Tag Archives: Seattle Giants

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #6

12 Mar

Umpiring “Revolutionized”

The Chicago Inter Ocean reported that an “innovation in baseball” would be introduced during the second game of a September 9 double header at Chicago’s South Side Park between the White Sox and the Boston Americans.

“The astonishing feat, an apparent impossibility, will be accomplished by the use of colors, and the inventor, George W. Hancock, expects the umpiring business to be almost revolutionized.”

hancock

George W. Hancock

Hancock was the inventor of indoor baseball in 1887; the game that evolved into softball.

“(Umpire) Jack Sheridan will wear a red sleeve on his right arm and a white one on his left claw.  For a strike he will wave the right arm, and for a ball the left one and the flash of the colors can be seen by people seated so far away that the voice even of Sheridan, the human bullfrog, would be inaudible.”

The “innovation” would likely have benefited one player, the popular center fielder of the White Sox, William Ellsworth “Dummy” Hoy, who was deaf.  But no mention was made of Hoy in the description of Hancock’s plan.

Hoy

Hoy

The “astonishing feat” turned out to be so insignificant that The Inter Ocean failed to even mention it in the summary of the double-header which the Sox swept.  Hoy did not appear in either game.  George W. Hancock’s plan was never mentioned again.

Luminous Ball

Another innovation that promised to revolutionize the game that never came to be was the luminous ball.  The Reading Times reported on the process in 1885:

“Charles Shelton, the leading druggist of Bridgeport, has discovered a compound which, when applied to a baseball, renders that object luminous.  One of the drawbacks of playing baseball at night under the electric light is the inability to see the ball when thrown or batted into the air with the black night background of sky behind it.  By saturating it with Mr. Shelton’s compound the ball while in motion is luminous.  At rest it does not retain any light.  The illuminating ball retains its meteoric irritation for 45 minutes.”

There is no record of Mr. Shelton’s invention ever being used in a professional game.

What’s a Dog Worth?

As part of the Federal League’s antitrust lawsuit against the American and National League’s affidavits were submitted from players detailing how organized baseball controlled the destiny and salary of player.  Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, who jumped from the Cincinnati Reds to sign with the Federal League’s St. Louis Terriers, swore in his filing that players, on at least two occasions, had been traded for dogs.

William A. Phelon, of The Cincinnati Times-Star and “Baseball Magazine,” said:

“This thing of trading dogs for ball players—as outlined in the Federal affidavits—should be put upon a sane and sensible basis.”

Phelon provided a “definite standard and a set of unit values” for baseball to follow:

phelondogs

McMullin’s Long Route to the Plate

Before Fred McMullin became the least famous of the eight members of 1919 Chicago White Sox who were banned from organized ball for life, he was a popular player on the West Coast.

Fred McMullin

Fred McMullin

The (Portland) Oregonian told a story that was purported to have taken place when McMullin was a member of the Tacoma Tigers in the Northwestern League in a game with the Seattle Giants:

“He came in from third on a dead run and made a slide for the plate.  McMullin knew he didn’t touch it, but he was afraid to slide back, as the catcher had the ball in his hand.  The umpire also knew he didn’t score, but he said nothing, for that was none of his business.

“Fred dusted off his uniform and stalked nonchalantly to the bench.  A couple of Seattle players yelled for a decision.

“‘He wasn’t safe, was he?’ demanded (Walt) Cadman, who was catching for Seattle.

“The umpire shook his head no.  At that Cadman, holding the ball in his hand, dashed over to the Tacoma bench to tag McMullin.  Fred waited until he almost reached him and then slid to the other end of the bench.

“Cadman followed him, and as he did s slipped in some mud and fell to his knees.  McMullin leaped up from the bench, dashed for the plate and touched it.  The umpire called him safe.”

