Tag Archives: Sam Crane

Oyster Joe Martina

26 May

Joseph John “Oyster Joe” Martina made a name for himself in New Orleans before he threw his first professional pitch. Martina’s father Anthony was at one time the city’s largest oyster dealer, a business he passed on to his sons.

Martina was playing semi-pro ball for the Sam Bonarts—a team sponsored by the owner of a local clothing store, and for a club called the Beavers  when he decided in addition to pitching, he had a talent for distance throwing.

He won $25 in a contest at Pelican Park in July of 1909, The New Orleans Times-Democrat said Martina “threw the sphere from home plate over the back fence.”

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Martina, circa 1909

The throw was said to be 394 feet; just 11 feet short of what was considered the world record—there was some dispute in contemporaneous accounts about who actually held the record, some credited it to Larry Twitchell, said to have accomplished the feat in 1888 and others to Same Crane, whose was made in 1884.

Martina made his next attempt on July 31.

The New Orleans Picayune said:

“Joe Martina met with success this afternoon in his effort to break the world’s record for throwing a baseball, his best throw being 416 feet and 2 inches.”

The paper said he “threw a standard league baseball, which was inspected by several representatives of the southern division of the American Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).”

The event was of interest to local gamblers and when Martina made the record-setting throw it created a stir:

“Disputes also arose over Martina being allowed five throws. Those placing wagers against his breaking the record claimed that only three throws should be allowed. It was on the fifth throw that Martina made the record.”

There was also initially some doubt that the record would be accepted by the AAU because of the five throws. The Times-Democrat said:

“Usually only three throws are allowed. But as there are no definite rules governing contests of that kind, Martina’s record will likely stand. Whether it was his fifth of fiftieth it was a great heave and one which should go as a record.”

The Picayune said there might be another problem with the record:

“One regret remains, that the throw was not measured with a steel tape. It was measured with a linen tape, and may not be accepted by the AAU officials, although the throw was so much over the record the is no question of it being farther than Crane’s”

The record, and Marina’s performance in New Orleans’ semi-pro league earned him a tryout the following spring with the Atlanta Crackers in the Southern Association—pitching three innings in the first game of Atlanta’s exhibition series with the Philadelphia Athletics. Marina gave up one run and struck out three.

The Atlanta Georgian and News said:

“Martina is nothing if not confident.

“After his try-out against Philadelphia he said: ‘Why, it’s just as easy to pitch against those big leaguers as it is against the New Orleans semi-pros. I don’t see anything very hard. I think I can make good in the Southern league all right I certainly had the steam against the Athletics. How many his did they make, anyhow’”

The Crackers did not agree, and sold the 20-year-old to the Savannah Indians in the Sally League

Martina bounced from Georgia, to Louisiana, to Mississippi and then Texas over the next four years.

In the spring of 1914, entering his third season with the Beaumont Oilers in the Texas League, Martina faced the New York Giants.  The Giants beat him 5 to 2, but The New York Sun said:

“The Giants had practice hitting speed the other day. Joe Martina, who prescribed the medicine for the National League champions, had it in caloric quantities…I yearned for a chance in the majors, felt I had more stuff than many pitchers sent up from the South but the big opportunity always passed me by.”

Red Murray of the Giants, barely avoided getting hit in the head with a Martina fastball, and told the paper:

“’That fellow’s got as much speed as I ever saw.’ Said John after the game, and the other Giants corroborated him. He’s as fast as (Chief) Bender.”

The Sun took notice of more than the pitcher’s speed:

“This Martina is something of a character. In the course of the game the umpire announced that Mathewson would pitch today. ‘Mathewson?’ queried Martina, who appears to be n iconoclast. ‘What busher’s that?’

“’Say,’ exclaimed the skeptical Martina to Chief Meyers when the latter made a base hit after several fruitless tries in that direction, ‘you’re lucky to get a hit off of me,’ and then, by the way of an afterthought: ‘All the hits you ever get are lucky.’

“Evidently, Mr. Martina is no hero worshiper.”

When he struck out Fred Snodgrass, he asked, “How do you like that, busher?”

Throughout his 20s, Martina was considered an “iron man,” pitching from 261 to 330 innings every year from 1910 through 1915; he also, according to The Picayune regularly pitched Sunday games in New Orleans throughout each off season.
In 1916, he injured his arm—or as The Arkansas Democrat said, his “arm cracked after hard usage.”

Speed Johnson of The Chicago Record Herald compared Martina to White Sox ace Ed Walsh, “The spitball king of other days now is a bench-warmer.”

Johnson said Chattanooga Lookouts manager Kid Elberfeld was the culprit:

“Performing under orders from (Elberfeld) Martina pitched seven games in the first sixteen games of the season. From May 1 to May 13 he officiated in five engagements, toiling with a sore arm.”

Elberfeld claimed that Martina injured his arm throwing too many spitballs, Johnson said, “it behooves young pitchers bent on winning fame as iron men to work only in their turn.”

Despite the reported injury, and a release from Chattanooga, Martina pitched 278 innings in 1916 with three teams.

Martina went back to the Texas League for four more seasons—including a 28-win season for Beaumont in 1919.

In 1921 he came back to the Southern Association, with his hometown Pelicans. From 1921-1923 he won 56 games, including a 22-6 mark in 1922. He told The Times-Picayune:

“It’s the old story, “You don’t learn how to pitch until your arm is gone.”

His three-year run with the Pelicans finally earned him a major league contract in 1924.  Umpire Billy Evans said in his nationally syndicated column:

“Speaking of miracle workers, supermen, and rookie phenoms of baseball, don’t overlook pitcher Joe Martina of the Washington Nationals.

“At the age of 34, when most big leaguers are wondering how much longer they will be able to stand the pace, Joe Martina is making his debut.”

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Martina, 1924

Martina told Evans:

“I had as much stuff fifteen years ago as I have today, and with-it youth, but somehow the major leagues scouts would annually pass me up.”

