Tag Archives: Sam Thompson

“So, Great Buck Ewing is Dead”

21 Aug

“So, great Buck Ewing is dead.”

That was Sam Thompson’s reaction when told by The Detroit News that Ewing had died at age 47.

Ewing was less than five months older than Thompson, who had come out of retirement to play in eight games for the Tigers just two months earlier.

“They’re slipping away, aren’t they, those fine old fellows who by their head work and lovable natures made the game what it is today! It was such men as Ewing, (Tim) Keefe, (Roger) Connor and a score of others who inspired me.”

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Ewing

Although roughly the same age, Ewing was in the major leagues for five seasons before Thompson made his debut:

“As a boy I used to read of the great Ewing, and I set him up as my ideal. He and Connor were always my idols.  Later, when I began to play in the big leagues and (later) went to Philadelphia, I roomed with Roger (in 1892), my acquaintance with—while it in no way lessened my regard for him—sort of pulled him from the pedestal. Ewing, however, I never became so closely attached to, and there was always the baseball idol worship about the man for me.”

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Thompson

Thompson said when he did interact with Ewing, it added “to this setting him higher as the ideal” of a baseball player:

“He was such a whole-souled, lovable chap. His wonderful work on the diamond in no way affected his disposition. He was always modest and retiring.”

And he said:

“There never lived a greater catcher or all -around ballplayer.

“Mike Kelly? Well, Kelly was a grand ballplayer all right, but he was the cunning player, the fellow with startling tricks. Ewing, on the other hand, was the thinker, the deep student of the game. His was the inside game. No player ever lived who could play the same kind of game that Kelly put up, but Ewing was of the different type. He was the more consistent thinker.”

Thompson said he believed Ewing was “the first catcher to get the infield signaling down t anything like a system,” and:

“He was the pioneer of present-day headwork behind the bat. He always had us hugging the bases. He devised tricks that are now common in baseball. They were figured out long before the game started. Kelly’s greatness, on the other hand, lay in his marvelous ability to grasp a situation quicker than lightning.”

He said when he played “with the old Detroit team we used to anxiously await who going to catch,” for the Giants:

“If it was (William ‘California’) Brown there was a sigh of relief. Not that we were belittling the work of Brown; it was simply that Ewing was so much better. He dazzled us. He had the infield under his control all the time. He had tricks of pulling us off the sacks that were new and we did not know what to do. That old Detroit bunch could win with Brown catching almost any day in the week, but with Ewing it was different.”

One man was responsible for New York’s success:

“It was Buck Ewing who won all those championships for the old Giants.

“Tim Keefe stood out as a wonderful pitcher. It was Keefe and Ewing. That old battery was the talk of the country.

“And yet Tim Keefe told me time and again, when they were at their best, that without Buck Ewing he would be no better than any other fairly good pitcher.

“’It’s all Buck,’ he would say, ‘he’s the boy who steadies me and gets the work done.”

Thompson’s first major league game—July 2, 1885–was against the Giants, with Keefe on the mound (although he misremembered Ewing being behind the plate that day—it was Pat Deasley):

“I don’t recall whether I did anything in the game (Thompson replaced Gene Moriarty in right field after the latter was in the 5th inning, he was 1 for 2 and scored a run) but I do remember we won. We beat the Giants 4 to 0.

“That victory did more for me among the players than any one thing. They called me their mascot. New York had been beating them right along.”

 

Thompson said when he left the Phillies in 1898, he nearly played for Ewing:

“I had left Philadelphia and had decided to give up the game. Ewing was then managing the Reds and wrote me asking if I would come to Cincinnati. He said he thought he could put through a deal whereby I could sign up all right.

“I was sorely tempted, as I had always wanted to play in Cincinnati. I had always been given a good reception there and had played some of my best games there.

“I didn’t accept, however. I thought that I might not do as well as I had, and I didn’t want to show poorly after all the good work I had done in that city.”