 

“A Great deal of foolish Sympathy was wasted on Rusie”

5 Sep

Hank O’Day, pitcher and Hall of Fame umpire, said Amos Rusie was the greatest pitcher ever:

“Amos is the greatest pitcher the country ever saw. Why, Rusie had more speed in his curve ball than any pitcher I ever saw before, or have ever since seen, has in his straight fast ones.  Rusie was a wonder—that’s all there is to it.  I was behind the plate one day when one of Rusie’s  fast incurves hit Hughey Jennings…the ball hit Jennings squarely in the temple, and he fell as though shot by a ball from a Winchester rifle.  I caught him in my arms as he toppled backwards—and he was out of his head for three days.” (Contemporary reports of the incident said Jennings actually finished the game, but later lost consciousness for four days)

O’Day was also on the field when Rusie blew out his arm in 1898; Rusie threw to first to pick-off Chicago Orphans outfielder Bill Lange and “his arm cracked like a pistol’s shot.”  In 1940 Lange told his version of the story to The Portland Oregonian:

“Amos Rusie, I don’t know of any better one and I never played against any other one as good.  He had great control, as well as everything else a pitcher should have.  But my base stealing got him.  He worried over it.  I guess he lost sleep over it.  Anyway, one day he showed up on the field and said he had developed a new way to catch me off of first without turning his body.  I was anxious to see what he had, and he caught me off of first.  But—and it was a mighty large but—in doing so Rusie threw his arm out.  And never could pitch in his old form again.”

Amos Rusie

Amos Rusie

Rusie, with a dead arm, became a benchmark, an oddity, and a cautionary tale.

He posted a 246-173 record before the injury; after sitting out all of 1899 and 1900 he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Christy Mathewson, appeared in three games, was 0-1 with an 8.59 ERA, and his career was over.

In the decade between 1898 and 1908 The Sporting Life christened “the next Rusie,” or “another Rusie” no less than 20 times; scores more were given the same title by newspapers across the country.  Most like Cecil Ferguson (career 29-46), Davey Dunkle (17-30), Cowboy Jones (25-34), and Whitey Guese (1-4) were busts.  The three best were Orval Overall (108-71), who was called the “next Rusie” more than anyone else; Ed Reulbach (182-106), and Hall of Famer Ed Walsh (195-126).

During that same decade there were regular, small items in newspapers about Rusie’s post National League life.  Shortly after his release from the Reds in June of 1901 papers reported that Rusie, “who commanded a salary of many thousands of dollars, is now working as day laborer at $1.50 a day.”   The pitcher told a reporter “This shows I am not afraid to work, but it’s an awful comedown in salary.”

The Dallas Morning News pulled no punches in their assessment of his plight:

“The dismal afterclap to the brilliant career of a once-famous ballplayer whose name was a household word in balldom…reckless wastefulness in financial matters and a total disregard for physical care brought Rusie to his present deplorable condition when he should have been in his prime, for the big fellow is barely 30 now.”

In 1903 it was reported that Rusie had joined the Vincennes (IN) Alices in the Kitty League.  While no statistics survive, he appears to have stayed with the team for most of the summer.  The Detroit Free Press said he was “playing for a salary of $75 per month.”

After the 1903 season he went to work in a lumber yard, and the regular reports on his activities as a “low-wage laborer” appeared regularly in newspapers.  The items became such a regular feature that The Associated Press, in a short story about the Philadelphia Athletics’ eccentric and troubled Rube Waddell in 1904 said:

“Rube has run the gamut of foolishness.  He is in his prime but a few more years of such lack of sense as he displayed last season will send him to the wood pile or coal heap and he will, like Amos Rusie, be occupying two inches in the has-been columns every spring.”

There were multiple reports that Rusie was coming back as a pitcher for the 1906 season.  The rumors started in September of 1905 when Rusie attended an exhibition game in Vincennes between the Alices and the Chicago Cubs.  The Philadelphia Inquirer said of the news:

“If you don’t know the tremendous importance of this announcement you are no baseball fan.”

Not everyone agreed that Rusie returning to baseball would be a good thing.  A report from The News Special Service, which appeared in many Midwest papers said:

“His habits were none of the best, and he rapidly deteriorated in efficiency as an athlete.  He refused to pitch one whole season because he had been fined by the New York (Giants) management for being intoxicated and abusing his wife.  A great deal of foolish sympathy was wasted about that time on Rusie, but he was entitled to nothing except what he received, and some who knew the circumstances thought stricter disciplinary methods would not have been amiss.”

Rusie didn’t sign a contract that spring; and two other rumors that John McGraw had sent him a letter inviting him to spring training with the Giants and that he would return to the Kitty League didn’t materialize either.

But Rusie did make the news again in June.  A man named Gabe Watson was collecting mussels in the Wabash River when his boat when his boat overturned.  The Evansville Courier said Rusie pulled the drowning man from the river.