He was 6-8 for the World Series Champion Senators, he pitched one perfect inning in game three of the World Series. In the off season, Washington Manager Bucky Harris told The Washington Post that Martina “will win at least 15 games this year and may reach the 20 mark.”

He was due to join the Senators in Tampa, Florida on February 19, 1925, but failed to show up. The Post said Martina wired President Clark Griffith and asked to report later because he was having a new home built. Griffith refused and he was “notified by telegraph” that he was suspended. The Washington Evening Star said he would be fined and forced “to labor at a smaller salary,” for the season.  The paper suggested that the pay cut would not impact him greatly because:

“The Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans, with the resulting big crowds in attendance and the consequent increase in the oyster business conducted by Martina probably mean that the pitcher can suffer these financial setbacks and still be ahead of the game.”

He arrived in Tampa on March 1; The Star said Griffith withdrew the fine because Martina claimed he had received a letter from the Washington owner that he could report late:

“Griff admitted that in the stress of arranging for the annual pilgrimage South of his club he might have forgotten the original letter to Joe.”

On April 9, Martina, along with left-handers–Jim Brillheart and Jim McNamara—were released by Griffith. The Star said

 “(Martini’s) work this spring indicated he has passed the peak of his form which is not quite good enough for fast company.”

He returned to New Orleans for four more seasons—winning 77 games and leading the Pelicans to Southern Association championships in 1926 and 1927. The 39-year-old went back to the Texas League for one more season in 1929; after a disappointing 10-13 campaign for the Dallas Steers, Martina purchased—or bartered for—his release. The Times-Picayune said:

“Martina has been given his unconditional release at the price of two barrels of oysters. This was the price demanded by Fred McJunkin, president of the Dallas club.”

He played two more seasons in the Cotton States League and took a crack at managing with the Baton Rouge Standards in 1931—he was released mid-season at age 41.

With both the Pelicans and the Knoxville Smokies hopelessly out of the 1931 Southern Association pennant race, Knoxville signed Martina to pitch against New Orleans on the final day of the season. He started the first game of a double header, gave up six runs over eight innings and lost his final game as a professional.

Zipp Newman, sports editor of The Birmingham News and official scorer for the Birmingham Barons for 44 years said Martina’s strong arm was with him to the very end::

“After pitching a full game for Knoxville against New Orleans Sunday, Joe went to the outfield and made the longest throw-in. Joe threw the ball right up to the grandstand. There wasn’t a youngster on the field who could come close to him. Joe Martina arms are few and far between in baseball.”

Martina, who died of a heart attack in 1962, said in an interview with Newman in 1941:

“I am convinced I had more human endurance than any man who ever lived. In all my life I was never tired, even when it was 110 out there on the mound. The answer is simple: I was a good boy. I behaved myself and every at 8 o’clock I was in bed…When my arm was live the ball would sail slightly upward, and nobody could hit me. When it was dead, although the pitch was just as fast, the ball went straight, like on a string, and I was a goner.”

“Danny had been Drinking Steadily”

6 May

In July of 1893, the Brooklyn Grooms announced that veteran second baseman Danny Richardson had been suspended.

Manager Dave Foutz told The Brooklyn Citizen:

“I have laid Richardson off without pay until he can get into condition. While we were in Baltimore Richardson shut himself in his room at the hotel and said he was sick. He never sent any communication to me, however, and as I knew a thing or two, I decided to lay him off.”

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Richardson

Team president Charles Byrne was more direct, telling the paper “Danny had been drinking steadily, and had not tried to play ball.”

Byrne said:

“He went astray once before but he promised to reform and said he had been treated well and had no fault to find with the club.”

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Byrne

Byrne said on the road trip the team had just finished, “Richardson constantly violated the club’s rules, and greatly weakened the team through his inability to play ball properly.”

On that trip, which began on June 26, the Grooms won the first five games—putting them in first place—then they dropped 14 of 15 (with a tie); putting them in 5th place, eight and  half games back before returning to Brooklyn.

Richardson defended himself in The Citizen:

“I am a sick man. I have a certificate from a physician which ought to convince Manager Foutz that I am unable to play ball. My stomach has been troubling me and my lungs are weak. I have had a bad cold which has affected my lungs since the season opened. I want to deny that I have been drinking. This layoff is merely to get rid of paying me my money. I have never been charged with drinking before, and I have always borne the reputation of being a reliable player. When a man’s sick he can’t play ball, and that’s all there is to it.”

The Brooklyn Standard Union said Richardson “says he is falsely accused of ‘tippling;’ that the false news has reached his home and his business partner, thereby injuring his reputation,” and that he would not play for Brooklyn again unless Foutz and Byrne “retract what is alleged.”

Richardson, who had lived his entire life in Elmira, New York, and was a partner in a local dry goods firm, Sheehan, Dean & Company which operated stores in New York and Pennsylvania—he remained with the company for the rest of his life—was extremely popular, and the town’s paper’s took up his cause. The Gazette and Free Press made it clear where the locals stood:

“The reports…will not affect his excellent reputation as a good ball player, and an enterprising businessman, in the least. Everybody here knows Dan too well to take any stock in Manager Foutz’ charges.”

New York sportswriters quickly took sides as well. O.P. Caylor, in The New York Herald said up until the suspension, “very few baseball patrons knew” that Richardson drank to excess, “But to those more intimately acquainted with him it was no news that Danny went off on a quiet ‘bat;’ occasionally.”

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 Caylor

He also made it clear he thought the infielder was overrated to begin with:

“Richardson has been known as the ‘King of second baseman.’ He probably should have divided that honor with (Bid) McPhee, and (Fred) Dunlap, (Ross) Barnes and (Fred) Pfeffer in their day were, in an all-around sense, Richardson’s superiors.”

Caylor said the “proof” that Richardson “deserved what he got,” was that “The Brooklyn club has a deserving record for leniency and square dealing with its ballplayers. No club in the country acts more fairly toward with its ballplayers.” Therefore he concluded, suspending him meant there was “no shadow of doubt,” about Richardson’s guilt.

