Tag Archives: Spokane Indians

Cy Swain

8 Jun

Charles R. “Moose” “Cy” Swain was for a short time, one of the best-known players on the West Coast and his brief time as the West’s home run king is all but forgotten.

Born in Palo Alto, California, Swain made his professional debut with San Jose franchise in the California State League in 1904.  Years later, Mike Steffani, San Jose manager, told The San Jose Evening News that his “discovery” of Swain was an accident.

Steffani was in need of a shortstop, and Swain’s brother Ira, who played at Stanford University,  was recommended to him by pitcher Win Cutter.  Cy, who accompanied his brother to San Jose, played first while Steffani worked out Ira at short.  Steffani said he told Cutter:

“I think young Cy is the best player.  I like the way he handles the ground balls.  He acts like (Charles) Truck Eagan to me.”

Cy Swain was signed.  Ira was sent home.

Charles "Cy" Swain

Charles “Cy” Swain

Swain was called “a hard hitter,” who struck out often.  He also apparently enjoyed a drink.  After hitting a disappointing .239 for the Spokane Indians in The Northwestern League in 1907, Swain was traded to the Butte Miners.

In announcing the news, The Spokane Press said, “Charley isn’t exactly a temperance man.”   The paper said that when the Spokane owner sent him a contract with a temperance clause, Swain wired back, “Send me two of those; I may break one.”

Swain, who also struggled with weight issues, went from Butte to the Tacoma Tigers, then the Vancouver Beavers.

In July of 1910, he was leading the league with a .298 batting average when the Washington Senators offered $1800 for his contract.  The Vancouver Daily World said the offer was turned down.  The club’s owner/manager/shortstop Bob Brown told the paper:

“That pennant looks awfully good to me, and until I have it clinched I intend to hold the team intact.  There have been numerous other clubs after Charlie’s services, but they will all have to wait until the season is over.”

Swain slumped badly the rest of the year and finished with a .250 average (and a league-leading 11 home runs). The Beavers finished second, six and a half games behind the Spokane Indians.

Despite Swain’s sluggish finish and questions about his weight—The Seattle Star said he was “carrying 220 pounds”– Washington purchased his contract at the end of the season.  Just before he reported to the team in Atlanta in February of 1911, The Washington Herald said:

“There is a reason why this man Swain should not be overlooked when the time comes for the final selection of the Nationals.  It was Cliff Blankenship who was sent scouting for Walter Johnson five years ago and who signed him…and Blankenship is sponsor for Swain.”

Cliff Blankenship

Cliff Blankenship

Swain responded to a letter from William Peet, The Herald’s baseball writer, about his weight:

“I note what you say about certain of my friends on the Western papers claiming I have taken on so much weight that I am handicapped thereby.  Just write them a personal letter and bet them all you’ve got that I haven’t taken on more than five pounds since I quit playing last fall…I will join the Washington club in shape and try my best to make good.”

Early reports from Atlanta in the Washington papers, The Post, The Times, and The Herald sounded promising:

“For a big fellow Swain is a wonder when it comes to covering ground in the outfield.”

“Though a six-footer, weighing 200 pounds, he runs like a sprinter.”

“He hits hard…his most distinguishing trait (is) a willingness to work and an inexhaustible fund of good humor.”

Swain was hitting .273 in spring games when he became sick (either a cold or the flu, depending on the source) and did not appear in a game, or practice with the team for a week.

Swain in Atlanta with the Senators

Swain in Atlanta with the Senators

On April 6 The Herald said:

“Swain and Manager Jim (McAleer) had a long talk this morning in the clubhouse and when the Vancouver husky emerged his face was wreathed in smiles.

“’It’s all right, boys,’ he said.  ‘I will probably go back to the Pacific Coast.  Had a nice chat with the boss and told him that if he decided he couldn’t use me to ship me (West) and he promised to do so.”

Swain was returned to Vancouver, where he hit. 309 and helped lead the Beavers to the Northwestern League pennant.  After hitting .286 for the last place Sacramento Sacts in the Pacific Coast league in 1912, Swain was sold to the Victoria Bees in Northwestern League in May of 1913, setting the stage for his record-breaking season.

