Tag Archives: Sid Mercer

The Trial of Bugs Raymond

15 Sep

John McGraw, when reminiscing about his “thirty years in baseball” for a series of articles syndicated by The North American Newspaper Alliance in 1923, called Arthur “Bugs” Raymond, “one of the greatest natural pitchers who ever lived.”

Bugs

He recalled the first time Chief Myers caught Raymond:

“’Say Mc,’ (he said), ‘that fellow can do more tricks with a baseball than any man in the world.’”

McGraw said, “Raymond’s long suit” was the spit ball and, “He could make that ball do the querist of stunts and never did he hesitate to pull one of these tricks when the team was in a hole.”

McGraw blamed Raymond’s “fondness for companionship” for continually leading him astray, no matter how many times he pledged to stop drinking. Even when McGraw tried to keep people from loaning Raymond money, the pitcher would always find a way to get some and continue drinking.

On one occasion, with his starter struggling on the mound, McGraw sent the bat boy to the bullpen to get Raymond. Not being able to locate him, the team’s trainer then looked and eventually found Raymond drinking in a nearby tavern:

“He had taken the new ball that I had given him for warming up and had sold it to the saloon keeper.”

McGraw told his version of the story of what happened after Raymond took the “Keeley Cure” in Dwight, Illinois in an attempt to quit drinking before the 1911 season:

“Bugs was very proud of his term in the Keeley Institute. He even wore a class button and very proudly exhibited an album with photographs and other souvenirs of his schoolmates.”

As the papers in New York were filled with stories of Raymond’s “wonderful reform “while the club trained in Texas, McGraw was seeing “ominous signs.”

The team stayed in the Oriental Hotel on a trip to Dallas where “they always served cocktails,” with Sunday night dinner service.:

“Knowing the head steward, Bugs decided to visit him. He left the dining room and started to the kitchen. As he stepped through the swinging doors his eye lighted on the long rows of cocktails—hundreds of them all lined in rows. Promptly, Raymond started right down the first row, drinking one after another until he had consumed more than a dozen.”

McGraw had a detective follow Raymond for the next 24 hours—while papers continued to report on his “reform.” The Giants manager questioned the pitcher who denied drinking. McGraw said he faced a “dilemma:”

“I didn’t know whether to denounce him to the newspaper men who had tried so hard to help him, or to make one more attempt to bring about reform.”

McGraw

McGraw said he never knew a newspaper reporter who would “violate a confidence” and enlisted them to serve as a mock jury in a “trial: of the pitcher:

The jury was a who’s who of legendary New York baseball writers: Sam Crane, Sid Mercer, Boseman Bulger, Damon Runyon, and Charles Van Loan, “and one or two of the younger writers,” whose names the manager could no longer recall:

“Gentlemen, I have called upon you to sit as a jury on this man. He has promised all of you not drink and you have given him every help. You have praised him in the papers. He has violated that faith. He’s a big bum that’s laid down on his friends.”

McGraw presented the evidence and asked the reporters to decide whether to share it with their readers or to give Raymond another chance:

McGraw read the detective report to the assembled jury, in a back room the Turf Exchange bar in Dallas, Raymond “drank seven glasses of beer, ate a handful of pretzels, and two Bermuda onion,” on to the nearby Knight Saloon, Raymond had “drank nine glasses of beer, ate more pretzels, and two or three more onions.”

Raymond called the report “a dammed lie.”

His defense:

“Mac, of course I might’ve had a couple dozen glasses of beer, but I’m telling you it’s a lie—I ain’t eat an onion in seven months.”

In sympathy, the jury unanimously decided to give Raymond one more chance and not report his tumble from the wagon. Raymond, of course, vowed to stop drinking.

McGraw’s ploy bought him a stretch of several weeks when Raymond “partially straightened up,” unfortunately, like every other last chance Raymond was given, he eventually relapsed.

Raymond died less than 18 months after McGraw’s mock trial.  

“Everyone Knows the Human Insect”

13 Jan

Arthur “Bugs” Raymond, obtained by New York Giants at the end of 1908 in the trade that sent Roger Bresnahan to St. Louis, was a great talent but long considered second only to Rube Waddell as baseball’s most eccentric pitcher.