Richardson’s fate highlighted “the greatest of all evils” in baseball, said Caylor:

“Why it is that more than 50 percent of professional baseball players are excessive users of intoxicating liquors is a problem that has not yet been worked out.”

Sam Crane, infielder turned baseball writer, said in The New York Press that Richardson was being treated unfairly. He criticized Foutz and Byrne for spreading rumors about the second baseman before news of the suspension broke. Crane said while he covered Richardson during his years with the Giants:

“(He) was a model player in every way and was often held up as an example for other players to follow. He was a credit to the profession, and not a breath of suspicion ever touched him.”

Crane was concerned by the team’s “spiteful tone,” and felt that Richardson might never play again:

“This may be base ball law, but it is doubtful if it would be held as lawful in any court in this broad land, and it is not likely that any but a baseball magnate would so consider it.”

Byrne doubled down after Richardson’s demand for a retraction. He gave The Brooklyn Eagle a detailed account of the games Richardson missed and why:

“”Mr. Richardson says he’s been sick. Very likely, but there is usually cause for sickness. His sick spells began early in the season. On May 9, in New York Mr. Richardson about the second inning had to leave the game. He said his head was dizzy and he could not see. He failed to report the next day. He played from May 11 to May 27 inclusive. He was unfit to play ball May 29 and failed to report for either of the games of Memorial Day.”

Additionally, Byrne said, Richardson “made his appearance in Brooklyn” late on June 5 and “His appearance was painfully noticeable.” And, Richardson’s “sick spells” always seemed to happen on Mondays and continued throughout June.

Byrne told the paper that he spoke to his player before the road trip:

“Richardson admitted most frankly to me that he had not done right, that he was heartily ashamed of himself, but that he had made up his mind to stop his nonsense and by good work redeem himself.”

Byrne said Richardson behaved badly on road trip, including an incident in the billiard room at the Gibson House Hotel in Cincinnati, where Foutz “as a matter of kindness, went to him and begged him not to make a show of himself in a public place.”

When Richardson failed to arrive at the ballpark in Baltimore on July 18 and 19, Byrne said the team could not “be imposed upon any longer.”

Byrne told The Standard Union:

“There will be no withdrawal or apology of any statements made–we have never made charges—because everything so far published is true. Mr. Richardson—if we desire his services—will play with Brooklyn or not at all. He will not be released; he will not be exchanged for the best ballplayer in the country, not can his services be secured for any money consideration whatever.”

With the situation at an impasse, The Eagle saw one upside:

“The recent trouble in the Brooklyn team which resulted in the suspension of Danny Richardson, was the cause of Brooklyn securing, beyond all odds, the latest youngster in the league. William H. Keeler.”

The Grooms purchased Keeler from the Giants for $800 five days after Richardson’s suspension. Two weeks later, The Eagle said:

“When he joined the team he was a good man, but of course, he lacked the knowledge of the intricate points possessed by the old timers, In a short while, however he mastered all the points, and today is the equal of any of the star players.”

Keeler hit .313 in 20 games, but apparently did not impress Foutz and Byrne as much he impressed The Eagle; he was traded to Baltimore with Dan Brouthers for George Treadway and Billy Shindle before the 1894 season.

Richardson hid out from the controversy in Elizabethtown, New York, and according to The Elizabethtown Post, played at least one game with the town’s club:

“(Richardson) played with the home team and very materially aided in the happy result (a 16 to 14 victory). His brilliant playing was closely watched by a large crowd of spectators and for the space of two hours he was little less than an idol. When he made an excusable muff, owing to collision with a base runner it was the surprise of the season to think him human enough to err.”

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Richardson’s game in Elizabethtown

Richardson returned to Elmira in October and played games with the local amateur team, the Cornings.

Rumors began circulating in December that Richardson and team would come to some compromise; The New York World made the paper’s position in the dispute clear:

“The Brooklyn Baseball Club, it is said, will extend clemency to Danny Richardson next year and condescendingly allow him to breathe and play ball next year if he so desires.”

On December 14, the team announced that Richardson was free to play in 1884. The team’s treasurer, Ferdinand A. “Gus” Abell told The Standard Union:

“If Foutz wants Richardson to play second base, the latter is at liberty to come to Brooklyn next spring and sign a contract. If Richardson is not wanted, I’d be perfectly willing to trade him off; but I wouldn’t sell his release. New York can have him for (Amos) Rusie or one of their star players, as I think he would attend to business under (John Montgomery) Ward and play good ball.”

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Foutz

Brooklyn appeared to keep the door open for the second baseman to return. Foutz told The Brooklyn Times in January that he wrote Richardson “asking him what his intentions were,” but that he had received no reply.” The New York Herald said that Richardson wrote in letter that he was “afraid that if he should decide to play under Foutz again the cranks would give him a roasting whenever he made an error.”

Several trades were rumored over the next several months. The Herald said four clubs—Louisville, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and New York– wanted him, The Chicago Tribune said Richardson would be traded to St. Louis for Kid Gleason, The Philadelphia Inquirer said the Giants had offered outfielder Mike Tiernan in trade, while The Louisville Times said Richardson would be traded there for Tom Brown.

In February, The Louisville Courier-Journal said Richardson would be sold to the Colonels:

“The exact amount is a secret, but it is not far from $2500.”

But the deal became stalled for a month, with news that either Richardson, despite meeting with manager Billy Barnie and captain Fred Pfeffer in New York , was still hesitant about joining them in Kentucky, or that the Colonels were trying to pay less than originally agreed upon.

When the Brooklyn correspondent for Sporting Life claimed, “Louisville sighs for Richardson, and bothers Brooklyn for him, but when asked a fair price…offer one half the amount.,” The Courier-Journal responded:

“It does seem a little steep to pay $2500 for a player who was suspended for dissipation.”

The deal was finally made on March 15, Louisville paid $2250. The New York Press said that Byrne “thought that was a good amount,” because it was the same Brooklyn paid Washington when they traded Bill Joyce and cash to acquire him.

