Tag Archives: San Francisco Pioneers

Lost Pictures: Van Haltren

31 May

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Seventy-two-year-old George Van Haltren (center, with Bill Steen and Jack Kennedy) at the San Francisco Seals’ third annual old-timers game on August 5, 1934.

Van Haltren was the oldest player to participate in  the game; The Associated Press reported that Connie Bigelow, who played for various San Francisco based teams in the 1870s and Mike Fisher, who played for local teams in the 1880s, were the only two present who were older, although neither played.

Van Haltren provided the biggest highlight of the three inning game. Abe Kemp, who covered baseball for The San Francisco Examiner for more than 40 years, said:

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Van Haltren’s hit

“George Van Haltren singles to right.

“Forty years ago, New York baseball fans expected such a thing to happen because it happened frequently, but when a fellow is crawling along in the seventies, as Van is, it approximates quite a feat; yet that is what this grand old warrior did yesterday in his first and only trip to the plate.”

Van Haltren’s Haverly’s lost 6 to 4 to the Pioneers.

 

 

“The Game was not Exactly ‘On the Square’”

21 Mar

After the 1886 season, Jim Hart brought a team composed of members of his Louisville Colonels and other American Association players west.  The team played their way out towards California, winning twenty games against minor league, semi-pro and “picked nines.”

Jim Hart

Jim Hart

They finally lost their first game of the tour in San Francisco on December 26 to the Haverlys of the California League.  Dave Foutz, who had won 41 games for the champion St. Louis Browns pitched for Hart’s club.  Foutz allowed three runs on four hits in the first inning then shut out San Francisco on one hit the rest of the way, but Pete Meegan of the Haverlys held the American Association players to just two runs.

Pete Meegan

Pete Meegan

The San Francisco Morning Call said that Foutz who was “rather superstitious” and tried to “have a lemon in his possession whenever he steps on the diamond,” attributed the loss to the fact that the he had purchased a lemon “but was careless and did not put it in the pocket of his uniform.”

After the loss, Hart’s team defeated every California League team, including a Foutz one-hitter against the San Francisco Pioneers.

Dave Foutz

Dave Foutz

On January 23, with some of his players injured, Hart added three local players to his roster for a game with a “picked nine’ of local players in Alameda.  The game was tied 4 to 4 after seven innings, but Foutz gave up two in the seventh and four in the eighth and lost 10 to 4. The San Francisco Chronicle said:

“A large crowd was in attendance at the Alameda Baseball Grounds yesterday to witness the game between the Louisvilles and a picked nine of California players… the impression of many of the spectators was that the game was not exactly ‘on the square’…The cause of suspicion was as to the fairness of the game was caused by the appearance among the spectators of men well known at baseball games offering large odds against the Louisvilles.  At about the seventh inning these men were offering odds of twenty to one against a team that has hitherto been almost invincible.”

The Morning Call headline said simply:

“Hippodrome!”

There was no doubt, said the paper, that the game had been “pre-arranged” and “made up for the picked nine to win.”

In St. Louis there was more concern that Foutz had “broken down,” having given up fourteen hits rather than speculation that he might have thrown a game.  The Globe-Democrat said:

“Regarding the reported break down of Foutz in California… (Manager Charles) Comiskey received a letter from Foutz in which he denied that he had broken down, and said he was as good as ever.”

No one reported whether the pitcher had carried a lemon into the contest.

The evidence of a fix consisted of the activity of the gamblers, Foutz’ performance in the seventh nd eight innings, and an alleged conversation between Louisville’s second baseman Joseph “Reddy” Mack and Ed Morris the pitcher for the “picked nine.” Discussing how the result of the lightly attended game would improve attendance at the next game Louisville was scheduled to play in Alameda two days later.

reddymack

Reddy Mack

Jim Hart was indignant and wrote letters to West Coast papers denying that anyone on his team could have been involved:

“I wish to say that I have made the fullest and most searching investigation and can find no foundation for the charges.  Not one of my men wagered a dime.”

Hart blamed the loss on the “weakened condition” of his team and noted that three local players filled in with his squad for the game.  The players he “brought out here all enjoy national reputations, and they could not afford to hazard their good names for the small amount of gain there would be for them.”

In another letter, written to The Sporting Life, Hart attacked the credibility of the unnamed writer of the article in The Morning Call:

“(I)t was not much of a surprise to in the issue of a sensational morning journal last Monday the flaming headline ‘Hippodrome!’  The journal referred to, I understand, instructs its reporters and correspondents in the following language—‘Make your articles sensational even at the expense of the truth,’ and the young man who wrote the article under the above referred-to head line was evidently closely following instructions…What the young man who wrote the article don’t [sic] know about baseball would make a very large book.”

