Tag Archives: Santa Cruz Sand Crabs

“Age is a Hard Master”

21 Sep

“Turkey Mike” Donlin spent his later years trying to earn a living as an actor; his limited success on the stage and screen forced him to accept several baseball jobs as well.  In 1922, he was hired as a scout by the Boston Red Sox—it was his most active season in the game since his final game with the New York Giants in 1914.

Mike Donlin

                Mike Donlin

Like most players of his era, he had a general disdain for the current state of the game.  He shared his disgust with a reporter from The Associated Press (AP) when he arrived in San Francisco after a trip through Texas:

“In the Texas League I found a majority of the players ill with a strange disease consisting of absolute refusal to run out flies or ground balls that look like easy outs. That kind of baseball is beyond me.

“I saw Texas League players getting as high as $700 a month loafing on balls hit to the infield and running to the bench on high flies.  They couldn’t do it and get away with it in my time.

“When I was starting $300 a month was a big salary and believe me, we earned all we got.  We ran out all our hits in those days and, not only that, we had to fight every inch of the way, not alone with spirit, but with our fists.”

The money seemed to bother him as much as the lack of hustle.

While in San Francisco he met Willie Kamm, who the Seals had agreed to sell for the then record amount of $100,000 (and three players) to the Chicago White Sox.  Donlin, who said the St. Louis Perfectos purchased him from Santa Cruz in the California League for $500 in 1899.

According to The AP when they were introduced Donlin said:

“I wanted to meet you, young fellow, because you’re the highest priced minor leaguer ever sold, and I’m the cheapest.”

Always short of money and never  one to refuse a paycheck, and perhaps encouraged by what he considered to be the lesser quality of current players, Donlin accepted an offer to join the Rock Island Islanders of the Mississippi Valley League for two games while he was scouting in the Midwest during August.

According to The Rock Island Argus, Donlin “one of the most picturesque characters the national pastime has ever produced,” was signed to a one-day contract to “keep within the league rules.”  There is no record of what the Islanders paid Donlin for the one-day stunt.

He played in both games as the Islanders dropped a doubleheader to the Ottumwa Cardinals.  The Argus said of his performance:

“Even Mike Donlin, once peerless performer for the New York Giants, fizzled as a mascot.  Mike donned an Islander uniform as per announcement and was seen in right field in both games.  Age is a hard master.”

Donlin “handled two chances cleanly” in the first game, but was 0 for 4 at the plate with two strikeouts, a foul out to third and a fly out which “sent the centerfielder to the scoreboard to haul (it) in.”

He fared slightly better in the second, going 1 for 3 with two ground outs and a single on a “Texas Leaguer into right field territory.”  No balls were hit to him in the second game.

donlin1

      The Box Scores

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He was no more successful as a scout than he was as a player that week in Rock Island.

Two days before he played with the team, Donlin watched the Islanders’ Carl Stimson pitch a 23-inning complete game against Ottumwa.  Stimson lost the game 4 to 2—he committed two errors in the 23rd inning—but allowed only 10 hits and struck out 18.

The 27-year-old Stimson was a sub .500 pitcher (10-15) who had come to Rock Island in a trade with the Waterloo Hawks just a month earlier, but Donlin was impressed with the performance and Stimson’s 6’ 5” frame—Stimson also might have benefitted from a minor illness his wife suffered that month, The Argus said he left the team for several days to attend to her and Donlin was not able to stay long enough to watch him pitch a second time.

The 23-inning game box score

       The 23-inning game box score

Despite only seeing him once, The Argus said Donlin was “convinced that Carl is worthy of a trial in the big show,” and recommended that the Red Sox purchase his contract.

Stimson joined the Red Sox the following spring, but was slowed by an ear infection and finally joined the club in June.  Donlin’s discovery appeared in just two games over one month in the big leagues, giving up 12 hits, five walks, and 10 earned runs over four innings before being released.

Donlin continued making appearances on the stage, had small acting roles in dozens of movies, occasionally worked as a scout, and struggled to make a living.  In 1927, he began to suffer from a heart ailment and remained broke and in poor health and until his death in 1933.

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.

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“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.