On August 1, The Oakland Tribune said:

“(Swain) is electrifying the natives in the Northwestern League.  Playing for Victoria, up to last Sunday, Cy had connected with 17 home runs and was hitting .329.”

He hit 17 more by September 18.  Swain’s 34 home runs broke the previous West Coast high—Ping Bodie hit 30 for the San Francisco Seals in 1910 (Art Bues had the previous league record with 27 in 1910)—and his .329 average was a career high.

He benefitted from the small dimensions of the league’s parks; The (Portland) Oregonian said fourteen of his 34 home runs cleared Victoria’s 270 foot center field fence and 11 more came at Seattle where the left and right field fences were just 237 feet from home plate.

After another solid season in the Northwestern League in 1914–.310 with 12 homeruns—Swain was traded to the Minneapolis Millers in the American Association for Fred “Newt” Hunter on November 24.

While most of the newspapers in Northwestern League cities shared the view of The Spokane Chronicle, that “The exchange will effect a promotion for Swain as he will play in a class AA league, which has been his ambition.”  The Seattle Star, however, despite the numbers he put up, raised some doubts about Swain:

“It is not likely that Seattle will be disappointed in the trade…Swain did not deliver last season like the fans had hoped and expected.  He was the joke of the league in the pinches.”

Swain

Swain

Just three days after the trade, Swain was working his off-season job for the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company in San Francisco, when he fell from the back of a company truck which ran over his right leg.  On December 4, the leg was amputated.

The San Francisco Chronicle said:

“He was counting on making good with Minneapolis with the view of someday stepping into the big league, the dream of every ballplayer.  What Swain will do now with one limb lost has not been decided, for the unfortunate player is overwhelmed with grief at the sudden termination of his diamond career.”

Benefit games were held in San Francisco and Tacoma, drawing 4000 and 7000 fans; the games raised more than $4000 for Swain.

He used the money to open a cigar store in San Francisco with another former player, Tommy Sheehan.  The two also organized a team, managed by Swain, called the Independents.  The team was comprised of West Coast professionals—including Ping Bodie, Spider Baum, and Biff Schaller–and played during the winter and early spring.  One of their games in the spring of 1916 was the first game ever played by an outside team on the grounds of San Quentin Prison.  Swain’s team won 15 to 10.

In November of 1916, Swain and Sheehan organized team made up of major leaguers and West Coast players to travel to Hawaii for a series of games.  The team played local and military teams, as well as the All-Chinese team which included Vernon Ayau, the first Chinese player to have appeared in a professional game.

Ayau, played against Swain's team in Hawaii

Ayau, played against Swain’s team in Hawaii

News of the games in Hawaii was sketchy; based on various reports the team played between eight and 12 games on the trip; all sources agree the only game they lost was against a US Army Infantry team.

Swain continued to manage the Independents in 1917 and ’18.  He and Sheehan also sold the cigar store and opened the Maryland Bowling Alleys in Oakland with Cliff Blankenship, the former catcher who recommended Swain to the Washington Senators in 1910.

Early in the fall of 1918, Swain’s brother, Ira, who accompanied to the tryout in San Jose in 1904, contracted the Spanish Flu and died on October 21.  On November 5, The Oakland Tribune said:

“Charlie Swain, one of the most popular ball players in the history of the game in the West, died here last night, a victim of Spanish Influenza.  Two weeks ago today Charlie’s brother Ira fell victim to the malady.”

Swain was 36-years-old.  The Tribune said:

“Good-bye, Charlie, we’re going to miss that happy smile.”

Brief Bios

7 Apr

Finley Yardley

Identified as “Findley” on Baseball Reference, Finley A. Yardley was born in Ben Arnold, Texas on March 21, 1895.

“Fin” Yardley was a good hitter, but his intelligence was questioned more than once during his career.

After a spring trial with the St. Louis Browns in 1917, he was released to the Little Rock Travelers in the Southern Association for 57 games, but according to The Arkansas Gazette, “Forgetting is what chased him out” and he was sent to the Spokane Indians in the Northwestern League.

Yardley hit well in Spokane (.339 in 115 at bats), but despite his success The Gazette noted that:

“His think tank still slips now and then.  Recently he hit a drive good for three bases but forgot to touch first.”

Fin Yardley was no rocket scientist—his son John Finley Yardley was.