Hart went on to detail his additional complaints with “the young man” from The Morning Call, but as with his letters to West Coast newspapers, he never addressed the allegations regarding the abrupt changes in the odds offered on the game, and instead of asserting that “Not one of my men wagered a dime,” as he said in the earlier letters, the letter in The Sporting Life said:

“I have investigated the whole matter religiously, and if any of the boys were implicated in any way, they are too smart for me to find out.”

The California League conducted the only official” investigation into the allegations; that inquiry was limited to determining if any of their players were involved in any wrongdoing and according to The Chronicle, simply determined that no California League players “had anything to do with it or were cognizant of it,” and made no statement regarding whether there was evidence of a fixed game.

The Chronicle evidently didn’t think the case was closed and said:

“If Foutz, Mack or (Hubert) Hub Collins expect to come out here again, they must arise and explain to the entire satisfaction” of the league president.

The Louisville team wrapped up the tour in early February; Hart resigned his position and relinquished his interest in the team in order to take over the operation of the Milwaukee Cream Citys in the Northwestern League.  Mack and Collins returned to Louisville, Foutz headed to St. Louis and another 19th Century allegation of dishonest play disappeared into the ether.

“California Wonder”

30 Apr

Two West Coast ballplayers dubbed “California Wonder” by the press made their Major League debuts less than a week apart in 1887.  One went on to be one of the best leadoff hitters of his era; the other remains almost completely unknown.

George Van Haltren was a 21-year-old left-handed pitcher, outfielder and first baseman who had played two seasons with the Oakland franchise in the California and California State Leagues.

James McMullin, birth date unknown, had pitched for Mike Finn’s San Francisco Pioneers in 1886.

Mike Finn, manager, San Francisco Pioneers

Mike Finn, manager, San Francisco Pioneers

Van Haltren’s rights were acquired by the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, but because of his mother’s illness he said he would instead play for the San Francisco Haverlys.  The Chicago White Stockings traded for Van Haltren in April, but he still refused.  The Sporting Life said “the California Wonder will not come east,” quoted him saying:

“No, I will not play with Chicago this season; but if my left arm holds out and my parents are blessed with good health I will be open to Eastern engagements next season.”

The White Stockings threatened to have him blacklisted for not reporting but Van Haltren dug his heels in; only changing his mind after his mother passed away in May.

The Chicago Inter Ocean announced that he had arrived in town on June 25 and would be making his debut for the White Stockings on the two days later:

“(Van Haltren) at one time retired the Pioneer Club of San Francisco with a hit, and struck out seventeen men.  If he can continue this record here the Chicagos will come out of the race this season with another set of figures to put on the big flag at the park.”

Van Haltren’s debut was not good.  He walked 16 Boston Beaneaters and lost 17 to 11.  He finished the season 11-7, and would spend one more season as a full-time pitcher; going 13-13 in 1888 (he was 15-10, splitting time between the mound and outfield with the Brooklyn Ward’s Wonders in the Players league in 1890).  Van Haltren would distinguish himself as one of the game’s best leadoff men, hitting better than .300 every year from 1889-1901, except for 1892 when he hit .293.

Van Haltren ended his career in 1903 with 2544 hits.

George Van Haltren

George Van Haltren

McMullin’s debut was no better than Van Haltren’s.

He began the 1887 season with the Pioneers, but was acquired in June by the new York Mutuals of the American Association.

When McMullin joined the club The Sporting Life said:

“The Mets have got their new California pitcher and like him well in practice.  He has plenty of speed.”

McMullin made his debut on July 2 against the Cincinnati Red Stockings.  The New York Times said of his performance, under the headline, “A ‘Wonder’ Exploded.  The Mets’ California Pitcher A Failure:”

“The debut of McMullen, the ‘California Wonder,’ was made (in Cincinnati) today in the presence of nearly 7,000 people, who went into hysterics from laughing at the awful exhibition given by the Wonder and his support.  He was utterly unable to get the ball over the plate and was miserably supported in the field.  After the third inning he retired to right field and there made a couple of errors.”

He gave up eight runs, made four errors and had two wild pitches in a 21-7 drubbing.

The box score from McMullin's debut.

The box score from McMullin’s debut.

McMullin only made two more appearances for the Metropolitans, and while he was credited with wins in both games his performance was no better; in his eight-day, three-game career he pitched 21 innings, gave up  25 runs (18 earned),  25 hits, walked 19, and struck out 2.  He made a total of five errors, and had one hit in 12 at bats.  The Mets released him on July 10.

And with that McMullin disappeared—there is no record of him having pitched anywhere after he left New York, there’s no record of whether he  threw and batted left-handed or right-handed, no pictures survive, and no record of when or where he died.  Another enigmatic figure of professional baseball’s early years.