Tag Archives: Smokey Joe Williams

“I can Pitch Ball when I’m Geezed”

21 May

Bugs Raymond decided to become a wrestler.  After his disastrous 1910 season—4-9, 2.81 ERA and John McGraw hiring a former police officer to chaperon the wayward pitcher—Raymond decided to try the ring.  The Chicago Daily News said during his debut—and finale-at Chicago’s Alhambra Theater:

“(H)is shoulders were twice pinned to the mat by Joe Kennedy, a local semi-professional. Kennedy won the first fall with little difficulty. Bugs came back strong and took the second but was unable to stand the pace and was forced to yield the third.”

 

bugs19102

Bugs

Three days after the December 17 bout, Raymond told the paper he was done”

“It’s a harder game than I figured on. As soon as you slip out of one hold, they don’t give you time to think, but clamp another on you right off the reel. The strain is something awful. Me for baseball. The worst thing they can do there is chase you to the bench when you aren’t right.”

More importantly for the Giants and McGraw, in January the team announced that Raymond would be going to Dwight, Illinois, to, according to The St. Louis Times:

“Submit to the rejuvenating influence of the Keeley cure.”

The paper doubted the success and concluded:

“The consensus of opinion hereabout is that Arthur is not worth the trouble.”

The St. Louis Star said, “we will bet…Raymond’s seat on the water cart is vacant.”

The Chicago Evening Post reported on Raymond’s final day in Chicago and his trip to Dwight—80 miles from Chicago—accompanied by “Sinister” Dick Kinsella—Giants scout, McGraw’s right-hand-man, and former minor league executive:

“Before starting the course, it is customary to give the ‘patient’ all he desires of his favorite beverage. Kinsella called for his man on the West Side and together they made the rounds of Bugs’ usual resorts. A farewell drink was taken at each place.”

dickkinsella

“Sinister Dick” Kinsella

On the train, after lunch, “There were four empties on the table when the stopping place was reached.”

When Kinsella and Raymond arrived at the Keeley Institute–the “institute” was the flagship of Keeley’s alcohol treatment practice which had more than 200 branches throughout the United States and Europe—he initially refused an injection:

“’Don’t put that in my left arm, there’s a sore there that I got in the wrestling match,’ said Bugs when the attendant started to insert the needle.

‘”No, you can’t put it in my right arm either, for that’s my pitching arm.’”

Raymond eventually relented and The Post claimed he passed his first test at the institute, turning down a shot of bourbon after receiving the injection.

When Kinsella left Raymond, he was said to be “sitting in his room smoking a pipe and planning a new curve to use.”

bugs19104

Bugs

Two weeks after he checked in, The New York Herald said Giants Secretary William M. Gray had received a letter from Raymond:

“He notified the club that he would be ready to join the training squad in Marlin Springs when called on by Manager McGraw and would be in first class condition ‘for the first time since I have been a professional ballplayer.’”

Raymond was said to be sober for two weeks and a letter from the institute that accompanied Raymond’s said he was “a model patient,’ and:

“He complies with all the rules of the institution and is getting along as well as could be expected.”

After Raymond had spent six weeks in Dwight, The New York Tribune said, “the eccentric twirler of the Giants has been discharged from the institution completely cured,” and would be leaving St. Louis for training camp in Marlin Texas on February 18,

Raymond spoke to The St. Louis Post Dispatch before leaving for Texas.  The paper said:

“Arthur Raymond, who no longer desires to be known as Bugs, may slip from the water wagon he so arduously climbed upon during the six weeks at Dwight Institute.”

Raymond said he had “good reason” for wondering if he could pitch sober:

“’In all my days as a baseball player I always pitched my best when I had a comfortable ‘edge’ on,’ said Raymond naively. ‘Now I am on the water wagon and will probably stick, but wouldn’t it be funny I failed to make good while behaving?’

“’If I find I can’t make a success on the mound as a prohibitionist, I’m going to tumble, because I know that I can pitch ball when I’m geezed. I will be a pretty rich man at the end of the season, though if I keep riding high and dry.”

Raymond told the paper he met with McGraw in Chicago in mid-February and signed a contract that “calls for a boost of $1700 over what I drew last year.” Raymond said his salary for 1911 would be “almost $6000.”

Raymond said he spent three days in St. Louis before leaving for the South and hadn’t “touched a drop,”

Things went well in Texas and The New York Herald said:

“The Mighty Insect is working his head off to make a showing in the practice and exhibition games…He figures that a good showing   in the ante-season contests ought to put him in right with the fans back home and now he is really on the penitents’ bench he wants all hands to think well of him.”

He also dropped 17 pounds, after arriving in Texas weighing 210.

McGraw said:

“Raymond is the best right-hand pitcher in the big leagues when he’s sober and decent.”

As was well, until March 31.

The Washington Times reported that Raymond fell off the wagon when the Giants got to Atlanta:

“After pitching a few innings Wednesday against his old club, Raymond proceeded to celebrate, and that evening did not appear at the hotel until very late.”

