Tag Archives: St. Louis Browns

“My Pitching Stock Consisted Mainly in Speed”

11 Jan

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said in 1918, Silver King—Charles Frederick Koenig—had not attended a baseball game since his career ended 20 years earlier.

“That fact was brought out when his interviewer asked him to make a comparison of modern pitchers and pitching methods with those of his day. He has no particular reason for shunning ballparks, but merely says he has lost interest in the game.”

Silver King

His connection to baseball was limited to “the lots of McCausland Avenue, near his home, ‘Silver’ King may be found every Sunday morning ‘burning them over’ to the neighborhood youngsters.”

King said “there’s no telling” how long his career would have lasted if rosters were larger when he played:

“We seldom carried over 12 regular players on any club. With the pitchers, it was work about every third day or sometimes every other day. If you couldn’t stand that pace you didn’t hold your job, that’s all. And a lot of them couldn’t stand it. Pitchers with big physiques and iron constitutions we the rule then.”

King said:

“My pitching stock consisted mainly in speed. I threw some curves, but I never knew about such things as a spitball, a fade away, shine ball, and all those tricks…There were some great batters in my day. I used to have a lot of trouble Ed Delehanty, not to mention Dave [sic, Dan] Brouthers, Roger O’Connor [sic, Connor]…Later on Larry Lajoie broke in and you can take it from me, he knew how to slug the ball.”

King said he’d “never forget” his first World Series with the St. Louis Browns versus the Detroit Wolverines in 1887:

“It was sort of an exhibition series because we traveled around the circuit instead of playing the games in our home cities. There wasn’t much of a financial plum in those days. For the 15 games we played, the game receipts were about $40,000.”

King was bit fuzzy on his World Series memories. He said he appeared in seven games in 1887—he appeared in four.

King told the reporter:

“I believe I’ll lay off from work one day next season and go out and see this fellow (Grover Cleveland) Alexander pitch. I might learn something about the game, you know.”

King apparently didn’t make it to watch Alexander; twenty years later, his obituary in the Post-Dispatch said:

 “Following his retirement from the game, Koenig did not attend a major league contest.”

“A New Era in the Sport”

6 Jan

“The baseball world is beginning to roll itself into its usual spring prominence, and while managers are busy signing the players assigned to them, the public is awaiting patiently the beginning of what is predicted will be a new era in the sport.”

O.P. Caylor’s prediction in The New York Herald was made before the National League began the 1892 season as 12-team league playing a split season after the collapse of the American Association, and Caylor sought out the opinions of several players, managers, and executives about the coming season; they shared their “sanguine feeling on their part in the success,” of the game.

O.P. Caylor

Brooklyn’s Dave Foutz said:

“I don’t believe it will be necessary to make any changes in the rules. We have got our hands pretty full with testing the policy of a twelve-club league and a double season without trying any new rules to perplex the public.”

Foutz said the league was now composed of “the twelve best cities in the country to play in, and the best players will be put in the field.”

Chris von der Ahe, owner of the St. Louis Browns said:

“While I opposed the twelve-club league when the idea was first broached, I feel now that the interests of baseball are best subserved by the new agreement.”

He said the dissolution of the Association benefitted his team:

“The St. Louis club is stronger than it ever was, and we will show the patrons of baseball all over the country a championship form.”

Harry Wright, manager of the Philadelphia Phillies said:

“Never in the history of baseball has the prospect for a successful season been brighter; never has there been such a perfect harmony among the baseball powers in this country. This fact, in my opinion, leads to the hope that the game of baseball will be revived to all its pristine glory.”

Harry Wright

Wright said he felt the distribution of American Association refuges had been “fair and equitable” and said:

“As far as the two-season idea is concerned I believe it will be a success, and I think that the public generally will watch the finish each time with the same intense interest that has marked the great and close finishes of the past.”

New York Giants manager Pat Powers said:

“This twelve-club league, it strikes me, will be a decided success. Coming, as it does, in a presidential year is very fortunate.”

His rationale was that during every other presidential year “interest in baseball would decrease” as the election drew closer, and the new league format would mitigate that loss of interest.

