Tag Archives: Southern League

“Is Another Crazy Schmidt.”

16 Jun

Thirty-five years after it was first reported that Fred “Crazy” Schmit (often misspelled Schmidt) kept a “book” on hitters, the practice was still considered odd.

crazyschmit

Crazy Schmit

News of Schmit’s “book,” kept largely it was said because of his poor memory, first appeared in 1894 in The Sporting Life:

 “(A)n account of the weakness at bat of his opponents, setting them down in a small book, which he always carried with him on the diamond.”

An International News Service article in 1919 said Cleveland Indians pitcher Jim Bagby:

bagby

Jim Bagby

“Is another Crazy Schmidt.”

According to the article:

“Every pitcher in the big show has first-hand information regarding the hitting ability of every player, but few, if any, have as near perfect a record on the batters as Jim Bagby, one of Lee Fohl’s pitching aces.  Bagby has a system of baseball bookkeeping that is unique and he has found it valuable in his career as a pitcher.

“Some years ago when Jim was setting the Southern League on fire he fell upon the idea of keeping tab on individual batters and also the different teams as a whole.  He did this with aid of a memorandum.

“After each game Bagby would record the success or failure of this or that batter, adding such notes regarding the batter’s style as he deemed useful for future reference and guidance.  Jim was so successful that season (1914, Bagby was 20-9 with a 2.20 ERA for the New Orleans Pelicans) that he has continued the practice.”

When asked whether he still “kept book,” Bagby:

“(A)nswered in the affirmative. The same system that worked so well in the Southern League has been just as effective in the American.”

Bagby was 17-11 with a 2.80 ERA; the following season he was 31-12 with a 2.89 ERA—he finished his career with a 127-89 record and 3.11 ERA.

Crazy Schmitt was 7-36 with a 5.45 ERA in parts of five seasons in the major leagues.

“Pitcher Geiss No Good”

3 Jun

Emil August Geiss pitched one game in 1887 for Cap Anson’s Chicago White Stockings; it was his only Major League game as a pitcher (he later played two games in the infield).

The Chicago Tribune reported that Geiss was signed by the White Stockings “at a salary of $250 month.”  Geiss had been blacklisted the previous season for failing to report to the St. Paul Freezers in the Northwestern League after signing with that club.  The paper said, “It cost $200 to get him reinstated (The Sporting Life said it was $600).”

Geiss’ performance on May 18 was less than memorable.  He gave up 11 runs, eight earned, and 17 hits in an 11-4 loss to the Washington Senators.

The Chicago Tribune headline the following day summed up Geiss’ performance:

Pitcher Geiss No Good

Emil Geiss

The headline in The Chicago Inter Ocean was no kinder:

Geiss Is No Good.  A New Pitcher Tried by the Chicagos at Washington with Disastrous Results

The paper said Anson, who sat out, “watched the game from the players’ bench, a look of disgust deepening on his face every inning widened, and fairly turned his back on the unfortunate Whites.”

Geiss briefly redeemed himself when filling in for Anson on June 15 against the Indianapolis Hoosiers. The Tribune said:

“Geiss played first base in first-class style. He accepted eleven chances with no errors.At the bat he struck out twice and made one hit.”

Their opinion changed one week later when he played in place of Fred Pfeffer at second and  made three errors on seven total chances and was 0 for 5 at the plate.

The Tribune said:

“If Geiss is capable of no better work that he did yesterday he should not be allowed to again don the uniform of the Chicago nine.  A man who plays as he did is a positive menace to the success of the club.”

At the end of June, Geiss was released and finished the season in the Chicago City League.

An additional note about Geiss, and it’s a confusing note:

The remainder of his career is a bit vague and complicated.  His brother was William Geiss, who had two brief major league stints and a long minor league career during which he sometimes played under the name of Emil Geis (one “s”), further complicated because Emil Geiss’ Cook County, Illinois death certificate lists him as “Emil Geis.”

Emil pitched for the London Tecumsehs in the International League in 1888 and ’89.  He was the subject of a dispute between London and New Orleans in the Southern League over his rights—an arbitrator ruled that Emil was the property of London; at the same time William was with New Orleans, so we know it was Emil with London.

After a seven-year absence from professional ball, Baseball Reference has Emil hitting .402 in 41 games split between Bloomington in the Western Interstate League and Ottumwa in the Eastern Iowa League in 1895.

It seems likely, and contemporary reports indicate that it was actually William, playing under the name Emil Geiss (sometimes Geis) who put up those numbers in 1895–this conclusion is also supported by the fact that Emil, who had joined the Chicago Police Department in 1891 was still a member a force in 1895.

William Geiss

William Geiss

Both brothers died in Chicago, Emil on October 4, 1911, and William on September 18, 1924.  Both are buried at Saint Boniface Cemetery in Chicago.

