Tag Archives: Saint Louis Cardinals

Lost Advertisements–Joe “Ducky” Medwick

16 Jan

medwickadA 1937 Williams “Twin-Action” Shaving Cream ad featuring that year’s National League Most Valuable Player, Joe Medwick.

“Like thousands of men everywhere,” Medwick discovered that Williams’ “takes all the ‘starch’ out of tough whiskers.”

1937 was Medwick’s best season, he won the triple crown with 31 home runs (tied with Mel Ott), 154 RBIs and a .374 average;  he also led the league in games, at bats, hits, doubles,  and total bases.

Medwick was never popular among baseball writers, or really anyone for that matter; in 1942 Dizzy Dean called him “The most unpopular athlete who visits Sportsman’s Park.  Not only among fans, but also among players.”

Medwick was not elected to the Hall 0f Fame until 1968.  Upon his election a United Press International article by Milton Richman said:

“He was opinionated and argumentative.  He’d as soon pop one of his own teammates on the button as someone from the other club.  He wasn’t the most popular boy in the fraternity.”

Dean was among Medwick’s “own teammates” who he once “popped.”

“Big, Good-Hearted and Foolish”

9 Jan

Almost immediately there was trouble for manager John McGraw after the New York Giants acquired Larry McLean from the St. Louis Cardinals, August 6, 1913—it was one of the few times in his career when the trouble wasn’t McLean’s fault.

With Chief Meyers hurt McGraw needed a catcher and traded the popular Doc Crandall to the Cardinals for McLean.  The day after the trade The Cincinnati Commercial Tribune reported that McGraw had “exchanged fisticuffs” with five of his players:

“Crandall was very popular among the club members, and there was much bitterness felt at his loss…The players passed hot words (at McGraw), and several blows were struck.”

McGraw was left with a bloody nose from the fight, and less than two weeks later reacquired Crandall from St. Louis.

McLean thrived in New York, a United Press story said:

“The big lad has been slamming the horsehide at a terrific gait, and has been displaying wonderful form behind the plate…Larry is said to be behaving himself better than he ever has since joining the big show.”

McLean hit .320 for the pennant-winning Giants and went 6 for 12 in their World Series loss to the Philadelphia Athletics.  He earned the praise of McGraw and despite diminishing skills, remained a model citizen for all of 1914 and part of 1915.

That all changed in June of 1915.  McLean had a clause in his contract which would have earned him an additional $1000 if he did not drink during the season.  McGraw’s right-hand man, scout Richard “Sinister Dick” Kinsella, had accused McLean of drunkenness and as a result was suspended for 10 days by McGraw.

Larry McLean, 1915

Larry McLean, 1915

In the lobby of the Buckingham Hotel in St. Louis, McLean accused Kinsella of making up the charge that he’d been drinking in order to cheat him out of the promised bonus.  Words were exchanged and then a fight broke out.  There was the McGraw-Kinsella version and the McLean version.

McGraw and Kinsella said McLean was carrying a length of gas pipe, and “came into the lobby with a number of rough companions.”

Kinsella’s version was as colorful as it was questionable:

“I picked up a chair and broke it over McLean’s head.  That frightened his gang of ruffians and they fled.  McLean continued to fight until McGraw and I chased him into the street, where he jumped into an automobile filled with women and begged for protection.”

McLean told reporters “I whipped McGraw and all of his associates with my two fists, I did not use a gas pipe, and he “exhibited his bruised right hand as evidence.”

McLean was finished with the Giants.

In March of 1916 The Associated Press reported that McLean had purchased the New Haven Murlins of the Eastern League and said “Larry will manage the club and catch.”  Either the report was erroneous or the deal fell through.  McLean never again played professional baseball and spent 1916 playing with semi-pro teams in New York.

Before the 1917 season baseball writer Ren Mulford reported that McLean might be signed by the Reds:

 Wouldn’t it be odd if Big Larry would come out of the swamp and stick to his spikes into dry ground?  Larry McLean, big, good-hearted and foolish, always his own worst enemy might come back if he willed it so.”

McLean never joined the Reds.

