Tag Archives: Sacramento Senators

“There is a Heap about Baseball that I do not Know”

4 May

After Ted Sullivan blamed Joe Nealon’s father for his failure to secure the first baseman for the Reds, James C. Nealon was not going to let his accusations stand, and sent a letter in response to Sullivan’s letter to The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“The public has always permitted, and will always permit a man who has lost the object he was seeking to compensate himself for the loss is excusing his failure by some worthy and absurd explanation, or by throwing the responsibility of the failure on someone else.”

Nealon said he was forced to respond because Sullivan “falsely placed myself and my son in an unenviable light.”

Nealon said he only cared about his son going to the club with “the best and most congenial associations,” and initially, many people he trusted told him Cincinnati was the best option.

He said Sullivan was the reason he and his son changed their minds.  Nealon said he checked train schedules and determined that Sullivan—who left Cincinnati on October 28—could have arrived in California no later than November 3, yet he did not hear from the Reds representative until after the contract was signed with Pittsburgh on November 6.

Nealon also said while he received a telegram from August Herrmann, Cincinnati Reds owner, with the offer of “a certain sum more than any other club,” he never shared that information with the Pirates Fred Clarke, and that the combination of being insulted by the Reds making their offer just about money and Sullivan not arriving in time made up his mind, and as a result:

 “I advised my son to sign a contract with any club he desired.”

After Sullivan arrived in San Francisco, Nealon said:

“He admitted to me that it was all his fault, yet he seeks in your paper to advise the public that it was the fault of my son and myself…I would rather (Joe) fail then to commit a dishonorable act, and I do not want the people of Cincinnati to believe his entry into the major league was associated in any manner with unfairness or unfair dealing.  Mr. Sullivan knows it was not.”

Joe Nealon wrote a letter to The Pittsburgh Post, and said he understood that when he joined the team in Hot Springs. Arkansas:

“There is a heap about baseball that I do not know.  I am eager to learn, however, and will gladly go under instructions.”

joenealon2

Joe Nealon

Even after the beginning of the 1906 season, the stories about what influenced Nealon to sign with the Pirates would not go away.  In May is was reported that it was Jake Beckley, former first baseman for the Reds and Pirates who influenced Nealon to accept Clarke’s offer.  Nealon told The Pittsburgh Press that Beckley had nothing to do with his decision, and continued to blame Sullivan who he said did not “keep faith” with him and his father.

Nealon appeared in every game, hit the Pirates first home run of the 1906 season on May 5, tied Harry Steinfeldt for the league lead in RBI, and led all NL first basemen in total chances and putouts.

At the end of the season it was widely reported that Nealon would not return to the Pirates for the 1907 season.  After the team lost five straight games in September and slipped to third place, Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss went on a tear to a wire service reporter—The Philadelphia Inquirer, under the headline “Barney Dreyfuss Lets Himself say Things” said:

“(Dreyfuss said) if his team doesn’t win second place for him he will keep their noses to the grindstone barnstorming for him until their contracts have run out (on October 16)”

Dreyfuss told the reporter:

“One of the things that ails our team is that there are too many capitalists on it.  The boys know that they do not have to play ball for a living, and sometimes that may affect their playing.  There is only one of the old players on the Pittsburgh team who is playing as a means of livelihood—that’s (Tommy) Leach.  The other could give up the game anytime.”

Nealon left the team immediately after the final game in Cincinnati and did not participate in the tour.  The San Francisco Call said he was done:

“Nealon, who became a great favorite in Pittsburgh and all over the league circuit, has had several grievances against Pittsburgh, and it was announced some time ago that the big San Francisco lad had declared himself in no unmeasured terms that he did not have to take the worst of it from anyone connected with the club, nor would he more than one season.”

The Call said Nealon became disenchanted in Pittsburgh when Dreyfuss attempted to trade him and “other Pittsburgh players” to the Brooklyn Superbas for Harry Lumley and Tim Jordan “although Captain Clarke had guaranteed him a full and free tryout for a year.”