 

Jules Pujol

15 Apr

Jules Pujol was an infielder and outfielder for several professional teams in and around his hometown of New Orleans during the 1880s.  Statistics are unavailable for much of Pujol’s career, but his best season was with New Orleans in the Southern League in 1887 when he hit .314 in 82 games–he played sparingly, and hit no better than .242 after that.

Pujol was born in New Orleans on December 12, 1864.  When he was not playing baseball he was a member of New Orleans’ all-volunteer fire department–the Fireman’s Charitable Association.

Pujol’s statistical decline after his .314 season might be attributed to an incident on Bourbon Street in New Orleans in March of 1888.  Pujol was out celebrating after New Orleans’ annual “Fireman’s Day Parade,” when, according to The New Orleans Times-Picayune he was “Shot and dangerously injured by Police Officer Albert Torregano.”

Pujol was fighting with another man in the bar when the officer approached:

“The officer attempted to make pace and requested Pujol to stop, when the latter said: ‘You want some of it, too,’ and struck him in the face and knocked him down.

“As the officer got up he again asked Pujol to quit, when Pujol knocked him down again, and his brother Luis came up saying, ‘Let me get at him, ‘ and also struck (the officer), and while he was lying there they both kicked him and beat him about the legs and body.”

The officer finally drew his weapon and shot Pujol, “striking Jules under the left shoulder-blade.”  Despite being shot, Pujol “continued chasing the officer.”  Pujol finally “fell to the floor from the loss of blood,” and was taken to the hospital where the wound was “pronounced very dangerous.”  The bullet had “passed through his right lung and striking the third rib lodged in his stomach.”

So dangerous was the wound that several newspapers printed a wire report which said:

“Jules Pujol, late third baseman of the New Orleans club, who was shot in the Crescent a week ago, is dead.”

Reports of Pujol’s demise were premature.  Three weeks after the shooting he was released from the hospital.  The Times-Picayune declared him “cured.”

In April, the assault case against the Pujol  brothers was “continued indefinitely.”  Neither were ever tried,  Louis returned to the fire department, and Jules left for Texas. He played for the Galveston Giants and Houston Babies in the Texas Southern League in 1888 and finished his professional career the following season with mobile in the Southern League.

In 1891, he became a Lieutenant in the newly formed New Orleans Fire Department.

Pujol and four other firefighters, including his brother Louis, were awarded the department’s highest honor for saving nine lives in a fire at the Grunewald Opera Hall at Baronne and Canal Streets in 1892.  According to the book History of the Fire Department in New Orleans (1895), the five went to the roof of a neighboring building, and then swung “A rope to the burning building, hauling a ladder over to bridge from one to the other, and passing the endangered persons across it to a place of safety.”

Jules Pujol, second from left

Pujol rose through the ranks of the department and was an assistant chief–serving under his brother, Chief Louis Pujol–on February 23, 1924, when he responded to a fire at a warehouse on Canal Street.  Pujol died after being trapped in the building when the walls collapsed.  Five other firefighters were seriously injured.

He is interred at Greenwood Cemetery in New Orleans.

A shorter version of this post was published on September 13, 2012

“This whole Trouble, Disgraceful to be sure, may be Blamed directly on Jack Sheridan”

14 Mar

On April 7, 1901, The San Francisco Call reported that John F. “Jack” Sheridan had accepted an offer from President Ban Johnson to continue working as an umpire in the American League—which operated as a minor league the previous season.  The paper said “The National League also made a bid for his services.  He will receive $400 a month and expenses.”  It was said to be “the largest salary ever paid to an umpire.”

Sheridan was a former player, a second baseman and outfielder, who played for several San Francisco teams in the California League, including stints with the Haverlys from 1883-85.  He went East in 1885 and appeared in six games for the Chattanooga Lookouts in the Southern league, and that same season began working as an umpire.

sheridanpix

Jack Sheridan

Years later, Mique Fisher, long-time California and Pacific Coast League manager and executive told The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review that Sheridan was signed by the Lookouts after he “sold himself to Chattanooga through a glowing personal description of his own ability,” but Fisher said:

 “Sheridan couldn’t field a ball with a fish net or hit one with a tennis racket.  When the Chattanooga manager saw Sheridan in action, he swore out a warrant charging him with obtaining money fraudulently.  Sheridan had to work out the expense advance in a cigarette factory.”

He worked as an umpire in the Southern League (1885, ‘93), the California League (1886-89, ’91), the Players League (1890), the National League (1892, ’96-97), and the Western/American League (1894-95, 1898-1900).

The best-paid umpire in the game, who was also a San Jose undertaker during the off-season, traveled from his California home to Chicago in early April of 1901, but a detour in Missouri nearly cost him his job.

The Chicago Tribune said Sheridan left the train “and was taken into custody on account of his strange actions.”  The Fort Wayne Sentinel said among the “strange actions” Sheridan “donned his uniform and started to umpire an imaginary game in the middle of the street.”