Also in 1917 several newspapers reported that McLean was becoming an actor, The New London (CT) Day said McLean “is now a real moving picture actor,” and included a picture of McLean with another actor “as Egyptian slaves in ‘The Siren,’ a movie soon to be released.”  (The film “The Siren” is described on IMDB as a western—what film, if any McLean actually appeared in is unknown)

Larry McLean, 1915

Larry McLean as an Egyptian slave in a 1917 film

In 1919 McLean was “in serious condition,” in a New York hospital as a result of burns received in a Turkish bath when he lost consciousness after entering a room.  He had been suffering from pneumonia and was in a weakened condition.”

That was the last that was heard of McLean until March 24, 1921.  McLean and a friend named Jack McCarthy were in a bar in Boston’s South End.  The bartender (John Connor) claimed McLean became enraged when he refused to give him cigarettes and threatened to “beat him up:”

 “McLean started to climb the bar to attack him.  McCarthy was helping McLean over the counter when Connor reached for a pistol, and fired… McLean staggered out to the sidewalk where he fell.”

Connor claimed that the previous evening McLean had chased another bartender “up and down the barroom…and forced him to leave to save himself from a beating.

McCarthy was also shot and died in the hospital six days later.  (Some recent sources, such as Bill James in “The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract” erroneously identify McCarthy as John Arthur “Jack” McCarthy, a former Major League player.  The McCarthy who was shot with McLean was John F. McCarthy.  Incidentally, John Arthur McCarthy is one of a very few Major League players for whom death information is unknown)

Connor was being held without bail at the time of McCarthy’s death and, according to The Boston Post, eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to one year in prison.

Larry McLean

8 Jan

At 6’ 5” John Bannerman “Larry” McLean is still the tallest catcher to have played in the Major Leagues nearly a century after his final game.  Born in New Brunswick, Canada, McLean’s ability was mostly overshadowed by his frequent off-field troubles during his career.

McLean bounced between the minor leagues, semi-pro teams, and trials with the Boston Americans, Chicago Cubs and Saint Louis Cardinals from 1901-1904.  McLean joined the Portland Beavers in the Pacific Coast League in 1905 and it was here that he developed into a good ballplayer and a first-rate baseball character.

Larry McLean

Larry McLean

McLean hit .285 in 182 games with Portland in 1905, but also started to show signs of the troubles that would plague him for the remainder of his career; Portland added a “temperance clause” to his contract and McLean, who had originally planned on a boxing career, loved to fight.

In 1906, while hitting .355 for Portland, and catching the eye of the Cincinnati Reds who would purchase his contract in August; McLean announced that he was going to become a professional fighter.

The wire report which ran in The Bakersfield Daily Californian said:

“McLean the giant catcher of the Portland team…He is so big that umpires walk out behind the pitcher so they judge balls and strikes…announces that he will fight any man in the world, Big Jeff (Jim Jeffries) not barred.”

The story said McLean was training with Tom Corbett (older brother of “Gentleman Jim” Corbett) and Corbett said he “has a ‘sure ‘nuff’ champion in the big catcher.”

Talk of a ring career temporarily ended when McLean joined the Reds, but McLean’s legend grew.  In November of 1906, he caught a murderer while in a subway station with his wife.  The Boston Post said the suspect:

“Was seen to pull a gun and pump five bullets (into the victim)…Larry started after him and collard him just outside the entrance.  (McLean had the suspect) pinioned so he could not move.  The police soon arrived and took charge of McLean’s prisoner.”

McLean was a huge hit with Havana fans the following winter when the Reds touring Cuba; The Sporting Life said:

“Larry McLean was the favorite and every time he caught a ball the crowd applauded. McLean has been dubbed by the baseball fans ‘Chiquito.’”

McLean and Chicago White Sox pitcher Frank Smith were mentioned at various times as possible opponents for heavyweight champion Jack Johnson; boxing writer Tommy Clark said in 1910 that McLean “Thinks he has a good chance of lowering Johnson’s colors.”

But while McLean was a fan favorite he regularly ran afoul of Cincinnati management and none of the managers he played for was able to keep him out of trouble.