John Yardley was an aeronautical engineer whose team from McDonnell Aircraft Corporation designed the Friendship 7 capsule in which John Glenn orbited the Earth in 1962—Glenn called him “one of the real pioneers of the space program.”  Yardley was also involved with the Gemini, Skylab and Space Shuttle Programs.

After his playing career, Finley Yardley settled in St. Louis where he worked as a sales manager at a car dealership.  He died in Tucson, Arizona on March 1, 1963.

Charles Gurtz

Charles Joseph Gurtz was born in DePauw, Indiana in 1890.  He served in the United States Army, where he was a member of the 22nd Infantry and played for the unit’s baseball team in the El Paso, Texas city league.  He then played in a number of leagues throughout the Southwest not recognized by the National Agreement, including stops with teams in the “copper circuit;” loosely connected teams and leagues in mining towns in New Mexico and Arizona

Gurtz was let out of his contract in Silver City, New Mexico in order to join the Bloomington Bloomers in the Three-I League in 1914.  He hit .333, finishing second to Howard Wakefield for the league batting title.

Shortly after the 1914 season ended, Gurtz broke his leg during a semi-pro game in Odell, Illinois and returned home to Indiana.

In February of 1915, The Associated Press reported that he was “suffering from mental trouble, due to excessive religious zeal (and) has been declared insane. “  He was committed to Indiana’s state hospital at Madison, where “Physician’s say that he should respond to treatment and become normal again if his mind can be kept off religion.”

A month later Gurtz was released from the state hospital, The Associated Press said the hospital’s “superintendent expressed the opinion that Gurtz would be able to play ball.”

Gurtz played, but not well.

He hit just .193 for Bloomington in 1915.  The following year he was released by Bloomington just before the season began, but was signed by the Oklahoma City Senators in the Western Association in May.  He split the 1916 season between the Senators and the Muskogee Mets in the same league, hitting just .210.  (Baseball Reference identifies the player with Oklahoma City and Muskogee in 1916 as “William Gurtz,” but contemporary references in The Oklahoma City Times confirm that it was Charles Gurtz)

Gurtz returned to his native Indiana after the 1916 season and died on November 9, 1989, three weeks short of his 100th birthday.

Jimmy Duchalsky

James Louis “Jimmy” “the Duke” Duchalsky was discovered in Hawaii between the 1922 and ’23 seasons when Herb Hunter’s touring big leaguers visited the island during their barnstorming trip which also included stops in Japan, Korea, China and the Philippines.

The International News Service, which called the 5’ 9” 150 lb. Duchalsky the “hardest hitting pitcher in Hawaiian baseball circles,” said he caught the eye of New York Yankee pitcher “Bullet” Joe Bush.  Bush “was so impressed with the youngster’s work in a game he pitched against the big leaguers that he recommended him highly to Duffy Lewis manager of the Salt Lake City Bees in the Pacific Coast League).”

Joe Bush, front, second from right

Joe Bush, front, second from right  photographed during the tour.

Bush said the only thing he lacked was “a change of pace and that can be developed under the instruction of a good coach and manager.”

Duchalsky was 24-years-old (the Bees claimed he was just 21), but not as polished as Bush thought and struggled through 15 appearances, most in relief, for Salt Lake.  He posted a 1-3 record and 7.59 ERA in 51 innings—he did have 8 hits in 20 at bats, with one home run.   In May, he and teammate Tony Lazzeri were sent to the Peoria Tractors in the Three-I League; Duchalsky was 13-8 in 28 appearances.

The following season Duchalsky rejoined the Bees but pitched just one-third of an inning, allowing two runs and two hits in an 18-17 loss to the Oakland Oaks on April 10.  He was released later that week and returned to the Three-I League, this time as a member of the Decatur Commodores; he was 11-9 with a 4.13 ERA for the last-place (58-78) Commodores.

Jimmy Duchalsky 1923

Jimmy Duchalsky 1923

At the end of October he returned to Honolulu to play winter ball.