Johnson sent fellow American League Umpire “Pongo” Joe Cantillon to Missouri to get Sheridan released and accompany him to Chicago.  Sheridan was admitted to St. Elizabeth Hospital.  The Tribune said he was suffering from “nervous prostration,’ while The Cincinnati Enquirer said the league president said Sheridan was “on a protracted drunk.”

The day after he was admitted to the hospital two friends were given permission to take Sheridan out for a walk, The Chicago Inter Ocean said:

“As they reached Milwaukee Avenue and Division Street, a (street) car whirled by, and Sheridan swung himself on the rear coach.  His friends yelled in vain to the conductor to stop the train, and lost sight of Sheridan.

“They at once notified the police department to look out for Sheridan…Detective Fitzgerald found Sheridan wandering aimlessly on Jackson Boulevard near Wabash…Sheridan did not know where he was, nor could he tell where he had been since escaping from his friends.”

As Sheridan waited to appear in court to determine whether he was insane, newspapers speculated that Johnson would replace the umpire with either former player Warren “Hick” Carpenter or former Western and National League umpire Al Manassau—Manassau was appointed to the American League staff two days before the season began.

Before he could be adjudicated insane Sheridan made a miraculous recovery just one week into the season.  The San Jose Evening News said:

“Mrs. Sheridan, the mother of Jack Sheridan, the noted baseball umpire, has received a telegram from her son, who is in Chicago, stating that he has fully recovered from his derangement and that he could now continue with his contract.”

Sheridan was back on the field before the month of April of over.  He was competent, served as the American League umpires “chief of staff,”  and umpired in four World Series (1905, 07, 08 and 10); he was also selected, along with National League umpire Bill Klem, to join the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants on their world tour after the 1913 season.

But he also demonstrated erratic behavior for the rest of his career.

Just a month after returning to the field The Sporting Life said “Sheridan became frantic and ran up and down the field like a crazy man,” after a disputed call at home plate in the bottom of the ninth of a May 31 game in Detroit between the Tigers and Baltimore Orioles, which led to Sheridan awarding the game to the Tigers by forfeit.

The Sporting Life’s Baltimore correspondent said Sheridan was “held by President Johnson as a competent man,” despite his “habits.”

He resigned on at least three occasions.  After the 1905 and 07 seasons he said he was retiring to return to San Jose and become a full-time undertaker, only to return the following spring and in June of 1910, he abruptly quit minutes before a game in Washington, but returned within several weeks.

When Sheridan again took the field The Washington Post said he would “establish a precedent, as he will be the only major league umpire wearing glasses.”

Sheridan was also arrested in October of 1907 after a barroom brawl that began over a dispute over $120.  The Associated Press said when police searched Sheridan he was carrying $2700.  He was released from jail the following day after being fined $10.

On July 30, 1914, Sheridan called Ray Morgan of the Washington Senators out on a close play at first base in Detroit.  The Washington Post said Morgan, who had slid, “came up with a handful of dirt and threw it on the ground at Sheridan’s feet…Sheridan evidently thought that Morgan intended to hit him, and did not even give the National’s second sacker time to put up his guard, but whaled away at his smaller opponent.”

Ray Morgan

Ray Morgan

Morgan punched Sheridan, and after both dugouts emptied, Sheridan was also punched by Washington’s Eddie Ainsmith.  The disturbance spilled over to the stands with a few Washington players, including Morgan and Ainsmith, taking on Detroit fans before police restored order.

The Post said:

“This whole trouble, disgraceful to be sure, may be blamed directly on Jack Sheridan, the umpire, who has been at fault so many times this year.  In the first place Sheridan has threatened to beat up several of the Washington players.  Sheridan told (David “Mutt”) Williams and (Joe) Engel that he would punch them in the nose, the same as he had Morgan, if they did not do as he told them.”

Ban Johnson never took action against Sheridan for the incident in Detroit, but Morgan and Ainsmith drew suspensions from the league.

On August 1, 1914, The Associated Press reported that “The baseball players fraternity intends to take steps to have Umpire Jack Sheridan retired from service on grounds of incompetence.”

The incident, and dust up on August 12 with Jack Fournier of the White Sox inspired a poem from The Chicago Tribune’s Ring Lardner:

Making Night Hideous

Oft in the stilly night,

Ere slumber’s chain has bound me

Fond memory brings the sight

Of athletes crowding round me;

The scowls, the sneers

Of Jack Fourniers

And Morgans strike my vision;

I hear the barks

And rude remarks

That greet each close decision.

Thus in the stilly night,

Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,

I sometimes get tight up and fight

The chairs and tables round me.

At the end of the 1914 season, Sheridan returned to California.  On October 31 The Associated Press reported that Sheridan would not be returning as an umpire:

“Sheridan will probably be retained as a sort of supervisor of umpires, spending his time roaming around the circuit.”

Just three days later Sheridan died of heart failure in San Jose at age 62—he was said to have suffered sunstroke during an August game and never fully recovered.  Ban Johnson supported him to the end; just weeks before the umpire died the American League president told a reporter:

“I sincerely doubt if the baseball game will ever know another Jack Sheridan.  He had all of the virtues of other arbiters, and none of their mistakes.”

