Tag Archives: Saint Louis Cardinals

“Daily Chats with Famous Ballplayers”

18 Sep

In 1916, a series of two to three paragraph items called “Daily Chats with Famous Ballplayers” (some papers called the feature different names) appeared in several smaller West Coast and Midwest newspapers.

Some highlights:

Oscar “Ossie” Vitt, third baseman for the Detroit Tigers, who survived a beaning from Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators on August 10, 1915:

“The world stopped moving when the ball nicked my bean.  Johnson thought I was killed and I guess I thought so myself for awhile, so far as I was able to think at all.

Ossie Vitt

Ossie Vitt

“My head proved to be the goods alright and wasn’t worse for wear.  But it upset Johnson so much that he couldn’t locate the plate and we pounded him all over the lot (Vitt was hit leading off the first inning—Johnson gave up eight runs after that in six innings and lost 8 to 2 to Detroit).”

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Henry “Hi” Jasper on the superstition of teammate Harry “Slim” Sallee:

“Sal’s pet superstition is that it’s bad luck for him to warm up with any catcher but the one who is to work in the game with him.

“If the playing backstop has batted last and has to put on his shin guards and armour before warming up, Sal will never throw a ball to the plate to any man who may come out of the dugout with a mitt.  He will throw either to the first or third baseman.”

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Al Mamaux on a lesson learned during a loss to the Chicago Cubs in September of 1914:

“Smart old timers can always make it tough for youngsters just breaking in.  I remember one day when I was the goat for a trick pulled by Roger Bresnahan.”

Mamaux

Al Mamaux

Mamaux said Chicago had two runners on base and Bresnahan was coaching third.

“(He was) talking real friendly like to me (then) hailed me suddenly as the ball was returned to me.  ‘Say Al, toss me that ball I want to look at it,’ said Roger.  I didn’t give it a second thought…tossed it towards him and I’ll be darned if he didn’t step to one side and yell to the runners to beat it home.  Each advanced a base and would have scored if Jimmy Viox hadn’t run his head off to recover the ball.  Believe me that one cured me.”

George Stallings, on suspensions and how badly the Boston Braves needed George Stallings:

“You don’t have to call an umpire all the names in the calendar to draw a suspension.  I got three days off for just remarking to (Charles “Cy”) Rigler that he ought to go to jail for umpiring a game like he did the other day.

George Stallings

George Stallings

“Nothing that I could say or do would make any difference.  What I can say though right now is that the action of (National League) President (John) Tener, coming as it does, with the race so close, appears peculiar to say the least (Tener said the suspension was for a series of altercations that Stallings and his players had with umpires during the two months before the August suspension was announced).

“Without any braggadocio I can say that my suspension will cripple my club considerably.  I know what my presence means to the club and so does President Tener.”

Boston won all three games during Stallings’ suspension and regained second place, but finished the season in third, five and half games behind the Brooklyn Robins.

“I mentioned Satchel and Josh and Cool Papa, I told Him he was Missing the boat”

18 May

After Heywood Broun’s remarks at the 1933 Baseball Writers Association dinner about integrating the game, The Pittsburgh Courier initiated a campaign to push the issue.  Despite some support inside baseball and from well-known newspapermen, the effort fell flat by opening day.

That summer, after the first East-West Game—won by the West All-Stars 11 to 7—at Comiskey Park, Henry L. Farrell of The Chicago Daily News suggested several “(M)ajor league club owners who are now on their knees might have their prayers answered,” by signing some the Negro League stars.

In the fall, The Chicago Defender briefly picked up the mantle from The Courier.  The paper asked their readers:

“How would you like to see the great baseball players of the Race performing in the major leagues? Wouldn’t you like to see Willie Foster, Satchel Paige and (Sam) Streeter pitch to Babe Ruth?”

If so:

“Sit down and write K.M. Landis commissioner of baseball, 333 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago.”

The following week, the paper reported that Landis’ office had refused to comment.  When baseball’s winter meetings commenced in Chicago in December, The Defender promised readers that the letters they had sent:

“(A)re not being passed on lightly as many suggested would be the case.  On the contrary, the club owners are downright concerned and from the inside word leaked out that some action would be taken.”

The optimism was tempered later that week when their reporter was barred from covering a meeting where he was told “vital points were discussed.”  The Defender reporter was told no newspapermen would be admitted, but:

“That sinister moves were being made against your author’s admission became a certainty when a well-known writer from one of the downtown papers came along, gave the high sign and was admitted.”

When 1933 came to a close, integration was no closer to being a reality than it was 11 months earlier as Broun stood to deliver his remarks to the baseball writers.

Four years later, Sam Lacy from The Baltimore Afro-American met with Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith in an attempt to revive the subject:

“I mentioned Satchel and Josh and Cool Papa, I told him he was missing the boat.”

Sam Lacy

Sam Lacy

Griffith, he said, told him the timing was wrong, and that Southern-born players would not accept integration.

The next major effort came in 1939.

Political support had generally been limited to socialist and communist organizations—the Young Communist League spent the summer of ’39 gathering signatures to present to Commissioner Landis.  But, in July of that year, the Illinois House of Representatives adopted a resolution which read in part:

“Resolved, by the House of Representatives of the Sixty-first General Assembly.  That the owners of all professional baseball teams in the United States, both in the major and minor leagues be strongly urged to give baseball players of the colored race the same opportunity of becoming players on their respective teams as is accorded to such players of the white race.”