The paper said Raymond also “was willing to mix things up” with Washington scout Mike Kehoe who was staying at the same hotel, Kehoe “seized a bat standing in the corner and made a rush for Raymond,” in order to back him down.

The New York Herald claimed Raymond was not drunk. After the Giants arrived in Norfolk, Virginia and he pitched three hitless innings against a local club, the paper said:

“Raymond was not in condition to pitch at Atlanta. It is true, but it was not drink. He contracted a bad case of malaria there and was confined to his room.”

Multiple papers retracted the story that Bugs had been drunk, John Wray, sports editor at The St. Louis Post Dispatch said the pitcher was “getting all worst of his past reputation.”

The Atlanta Georgian and News did not retract:

“Raymond skidded off the water wagon and into the pickle vat the night after he pitched against Atlanta. He showed up his old-time teammates so strong that he just had to celebrate some.”

Raymond won three games to begin the regular season, but by mid-June was 6 and 3 and seemed to have lost McGraw’s confidence.  On June 16 he was sent in to relieve Louis Drucke in St. Louis with the bases loaded and no one out in the first inning.  Four runs scored before Raymond retired the Cardinals.

Raymond allowed four more runs in the fifth and was removed after the sixth; he walked six and hit Steve Evans twice with pitches.  McGraw promptly fined him $200 and suspended him:

The St. Louis Times said:

“A too intimate communion with lemonade, seltzer, fer-mil-lac, and other popular beverages, is said to have been the undoing of Raymond for the ‘steenth time.”

Raymond signed with a semi-pro team in Winsted Connecticut, where he lasted just one game. The Associated Press said:

“Raymond arrived last night and after amusing a street crowd for several hours, during which he was threatened with arrest, he kept a majority of the guests at a local hotel awake all night. Bugs refused an invitation to drive the village water wagon and was finally put to bed by friends, being resuscitated a couple hours before the contest was called.”

Winsted lost 6 to 4 and Raymond was let go.

He then began pitching for various semi-pro clubs on the East Coast, including a July 1 game in New Brunswick, New Jersey where Raymond pitched for a the all-woman Female Stars.  The New Brunswick Daily Home News said:

“No score was kept, and no one could tell who won. In fact, no one cared…The sun proved too much Bugs and he was glad when the agony was over. He tried to be funny and succeeded only partially.”

The National Commission said Raymond’s participation in these games as a suspended player was “contrary to the letter and spirit of the National Agreement,” and that he would be subject to penalty before ever becoming eligible to play organized baseball again.

Throughout late July and early August, various reports had Raymond heading to either Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis, or Mobile I the Southern Association.

The Atlanta Constitution said:

“That Bugs would prove a drawing card with any Southern league team goes without saying.”

Instead, he returned to Chicago and signed first with Harry Forbes’ Athletics—he was hit hard and beaten 7 to 1 by the Indiana Harbor semi-pro club and was let go.  Next, Raymond signed with the Gunthers in the Chicago City League. Raymond showed flashes of his talent; in his first league game with the teams he beat Smokey Joe Williams and the Chicago Giants 2 to 0, and in late September he beat Frank Wickware and the Chicago American Giants 3 to 2.

In October, The New York Herald noted that while the Giants would be playing in the World Series in week, Raymond, “instead of participating” and earning “about $3000,” had given up eight runs in the first inning to the West Ends.

In less than a year, Raymond would be dead at age 30.

“I’ve Selected them in the Order as Their Greatness Appeals to me”

31 Oct

Dizzy Dismukes probably wrote more about the players he saw during and after his career than any other Negro League player.  The Pittsburgh Courier regularly published his observations in 1930.  Like this one:

“Strolled into a barber shop (in St. Louis) a few days ago and arguments were rife as to the best pitcher of all times.”

diz

Dismukes

Dismukes said that each participant in the discussion “based his argument on one particular game” they had witnessed.  He told the group he would share his top nine “I had seen during my 21 years” in the pages of the paper:

“I’ve seen some might fine work done by some pitchers whose names won’t be included in the list because of the short duration of their performances.  For instance, there was  Bill Lindsay, who died early in his career (at age 23 in 1914), Pat Dougherty, who had as much zip on a fast ball as any pitcher who ever through a pellet, he imbibed too much of intoxicants, and numerous others.”

Dismukes said “consistency of performance for a reasonable number of seasons” was his criteria.  Unfortunately, Dismukes chose not to go into the detail he did when selecting outfielders, or The Courier did not give him the space, so the pitcher list lacks a lot of the insights of the previous one, but listed them in order:

“Here goes:

  1. Rube Foster

  2. Cyclone Joe Williams

  3. John Donaldson

  4. Steel Arm John Taylor

  5. Bullet Rogan

  6. Dick Redding

  7. Frank Wickware

  8. String Bean Williams

  9. Walter Bell”

RubeFoster

Rube Foster

Of the list, he said:

“I’ve selected them in the order as their greatness appeals to me.  There will be very little opposition to the placing of the first names two, although some may prefer juggling numbers 3, 4, 5, and 6.

“Some might argue as to the effect the lively ball would have had on their performances.   In the list above are two notable examples:  In the list above are two notable examples: ‘Cyclone’ Williams and Rogan.  How many times during a season were they shelled off the hill?”