Frank Harris and “Pacer” Smith

5 Mar

Frank Harris was sentenced to die on November 29, 1895, in Freeport Illinois for shooting a man named Charles Bengel in May of that year.  Charles N. “Pacer” Smith was sentenced to die the same day in Decatur, Illinois for killing his 5-year-old daughter and 17-year-old sister-in-law and attempting to kill his estranged wife.

Smith and Harris were well acquainted, but accounts differed as to how well.  The Sporting Life said Smith “was at one time a resident of Freeport, and while here was known as Harris’ bosom friend and partner in a number of local ventures.”  The Decatur Review said the two played together on a team in Freeport in 1892. The Decatur Evening Bulletin said that the two had been teammates in Monmouth, Illinois in 1889.  (The Monmouth team was formed at the tail-end of the season to play out the Central Interstate League schedule of the Davenport Hawkeyes who  had folded–but neither Harris nor Smith are listed on any extant rosters for Monmouth).

Smith told The Decatur Daily Republican:

“I know Harris well.  He was with the Rockford club while I was with Ottawa and then we were together in the same club in the Southern League.  He was always a ratty, crazy fellow.  He married a rich girl in Freeport and will escape hanging if money is any good.”

(Surviving records show Harris with Rockford in 1890 and Smith with Ottawa in 1891. Harris played with the Chattanooga Lookouts in the Southern League in 1885; there is no record of Smith having played for the team).

Smith, who claimed he converted to Catholicism while awaiting the hangman, wrote a letter to Harris imploring him to do the same:

“Friend Frank—although in trouble myself, still I can find the time and inclination to sympathize with an old comrade in the same fix, and especially as the circumstance s connecting the two cases are so similar and out of the ordinary.  We are both to take our departure from this ‘vale of tears’ upon the same date to met [sic] him ‘who rules the universe,’ and before whom we both have to stand in judgment to hear perhaps the same verdict and sentence against us, once again in comradeship where the bickering and tribulations of this world have to part.

“I am happy to state to you I have received the consolations of religion to aid me in my extremity, and I wish you in answering this could assure me you, too, had claimed that only staff which it is possible for you to now lean upon with any surety and safety.  I have joined and been baptized in the faith of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, as I believe it to be the only and true church.  I have received its consolations and am resting easy in the confidence of its efficacy.

“I hope I will meet you in a ‘better world.’ Hoping to hear when you write that you have gone and done as well for yourself spiritually.  I will close by subscribing myself yours fraternally.

“Charles N. Smith ‘Pacer’”

Pacer Smith

Charles “Pacer” Smith

Smith also wrote a lengthy account of his life, baseball career and the murders he committed.  The Chicago Inter Ocean noted that he:

“Admits a petty double murder; but Mr. Smith avows he never threw a ballgame.”

While scaffolds were being erected in Decatur and Freeport, a group of Harris’ supporters, led by the town’s former mayor, Charles Nieman traveled to the state capital to seek a stay from Governor John Peter Altgeld.

Smith’s prediction that Harris would “escape hanging” proved to be correct.  On November 27 the governor postponed Harris’ execution until May 1, 1896.  The Sterling Gazette said the scaffolding in Freeport had been completed, the judge “strongly opposed” the governor’s decision and that the sheriff had already “sent out tickets of admission” for the hanging.

The Freeport Bulletin said:

“Harris has been very despondent for several days, and had made up his mind that he would be hanged Friday, and when informed that the governor had granted him a respite he broke down and wept like a child.  All day long he heard the carpenters at work on the scaffold, and could see the preparations made for his execution.”

As  “Pacer” Smith ascended the scaffold on November 29 a reporter from The Decatur Evening Bulletin asked him if he was aware that Harris had received a reprieve:

“He said he had, but seemed more interested in the fact that Harris had professed Christianity and been baptized.

“’It was my letter to him that is responsible for his conversion.  That was what influenced him. ‘

“When asked what he would say to a reprieve for himself, he snapped his fingers and said:

“’I don’t care that much.  I am all ready to go.’”

A few minutes later, at noon, “The drop occurred,” and “with a few convulsions the murderer died.”

Harris’ reprieve became permanent on April 23, 1896.  Governor Altgeld commuted his sentence to life in prison and he was sent to Illinois’ Joliet State Prison.   Despite the life sentence, The Joliet Republican said when Harris arrived at the prison:

“It is thought that the man will be pardoned out within a couple of years as he has the sympathy of the entire community where he lived.”

Frank Harris

Frank Harris

His release was not as quick as expected.  Harris applied unsuccessfully for parole on numerous occasions after his incarceration, and his wife divorced him in 1897.   But he did still have a large number of supporters in Freeport and other towns where he played.  In 1908, The Rockford Republic said friends from his time playing there had joined his friends from Freeport to work for his release, claiming he had been provoked by the man he shot.  Harris told the paper:

“It would be like one coming from the grave to again see the wonderful works of God and man, and oh, how I long to see it all.  Only a few days of liberty would be heaven on earth for me…there is a place in life for me and when I am released I will make a place.  I was never a bad man, but committed a crime through circumstances too strong for me to overcome.”