Nealon returned to San Francisco to play winter ball, but he failed to make a trip to Stockton for the first game.  The San Jose Evening News said:

“Many San Joseans who took the trip to Stockton…were disappointed in not seeing Joe Nealon…the big first baseman, met with an accident Saturday evening.”

While racing to catch the train to Stockton, Nealon tripped and fell into a stone wall.  He broke two bones in his left hand.”

In December, the Pittsburgh papers reported that Nealon had declared himself “Completely healed,” in a letter to Barney Dreyfuss.

By February The Pittsburgh Press was assuring readers:

“Reports from the West have Joe Nealon in the best condition of his career.  Just keep your eyes on this big fellow this season; he is going to be a winner in every sense of the word.”

Despite the high expectations, Nealon was a disappointment to the pirates when he reported to  West Baden, Indiana in March.  The Press said:

“If the fans at home could see big Joe Nealon now they would not know him.  With his sweater on he looks like a three hundred pounder.”

Nealon actually weighed 216 pounds, roughly 20 pounds heavier than he was in 1906.

Additionally, The Pittsburgh Post said Nealon was experiencing stiffness in his left hand.

The Press announced that Nealon had gotten down to his playing weight and that his had had healed just in time for the opening of the season, but a knee injury sliding into second during the Pirates third game sidelined him for nearly two weeks, and according to The Post included a visit to John “Bonesetter” Reese, the Youngstown, Ohio doctor who treated many major leaguers.

Nealon was hitting just .217 in June when The Washington Post noted that two California Thoroughbreds—Nealon and Joe Nealon—both bred by friends of Nealon’s father, and both stakes race winners in 1907, were having decidedly better years than the first baseman.

Nealon steadily improved his batting average but had already fallen out of favor with fans and in the papers.  Rumors persisted that the Pirates were trying to trade for Fred Tenney of the Boston Doves.  By September, The Press said:

 “There is suspicion among the Pittsburgh players that Tenney may be secured as first baseman…to succeed Joe Nealon whose work this season is said to have been below standard.”

When Harry Swacina was purchased by the Pirates from the Peoria Distillers in the Three-I League that same month, the Pittsburgh correspondent for The Sporting News said:

 “He is an improvement over Joe Nealon in every department of the game.”

The New York Sun summed up the consensus view:

“Joe Nealon came out of California with the reputation of being a better first baseman than Hal Chase was, but in making a big league reputation Chase simply lost his fellow Californian.”

Swacina hit just .200, but got most of the playing time at first base in September, Nealon finished with a .257 average.

joenealon

Nealon

The Press speculated in November about who would play first base for the Pirates in 1908:

“Most of the fans have eliminated Joe Nealon from the competition all together, for it is an open secret that both President (Barney) Dreyfuss and Manager (Fred) Clarke were displeased with the way the young Californian acted this year, and it is presumed that no further time will be wasted with him, but that he will either be traded or released outright.”

In December, Nealon ended any remaining speculation by announcing his retirement—two weeks before his 23rd birthday. The Post said:

“The big Californian has quit the professional diamond for all time and will become a partner in business with his millionaire father…But for the intercession of Fred Clarke, it is said he would have been asked to retire about mid season, alleged infractions of the club’s rules and his general attitude of indifference being criticized by the local management.”

Nealon went to Hawaii in December with a team of West Coast stars—including Bill Lange and Orval Overall— formed by Mique Fisher and told reporters he would play weekends in San Francisco in 1908.

After returning from Hawaii, Nealon made his retirement official in a letter to Dreyfuss.  The Press said:

Joe writes that he is helping his father  who has a contract to erect a large public building in California…he asks, however, that his name be kept on Pittsburgh’s reserve list and wishes his teammates the best of luck.”