Powers said the “twelve most representative cities “ were included and “the different clubs are composed of the very best players of the baseball profession.”

Powers said the split season would “keep the public interested,’ the larger league would be successful, and “the game will boom.”

Charles Byrne, the President of the Brooklyn club said the split season would allow fans to “witness the most exciting finish es baseball has yet known.”

The Boston Beaneaters won the first half, the Cleveland Spiders the second; Boston beat Cleveland five games to none for the championship.

Foutz and Byrnes’ Brooklyn Grooms finished third, Wrights’ Philadelphia Phillies fourth, Powers’ New York Giants eighth, and von der Ahe’s Browns 11th.

The split season was dropped before the 1893 season.

“The Reformation of Rube Waddell”

30 Dec

After the Browns purchased Rube Waddell from the Athletics in 1908, The St. Louis Star implored its readers:

“Absolutely refuse to buy a drink for Rube Waddell, lead him not into temptation.

“Each and every fan in St. Louis should use his influence and good offices to keep Rube straight.

“No bartender or saloonkeeper should sell Waddell a drink under any pretext whatever.

“No one should offer ‘Baseball’s Buffoon’ any beer or whiskey.”

Rube

Fans, the paper said, thought they, “must show their gratitude to players and loyalty to the club by getting the diamond artists drunk.”

If all of St. Louis came together, the paper said:

“If you do your duty, next fall a sensational melodrama will be staged entitled ‘The Reformation of Rube Waddell.’”

While Rube had not yet arrived in St. Louis, The Star decided by April 1 that Waddell had found the cure:

“’Mother’s angel child’ could not be a more perfect little gentleman.

“How was the ‘reformation of Rube Waddell’ accomplished?

“Papa (Jimmy) McAleer, a stern father, has worked wonders.

“Under his management. Rube has been the best-behaved little boy in the entire camp.

Not once has he broken loose and set about to ‘lap up all the booze’ in Shreveport.”

So complete was his ‘reformation,’ said the paper that:

“Sober and sedate, Rube now reviews complacently the days when he was ‘the village cut-up’ and ‘hell-raiser.”

Clark McAdams who wrote a humor column for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggested a scenario where the city’s leaders would get together and grant Waddell free fishing privileges in St Louis’ Forest Park:

“This should be easily arranged. While we do not permit fishing in the park, there is a fish hatchery there, and the fishing must compare very favorably with any in the world. I am sure no one with the welfare of St. Louis at heart would object to letting Mr. Waddell fish there.”

The efforts—real and imagined—of the people of St. Louis and McAleer to keep Rube in check seem to have paid off.  The 31-year-old was 19-14 with a 1.89 ERA for the resurgent Browns who improved from 69 and 83 in 1907 to 83 and 69 in 1908; attendance at Sportsman’s Park increased by nearly 200,000 with an effective, generally sober, Rube.

“The Catcher Struck him in the Face”

23 Dec

Dan Sullivan was a star in Louisville.  He played with the Akrons with Tony Mullane in in 1881—and the two were reunited with the Eclipse in 1882.

He caught Mullane’s and Guy Hecker’s no-hitters, thrown eight days apart, and hit .273 for Louisville.

Dan Sullivan

The Louisville Courier-Journal said of him:

“He is a vey hard worker behind the bat and being a powerful man can hold the swiftest pitcher with ease. He is a thoroughly reliable catcher at all times and a very safe hitter, especially in a close place. In stature he is about the medium height, but very strongly bult, weighing about 180 pounds.”

Sullivan’s batting average slipped the next two seasons, but he remained popular.  An amateur team called the “Dan Sullivans” was named in his honor, and during the final homestand of the 1884 season, Eclipse president Zachery Phelps halted the game as Sullivan came to bat for the first time:

“Phelps stepped out on the ballfield with a beautiful gold medal in his hand. Approaching the batter, se said:

”A number of Louisville gentlemen, lovers of the national game who are deeply interest in the success of base ball in this place and who from time to time admired the earnest and honest efforts put forth by you interest of our representative club; who have applauded again and again the readiness and willingness with which you are always found at your post of duty, even though scarred and bruised from battles already fought…They desire me to urge you continue faithful as you have been; to avoid carefully such faults and excesses as have already destroyed the prospects of many a man in your profession.”