“Several Thousands of Dollars Were Staked”

19 Jun

After the first game of the 1887 post season series between the American Association champion Browns and the National League champion Detroit Wolverines—won by St. Louis 6 to 1–The St. Louis Post-Dispatch found that the various options to bet on game two and the series “at the local pool rooms” was “exciting, and some of it was quite humorous.

The paper said before game one the “betting was 100 to 65 that Detroit would win the series and now the betting s even.”

The betting odds on game two were “10 to 9 on the Browns,” and said the paper “several thousands of dollars were staked.”

Most interesting, said the paper were the “peculiar bets” offered:

(Ten to win 30) that Bob Caruthers makes most hits in the game today

10—50 that Bill Gleason makes most hits

1-1 that Caruthers, Tip O’Neill, and Arlie Latham make more hits than Sam Thompson, Fred Dunlap, and Hardy Richardson

1—1 that O’Neill makes more hits than Thompson

4—1 that Thompson does not make the most hits

10—5 that Richardson does not make the most hits in game

10—5 that Dunlap does not make the most hits

10—5 that Latham does not

1—1 that Curt Welch, Charles Comiskey, and Latham steal at least one base

The paper also said the odds on that day’s game were “10—9 against Detroit.”

The Wolverines won game two, 5 to 3, and won the series 10 games to 5.

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The game two box score

As for the “peculiar bets” on game two: Detroit’s Charlie Bennett and Sam Thompson each led with three hits.  Latham, O’Neill, and Carruthers had four hits, Thompson, Dunlap, and Richardson had three.

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Sam Thompson

Thompson had three hits to O’Neill’s one, and while Comiskey and Latham each stole a base, Welch did not.

Giants Versus Phillies in Verse

30 May

When the New York Giants met the Philadelphia Phillies on May 1, 1895 The New York Evening Sun provided a novel recap—the entire game was presented in verse:

 

The weather did its level best

To fire with joy the rooter’s breast,

And old Sol sent his brightest rays

To make up for past wet days

He shone with full and festive strength

Upon the Polo Grounds at length.

The balmy breezes of May Time

Resembled some fair eastern clime.

With ground so dry, yet without dust,

What player could but do or bust?

Both teams had somewhat rusty grown

By inactivity o’erthrown.

The Slowtown people were the first

To warm up with a practice burst.

The pitchers limbered up their arms,

And batters tried to work their charms

Upon the curves they volleyed in

By practice with their batting pin.

The twirlers seemed a trifle wild,

But pitcher Weyhing only smiled

And nodded like a coony fox

When told to take the pitcher’s box.

Gus Weyhing started for Philadelphia.

Gus Weyhing started for Philadelphia.

And when the players pranced about

Their frozen legs thawed quickly out.

The Phillies practicing today

Were much like Boston in their play.

The old men on the team were not

In practice quite up to the spot.

All balls that sizzled down their way

They let proceed and did not stay.

Young Turner, who was hurt last week,

Again was forced the bench to seek.

His strength gave way while in left field,

And homeward to the plate he reeled.

His captain gave him some more grace,

And Delehanty took his place.

The Giants showed up very well.

Their work was shop and clear’s the bell.

When time was called this first of May,

Four thousand people saw them play.

No umpire came to judge the game,

It had to go on just the same:

So German had to take the job,

With Reilly for his pal, be gob.

The Game:

First Inning.

Now with a last tug at his hat

Big Delehanty came to bat.

He got first on four bad balls

And down to second safely crawls,

When Hallman hit a daisy one

That Stafford stopped, but on the run.

Hamilton’s small infield fly

Was caught by Staff—Good eye! Good eye!

Clements hit to center field

And Delehanty homeward spieled.

Meanwhile Hallmann took a brace

And stood triumphant on third base.

Cross hit to Fuller, who threw to Staff,

Who dropped it, to the rooters’ wrath.

Hallman scored, and Clements out

By force at third produced a shout.