Barnie told The Courier his team’s prospects for 1894 rested on having acquired Richardson:

“There had been so much talk and Danny is a man of such great value, that I felt we must get him or quit. We couldn’t afford to quit, so we just got him.”

Louisville went 36-94 and finished in 12th place; Richardson moved to shortstop, played in 116 games and hit .256; the keystone combination of Pfeffer and Richardson accounted for 132 errors.

In the season’s final week, after the September 24th game—an 8 to 7 loss to the Giants–his team more than 50 games out of first place, Richardson asked for and received his release. The New York World said:

“Danny Richardson has not been on the Louisville payroll since the first part of this week. He forfeited half a month’s pay to be permitted to leave for his home in Elmira. He is tired of baseball, disheartened with the playing of his club and sick of criticisms that fell upon him when he took chances to make difficult plays and missed the plays. It is likely that he will give up baseball.”

The 31-year-old never played another major league game.

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #32

8 Apr

“He Runs Bases Like a cow”

John Irwin began 1891, his eighth and final major league season playing for the Boston Reds, managed by his brother Arthur.

After a June game with The Colonels, The Louisville Courier-Journal said the connection was not an accident:

“John Irwin, who is a ball player because his brother is a baseball manager, was in a part of yesterday’s game. He runs bases like a cow and was caught off first yesterday in the easiest manner possible. He foolishly ran out between the bases and then waited until (catcher Jack) Ryan had thrown the ball to get him out. He is very gay and is never happier or more fatal to Boston’s chances then when he is coaching. His dangerous advice got one man out yesterday.”

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John Irwin

The paper said when Irwin entered the game, at least one of his teammates, right fielder, Hugh Duffy was not pleased:

“Duffy was seen to remonstrate yesterday, when Irwin took (Paul) Radford’s place. It was like leaving the short field without a man. Irwin would be cheaper to the Boston club were he paid five times as much as he is now, with the proviso that he did not in the field—except to bring a bat.”

Irwin was released by the Boston Reds on July 16, and immediately signed by the Louisville Colonels.

“He Fairly Flew at me”

Roger Connor jumped the New York Giants and signed with the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association in November of 1891. Before he left New York, he sought out Sam Crane, former major leaguer and reporter for The New York Press, to settle a score in “an uptown saloon.”

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Connor

Crane told the story in the pages of The Press:

“I know Roger fully believes what he says. I had a short séance with him recently and was unfortunate enough to strike Roger in a very unamiable mood. Talk about the effect of a red flag on a mad bill.”

According to Crane, when Connor approached him in the bar:

“He fairly flew at me and threatened to knock seven kinds of daylight out of me, or any other baseball reporter that ever lived, in as many minutes.”

The New York Herald said Connor had also threatened George Erskine Stackhouse of The New York Tribune and Charles Mathison of The New York Sun.

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Crane

Crane continued the story:

“His big form loomed over me and his brawny fist made belligerent hieroglyphics before my face a very vivid recollection came to me of what an effect that same fist on the features of (his former New York teammate) Ed Caskin several years ago. I would bet even money just at that stage of the game that he could lick John L. Sullivan in a punch, and I decided to forego, for some time at least, all further thought of making any arguments with him.”

Crane suggested that those who called him “a gentleman” and congratulated him on staying above the fray and not getting in a fight with Connor were not considering Connor’s point of view:

“Roger laid great stress on the fact that I once said, ‘he hadn’t a heart as big as a pea.’”

Connor was assigned to the Philadelphia Phillies after the American Association folded.

“He Never Gave the Game Enough”

The Detroit News said during the spring of 1912, Hughie Jennings told young players as the Tigers trained in Louisiana that to be successful a player “must breathe baseball, eat baseball, play baseball, and sleep baseball.”

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Hugh Jennings

Jennings said four of his players—Ty Cobb, Donie Bush. Sam Crawford, and Del Gainer—“devote their entire time and attention” to baseball.

“The man who is successful is the man who trains himself to his work and keeps his mind on it.”

Jennings then mentioned his only exception to that rule:

“In my career in the game I have known but one really good player who could place baseball second to other things. That man is Bill Dahlen, now manager of the Brooklyn team. Dahlen played the ponies and indulged in other outside affairs. He never practiced. He never gave the game enough when off the field, and he always reached the clubhouse two or three minutes before starting time. Sometimes the game had to wait till Bill took his position at short.”

Jennings, who was Dahlen’s teammate in 1899-1900 in Brooklyn said:

“If Dahlen had devoted his entire time to baseball he would have been the greatest infielder of all time. He could take a grounder on either side of him while in motion and throw without hesitating a moment. He could smash the ball to any part of the lot and bunt perfectly. He was a great baserunner. There was no more brilliant fielder.”

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Bill Dahlen

Jennings acknowledged that his former teammate was not the “greatest of all time,” but:

“He should have been.”

Lost Advertisements–Larry McLean for Sweet Caporal

25 Sep

mclean

A 1914 Sweet Caporal Cigarette advertisement featuring New York Giants catcher Larry McLean “a great favorite of the fans:”

“Once a smoker gets the taste of Sweet Caporal no other cigarette ever really satisfies him.  He always comes back to good old Sweets.”

McLean wore out his welcome in New York and ended his major league career the following season when he fought with Manager John McGraw, and McGraw’s right-hand man, “Sinister Dick” Kinsella in the lobby of the Buckingham Hotel in St. Louis.

It was hardly the first controversy for McLean, who battled–albeit not physically–with every manager he played for during his 13-year-career.  Sam Crane, the sports writer and former infielder, summed up McLean well in a 1910 article for “Pearson’s Magazine:”

“Larry McLean, of the Cincinnati Reds, as a mere mechanical catcher is hard to beat.  He has a splendid arm and can throw like a streak.  Larry is too, perhaps, the best batting catcher in either league, but his erratic habits make it impossible to place any confidence in him.”