The Courier-Journal said Sullivan was “too surprised to make a response and bowed his thanks while the spectators loudly applauded.”

The medal was “a broad plate of gold, to which is suspended two bats and a mask, of solid gold, which represents a ball field, with a batter and catcher in position. The legs, caps, and shirts of the players are made of white platinum, and the bodies of red gold. The diamond is made of green and gold, with a miniature grandstand in the background.”

Things changed quickly.

Sullivan got off to a slow start, hitting less than .200 during the first month of the season and losing playing time to Joe Crotty, which drew the notice of William G. Osborne, sports editor of The Louisville Commercial.

Osborne was mildly critical of Sullivan’s play, and the catcher was “very much offended and threatened vengeance.”

On May 27, Osborne arrived at the ballpark:

“(A)ccompanied by two ladies.  As he went up the grandstand, he passed Sullivan, and the latter said he wanted to see him.”

Osborne returned to Sullivan who said the criticism was unfair, Osborne said, “he had written what he thought was just, and had criticized his playing, not his personal character.”

The argument continued into the clubhouse:

“’You must make me an apology before you go out of here,’ said Sullivan.

‘”I will not do anything of the kind,’ replied Mr. Osborne.”

Sullivan then called Osborne “a name most vile,” then:

“The catcher struck him in the face and knocked him down, following up the blow with several others. Mr. Osborne was of course no match for his opponent, who weighs something over 200 pounds, and received the worst of the encounter.”

More details emerged the following day, suggesting that the entire Eclipse club was aware of the attack:

“Mr. Osborne very properly and manfully refused (to apologize). Thereupon, Mr. Sullivan, the brave and courageous Louisville catcher, with Mr. James A. Hart, his manager, and eight or ten sympathizing fellow-players to lend him additional courage, introduced his slugging act against a gentleman without a single friend present, who was vastly his inferior in weight and physical strength.”

The Courier-Journal said, “No language of ours is strong enough to express the utter contempt in which Mr. James A. Hart, the manager of the Louisville club, should be held by all of the respectable ball-loving public of the city, who assist by their presence in keeping the Louisville club alive.

“A manager who permits such an outrage in his own presence, without the slightest effort to prevent it, shows himself utterly wanting in the qualities which go to make a good manager.”

The Commercial and The Courier-Journal also charged that Hart, “got the ruffian into a hack…and had him hustled over to Jeffersonville so as to evade arrest; both papers called for Hart’s immediate dismissal and the release of Sullivan.

Sullivan remained with the club for 10 more days, Hart said he would have released him sooner but “was compelled to retain his services until another man could be signed.” The Eclipse signed Miah Murray to replace Sullivan.

Sullivan never appears to have been arrested, and there was no further mention was made of replacing Hart, who remained manager through the 1886 season.

Sullivan was signed by the St. Louis Browns. He hit .117 in 17 games for the American Association champions and was released before the end of the season. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat said:

“(Sullivan’s) work was unsatisfactory and he was again released. He did not assist in winning the pennant.”

Sullivan played just three more professional games; one with the Pittsburgh Alleghenys and two with the Savannah club in the Southern Association in 1886—he was 0 for 10.

He returned to Providence, Rhode Island. Sullivan died of quick consumption on October 26, 1893; it was said he contracted the illness while visiting the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago earlier in the month.

“Waddell is not a Rowdy”

14 Dec

Rube Waddell struck out 12 and shut down the St. Louis Browns 4 to 1 on July 17, 1903; he also, as The Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“(B)y way of variety, rushed into the pavilion and made a spectator look even work than (Browns outfielder Emmet) Hendrick, who struck out each of the four times he was at bat.”

A group of fans at Philadelphia’s Columbia Park, “made a persistent attempt to break up Waddell” throughout the game.

During the seventh inning, Waddell responded to “all sorts of coarse epithets.” After striking out Browns pitcher Roy Evans to end the inning, and his response to the fan of “Shut up you knocker,” ignored:

“Waddell made a rush for the stand, and jumping over the railing, ran up the stairs, where he seized Maurice Blaw [sic, Blau], a well-known ticket speculator.”