Nealon went to work with his father and appeared in 62 games for the Sacramento Senators in the California State League in 1908—hitting .372; as late as July he was hitting .436.  Nearly every Pacific Coast League time tried to sign him that summer, but The Oakland Tribune said:

“(Nealon) declared positively to the writer yesterday that he would not play ball, except as he is doing now, and Joe said there was not enough money in any of the Coast League treasuries to make him change his mind.”

Despite his protestations, nearly every team on the West Coast sought to sign Nealon.  Charlie Graham, Owner of the Sacramento Sacts made an offer that The San Francisco Call said led Nealon to tell a friend he wasn’t sure he could refuse.  He eventually did refuse, and instead signed to play for the Oakland Commuters in the California State League. The Call said he was the highest paid player on the West Coast.

Nealon captained the Oakland club, and hit .274 in 138 games.  How Nealon differed from his teammates and most players was probably best illustrated during a bench clearing brawl between Oakland and the Stockton Millers in June.  The Oakland Tribune said:

“(E)very man on both teams, with the exception of Joe Nealon, was mixed up…Nealon simply walked about the field and sat on the bench while the trouble was going on, and if anyone should ask right quick what player showed the only good judgment on the field the answer would be Joe Nealon.”

Nealon announced his retirement again, a week after his 25th birthday.

Nealon’s father had just helped elect San Francisco’s new mayor, Patrick Henry McCarthy, The Tribune said Nealon was “slated for a fat political job.”

Nealon was appointed deputy in the San Francisco County Clerk’s office in January.

On March 28, The Tribune said:

“(Nealon) is lying on death’s door in his home in San Francisco, suffering from typhoid fever.  Several physicians have been at the bedside of the ill athlete almost constantly for the past few days, and although they hold out but slight hope for his recovery, they state that his splendid physique may enable him to pull through.”

Nealon died five days later.

 

“I Never did trust an Umpire no how”

12 Nov

During an eight-year career spent in the California and Pacific Coast Leagues, Robert Joseph “Bobby” Eager was never a star but was very popular with West Coast baseball fans.  Years after he played his final game for the San Jose Prune Pickers in 1909 he began writing occasional columns about the game for The San Jose News.

Bobby Eager

Bobby Eager

Eager backed up starting catcher Henry “Heine” Spies with the Los Angeles Angels:

“(O)ne of the best backstops the Coast has ever had.  Spies was known as the best foul ball chaser that ever put on a glove, barring none.  It seemed as though he really knew just where to go when a batter hit a long foul, he was right on the job.  I have played with him for five years and have never seen him misjudge a fly ball.  It got so that every time a foul ball went up, no matter where it went, the crowd would yell ‘Heine would have got it,’ even though the ball went out of the lot.  Well, to make a long story short, Los Angeles was playing and Heine was catching, Charlie Baum was pitching.  A foul ball went up and Heine chased the ball up against the grandstand and made a most wonderful catch, but it seemed as though the ball must have touched the stand in some way and Umpire (Jack) Huston ruled that it didn’t go.”

Henry "Heine" Spies

Henry “Heine” Spies

Eager said Spies argued Huston’s call, and as a result, the umpire—who had been a teammate of Spies in 1891 with the Sacramento Senators—fined the catcher $5.

“The next day was pay day and when Spies went to get his dough he was 5 short.  He immediately hunted up Huston at Morley’s pool rooms, where most of the ball players hung out (in addition to owning the billiard hall, Jim Morley managed the Los Angeles Angels for four seasons).  He immediately demanded that Huston either give him the $5 back or they go to the mat, which Huston refused to do, of course.  There was trouble, and poor Heine was fined $50 by the president of the league for beating up an umpire.  I never will forget how hard Spies took it to heart.  He and I were going down Market Street, San Francisco, and we were looking in the different windows and we came across a big furniture store with a swell bedroom set for $50.  Heine looked at it for a long time.  I looked up to see the tears rolling down his cheeks, and turning to me he said: ‘See—see, Bobby, there, see what Huston robbed me out of.  I could have had that swell bedroom set if he hadn’t gone and fined me that $5.  I never did trust an umpire no how.  They all seem to be a bunch of burglars.”

