heilbroner ruled against Anderson’s protest saying the play did not have a sufficient impact on the outcome of the game, but he did order that Don would no longer be allowed on the field during games.

Terre Haute finished fifth in the six-team league with 60-79 record.  Anderson was rumored to be considering offers from Federal League teams for 1914, but never signed with a team and his career was over.

He returned to his home in South Bend, Indiana.  He died of stomach cancer 10-years later at age 43.

A Thousand Words—Deacon McGuire’s Left Hand

14 Jun

mcguirehand

 

James “Deacon” McGuire caught more than 1600 games in a career that spanned parts of 26 seasons between 1884 and 1912.  He broke every finger on both hands and suffered thirty-six separate injuries to his left hand.  In 1906, his x-ray was acquired by the New York papers after yet another injury.

The New York World said doctors were “amazed to see the knots, like gnarled places on an old oak tree, around the joints, and numerous spots showing old breaks.”

Deacon McGuire

Deacon McGuire

Zimmer Rules

20 Dec

After Charles “Chief” Zimmer’s single, difficult season managing the Philadelphia Phillies he briefly became a National League umpire.

Reports said the adjustment from player and manager to umpire were difficult at first.  According to a brief story that appeared in several newspapers on the eve of Opening Day:

“Chief Zimmer umpired the Pittsburgh-Little Rock game last week, but he could not resist coaching the players, for he forgot himself once in the third inning and yelled ‘Look out!’ to (Tommy) Leach when Little Rock was trying to catch him off first.”

But by May he seemed to have eased into his new position, telling reporters:

“I hesitated about taking up the work, knowing that the life of an umpire is supposed to be filled with anything but joy.  However, I can honestly say that I am more than pleased with the experience thus far.  I have had no trouble at all, and players and spectators have accorded me the best treatment.  I don’t think I’d give up my present work to go back to catching.”

In September The Pittsburgh Press said there was “No doubt (Zimmer) will be reappointed,” as a National League umpire in 1905, but by January it was announced that he had not been retained.

Zimmer entertained offers to play for the Toledo Mud Hens of the American Association and the Rochester Bronchos of the Eastern League, but instead took a position as an Eastern League umpire.

He returned as a player/manager the following season with the Little Rock Travelers in the Southern Association.

Through it all Zimmer was one of baseball’s earliest and best self-promoters.  In addition to endorsing Zimmer’s Baseball Game and his cigars, produced in what The Sporting Life said was “an extensive cigar factory in Cleveland.”  Zimmer always talked to reporters and always gave them something to write about, including his ideas for rule changes.

Zimmer's Baseball Game

Zimmer’s Baseball Game

In 1905 The Pittsburgh Press said “’Chief’ Zimmer has a scheme which he thinks would increase batting without abolishing the foul strike rule.” (The “scheme” was not Zimmer’s idea; it had been advocated by some for more than two decades, including “Cap” Anson and Zimmer’s former boss, Cleveland part owner Davis Hawley).  The plan would:

“Increase the territory of the fielders without increasing the length of the base lines…new foul lines (would be) drawn from the home plate to the fences.  At the point where they would pass first and third bases the lines would be six feet distant from the bases, gradually increasing the distance from the present foul lines as they neared the fences.”

Later he can out in favor of abolishing the foul strike rule when the issue was briefly discussed in the aftermath of the relatively low-scoring 1905 World Series.

In 1909 Zimmer suggested another rule; this one would essentially eliminate intentional walks by allowing any man on base to advance one base after a walk.  Zimmer said:

“It’s not right for a pitcher to take away Lajoie’s chance of hitting by walking him when there are men on bases.  I saw Larry passed four times in two games last fall.  He was paid to hit with the men on bases…Pitchers would have to put the ball over and the good batters would get a chance to do what they are paid for.”

Luckily like most of the other odd rule changes suggested during baseball’s first several decades, Zimmer’s “schemes” received little traction as both would have radically altered the game.  But Zimmer’s rules did succeed in accomplishing what they were most likely intended to do: they kept Zimmer’s name in the paper long after his career was over.

A final post on Zimmer and, perhaps, his greatest contribution tomorrow.