On December 7, 1924 Duchalsky was involved in an altercation with a cab driver. The Decatur Review said:

“Jim Duchalsky, known to all Three Eye League baseball fans as “The Duke,” has pitched his last game of ball… (he was) shot to death in his native city last evening after a street argument…It will be hard to convince Decatur baseball fans who have come in contact with Jim that he was the aggressor in any brawl that might have taken place for he was the most quiet player both on and off the field to ever appear here… Despite his quiet manners and the fact that he was not a mixer, many fans in both Decatur and Peoria will mourn his loss.  Duchalsky was admired by fans in every city where he played for his sportsmanlike conduct on the ball field and in all his games pitched at Staley Field was never seen disputing an umpire’s decision, even on balls and strikes.  He pitched his game and left the arguments out of his assortment.”

The Associated Press said, “The encounter was believed to have started in jealousy over a woman.”  The cab driver, John Emmeluth, claimed self-defense, but several witnesses said he approached and shot the pitcher with no warning.  He was sentenced to 20 to 25 years in prison.  Duchalsky was buried in Honolulu.

“One of the most Astonishing Pennant Drives in Minor League History.”

16 Oct

After the Pacific Coast League’s (PCL) war-shortened 1918 season, John “Buddy” Ryan joined a team in Seattle’s Puget Sound “Shipyard League,” as a player/manager, but suffered a leg injury in September.

When the PCL reorganized for the 1919 season The (Portland) Oregonian said in an article about the Salt Lake City Bees:

“Buddy Ryan, who hits .300 year after year, is one of the holdouts.  (Manager Eddie) Herr does not know exactly whether Ryan is a holdout or whether he means to retire from baseball, but we who have watched the red-faced (Ryan) year after year know that Buddy wants more coin to cavort in the outer garden, hence the fact that he is secluded at a farm on the outskirts of Denver while the Salt Lake team is doing its best to get into shape.  Ryan has a bum pair of props, but still travels at a pretty fair gait.”

John "Buddy" Ryan

John “Buddy” Ryan

Whether it was about money or his “bum pair of props,” Ryan sat out all of the 1919 season.  In July of 1920 he returned to the PCL, signing with the Sacramento Senators.  The Oregonian said Portland Beavers owner Walter “Judge” McCredie “made strenuous efforts to sign him,” but “(Sacramento manager) Bill Rodgers seems to have pulled off a good stunt in signing the veteran slugger.”

Despite bad legs, the 34-year-old Ryan hit .298 in 105 games for the Senators; he hit .320 and .305 in 1921 and ’22, and retired again after hitting just .256 in 1923.

In September of 1924 Ryan, who operated several gas stations in Sacramento and did some scouting, was the surprise choice to replace Charlie Pick as manager of the last place Senators.  While he remained popular is Portland, The Oregonian was not encouraging about Ryan’s prospects:

“Buddy inherits a hard job.  Sacramento managers last about two years, win, lose or draw.”

Despite the prediction Ryan would remain manager of Sacramento until September of 1932; his best finish was second place in 1928 and he compiled a record of 825-927.

During the 1926 the usually mild-mannered Ryan, who The Berkeley Daily Gazette said typically “never so much as shouted from the sidelines,” was suspended three times for altercations with umpires.

In May The Los Angeles Times said the “rotund and soft-speaking manager” had “cuffed” umpire Augie Moran over “a decision at first base” during a game with the Hollywood Stars.  PCL President Harry Williams suspended Ryan indefinitely; he was reinstated after a week.

In August, after a ten-minute argument with Moran over a call at third base in Oakland, The Associated Press said:

“Moran ordered Ryan from the game, but the Sacramento manager refused to go, so three police men escorted him from the field.”

Williams again announced that he had suspended Ryan indefinitely; that suspension lasted a week also.

Three weeks after Ryan’s return, during a loss to the Los Angeles Angels, The Associated Press said:

“Manager Buddy Ryan of Sacramento took a healthy wallop at umpire (’s chin…With (John) Monroe on second in the first inning, (John) Knight drove a grounder at (Johnny) Mitchell, whose throw to second caught Monroe.  It was a close play, but Van Graflan ruled him out.  Ryan then walked to the field and in the course of an argument flattened Van Graflan with a perfect right to the chin.  He was chased from the field.”

Ryan was again suspended indefinitely, and again returned to the bench after a week.

He never had a similar incident during his nearly 30-years in baseball.

By the time Ryan resigned as Sacramento’s manager in 1932 he had become extremely wealthy, owning a chain of gas stations.  His business interests were cited as the reason for his resignation.

