Tag Archives: San Jose Prune Pickers

Hap Myers

29 Jul

When the 6’ 3” 175 pound Ralph Edward “Hap” Myers was let go by the Boston Braves after the 1913 season a reporter told Braves shortstop Rabbit Maranville he was sorry to see Myers go.  Maranville joked:

“Well, you might be, but I’m not.  Do you know that guy is so thin that every time I picked up a grounder I had to shade my eyes with my gloved hand to locate him before throwing the ball.”

Myers began his professional career after graduating from University of California, Berkeley in 1909, where he also played baseball.  The San Francisco native hit a combined .311 playing for the Sacramento Sacts in the Pacific Coast League, and the San Jose Prune Pickers and Santa Cruz Sand Crabs in the California League.

Myers went east in 1910 after being purchased by the Boston Red Sox, but became ill, with scarlet fever, and as a result appeared in only six games in Boston before being  sent first to the Toronto Maple leafs in the Eastern league, then the Louisville Colonels in the American Association.

Despite hitting just .240 with Louisville, Myers was selected by the St. Louis Browns in the Rule 5 draft.  The Red Sox claimed Myers still belonged to them and his contract was awarded to Boston, where he began the season, was sold to the St. Louis Browns, who quickly released him despite hitting .297 in 11 games, then back to the Red Sox where he hit .368 in twelve games before being sent to the Jersey City Skeeters in the Eastern League.

It was never clear why, in spite of hitting .333 in 81 at bats in 1910-1911, Myers couldn’t stick in the American League.

In 1912 he returned to the West Coast to play for the Spokane Indians in the Northwestern League where he led the league in hits, and runs, hit .328, and led all of professional baseball with 116 stolen bases.  The Portland Oregonian said:

“Myers base stealing smashes any previous performance in Northwestern League history.  You have to go back 20 years in official guide books to find any record to compare…and that includes every league in organized baseball.”

Spokane owner Joe Cohn went overboard in his praise of Myers in The Spokane Spokesman-Review:

“Best ballplayer in the Northwestern League by a long shot.  He is the greatest ballplayer I ever saw.  Boy I tell you this Myers is a wonder.  Ty Cobb, Hans Wagner, Tris Speaker and all of them have nothing on Myers…I think Myers has it on Cobb, Wagner, Lajoie, Jackson and the whole bunch.”

Myers, and Portland catcher Rex DeVogt were purchased by the Braves from Portland, Devogt would only last for three games, and six hitless at-bats in April of 1913.  Myers would become the Braves starting first baseman.  Another Pacific Coast League player, pitcher “Seattle Bill” James also joined the Braves.

hap3

“Seattle Bill” James and “Hap” Myers

Myers got off to a slow start; he was hitting just .224 in early July, but was leading the National League in steals.  An article in The Tacoma Times said:

“When Hap Myers, recruit first baseman of the Boston Braves is in full stride stealing bases, he covers nine feet…the average stride of a sprinter is six feet. “

The article said the average player took 13 steps, roughly seven feet per step, between bases but Myers took only ten steps:

“Myers is something of a baseball curiosity, and his work is watched with interest by the fans.  If the time comes that the big fellow climbs into the .300 class as a batter, he is apt to become a veritable terror of the paths.”

He was also said to use “a bat of unusual length,” but the size was never mentioned.

After the slow start, Myers hit well in the second half of the season, ending with a .273 average and 57 stolen bases (second to Max Carey of the Pittsburgh Pirates who stole 61).  Despite his strong finish, Myers was replaced at first base for 22 games in August and September by Butch Schmidt, who was purchased from the Rochester Hustlers in the International League.

"Hap" Myers

“Hap” Myers

At the end of the season Myers was sold to the Hustlers, the deal was, in effect, a trade for Schmidt.  The Boston press simply said Myers did not get along with manager George Stallings; Myers told a reporter in San Francisco that there was another reason; baseball’s labor unrest:

  “I was assigned by the fraternity to get as many Braves as possible into the fraternity, and succeeded in enrolling nearly the entire team.  The powers that be evidently didn’t relish my actions for soon my every move began to bring calldowns and I was not surprised to read in the newspapers a little later that I had been sent to Rochester.”

Myers jumped Rochester to join the Federal League; his signing was reported months before he actually signed.  The Associated Press said in March of 1914:

“Although it has been generally understood that Hap Myers, last season’s first baseman of the Boston National has been under a Federal League contract for some time, the elongated first sacker did not put his name to a contract until yesterday afternoon.  Myers originally expected to play with Larry Schlafly on the Buffalo Federals, but was transferred to Brooklyn, and seemed altogether pleased with the move.”

Myers got off to a strong start, and The Sporting Life said:

“Brooklyn fans cannot understand why Hap was passed out of the National League. They have had a chance already to give his successor at first base on the Boston team (Butch Schmidt) the once over, and the general opinion is that- Hap Myers “lays all over.”

His success in Brooklyn didn’t last; in 92 games Myers hit just .220.

Hap’s story continued tomorrow.

Brother Joe Goes Home

3 Dec

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

There would be one more skirmish between Hanlon and Corbett.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He kept his promise.  For a few months.

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

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

Joe Corbett, 1916

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

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

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

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

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

Corbett/Fitzsimmons

Corbett/Jeffries