The nearly annual reports of “Rusie’s return” ended after 1906, but Rusie’s many career, and life changes continued as newspaper copy for the next twenty years.

When pearls were discovered in the Wabash River’s mussels, Rusie became a pearl diver.  Two years later he was in Weiser, Idaho, serving a 10-day sentence for public drunkenness.  In 1910 he was in Olney, Illinois working in a glass factory.  The following year he moved to Seattle, Washington.  For the next decade served as an umpire for a couple of Northwestern League games, worked as a ticket taker and groundskeeper at Yesler Way Park and Dugdale Field, home of the Seattle Giants, and also worked as a steam fitter.  Rusie went to jail at least once while in Seattle, and remained a big enough name that when he was injured by a falling pipe in 1913, it made newspapers throughout the country.

In 1921 Rusie became another in the long line of former players hired by the New York Giants at the behest of John McGraw.  According to newspaper reports McGraw offered the former pitcher a “job for life” as a “deputy superintendent” at the Polo Grounds.  Interest in Rusie’s career was renewed, and the pitcher was regularly interviewed for the next couple of years, reminiscing about his career and about how he’d like to have had the opportunity to pitch to Babe Ruth.

Unlike most of the former players who McGraw found work for at the Polo Grounds, Rusie did not stay for the rest of his life; he returned to Auburn, Washington in 1929 and bought a farm, where he remained for the rest of his life.  He was badly injured in a car accident in July of 1934—The Seattle Daily Times said Rusie’s vehicle overturned and he sustained a concussion and broken ribs.

While he received less attention after being incapacitated after the car accident, Rusie was still mentioned frequently in the press until his death in 1942; contrary to oft-repeated fiction that he died in obscurity.  And his obituary appeared in hundreds of papers across the country in December of 1942.  It wasn’t until the post WWII area that Rusie stopped being a household name, which led to his final comeback in the 1970s; Rusie was inducted into the Hall of Fame 34 years after his death.

McCloskey, Mays and Hair Color

12 Mar

Carl Mays is best known for being the pitcher that hit Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman with a pitch, resulting in the only hit by pitch death of a Major League player. In fifteen seasons he posted a 208-126 record with a 2.92 ERA.

Five years before he became infamous for Chapman’s death, Mays became embroiled in a strange feud with former National League manager John James McCloskey; the dispute was over hair color.

Carl Mays

Carl Mays

In December of 1914, McCloskey was a well-respected figure in baseball, credited with being the “father” of the original Texas League in 1888, McCloskey had spent five seasons as manager of the Louisville Colonels and St. Louis Cardinals in the National League, and another 23 as a minor league manager and owner.

Mays was coming off a 24-8 season for the Providence Grays in the international League, and while called up to the Red Sox in the closing weeks of the season had not yet appeared in a big league game.

The controversy originated when Charles “Toby” Fullerton, a pitcher for the Seattle Giants in the Northwestern League was quoted in an article that appeared in The Pittsburgh Press and several other newspapers about pitcher “Seattle Bill” James, who had just led the Boston Braves to a World Championship.  Fullerton said when he and James were teammates in Seattle in 1912, manager Shad Barry had “condemned the youngster for being a blond,” then was quoted saying McCloskey also “has no use in the world for blonde ball players.”

"Seattle Bill" James

“Seattle Bill” James

The strange, silly, throwaway quote should have been the end of it, but it was apparently serious enough for McCloskey to issue a long denial from his home in Louisville, Kentucky.   The full-page letter McCloskey wrote appeared in more newspapers than the original story, and read in part:

“Let me say, I have been accused of every crime in the calendar, but this is too much.”

McCloskey claimed the “rumor” originated when he was managing the Milwaukee Brewers in the American Association in 1910.  Outfielder Rube DeGroff played for McCloskey (incidentally, Shad Barry was also a member of the team), and according to McCloskey:

“We were playing in Kansas City, we were behind…and made a big rally that came near giving us the game.  The bases were full in the last inning, with two men out, when the big, blonde and good-natured Rube DeGroff, who was a splendid all-around player and life of the club, came to bat with the bases full and struck out.  I was sore over losing the game and made the remark that I never saw a cotton-top who ever made good in a pinch.”