Rube and friend

The fight was broken up before Waddell could inflict significant damage (although reports varied on the extent) and Blaw was arrested and help on $600 bond.

The following day, Charles Dryden wrote in The Philadelphia North American:

“While crushing the already crumbled Browns, the ever-surprising Mr. Waddell paused long enough yesterday in the game at Columbia Park to break the nose of a man who insulted him, then watched the victim of his wrath depart in a police wagon.”

Dryden said Blau and his cohorts had bet on the Browns and Waddell’s dominance led to the catcalls which came to a head when Rube retired the side in the seventh:

“Like an enraged panther Waddell covered the distance from the box to the stand in half a dozen bounds, the muscles in his bared arms swelling and his face white with passion.

“There is a door in the bulkhead front of the stand near the bench, but Rube did not stop for that. His last leap carried him over the railing and landed his long, lean figure three rows back.”

As Waddell attempted to reach Blau, “an old man arose, and handed Rube an upper cut.”

“He did not stop to ask the reason why or offer the old man a rain check. Two more leaps and Rube was on top of Blau, who is a man of girth and weight. He might as well have tackled a white automobile.”  

 Dryden said, after punching Blau in the face and ripping off “his coat, shirt, and collar,” “half a dozen struggling coppers” broke up the fight and arrested Blau:

“Waddell is not a rowdy, despite his peculiar action. The ordinary procedure in such cases is for the offended player to approach the stand and pour out a flood of profanity sufficient to sicken all within hearing.

“This is not Rube’s way. With all his queer capers he possesses a gentlemanly instinct and a sense of right and wrong. To his notion, the talk and abuse from the stand disturbed not only himself but outraged the comfort and decency of the better grade of baseball patrons of both sexes who were sitting near.”

Dryden concluded that the fans present “recognized the valor of the act…as stated before, Rube is not a rowdy, and he is gentle with those who treat him right.”

Rube

American League President Ban Johnson, who attended the game, didn’t completely agree with Dryden’s assessment:

“I was present and saw the entire occurrence. While Waddell was given great provocation, he must be punished for his action, and perhaps it will be a lesson to clubs to give better protection to their players. I insist that rowdyism must be cut out of American League base ball, and if that cannot be accomplished one way, we must try other methods. Waddell’s sentence is suspension for five days.”

Waddell rejoined the Athletics in Washington D.C. on July 23, arriving with his wife at the team’s hotel. The Washington Times said:

“’Mr. and Mrs. George Edward Waddell,’ written in a bold free hand, adorns a page of the Riggs House register, and is a fine example of the Rube’s chirography.”

The paper also warned Washington fans:

“A tip, however, to the wise! Don’t let your remarks become too personal. Only last week the long, lank, and lean pitcher pulled a spectator from the grandstand in Philadelphia ad spoiled his countenance by breaking his nose. Rube was suspended for the ‘gentle reprimand,’ which suspension expires today.”

Waddell and the Athletics beat the Senators 11 to 3.

“If he Started Drinking, they were to lay their Bets”

9 Dec

Hugh Fullerton wrote about pregame “jockeying…that count(s) for much in a championship race” for The Chicago Herald Examiner in 1919.

Fullerton

Both stories Fullerton told in the column were likely apocryphal—at least in terms of the participants mentioned—but like many Fullerton tales, worth the retelling.

The first involved two Fullerton story favorites, John McGraw and Rube Waddell:

“I remember one day getting to the Polo Grounds early. The Giants were to play, and Rube Waddell was expected to pitch against them.”

The two could not be the participants if the story is based on an actual incident given that Waddell pitched in the American League from 1902 until his final game in 1910 while McGraw was managing the Giants.

 “A batter was at the plate driving out flies and in right center John McGraw was prancing around catching flies and throwing the ball back to the catcher, it is not fun to watch a fat man who has retired from active survive shag flies in the outfield.”

Rube

Fullerton said McGraw’s long throws to the plate “were not fun” to watch, but “McGraw kept it up patiently and gamely.”