Then Sullivan to Stafford hit

He threw to Doyle and Sully quit.

Two runs.

Hot buns!

Now Fuller drew four measly shoots

And went to first by easy scoots.

Val Haltren got four balls also

And straightway down to first did go,

Advancing Fuller by this feat

To second where he took a seat.

Davis down to Hallman hit,

And Van was forced because of it.

Doyle knew a trick worth two of that—

His single hit the fence, that’s flat.

Fuller scored and David stirred\His stumps and landed safe on third.

Tiernan’s hit scored Davis too.

Staff went to first on balls, hurroo!

Burke struck thrice at the spinning sphere,

And Burkeville sadly moaned, ‘Oh, dear!’

A pretty single Farrell sent,

And skipping down to first he went.

‘Twas pretty work, and what is more,

Enabled Doyle and Mike to score.

Then Farrell climbed the second stair.

‘Twas no use.  Rusie fanned the air.

Amos Rusie started for New York

Amos Rusie started for New York

Four runs.

Great guns!

Second Inning.

Boyle sent an easy one to Staff,

He didn’t fail to do his half.

But promptly threw him out to Doyle,

Who didn’t let the good thing spoil.

Then Weyhing also fanned the air.

Thus Rusie evened things for fair.

The Delehanty followed suit

And made the third man out to boot.

No run,

Not one.

Here Clements found he was too fat,

And Buckley went behind the bat.

Fuller’s smash in center fails;

Van Haltren gets his base on balls.

In this respect Cap Davis vied.

The bases were all occupied.

Doyle force the Cap at second base,

Where Hallman calmly holds his face,

But in the turmoil that ensued

Short Fuller struck an attitude,

Then down the last course took a skate

And like a rabbit crossed the plate.

Mike singled to the right field loam,

Van Haltren also scampered home.

Then Stafford missed the fatal strike.

At second Hallman caught our Mike.

Score two—

That’s true!

Third Inning.

Then Hallman sent a liner hot,

Which Rusie let go like a shot.

The batter ambled to first base,

And Amos hid his blushing face.

Then Hamilton to Davis hit,

And Hallman took bag 2 on it.

On Buckley’s sacrifice to Doyle,

Hallman went to avis’ soil.

Then Cross lined one to Fuller’s ground,

He neatly grabbed it on the bound

And slung the pellet down to Doyle,

Who gently plucked it from the soil,

Touched first bad with his Trilby boot.

‘My,’ yelled the crowd, but you’re a beaut!’

No score.

For us Burke hit to center field,

A single the resultant yield.

Then all Burkeville with one acclaim

Rose up and cheered their hero’s name.

eddieburke

Eddie Burke–“Then all Burkeville with one acclaim–Rose up and cheered their hero’s name”

Next Farrell, seeing Fuller’s hit,

Got up and duplicated it.

The Burke took second, Eddie third,

When Delehanty sadly erred.

Then Cross, who’s never known to scowl,

Froze tight to Rusie’s little foul,

But Filler once more four balls drew

And quickly down to first base flew.

Four bad ones, too, Van Haltren got,

Which forced Ed Burke home on the spot.

Duke tried to score on Davis’ crack,

But Buckley tapped him on the back.

Doyle smashed a single out to right.

Two runs came in –‘twas out o’ sight!

Cap Davis, graceful as a bird,

Flew round the course and perched on third,

But Tienan hit to Sully’s place

And perished tamely at first base.

Score Three.

That’s we!

Fourth Inning.

Thompson four balls got, and Sully’s bunt

Let him to first—the little runt!

Boyle’s liner went to Stafford’s spot,

Who held it, though he said ‘twas hot,

And laced it onto Fuller’s paws,

Who touched bag 2 midst much applause.

Big Thompson, who should have been there,

Was caught far off his base for fair.

Now Stafford added glory won

By nabbing Weyhing’s hit.  No run.