Buddy Ryan

Buddy Ryan

Three years later he managed the Portland Beavers for 52 games (23-29) before stepping down due to “ill health.”

After nearly a decade away from baseball Ryan joined the Oakland Oaks as a scout and coach for new manager Dolph Camilli—Camilli played for Ryan for four seasons in Sacramento and the two remained close.

Dolph Camilli

Dolph Camilli

After Camilli left Oakland Ryan became manager of the Wenatchee Chiefs, a Western International League team which had just been acquired as a farm team of Sacramento.  He led the team to a pennant in 1946, but was fired after a 31-59 start the following season.

In 1948 Ryan became a team owner.  Along with a partner he purchased another Western International League franchise; the Spokane Indians.  His first act as owner was to install himself as manager, replacing Ben Geraghty who had just led the team a second place finish, .001 behind the Vancouver Capilanos.

Ryan’s move set the stage for his friend Camilli’s greatest moment as a manager; what The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review called “one of the most astonishing pennant drives in minor league history.”   On August 3 Ryan was hospitalized with pneumonia and Camilli was enlisted to take over the team.  The Indians 59-52, in fourth place, 9 ½ game out of first.

Under Camilli Spokane won 45 of their last 57 games—27 of the last 31—and won the pennant by 2 ½ games.

Camilli turned the team around; he said his friend Ryan had been too soft on the players:

“The first day I walked in there, here they were drinking beer in the clubhouse—I raised holy hell about it—before the game.  I woke ‘em all up.”

Ryan sold his interest in the team after the 1948 season and retired, for the final time, from baseball.

Ryan died in 1956 at age 70—The Oregonian called him “one of the greatest baseball favorites old Vaughn Street (Portland’s ballpark from 1901-1956) ever knew.”

Filling in the Blanks—O’Laughlin, 1913 Owensboro Distillers

2 Oct

Baseball Reference lists “O’Laughlin” with the Owensboro Distillers of the Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee (Kitty) League.

”William “Bud” O’Laughlin (misspelled O’Loughlin by some sources) was born near Owensboro, Kentucky in 1888 and became a well-known amateur and industrial league player for teams in Western Kentucky and Southern Indiana. In 1913 he played third base for the Owensboro Distillers in the Kitty League and the following year was, for a time, with the Evansville River Rats in the Central League, but he apparently did not appear in any games with the team.

On January 16 of 1918 O’Laughlin became one of several professional players who shared a similar cause of death; shot by a jealous husband.

The Lexington Herald said O’Laughlin was on the street in Boonville, Indiana with a woman when he was approached by a man named Clyde Barnhill:

“O’Laughlin was in the company of Barnhill’s wife and they were on the way to a show when it is alleged that the woman’s husband walked behind the couple and fired a bullet into O’Laughlin’s head.  He fired two bullets at his wife who fled down the street.”

O’Laughlin died early the following morning.

The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“After Barnhill was caught and overpowered he attempted to shoot himself…there were cries of ‘Lynch him, lynch him’ from the mob that gathered on the streets.”

The Indianapolis Star said that Barnhill “will plead the ‘unwritten law.’ It is said Mrs. Barnhill was insanely in love with her husband’s victim.”

Newspapers in Kentucky and Indiana reported all the scandalous details two months later when Barnhill stood trial for killing O’Laughlin, who The (Hopkinsville) Kentucky New Era called “a favorite with Kitty League players.”

Barnhill testified that he simply approached O’Laughlin and his wife to “compromise the matter” when “O’Laughlin turned and put his hand in his pocket to pull a thirty-eight-caliber blue steel revolver…It was a question of who shot first.”  As for shooting at his unarmed wife, Barnhill said “I guess I was crazed.”

After 17 hours of deliberation the jury found Barnhill guilty of manslaughter; The Indianapolis News said: “The defendant was well pleased with the light verdict and was congratulated by  numerous friends after it was read.” He was sentenced to serve from two to twenty-one years in prison.

O’Laughlin, the former Kitty Leaguer is buried in Boonville.