While with the Reds McLean was arrested at least four times–for disorderly conduct, passing a bad check and two assaults.  In one case, at the Savoy Hotel in Cincinnati, McLean knocked a newspaper man from Toledo unconscious after the man “Reproved McLean for using a vile name.”

While serving a suspension for breaking team rules in 1910 McLean Said:

“When I get back to Cincinnati there will be 25,000 fans at the depot waiting to shake hands with me.”

Frank Bancroft, Reds secretary and former manager said in response:

“Twenty-five thousand, why, they’ve not that many barkeepers in Cincinnati”

McLean had worn out his welcome by 1910, but Cincinnati was not able to find any takers for the catcher.  Pittsburgh Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss said, “I wouldn’t give 30 cents for Larry McLean.”

McLean stayed with the Reds for two more seasons, but when Joe Tinker took over the team one of his first moves was to sell McLean to the Saint Louis Cardinals in January of 1913.  McLean said he had finally learned his lesson and promised to behave with the Cardinals:

“They didn’t want me around because they said I was a bum. Now I’m going to fool Tinker.”

McLean did behave himself in Saint Louis and seemed to appreciate the opportunity he was given by his former Reds teammate, manager Miller Huggins, even earning a “good behavior” incentive in his contract, and was hitting .270 for the Cardinals, but the cash-strapped team went with the younger, cheaper Ivey Wingo behind the plate and traded McLean to the New York Giants for Pitcher Doc Crandall.

Larry McLean, standing end right, Miller Huggins, standing end left, and Frank Bancroft, standing middle (in suit) on the 1908 Cuban tour.

Larry McLean, standing 5th from left, Miller Huggins, standing end left, and Frank Bancroft, standing middle (in suit) on the 1908 Cuban tour.

The rest of the McLean story tomorrow.

Blame it on the Uniform

3 Jan

Justin Titus “Pug” Bennett could hit.  After playing baseball at tiny Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois, in 1895 and ’96, there’s no record of him again until 1899 when, at 25-years-old, he played with the Indiana-Illinois League franchise that began the season in Kokomo, Indiana and finished in Mattoon, Illinois.

Pug Bennett circa 1904

Pug Bennett circa 1904

Back-to-back .300 seasons with the Nashville Volunteers in the Southern Association and the Seattle Siwashes in the Pacific Coast League earned the 32-year-old his first shot in the Major leagues.  The Bennett hit .248 for two seasons with the Saint Louis Cardinals and returned to the minor leagues with Seattle, now in the Northwestern League.

Bennett returned to his old ways for two seasons, hitting .305 and a league leading .314 in 1908 and 1909.

1910 was not going well for Bennett, the perennial .300 hitter was hovering around .240 all season.

The Spokane-Spokesman Review provided an explanation late in the season:

“(Bennett) claims the white uniform worn by the umpires is the principal stumbling block in the way of batting averages this year.  Bennett says the light suits shade the white ball and make any pitcher with a crossfire or a sharp break much more effective.”

Bennett might have had a point.  There was not a single hitter in the Northwestern League with more than 50 at bats who hit .300;  Lou Nordyke led the league with a .290 average.

The following year the umpires’ uniforms were changed.  Ten players hit over .300 and Art Bues led the league with a .352 average.  The 37-year-old Bennett, with the Vancouver Beavers, rebounded with a .300 season.

Pug Bennet, t-206 card with Vancouver

Pug Bennet, t-206 card with Vancouver

Bennett continued playing in the Northwestern League until 1917.  He lived in Washington until his death in 1935.

Fighting Jimmy Burke

2 Jan

James Timothy Burke had a stormy tenure with the Saint Louis Cardinals from 1903-1905, including a disastrous 35-56 record as player-manager in 1905, replacing Kid Nichols (who remained on the pitching staff)—Burke resigned in August, and the Cardinals were in such disarray that owner Stan Robison eventually took over the team for the remainder of the season.

Burke had been with five teams from 1898 through 1902 before being traded to the Cardinals.