Next, he rated catchers.  Josh Gibson, then 18, had not yet begun his first season with the Homestead Grays, and was not on Dismukes’ radar:

“The crop of young catchers breaking into the game in the past ten years have been so poor that I can only find three, namely: Frank Duncan, of the Kansas City Monarchs, Raleigh (Biz) Mackey of Hilldale, and Larry Brown of the Memphis Red Sox showing enough skill to qualify.”

His first choice:

“Topping the list is none other than Bruce Petway, whom I claim to be the greatest catcher I ever saw.  His best days were spent during the base-running craze.  There were not as many fast me afoot playing baseball then as now but there were more base runners.  One could possibly count all the thefts against Petway during a season on one hand and then have a few fingers left.”

 

petway

Dismukes said some people thought Petway was a poor catcher because he dropped a lot of balls, but he claimed:

“Petway would intentionally drop balls to encourage base runners to start, as very few had the nerve.”

Dismukes said Petway was a great base runner and “an uncanny judge” of foul pop ups.

Second was George “Chappie” Johnson:

“With Chappie behind the plat, a pitcher did not have to have much on the ball…(and he) was the greatest conversationalist in baseball…Chappie had the opposing batters dumbfounded with a never-ceasing flow of ‘lingo’ crossing the batter up by telling him exactly what the pitcher was about to deliver then standing far to one side of the plate telling the pitcher to ‘get this one over.’ The pitcher then shot one across the plate and he gracefully reached in with one hand to receive a strike.  He excelled in receiving with one hand.  Many young catchers have ruined a career trying to emulate Chappie.”

The third pick was Pearl “Specs” Webster:

“He could do everything expected of a great catcher.  In competition he proved the fastest runner in colored baseball and in bunting and getting to first base as well as circling the bases he was a wonder.  He truly was one of baseball’s greatest catchers.  Specs died overseas in the service of the USA.”

specks

Next was “a scrawny kid from Kansas City,” Frank Duncan:

“He gets the call for No. 4 position.  A great receiver, thrower, fast on bases, and a dangerous hitter.”

Dismukes’ next choices:

“Pete Booker, another of the old school, gets post No. 5, while Russell Powell, reporting to the Indianapolis ABC’s as an infielder and converted into a catcher, is choice No. 6.  He was one of the few catchers who seldom made false moves back of the plate.  When he threw at a base runner there was always a chance of getting him.  He excelled in trapping runners off third base with snap throws.”

His seventh choice:

“Wm. McMurray, who could look at batter’s feet and come near telling what batter could or could not hit, gets the lucky No. 7 position…whenever you put Mac in a game you always had a well-caught game.”

His final two choices were Biz Mackey and Larry Brown:

“(Mackey) a super hitter, and one who comes near as any recent catcher in having a throwing arm resembling that owned by the one and only Petway, in No. 8 in line, while ninth, last but not least is Larry Brown, who shows unusual skill in handling of pitchers.  (Dolf) Luque, formerly of the Cincinnati Reds and now with Brooklyn of the National League, praises Brown as being the best receiver he ever pitched to.”

“But, no Freakish Balls”

20 Jun

After Smokey Joe Williams struck out 27 Kansas City Monarchs in a 12-inning one-hit shutout in Kansas City in August of 1930, Paul A.R. Kurtz of The Pittsburgh Press wrote about meeting Williams in the Grays dugout when the two teams played at Forbes Field two weeks earlier:

smokeyjoe

Smokey Joe Williams

“Personal experience recently revealed to me the superstition existing in baseball.

“I know big league players want bats scattered when they’re not hitting; others touch bases or gloves on the way to the bench during innings and do numerous other unusual things.  But my own failing for peanuts brought me an interesting interview.”

Kurtz said he bought peanuts from a vendor when he arrived at Forbes Field:

“While a few Grays were practicing, I wandered to the Homestead bench to be greeted by Smokey Joe Williams, the veteran Gray twirler, who noticed the hard-shelled peanuts.”

Williams asked:

“’Do you know peanuts are barred from our bench?’ Joe asked.  I inquired, ‘how come?’

“’I don’t like them around and have made my mates understand that.  They try to tease me by eating some once in awhile.  I always feel I’m losing when I hear the cracking of shells.”

Williams said:

“That’s my only superstitious feeling in baseball.”

Kurtz said he was concerned he contributed to Williams losing for the first time that season:

“Joe didn’t like peanuts. I had them in my hands.  Joe was starting pitcher.  He had won 23 games without a defeat until the Monarchs beat him with a rally that particular night.”

Williams, with the help of Grays shortstop Jake Stephens–who made three errors in the game, two of them in the ninth–blew a 4 to 3 lead in the ninth when the Monarchs scored five runs to beat the Grays 8 to 4 in the second night game ever played in Forbes Field:

“Was I the cause of Joe’s downfall? Those peanuts may have preyed on his mind and by mental telepathy Stephens foozled a few swats to help the monarchs halt Williams’ winning streak.”

