Tag Archives: Slim Sallee

“I’ve no Uniform that will fit a Giraffe like you”

3 Aug

Most biographies of Harry “Slim” Sallee, if they mention his brief time with the New York Highlanders in 1906, simply say he never appeared in a game because of “(A)n abundance of pitcher’s” on Clark Griffith’s club which battled the Chicago White Sox for the pennant.

The colorful 6’ 3” 180 pond Sallee, with the Cardinals in West Baden, Indiana before the 1912 season, told a reporter for The St. Louis Republic that there was more to his departure from New York, and while the story might have been a creation of Sallee’s imagination, it seems more appropriate for a pitcher as famous for hard-drinking, suspensions, and fines as he was for his 174 career wins.

Slim Sallee

Slim Sallee

Sallee reminded the reporter he was:

“An American League discard…Yes, sirree, I was turned down cold by Clark Griffith when the ‘Old Fox’ was managing the New York Americans …I joined the Yanks in the fall in St. Louis, Griff looked me over and said: ‘I’ve no uniform that will fit a giraffe like you.  Maybe I’ll be able to get one in Chicago.  Here’s a ticket—handing me a pocket register to keep tabs on people passing through the turnstile—go out and check up the bleacher gate this afternoon.

“Four thousand geeks passed through the bleacher turnstile at Sportsman’s Park that afternoon and I kept punching that register until I became almost black in the face.”

Sallee said he was given the same assignment in Chicago on September 21 -23 when New York took three out of four games from the White Sox and moved into first place.  New York went to Detroit and lost three straight, then dropped a game in Cleveland on the 27th,dropping three games back of the White Sox.  In Cleveland:

“‘Griff dug up an old uniform and told me to warm up.  The thermometer hung around the freezing point.

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

“Wonder if that crazy man thinks I’m goin’ to cut loose and take chances of ruinin’ my salary wing in this kind of weather said I to myself.

“Griff went to the plate himself. I ‘lobbed’ a  couple over and the ‘Old Fox’ roared like a mad bull. ‘You’ve got a lot of nerve trying to slip that stuff over on me,’ growled Griff.  ‘Put something on that ball.  I can’t detect anything that looks like a wiggle on your curve and you haven’t shown enough speed to break a pane of glass.’”

Sallee said he told Griffith:

“I’m there, Clarkie, old chap, with the real goods, but I couldn’t think of cuttin’ loose with my speed in this kind of weather.  I’m a hothouse plant from down in Old Alabama—I played with Birmingham that year.  Give me a chance when the sun is shinin’ and the thermometer is around 90 in the shade, and I’ll show you some pitchin’ that will curl your grey locks.”

Sallee said Griffith threatened to put him “back on the gate.”

“’No, you don’t,’ said I. ‘Pay me off and also come across with a ticket for Higginsport (Ohio, Sallee’s hometown) I’m through with the New York club and Clark Griffith.  And don’t send for me next spring.”

Whether because of too much depth on the mound or because of the story Sallee told, Griffith sold him to the Williamsport Millionaires in the Tri-State League.  Sallee went 22-5 in Williamsport in 1907 and the Cardinals purchased his contract in August

“Daily Chats with Famous Ballplayers”

18 Sep

In 1916, a series of two to three paragraph items called “Daily Chats with Famous Ballplayers” (some papers called the feature different names) appeared in several smaller West Coast and Midwest newspapers.

Some highlights:

Oscar “Ossie” Vitt, third baseman for the Detroit Tigers, who survived a beaning from Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators on August 10, 1915:

“The world stopped moving when the ball nicked my bean.  Johnson thought I was killed and I guess I thought so myself for awhile, so far as I was able to think at all.

Ossie Vitt

Ossie Vitt

“My head proved to be the goods alright and wasn’t worse for wear.  But it upset Johnson so much that he couldn’t locate the plate and we pounded him all over the lot (Vitt was hit leading off the first inning—Johnson gave up eight runs after that in six innings and lost 8 to 2 to Detroit).”

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Henry “Hi” Jasper on the superstition of teammate Harry “Slim” Sallee:

“Sal’s pet superstition is that it’s bad luck for him to warm up with any catcher but the one who is to work in the game with him.