At this point in Fullerton’s story, Rube Waddell walked towards McGraw in the outfield.

“Rube looked interested, stopped and talked.

“’I’ll bet you five you can’t outthrow me,’ snarled McGraw in response to Rubes ‘kidding.’

“Rube grabbed the ball and threw it to the plate. For ten minutes they hurled the pill, then McGraw reluctantly admitted that the Rube could outthrow him and paid over the five dollars.

“Rube went to the slab and lasted the greater part of the first inning. McGraw had laid the trap, had kidded Waddell into making six or seven long distance throws and had won a ballgame thereby.”

The second story was about another Fullerton favorite, Bugs Raymond:

“There was a bunch of petty larceny gamblers who hung out around the West Side park in Chicago for years looking for the best of it, who got caught in one of their own traps once.

“The St. Louis club was playing in Chicago and poor Arthur Raymond, better known as ‘Bugs,’ was to pitch a game. The gamblers knew Bugs and knew his weakness.

“Just across the street from the park was a bar kept by a fine little Italian, as grand a little sportsman and a square a man as ever lived. In some way he overheard the plot of the cheap sports, which was to waylay Raymond and invite him to drink. If he started drinking, they were to lay their bets.”

Fullerton said the plan unfolded:

“Raymond was greeted by a bunch of admiring ‘friends,’ who led him to the bar more than an hour before game time. The ‘friends’ invited him to have a drink, and the proprietor winked at Raymond. Bugs was not as foolish as many believed. Without a minute of hesitation, he grabbed the cue as the bartender reached for a bottle a bottle labeled gin. The crowd drank. Bugs invited them to join in, but they insisted he was the guest of honor.

“In the next half hour, he swallowed more than half the contents of the bottle. The plotters exchanged winks and an agent was rushed out to place the bets, Meantime, the others remained to buy more for the Bug. He swallowed three or four more doses and finally said:

“’Say, fellows, I’ve got to break away. I’m pitching today.’

“With that, he lifted the gin bottle, poured all the contents into a tumbler, drained it off at one gulp and walked out on them.”

Bugs

Of course, said Fullerton

“Raymond beat the Cubs in a hard game. It was all over before the pikers realized that the little saloon man had given Raymond a bottle of plain water instead of gin and that Arthur had gone through with the play.”

Like the Waddell story, the facts don’t square with Fullerton’s story; Raymond never beat the cubs during the Cubs in Chicago during his two seasons with the Browns.

“Damndest Hitter I Ever saw, a Born Natural”

10 Sep

After Satchel Paige arrived three hours late for a 1953 interview with Wendell Smith of The Pittsburgh Courier, and talked about his family and his expectations for the upcoming season,  Smith asked Paige who were the toughest batters he faced in the American League:

Wendell Smith

“I can’t name ‘em all, but I can tell you some of ‘em. Among the modern players there’s Mickey Mantle, Dale Mitchell, Phil Rizzuto, Larry Doby, and Minnie Minoso.

DiMaggio was tough, too, before he retired. He was sure some hitter. But of all the hitters I ever faced, I think Josh Gibson, who is dead now, was the toughest. You could fool him and before the ball got to te plate, he could get that bat around and hit the ball out of the park. Damndest hitter I ever saw, a born natural.”

Paige wanted to talk to Smith about his own hitting prowess:

“Satchel considers himself a hitter, too. He rates himself right along with the Gibson’s and DiMaggio’s, Doby’s, and Mitchell’s.

“’Only difference,’ he said. ‘I’m not a long ball hitter. Me and Rizzuto hit liners.’”

Paige

Smith asked:

“If a pitcher were smart, what could he throw to a ‘dangerous’ hitter like Satch in a tight ballgame with the winning run on second base?

“’Well, if he was smart,’ Satchel said, thoughtfully ‘he’d curve me. He’s throw all the curves he could think of. That’s my weakness, curves. But he better make ‘em bad. Off the plate. If he throws them in there, over the plate, I’ll jump on ‘em. I jump on curves over the plate. Bing…I hit ‘em on a line over second base, me and Rizzuto.”