Generally listed at 6’ 3” or 6’ 4” and 190 pounds, Williams told the the reporter he was 6’2” and weighed 224 pounds, but said he loses “nearly 30 pounds during a summer.”

Williams said:

“’I have no trouble keeping in shape. I take good care of myself, sleep long and eat carefully.  I tried to throw a spitball once, but it jerked my arm and so I cut it.  Control and plenty of motion are my bets.  I have practiced hard to master control to place the ball just where I want it on a batter.  Low knee fast pitches, inside and outside, are my favorites.  But, no freakish balls.  I am better with control than those who try an assortment of twisters.”

Williams told Kurtz about the biggest regrets of his career:

“Although Joe has marvelous control of his fast pitches, he talked regretfully of three boys who he hurt badly.  One lad in Texas became demented after being hit and another had all his teeth knocked out. In Coal City (Pennsylvania) Joe dented a player’s skull, leaving the imprint of the ball on his forehead.”

Williams told Kurtz that he had, for years, kept “a big scrapbook…It contained all accounts of his baseball life.”  The book, “which Williams prized highly,” was stolen:

“Since it disappeared Joe has not been as interested in recording his accomplishments. ‘How I’d like to get that book back,’ he said.”

He then went out and took his first loss of the 1930 season.

Lost Advertisements–American Giants at Dyckman Oval

8 Jul

amgiants1919

An advertisement for the final day of Rube Foster and the Chicago American Giants’ 1919 barnstorming tour of the East Coast–an August 24 doubleheader against Guy Empey’s Treat ‘Em Rough at Dyckman Oval

The “Treat ‘Em Rough,” also occasionally called the Treat ‘Em Roughs, were a barnstorming team composed of some current and former professional players–including Jeff Tesreau, Pol Perritt as well as East Coast semi-pro players.  The team was a promotion for “Treat ‘Em Rough Magazine,” published by Arthur Guy Empey, an American cavalry sergeant who, opposed to the United States neutrality during the early stages of WWI, left the country to join the British Army.  Empey returned to the United States after being wounded in the Battle of the Somme and became a national celebrity after the publication of his biography, “Over the Top,” which was turned into a film–written by and starring Empey–in 1918.  Treat ‘Em Rough was a reference to what had become Empey’s famous tagline: “Treat ‘Em Rough Boys.”

Guy Empey

Guy Empey

Empey’s team spent the 1919 season playing against local clubs and Negro Leaguers, including the Bacharach Giants:

amgiants19193

amgiants19192

The Bacharach Giants swept two doubleheaders from Empey’s club that month behind the pitching of “Cannonball” Dick Redding and Frank Wickware.

Empey’s team, with Tesreau and Perritt on the mound, faired no better against the American Giants.  In an August 17 Doubleheader, Smokey Joe Williams pitched a one-hitter, beating the Treat ‘Em Rough and Tesreau 2 to 0.

"Smokey" Joe Williams

“Smokey” Joe Williams

 

Oscar Charleston started the second game for the American Giants but was hit hard and relieved by Dave Brown.  The Giants came back to win 9 to 7 in 11-innings.  Perritt pitched 11 innings and took the loss.

The next meeting went about the same for Treat ‘Em Rough.

The New York Age said “The stands were filled to overflowing” for the final doubleheader, “The last two games of Rube Foster’s Chicago American Giants’ Eastern tour.” The paper also noted that:

“The majority of the fans were supporters of the Chicagoans.”

Tom Johnson started the first game  for the American Giants, beating Tesreau and the Treat ‘Em Rough 2 to 1, and Williams outpitched Perritt in the second game, the American Giants winning 7-1.

The American Giants returned to the Midwest the following day.  Empey’s Treat ‘Em Rough baseball team appears to have disbanded sometime in 1920.

 

Cum Posey’s “All-Americans”

18 Nov

In 1937, Homestead Grays owner Cumberland Willis “Cum” Posey Jr. set out to name the all-time Negro League all-stars–his “All-Americans”– in The Pittsburgh Courier; six years later he expanded his “All-American” team and conceded that picking an all-time Negro League team was a nearly impossible task:

“Due to the changes in umpiring, parks, baseballs, ownership, in the last three decades, it is merely a guess when any of us attempt to pick an all-time All-American club.  Under any system we would hesitate to put ourselves on record as picking the club without placing some of the boys from the islands on the team.  We know some star players from Cuba, who played Negro baseball in the US and they cannot be ignored.”

Cum Posey

Cum Posey

Posey said no team would be complete without considering pitchers Jose Mendez, Eustaquio “Bombin” Pedroso, and Juan Padron, shortstop Pelayo Chacon, outfielders Cristobal Torriente and Esteban Montalvo and “(Martin) Dihigo, probably the greatest all-around player of any decade.”

Cristóbal Torriente

Cristóbal Torriente

“If one could be a spectator at an argument between those closely associated with baseball—fans, players, owners—he would be surprise at the differences of opinions.