Note: Baseball Reference lists a “Bud O’Loughlin” with an incorrect death date of January 19, 1915  in Booneville (Sic), Indiana as a member of the 1911 Spokane Indians in the Northwestern League—that O’Loughlin was a pitcher, and it is highly unlikely he is the same player.  (This same incorrect date and misspelled town appeared in The Sporting Life in 1916)

Hap Myers

29 Jul

When the 6’ 3” 175 pound Ralph Edward “Hap” Myers was let go by the Boston Braves after the 1913 season a reporter told Braves shortstop Rabbit Maranville he was sorry to see Myers go.  Maranville joked:

“Well, you might be, but I’m not.  Do you know that guy is so thin that every time I picked up a grounder I had to shade my eyes with my gloved hand to locate him before throwing the ball.”

Myers began his professional career after graduating from University of California, Berkeley in 1909, where he also played baseball.  The San Francisco native hit a combined .311 playing for the Sacramento Sacts in the Pacific Coast League, and the San Jose Prune Pickers and Santa Cruz Sand Crabs in the California League.

Myers went east in 1910 after being purchased by the Boston Red Sox, but became ill, with scarlet fever, and as a result appeared in only six games in Boston before being  sent first to the Toronto Maple leafs in the Eastern league, then the Louisville Colonels in the American Association.

Despite hitting just .240 with Louisville, Myers was selected by the St. Louis Browns in the Rule 5 draft.  The Red Sox claimed Myers still belonged to them and his contract was awarded to Boston, where he began the season, was sold to the St. Louis Browns, who quickly released him despite hitting .297 in 11 games, then back to the Red Sox where he hit .368 in twelve games before being sent to the Jersey City Skeeters in the Eastern League.

It was never clear why, in spite of hitting .333 in 81 at bats in 1910-1911, Myers couldn’t stick in the American League.

In 1912 he returned to the West Coast to play for the Spokane Indians in the Northwestern League where he led the league in hits, and runs, hit .328, and led all of professional baseball with 116 stolen bases.  The Portland Oregonian said:

“Myers base stealing smashes any previous performance in Northwestern League history.  You have to go back 20 years in official guide books to find any record to compare…and that includes every league in organized baseball.”

Spokane owner Joe Cohn went overboard in his praise of Myers in The Spokane Spokesman-Review:

“Best ballplayer in the Northwestern League by a long shot.  He is the greatest ballplayer I ever saw.  Boy I tell you this Myers is a wonder.  Ty Cobb, Hans Wagner, Tris Speaker and all of them have nothing on Myers…I think Myers has it on Cobb, Wagner, Lajoie, Jackson and the whole bunch.”

Myers, and Portland catcher Rex DeVogt were purchased by the Braves from Portland, Devogt would only last for three games, and six hitless at-bats in April of 1913.  Myers would become the Braves starting first baseman.  Another Pacific Coast League player, pitcher “Seattle Bill” James also joined the Braves.

hap3

“Seattle Bill” James and “Hap” Myers

Myers got off to a slow start; he was hitting just .224 in early July, but was leading the National League in steals.  An article in The Tacoma Times said:

“When Hap Myers, recruit first baseman of the Boston Braves is in full stride stealing bases, he covers nine feet…the average stride of a sprinter is six feet. “

The article said the average player took 13 steps, roughly seven feet per step, between bases but Myers took only ten steps:

“Myers is something of a baseball curiosity, and his work is watched with interest by the fans.  If the time comes that the big fellow climbs into the .300 class as a batter, he is apt to become a veritable terror of the paths.”

He was also said to use “a bat of unusual length,” but the size was never mentioned.

After the slow start, Myers hit well in the second half of the season, ending with a .273 average and 57 stolen bases (second to Max Carey of the Pittsburgh Pirates who stole 61).  Despite his strong finish, Myers was replaced at first base for 22 games in August and September by Butch Schmidt, who was purchased from the Rochester Hustlers in the International League.

"Hap" Myers

“Hap” Myers

At the end of the season Myers was sold to the Hustlers, the deal was, in effect, a trade for Schmidt.  The Boston press simply said Myers did not get along with manager George Stallings; Myers told a reporter in San Francisco that there was another reason; baseball’s labor unrest:

  “I was assigned by the fraternity to get as many Braves as possible into the fraternity, and succeeded in enrolling nearly the entire team.  The powers that be evidently didn’t relish my actions for soon my every move began to bring calldowns and I was not surprised to read in the newspapers a little later that I had been sent to Rochester.”