Another push came from Pittsburgh as well.

Wendell Smith, who was playing baseball at West Virginia State College when Broun made his speech in 1933, was now a reporter for The Courier. In July, he promised readers:

“The most exclusive, startling and revealing expose, of the attitude of the major league players and managers themselves, ever written.”

Wendell Smith

Wendell Smith

Over the course of several weeks Smith asked 40 players and eight managers as they passed through Pittsburgh, “Are Negro ballplayers good enough to ‘crash’ the majors?”

The Courier’s Chester Washington said in a column to introduce the series of articles:

“One of the major reasons why Mr. Smith’s discovery is so revolutionary is that the club owners, in trying to pass the buck, have blamed the ban on the players themselves.  They claimed that the injection of colored stars into the clubs would bring about friction and dissention… (Smith) practically disproves this contention.

“Fearlessly buttonholing the managers and outstanding players of all the National League clubs, Mr. Smith received scores of testimonials which should be a revelation to the owners.”

A sampling of the statements collected by Smith:

Ernie Lombardi, Cincinnati Reds:  “(Satchel) Paige is as good as (Dizzy) Dean.”

Johnny Vander Meer, Cincinnati Reds:  “I wouldn’t object.”

James “Doc” Prothro, Philadelphia Phillies: “If given permission I would jump at the opportunity to sign up a good Negro ballplayer.”

Leo Durocher, Brooklyn Dodgers:  “(Satchel) Paige, (Bill “Cy”) Perkins, (Mule) Suttles and (Josh) Gibson are good enough to be in the majors right now…I certainly would use a Negro ballplayer if the bosses said it was all right.”

Gabby Hartnett, Chicago Cubs:  “I am sure that if we were given permission to use them, there would be a mad scramble between managers to sign them.”

Gabby Hartnett

Gabby Hartnett

Dizzy Dean, Chicago Cubs: “If some of the colored players I’ve played against were given a chance to play in the majors they’d be stars as soon as they joined up.”

Pepper Martin, St. Louis Cardinals: “Some of the big league players would object, but on the whole I think they would be accepted.”

Pie Traynor, Pittsburgh Pirates: “believe me when I say I have seen countless numbers of Negro ball players who could have made the grade in the majors.  Only their color kept them out.  If given permission, I would certainly use a Negro player who had the ability.”

Honus Wagner, Pittsburgh Pirates:  “Yes, down through the years I have seen any number of Negro players who should have been in big league baseball.”

Over the next five years, Smith would interview more than 150 additional major leaguers, who would echo the sentiments of his original 40, keeping the pressure on professional baseball to desegregate.

Miller Huggins

27 Mar

Miller James Huggins was born on this date in 1879.  The Hall of Fame Manager of the New York Yankees played 13 seasons as a second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals.

Miller Huggins

Miller Huggins

In 1911, he told Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Record-Herald about “The greatest play,” he had seen during his career.

Huggins said it was a play made the previous season—July 30, 1910–by his teammate, shortstop Arnold “Stub” Hauser during a game between the Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs, and was described by Charles Dryden of The Chicago Examiner as “the only quadruple play ever made.”

“The play was wonderful, not only because of the situation and the manner in which it was accomplished, but because of the fact that Hauser kept his head all the time and thought as quickly as he acted.

“The situation was this:  we had the game won, but (Frank) Chance and his Crabs were fighting hard and hitting harder.  It took a lot of fielding and desperate work to hold the lead we had gained as they had men on the bases in almost every inning and kept threatening to pile up a bunch of runs almost any minute and beat us out. “

In the fifth inning, with Solly Hofman on first and Jimmy Sheckard on second, Chance hit John “Red” Corriden’s first pitch:

“Chance hit it like a streak of lightning almost over second base, perhaps two or three feet to the third base side of the bag and on a low line.  The ball was hit so hard that I hadn’t a chance to get near it, although I took a running jump in that direction.  It didn’t seem that Hauser, who was playing short, could make it touch his hands.  He came with a run, and as he saw the ball going past he dived for it, and made it hit his left hand while it was extended at full length.  He just stabbed at the ball, and although it hit his hand he, of course, could not hold it.  He was staggering, almost falling, and the ball popped up in the air perhaps a couple of feet, and as it started to fall to the ground Hauser, still falling, grabbed it with his hand and clung to it.  I had covered second, hoping he would be able to get the ball to me when I saw him hit it with his hands.  (Instead of throwing to Huggins) He staggered over second base (to retire Sheckard) and shot the ball to first (to retire Hofman).  As he touched second he spiked me so severely that I had to quit the game.  That is why Dryden called it a quadruple play, as it retired three Crabs and myself at the same time.  I’m proud now that I got spiked, as it gave me a part in the greatest play I ever saw on a ball field.”