After more than a decade of efforts on Harris’ behalf,  Illinois Governor Charles S. Deneen pardoned him in 1911.

Harris returned to Freeport where he opened a tailor shop.  The former player had one last brush with the law in 1922.  The Freeport Journal-Standard said he threatened the chief of police and “several other people.”  As a result “A gun was taken away from Harris and he was informed by Chief Root that he would have to cease toting a gun.  Harris promised to refrain from drinking.”

A 1929 advertisement for Frank Harris' tailor business

A 1929 advertisement for Frank Harris’ tailor business

He continued operating tailor shop until March of 1939 when he went to the state hospital in East Moline, Illinois where he died eight months later on November 26 at age 81–one day short of the 44th anniversary of his reprieve.

Adventures in Barnstorming—“Their Conduct was Disgraceful”

30 Oct

After the 1887 season John Montgomery Ward was celebrating his marriage to one of the most popular actresses of the era, Helen Dauvray, by touring the South playing exhibition games with the New York Giants–primarily made up of New York players but also included Mike “King” Kelly (who also brought his wife Agnes) of the Boston Beaneaters and Jerry Denny of Indianapolis Hoosiers.

John Montgomery Ward

John Montgomery Ward

The team arrived in New Orleans on October 29 and was greeted with a reception at the St. Charles Hotel.

The first game against the Southern League’s New Orleans Pelicans was played the next day at Sportsmen’s Park in front of 6000 fans.  New York’s Tim Keefe held the Pelicans to just two ninth-inning runs, in a 7-2 victory.   Ward had three hits.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune said:

“It was far from an ideal day for ball playing, for the weather was almost freezing and the wind blew in cutting blasts.  But those who admire baseball in this city were undeterred.”

The following day the Pelicans managed an 8-inning 4-4 tie:

“(The Pelicans) put up a game that would have done credit to any aggregation, and the only excuse for their not having bounced the Giants, was the fact that (Bill) Geiss and (Ed) Cartwright made inexcusable errors at the commencement that let in two runs.”

The Times-Picayune left out a large part of what happened that day.

Two days later the whole story appeared in papers across the country, The New York Times said:

“(S)everal members of the New York Baseball club were intoxicated when they entered the grounds to play with the New Orleans nine on Monday last.  Their conduct was disgraceful, and (Pelicans) Secretary (Maurice) Kaufman called on a police officer to eject them from the grounds.”

A wire report from New Orleans, that appeared in The Chicago Daily News said:

“There are several men in the New Yorks who have been drinking freely ever since they arrived in the city, and were not of course, in condition to play ball.”

Giants’ catcher William “Buck” Ewing, and Jerry Denny were identified as drunken players, but it was King Kelly who was most often singled out.  The wire report said when police attempted to arrest a drunken fan who had accompanied the players to the ballpark:

“Kelly jumped into the stand and tried to prevent the arrest, claiming the man was a friend of his…During the entire game the unseemly exhibition was kept up.  At one time Kelly climbed into the stand and drank beer with his friends, while the other men of the nine had already taken positions in the field to begin an inning.”

King Kelly

King Kelly

During the game Ward “took his wife from the grounds, and placing her in a carriage, sent her to the St. Charles Hotel, because of the disgraceful exhibition of some of the players.”

The game scheduled for November 2 was cancelled and The New York Times said the tour would be disbanded.

By the end of the week all parties were trying to downplay the incident.  Ward said members of the club “misbehaved in no way,” and instead said the cancellation was because it was discovered that Pelicans players had received $5 each for the games, and the Giants players only received $3.  The Pelicans and The Times-Picayune had a revised version of the events:

“The whole story is that a couple of the members met too many friends with tempting ways and reached the field in no condition to play ball.  The majority of the visitors were all right and were heartily ashamed of the conduct of their comrades.”

The paper said that the “New Yorks are in good trim again, however and at their own request a game was arranged for (November 4).”

The Giants won that game 5 to 3—New York catcher Buck Ewing pitched a complete game for the Giants (he pitched 47 innings during his major league career, with a 2-3 record and 3.45 ERA), beating the Pelicans best pitcher John Ewing.  Only 500 fans attended the game.

The series ended on November 6 with the Giants winning two games; a 3-1 morning game with “a very small crowd,” and an evening game in front of more than 6000 won by the Giants 5-4.

While the rest of the Giants continued on to Texas, Ward returned to New York for meetings to negotiate the recognition of the Brotherhood of Professional Baseball Players by the National League.  He rejoined the team on the West Coast later that month for a six-week barnstorming tour.