Myers jumped Rochester to join the Federal League; his signing was reported months before he actually signed.  The Associated Press said in March of 1914:

“Although it has been generally understood that Hap Myers, last season’s first baseman of the Boston National has been under a Federal League contract for some time, the elongated first sacker did not put his name to a contract until yesterday afternoon.  Myers originally expected to play with Larry Schlafly on the Buffalo Federals, but was transferred to Brooklyn, and seemed altogether pleased with the move.”

Myers got off to a strong start, and The Sporting Life said:

“Brooklyn fans cannot understand why Hap was passed out of the National League. They have had a chance already to give his successor at first base on the Boston team (Butch Schmidt) the once over, and the general opinion is that- Hap Myers “lays all over.”

His success in Brooklyn didn’t last; in 92 games Myers hit just .220.

Hap’s story continued tomorrow.

Ernest Nichols

6 Jun

Ernest Nichols seemed destined for stardom.  He was the subject of a bidding war before he ever pitched in a professional game.  The San Francisco Chronicle said that his hometown San Francisco Seals wanted to sign him, but had a lot of competition:

Parke Wilson wanted him for the Pacific Coast League in Seattle (the Siwashes), Matt Stanley recommended him to (Dan) Dugdale for the opposition team in Seattle (the Chinooks of the Pacific National League), and Spokane came along with a contract calling for a large figure and took Nichols away from the other bidders.”

Ernest Nichols

Ernest Nichols

The 21-year-old, six-foot, 190 pound right-hander was in high demand after pitching for the amateur Reliance Athletic Club team of Oakland in Northern California’s Mid-Winter League, and an independent team in Vancouver in 1902.  The Chronicle said:

“Speed and control were Nichols’ strong suit, and he had the remarkable record of thirty-five strikeouts in two consecutive games (with Vancouver).”

Upon joining the Spokane Indians Nichols immediately lived up to the hype.  By mid July he had started 24 games, winning 20.  During a one week stretch in June he beat the Tacoma Tigers four times.  The Chronicle said Nichols, who supported his mother and sisters had his salary “raised voluntarily by the Indians.”

On July 20 Nichols and two teammates went swimming at the pool in Natatorium Park, park of the amusement park that also included the Indians’ ballpark.   After swimming, the three began to watch a ballgame between two local teams.  The Spokane Spokesman-Review said:

“(Nichols) complained of cramps.  The three started to walk to catch a car.  When a car arrived he was lifted aboard and speeded to Dr. Kimball’s office.  The doctor saw that he was dead.”

He died of septic endocarditis.  Two days later The Spokesman-Review said:

“The last sad rites were rendered to the remains of pitcher Ernest Nichols yesterday afternoon by his friends and associates who knew him intimately and by a great mass of the public who knew him only through his baseball fame. “

Nichols’ body was returned to San Francisco and plans were quickly made to play a benefit game in his honor in Spokane.  The game between the Indians and the Butte Miners raised $1025.

In October of 1903 The Chronicle said:

“In all the league averages no box man is found with a record approaching that of the late Ernest Nichols, the San Francisco boy who won 20 out of a possible 24 games before death called him.”

Fielder Jones and the Chehalis Gophers

11 Feb

Most biographies of Fielder Jones—player-manager of the 1906 World Champion Chicago White Sox, the Hitless Wonders—mention that he managed the Chehalis Gophers, a team in the Washington State League, in 1910;  they never mention that he ended up there because of a near-fatal assault before he arrived.

The 36-year-old Jones left the White Sox after the 1908 season to settle in the Portland, Oregon and tend to his many business holdings in the area.  In 1909, he was named president of the Northwestern League, and served for one season.  According to West Coast newspaper reports, Jones was in the running to named president of the Pacific Coast League in 1910, before Thomas Graham was elected as a compromise candidate.

In the spring of 1910, Jones coached the Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State) baseball team to the school’s first conference championship.

At the same time, Jones was coaching at OAC, the Washington State League was getting underway—the league had been operating for at least three seasons, but 1910 was the first year it was recognized under baseball’s national agreement as an “official” minor league.

