Tag Archives: Rochester Tribe

“The fans make us the ‘goat’ for Everything”

21 Nov

Chicago Orphans Manager Tom Burns suspended pitcher Bill Phyle without pay in August of 1899, even after Burns was replaced by Tom Loftus, Phyle remained in limbo.

Tom Loftus

Tom Loftus

In January Hugh Fullerton said in The Chicago Tribune that Loftus “probably will give him a chance.”  But in early February The Chicago Inter Ocean said even though Phyle had met with team President James Hart nothing had been resolved.  Phyle told the paper he was offered a contract but was “in no hurry to sign.”

Phyle finally signed at the end of the February, but The Tribune said Chicago would most likely trade him “although Loftus thinks highly of him.”

The team trained in West Baden Springs, Indiana, where according to The Tribune Phyle was “sarcastically called ‘Lucky,’ because of his proverbial hard luck, (he) rarely escapes a day without being hurt.”  He also managed to alienate his new manager.

After several days of poor weather in Indiana, Loftus decided to take the team further south, to Selma, Alabama on March 18.  According to The Tribune Phyle was not on the train:

“Phyle may not be with the team in Selma.  He left Friday (March 16), announcing he was going to see the fights in Chicago.  Manager Loftus hunted up the pitcher before he departed and told him it was a bad plan to start the year in such a manner.  Phyle then said he was ill and was making the journey in order to consult a physician in Chicago.”

Phyle did return from Chicago (where he claimed he had an unspecified operation), and joined the team on the trip south.  Upon his return he continued to suffer a series of illnesses and injuries, which included a bad reaction to a vaccination and a being hit in the knee with a thrown bat, both of which kept him inactive for several days.

Phyle was left in Chicago when the team opened the season in Cincinnati, and his imminent trade or release was speculated upon nearly daily in the Chicago press; he was finally traded to the Kansas City Blues in the American League with Sam Dungan and Bill Everitt for John Ganzel on May 18.  Phyle refused to report to Kansas City and spent the season playing for Chicago City League teams and a semi-pro team in DeKalb County, Illinois.  He was also a regular attendee at Chicago’s boxing venues and was said to own a piece of featherweight contender Eddie Santry.

Phyle returned to the National League in 1901 posting a 7-10 record for the New York Giants.  In 1902 he went to the California League as an infielder and never pitched again.  After his controversial exit from Memphis in 1903—and the aftermath—he continued to play until 1909.

Phyle worked as a boxing referee and as an umpire for more than 20 years in the Canadian, Eastern and Pacific Coast and International  Leagues, and was involved in two final controversies.

Bill Phyle, 1913

Bill Phyle, 1913

In 1920 a grand jury was impaneled in Los Angeles to investigate charges of game fixing in the Pacific Coast League.  Players Harl Maggert, William “Babe” Borton, Bill Rumler and Gene Dale were implicated.  While all criminal charges were eventually dismissed, the four were banned from baseball in 1921.

Phyle was called to testify in front of the grand jury, and said umpires were often blamed when players were crooked:

“The fans make us the ‘goat’ for everything that goes on during the ball game.  How many times we have suffered to suit the whims of a ballplayer who might have been working with the gamblers will never be known.  They just slough us around, call us whatever names they please and yell murder when we happen to fire them out of the game or have them suspended.

“An umpire should have the same authority as a referee has in the prize-ring.  If he believes a ballplayer isn’t giving his best toward the game, he ought to have the privilege of ousting him without taking the manager into confidence.”

In July of 1923 Phyle was working an International League game between the Baltimore Orioles and Rochester Tribe.  Phyle called a Rochester runner safe at first, then immediately reversed his decision.  He was dismissed the following day by league President John Conway Toole.

As a result of the dismissal, four other umpires resigned in sympathy.  Toole, who was attending the game, claimed he had not released him because of the blown call, but because Phyle had failed to work a double hitter he was assigned to earlier in the month.   The decision was upheld, and within three days the four other umpires withdrew their resignation.

Phyle ended his career back in the Pacific Coast League in 1926, and died in Los Angeles in 1953.

Filling in the Blanks—Fletcher Hodge, Fletcher Hodges

29 Aug

Baseball Reference lists Fletcher Hodge, a pitcher for Cleveland, Tennessee in the Appalachian League in 1921 and Grand Rapids in the Michigan-Ohio League in 1924, and Fletcher Hodges appearing in six games with the Rochester Tribe in the International League in 1924.   He was the same player, with a life that spiraled out of control after an arm injury.

Born Ernest Fletcher Hodge (various sources give his birth date between 1898 and 1900) in Advance, Missouri, Hodge pitched for local teams around Sikeston, Missouri. There’s no record of how big Hodge was, but newspaper stories described him as “The giant righthander.”

He went 8-11 in the Appalachian League in 1921 and there is no record of him in professional baseball again until 1924.  Hodge was 9-6 with 3.00 ERA in 16 games at Grand Rapids when his contract was purchased by Rochester.

Hodge appeared in six games with Rochester.  Although no statistics exist, it is clear Hodge did not pitch well in the International League.  When his contract was sold to Terre Haute in the Three-I League in August the Rochester Journal said “In all his starts with the Tribe he was wild as a tornado.”  Hodge also reportedly injured his arm while with the Tribe.

Shortly after his contract was sold to Terre Haute, Hodge had his first confirmed brush with the law; he was arrested in Cincinnati for attempting to pass several bad checks drawn on a Rochester bank.  There’s no record of the disposition of the case, but it was reported that Rochester owner Walter Hapgood had interceded to get the charges either reduced or dropped (depending on the source).

In either case, Hodge never played for Terre Haute or Rochester and it appears he never played professionally again, although there were at least five pitchers identified only as “Hodge” who pitched for various teams from 1925-27. (here, here, here, here, and here)

By 1930 Hodge was living in Sikeston, Missouri.  On the evening of June 13 he went to a rooming house in Blytheville, Arkansas where his wife was visiting her mother.  Hodge shot and killed his wife Anna and fired four shots at his mother-in-law, who escaped injury.  He escaped to Sikeston and then Poplar Bluff, Mo before being taken into custody.

Hodge’s trial was scheduled to begin on November 4, 1930 when he instead pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.  There is no record of Hodge’s death, or if he was ever released from prison.

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