Tag Archives: Shreveport Pirates

“It ain’t been Overestimated None.”

26 Aug

Adair Bushyhead “Paddy” Mayes was a legend in Oklahoma when it was still a territory; the half Irish, half Muskogee (Creek) Indian—although often misidentified as Cherokee in news reports, likely because he attended school at the Cherokee Male Seminary in Tahlequah — began his professional career with the Muskogee Redskins in the Oklahoma-Kansas League in 1908, but by then he was already considered one of the area’s best players.

Mays, standing second from left, with the Cherokee Mens Seminary baseball team, 1903

Mays, standing second from left, with the Cherokee Male Seminary baseball team, 1903

He stayed with Muskogee the following season when the club joined the Western Association as the Navigators.  Despite hitting just .261, his legend grew.

The Muskogee Times-Democrat said he was “One of the best outfielders the association ever boasted.”

His manager George Dalrymple said:

“He is the fastest fielder and the best hitter in the Western Association.  He is a youngster that in a few years should be in the big leagues.”

In 1910, he joined the Shreveport Pirates in the Texas League.  His first game was painful.  The Dallas Morning News said after he was hit by a pitch “full in the back” he stole second base and “was struck in the head with the ball as it was thrown from the plate to second.  The later jolt seemed to daze him.”

But Mayes recovered quickly, scored, and according to the paper “Played a first-class game.”

He hit .260 in Shreveport, but his speed and fielding ability attracted the interest of Philadelphia Phillies, who purchased his contract.

Mayes quickly made an impression during spring training in Birmingham, Alabama in 1911.  The Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“That Paddy Mayes, the Indian outfielder, will prove a greater find than Zack Wheat is the opinion of Southern ballplayers.”

[…]

“Mayes, the half-breed outer garden candidate is fast as a bullet on his feet, a good fielder and has a wonderful whip.  If he can prove that he can hit good pitching he will probably stick.”

Mayes caricature from The Philadelphia Inquirer

Mayes caricature from The         Philadelphia Inquirer

The paper also called him “A greyhound on the base paths,” and reported that he made several “fine running” catches during spring games.

Despite the buildup, Mayes didn’t make the club and was sent to the Galveston Sand Crabs in the Texas League, but he refused to sign.  In June, with Phillies outfielder John Titus injured, he was sold back to Philadelphia for $500.

Mayes had the distinction of having his major league debut become the subject of a story told for by humorist Will Rogers.

Rogers said he was present at Mayes’ first game with the Phillies in St. Louis on June 11–this is from an early retelling, as with all such stories some of the details changed in future retellings.

“I had known Paddy in the Texas League and what was my surprise one day in St. Louis when I went out to the Cardinals’ park…to see Paddy come up to bat in a Philly uniform.  I hadn’t heard that he had reached the big show.”

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                          Will Rogers

Mayes was 0-3 and was struck out twice by pitcher Bill Steele.

“I met him at the hotel after the game, but didn’t let on that I had seen him play at the ballpark in the afternoon.  We talked about rope handling and the cattle business generally, and then I asked what he was doing in St. Louis.

“This was Paddy’s answer.

“’They brought me up here to show me the speed of the big league, and believe me, it ain’t been overestimated none.”

Mayes’ never caught up to the “speed of the big league.”  In eight plate appearances over five games, he was 0-5 with a walk, hit by pitch and sacrifice.  He also scored a run.  Mayes’ final appearance with the Phillies was just six days after his first.

Rogers repeated the story of his debut for more than two decades.

“Apperious is a high-toned Man”

8 Jan

After igniting a controversy in Vermont’s Northern League in 1905 when he refused (as he had in college in 1903) to appear on the field with William Clarence Matthews, Sam Apperious returned to Alabama in 1906.

He played centerfield for the Montgomery Senators in the Southern Association.  The Washington Post said in March “it is said that Connie Mack has arranged to try him out with the Athletics next fall.”

Sam Apperious

Sam Apperious

The Atlanta Journal said he was in Alabama, and not the big leagues, by choice:

“Apperious is a high-toned man, a graduate of Georgetown, and plays ball for his home town because he likes the game.  He is not in the strict sense a professional, for he declines to go the big league, where he could easily get a much larger salary.”

In Montgomery Apperious became part of the biggest controversy of the Southern Association’s 1906 season—the league had no shortage of controversies each season.