The Chehalis Gophers were led by 27-year-old Fred Nehring; he had previously played on the Pacific Coast, Northwestern and Connecticut State Leagues.  Nehring, who was born in Pueblo, Colorado in 1883, but grew up in Chehalis, had been playing on and off with the local team since leaving the Tacoma Tigers in 1908

1908 Chehalis team. Fred Nehring standing 2nd from left, Tamp Osburn, standing 4th from left.

1908 Chehalis team. Fred Nehring standing 2nd from left, Tamp Osburn, standing 4th from left.

Another player who had spent time with Chehalis since 1908 was a pitcher known variously as “Tamp” Osburn, Osborn or Osborne (for the purpose of this story we’ll call him Osburn—most common usage by contemporaneous sources).  Tamp Osburn has, at least, two separate, partial listings on Baseball Reference.

Osburn was considered a talented pitcher, but an erratic character.  While pitching for the Spokane Indians in Northwestern League in 1907, he quit the team in June.  According to The Spokane Daily Chronicle:

“The whole trouble yesterday started when a couple of misplays in the eighth inning put a losing aspect on the game…Tamp blames the whole trouble on (William ‘Terry’) McKune, who he says ‘threw’ the game on him.”

Osburn had additional problems with teammates and developed a reputation as an eccentric, and like all eccentric pitchers of the era there was one he was often compared; The Daily Chronicle called him “The Rube Waddell of the Northwestern League.”

After playing together for Chehalis in 1908, both Nehring and Osburn played in the short-lived Inter-Mountain League in 1909; both returned to Chehalis after that league folded in July.

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“Tamp” Osburn, 1908 with Spokane Indians

On May 20, just after the 1910 season opened, the Chehalis team boarded a train.  According to The Chehalis Bee-Nugget:

“(Osburn) who had been drinking before the train left Chehalis became so unruly on the train that the train crew called on Fred Nehring, captain of the Chehalis team to quiet him.  Tamp resented Nehring’s efforts to keep him from cursing in the presence of ladies, and pulled a knife and began to slash Nehring…Two severe cuts…in the left arm, and the other was in the breast.  If the latter had been an inch farther over, it would have penetrated the lungs.”

Nehring had the wounds dressed, left the hospital against doctor’s advice and managed the Chehalis team “from the bench.”  Despite the seemingly quick recovery, Nehring only appeared in a few games the rest of the season.  Osburn was arrested.

The Chehalis team floundered for the next several weeks.  In late June, it was announced that Fielder Jones would join the team as manager and centerfielder.

Under Jones, who was still property of the White Sox and needed Charles Comiskey’s approval to play, Chehalis easily won the league championship; Jones hit .358 in 37 games.

Jones had agreed to play for the team for no salary and was only reimbursed for his expenses.  This arrangement nearly cost Chehalis the league championship.  According to The (Portland) Oregonian, the second place Raymond Cougars protested to the league and the National Commission that all wins under Jones should be forfeited because Jones “was not under contract.”  The protest was denied and Chehalis was declared league champion.

Osburn was sent to the Lewis County Jail while awaiting trial, and according to The Oregonian was involved in an attempted escape along with other prisoners who occupied the jail’s first floor, a week after his arrest.  The paper said of Osburn “the baseball player, and one other man were taken to the cells on the second floor and locked up securely.”

There is no record of whether Osburn was convicted; in any case, he was free by July of 1911 and was pitching for the Missoula, Montana franchise in the Union Association when The Helena Daily Independent reported that Osburn:

“The Missoula pitcher, who started a rough house in a Missoula cafe and pulled a knife on a stranger, drew a severe panning from the judge, who, after fining him $25, -said: ‘There are some good men on your team, who behave themselves, but there is a lot of you whose conduct is a disgrace to the city and the national game. We don’t want that kind of men in Missoula uniforms, and you fellows have got to stop such actions.”

Contemporaneous newspaper accounts say he was a native of Utah, but given the inconsistent spelling of his last name, and a full first name never being listed, the trail for Osburn ends after this 1911 incident.

Nehring remained in Chehalis where he died on February 19, 1936.

Jones returned briefly to baseball in 1914 and 1915 as manager of the Saint Louis Terriers in the Federal League.  He died in Portland in 1934.

Fielder Jones, 1914

Fielder Jones, 1914