Now Weyhing thought he had enough,

And Smith tried pitching—that’s the stuff.

When Stafford stepped up to the plate,

The crowd arose and cheered him great,

Whereas poor Staff was struck with awe

And fanned out, much against the law.

Then Hallman gathered in the sphere,

And though the thing was very near

He plugged it down to first with vim.

Burke found the ball ahead of him.

Farrell fanned the ozone thrice

And took a back seat calm and nice.

No score once more.

Fifth Inning.

When Delehanty went to bat,

He didn’t know where he was at.

He sent one down to Davis’ ground,

Who plucked it neatly on the bound

And passed it on to Jack Doyle’s place,

Who took it in with airy grace.

Hallman out, short to first,

And Hamilton was likewise curst.

No score.

Now roar!

Rusie’s out caused quite a howl,

And Buckley gobbled Fuller’s foul.

Hallman fumbled big Van’s hit;

The latter safe on first did sit.

He didn’t tarry but a minute,

But stole bag two—

Gosh, Van was in ir!

But Davis stopped all hope of fun

By going out at first.  No run.

Sixth Inning.

Buckley went out, Davis to Doyle,

Van Haltren kept Cross’ fly off soil.

Davis took Thompson foul on the run,

And the Phillies retired without a run.

Doyle sent one down to second base

And on the bench resumed his place.

Tiernan bunted mid a shout

And beat the ball two feet about.

Hamilton took in Stafford’s fly,

And Burke went out as slick as pie.

No runs.

Good fun.

Seventh Inning.

Sully’s slow bunt along the ground

Ahead of him at first he found.

Boyle died at first in style as slick.

‘Twas Fuller this time who did the trick.

Rusie attended to Smith’s weak hit.

The Quakers were certainly not in it.

No Score.

Hurrah!

Farrell out at Hallman’s door,

And Rusie fanned the air once more.

Fuller got four nasty ones,

Then down to second quickly runs.

Smith struck out lengthy Van,

Who batted like a pygmy man.

No more.

Oh, pshaw!

Eighth Inning.

For Slowtown Delly made a hit,

And Hallman duplicated it.

Fuller muffed the ball in thrown,

And Delehanty ran clear home.

Hallman safe to second crawls,

And Hamilton to first on balls.

Buckley out at first by tag.

And Hamilton off second bag.

Hallman to third on this play

And scored on Cross’ hit—hooray!

Thompson singled to center field,

And Cross to third base quickly spieled.

Sully smashed along the ground.

The ball at first ahead he found.

Score two.

That’s you.

Davis, Hallman to Boyle,

And Hamilton took care of Doyle.

Tiernan first on balls, and Staff

Forced him at second—made him laugh.

No run

By gun!

Ninth Inning.

Fuller caught Boyle’s fly like glue,

And Smith’s strike out made No. 2

Delehanty out at first.

The crowd yelled a triumphant burst.

To sum it up, the game was great.

The rooters left the grounds elate.

Then round the town they took a turn,

For every one had cash to burn.

The Box Score

The Box Score

“There is a Constant fear that Someday the Men will Decline to go on the field.”

31 Mar

The St. Louis Maroons were a big league franchise for just three seasons.  After winning the inaugural (and only) Union Association championship in 1884, the team was absorbed into the National League and was a dismal 36-72 in 1885, and 43-79 in 1886.

The club disbanded after the ’86 season and throughout the winter there was speculation about whether the franchise would end up in Kansas City (where local businessmen were looking to replace the Cowboys, who also went broke after the ’86 season) and Indianapolis.

The deal was finalized on March 8 when the franchise and nine players were sold to Indianapolis.  The Indianapolis News announced on the front page:

The Base Ball Deal

It Is Finally Completed

The story said:

“There is general rejoicing about the city over the certainty of having a league baseball club here.”

The team would be called the Hoosiers, and play at the Seventh Street Grounds, a ballpark owned by local businessman John Tomlinson Brush.