In addition to his occasional work for the newspaper, Eager coached several local baseball teams and worked for the Standard Oil company until his death on February 2, 1926.

“Show yourself a man, Borchers, and Leave Boozing to the Weak Fools”

10 Feb

After defeating the Boston Beaneaters and “Old Hoss” Radbourn in his major league debut, George Borchers returned to the mound five days later in Chicago and beat the Philadelphia Quakers and William “Kid” Gleason 7 to 4.

With two wins in two starts the 19-year-old Borchers was, according to The New York Evening World, one of the most sought after players in the National League:

“There are several league clubs who would like to get hold of Borchers, the latest Chicago wonder, the only thing in the way of his acquisition is the $10,000 (the White Stockings were asking).”

Chicago probably should have sold Borchers while there was interest.  He injured his arm sometime in June, missed most of July, and according to White Stockings Manager “Cap” Anson “lacks the heart to stand heavy punishment.”

George Borchers

George Borchers

After his fast start, Borchers was just 4-4 in 10 starts when Chicago released him and Chicago’s other 19-year-old “phenom” Willard “Grasshopper” Mains (1-1 in 2 games) on September 6.

The Chicago Tribune said Borchers was on his way to Cincinnati to play for the Red Stockings, “he has plenty on speed and good curves, and it will not be surprising if he makes a success in the American Association.”

After the Cincinnati deal failed to materialize, Borchers accepted $100 in advance money to join the Stockton franchise in the California League.  After receiving the money he never showed up in Stockton.

No less a figure than the “Father of Baseball,” Henry Chadwick held out hope that Borchers would eventually be a successful pitcher:

“There is a chance that a first-class pitcher, who played in the Chicago team last season, is going to reform the bad habits which led to his release by Captain Anson in August (sic) last. I refer to Borchers.   (John Montgomery) Ward told me that Borchers was a very promising pitcher, and had he kept himself straight be would undoubtedly have made his mark. I learn that be is going to try and recover his lost ground, and if be shows the possession of the moral courage to reform, and the intelligence to keep temperate, he will yet find his way to fame and fortune. Show yourself a man, Borchers, and leave boozing to the weak fools of the fraternity who indulge in it at the cost of a fair name and of pecuniary independence.”

Borchers didn’t appear ready to “reform.”  Between the 1888 and ’89 season, according to The San Francisco Chronicle, he signed a contract to play for the Canton Nadjys in the Tri-State League, receiving $100 in advance money and also signed a contract with that Kansas City Cowboys in the American Association, receiving a $300 advance.

In February of ’89 Borchers was awarded to Canton.  Kansas City offered to purchase his contract.  Canton Manager William Harrington said in The Sporting Life that “Borchers will play in Canton or not at all.”

Borchers left for California.

Upon arriving in Sacramento Borchers was arrested as a result of the Stockton contract.  The Los Angeles Herald said:

“George Borchers, the well-known baseball player, was arrested this afternoon on a warrant from Stockton, charging him with having received money by false pretenses.”

Borchers pleaded guilty and paid a fine in March.  In April he attempted to sign with the Sacramento Altas.  The San Jose Evening News said:

“Sacramento being in need of a pitcher, induced Borchers to agree to play there and asked the Stockton Club to allow him to do so.  This President Campbell (of Stockton) refused and the league directors have sustained the action.”

The California League ruled Borchers ineligible for the season.

With too much time on his hands, Borchers couldn’t stay out of trouble.  The Associated Press reported on June 27:

“Shortly after 11 o’clock tonight a barn belonging to Mrs. Borchers, mother of George Borchers, the well-known baseball pitcher, was destroyed by fire, causing a loss of nearly $1000.  When the Fire Department arrived on the scene George Borchers tried to prevent the firemen from fighting the flames.  He was drunk and very boisterous.  Finally Chief Engineer O’Meara ordered his arrest.  When two officers took him in custody he fought desperately, and had to be handcuffed and placed in a wagon before he could be got to prison.”