The Ward/ Dauvray marriage went about as well as the honeymoon in New Orleans—their divorce just six-years later was a very public, scandalous affair.  Ward, who was accused of being a serial philanderer, was actually barred from ever remarrying during Dauvray’s lifetime as part of the divorce decree.  He was able to get the ruling reversed in 1903 and remarried.

“Baseball by Electricity”

11 Jul

In 1886, The Electrical Review told the story of the first attempts at “reproducing almost instantly a vivid view of the exact situations and plays in a game of baseball.”

The original plan was hatched by three telegraph operators in Nashville, Tennessee who “turned their enthusiasm for baseball to good account.”   J. U Rust, E.W. Morgan, and A.H Stewart made the first attempt to transmit a game between Chattanooga and Nashville in 1884:

“To do this they leased a wire from Nashville to Chattanooga, one end of which was on the ball field, with an expert operator, who was accurately informed in baseball playing, seated watching the game and immediately telegraphing each play as it progressed.  At the Nashville end of the wire were two other telegraphic and baseball experts.  As they received the record from their partner, one man reproduced it verbally to the audience, while the other man manipulated cards bearing the names of the players, around a painted view of the ball field which was placed in full view of the audience.”

The following season Southern League games were transmitted to opera houses in several of the league cities by Morgan & Co. “the ingenious firm” created by the three telegraph operators.

On July 9, 1886 Morgan & Co. transmitted the game between the Detroit Wolverines and the Chicago White Stockings from Chicago’s West Side Park to the Detroit Opera House. The “unique entertainment before a crowd of 600 persons,” was described by The Electrical Review:

“On the stage was a huge landscape—it would have done well as a drop curtain—having a well-painted perspective view of a baseball diamond and outfield.  At the points on the picture representing the positions of batsman, pitcher catcher and basemen, are openings into which may be shoved cards bearing the names of the players, and into which these names are placed as the telegraph operator seated at his instrument reads to the audience the progress of the game, even to the smallest details.”

The crowd at the Opera House “was wrought up to a very high pitch of enthusiasm.  For instance, when the operator read—with (Abner) Dalrymple’s name appearing as batsman—“foul fly to left,” the audience fairly held its breath, and when the next instant the operator called out, ‘and out to (James “Deacon”) White,’ there came a storm of applause, just such as heard on a veritable ball field…the excitement was intense.”

The Chicago White Stockings defeated the Detroit Wolverines 8-2 on July 9, on there way to the 1886 National League championship

The Chicago White Stockings defeated the Detroit Wolverines 8-2 on July 9, on their way to the 1886 National League championship

By the end of the 1886 season, games were presented in opera houses in Chicago, Boston, New York and Cincinnati.  By the end of the decade the practice would become commonplace in all big league cities.

By the mid 1890s the system for presenting games to the public had become much more advanced.

The Baltimore Morning Herald said in September of 1894:

“The ball game today between the Baltimore (Orioles) and Louisville (Colonels) clubs will be given as usual from the stage at Ford’s Grand Opera House at 4 o’clock by electricity.  The system utilized for the first game in the city is ‘The Compton Electric Baseball Game Impersonator.’   It has been used in New York and elsewhere with unbounded success.  It is a contrivance so ingenious that the slightest move of the players is visible, and the anxiety and interest of those present is just as great as though they had been occupying the grandstand.  Every strike is recorded and illustrated, and, whether at the bat, running the bases or in the field, all the players are known and watched…a visible reproduction of the game is given to the minutest detail.”

By the end of that season the Compton system was used to transmit games to fans in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, and it, and numerous systems developed by competitors would become commonplace over the next four decades.

The Chicago Examiner sponsored the "automatic Baseball Playograph" exhibition of the 1913 World Series between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Athletics.

The Chicago Examiner sponsored the “automatic Baseball Playograph” exhibition of the 1913 World Series between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Athletics.

Usually sponsored by local newspapers, the exhibitions were an especially popular method for following the World Series in real-time.   It was not until 1938 (when the New York Yankees, New York Giants, and Brooklyn Dodgers became the last teams to have their games broadcast on radio) that the technological descendants of Morgan & Co. became completely obsolete.

Lewis Henke

3 May

Lewis Henke played first base for the Atlanta Atlantas in the Southern League in 1885.  The Atlanta Constitution said:

“He was the swiftest and most baring baserunner on the Atlanta nine.”

And

“(A) favorite not only in Atlanta, but wherever he was known…perhaps the most popular player in the Southern League.”

On August 14 Atlanta was hosting the Nashville Americans, when according to The Macon Telegraph:

“In the fourth inning Henke, in making the first base, ran violently against the knee of (Charles “Lefty”) Marr, of the Nashvilles, the knee joint striking him apparently full in the stomach.  Henke showed immediately that he was badly hurt, and in a moment was lying stretched out almost on the base.  He was carried from the field to the dressing room…Although he had clearly made his base after heavy hit, no one of the players, no one of the great crowd looking on, knew that the infallible umpire above had decided differently, and called him out.”

Henke’s liver was ruptured in the collision and the Cincinnati native died of the injury the following day.