John T. Brush

John T. Brush

Brush was the driving financial force behind the deal and had been involved in local baseball in Indianapolis for several years, first having financed and organized a local amateur league in the city in order to promote his business—the When Store, and later the When Clothing Company—he was also an investor in the short-lived 1884 incarnation of the Hoosiers who struggled through one twelfth-place (29-78) season in the American Association.

The Hoosiers first year was unsuccessful and chaotic.

The first manager was George Walter “Watch” Burnham, who had been a National League umpire for 41 games in 1883 and one in 1886.  His role in the effort to acquire the franchise, his selection as manager, and the manner in which he acquired his nickname, gave some pause about the seriousness of the Indianapolis operation.

"Watch" Burnham

“Watch” Burnham

The Chicago Tribune said:

“The promoter of the Indianapolis movement is George W. Burnham, known as “Watch” Burnham.  At Cleveland, in 1883, while acting as a league umpire, he endeavored to establish himself in the public esteem by buying a watch, having ‘Presented to George W. Burnham by his friend and admirers’ inscribed on it, then having it sent out to him on the field during the progress of the game.  It is not surprising that some of the league people are suspicious of the Hoosier effort.”

Brush was not the team’s original president, that duty fell to a local attorney named Louis Newberger who spent his entire two-month tenure in the position complaining that he had no time to run the team; Brush took over as president in late May.

The Hoosiers limped to a 6-22 start—no doubt aided by 22 straight road games from May 5 through May 30.  Burnham resigned once, just five games into the season, but returned a few days later.  By mid May, as the team struggled through their endless road trip, The Chicago Tribune said a mutiny was expected:

“The dissatisfaction on the part of the players with Burnham, the manager, amounts almost to insubordination and there is a constant fear that someday the men will decline to go on the field.”

The Tribune said Burnham had fined “the entire team,” and Captain Jack Glasscock “said he would be black-listed before he would play again under the management of Burnham, but was finally prevailed upon to do so.”

Jack Glasscock

Jack Glasscock

Upon the team’s return to Indianapolis Burnham was replaced with team secretary Fred Thomas.  Thomas, like Burnham, had no professional experience as a player or manager, and his tenure was not much more successful.  The club lost 18 of 29 games with him at the helm.

The team’s third manager also had no previous professional experience.  Horace Fogel was a sportswriter for The Philadelphia Press when he was tapped to be the third manager.  The Indianapolis News said hopefully:

“Mr. Horace Fogel, the new manager, is a good-looking young man, and makes a favorable impression on a stranger.  He is evidently very anxious to make the club a winner.”

The same July day The News opined on Fogel the paper also noted that maintenance of the ballpark had also angered some fans:

“Very unwisely the management had the chairs in the gallery varnished recently and yesterday several ladies had their dresses ruined.”

Things were no better under Fogel.  The Hoosiers went 20-49 under their third manager, and finished their inaugural season in eighth place with a 37-89 record.

The News said:

“Staring out under unfavorable circumstances…with inefficient management throughout the season, and many more defeats than victories, the club nevertheless, was accorded a generous support.”

The 1888 season became a matter of civic pride for the team’s ownership, local businesses and the newspaper.

In January it was announced that the Hoosiers would have a manager with at least some experience.  Harrison “Harry” Spence had played and managed in, among others, the Eastern, Northwestern and New England Leagues.  The News said of the new manager:

“A number of ball players of various clubs, who know Harry Spence…speak very highly of him.  Sam Thompson says he is a thorough gentleman, well liked by the players, and a fine manager.”

The News said the success of the Hoosiers was necessary for the future Indianapolis:

“Business and professional men are all interested in it, for, aside from the pleasure they derive from witnessing the games, they recognize the fact that the club is of great benefit in advertising the enterprise and prosperity of the city.”