Ted Page, who is now manager of Hillvue Bowling Alley (in Pittsburgh), and was formerly one of the star players of Negro baseball was mentioning one of the players of former years.  Ted contends (Chester) Brooks, one of the few West Indian (Brooks was said to hae been born in Nassau, Bahamas, but several sources, including his WWII Draft Registration and death certificate list his place of birth as Key West, Florida) players ever on the roster of an American baseball club was one of the real stars of all time.  Brooks, formerly of the Brooklyn Royal Giants, was probably the most consistent right hand hitter in the history of Negro baseball.  When the Homestead Grays were at odds with everyone connected with Negro Organized Baseball we tried to get Brooks on the Grays club.”

Chester Brooks

Chester Brooks

In his 1937 picks, Posey placed Brooks on his all-time all-star team as “utility” outfielder.

The 1937 team:

Manager:  C. I. Taylor

Coaches:  Rube Foster, Sam Crawford, and Chappie Johnson

Catchers:  Josh Gibson and Biz Mackey

Pitchers: Smokey Joe Williams, Dick Redding, Pedroso, Bullet Rogan, Satchel Paige, Dave Brown and Willie Foster

First Base:  Ben Taylor and Buck Leonard

Second Base: Sammy Hughes

Third Base: Jud Wilson

judwilson

Shortstop: John Henry Lloyd

Left Field:  Torriente

Center Field: Oscar Charleston

Right Field: Pete Hill

Utility:  Infield: Dick Lundy; Outfield: Brooks

Posey added several players for consideration in 1943, many who were largely forgotten by then:

Pitchers: Mendez, Padron

Catcher:  Bruce Petway, Wabishaw “Doc” Wiley

First Base: Leroy Grant, George Carr, Eddie Douglas

Second Base:  Frank Warfield, Bingo DeMoss, George Scales, John Henry Russell, Frank Grant

Bingo DeMoss

Bingo DeMoss

Third Base: Connie Day, Judy Johnson, Ray Dandridge, Dave Malarcher, Henry Blackmon, Walter Cannady, Billy Francis, Bill Monroe

Shortstop:  Willie Wells

Posey concluded:

“Too many outfielders to mention.  You have Dihigo, (Pee Wee) Butts, (Sam) Bankhead, Cannady (and) Monte Irvin to play in any position and nine hundred ninety-nine others.  Our personal preference for manager is C.I. Taylor, but what about Rube Foster?”

Lost Advertisements–The Leland Giants’ New Ballpark

3 Apr

lelands

 

An advertisement for the opening of the Leland Giants’ newly refurbished ballpark, Normal Park, at 69th and Halsted Streets in Chicago, on May 15, 1910.  Just three weeks earlier, Cook County Judge Jesse Baldwin had given the team, managed by Andrew “Rube” Foster, the right to use the name Leland Giants.

Rube Foster

Rube Foster

May 15 would be the first regular season game for the Leland Giants after the split between Frank Leland and Foster over finances, which resulted in the formation of two separate teams–Leland’s team would be called the Chicago Giants.

Beauregard Fitzhugh Moseley, who had been one of Leland’s primary financial backers but sided with Foster in the split, became the business manager of the new club and represented the team in court.  Under Moseley and Foster’s leadership, the club retained many of the club’s stars and added John Henry Lloyd and Grant “Home Run” Johnson to the roster:

“To the most select audiences in the city.  Games with the best talent procurable.  Come and visit our park and see Rube Foster, the World’s Greatest Pitcher, assisted by (Frank) Wickware and (Charles) Dougherty, the season’s sensation, (Bruce) Petway and (Pete) Booker, the stars (Pete) Hill and (Andrew) Payne, outfield phenomenon, (Frank) Duncan, (Wesley) Pryor, (Fred) Hutchinson, Lloyd and Home Run Johnson, celebrities, who can only be seen on our diamond.”

1910 Leland Giants--Seated, left to right, Johnson, Booker, Payne, Strouthers, Duncan, Pryor; standing, left to right, Petway, Lloyd, Hill, Dougherty, Bill Lindsay, Wickware, and Foster.

1910 Leland Giants–Seated, left to right, Johnson, Booker, Payne, Strouthers, Duncan, Pryor; standing, left to right, Petway, Lloyd, Hill, Dougherty, Bill Lindsay, Wickware, and Foster.

While Foster and Moseley’s club consisted of several of the core players from the 1909 Leland Giants, who had won the championship of Chicago’s City League, the league’s members rejected their request for league membership in 1910;  Frank Leland’s Chicago Giants were accepted into the league and The Chicago Tribune said it would be the Chicago Giants who would “hoist the pennant” signifying the 1909 championship at their ballpark, Auburn Park, at 79th and Wentworth,  on May 15.

When the Chicago Giants played their first City League game on May 1, the Leland Giants were on what The Chicago Inter Ocean called “Moseley’s 9,000-mile trip;” a spring training tour that covered 9,073 miles and included games in 10 states.

While they were not members of the City League, the Leland Giants played games against league teams throughout the season; including the May 15 opener.

The Chicago Defender said:

“Those in doubt about the popularity and ability of the 1910 line-up of the Leland Giants, had that doubt dispelled last Sunday if they were at the giants’ new park…B.F. Moseley presented the entire line-up, together with Manager (William C. “Billy”) Niesen‘s team, the Gunthers (a member of the City League) to 4,000 enthusiastic fans, comprising some of the best citizens of Chicago.”