The New York Times blamed the death on “Bad feelings” between the two teams, which resulted in “much ugly work on the field, such as tripping each other, etc..”

Henry “Red” Bittman was Henke’s teammate, fellow Cincinnatian and best friend; they had come to Atlanta together in 1884 to play for the city’s entry in the Georgia State League.  He was at his friend’s bedside.

According to The Times:

“Henke observing his friend by his side this evening whispered to him: ‘Bitt, do not play today; I feel that I am dying.’ ‘What shall I tell your wife for you?’ Bittman inquired.  ‘Just tell her I got hurt in yesterday’s game and died from it,’ he replied as he again closed his eyes, and in three minutes he was dead.”

The Telegraph said that later that evening:

 “At half past ten the manager (Gus Schmelz) escorted the remains to the depot, and walked beside the undertaker’s team through the streets with barred (sic) heads.  The dead man’s comrades, rough and hard, were deeply afflicted, and some of the cried like children over the coffin…Henke, the dead baseballist, was carried west on the 10:40 train tonight on the Western and Atlantic to Cincinnati.”

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Lewis Henke, standing–Henry “Red” Bittman, seated

While some attributed Henke’s death to the “bad blood” and “ugly work on the field,” no one publicly singled out the popular “Lefty” Marr for blame.  Years later, Edward Cuba Bruffey, a long-time reporter and editor for The Atlanta Constitution said:

“The death of Henke completely prostrated Marr, and it was several days before he was able or willing to return to the game.  I am not certain now, but I think Marr was one of the men who accompanied the body to Cincinnati for the funeral.”

The Southern League owners pledged to play benefit games to raise money for Henke’s wife and child.

Tickets for the Atlanta benefit went on sale the final week of August.  The Constitution said:

 “Henke’s wife and child are destitute.  There is not one of the thousands who have seen him play and applauded him his pluck and skill who could not afford to buy tickets to the benefit…every dollar taken in will go to his family.”

The benefit became a bit of a scandal in Atlanta; and it’s unclear whether games were played throughout the league as promised.

The Atlanta game raised $159.85 for the widow, but it took more than six months for the money to get to her.  Ownership of the Atlanta franchise changed hands after the 1885 season and the former management of the club never gave the money raised from the game to Henke’s family.

In February of 1886 The Macon Telegraph said the new chairman of the Atlanta Baseball Association, Steve Ryan had advanced the money to the widow and “received a guarantee that he will be reimbursed” by the former owners.  According to The Telegraph:

“(Ryan) saved the old directorship from a very ugly legal squabble.  With the remittance Mr. Ryan forwarded to Mrs. Henke a spicy and sympathetic letter…It would be rich and rewarding reading as it touches up the old directorship interestingly. “

Henke’s best friend Henry Bittman played five more seasons in the minor leagues; including 87 games as “Lefty” Marr’s teammate with the Nashville Americans in 1886. In 1889 he appeared in four games with the Kansas City Cowboys in the American Association.  He died in Cincinnati in 1929 at the age of 67.

Charles "Lefty" Marr

Charles “Lefty” Marr

Marr played professional ball until 1898, including parts of four seasons in the American association and National League.  His best seasons were with the Columbus Solons in 1889 and the Cincinnati Reds in 1890.  The left-handed thrower played 129 games at third base and 29 at shortstop in the big leagues. He died in Connecticut in 1912.

Alamazoo Jennings

16 Apr

Alfred Gorden Jennings earned his nickname the day after his only professional game, as the catcher for the  Milwaukee Grays in 1878; and it was given to him by on of the most famous baseball writers of the era.

The Grays had three catchers in 1878; Charlie Bennett, Will Foley and Bill Hobart, all of whom were injured on August 15 while Milwaukee was in Cincinnati for a series with the Reds.   Grays Manager Jack “Death to Flying Things” Chapman found Jennings, who had been playing with local semi-pro and amateur teams for a decade, and put him in the lineup for the August 15 game.

Pitcher Mike Golden was on the mound for Milwaukee, and Jennings told sportswriter Rem Mulford Jr. years later:

“We were all mixed in our signs.  I signed for an outcurve and got an inshoot which broke a couple of fingers.  ‘Go ahead,’ I said, ‘ I’ll stay here all day even if I have to stop ‘em with my elbows.  You can’t drive me away.’  Well they didn’t.”

Jennings was officially credited with 10 passed balls (he claimed he had 17), a record that stood until 1884.

The morning after the game in The Cincinnati Enquirer, the headline on Oliver Perry “O. P.” Caylor’s story read:

Alamazoo Jennings Makes His Debut Behind the Bat

His Gall Holds Out but His Hands Weaken

Caylor said:

“(Jennings) looked so large and handsome and very like a catcher that Manager Chapman was mashed, and straightaway engaged him, and clinched the bargain with a dinner.  When Al pulled on his sole- leather gloves and poised near the grandstand at three o’clock, the crowd scarcely breathed.  Zip came the ball from Golden’s hand; bang it went against the backstop because Al had stooped too late to pick it up.  It took several minutes for him to gauge the speed of Golden’s pitching, but he got it down fine at last, and stopped a ball every once in awhile.  But, the low comedy parts came in when the new catcher went up close behind the bat.  A batter had but to get on first base and a run was scored.  They went to second and third without danger, and tallied on a passed ball.”