“If the playing backstop has batted last and has to put on his shin guards and armour before warming up, Sal will never throw a ball to the plate to any man who may come out of the dugout with a mitt.  He will throw either to the first or third baseman.”

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Al Mamaux on a lesson learned during a loss to the Chicago Cubs in September of 1914:

“Smart old timers can always make it tough for youngsters just breaking in.  I remember one day when I was the goat for a trick pulled by Roger Bresnahan.”

Mamaux

Al Mamaux

Mamaux said Chicago had two runners on base and Bresnahan was coaching third.

“(He was) talking real friendly like to me (then) hailed me suddenly as the ball was returned to me.  ‘Say Al, toss me that ball I want to look at it,’ said Roger.  I didn’t give it a second thought…tossed it towards him and I’ll be darned if he didn’t step to one side and yell to the runners to beat it home.  Each advanced a base and would have scored if Jimmy Viox hadn’t run his head off to recover the ball.  Believe me that one cured me.”

George Stallings, on suspensions and how badly the Boston Braves needed George Stallings:

“You don’t have to call an umpire all the names in the calendar to draw a suspension.  I got three days off for just remarking to (Charles “Cy”) Rigler that he ought to go to jail for umpiring a game like he did the other day.

George Stallings

George Stallings

“Nothing that I could say or do would make any difference.  What I can say though right now is that the action of (National League) President (John) Tener, coming as it does, with the race so close, appears peculiar to say the least (Tener said the suspension was for a series of altercations that Stallings and his players had with umpires during the two months before the August suspension was announced).

“Without any braggadocio I can say that my suspension will cripple my club considerably.  I know what my presence means to the club and so does President Tener.”

Boston won all three games during Stallings’ suspension and regained second place, but finished the season in third, five and half games behind the Brooklyn Robins.

“Wallace’s Head is Abnormally Developed”

29 Dec

When Bobby Wallace was named manager of the St. Louis Browns in 1911, the local press, desperate for any ray of hope for a club that finished in eighth place with a 47-107 record, enlisted a “noted phrenologist” named Squeers from Hot Springs, Arkansas to examine the new manager.

Booby Wallace

Booby Wallace

Phrenology was a popular pseudoscience in the in the 19th and early 20th Century that claimed the structure of the skull determined a person’s mental ability and character.

The result of Wallace’s examination was reported in several newspapers:

“The eminent brain specialist pronounced the manager of the Browns one of the most normal-minded men he had ever examined.  He did not know his man when he made his diagnosis.

“Wallace’s head is abnormally developed on the left side.  This is as it should be, Dr. Squeers declares.  The left lobe of the brain governs the right side of the body…It is natural, asserts Dr, Squeers, that a man should be right handed, right-footed, right-eyed, that the right side (of the body) should be larger and stronger than the left.”

It was not enough to declare Wallace “normal minded,’ the “doctor” also “diagnosed” roughly 10 percent of the general population.  He said because “It is natural” to be right-handed, left-handers therefore, were “in many cases a bit abnormal.”

The litany of “abnormal” left-handers–Rube Waddell, Crazy Schmit, Nick Altrock, Slim Sallee, Lady Baldwin, etc…–were trotted out to demonstrate the “proof” of the assertion.

 “For whatsoever the reason may be, the man whose throwing arm is governed by the right lobe of his brain seems bound to be erratic.  Thus is Dr, Squeers, knows little of baseball, justified in pronouncing Wallace an ‘abnormally normal’ man.  Wallace is the farthest thing from erratic that any man could be.  He could not do a left-handed or wrong thing—could not act abnormally to save his soul.”

[…]

“Wallace has been the quietest, most regular, most normal human being in the world.  He is the perfection of moderation, of balance in all things.  He takes life quietly and is never disturbed or out of temper.  He has never made an enemy.  He is the favorite of everyone…It remains to be seen if normality means success when it is applied to the management of a baseball team.”

In this case it didn’t.

The Browns, awful in 1910, were awful again under Wallace in 1911; another eighth place finish with a 45-107 record.  After a 12-27 start in 1912, George Stovall replaced him as Browns manager.

Wallace managed one more time—he replaced Chuck Dressen as manager of the Cincinnati Reds in September of 1937.  The “most normal human being in the world” was 5-20.