The Defender described Normal Park as “one of the swellest and best-equipped ballparks in the city…it is clean and accessible to the (street) car lines and a credit to the race.”

As part of the festivities, at Normal Park–and at roughly the same time Frank Leland was about to”hoist the pennant” at Auburn Park, Niesen, on behalf of the City League gave the Leland Giants their own championship banner:

“(Niesen) presented the pennant to Rube Foster, as the champions of the city, a march was then formed, headed by the First Regiment K of P (Knights of Pythius) Band to the rear of the grounds, where the pennant, a beautiful flag in maroon, properly lettered ‘Leland Giants, City Champions’ was hoisted and unfurled to the breeze amidst great applause and music.”

The Lelands beat the Gunthers 5 to 1 behind the pitching of Frank Wickware.

Frank Leland’s Chicago Giants, lacked some of the star power of 1909 and  finished in second place in the City League.

Foster and Moseley’s Leland Giants fared better.  The “best talent procurable” won 35 straight games until June 11; The Chicago Tribune said, “Lelands Defeated at Last–Gunthers break winning streak of colored players,” when, with Foster on the mound, they lost 3 to 1 to Niesen’s Gunthers.  It was a rare loss, the Leland giants won 106 games in 1910, with just seven losses.

Beauregard Fitzhugh Moseley

Beauregard Fitzhugh Moseley

The next season, with an infusion of cash from a new business partner, a white Chicago tavern owner, John Schorling–another former partner of Frank Leland, who was sometimes identified as Charles Comiskey‘s son-in-law–the Leland Giants became the Chicago American Giants and moved from Normal Park to “Schorling’s Park” at 39th and Wentworth, the former home of the Chicago White Sox.

 

 

 

“The Best First Sacker in the Game”

27 Nov

Raymond V. Wilson was one of the biggest stars of early black baseball. The Freeman said the captain and manager of the Philadelphia Giants was, at the plate, “styled the colored Hans Wagner,” and “in his heyday the best first sacker in the game.”  The paper also said he was one of the game’s best base runners:

“Ray Wilson gives no indication of speed or race, but he possesses these two qualities in a surprising degree, and his stealing is magnificent.  His strong point, however, is avoiding the man with the ball.  He has a slide which carries him outside the base and around, his spikes clinging to the base.”

Ray Wilson

Ray Wilson

It is unclear where Wilson was born, but he lived for a time in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania before he became a member of the Cuban X-Giants in 1898.  The Harrisburg Telegraph said, the following season, in announcing that local catcher Clarence “Wax” Williams had joined the X-Giants “Ray Wilson, of this city, is playing first base on this crack team.”

The Telegraph said that Wilson played for several teams in Harrisburg, initially as a second baseman, “but his ability was soon learned and he was sent for.”

Wilson remained with the X-Giants through 1906, and then joined the Philadelphia Giants where he played for the remainder of his career.

It came to an end in the mid summer of 1910.

In a game at Bronx Oval, Wilson and the Giants were playing the Brooklyn Royal Giants.  The New York Age said Wilson was at bat, facing Brooklyn’s Harry Buckner and “was hit on the head near the temple and received a fracture which necessitated his retirement from baseball.”

By late July he began exhibiting strange behavior.

Other sources, including The Associated Press, said he received the injury earlier in his career, as a result of being “hit on the head by a swift line drive.”

The Freeman attributed some of the reason for Wilson’s becoming “somewhat demented” on his reaction to the death of his friend, Giants pitcher Sy “Bugs” Hayman, who was hit by a car on his way to a game, and died on July 4, 1910.

Bugs Hayman

Bugs Hayman

The injury, regardless of how it happened, as well as any other contributing factors, left Wilson nearly incapacitated, and he was sent to his mother’s home in Pittsburgh.

Just a week after arriving in Pittsburgh, The Associated Press reported that he had disappeared:

“(H)is relatives have asked the police to find him. Warning is given by the relatives that Wilson is insane and that he may not be captured without trouble.”

According to those relatives he was suffering from hallucinations:

“One of Wilson’s hallucinations was that someone batted a ball at him and that it broke through his hand and hit his head.  On such occasions he would lie down for hours, helpless from pain from the imaginary blow.”

On the day he disappeared, Wilson “picked up a newspaper to look at the ball scores.  He saw something which stirred him, and dashed from the house shouting that his head was hurting.”

Several days later he turned up in Tyrone, Pennsylvania, more than 100 miles from Pittsburgh.  The Tyrone Daily Herald said he had been arrested by railroad police “after insisting on going on to Harrisburg without paying his fare.”  Wilson was held in the Tyrone city jail until his identity was determined.  The paper said it was unlikely he would be prosecuted because he was “temporarily deranged, this accounting for his strange actions on the train.”

He was committed to the Pennsylvania State Hospital in Harrisburg where he died in September of 1912.  Most sources give Wilson’s year of birth as 1870, which would have made him 42 years-old at the time of his death, The Harrisburg Telegraph, in their brief death notice, listed his age as 35.