___

Speaking of Huggins.  I receive a fairly steady stream of advance copies of books, and while I read most of them, I don’t recommend many. Too many rely heavily on recycled information from secondary and tertiary sources, often repeating faulty information and perpetuating myths.  A soon to be released book about Huggins is a pleasant exception.

colonelandhugcover

The Colonel and Hug: The Partnership That Transformed the New York Yankees, by Steve Steinberg and Lyle Spatz, will be released on May 1. In addition to being a thoroughly researched, well-written, definitive, biography of both Huggins and Yankee owner Jacob Rupert, the book does an excellent job of weaving the story of the Yankees in the broader context of the 1920s.

Nick Maddox

9 Feb

Nicholas “Nick” Maddox burst on the National League scene in 1907. Born in Maryland on November 9, 1886, Maddox’ was born Nicholas Duffy, but adopted his stepfather’s name Maddox.

In 1906 the 19-year-old was given a trial in the spring with the providence Grays in the Eastern league.  He was released before the season began and signed with the Cumberland Rooters in the Pennsylvania-Ohio-Maryland League (POM).  Maddox had played in 1905 for the Piedmont team in the semi-pro Cumberland and Georges Creek League.

He was the best pitcher in the POM; The Sporting Life said Maddox was 22-3 for the Rooters who finished the season in fourth place with a 50-45 record, and was “the fastest pitcher in the league.”

Nick Maddox

Nick Maddox

Maddox spent most of 1907 with the Wheeling Stogies of the Central League.  He posted a 13-10 record and no-hit the Terre Haute Hottentots on August 22.  Maddox was purchased by the Pirates the following month and made his big league debut on against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cumberland Times noted that he faced a “double-jointed hoodoo of commencing his National League career on Friday, September the 13th.”

The Pittsburgh Press said:

“Nick was ‘on the job’ yesterday from start to finish, and acted more like a man with many years’ major league experience than like a minor leaguer who has been in the business but a few seasons.”

Maddox shut the Cardinals out on just five hits, struck out 11 and got his first hit, a single in his first at bat.

Eight days later Maddox threw the first no-hitter in Pirates’ history, beating the Brooklyn Superbas 2 to 1—Brooklyn scored on two fourth-inning errors.   Years later, Maddox said of his own throwing error that put Emil Batch on base:

 “They scored me with an error, but hell man, I threw it straight to the first baseman (Harry) Swacina.  Sure it went over his head but he should have jumped for it.”

Batch scored on an error by shortstop Honus Wagner.  Maddox said:

“I don’t hold that against Honus, he saved my no-hitter in the ninth.  A ball was hit right over my head and ‘pfft’ Wagner was over there to get it.  I don’t think he ever held the ball, he just swooped it over to first.”

The rookie started six games Pittsburgh, won his first four, and finished with a 5-1 record with a 0.83 ERA.

The Pittsburgh Leader said Pirates’ President Barney Dreyfuss claimed Maddox would be “the sensation” of 1908.  He wasn’t far off.

The 21-year-old was an impressive 23-8 with a 2.28 ERA with five shutouts.  Despite his success there was concern about control—he walked 90 batters while striking out just 70 in 260 innings, and hit 11 batters.

After three second and one third-place finish the four previous seasons, Pittsburgh, and Maddox, came into 1909 with high expectations.  The Pittsburgh Press said:

“Nick Maddox is facing a very successful summer, and with an even break and barring accidents he ought to push any other twirler in the National League for first honors.  He has everything a pitcher needs, and youth with it.”

The Press also said he would “start out with good control” based on his performance in March games in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The Pirates lived up to expectations, taking over first place on May 5 and cruising to the pennant; Maddox did not.

The 22-year-old struggled for the first half of the season.  The Leader said he was having “a hard time getting into condition,” and was wild as a March Hare.”  Maddox got on track in July pitching a 2-hit shout against the Cincinnati Reds on the 6th, and four-hit shutouts against the Brooklyn Superbas and Boston Doves on the 14th and 23rd.

He ended the season 13-8 with a 2.21 ERA—overshadowed by teammates Howie Camnitz (25-6), Vic Willis (22-11), Albert “Lefty” Leifield (19-8) and rookie Charles “Babe” Adams (13-3 as a reliever and spot starter).

Babe Adams

Babe Adams

Despite going into the World Series against the Detroit Tigers with such a strong pitching staff, Manager Fred Clarke opted for the rookie Adams in game one and he responded with a 4 to 1 victory.

The Tigers beat Camnitz 7 to 2 in game 2.

Three years later, Fred Clarke spoke to James Jerpe of The Pittsburgh Gazette-Times about his decision on a pitcher for game three:

“I was in an awful predicament.  Adams had been used up.  It was had been raining, and it was very cold.  The chilly drizzle was something frightful.  The ball would get wet and water-logged and the problem was to get a pitcher who could handle the wet ball.  I looked the gang over.  Adams was out of the question.  He had been used up.

“I was figuring on the others, and I asked ‘Who can go out there today and handle a wet ball and win?’  Poor Maddox, sitting in a corner of the bench all bundled up with sweaters and other stuff, shed his extra clothes and jumped up.  Grabbing a ball, he said: ‘Gimme a catcher till I warm up.  I’ll handle this wet ball and beat them or break a leg.’  His confidence gave me a hunch, and I acted on it.”

Ring Lardner said of the game:

“Detroit’s record crowd, 18,277, saw the Tigers beaten by the Pirates 8 to 6, today in one of the most exciting and most poorly played world’s series games in baseball history.”