McCloskey said he also believed anything Barry might have said to or about James was certainly a joke, and closed with a final defense:

“In fact, in my humble opinion, I think the blonde has a shade over the brunette.  But why the color of a man’s hair should have anything to do with his ability as a ball player is a mystery to me, and I hope this explanation will put an end to these silly rumors.”

It didn’t.

Within days Carl Mays weighed in, claiming that he had twice been rejected for an opportunity to pitch for McCloskey’s Ogden Canners in the Union Association because he was blond.

Mays said:

“McCloskey is a liar pure and simple…In 1912, when I was on my way to Boise to try out for the Boise team; I stopped off at Ogden, thinking possibly owner McCloskey might give me a trial.  I met him downtown in a billiard parlor and went up and introduced myself.

“McCloskey looked me over carefully, like a horse-trader examining a piece of horseflesh, and then suddenly espied my blond hair.  ‘No,’ said he coolly, ‘I don’t want you.  In fact I wouldn’t have you around the ranch.  I don’t want any blonds in my camp.’”

Mays also claimed that later in 1912 while compiling a 22-9 record for the Boise Irrigators in the Western Tri-State League; he was nearly sold to McCloskey’s pitching-strapped Ogden Canners until:

“One of the Ogden players happened to mention the fact that he was the same blond-haired fellow who had asked for a job earlier.”

According to Mays, McCloskey said:

“’Deal is off.  Send that white-haired guy over here and I’ll kill him.’”

The story stuck with McCloskey for more than 20 years.  A 1916 story in The Providence Tribune said:

“Scouts all over the country know McCloskey and never did one in his employ recommend a light-haired ballplayer…His peculiarity was well-known, and he knew that no one would have the temerity to recommend to him a blond or light-haired ballplayer. “

The black-haired John McCloskey

The black-haired John McCloskey

In 1934, The Milwaukee Journal called McCloskey “one grizzled veteran who frowned on blond athletes.”  The article quoted E. Lee Keyser, a long-time minor league executive, who said when McCloskey managed Butte “One of (McCloskey’s) players was an Indian outfielder whose hair was black,” the player struck out in a critical situation.  According to Keyser, when the unnamed player returned to the clubhouse later, McCloskey grabbed his hair and said:  “I just want to know if you’re wearing a wig.  You hit like a blond.”

McCloskey managed in the minor leagues until he was 70-years-old, he died eight years later in 1940.

Baseball’s First Chinese Player

30 Jul

Vernon L. Ayau’s professional career lasted less than half of one season, but in the process, he became the first Chinese player in professional baseball and his signing nearly broke up a league.

Ayau, born January 31, 1894, in Maui, Hawaii, played on the Chinese University of Hawaii team that toured the US in 1913, 14 and 15.  He was said to have caught the eye many in professional baseball including New York Giants manager John McGraw.

Chinese University Team

Ayau was described as a slick fielding shortstop with an excellent arm, but a weak hitter.  In December of 1916, he was offered a contract by Bill Leard, manager of the Seattle Giants in the Northwestern League.  Leard played against Ayau when he went to Hawaii after the 1916 season with an all-star team put together by former Northwestern and Pacific Coast League player Charles “Cy” Swain.

Within weeks, Northwest League players passed a petition expressing their displeasure with the signing, and newspapers in league cities came out strongly against Ayau.

Anti-Chinese sentiment was especially strong in areas where Chinese workers were being hired as miners, and mining unions in Butte and Great Falls (two league cities) threatened to “take action to have (Ayau) removed from the league.”  Shortly before the signing, a Chinese mine worker had been dropped from a bridge into the Missouri River by members of the miners union.

Leard received death threats but along with Seattle’s ownership held his ground and Ayau was on Seattle’s opening day roster.

His time with Seattle only lasted until May 20 when Leard announced his release.  Despite the early threats of boycotts and other action, he was actually signed and released by Tacoma and later Vancouver in the Northwest League over the next six weeks.

By July 1917, Ayau’s career in professional baseball was over.  He hit only .203 in 133 at bats with the three teams.  Contemporary news reports noted his weak hitting but universally praised his glove and arm.  That month he joined a semi-pro team in Wildwood, NJ that also included his former Chinese University teammate Lee Tin.

After serving in the US Army as a member of the infantry in France, Ayau returned to New Jersey where he continued to play semi-pro ball for several years.

He died in Penns Grove, New Jersey on March 28, 1976.