Smith pointed out to Paige that:

“(He) hit a ‘mighty’ .205 last season [sic, .128]

”’Shucks,’ he said, “I know a lot of regulars who didn’t hit that good.’”

 Paige was 3-9 with a 3.53 ERA and 11 saves in 57 appearances for the last place, 54-100 St. Louis Browns.  He hit .069.

“I Don’t Know how Long I’m Gonna Last”

8 Sep

Wendell Smith, of The Pittsburgh Courier said:

“Leroy (Satchel) Paige, the pitcher, is one of the few individuals living in this world today who isn’t conscious of the fact that a long time ago someone invented that unique devise popularly known as a clock.”

Paige

The occasion was an interview shortly before spring training in 1953; Paige arrived three hours late:

“Seems as though he had missed the plane in Kansas City, directed the taxi driver to the wrong section of town after his arrival, and then, after reaching his destination, decided it was time to eat.

‘Man’s gotta eat, you know,’ the skinny Methuselah of baseball said as he came through the door. ‘Can’t think on an empty stomach.”

Paige said:

“I don’t know how long I’m gonna last, but as along as I’m around, I’ll enjoy it. I don’t know if I’ll last ten more years, five years, or fail to last out the coming season. But however long it is I’ll enjoy it.”

Paige told Smith he was going to Hot Springs, Arkansas before joining the St. Louis Browns for spring training:

“Although you’d never notice it, I’m fat now. I weigh 207 pounds. When I’m in shape, I weigh about 177.”

He also said he would be healthier in 1953 than he was during his previous major league seasons:



“See, when I came up in 1948, I had stomach trouble. But it’s almost gone now. Course I still have gas and burp a lot, but I feel better. I might win as many as 18 games this year. Bet Bill Veeck would like that.”

Satchel Paige, 1953

Paige had to produce:

“’Ain’t no use kiddin’ myself,’ he said seriously, ‘I gotta make good now. I got me a wife and four children, three girls and a boy.”

Paige’s wife Lahoma had recently given birth to his son Robert:

“’She just had that boy two months ago,’ he said proudly, ‘and you should see him.’

“Does he want his newly born son to be a baseball player? ‘Sure,’ Satchel said, emphatically, ‘course I want him to be a ballplayer. But that seldom happens. When you want your sone to be something, he turned out to be something else,’

“’Know what my son will probably be?’ Because I like fishin’ and huntin’ so much, he’ll probably be a game warden.’ He laughed heartily.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #43

28 May

A Record, 1906

Hall of Fame umpire Tom Connolly claimed to have been part of a record-setting achievement; in 1907 The Washington Star told the story of a game the previous season:

“It is seldom that a game in either of the big leagues is played through with only two balls.”

connoly

Connolly

Connolly said it happened in St. Louis, the Browns were playing the Philadelphia Athletics:

“The first ball put into play by umpire Connolly lasted seven innings, and the game might have been finished with that ball had it not been for a funny accident…a foul tip hit the wire netting that protects the patrons of the grand stand and stuck there.  All efforts to dislodge it were in vain.”

The paper said it was “rather remarkable” given that the grandstand was “only a short distance back of the home plate,” at Sportsman’s Park:

“Tommy Connolly says he believes that two balls for a big league game is pretty nearly a record. How happy the magnates would be if all games could be run through so cheaply.”

Browning’s Honesty, 1887

In 1887, The Louisville Courier Journal said of Pete Browning:

“(He) may have his shortcomings as a ballplayer, but no one has ever questioned his honesty. He never resorts to trickery and always admits the truth when he is declared either safe or out in a close play. Umpires know this. Whenever Pete claims that he has not been touched by the baseman in a close play if can safely be put down that Pete is right.”

browning

Browning

Browning “seldom makes a kick, but justice is generally on his side when he does.” The Gladiator “won’t tell lies about any play that comes up, no matter whether it be to his advantage or against it.”

“Coacher” Decorum, 1887

The Detroit Free Press did not approve of “coachers,” the paper complained in 1887:

“There is no use having base ball rules if they are not enforced. A coacher has no right to say a word to anyone except a base runner. Imploring the batter to ‘hit her out for three bags,’ is out of order.”

