Tag Archives: St. Louis Cardinals

“A Good Plumber’s Helper but an Inferior Umpire”

21 Apr

Edward F. Ballinger of The Pittsburgh Post described Bill Byron thusly:

“(He) is looked upon among the players as the man who rendered more peculiar decisions than any other official in diamond history.”

Honus Wagner singled out Byron for rendering “the worst decision I ever saw.”

Wagner included the incident in his 1924 series of articles about his career for The North American Newspaper Alliance. He said he was stealing third in a game against the Giants:

“The catcher threw the ball into my feet making it impossible for Devlin—I think it was Devlin— [Note: It was Milt Stock] to pick it up. We both got in a tangle as I slid through a cloud of dust. The ball was bound under my arm where nobody could find it.”

Byron

While the Giants looked for the ball, Wagner headed towards the plate:

“About ten feet from home the ball dropped on the baseline. Now here’s where McGraw got in his fine work. He rushed up to umpire Byron, who had run down to third base to make the decision and told him I carried the ball to the bench in my hand.

“’If you don’t believe it, go to the bench and make them give it to you,’ he urged Byron.

“About this time McGraw’s attention was called to the ball lying on the base path.”

McGraw then told Byron, “That proves it. See! Wagner just rolled it out.”

Wagner said a confused Byron called him out for, “Carrying the ball to the bench with your hand.”

Wagner’s recollection was a bit faulty, in addition to forgetting who was playing third base. The incident happened on July 17, 1914, during the sixth inning of what would turn out to be a 21-inning 3 to 1 victory for the Giants. The game was, to that point, baseball’s longest game and both pitchers, Babe Adams and Rube Marquard pitched complete games.

As for the play, Wagner was not attempting to steal; he was advancing to third from first on a hit by Jim Viox and the throw came from center fielder Bob Bescher.

Contemporaneous accounts in The Pittsburgh Press, The Dispatch, and The Post all said that when the ball fell from Wagner’s uniform, it was immediately picked up by Marquard who threw to third trying to retire Viox who was called safe, rather than Wagner’s version where McGraw called Byron’s attention to the ball.

McGraw, said The Press, came out on the field at that point, “and told Byron Wagner was out.” The umpire agreed and also sent Viox back to second The Post said:

“The Pirates gathered around the umpire and raised a hubbub. (Fred) Clarke read the riot act and was motioned off the lot by umpire Byron.”

Pittsburgh protested the game, but Byron’s ruling was upheld.

Fred Mitchell, manager of the Cubs, was also not a Byron fan, and told Billy Evans in 1920:

“He hasn’t improved much since the summer (1917) he gave a decision that cost me $100 and the game. We were playing in St. Louis and big Mule (Milt) Watson was on the rubber. Art Wilson was at the plate. Watson, as he started to pitch, stubbed his toe and in trying to hold back on the ball threw it wildly and hit Wilson in the back of the neck. Byron would not let him take his base, saying it was a slow ball. I protested and consequently was chased and later fined $100.”

Mitchell’s details of the September 3 game were all correct, except for the outcome of the game. The Cubs beat the Cardinals and Watson 6 to 5. Mitchell had also, “had a mix-up” with Byron the previous day, according to The Chicago Tribune, when the umpire had initially called Tom Long of St. Louis out on a play at the plate, “then called him safe, although (catcher Rowdy) Elliott held the ball.”

Cardinals owner John C. Jones held the same opinion Mitchell did off Byron.  Earlier that same season, Byron made another questionable call on another play involving Tom Long. The Cardinals outfielder hit a ball off Eppa Rixey that appeared to be fair for a double. Byron, despite “the fact that a gap in the whitewash marked the spot,” where the ball hit called it foul.

Long was called out on strikes on the next pitch The Cardinals lost 3 to 2 to the Phillies.

So incensed was Jones at the umpire, whom The St. Louis Star called, “a good plumber’s helper but an inferior umpire,” that he wrote an open letter to fans that appeared in St. Louis papers. He told fans who were present, “The good of the game demands,” that they wire league president John Tener about “Byron’s judgment.”

Jones’ message resulted in bottles and other items being thrown at Byron the following day. Two fans were injured. Cardinal President Branch Rickey disavowed Jones’ comments:

“I strongly advised against it. In fact, both (manager) Miller Huggins and myself wired President Tener that the message did not officially express the club’s sentiments.”