There was an intriguing claim made by Wilson’s hometown newspaper during his 1910 disappearance—although it was probably a conflation of the story of Charlie Grant.   The Telegraph said:

“While (John) McGraw was manager of the Baltimore team he endeavored to get Wilson into the major league by claiming the Negro was an Indian.  The subterfuge was discovered and Wilson was forced to remain in the Negro nines.”

With statistics being incredibly scarce, it is impossible to judge just how good Wilson was.  But, 15 years after his death, George “Chappie” Johnson—who had been in the game for more than 30 years was interviewed by W. Rollo Wilson of The Pittsburgh Courier:

“You want an all-time team you say?  I’ll pick you one and will challenge anyone to name a better outfit.  On this team of my choosing will be nothing but smart men. Every one will be able to hit, to bunt, to think…Here is your team, and note that old-timers are few and far between:

Chappie Johnson

Chappie Johnson

“Catchers (James “Biz”) Mackey, (Bruce) Petway, (George “Tubby”) Dixon; pitchers George Wilson of the Page Fence Giants, Nip Winters, Joe Williams, (Charles) Bullet Rogan;  first base, Ray Wilson of the Cuban X-Giants, second base John Henry Lloyd;  shortstop Dick Lundy;  third base Oliver Marcelle, utility, John Beckwith;  outfield Pete Hill, Oscar Charleston, Jess Barbour, (Cristobal) Torriente.”

Note:  While it seems unusual that John Henry Lloyd, almost unanimously considered the greatest shortstop in Negro League history, was placed at second, Johnson told The Courier:

“Among the men John Henry Lloyd stands out as the greatest second baseman of all time, and he is supreme at that bag yet.  Of course he made his greatest reputation as a shortstop, but I always thought second base was where he belonged.”

Such Clanging of Bells and Blowing of Horns has never been Equaled in Athletic Park”

24 Feb

From the formation of the Cuban Giants as the first professional black team in 1885 until the establishment of the Negro National League in 1920 there were many attempts to form an organized league; and numerous advocates for the idea.

Lester Aglar Walton, editor of The New York Age, believed the color line was borne solely out of “the white man’s fear in open competition,” but also understood that the situation was not likely to change.

Lester Aglar Watson

Lester Aglar Watson

In 1911, Walton thought the conditions for starting a league were right, were right based on a three-game series in June—the Chicago Leland Giants traveled to St. Louis for a three-game series with Charles Alexander Mills’ St. Louis Giants:

“The figures, giving the attendance at the three games played, are interesting and furnish those who have been agitating the organization of a colored baseball league much cause for jubilation.  They are now enthusiastically pointing to figures to back up the assertion they have been making all along that a colored baseball league would pay;  also that the fans would give it their loyal support.”

Charles Alexander Mills,

Charles Alexander Mills

The Freeman described the atmosphere at the first game:

“The Chicago Giants entered from the south entrance, headed by Captain Pettis (William “Bill” “Zack” Pettus), and followed closely by the entire squad, clad in blue caps and white uniforms.  The contrast was rich.  At the site of the Chicago boys the fans cut loose, and such cheerings in respect would be fit for a king.  Ten minutes later Captain (Richard Felix (Dick) Wallace and his squad emerged from the club house, all in a quick step, and when they came in view of the vast throng such clanging of bells and blowing of horns has never been equaled in Athletic Park.”

Bill Pettus

Bill Pettus

Walton noted that the opening game, played on June 21, drew 2,200 fans.  On the same day in Cincinnati, just 700 attended a Reds game against the St. Louis Cardinals.  The following day 2,500 hundred watched the two teams play, and about 2,600 attended on Friday.  The St. Louis Browns, playing the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday and Thursday at Sportsman’s Park, drew smaller crowds both days:

“It should not be overlooked that the fans turned out in goodly numbers to see the St. Louis Giants and the Chicago Giants on week days.  On Sundays it is not unusual for the St. Louis Giants to play before 5,000 people.  It is, however, generally admitted that strong colored teams are good Sunday attractions, but the difference of opinion has invariably come up over the question of whether the fans would put in their appearance in sufficient numbers on week days.

“What is also considered significant by those who favor the formation of a colored baseball league is that with few exceptions the crowds were composed of colored people, which proves conclusively that members of the race will support colored clubs when they put up a good article of ball.  The same can be said of white fans, and quite often, for instance, in greater New York, more whites attend baseball matches between colored clubs than colored.”

Walton said it was always understood that New York and Chicago could support a member club in an organized league, but there was “doubt as to whether devotees of the national game in St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Louisville etc…would turn out in sufficient numbers to ensure the players a nice check when payday rolled around.”  The series, he said, erased some of those doubts:

“Cincinnati, Louisville, Baltimore and other cities considered can make as good a showing as St. Louis.  Furthermore…these cities have but one big league team, while St. Louis has two, a condition which it is claimed, would argue in favor of the respective colored teams securing a larger white patronage.”