The Pirates scored five runs in the first inning off Detroit’s Ed Summers, and Maddox shut the Tigers down for the first six innings.  Detroit scored four runs in the seventh, aided by two Pirate errors.  Clarke said:

“Maddox wouldn’t have been in so much trouble if we had played ball behind him.”

The Pirates took a 8 to 4 lead into the ninth–Detroit scored two more runs, helped by another error—but Maddox held on and picked up the win.

He did not appear in another game during the series.  The Pirates won in seven; with Adams picking up complete game wins in games five and seven.

09pirates

1909 World Series Champion Pirates, Maddox is ninth from left.

 

The defending champions got off to a quick start again, but Maddox again started slow.  By July, The Leader said:

“Nick Maddox should have rounded into form..He is big and strong this year, but does not seem able to pitch good ball for nine rounds.”

He never “rounded into form.”  Maddox struggled all season.  He started just seven games, pitched in relief in 13 others, and was 2-3 with 3.40 ERA.

By August, with the Pirates in second place, six games behind the Chicago Cubs, The Pittsburgh Gazette asked “what was the matter?” with Maddox and why the Pirates had not cut him loose.

He made his last appearance on September 12, giving up a run, a hit and walking two batters in two innings of relief during a 4-0 loss to the Reds.  He was sold to the Kansas City Blues in the American Association 10 days later.

Maddox won 22 games for the Blues the following season, but continued to be plagued by wildness and arm trouble.  His major league career was over, and he was finished professionally in July of 1914 at 27-years-old when he was released as manager and pitcher for the Wichita club in the Western League after posting a 3-13 record.

Fred Clarke was convinced Maddox’ career really came to an end on that rainy day in Detroit.  James Jerpe of The Pittsburgh Gazette-Times said that in 1910 Dreyfuss asked Clarke to release Maddox long before he sold the pitcher to Kansas City:

“’Why don’t you let Maddox go? You aren’t pitching him.’

“’No,’ replied the Pirate Chief sadly.  “I’m not pitching him.  He ruined his arm helping Adams win the world’s series.’

“And Fred narrated (to Dreyfuss) more of Nick’s gameness on that bleak and drizzly October day in Detroit when he gave his arm for a championship.  Nick was carried for a whole year and the club has been interested in his welfare ever since.”

Fred Clarke

Fred Clarke

Maddox, who lived in Pittsburgh, and worked for the Fort Pitt Brewing Company, after his retirement, lived long enough to listen on the radio to the last two innings of the next no-hitter thrown by a Pirate pitcher—Cliff Chambers defeated the Boston Braves 3-0 on May 6, 1951.

Nick Maddox died in 1954 at age 68.

Lost Advertisements–Opening Day, 1911

28 Mar

1911openingday

The above advertisement for Charles Dennehy Company, distributor of Old Underoof Whiskey,  appeared in The Chicago Inter Ocean on Opening Day, April 12, 1911.  The defending National League Champion Cubs met the St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago’s West Side Grounds.

The Chicago Tribune said:

“Threatening clouds and misty atmosphere did not prevent the baseball public from of Chicago turning out for the opening.  There was almost a parkful [sic] of people there before the teams had begun their preliminary practice.  A brass band livened things up before the game started, and between innings a novelty in opening features was the presence of a woman who stood on the roof of the players’ bench and sang popular songs.  Mayor Elect Carter H. Harrison Jr.  from an upper box tossed out the ball that started the contest.  The entire park was draped with American flags.”

Carter Harrison at 1911 Cubs opener

Carter Harrison at 1911 Cubs opener

The game was called after 11 innings.  The Inter Ocean said:

“Sometime, somewhere there may be such an opening game as was played at the West Side grounds yesterday when the thirty-sixth season of the National League was introduced with a 3 to 3 tie by the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals, but never again will a seventh position club of the season before hang the hoodoo on the league champions as Roger Bresnahan‘s crew did the trick on the Peerless Leader’s squad…It was a sin and a shame.”

Frank Chance, "The Peerless Leader"

Frank Chance, “The Peerless Leader”

The Cardinals scored three runs in the first; starter Ed Reulbach–The Inter Ocean said he “was one wild critter–was pulled by Manager Frank Chance after throwing 10 straight balls to open the game, and was replaced by Orlie Weaver who finished the game.

The Tribune said the tie was the result of two “grievous errors of the mind.”

The first happened when Cubs third baseman Heinie Zimmerman fielded Bresnahan’s first-inning ground ball with runners on second and third:  “All Heine needed to do was toss the ball to the plate and one runner would have been caught, but he heaved to first base instead and the man coming from third (Mike Mowrey) scored, after he had actually stopped running.”

The other “grievous error” was made by second baseman Johnny Evers “incredible as it may seem, for Johnny is often talked of as the brainiest man on the team.”  Evers tried to score from first on Jimmy Sheckard‘s double in the first inning.  Cardinals first baseman Ed Konetchy took the relay throw and “there are none in the National League who can throw harder and  with greater accuracy”  Evers was thrown out by “ten feet” at the plate.