Despite his comment that he did not support the club owners’ position, Rickey was more critical of the umpire in his telegram to Tener than Jones had been in his message to the fans:

“(His) attitude and manners generally were extremely antagonistic to the crowd…If Byron will keep his face to the filed and not parade about in front of the stands, he will have no trouble.”

The previous season, Byron “wrote” an article for The Pittsburgh Press. He said he became an umpire in 1896 only because he couldn’t find enough work in his “first love, steamfitting.” Over two decades he worked his way from the Michigan State League to the National League.

Before steamfitting and umpiring, Byron had briefly played minor league ball:

“As for myself, I am frank to admit that I was the worst ball player that ever broke into the Texas League. I managed to hold my job with the Dallas club for a while, but the race was too fast. It nearly ruined a good steamfitter. Afterward I played semi-professional ball occasionally in Michigan but gave up the game—and what was baseball’s loss was the plumbing trade’s game.”

After four seasons in the Michigan State League, he worked his way up to South Atlantic League, then the Virgina League, followed by International League and finally the Eastern League before his big-league career began.

He became well known—and versions of the story were told for the next two decades—for a call he made on August 31, 1909. In an Eastern League pitchers duel between the second place Newark Indians, with manager Joe McGinnity on the mound and Big Jeff Pfeffer pitching for the fourth place Toronto Maple Leafs.

The game was scoreless in the sixth inning with Newark batting:

The Detroit News said:

“Two were out and the batter (Joe Crisp) raised a high foul within the easy reach of both the Toronto catcher and third baseman.”

Toronto Third baseman Jimmy Frick and catcher Fred Mitchell both stopped when Newark “coacher” Benny Meyer yelled “I’ll take it.”

“The catcher backed away and the ball fell on the Dominion of Canada. Great glee broke out among the Newark contingent, who seemed apparently to conclude that the strategy of the coacher had won the batsman another chance to connect. But they reckoned without Mr. Byron.

“’Batter out!’ yelled the ump.”

McGinnity and “his entire team” came out on the field.:

Byron told the Newark manager:

“’He’s out on interference.’

“This set McGinnity fairly crazy and he frothed at the mouth, ‘But there wasn’t a man within 10 feet of Mitchell when he backed away,’ he screamed.

‘”He’s out on vocal interference; get into the field and finish the game.’ And Byron pulled his watch.”

Pfeffer and McGinnity both went the distance in a 13-inning game won by Toronto 1 to 0. McGinnity filed a protest with the league, but Byron’s decision was upheld.

Byron said the “secret of umpiring” was that “The umpire must keep his head and let the other man lose his.”

The umpire retired before the 1920 season saying he could make more money at his first love.  Evans said of his seven seasons in the National League:

“Like the rest of the umpires, he had his faults. No umpire is infallible, so Bill made mistakes like the rest of us, but they were always honest mistakes.”

He said Byron “always looked trouble in the eye,” and “no gamer fellow” ever wore a mask.

Despite his contentious relationship with McGraw, Evans told a story about a game in New York.  The previous day while making a ruling on a play involving fan interference, “the umpires were criticized” by reporters for their long deliberation. The following day:

“At an amusement park near the Polo Grounds, it was customary for an aviator to do a series of stunts. Usually the aviator paid the Polo Grounds a visit before landing. On this occasion, he flew unusually low over the grounds, so that it was easily possible to see him greet the big crowd with a wave of the hand. Evidently Bill Byron had given some thought of the criticism of the day previous unjustly heaped on the arbitrators for what was called a needless delay.

“Calling time and turning toward the New York bench, he addressed manager McGraw of the Giants thusly.

“If the ball hits the airplane, John, while it is flying over fair territory, it is good for two bases. If it lands in some part of the machine and stays there while flying over fait territory, the runners shall stop at the base last touched when such thing occurs. If the ball lands in some part of the machine while the machine is outside playing territory, it will be good for a home run. Play.”

Evans said McGraw “was shaking with laughter.

The press box was as well:

“Byron’s retort courteous to their slam had not gone over their heads.”

L. C. Davis of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said of Byron’s retirement:

“It will always be a moot question whether Lord Byron was greater as a singer or an umpire. But whether singing or umpiring the fans agree that he displayed all the earmarks of a good plumber.”

More Byron, Friday.

“Byron was more to blame than I was”

19 Apr

After National league umpire Tim Hurst died in 1915, his American League counterpart Billy Evans said in his nationally syndicated column:

“In the passing of Tim Hurst, baseball lost the quaintest character of the diamond. It was believed there would never be another one to approach him., but in Bill Byron baseball has a pocket edition of Timothy Carroll Hurst.