It started with a fly ball to Apperious in an otherwise uneventful 9-0, June 10 victory over Charlie Frank’s Pelicans in New Orleans.  The Journal said:

“It sailed so high in the air that Apperious, who caught it, concealed under his shirt and gave it Manager (Dominic) Mullaney.  When cut open (the following day in the presence of Shreveport Pirates Manager Bob Gilks) it was found to be wrapped in rubber.”

Charlie Frank

Charlie Frank

Five days later the Atlanta Crackers were in New Orleans when, in the eighth inning after home runs by Pelicans’ William O’Brien and Mark “Moxey” Manuel,  Atlanta second baseman and captain, Adolph Otto “Dutch” Jordan suspected something was wrong with the balls.  The Atlanta Constitution said:

“(After Manuel’s home run) The ball was lost and new one was thrown out by the umpire, but before (Joe) Rickert, the next batter could go to the plate, Jordan picked up the ball and said he would not play, that the balls had rubber in them and that his men were being robbed…Jordan tried to purloin one of the balls, and only gave it up after he had been arrested by a half dozen policemen.”

Jordan was charged with petit larceny and released on $100 bond.  The ball taken from him was reported to be in the possession of the New Orleans Police.  Days later the Montgomery team gave the ball Apperious had kept to Southern Association President,  William Kavanaugh.  A full investigation was promised.

The Journal called for immediate action:

“Kavanaugh may be making investigations quietly and he may intend to act later, but what seems most in order just now is the suspension of the man who is said to be responsible for all the trouble in the Crescent City.  The actions of Charlie Frank in causing the arrest of Otto Jordan and his being taken in a patrol wagon through the streets of the city in a uniform of Atlanta, is a disgrace and the mere thought given it the more repugnant it becomes to all decent people.

“It was a disgusting and uncalled for act and was done to cover up the outrageous contact of the man who put the rubber balls into the game.”

By the end of the week, Apperious denied that the ball opened in Shreveport was the ball he caught in New Orleans while Mullaney and the Montgomery club dropped their request for an investigation of Charlie Frank and the rubber balls.

On June 23 the Crackers mascot, a four-year-old goat named Yaarab (shared with the Atlanta fire department) died suddenly.  A tongue-in-cheek article in The Constitution said: “when the news was flashed over the wires that Mullaney was another of Frank’s right-hand men, the goat betook himself to a bed of straw and curled up and bid his firemen friends a last farewell.”

Yaarab in happier times

Yaarab in happier times

Once Apperious and Mullaney withdrew their allegations, the scandal went the way of most of the annual scandals in the league; in early August The Sporting Life said President Kavanaugh declared the charges “entirely unfounded.”

Apperious appeared in 137 games for Montgomery in 1906 and hit .251.  The Constitution called him “The fastest outfielder in the South.”  The Montgomery Advertiser said he was “one of the best all-around ballplayers in the South.”

He only appeared in 24 more games.  Early in the 1907 season, The Advertiser said he was “suffering with water on the knee.”  Unable to recover from the injury, Apperious was released by Montgomery in June.

Apperious would never play again; he married and moved to Louisville, Kentucky.

The man who refused to take the field with William Clarence Matthews and the Cuban X Giants lived to see baseball integrated.  He died in 1962.  There is no record of him ever speaking to a reporter about his actions in Washington and Vermont.

A final note: The Washington Herald reported before the 1908 college baseball season that for the first time since 1904 Harvard would be playing Georgetown:

“When Sam Apperious was captain of the varsity nine Harvard insisted on playing a negro against the Blue and Gray, and Apperious viewed the game from the bench.  This brought about a severance of athletic relations, but the old wounds have healed and the Crimson will play at Georgetown field on April 25.”

The game ended in a 2-2 tie after 10 innings.

“Bill Abstein Denies he is a Bonehead”

20 Feb

Pittsburgh Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss and manager Fred Clarke felt all they needed to win a World Series was a first baseman.  Since winning the National League Pennant with Kitty Bransfield in 1903, only one Pirate first baseman hit better than .260 (Del Howard .292 in 1905).

In 1908 the Pirates finished second with four different first basemen, Harry Swacina, Alan Storke, Jim Kane and Warren Gill; none played more than 50 games, none hit better than .258 and they combined for 29 errors.

The man who took over in 1909, and was with the Pirates for their World Series victory, might have preferred to have never been given the job.

Bill Abstein had played eight games at second base and in the outfield for the Pirates in 1906, before returning to minors.