The story said Borchers, who “has been loafing about town (Sacramento) for several months, drinking heavily” had made threats that he’d burn down the barn because his mother would not give him any more money.  Mrs. Borchers had “recently expended a large sum of money to get him out of trouble at Stockton.”

Whether his mother paid his way out of this or not is unknown, but the charges against Borchers went away, and he spent the remainder of the 1889 baseball season pitching for a semi-pro team in Merced, California.

He returned to the California League on March 23, 1890 when he pitched for Stockton in the season opener against the Haverlys at San Francisco’s Haight Street Grounds.  Borchers and Stockton lost 11 to 5.

His time in the league would be short.

In Early May he began complaining of a sore arm; The San Francisco Call said that “Borchers is known to have received an offer from the New York Brotherhood (Players League) Club and the Stockton directors think he’s playing for his release.”

On May 11 Borchers, according to The Sacramento Bee arrived at the ballpark in Stockton, on horseback and “extremely drunk.”  Catcher/Manager Mike DePangher sent Borchers home.  Borchers instead went on a bender that ended the following evening in a Stockton restaurant where he was arrested for being drunk and disorderly.

The Call said:

“If he took this means to sever his connection with the Stockton Club and join the Brotherhood, he not only brought disgrace in more sense than one upon himself, but has probably ruined his chance of an Eastern engagement.”

Borchers was fined $10 in court, the Stockton club fined him $100 and suspended him for the remainder of the season and sold his contract to Portland in the Pacific Northwest League–but not before the Sacramento Senators attempted to use him in a game.  The Call said Stockton protested:

“(Sacramento) Manager (George) Ziegler thought it best not to play him.  When George was informed that he was not to play he good-naturedly said:  ‘All right, old man,’ and then added, ‘One suspension, one release, all in two weeks.’”

George Ziegler

George Ziegler

On June 1 he won his first start for Portland, beating Spokane 7 to 6.  The Oregonian said “Borchers pitched a splendid game for the Portlands.”

Borchers split the remainder of the season between Portland and Spokane, compiling a 14-14 record with a 1.44 ERA.  When the Pacific Northwest League season ended Borchers returned home to play in the California League again; The Sacramento Record-Union printed a letter from his manager at Spokane, William “Kid” Peeples:

“Borchers has been pitching ball out of sight, and has not tasted a drop of liquor while up north.  He says he is going to stay straight, and finish the season with the Sacramentos.  He will have all the California boys guessing, as he did here.”

The San Francisco Call said Borchers was “a dismal disappointment” after he lost his first two starts for the second place Senators—both losses were against the league-leading San Francisco Haverlys.  San Francisco Manager Mike Finn filed a protest with the league, claiming Borchers should be declared ineligible because he was still on the reserve list of the Spokane club.

Mike Finn, manager, San Francisco Haverlys

Mike Finn, manager, San Francisco Haverlys

In his third start Borchers allowed Stockton to score three runs in the first inning on five walks and a wild pitch, but settled down and won 7 to 6. He beat Stockton again three days later, 15 to 10. The Record-Union criticized all four of his performances and said he had reverted to “his old ways.”

The 21-year-old finished the 1890 season with a 2-2 record for the second place Senators; San Francisco won the championship.  At the end of the season the California League upheld Finn’s protest over Borchers and fined Sacramento $500.

The rest of the George Borchers story on Wednesday.

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

16 Oct

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

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

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

John "Buddy" Ryan

John “Buddy” Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buddy Ryan

Buddy Ryan

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

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

Dolph Camilli

Dolph Camilli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buddy Ryan

15 Oct

During the 1912 season pitcher Bob Groom was having what would be the best season of his career; he was 24-13 with a 2.62 ERA for the Washington Senators.

His former teammate John “Buddy” Ryan was hitting .271 during his first season with the Cleveland Naps.