Larry McLean

                                  Larry McLean

A year earlier, in May, McLean had deserted the Reds during an East Coast trip and was “suspended indefinitely” by Manager Clark Griffith, who told The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“When you have a man who is liable to run out at the first call of the wild, you are in an uncertain position all the time. I am perfectly free to say that I might not take McLean back on the team at all, and certainly not until he shows me that he means business.”

McLean was back in the lineup within days, and as he did throughout his career, pledged to a reporter from The Cincinnati Times-Star that he would “(C)onduct himself properly from now on.”

It was a pledge McLean made and broke several times throughout his career which ended at age 33.  He would be dead six years later, the result of a fight in a Boston bar.

 

Grantland Rice’s “All-Time All-Star Round up”

10 Aug

In December of 1917, thirty-eight-year-old sportswriter Grantland Rice of The New York Tribune enlisted in the army–he spent fourteen months in Europe.  Before he left he laid out the case, over two weeks, for an all-time all-star team in the pages of the paper:

“As we expect to be held to a restricted output very shortly, due to the exigencies and demands of the artillery game, this seemed to be a fairly fitting period to unfold the results.”

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

Rice said the selections were “not solely from our own limited observation, extending over a period of some eighteen or twenty years,” but included input from players, managers and sportswriters, including  “such veterans” as Frank Bancroft and Clark Griffith, and baseball writers Joe Vila of The New York Sun, Bill Hanna of The New York Herald and Sam Crane, the former major league infielder turned sportswriter of The New York Journal.

Rice said only one of the nine selections “(S)eems to rest in doubt.  The others were almost unanimously backed.”

The selections:

Pitcher:  Christy Mathewson

A. G. Spalding, John (Montgomery) Ward, Larry Corcoran, Charley Radbourn, John Clarkson, (Thomas) Toad Ramsey, Tim Keefe, Bill Hoffer, Amos Rusie, (Mordecai) Miner Brown, Addie Joss, Ed Walsh–the array is almost endless.

“In the matter of physical stamina, Cy Young has outclassed the field.  Cy won more games than almost any others ever pitched.

“(But) For all the pitching mixtures and ingredients, stamina, steadiness, brilliancy, brains, control, speed, curves, coolness, courage, is generally agreed that no man has ever yet surpassed Christy Mathewson…there has never been another who had more brains or as fine control.”

 

[…]

“It might be argued that Radbourn or (Walter) Johnson or (Grover Cleveland) Alexander was a greater pitcher than Mathewson.

But we’ll string with Matty against the field.”

Radbourn was the second choice.  Bancroft said:

“Radbourn was more like Mathewson than any pitcher I ever saw.  I mean by that, that like Matty, he depended largely upon brains and courage and control, like Matty he had fine speed and the rest of it.  Radbourn was a great pitcher, the best of the old school beyond any doubt.”

Catcher:  William “Buck” Ewing

“Here we come to a long array—Frank (Silver) Flint, Charley Bennett, (Charles “Chief”) Zimmer, (James “Deacon”) McGuire, (Wilbert) Robinson, (Marty) Bergen(Johnny) Kling, (Roger) Bresnahan and various others.

“But the bulk of the votes went to Buck Ewing.”

Buck Ewing

Buck Ewing

[…]

“Wherein did Ewing excel?

“He was a great mechanical catcher.  He had a wonderful arm and no man was surer of the bat…he had a keen brain, uncanny judgment, and those who worked with him say that he had no rival at diagnosing the  weakness of opposing batsman, or at handling his pitchers with rare skill.”

Kling was the second choice:

“Kling was fairly close…a fine thrower, hard hitter, and brilliant strategist…But as brilliant as Kling was over a span of years, we found no one who placed him over the immortal Buck.”

1B Fred Tenney

First Base was the one position with “the greatest difference of opinion,” among Rice and the others:

“From Charlie Comiskey to George Sisler is a long gap—and in that gap it seems that no one man has ever risen to undisputed heights… There are logical arguments to be offered that Hal Chase or Frank Chance should displace Fred Tenney at first.

But in the way of batting and fielding records Tenney wins….Of the present array, George Sisler is the one who has the best chance of replacing Tenney.”

2B Eddie Collins

 “There was no great argument about second base.

“The vote was almost unanimous.

“From the days of Ross Barnes, a great hitter and a good second baseman on through 1917, the game has known many stars.  But for all-around ability the game has known but one Eddie Collins.”

Rice said the competition was between Collins, Napoleon Lajoie and Johnny Evers:

“Of these Lajoie was the greatest hitter and most graceful workman.

“Of these Evers was the greatest fighter and the more eternally mentally alert.

“But for batting and base running, fielding skill, speed and the entire combination, Collins was voted on top.”

 SS Honus Wagner

“Here, with possibly one exception, is the easiest pick of the lot.  The game has been replete with star shortstops with George Wright in 1875 to (Walter “Rabbit”) Maranville, (George “Buck”) Weaver…There were (Jack) Glasscock and (John Montgomery) Ward, (Hardy) Richards0n, (Hugh) Jennings, (Herman)Long, (Joe) Tinker and (Jack) Barry.

“But there has been only one Hans Wagner.”

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

Jennings and Long were rated second and third,  “But, with the entire list  considered there is no question but that Wagner stands at the top.”

3B Jimmy Collins

Rice said:

“From the days of (Ned) Williamson(Jerry) Denny, and (Ezra) Sutton, over thirty years ago, great third basemen have only appeared at widely separated intervals.

“There have been fewer great third basemen in baseball than at any other position, for there have been periods when five or six years would pass without an undoubted star.”

The final decision came down to “John McGraw vs. Jimmy Collins.”  McGraw was “a great hitter, a fine bunter and a star base runner,” while “Collins was a marvel and a marvel over a long stretch…he was good enough to carve out a .330 or a .340 clip (and) when it came to infield play at third he certainly had no superior…So taking his combined fielding and batting ability against that of McGraw and Collins wins the place.  McGraw was a trifle his superior on the attack. But as a fielder there was no great comparison, Collins leading by a number of strides.”

 

OF Ty Cobb

“The supply here is overwhelming…Yet the remarkable part is that when we offered our selection to a jury of old players, managers and veteran scribes there was hardly a dissenting vote.”