Jennings told Mulford his reaction to Caylor’s story:

“I read a few lines and wanted to fight.  I read a few lines more and had to laugh.”

The Box Score

The Box Score

That game was the end of Jennings’ one-day professional career.  Shortly afterwards he began a more than 10-year run as a minor league umpire in the Bluegrass, Southern, Northwestern and Interstate Leagues.  He also served as an umpire in the Union Association in 1884, his only season in a major league.

Mulford would occasionally update his readers about Jennings, of whom he said:

“With all his peculiarities, Amamazoo is a good fellow, and he has as many friends in and out of the profession as anybody ever connected with the great national game.”

By 1891 he gave up umpiring to become “The Parched Corn King of America,”selling his product in “three cities–Cincinnati, Covington and Newport—and netting every day ten times the amount of the original capital invested in the enterprise.”

by November of 1894 Jennings had moved on from the “parched corn” business, to “pushing an insect killer,” when as The Sporting Life said: “Death entered another victory upon his scorebook.”  He was 43-years-old.

The Enquirer said for his funeral his friends ordered a “floral piece…over seven feet high.  It is made of beautiful flowers.  Two large floral bats cross each other above, and below then are two floral balls, and at the bottom of the piece the inscription: ‘His Last Decision.'”

Count Campau Explains the “Science of the Sport”—Part 2

28 Mar

Charles “Count” Campau was among the fastest and best base runners of the 19th Century; he stole 63 bases in 147 games major league games, and stole 100 with Savannah and New Orleans in 1887.  In 1900 Campau, then 36 appears, not to have slowed down much.

The Binghamton (NY) Press said at a “field day” competition in Montreal, Campau “circled the bases in 14 ½ seconds and won a handsome gold watch, which he now carries as a souvenir of the feat.”  The Press also said “At one time Campau challenged any baseball player in the world to run a match race of 100 yards for 100.”

"Count" Campau

“Count” Campau

In 1893 Campau wrote an article for the New Orleans Times-Picayune about the “Science of the Sport,” last week‘s post included his comments about the battery, this week, the rest of the article:

“Many people will not believe that a third baseman’s position is one of the hardest and most trying.  As soon as he makes a hot pick-up he must immediately send the ball to first to score the batter out.  He must be a quick, hard and accurate thrower, or a fast base runner will have a good chance to get to first.

“The short stop and second baseman, as a rule, generally work together, but the short stop aids the baseman more than he receives help, in fact, the second baseman is a sort of short stop.  Should a batter be right-handed the grounder will invariably go to the short stop.  If a man has already reached first, the short stop depends upon the second baseman to be at the bag, and send the ball to him…A left-hand batter will send the ball between first and second, where the second baseman generally plays.  Should there be a man on first, the short stop is looked upon to cover the bag, and if the hit is a fast grounder and both men are quick throwers, a double can be easily worked.

“The first baseman is a mean position to play.  It looks easy, but is hard.  He has got to play a short stop game, must be a sure catcher of a thrown ball and is supposed to get a low thrown ball or a high one, and must catch a ball either on the left or right side.  This position is the best place for a captain; for he can see every play that is made better than should he be in the outfield, and can readily argue a decision with an umpire without walking a mile to do so.

“The outfield must be greatly depended upon and must catch all the balls in that territory..  The outfielders have not as much work as the infielders, but they have to look up at Old Sol and must have a good pair of eyes.  They must be hard, quick throwers to be of any value to the team and have got to watch the base runners and use judgment  as to the proper place to throw the ball…A person can be a good fly ball catcher with diligent practice.  He must know where to run and judge a ball.  As soon as he can do this there will be no trouble to succeed.

“A captain must be a cool man and be able to command respect from his men and let them know that his rulings must be obeyed…When his side is in he should instruct his men how to bat, when to bunt or sacrifice. “

Campau said “Baseball is a great exercise, for it is played with brain and every muscle, and daily practice will make any person become strong quick, for every muscle is brought into play and is developed.”

Campau played and managed until the 1905 season, finishing his career with the Binghamton Bingoes in the New York State League; released by Binghamton mid-season, he became an umpire, working in the Southern, Eastern and New York State Leagues June of 1907.

Charles Columbus "Count" Campau 1904

Charles Columbus “Count” Campau 1904

Campau gave up umpiring for thoroughbred racing; he served as a handicapper, clerk of scales and placing judge at a variety of race tracks, including Kenilworth Park in Buffalo, King Edwards Park in Canada, Oriental Park in Cuba, and finally, the Fair Grounds in his adopted home of New Orleans.

Campau died in 1938.