Jimmy Burke

Jimmy Burke

During his time with the Cardinals Burke had various fights and feuds, it was said he was the ringleader in a group of players trying to undermine manager Patsy Donovan in 1903; he had a long-standing feud with shortstop Dave Brain and the two seldom spoke, and he feuded with Robison throughout his short tenure as manager.  After his resignation he said:

“When I took charge of the team it was with the understanding that I was to be manager or nothing.  I have suffered as Donovan and Nichols with too much interference.”

Burke also had trouble with a Saint Louis sportswriter named Joe Finnegan.  Their contentious relationship came to a head at the Victoria Hotel in Chicago in September of 1904 after Finnegan had written an article in which he called Burke “a cow’s foot,” (apparently those were fighting words circa 1904).

The Pittsburgh Press provided the colorful blow-by-blow of the fight:

“First round–Burke hit Finnegan in the lobby, and followed the blow with a left hook on the back of the neck, breaking the scribe’s collar.  Burke pressed the advantage and struck Finnegan near the cigar stand.  Finnegan blocked cleverly, uppercut with the left and caught Burke in the snout.  Finnegan crossed his right and landed on Jimmy’s potato-trap.  Burke jolted Finnegan in the rotunda and followed with a short swing near the Turkish parlor.  Finnegan shot the right to the ear, and the left to the lamp.  They clinched.  Terrific short-arm fighting, completely wrecking Finnegan’s collar and cuff.  Johnny Farrell separated the men. Time.

“Second round—The house detective threw both fighters out in the alley.  Time.  Decision to Finnegan.”

Burke’s Major League career ended after the 1905 season.  New Cardinal manager John McCloskey said he wanted to retain Burke as his third baseman, but Robison, against his manager’s wishes (and continuing the pattern which led papers to call Cardinals managers “figureheads”) waived Burke.

Burke became a successful minor league manager and returned to the Major Leagues as a coach with the Detroit Tigers in 1914.  He also served as a coach with the St. Louis Browns and managed the team for three seasons.

Jimmy Burke, Cubs coach

Jimmy Burke, Cubs coach

Burke served as Joe McCarty’s right hand from 1926-1930 with the Chicago Cubs and followed him to the New York Yankees where they continued together until a stroke necessitated Burke’s retirement after the 1933 season.  McCarthy had played for Burke with the Indianapolis Indians in the American Association in 1911.

Burke died in St. Louis in 1942.

“Bugs” and Trains

28 Dec

Arthur “Bugs” Raymond was one of the most talented pitchers to end his career with a sub .500 (45-57) record.  Known more for his drinking problems and erratic behavior, Raymond was dead by 30.

John McGraw, the only manager who even for a short time, managed to get the best out Raymond, told sportswriter Grantland Rice that he had the best motion he’d ever seen and “Even half sober Raymond would have been one of the greatest.”

Rube Waddell, whose eccentricities were the standard by which all players of his era were judged, weighed in about Raymond, saying about Bugs something he could have said about himself:

“It’s a shame that fellow doesn’t take care of himself.  He would be a wonder if he would just keep in condition and pay strict attention to business.”

Bugs Raymond

Bugs Raymond

While Waddell was fascinated with fire and on many occasions assisted fire fighters (although there is no evidence supporting the long-held myth that Waddell left the mound during a game to follow a fire wagon), Raymond was enamored of trains.

According to the Hall of Fame sportswriter Hugh Fullerton III Raymond loved trains:

“The moment he enters a sleeping car he begins to take possession of the train and it isn’t long until he’s captured it.  Usually he begins by borrowing a blue coat with brass buttons and a uniform cap from some trainman or porter who admires baseball players, and arrayed in these he saunters through the train trying to collect fares, issuing orders and generally enjoying himself.”

Fullerton wrote about a 1907 road trip:

“(R)ushing through the darkness in two sections.   The St. Louis Cardinals were traveling in the rear car of the first section and the other section was following five minutes behind.  Suddenly there was a jarring of the brakes, the shrilling of air, the jar of sudden stoppage, and the second section jolted to a sudden standstill shaking sleepers out of their berths and awaking everybody.”

According to Fullerton the sudden stoppage and near accident of the following train was explained in the report issued several days later by the railroad:

“Raymond, who was looking for amusement, had stationed himself on the rear platform of the first section and amused himself touching off the red flare which is carried for use as a warning s and danger signals…the second section saw the warning and stopped.”