The Tribune said Chance “knows now that he acted against his better judgment in putting Ed Reulbach in to pitch the first game of the season.”  Reulbach had only appeared in 24 games in 1910 and was recovering from diphtheria (some recent references say Reulbach missed part of 1910 because his son had diphtheria–but several contemporaneous accounts say he suffered from the bacterial infection as well).

The box score

The box score

 

The Cubs went on to win 92 games in 1911, but finished in second place, seven and a half games behind the New York Giants.  The Cardinals finished fifth at 75-74.

Reulbach was 16-9 with a 2.96 ERA, but continued to struggle with control all season, walking 103 batters in 221 and 2/3 innings.

Below is another Old Underoof advertisement that appeared in The Chicago Examiner:

1911openingday2

Such Clanging of Bells and Blowing of Horns has never been Equaled in Athletic Park”

24 Feb

From the formation of the Cuban Giants as the first professional black team in 1885 until the establishment of the Negro National League in 1920 there were many attempts to form an organized league; and numerous advocates for the idea.

Lester Aglar Walton, editor of The New York Age, believed the color line was borne solely out of “the white man’s fear in open competition,” but also understood that the situation was not likely to change.

Lester Aglar Watson

Lester Aglar Watson

In 1911, Walton thought the conditions for starting a league were right, were right based on a three-game series in June—the Chicago Leland Giants traveled to St. Louis for a three-game series with Charles Alexander Mills’ St. Louis Giants:

“The figures, giving the attendance at the three games played, are interesting and furnish those who have been agitating the organization of a colored baseball league much cause for jubilation.  They are now enthusiastically pointing to figures to back up the assertion they have been making all along that a colored baseball league would pay;  also that the fans would give it their loyal support.”

Charles Alexander Mills,

Charles Alexander Mills

The Freeman described the atmosphere at the first game:

“The Chicago Giants entered from the south entrance, headed by Captain Pettis (William “Bill” “Zack” Pettus), and followed closely by the entire squad, clad in blue caps and white uniforms.  The contrast was rich.  At the site of the Chicago boys the fans cut loose, and such cheerings in respect would be fit for a king.  Ten minutes later Captain (Richard Felix (Dick) Wallace and his squad emerged from the club house, all in a quick step, and when they came in view of the vast throng such clanging of bells and blowing of horns has never been equaled in Athletic Park.”

Bill Pettus

Bill Pettus

Walton noted that the opening game, played on June 21, drew 2,200 fans.  On the same day in Cincinnati, just 700 attended a Reds game against the St. Louis Cardinals.  The following day 2,500 hundred watched the two teams play, and about 2,600 attended on Friday.  The St. Louis Browns, playing the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday and Thursday at Sportsman’s Park, drew smaller crowds both days:

“It should not be overlooked that the fans turned out in goodly numbers to see the St. Louis Giants and the Chicago Giants on week days.  On Sundays it is not unusual for the St. Louis Giants to play before 5,000 people.  It is, however, generally admitted that strong colored teams are good Sunday attractions, but the difference of opinion has invariably come up over the question of whether the fans would put in their appearance in sufficient numbers on week days.

“What is also considered significant by those who favor the formation of a colored baseball league is that with few exceptions the crowds were composed of colored people, which proves conclusively that members of the race will support colored clubs when they put up a good article of ball.  The same can be said of white fans, and quite often, for instance, in greater New York, more whites attend baseball matches between colored clubs than colored.”

Walton said it was always understood that New York and Chicago could support a member club in an organized league, but there was “doubt as to whether devotees of the national game in St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Louisville etc…would turn out in sufficient numbers to ensure the players a nice check when payday rolled around.”  The series, he said, erased some of those doubts:

“Cincinnati, Louisville, Baltimore and other cities considered can make as good a showing as St. Louis.  Furthermore…these cities have but one big league team, while St. Louis has two, a condition which it is claimed, would argue in favor of the respective colored teams securing a larger white patronage.”

The St. Louis Giants swept the three-game series—winning all three in the bottom of the ninth inning; including a 2 to 1 victory behind “Steel Arm” Johnny Taylor over “Smokey Joe” Williams in game two—Taylor also won game one in relief.

The line scores from the three games

The line scores from the three games

Despite the enthusiasm, three excellent, well–attended games, and the resulting optimism as a result of the attendance in St. Louis during three days in June of 1911, an organized black league was still nearly a decade away.

“I Consider him a Weak, Foolish Talker”

13 Nov

Bill Phyle was a no-show.  He failed to appear before Southern Association President William Kavanaugh at the league’s hearing regarding his charges that the end of the 1903 season was fixed.  After the league suspended him he failed to appear in St. Louis to defend his charges in front of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (NAPBL).  He claimed he was too ill to attend either meeting.

As a result he was expelled from organized baseball in October of 1903.  His appeal was denied in December.

Phyle had very few supporters by the time his fate was settled by the NAPBL, but he still had at least one—kind of:  Milwaukee Brewers Manager “Pongo” Joe Cantillon, the man who sold Phyle’s contract to the Memphis Egyptians.

Joe Cantillon

Joe Cantillon

Cantillon told William A. Phelon of The Chicago Daily News that his former player wasn’t too bright, but that he also wasn’t wrong:

“I consider him a weak, foolish talker, who opened his head when it did not do him any good.  Just the same, Billy Phyle had cause for the charges which he made, and I got it good and straight that there was work done in the Southern league last season which was on the scandalous pattern.”