“Piggy Ward, and Rightly Nicknamed is he”

15 May

After his off-season heroics, pulling an Altoona, Pennsylvania man from a fire, Piggy Ward, having been released by the Washington Senators, joined the Scranton Coal Heavers in the Eastern League for the 1895 season; The Scranton Times called him, “a very good man and will be heard from on the lines.”

He quickly became popular with his new club. The Scranton Tribune said:

“(He is) clearly a favorite with the unwashed bleacher—or, with the grandstand, for that matter…He is large bodied, somewhat round shouldered and looks awkward in repose. In action he is one of the quickest on the team and plays and steals bases with a vim and action that is refreshing.”

He hit .357—45 players with at least 200 at bats hit better than .300 that season in the Eastern League—The Sporting News said his manager found a way to get the most out of Ward:

“(Billy) Barnie gave him instructions to be in bed at least two nights a week. A little sleep and less booze and Ward is all right.”

 

ward1902

Ward caricature, 1902

His “coaching” did not seem to change, and on several occasions, according to the Scranton newspapers, he was ordered off the field “for offensive coaching.” And he was unpopular in the other league cities.

After Ward was thrown out of a game with the Rochester Browns in the third inning, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle said:

“’Piggy’ Ward, and rightly nicknamed is he.”

He was even less liked in Buffalo; The Courier said: “Ward is one of the most offensive coachers extant, and he would gain friends by bottling some of his exuberant flow of nonsense.” While The Enquirer was even less charitable:

“(H)is calliope-like voice is about as musical as a dynamite blast in a stone quarry. He evidently imagines he is pretty all right as a ‘kidder,’ but what he doesn’t know about being funny would fill several large volumes. Altogether as a joker, ‘Piggy’ is a rank, dismal, decided failure.”

The Tribune noted that the second baseman was a bit eccentric in other ways as well:

“Ward has a nondescript practice uniform which is a cross between the scant apparel of a Feeje [sic] islander and the hay-making garb of a farmer. It consists of a white negligee coat cut like a robe de chambre and reaching to the knees, a pair of loose trousers of the same color which reach to the shoe tops, a white cap and a sleeveless undershirt that is open to the waist.”

In 1896, Ward was again in Scranton, and he had vowed in the off season to be in the best shape of his life. In a letter to The Tribune he said he spent the winter “handling a pair of spirited mules,” and expected to report to Scranton weighing 185 pounds, down from his 217 the previous season. The paper said he appeared to have lost 20 pounds from the previous season upon his arrival.

wardsuit

Piggy Ward

Also, in 1896, his one-man “coacher” show became a two-man show when Arlie Latham, released by the St. Louis Browns in mid May, joined the Coal Heavers. The Springfield (MA) News was one of the rare league newspapers that thought it was good thing:

“With two such comedians…the Scranton team ought to prove a great drawing card on the circuit, The Springfield crowd are anxious for Scranton series here.”

Neither made it through the season, Latham was released July 17, Ward, one month later.  When Ward signed with the Toronto Canadians, The Wilkes Barre Record said:

“Ward is a great batter and base runner. There we quit.”

The Wilkes Barre News said:

“(Ward) is just where he belongs on that gang of Toronto hoodlums.”

Al Buckenberger’s Canadians were considered to be the dirtiest team in the league, The Springfield Union said with the addition of Ward:

“The opponent that gets around first base now without being tripped is lucky to get past Piggy Ward in safety and is sure to be blocked or tripped at third by Jud Smith.”

After the 1896 season, some of the papers in the Eastern League cities suggested rules changes to eliminate Ward’s type of “coaching.” The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle said:

“The majority of ‘fans’ take as much delight in lively, witty coaching, such as has made Arlie Latham and Billy Clymer famous…There need not be anything offensive in aggressive work by men on the lines…but all players are not like Clymer (and Latham) and that big beast s like ‘Pig’ Ward make themselves obnoxious by their actions and language when in the coacher’s box.”

The Syracuse Herald suggested adopting a rule “ousting ‘Pig’ Ward and others of his ilk from the game entirely.”