[…]

“Number one answers itself.  A man who can lead the league nine years in succession at bat.

“A man who can lead his league at bat in ten out of eleven seasons.

“A man who can run up the record for base hits and runs scored in a year—also runs driven in.

“Well, the name Ty Cobb answers the rest of it.”

OF Tris Speaker

 “The man who gives Cobb the hardest battle is Tris Speaker.  Veteran observers like Clark Griffith all say that Speaker is the greatest defensive outfielder baseball has ever exploited…Speaker can cover more ground before a ball is pitched than any man.  And if he guesses incorrectly, which he seldom does, he can go a mile to retrieve his error in judgment…And to this impressive defensive strength must be added the fact he is a powerful hitter, not only a normal .350 man, but one who can tear the hide off the ball for extra bases.”

Tris Speaker "hardest hit"

Tris Speaker 

OF “Wee Willie” Keeler

Mike Kelly and Joe KelleyJimmy Sheckard and Fred Clarke—the slugging (Ed) Delehanty—the rare Bill LangeBilly Hamilton.

“The remaining list is a great one, but how can Wee Willie Keeler be put aside?

“Ask Joe Kelley, or John McGraw, or others who played with Keeler and who remember his work.

“Keeler was one of the most scientific batsmen that ever chopped a timely single over third or first…And Keeler was also a great defensive outfielder, a fine ground coverer—a great thrower—a star in every department of play.

“Mike Kelly was a marvel, more of an all-around sensation, but those who watched the work of both figure Keeler on top.”

Rice said of the nine selections:

“The above is the verdict arrived at after discussions with managers, players and writers who have seen a big section of the long parade, and who are therefore able to compare the stars of today with the best men of forgotten years.

“Out of the thousands of fine players who have made up the roll call of the game since 1870 it would seem impossible to pick nine men and award them the olive wreath.  In several instances the margin among three or four is slight.

“But as far a s deductions, observations, records and opinions go, the cast named isn’t very far away from an all-time all-star round up, picked for ability, stamina, brains, aggressiveness and team value.

“If it doesn’t stick, just what name from above could you drop?”

“The Chicago players began to Kick Vigorously”

26 Jan

The Chicago White Stockings arrived in Detroit on the evening of June 18, 1886 with a mission.  The Detroit Wolverines had won their first 18 home games, and threatened the record of 21 set by Chicago eight seasons earlier.

The Chicago Tribune said on the morning of the game a delegation of nearly 200 Chicago fans, led by team President Albert Spalding, arrived by train.  The Chicago Tribune said:

“Out of the car doors piled the delegation from the windy city, each man bearing a new broom with a placard strapped across the straw end announcing the arrival of the ‘Record Breakers.’”

The Chicago players, along with team mascot Willie Hahn, met the group at the train:

“(T)he Chicago players and their mascot marched down the platform and placed themselves at the head of the double column of visiting Chicagoans that had formed at the depot, and then with their brooms elevated, the delegation marched out of the depot…The odd looking procession, extending nearly two squares, attracted a vast amount of attention.”

The delegation marched to the team’s hotel, the Russell House, until it was time to leave for Detroit’s Recreation Park at 3 PM.

With Hahn, and the players again in the lead, the delegation marched to the ballpark.

The Chicago Inter Ocean described the team’s arrival:

“The Chicagos were escorted to the ground by a band, and entered the field behind little Willie Hahn, who carried an immense broom on which were the words ‘Our Mascot.’”

Willie Hahn

Willie Hahn

Not to be outdone, the Wolverines had quickly recruited their own mascot for the game.  The Inter Ocean said:

“The Detroits entered the grounds behind a little fellow almost the same size of Willie Hahn, and were received with cheer after cheer.”

The Wolverines mascot was “young Charlie Gallagher,” a local boy “said to have been born with teeth, and is guaranteed to posses all the magic charms of a genuine mascot.”

Charles “Lady” Baldwin pitched for Detroit, and Jim McCormick for Chicago.  Both pitchers gave up four runs through five innings.  Then, said The Tribune:

“Not a run to either side did the sixth, seventh, or eighth innings yield.  The Whites did not once get further than second in these three innings.  (Sam) Crane and (Charlie) Bennett for the home team alone reached third.

“Now (in the eighth inning) came the misfortune to which many a Detroiter attributes the defeat of their team.  Bennett had caught his usually brilliant game without an error…(Fred) Pfeffer was at bat and struck one of those wicked fouls that have so often proved terrors to catchers.  The ball caught the crack catcher upon the tip of the middle finger of his right hand, and almost tore it from the joint.  Bennett bore the pain like a man, tried to brace up and go on, but he soon saw the folly of such an undertaking and withdrew.”

Shortstop Jack Rowe moved behind the plate to replace Bennett, and the following inning, with a runner on second and no out,  a foul off the bat of George Gore struck Rowe’s finger ”jerking the member out of joint, besides splitting it badly.”

Detroit then tried to stall in order to have the game called on account of darkness

(Charlie) Ganzel, the Detroits’ remaining catcher, was then sent for.  A long delay followed.  The delay was so long that the Chicago players began to kick vigorously.  ‘The man will not put on his uniform,’ said (Cap) Anson to (Umpire John) Gaffney.”

Ganzel finally took the field “after twenty-five minutes’ delay.”  Gore singled, moving McCormick to third, then Ganzel allowed a passed ball, and Chicago won 5 to 4.

“The scene that followed can scarcely be described, and the delight of the Chicago delegation bordered upon wildness, and was in strong contrast to the blue faces of the great crowd of Detroiters that filed out of the grounds.  Brooms were waved with increased enthusiasm by the Chicago contingent on the road back to the hotel.”

Detroit won the two remaining games in the series and increased their lead over the second place White Stockings to three and a half games.  They stayed in first place until August 26—Chicago took over the league lead and never relinquished it, winning the National League pennant by two and half games.

Hahn remained the White Stockings mascot until 1888. Charlie Gallagher was never heard from again.