Cantillon stopped short of saying the season was fixed—but not very far short:

“Understand I do not say, neither does Phyle charge, that any games were sold, or that either manager or club owners were in on any such deals.   Even though there are thousands who say—apparently with mighty good reason—that the league is crooked, always has been crooked since it started, and always will be crooked—I do not accuse anyone of selling out.”

Cantillon then came pretty close to accusing Atlanta of selling out:

“This is the way the thing was done—and if anybody wants to howl I’ll show the goods and produce the names.  When Memphis was playing Atlanta it was a case of anything to beat out Little Rock.  The Atlanta players, knowing that their only chances had gone glimmering, were anxious to help their friend’s to beat Mike Finn’s gang (Little Rock).  There was no sell out and there were no intentional errors—nothing so gross and coarse as that.  But a couple of the best regulars on the Atlanta team were laid off; a couple of substitutes were put in their places; a raw, unseasoned amateur was sent in to pitch, and then, to make assurances doubly sure, the Atlanta catcher told each Memphis batsman just what to expect as he came to the plate.”

Cantillon also said the Birmingham Barons were “trying to help (Little Rock) along,” and:

“Every player in the league was dead wise to the whole situation, but Billy Phyle was the only man who was foolish enough to open his face, and he got soaked proper.”

Cantillon claimed to “positively know” that Phyle had been sick, and that was the only reason he failed to appear to substantiate his claims in front the league and the NAPBL.  Regardless, he said Phyle would have had a difficult time:

“Even if he had been able to attend, what show would he have had, with every manager determined to clear his own skirts and swat Bill for the squeal he made?”

Cantillon challenged anyone in the Southern Association to refute his allegations.

In February of 1904 Cantillon cancelled a scheduled spring tour of the South and Phelon said in The Daily News that Southern Association teams had refused to play against Brewers.

The following month Clark Griffith, who was in the South with the New York Highlanders, told The Atlanta Constitution that Cantillon was “ a nice fellow,” who “had been misquoted and had not authorized the interview, and in fact knew nothing of it until it appeared in the press.”

Cantillon himself never directly denied his statement, but The Constitution, content to keep the focus of Southern wrath on Phyle was happy to give the Milwaukee manager a pass:

“(Griffith’s claim) puts a new light on the question and it is very probable that he has been judged too harshly in the south…Phyle as a baseball issue is now dead.  Any effort to revive him and bring him forward on the stage either as a hero suffering persecution or a sick man worrying his life out by the blacklist hanging over him, will meet with the opposition of every paper in the south.”

Phyle went to Toledo and spent the spring and summer wiring Southern Association President Kavanaugh asking for reinstatement so his contract could be assigned to the Mud Hens.  After his application was rejected in May, and again in July, Phyle joined the independent Youngstown Ohio Works team.  The team played exhibition games that summer with the Brooklyn Superbas and Pittsburgh Pirates—both National League clubs were fined $100 for playing against the blacklisted Phyle.

(Some sources list Phyle as a member of the 1904 Johnstown Johnnies in the independent Pennsylvania League, but several Pennsylvania newspapers, including The Williamsport Gazette and The Scranton  Republican said in August “Phyle turned down a $225 per month offer from Johnstown.”)

Phyle became part of another scandal in 1905.

Bill Phyle

Bill Phyle

Youngstown joined the newly formed Ohio-Pennsylvania League, and needed to submit a roster to the NAPBL for approval.  Phyle’s name did not appear on the submitted list, but he played third base for the club all season, including an exhibition with the Cincinnati Reds on August 31. Youngstown was fined $500 in mid September and ordered to release Phyle.  Cincinnati was fined $100.

Phyle was finally reinstated in February of 1906, after he submitted a letter to the directors of the Southern Association retracting all of his 1903 allegations.

His contract was assigned to the Nashville Volunteers who sold him to the Kansas City Blues in the American Association.  After hitting .295 in 72 games, Phyle got one last trip to the National League.  He was traded to the St. Louis; he hit just .178 for the Cardinals.  He retired after playing three years in the Eastern League with the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1907-1909.

More than twenty years later Joe Cantillon was apparently forgiven in the South.  He managed the Little Rock Travelers to back-to-back eighth place finishes in 1926 and 1927.

The rest of Bill Phyle’s story next week.

“Bill Abstein Denies he is a Bonehead”

20 Feb

Pittsburgh Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss and manager Fred Clarke felt all they needed to win a World Series was a first baseman.  Since winning the National League Pennant with Kitty Bransfield in 1903, only one Pirate first baseman hit better than .260 (Del Howard .292 in 1905).

In 1908 the Pirates finished second with four different first basemen, Harry Swacina, Alan Storke, Jim Kane and Warren Gill; none played more than 50 games, none hit better than .258 and they combined for 29 errors.

The man who took over in 1909, and was with the Pirates for their World Series victory, might have preferred to have never been given the job.

Bill Abstein had played eight games at second base and in the outfield for the Pirates in 1906, before returning to minors.