-Abstein had put up respectable, but by no means spectacular, numbers with the Shreveport Pirates in the Southern Association and Providence Grays in the Eastern League from 1906 to 1908—but as early as August of 1908 The Pittsburgh Press said he was the answer to the Pirates problem at first base:

“Fred Clarke is very eager to secure Bill Abstein from Providence.  Bill is rated the best first baseman in the Eastern League, and he would no doubt strengthen the Pirates where they are weak.”

When Abstein joined the Pirates before the 1909 season The Press said:

“The acquisition of bill Abstein has rounded our infield nicely.  He’s the best first baseman we have had in years and he certainly fits in nicely.”

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Abstein, Providence 1908

In a letter sent to Dreyfuss with his contract, Abstein told the Pirate owner:

“Fred Clarke will not have to worry about a first baseman after he sees this big German hustling around the bag.”

In keeping with his career performance, Abstein had a respectable season for the pirates.  He hit .260 and drove in 70 runs.  His 27 errors were only a slight improvement over 1908’s first baseman by committee.

The Pirates won 110 games and won the National League Pennant by six and half games over the Chicago Cubs and met the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.  The series would be the beginning of the end of Abstein’s Major League career.

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1909 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates, Abstein 11th from left.

Abstein struggled at the plate (6 for 29 with nine strikeouts) and in the field (5 errors total, 2 each in games 3 and 4).  The Pirates won the series in seven games, but despite the victory, Abstein quickly became the subject of ridicule in Pittsburgh.

An Associated Press article after the series said:

“During the games with Detroit Abstein appeared to forget all that he knew about base ball.  He ran the bases foolishly, made a number of costly errors, failed to hit and disobeyed orders.  In fact, his playing was worse than that of any other man on either team.  The other Pirates, seeing that Abstein was the ‘goat’ for the combination, kept up the cry against him…Before the series was ended many of the Pirates shunned Abstein and it was reported he would be traded.”

The Pittsburgh Press was less generous:

“Bill Abstein denies he is a bonehead and says baseball is largely a case of ‘if-you-can-get-away-with-it,’ well it’s a cinch that Bill couldn’t in the National League.”

The Pirates were unable to trade Abstein and finally put him on waivers.  He was claimed by his hometown St. Louis Browns.

Even though the Pirates had actually won the Worlds Series and even though Abstein was gone, that didn’t mean the Pirates, and The Pittsburgh Press, wouldn’t continue to pile on.

Barney Dreyfuss told The Associated Press shortly after Abstein was claimed by St. Louis:

“We have discarded the weakest offensive player we had—Abstein—and hope to improve the team by doing so.”

Dreyfuss also claimed:

“Fred (Clarke) told me as early as last June that we should get someone else for Abstein’s place in 1910, as Bill mixed up the team’s plays too frequently.”

The Pittsburgh Leader said:

“(Abstein) had deplorable batting weaknesses which the opposing pitchers were certain to fathom in time.”

The Pittsburgh Press was even less generous:

“Bill Abstein is reported to be making a hit with the Browns by his work in the spring practice.  Just wait about three months friends, before declaring Bonehead Bill a wonder.”

When the Pirates sold pitcher Vic Willis the St. Louis Cardinals in February of 1910, newspapers reported that Willis and Abstein had “engaged in a bitter fight,” during the series.

Abstein quickly wore out his welcome in his own hometown of St. Louis.  Abstein made 11 errors in 23 games at first base and hit .149; he was released on June 2, 1910.  It appears Abstein was no more popular with Browns Manager Jack O’Connor than he was in Pittsburgh.  O’Connor was quoted in The St. Louis Times in May:

“How did Abstein get away with it last year?  How could he make plays like he has been making for me and get away with it all year for Pittsburgh?  I never dreamed that some of the plays made by him were even possible.”

His Major League career over, Abstein returned to the minor leagues for seven seasons.  He had one above average year with the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League in 1914; in 202 games he hit .308, with 234 hits and 40 doubles.

Abstein moved on, Pittsburgh apparently did not.  For years, Pittsburgh newspapers took every opportunity to take a shot at the first baseman.  In 1915 The Pittsburgh Press, in an article about the revolving door the Pirates still had at first base–in the five post-Abstein seasons, the Pirates had four different starting first baseman–(emphasis theirs):

“No one will ever forget the way Bill did NOT play the bag in the Worlds Series.  In fact, Bill did NOT play the bag all the time he was stationed there.”

Pittsburgh finally seemed to move on by the time they won their next world Championship in 1925.  Abstein died in St. Louis in 1940.