Big Six versus The Hoosier Thunderbolt

6 Aug

Christy Mathewson had only pitched five full seasons when Sam Crane of The New York Journal said in January of 1906 “there is a great diversity of opinion” regarding whether Mathewson or Amos Rusie was the better pitcher.

Crane said “Old-time lovers of the game” said Rusie, “The Hoosier Thunderbolt”, whose career ended in 1901 after being traded to Cincinnati for “Big Six” Mathewson,  was the best ever, “and refuse to acknowledge that the young college man who won the world’s championship so easily last fall…is his superior.”   While, “the younger generation of enthusiasts say there was never but one Mathewson and point to his wonderful record to prove their point.”

Amos Rusie

Amos Rusie

Crane said two famous New York baseball figures—and future Hall of Famers– disagreed on the point:

George Davis, the crack shortstop of the Chicago White Sox, and one of the best players who ever wore ‘New York’ across his shirt front, met Clark Griffith, manager of the Yankees (Crane was one of the earliest to call the then “Highlanders” the “Yankees”), yesterday at the headquarters of the New York American club, and argued over the much mooted questions of pitching superiority between the two crack box artists.  Both Davis and Griffith agreed that Mathewson and Rusie were two of the best, but differed as to which was entitles to the premier position.”

Davis thought Mathewson was better.

“Both have excelled all other Boxmen.  I have never batted against Matty in a game, but I have met his curves in practice and I want to say that he has just as good control of the ball as Rusie.  Matty’s most effective ball is a straight drop, but his speed is a great factor as well as a wonderfully controlled slow ball.  He uses his forearm and elbow and winds up in such a manner that a batsman is sure to be puzzled.  Rusie, on the other hand, depended on an out drop, which he controlled with remarkable skill, in addition to his fast ball; but he had very little preliminary motion and used his shoulder almost exclusively.  Rusie probably had the better physique, but in head work and vitality Mathewson outclasses the big Hoosier.”

Christy Mathewson with John McGraw

Christy Mathewson with John McGraw

Griffith disagreed:

“Rusie in his prime was the best twirler that ever stepped into the box.  His curves, speed and control were the best assortment I ever looked at, and no pitcher has ever approached him in class since he made his departure from baseball.”

Crane cast the deciding vote, declaring:

“Rusie never had a peep in with Mathewson as a box artist.  Rusie relied mostly on brute strength until his arm began to show symptoms of crystallizing, then he accumulated a good slow ball; but for head work, pure good judgment, with a delivery or series of deliveries to back up his well-balanced brain, Mathewson is superior to any pitcher who ever wore shoe plates.”

Crane’s analysis was prescient.

Rusie’s greatness is undisputed—his speed was primary reason for moving the pitching distance from 50‘ to 60’ 6”—but his best days were behind him before he turned 24-years-old.  His season-long holdout in 1896 and the arm injury that effectively ended his career at 27 after the 1898 season (except for three games he pitched for the Cincinnati Reds in 1901) make him one of baseball’s great “what ifs?”  He still finished his career 246-174, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977.

Mathewson won twenty games for nine straight seasons after Crane declared him “superior to any pitcher.   He finished 373-188 and was part of the Hall of Fame’s first induction class.

Sam Crane on International Baseball

30 Jul

Samuel Newhall “Sam” Crane, like Tim Murnane, turned to sports writing after his career on the field ended.  His involvement in a scandal might have contributed to his departure from the diamond—but contrary to oft-repeated stories it was not the direct result.

Sam Crane

Sam Crane

Crane was named as a respondent in a Scranton, Pennsylvania divorce in 1889—a prominent Scranton businessman named Edwin Fraunfelter (some contemporary newspapers incorrectly said “Travenfelter”) charged that Crane had stolen his wife, and $1500.  Crane had played for the Scranton Miners in 1887 and ’88 and departed the city with Fraunfelter’s wife Hattie in 1889, relocating to New York.  Crane and Hattie Fraunfelter were returned to Scranton to face trial for the theft.

In October of 1889, they were acquitted.  The Philadelphia Times said the two were released and Mr. Fraunfelter was ordered to pay the court costs, and “The congratulations which were showered on the second baseman and the woman made a scene in the courtroom.”

Despite the scandal the New York Giants (twice) and the Pittsburgh Alleghenys were happy to sign Crane in 1890.  The end of his career was more of a result of the 36-year-old’s .179 batting average and diminishing fielding skills—twelve errors in 103 total chances at second base–and, of course, he probably wouldn’t have found himself in Scranton in 1887 and ’88 had his career not already been on a downward trajectory.

Crane immediately went to work for The New York Press upon his retirement and remained one of the most respected sports writers in the country.  He edited the “Reach Guide” from 1902 until his death in 1926.

In 1905 Crane, then with The New York Journal, wrote about the boom in International baseball on the eve of the visit of the Waseda University baseball team:

“The Japanese are nothing if not progressive, and even with their country in the throes of a disastrous war (The Russo-Japanese War) they have found time to devote attention to our national game.”

Crane said the Waseda visit would:

“(M)ark a red letter day in the history of the game,  It will be a sensational era in the life of the sport, and in fact, that of all athletic sports.”

Japan was not alone in embracing the game:

“Baseball is also flourishing in South Africa.  The Transvaal Leader, a progressive newspaper, has taken up the sport and publishes full scores of the games and the records of the players.

“There is a South African baseball association and the players of the different teams can hit the ball, even if they have not yet attained the accuracy and agility in fielding their American cousins have reached.  According to The Leader, out of thirty-seven batsmen who figure in the official  record from July 1 to October 8, twenty-three of them batted over .300…A batter named Suter of the Wanderers was the Lajoie of the league, and he made our own ‘Larruping Larry’s’ record of .381 look like a bush league mark.  Suter’s batting percentage was .535.

“The second batter to Suter was Hotchkiss, also of the Wanderers, who walloped out a base hit every other time at bat, making his average .500…Wonder what the Africans would do with ‘Rube’ Waddell and the Chesbro ‘spit ball?’”