-Abstein had put up respectable, but by no means spectacular, numbers with the Shreveport Pirates in the Southern Association and Providence Grays in the Eastern League from 1906 to 1908—but as early as August of 1908 The Pittsburgh Press said he was the answer to the Pirates problem at first base:

“Fred Clarke is very eager to secure Bill Abstein from Providence.  Bill is rated the best first baseman in the Eastern League, and he would no doubt strengthen the Pirates where they are weak.”

When Abstein joined the Pirates before the 1909 season The Press said:

“The acquisition of bill Abstein has rounded our infield nicely.  He’s the best first baseman we have had in years and he certainly fits in nicely.”

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Abstein, Providence 1908

In a letter sent to Dreyfuss with his contract, Abstein told the Pirate owner:

“Fred Clarke will not have to worry about a first baseman after he sees this big German hustling around the bag.”

In keeping with his career performance, Abstein had a respectable season for the pirates.  He hit .260 and drove in 70 runs.  His 27 errors were only a slight improvement over 1908’s first baseman by committee.

The Pirates won 110 games and won the National League Pennant by six and half games over the Chicago Cubs and met the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.  The series would be the beginning of the end of Abstein’s Major League career.

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1909 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates, Abstein 11th from left.

Abstein struggled at the plate (6 for 29 with nine strikeouts) and in the field (5 errors total, 2 each in games 3 and 4).  The Pirates won the series in seven games, but despite the victory, Abstein quickly became the subject of ridicule in Pittsburgh.

An Associated Press article after the series said:

“During the games with Detroit Abstein appeared to forget all that he knew about base ball.  He ran the bases foolishly, made a number of costly errors, failed to hit and disobeyed orders.  In fact, his playing was worse than that of any other man on either team.  The other Pirates, seeing that Abstein was the ‘goat’ for the combination, kept up the cry against him…Before the series was ended many of the Pirates shunned Abstein and it was reported he would be traded.”

The Pittsburgh Press was less generous:

“Bill Abstein denies he is a bonehead and says baseball is largely a case of ‘if-you-can-get-away-with-it,’ well it’s a cinch that Bill couldn’t in the National League.”

The Pirates were unable to trade Abstein and finally put him on waivers.  He was claimed by his hometown St. Louis Browns.

Even though the Pirates had actually won the Worlds Series and even though Abstein was gone, that didn’t mean the Pirates, and The Pittsburgh Press, wouldn’t continue to pile on.

Barney Dreyfuss told The Associated Press shortly after Abstein was claimed by St. Louis:

“We have discarded the weakest offensive player we had—Abstein—and hope to improve the team by doing so.”

Dreyfuss also claimed:

“Fred (Clarke) told me as early as last June that we should get someone else for Abstein’s place in 1910, as Bill mixed up the team’s plays too frequently.”

The Pittsburgh Leader said:

“(Abstein) had deplorable batting weaknesses which the opposing pitchers were certain to fathom in time.”

The Pittsburgh Press was even less generous:

“Bill Abstein is reported to be making a hit with the Browns by his work in the spring practice.  Just wait about three months friends, before declaring Bonehead Bill a wonder.”

When the Pirates sold pitcher Vic Willis the St. Louis Cardinals in February of 1910, newspapers reported that Willis and Abstein had “engaged in a bitter fight,” during the series.

Abstein quickly wore out his welcome in his own hometown of St. Louis.  Abstein made 11 errors in 23 games at first base and hit .149; he was released on June 2, 1910.  It appears Abstein was no more popular with Browns Manager Jack O’Connor than he was in Pittsburgh.  O’Connor was quoted in The St. Louis Times in May:

“How did Abstein get away with it last year?  How could he make plays like he has been making for me and get away with it all year for Pittsburgh?  I never dreamed that some of the plays made by him were even possible.”

His Major League career over, Abstein returned to the minor leagues for seven seasons.  He had one above average year with the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League in 1914; in 202 games he hit .308, with 234 hits and 40 doubles.

Abstein moved on, Pittsburgh apparently did not.  For years, Pittsburgh newspapers took every opportunity to take a shot at the first baseman.  In 1915 The Pittsburgh Press, in an article about the revolving door the Pirates still had at first base–in the five post-Abstein seasons, the Pirates had four different starting first baseman–(emphasis theirs):

“No one will ever forget the way Bill did NOT play the bag in the Worlds Series.  In fact, Bill did NOT play the bag all the time he was stationed there.”

Pittsburgh finally seemed to move on by the time they won their next world Championship in 1925.  Abstein died in St. Louis in 1940.

Kauff and Perritt

29 Jan

Benny Kauff and Pol Perritt were two of the reasons why the New York giants won the National League Pennant in 1917.  Kauff led the team with a .308 average and Perritt was 17-7 with a 1.88 ERA.  Both came to the Giants by way of the Federal League, and with the help of “Sinister Dick” Kinsella, John McGraw’s right-hand man.

"Sinister Dick" Kinsella

“Sinister Dick” Kinsella

Kinsella was the former baseball magnate of Springfield, Illinois who went east to serve as McGraw’s chief scout.  He was a key player in the incident that led to Giants’ catcher Larry McLean’s banishment from organized baseball.