Groom and Ryan had been teammates with the Portland Beavers in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) in 1908. Ryan claimed that while they played together Groom had nearly quit baseball.  According to The (Portland) Oregonian:

“(Groom) was a most sensitive fellow.  One day we were playing San Francisco and had them 4 to 1 in the sixth inning, when Groom became a trifle wild , Mac (Walter “Judge” McCredie) jerked him after he had filled the bases with none out.  Bobby did not like it and he threw off his glove angrily and walked to the bench made as a wet hen.

According to Ryan, when Groom reached the bench he told McCredie he was through with the “blamed old club” and was going home.  All three San Francisco runners scored, tying the game.  The following inning:

“We got the bases full and (Otis) Ote Johnson up, when Groom ambled dejectedly out of the clubhouse, carrying his little grip with all of his baseball togs and stuff in it.  He got about as far as third base when Ote landed on one for one of those long triples of his, and Bobby forgot about quitting the club and going home, for he threw his cap, grip and everything in the air and yelled ‘Come on you Swede boy, it’s good for three.’ We won the game and Bobby never said a word about going home.”

Bob Groom

Bob Groom

Bob Groom remained in the big leagues through the 1918 season, compiling a 119-150 record with Washington, the St. Louis Brown, Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Terriers in the Federal League.

Buddy Ryan spent just two seasons in the major leagues, hitting .282 as Cleveland’s fourth outfielder in 1912 and 1913.  He returned to the Pacific Coast League and became one of the league’s most popular figures for the next twenty years.

buddyryan1

Buddy Ryan

His unusual wedding made headlines in 1915:

“John F. (Buddy) Ryan, one of the best-known and popular baseball stars on the Coast, was arrested early yesterday morning on a charge of immorality preferred by Deputy District Attorney Richard Ceich. At 2:08 PM he was married by Municipal Judge Stevenson to Miss Ruby Winters and the charge was dismissed.

“Miss Winters, who was at first held as a witness against the ballplayer, has been living with him for nearly 10 years, according to her statement, and has been known as Mrs. Ryan.  She said yesterday that she had asked Buddy to marry her several times.”

Failing that, she had him arrested:

“With Ed Kennedy (Ryan’s former Portland teammate and county jailer), as best man, the two were wedded in the Municipal Courtroom yesterday afternoon.  The bride wept for several minutes following the ceremony.  Mr. and Mrs. Ryan left last night for the training camp of the new Salt Lake Coast League team.”

Ryan had his best season in Salt Lake City in 1915, hitting .340 for the Bees.  That winter he had an emergency appendectomy and developed an infection, the newspaper headlines said his condition was grave: The San Francisco Chronicle said he was “In Very Bad Shape,” The San Bernardino News said “Buddy Ryan Near Death.”

Ryan recovered in time to return to the Bees for the beginning of the 1916 season.  He hit better than .300 the next three seasons, and after the completion of the PCL’s war-shortened 1918 season he played for and managed a team in Seattle’s Puget Sound “Shipyard League.”

He sat out the 1919 season and returned to the PCL in 1920—the rest of his story tomorrow.

Road Trip High Jinks, 1891

1 Oct

The Sacramento Daily Record-Union described the 50-mile road trip the California League’s Sacramento Senators and San Francisco Metropolitans took to play a game in Stockton, on the box car of a freight train:

 “(The players) commenced to playing craps…The San Francisco players and also umpire (John) Sheridan were on the train, and everyone was betting his ‘chicken feed.”  Big (Edward “Jumbo”) Cartwright borrowed ten cents to start on, and came out (with) over $7…Sheridan won about the same amount, but did not stop playing and dropped $3 of what he had won.  Red (Frank) Armstrong was intensely interested in the game, except for an intermission of about five minutes, when he poked a drunk’s hand through a window in the caboose.