As evidence that the South Africans had “grasped the American style of reporting games” Crane gave an example from a recent edition of The Leader:

“’The diamond was very hard, and, as a consequence, the ball frequently wore whiskers, as some infielders can testify.’”

Crane expressed surprise that baseball had taken such a “stronghold” in an “English possession”  like South Africa:

“Britons, wherever found, look upon the great American game as a direct infringement on the sporting rights as established by cricket.

“’It is only an offshoot of our rounders,’ they are wont to say, and that ancient game is about on the level of ‘one old cat’ and ‘barnball.’

“Englishmen are extremely conservative about their sports, especially of cricket, which is considered their national game, and in their own stanch little island they have always pooh-poohed baseball.  But when the Briton gets away from home influences he becomes an ardent admirer of the American game and is loud in his praise of the sharp fielding it develops.

“In Canada, South Africa and Australia, where there is more hustling, and time is more valuable than in the staid old mother country, the quick action, liveliness and all around hustling of baseball that give a result in a couple of hours, is fast becoming more popular with the colonials than cricket, that requires as many days to arrive at a decision.

“Great strides have been made in baseball in the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands.  Honolulu is the headquarters just now, but the game is fast spreading to other localities.  The game has been played in the Sandwich Islands for many years, but it was not until the United States was given possession that it flourished.”

Crane mentioned that his late brother Charles–who died in 1900, and incidentally, married his brother Sam’s ex-wife who Sam divorced before leaving Scranton with Mrs. Fraunfelter) had been the catcher on the team representing the naval vessel the USS Vandalia and frequently played games against teams in Hawaii and Samoa during the 1880s:

“The natives took to the game very quickly and soon learned to enjoy it.  They welcomed every arrival of the Vandalia with loud demonstrations of joy, and there was a general holiday whenever a game was to be played.”

Crane predicted that baseball would continue to flourish in the islands, and throughout Asia, noting that a Chinese player “plays third base on the leading club, and has the reputation of being the best player in the whole league.”

He was likely referring to 20-year-old Charles En Sue Pung, a teammate of Barney Joy’s on the Honolulu Athletic Club team who was also one of Hawaii’s best track athletes.  Pung was rumored to be joining Joy when the pitcher signed with the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League in 1907, and in 1908 there were brief rumors in the press that Chicago Cubs Manager Frank Chance wanted to sign the Chinese third baseman—neither materialized, and he remained in Hawaii.

Charles En Sue Pung

Charles En Sue Pung

Crane said the growth of the game internationally would be endless; he said the introduction of the game in the Philippines was a prime example:

“(T)here are several enclosed grounds in Manila to which are attracted big crowds…I know they can learn to play the game, for when the (New York) Giants were in Savannah (Georgia) for practice last spring a team of soldiers from a nearby fort played an exhibition game with the Giants.”

Crane said the team was accompanied by “a young Filipino, who, while he did not play on the soldier team, practiced with them and showed surprising proficiency… (The) youth knew all the points of the game as well as Henry Chadwick.”

For Crane, that was enough to declare that “in short order” the Philippines would adopt the game as had, and would, “all people that are blessed with real red blood and progressive.”

Henry Fabian

21 Jan

Like John Bradley and George Kittle, Henry Fabian was a member of the 1888 Dallas Hams, champions of the Texas League and the Texas Southern League.  Unlike those two, when someone fired a shot at him he missed.

Fabian was born in New Orleans, in 1864 or 1866, depending on the source.  He began his career in 1886, catching and playing first base for both of his hometown teams in the four-team Gulf League: the Robert E. Lee’s and the team that became the New Orleans Pelicans.

Fabian had his fingers broken by a foul tip before the beginning of the season.  A 1913 article by former Major Leaguer turned sportswriter Sam Crane told the story:

“It was such a serious injury that there was no possibility of his playing again that season and rather than release him his manager (Thomas Brennan) asked him to become groundskeeper at the same salary he was getting as a player.”

That experience would stay with him.

By November of 1887 he had recovered enough to play in games against the Chicago White Stockings and Saint Louis Browns when their post-season barnstorming tour stopped in New Orleans.

In 1888 Fabian came to Texas as a member of the Galveston Giants, but was with Dallas by June. While statistics are spotty for his career, and non-existent for 1888, The Dallas Morning News said of him:

“Though not a brilliant player, Henry has always been a hardworking courageous one.”

Fabian continued playing until 1903, spending his entire career in Texas and Louisiana with the exception of 1891 when he played for the Cedar Rapids Canaries in the Illinois-Iowa League where he played with John McGraw, who became one of his closest friends.

Fabian was the subject of two strange stories.  In a July 1892 a headline in The Dallas Morning News said:

“Henry Fabian Shot At.  A Case in Which a Base Ball Man Dodged a Bullet.”

The story said a local carpenter named Parker had fired a shot at Fabian.  Fabian told a reporter for the paper that “an article appeared in The Kansas City Sun about which he wanted an explanation from Parker.”  The article said “Mr. Fabian’s description of the article The News is not privileged to report at this stage of the proceedings.”

There was never another reference in any Dallas paper to the incident or about what the Kansas City story might have been.

Henry Fabian, circa 1930

Henry Fabian, circa 1930

In 1904 an Associated Press article appeared in several newspapers under the headline “Joy Restores Her Sight:”

“Sight has been miraculously restored to the stone-blind eyes of an aged mother by the voice of her son who returned unheralded after an absence of 18 years.  The woman is Mrs. Sophie Fabian of New Orleans and the son is Henry.”

The rest of the story did not completely live up to the headline or lede; Mrs. Fabian was told her sight might come back and the story conceded “the recovery was not complete,” but nonetheless, the paper’s treated it as some kind of miracle

Fabian returned to baseball in 1905 as part owner and president of the Waco Tigers in the Texas League, and while there he was the catalyst for changing a Texas law that helped make Texas League baseball profitable.

That, and Fabian’s other claims to fame, tomorrow.