The St. Louis Giants swept the three-game series—winning all three in the bottom of the ninth inning; including a 2 to 1 victory behind “Steel Arm” Johnny Taylor over “Smokey Joe” Williams in game two—Taylor also won game one in relief.

The line scores from the three games

The line scores from the three games

Despite the enthusiasm, three excellent, well–attended games, and the resulting optimism as a result of the attendance in St. Louis during three days in June of 1911, an organized black league was still nearly a decade away.

“Fatty Weakened and Portland scored four runs”

24 Jan

Walter “Judge” McCredie went ahead with the scheduled spring series in California between his Portland Beavers and the Chicago American Giants despite criticism from Pacific Coast League (PCL) President Allan T. Baum and other league executives.

Much of the concern was the result of the Negro League team beating the Beavers four out of five games in the spring of 1913.

The results of the 1914 series were much different.  Foster, and most of the rest of the pitching staff were injured, and catcher Bruce Petway missed most of the games with a bad ankle.

The series began in Santa Maria with an 11-inning 8 to 8 tie.  “Smokey” Joe Williams, of the New York Lincoln Giants joined Rube Foster’s club for the series.  The Beavers pounded him for 14 hits.

"Smokey" Joe Williams

“Smokey” Joe Williams

Portland won the second game in Santa Maria 5 to 0.  Harry Krause (who would win 22 games for Portland in 1914) shut out the American Giants on eight hits; Lee Wade struck out 9, but allowed 11 hits and took the loss.  The Portland Oregonian said Krause’s:

“Southpaw slants and spitballs stood the Negro Giants, of Chicago, on their heads.”

The series moved to Santa Cruz.

Portland beat “Smokey” Joe Williams again in game 3; 6 to 2.  The Santa Cruz Evening News said Williams “Had a nice curve, plenty of speed, but was a little wild.”  The American Giants loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth, but 19-year-old rookie Elmer Hanson struck out pinch hitter Frank Duncan to end the game.

Watsonville was the site of the fourth, and final, game.

The Santa Cruz Evening News said while McCredie and Foster made the trip together to Watsonville, McCredie asked which pitcher Foster was starting the next day:

“Foster replied that he did not know, as all were ailing, one way or another.

“McCredie suggested that he (Foster) pitch.  Foster said that he would pitch if McCredie would play, and an agreement was made.”

McCredie’s last season as a regular was 1909.  After playing in 61 games in 1910, he had appeared in just eight games from 1911-1913.

“(McCredie and Foster) appeared on the ball field in uniform and the Portlanders went to bat first, big Foster began to pitch and retired the side…Then it was that McCredie got cold feet.

“He refused to carry out his side of the agreement to play, and all coaxing and teasing and jibes from  both teams could not feaze him.”

Foster pitched five innings of one-hit ball, but in the sixth “Fatty weakened and Portland scored four runs.”

Rube Foster

Rube Foster

After the final game The Oregonian said:

“Perhaps it was taking unfair advantage, but in the recent Beaver-Negro series the Portland Coasters knew in advance nearly everything the twirlers tossed up the plate.

(James) Hi West and (Irv) Higginbotham were out on the coaching line every game stealing the catcher’s signs.”

The American Giants salvaged their West Coast trip in their series against Nick Williams’ Portland Colts. They won the opener on March 28 in Santa Rosa 6 to 0 behind a “Smokey” Joe Williams no-hitter.  Williams struck out nine of Portland’s  Northwestern Leaguers.  The Oregonian said:

“Williams, a tall, rakish looking mulatto (Williams’ mother was a member of the Comanche nation) set the Colts down without a hit or a run.”

The American Giants committed two errors, including one by third baseman Bill Francis.  The paper said:

(Duke) Whitt rolled one infield grounder toward third that might have been construed a safety, but the scorers graciously agreed to swallow race prejudices.  It was scored as an error.”

The series then went to Chico, California, and Medford and Grants Pass, Oregon, before finishing in Portland.

The Colts only managed one victory, beating the Giants 9 to 8 in Medford.  Although the colts won the game The Oregonian said the highlights were two long home runs hit by American Giants shortstop John Henry “Pop” Lloyd, including “one of the longest hits ever seen on the local field.”

John Henry lloyd

John Henry Lloyd

The American Giants continued the spring tradition of traveling west to play Portland teams through the 1916 season.

Walter “Judge” McCredie later created some doubt that playing Foster’s team was simply a business relationship and not an expression of his opinion of the color line in baseball.  When he was criticised by PCL executives in 1914 he said: “the games are nothing more or less than training affairs.”  Later that season his attempt to sign a Hawaiian player of Chinese decent named Lang Akana was thwarted by PCL officials and his own players who threatened to revolt. In 1915 McCredie was quoted in The Chicago Defender:

“I don’t think the color of the skin ought to be a barrier in baseball…If I had my say the Afro-American would be welcome inside the fold.  I would like to have two such ball players as Petway and Lloyd of the Chicago Colored Giants who play out here every spring.  I think Lloyd is another Hans Wagner around shortstop and Petway is one of the greatest catchers in the world.”

It wouldn’t be until 1917 that a Chinese player would play professional baseball.