“At Stockton both clubs were accorded a royal reception; but the heat was sweltering and everyone was in a half-way stupor.  Just about then ‘Rube’ (Reuben) Levy and ‘Bony’ (James Peck) Sharp and a couple of others came running up the middle of the street with their coats off yelling ‘Fire!’   They ran about four blocks and when they stopped the population was running at a lively rate.  But there was no fire, except in the air”

Reuben "Rube" Levy

Reuben “Rube” Levy

The teams played that morning in Stockton, Sacramento winning 10 to 3.  Immediately after the game, the teams re-boarded the freight train (there was no description of the return trip) and played an afternoon game in Sacramento.  San Francisco won that game 13-4.

Game 1 Box Score

Game 1 Box Score–played in Stockton

Game 2 Box Score

Game 2 Box Score–played in Sacremento

“All Men were his Friends”

12 Jun

Among the reasons Rube Levy remained one of the most popular figures in West Coast baseball was his refusal to accept offers to play for teams outside of California.  The San Francisco Chronicle said:

“With all his vast experience on the baseball diamond, the young man has never ventured beyond the confines of the state in which he was born…Time and time again Rube has received princely offers from Eastern magnates bidding against each other, but he always declined their advances.  He knew that California needed him, and he said he never would desert the state.  This sacrifice on his part is what has endeared Reuben in the hearts of the populace and why he is always greeted with plaudits.”

Reuben "Rube" Levy

Reuben “Rube” Levy

Levy disappeared from professional rosters after the 1896 season, but appears to have remained active as a player and umpire in semi-pro baseball in San Francisco.

Levy, along with his brother David who also played professional ball on the West Coast in the 1880s and 90s, also worked for the San Francisco Fire Department.  A  city report from 1898 shows the brothers working out of Engine Company 14 on McAllister Street.  Reuben, badge number 187, was an assistant foreman, David, number 184, a hoseman.

In 1899 he became an umpire in the California League.  Early in the season The Sporting Life said “he is not altogether conversant with the playing rules,” and later said he “is umpiring in style, but is a little off on balls and strikes.”

The following season Levy returned as a player with the San Francisco Brewers in the California League.   On April 2, 1900 The Chronicle, which incorrectly said he had been away from professional ball for seven years, said of the crowd:

“It applauded every move made by Rube Levy, who played out in the western prairie for San Francisco, and made one hit and four putouts and otherwise distinguished himself before rooters who used to yell for him years ago.  Old timers referred to the epoch when Rube used to be the darling of the kindergarten bleachers at the old Haight Street Grounds, when 2000 shrill-voiced youngsters, at 10 cents a voice used to go into ecstasies over Rube.”

The article said of the 37-year-old, “(He) chased flies and caught them as cleverly as though he were Rube’s grandson.”

Levy appeared in 87 games in 1900, hitting .205, and returned to umpiring the following season.

In 1903 he joined the newly formed Pacific Coast League.  It’s more likely he acquired the position because of his brother-in-law, rather than based on his reputation as an umpire.  Levy’s wife was the former Rebecca Fisher, sister of Mike “Mique” Fisher one of the league’s founders and owner/manager of the Sacramento Senators.

"Mique" Fisher, Levy's brother-in-law.

“Mique” Fisher, Levy’s brother-in-law.

The reviews of his work as an umpire never improved, The San Francisco Call said about one game: “He did not give either nine the worst of it, He was just impartially rank.”   The Los Angeles Times was especially critical of his work, calling him “notoriously incompetent.”

He managed to remain on the league umpire staff through the 1904 season.

The Spokane Daily Chronicle summed up his career as an arbiter:

“He was anything but a success as an umpire, but he had the reputation of being one of the few men in the business who refused to get mad.  The players started in time and again to bait him and get him mad, but Rube always preserved his abundant good humor.”

After the 1904 season Levy opened a cigar store on Fillmore Street in San Francisco.  On February 8, 1907 the 42-year-old Levy died after a brief illness, his death was attributed to a brain tumor.

The Sporting Life said of his death:

“(T)here was never a more popular ball player in San Francisco, and of whom it can be truly said that all men were his friends.”