Hugh Fullerton

Hugh Fullerton

 

Brother Joe Goes Home

3 Dec

After the Saint Louis Cardinals released Joe Corbett in August of 1904, he returned to San Francisco and signed with the Seals of the Pacific Coast League.

There would be one more skirmish between Hanlon and Corbett.

Hanlon filed a grievance with the National Commission claiming that Corbett’s release did not make him a free agent, but instead released his rights back to Brooklyn.  Hanlon seemed to have a solid case.  Ed Grillo, former and future sports writer and then President of the American Association said:

“(Brooklyn) has a prima facie title to Corbett…The National League acquired complete control of Corbett’s services when he signed a St. Louis contract for 1904, and his release to Brooklyn is in conformity with the national agreement.  The law of the game is clearly with the Brooklyn club.”

San Francisco, with the support of the entire Pacific Coast League, ignored the complaint and put Corbett in the Seals’ lineup.  Hanlon ultimately backed down and Corbett was released to San Francisco.

Corbett appeared in 33 games for the Seals in 1904 and 05, posting a 17-13 record.  In September of 1905 he threatened to bring law suits against Hanlon, The Brooklyn club, and the National Commission:

“(O)n the ground that he has suffered in reputation by combined actions of baseball magnates (and) has been deprived from earning thousands of dollars, rightfully his, because of his pitching ability; and that he has been humiliated and disgraced in many ways.”

The threatened legal action made headlines, but doesn’t appear to have gone further.

Corbett also retired, again, that September.  Reporters, skeptical about this retirement (and given brother Jim’s multiple “retirements” from the ring) pressed Joe on the issue.  In reply he “Promised faithfully to never reappear.”

He kept his promise.  For a few months.

In 1906 he played for the Stockton Millers and San Jose Prune Pickers in the California League, and appeared in two games in the outfield for the Seals.

Corbett came back and retired twice more.  In 1909 he pitched 12 games for the Seals.  In 1916 he tried again; the Seals released him in May after four games.

Joe Corbett, 1916

Corbett and his wife had seven children, and when he wasn’t pitching he amassed quite a resume.  In addition to the various family businesses and newspaper work mentioned, Corbett worked at various times as baseball coach at Santa Clara College (1898-99, 1902-03), in the San Francisco Assessor’s office, clerk’s office, for an oil company, and the San Francisco branch of the Bank of Italy.

A few years before his death in 1945, Corbett was asked by The Associated Press if he had any advice for players who were considering defying the reserve clause and holding out. Joe said:

“If you think you’re right, stick to it.  But don’t forget, it’s pretty hard to beat those hours.”

And finally…Corbett was said to have worshiped “Gentleman Jim,” but was also known to sometimes tire of hearing what a great fighter his brother was.  Over time he developed a standard reply:

“I only saw him in the ring twice… (Bob) Fitzsimmons won the first time and Jeff (Jim Jeffries) knocked him out the second time.  But they tell me he was some fighter.”

Corbett/Fitzsimmons

Corbett/Jeffries

Brother Joe Comes Back

30 Nov

Twenty-three-year-old Joe Corbett, brother of heavyweight champ “Gentleman Jim” Corbett announced his retirement before the 1899 season.  Corbett had written a column for The San Francisco Call during his 1898 hold out, and announced he was quitting that job too:

“I have (also) quit writing baseball news now, and take little or no interest in the game. I wouldn’t cross the street to see one.”

Corbett ran the livery stable his father had started in San Francisco, helped operate the family bar on Ellis Street, and within weeks had apparently regained his interest in the game and was back writing for The Call.  His responsibilities in the family businesses increased after his parent’s deaths in August of 1898 (Patrick Corbett shot and killed his wife then committed suicide).

Joe Corbett

There remained significant interest in Corbett’s services; unfortunately for Joe he remained under the control of Ned Hanlon.  Hanlon had moved to the Brooklyn Superbas in 1899 as part of a stock swap between the Brooklyn and Baltimore franchises—he took several players with him, including “Wee Willie” Keeler, Hughie Jennings and Joe Kelley—he also kept Corbett’s rights.