The paper organized a campaign called “Boom for Baseball.”  Sixty-eight local businessmen “representing the leading establishments in the city,” donated their advertising space back to the newspaper “for the purpose of setting forth the advantages that will accrue to the city, from the maintenance of a National League Baseball Club here.”

Brush told the paper:

“We want at least five hundred subscribers for season tickets, and with this as a guarantee, we can get the money we want.  If any such player as (Fred) Pfeffer or (Larry) Twitchell can be bought we can and will buy him, and we can get the club in first-class shape for opening the season.”

Season tickets were sold for $25 each, and Brush said “We will have a grandstand that will be a beauty, with all the latest improvements, so that there will not be one uncomfortable seat in it.  Then we will have a space set aside for carriages and a special department for ladies and their escorts.”

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Some of the advertisements from Indianapolis' "Baseball Boom"  campaign

Some of the advertisements from The Indianapolis’ News’ “Baseball Boom” campaign

Most importantly, Brush assured the people of Indianapolis that they “would have a ballclub here that nobody would be ashamed of.”

He was wrong.

While not as bad as 1887, the Hoosiers got off to a 2-11 start, and struggled to a 50-85 seventh place finish, 36 games behind the champion New York Giants.

By 1889 Indianapolis had all but given up.  The team nearly went under before the season started.  In January a headline in The News said:

The Ball Club Gone

With debts of more than $5,000, the paper said Brush would “surrender the franchise” to the league.  Brush was able to raise enough capital to keep the club operating for one more sub .500 season (59-75), and another seventh place finish.  The only highlights for Indianapolis in 1889 was the arrival of 18-year-old Indiana native Amos Rusie, who posted a 12-10 record, and Jack Glasscock who hit .352, for the Hoosiers.

The team was dropped after the 1889 season, but not because of money.  The National League bought out Brush’s Hoosiers and the Washington Nationals.  Brush received a reported $67,000 for the team, he also received stock in the New York Giants as payment for former Hoosier players.  One year earlier when The News reported that Brush was on the verge of losing the team, the paper claimed “the franchise is now worth $15,500 cash.”  While that figure might have been low there was no doubt that Brush did well on the deal.  A year later he was president and majority stock holder of the Cincinnati Reds.

Indianapolis would only be a major league city one more time; in 1914 the Hoosiers were champions of the Federal League, but were relocated the following season, becoming the Newark Peppers.

” I had Lamed my Shoulder with Cricket Playing”

5 Dec

Hall of Fame outfielder Sam Thompson was known for his excellent arm.  After four seasons with the Detroit Wolverines, he was sold to the Philadelphia Quakers in October of 1888. Several months after the sale it was revealed that he had a bad shoulder.

Sam Thompson

Sam Thompson

The speculation about how the injury might affect Thompson led The Cincinnati Enquirer to talk to “the old man of base-ball” Harry Wright about the art of throwing:

“Thompson’s trouble was entirely in the shoulder.  His arm muscles or elbow joint never bothered him.  He can, if he chooses, learn to throw without using his shoulder quite so severely as is natural for him.  The correct way to throw is to start the ball at the height of the ear, but after a man has had trouble with any of his throwing muscles he can often change his style of throwing with benefit.  Take Jack Rowe for an example.  He cannot throw naturally, and yet he plays a very good shortstop by snapping the ball with a peculiar wrist motion.  (John) Meister throws in a similar fashion.

Harry Wright

Harry Wright

 

“When I first tried to play baseball I could not throw twenty yards, and yet I could bowl very effectively.  I had lamed my shoulder with cricket playing.  I knew that I must learn to throw if I wanted to play baseball, so I put in a whole winter of practicing.  I was then living in Hoboken, and every day I would go down to the river and throw stones for an hour or so.  I had to snap my arm and wrist something as Rowe does, and at first, I could not tell where the stone was going to land.  I would throw an old bottle or piece of wood out into the stream and practice at that.  Before spring, I could hit the mark nearly every time, and could throw a ball seventy yards without difficulty.”