After the 1914 season, McGraw set his sights on the Indianapolis Hoosiers’ Kauff, who was being called the “Ty Cobb of the Federal League.”  Kauff led the league with a .370 average, 120 runs, 211 hits and 75 stolen bases.

When the debt-ridden Hoosiers were transferred to Newark for the 1915 season Kauff’s contract was sold to the Brooklyn Tip-Tops, and he joined the team in Browns Wells, Mississippi.

At the same time, Perritt coming off a 16-13 season was prepared to jump the St. Louis Cardinals and join the Pittsburgh Rebels in the Federal League.

Pol Perritt and Benny Kauff, 1917

Pol Perritt and Benny Kauff, 1917

Sportswriter Frank G. Menke of Hearst’s International News Service picks up the story:

“Dick Kinsella, scout for the Giants, according to the story we get, hustled to Browns Wells and got a job on a plantation…Kinsella didn’t dare to put up at the same hotel because he was known by Manager Lee Magee, Business Manager Dick Carroll and others of the Brookfeds.”

Kinsella, according to Menke, was pretending to be a farm hand and also observing Kauff’s workouts and reporting back to McGraw who, along with Jack Hendricks of the Indianapolis Indians in the American Association (who held Kauff’s rights) was sending coded telegrams to Kauff signed “Father.”  Kauff received telegrams saying, “Mother wishes to see her boy,” and “All is forgiven.”

According to Menke, the telegrams were intended to inform Kauff that McGraw wanted him with the Giants and:

“The “everything forgiven” telegram was to tip Kauff off that if he jumped the National Commission probably would let him play.”

While Kauff was in Mississippi, Pol Perritt was in the process of  jumping to the Federal League.

According to Menke, Kinsella left Mississippi in the middle of the operation to secure Kauff in order to talk to Perritt.  What Kinsella said to Perritt is unknown, but Perritt’s meeting with Pittsburgh manager Rebel Oakes pretty much put an end to any chance of joining the Federal League.  The Associated Press said:

“Pitcher ‘Pol’ Perritt who jumped to the Pittsburgh Federal recently had a fist fight with Manager ‘Rebel’ Oakes…Those who saw the fight say that the pitcher delivered one blow that knocked Oakes over a chair…Friends and acquaintances interceded and hushed up the whole affair before police arrived on the scene.”

The story said Perritt was meeting with Cardinals’ management to “flop back to organized ball,” within weeks the Cardinals sold Perritt’s contract to the Giants, The AP said:

“Carefully guarded by “Sinister Dick” Kinsella…Perritt was delivered to John J. McGraw this noon…Kinsella brought his man in from Shreveport without struggle, and states that he did not even sight a Federal submarine during the entire journey.”

An alternate version of the story, published in The New York Times said it was McGraw who met with Perritt rather than Kinsella and highlighted the manager’s journey to meet the pitcher:

“McGraw had to travel forty miles on one railroad, nine miles on another, and then drive nine miles through the mud to get to Perritt’s home in Louisiana.”

Perritt was in the fold.  After a 12-18 season in 1915, he would win 18, 17 and 18 from 1916-18.

Kauff would be a bit more complicated.

While Kinsella was gone from Mississippi securing Perritt, Kauff signed a $6000 contract with Brooklyn, which he immediately regretted and contacted McGraw.

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Dick Kinsella and John McGraw, 1920

According to Menke, Kauff:

“Related the difficulty he had with Robert B. Ward, president of the Brookfeds, over the contract.  The Giants people thought that owing to Kauff’s trouble—or alleged trouble—over the Brookfed contract that he was not legally under contract.”

Menke said the Giants signed Kauff for $7000 a year for three years with a $7000 bonus.

National League President John Tener voided the contract and Kauff was forced to return to the Tip Tops; he again led the league with a .342 average.

McGraw finally got his second man at the close of the 1915 season.  After the Federal League folded and Kauff was reinstated to organized baseball he signed a two-year contract for $6500 a season and a $5000 bonus with the Giants.

New York had finished in eighth place in 1915. They improved to fourth in 1916 and won the pennant by 10 games in 1917. McGraw’s Giants lost the to the Chicago White Sox four games to two in the World Series.  Perritt appeared in three games in relief, and Kauff hit a disappointing .160, despite two home runs in the Giants’ game four victory.

After the 1917 World Series Perritt and Kauff faded fast.

Perritt was 18-13 in 1918, but would only win four more games over the following three seasons with the Giants and Detroit Tigers; he was out of professional baseball before his 30th birthday.

Kauff’s demise is better known; his professional career came to an end at age thirty, the result of allegations of his involvement with gamblers, in general, and 1919 World series fixer Arthur Rothstein in particular.  Kauff, who owned an automobile accessory business with his half-brother and Giant teammate Jesse Barnes, was charged with stealing and reselling an automobile.  Although he was acquitted at trial, Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned Kauff for life.  Kauff’s oft-told story is told best in two excellent books by David Pietrusza:  Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series and Judge and Jury: The Life and Times of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

Perritt died in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1947; Kauff died in Columbus, Ohio in 1961.

Stan Musial 1920-2013

20 Jan

stanPosing with bat and ball after his 3,000th hit, May 13, 1958, off Moe Drabowski at Wrigley Field.

“I love to play this game of baseball – I love putting on this uniform.”

Stan Musial

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