Manager John McGraw was convinced he could succeed with Raymond where other managers had failed.  James Hopper, college football coach, turned novelist and journalist, wrote about Raymond’s first spring with the Giants in “Everybody’s Magazine:”

“’Bugs’ Raymond belongs to the old type of professional baseball player. He is a big child, thoughtless, improvident, a wonder of efficiency at his craft, but totally irresponsible outside of it.  He has been pitching for several years on ‘tail-ender’ clubs—indifferently, in spite of natural gifts, because always out of condition… (McGraw) thinks he can ‘handle’ him.  And he is doing so, thus wise;

“He does not let him have any money. ‘Bugs’ is married and his wife is an invalid.  The contract between (The Giants) and ‘Bugs’ provides that the latter’s salary each month shall go in toto to Mrs. Raymond…Result, a perpetually penniless ‘Bugs’ living an enforced simple life.”

Bugs Raymond

Bugs Raymond

As a result, Hopper said Raymond had behaved and “gradually regained the lithe lines of an athlete,” during the spring in Marlin Texas.

And, six weeks into the 1909 season, it appeared McGraw’s strategy was working.  Raymond won five of his first seven decisions for a team that was 17-17 at the end of May.

Most of what was written about Raymond that season was superficial; many of the stories apocryphal, nearly all of them portrayed him as a simple-minded clown.  One exception was a profile written in May by Sid Mercer of The New York Globe—it remains one of the only articles about Raymond that doesn’t reduce him to a caricature:

“It isn’t necessary to introduce Mr. Arthur Raymond.  Everybody knows the Human Insect.  He’s the easiest fellow to get acquainted with that you ever met.  Just at present, he is the leading pitcher of the Giants, although that is not much of an honor, considering the position of the team.  However, the Chicago citizen is delivering the goods in large packages…Raymond is one of the great pitchers of the country, yet he does not take baseball seriously.

Bugs

Bugs

“He never has got over being a boy, although he is close to 30-years old.  He gets lots of amusement out of the ordinary things of life and of course, his escapades are usually exaggerated.  But do not take the eccentric twirler for a simple fellow.  Raymond has no use for money except to spend it, but he is nevertheless fairly well educated, and when his mind turns to serious thoughts he is quite a different person than the fans imagine he is.

“’I may be crazy,’ he once remarked.  ‘but I ain’t as crazy as Rube Waddell, and I’m no fool.’

“While it cannot be said on good authority that Raymond is a total abstainer, yet he seldom pitches a bad game.  Whatever his faults or weaknesses he earns the salary that is paid to him. His rollicking disposition long ago developed in him a distaste for the accumulation of wealth, so the most of his salary goes to Mrs. Raymond and three children ([sic] Raymond had just one child) in Chicago, while Bugs gets along on a little and has just as good a time as if he handled it all.

“Raymond was originally a pressman on a Chicago newspaper and he has already visited the press rooms of most of the New York papers.  There is nothing of uppish about him and the pressmen are all strong for him…With the bleacherites Raymond is a big favorite.  He is one player who likes to talk baseball to the fans, and his disposition is one that makes friends.  The big fellow is big hearted and generous and there isn’t a mean streak in him.”

Raymond did not finish the 1909 season with the Giants.  He was 18-12 with a 2.47 ERA in mid-September when he left the club, or was asked to leave, or left by mutual agreement, depending on the source.

He was said to be tending bar in New York in late September—but that story is questionable as most contemporary accounts say he was with the Giants when they arrived in Pittsburgh on September 27 and returned to his home in Chicago on September 29.  He told The Chicago Daily News:

“I was fined again and again and suspended until I couldn’t stand it any longer.  My salary for the year was $4500 but McGraw fined me $1700 on one pretext or another, so I’ve got only $2800 for my work this year.

“I was unjustly suspended a short time ago, and this was the last straw.  McGraw didn’t seem inclined to give me a chance to work, and so I quit the team and came home to Chicago.  I may pitch a few games here for some local teams.”

McGraw tried and failed two more times with Raymond—he was 10-15 in 1910 and ’11 with the Giants.  He was dead 15 months after his final game with New York.