Charlie Hoover–Infinite Baseball Card Set

21 Mar

Gary Cieradkowski is an exceptionally talented artist from Covington, Kentucky.  Since 2010 he has produced the great Infinite Baseball Card Set Blog–with excellent stories and his incredible art work.  Gary contacted me recently about collaborating on a piece.  I chose Charlie Hoover.  Hoover was a talented, troubled 19th Century catcher who faded into obscurity and remains one of a handful of Major League players for which there is no information on the place or date of his death.  Read the piece here on Gary’s blog.

This is the card Gary created:

HOOVER_LG

Assumed Names–Happy Hogan

11 Jan
Wallace Bray 1890s

Wallace Bray 1890s

Some players became so closely associated with the name they adopted that their real name takes a century to catch up.  Wallace Louis Bray came from a prominent family in Santa Clara, California, and like many players at the turn of the 20th Century chose to play under an assumed name to spare the family the shame of having produced a professional ballplayer.  Baseball Reference and other sources still list him by his assumed name.

Bray went by the name Wallace Bray while playing baseball at Santa Clara University (other contemporary sources said he also attended the University of the Pacific)—one of his coaches was Major League pitcher Joe Corbett.  (There is some confusion because there is another player with the surname Hogan, Major Leaguer Willie Hogan attended Santa Clara seven years after Bray and also played in the Pacific Coast League at the same time and he was also sometimes called “Happy,” but Hogan was his given name).

Bray became Wallace Hogan when he signed his first professional contract with the Sacramento Senators in the California League in 1900, and picked up the nickname “Happy.”.

The Berkeley Daily Gazette said:

“He was dubbed “Happy” by the writers because of his sunny disposition.”

He become an extremely popular West Coast baseball figure and in 1903 he was still with Sacramento when they joined the Pacific Coast League, the league in which he played and managed for the next 12 seasons

While never a great player, he was considered a good catcher and infielder but he was a career .186 hitter; The San Francisco Chronicle called him “The most popular figure,” in the Pacific Coast League.

After playing for the Tacoma Tigers, Fresno Raisin Eaters and Los Angeles Angels, Bray was named manager of the new PCL franchise, the Vernon Tigers in 1909; Vernon finished last, but Hogan’s team, which moved to nearby Venice, improved each of the next 5 years and finished in 2nd place twice.

The Chronicle said:

“Taking a new club in a league of the highest minor classification…is quite a job.  Hogan made good with a bang, or his club has always been in the running and in addition it has always been a big attraction.”

The Associated Press said:

“(Hogan) is a human dynamo when on the baseball field.  The present position of the Vernon club in the pennant race is due mainly to his dynamic personality…Baseball players say Hap is the fairest manager in the league and that he treats his men better than any other coast league impresario.”

The Tigers got off to a great start in 1915 and were in first place on May 9, an off day, when Bray went swimming at Venice beach and “He contracted a severe cold and pneumonia set in.”  He missed several games, but “While it was reported several times that Hogan was in serious condition, it was confidently expected that he would pull through it all right.”

He did not pull through and died on May 17 at 37-years-old.

The Associated Press said of his funeral:

Roy Hitt, Doc White, Walter Carlisle, Dick Bayless, Frank Decanniere and Johnny Kane are the players who acted as pallbearers.  The other members of the club and prominent men in baseball acted as honorary pallbearers.  While the throng at the funeral viewed for the last time the face from which even death could not efface the famous smile, every baseball game played in the Coast League halted for five minutes, the stars of the diamond in many cities on the Coast stood with bared heads in silent prayer for the dead star. In accordance with Hogan’s wishes, the body was cremated.”

Wallace Louis "Happy Hogan" Bray 1912

Wallace Louis “Happy Hogan” Bray 1912

The Tigers went into a tailspin under new manager Dick Bayless, while they recovered in the second half the team finished 4th.

A benefit game was played to raise money for Bray’s widow on June 25 at Washington Park in Los Angeles.  The Sporting Life said:

“In the most remarkable tribute ever paid to the memory of any man in Los Angeles, 10,000 persons choked the stands.”