Whether it was an attempt to improve his image or a function of playing on a smaller stage—with his hometown Lancaster Maroons in the Atlantic League and the Mansfield Haymakers in the Interstate League—Ward seemed to stay fairly quiet and avoid controversy among the press in the league cities from 1897 through 1899.

The 5’ 9” Ward seems to have played in his later years at between 220 and 230 pounds from various reports. Frank Rinn, who managed Ward for the three seasons in Lancaster talked to The Hartford Courant about him:

“Although he is heavy and sluggish Piggy has more ginger than a dozen ordinary players. Rinn was telling the other day how hard it was to get Ward to train…He was sent out to coach once and he pulled a cushion out from under his shirt and had a good seat on the ground.”

Ward bounced from no less than eight teams between 1900 and 1905, including playing for John McCloskey again—in 1902 in Pacific Northwest League with the Butte Miners—Ward stayed with the McCloskey for the entire season this time—winning a championship and receiving a gold watch and chain at season’s end for being voted by fans as the team’s most popular player in a promotion for a local jeweler. He also led the league with a .332 batting average; only seven players in the six-team Pacific Northwest circuit hit .300 or better that season.

wardkellybutte1903

Ward and Butte Miners teammate Thomas Kelly in 1903.

The Cincinnati Times Star, still not recovered from his tenure with the Reds nearly a decade earlier said of Ward winning the watch:

“The booby prize was the best Ward could have captured in a similar contest during his stay in this city.”

In 1903, Ward reverted to some of his old ways.  With an already signed contract to return to Butte and a $100 advance in his pocket, he signed a contract and collected a $100 advance from the Portland Browns in the upstart Pacific Coast League. He ended up back in Butte, and when McCloskey left the club to manage the San Francisco Pirates, he told the Butte newspapers that Ward, who was already the team captain, was his choice to succeed him as manager; the club instead named shortstop Billy Kane manager.

When rumors swirled in 1905 that the cash-strapped Pacific National League might cut player salaries, The Spokane Chronicle said Ward tried to form a player’s union chartered by the American Labor Union which was formed in 1898 as the Western Labor Union to create a federation of mine workers. The rumored pay cuts never came, nor did the union.

Ward was reported to have died in January of 1906; the news made all the Philadelphia dallies and several other East Coast papers, and over the next month spread West.  The papers had confused Piggy—Frank G. Ward—with Frank P. Ward, a former amateur player who had died in Newark, N.J.

Ward was seriously injured that same winter when working as an electrician; he was shocked and fell from a pole.

The news of his death—despite being corrected in the papers—and the accident, were enough to make many believe Ward had died. When he traveled to Chicago in August of 1911 for former teammate Charles Comiskey’s birthday, The Chicago Daily News said Comiskey was shocked to see Ward, “whom he thought was dead.”

The not-dead Ward did not play professionally in 1906—the Frank Ward who appeared with the Glens Falls-Saratoga Springs team in the Hudson River League—listed among Ward’s career statistics on Baseball Reference—is a different Frank Wad.

He was hired in 1907 as an umpire in the Northwestern League. The Butte News celebrated the move:

“’Piggy’ promises to be as popular an umpire as he was a player…He is firm, has a good voice, and is known to all the of the Northwest, and President (William Henry) Lucas made a 10-strike when he appointed him  on the league staff.”

He lasted just two games. The Spokane Press said he:

“(B)roke down completely last night. This morning he was almost a nervous wreck. A collection was taken up among the ballplayers and he was sent back to his home in Scranton, Pennsylvania”

The paper said Ward’s wife had suggested he take the position because it might “build him up,” after the electrocution, but the stress was “too much for him.”

Four months after Ward’s reunion with Comiskey, The Pittsburgh Gazette Times said he was “near death,” a pitiable wreck,” suffering from “brain disease,” in an Altoona hospital.

Ten months later, on October 23, 1912, 45-year-old Piggy Ward died. The Altoona Tribune called him “one of the most famous diamond stars in the land,” and said:

“He possessed several expensive pins, a beautiful watch, and other jewelry presented to him by admirers when he was thrilling fandom with his feats.”