Ned Hanlon

Hanlon offered Corbett $2400 to play for Brooklyn and turned down offers to trade his rights.

According to California newspapers Corbett occasionally pitched in semi-pro games in 1899, but in 1900 The Sporting Life reported that Corbett was “dangerously ill,” and would probably never pitch again as a result of sciatic rheumatism.

Less than a year later The Sporting Life said Corbett was pitching for a team in Oakland, and the next year he appeared in five games for the Minneapolis Millers in the American Association—the retirement appeared to be over.

A successful January 1903 appearance on the mound in an exhibition game featuring barnstorming Major Leaguers renewed interest in Corbett again.  The Los Angeles Angels of The Pacific Coast League offered Joe a contract he couldn’t refuse, one that allowed him to tend to the family business interests in San Francisco during the season.

Newspaper reports said Corbett earned $5000 for the 1903 season, Angels manager Jim Morley said he wouldn’t say how much Joe earned but said that he had:

“Figured it out that Corbett will get 4.99 a curve.”

After going 23-16 for the Angels, the Major leagues again came calling.   Early reports had Corbett signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who offered $5000, but Joe eventually signed with the Saint Louis Cardinals.  While the Cardinals assured Joe that Ned Hanlon had relinquished Brooklyn’s claim, the Corbett family was not ready to end the feud with Hanlon.

Gentleman Jim, when asked if Joe would ever consider playing for his former manager again, told reporters:

“Hanlon couldn’t get Joe to twirl for him if he offers him a million dollars a year.”

Things didn’t go well in Saint Louis.  Joe Corbett was 5-8 when the Cardinals released him August 1.

Jim was, as always, Joe’s biggest defender:

“My brother Joe was getting $7000 for the season from the St. Louis club, but his heart was not in his work, simply because he was separated from his wife and little ones who were out in California.  Thinking of his family all the time impaired his effectiveness as a pitcher.”

Gentleman Jim

Joe returned to San Francisco where he added a hat store to growing stable of businesses; his rights returned to Hanlon and Brooklyn.

The final chapter of the Corbett story on Monday.

Escorted to the Canadian Border

31 Jul

John Morris “Moose” Baxter made it into six games for the 1907 St. Louis Cardinals hitting .190.  Baxter was born in Chippewa Falls, WI and played throughout the Midwest and Western US before his April ’07 cup of coffee with the Cardinals; he seems to have spent parts of each season between 1903 and 1906 playing independent ball in Canada—he appears on the rosters of independent teams in Calgary, Wetaskiwin and Banff during that period.

Many ballplayers of his era lived on the edges of the law, but Moose had the distinction of being escorted to the border of Canada and asked not to return.  Moose’s troubles began in 1908 while playing Montgomery in the Southern Association.  Baxter was unexpectedly released in June and Montgomery manager Jimmy Ryan said the move was “(F)or the good of the team.”  Within weeks, the newspapers in Southern Association cities reported that Moose was released for betting against his team.  He finished the season in New Orleans.

Moose Baxter Sioux City 1902

Moose played parts of two more seasons in the New York State and Western Canada Leagues but spent most of those two seasons playing independent ball in the Northwest United States and Canada.

Sometime in 1910 Moose ended up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada where he quickly made a name for himself and was described by the local papers as “The boss of the Tenderloin District.”  Moose ran Turkish baths and sold liquor in several establishments without bothering to get a license.  His brother Henry, who pitched for Edmonton in 1911 and also played independent ball in the Northwest, was his partner in the business.  After several run- ins with the law both brothers were arrested late in 1911, Moose was sentenced to six months in prison at Lethbridge, Alberta.

According to newspapers in Canada and Washington, upon his release Moose Baxter was given a week to sell off his considerable property in Calgary; and “Immediately placed in charge of Immigration Agent A.E. Humphries to be taken to the boundary line and given his freedom.”

After returning to the Northwest in 1912, Baxter split his time between Spokane, Washington and Portland, Oregon, appearing in city directories for both towns.  He died August 7, 1926, in Portland and was buried at Greenwood Memorial Terrace in Spokane.