“No more fearless umpire ever held an indicator than Tim Hurst. Bill Byron runs him a close second.”

Evans said before coming to the National League in 1913, Byron was the subject “of many stories of wild minor league riots, in which Bill played the leading role without so much as mussing his hair.”

Fearless was one adjective used about Byron, but there were many others. After the 1911 season, Ed Barrow, president of the Eastern League removed Byron from the league’s staff. The Baltimore Sun said many celebrated the move:

“Byron’s chief fault is his stubbornness, and he, as well, is a bit dictatorial and oversteps his authority on the diamond…For the good of the game–in the face of many prejudices–Barrow has acted wisely in giving him the ‘can.'”

Bill Byron

Known as the “singing Umpire,” Byron’s “little ditties” were so well known that writers like L.C. Davis of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Willian Phelon of The Cincinnati Times-Star both wrote columns suggesting new songs for the umpire.

Davis suggested that when the Cubs Heine Zimmerman argued a call:

Heinie, Heinie, I’ve been thinking,

I don’t want none of your slack;

To the clubhouse you’ll go slinking,

If you make another crack.

Johnny Evers complained to Phelon:

“How can a guy tend to his batting when the umpire’s warbling in his ears?”

John McGraw was Byron’s biggest foil and foe, and Byron had a song for the manager of the New York Giants:

“John McGraw is awful sore

Just listen to Napoleon roar

The crowd is also very mad

They think my work is very bad.”

In 1917, in an often told story, after a game in Cincinnati, the Giants manager landed two punches before he was separated from Byron after an ejection.

McGraw

After the incident, McGraw provided a signed statement admitting to punching Byron, but blaming the incident on the umpire:

“Byron said to me: ‘McGraw, you were run out of Baltimore.”

When the umpire repeated the charge, McGraw said he “hit him. I maintain I was given reason.”

When Byron arrived in St. Louis the day after the incident to work a series between the Cardinals and Phillies, he refused to answer when asked by a reporter from The Philadelphia Inquirer if McGraw had punched him, instead:

“Bill pointed the right hand to the jaw. There was dark clot—which indicated that something landed as early as 20 hours ago.” 

McGraw’s justification for the attack notwithstanding, he was fined $500 and suspended for 16 days.

McGraw responded, claiming to be “discriminated against personally,” by league President John Tener,” and that “Byron was more to blame than I was.”

He said the action taken against him would result in:

“Umpires with Byron’s lack of common intelligence and good sense, will now be so overbearing with players there will be no living with them.”

But the feud had been brewing since the umpire entered the league.

In August of 1914, in a game where the Reds scored five runs in the eighth to beat the Giants 5 to 4, The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“The character of McGraw was shown by his getting into an insulting ruction with Umpire Byron…He was so angered at losing out that he pelted the official with vicious expletives and delayed the game for several minutes.”

In 1915, Sam Crane, the former player turned baseball writer for The New York Journal, and a close friend of McGraw, chronicled a clash between the two during a September 25 game between the seventh place Giants and sixth place Cardinals in St. Louis:

Byron was being taunted from the New York bench and decided utility infielder Fred Brainard was the culprit and ejected him:

“Brainard (in a startled voice: ‘Who me/ Why, I didn’t open my mouth, did I boys?’

“Chorus of players: ‘No, he didn’t.’

“A mysterious voice from a far corner of the dugout: ‘’Byron, you can’t hear any better than you can see. You’re rotten.’”

At this point, Byron walked to the Giants bench and gave Brainard one minute to leave.

McGraw responded, “You have pulled another boot Byron,” and accused the umpire of once ordering a player off the bench who was coaching at first base, and asked how he knew it was Brainard:

“Umpire Byron (turning pale): ‘I caught Brainard with his mouth open.’”

The Giants bench laughed at the umpire and McGraw accused him of always “guessing” at his decisions.

At this point Crane said Byron, “five minutes after he had given Brainard one minute,” removed his watch from his pocket and again gave Brainard a minute to leave and told McGraw he would be ejected as well. The manager responded:

“Why should I be put out of the game? I haven’t done anything. Neither has Brainard. You’re all tangled up. Do you know the rules? What time is it by that tin timepiece you have got there?”

Byron repeated the order and threatened to forfeit the game to St. Louis. McGraw said:

“Go ahead and forfeit. You will be in very bad if you do. Every one of my players here say Brainard did not say a word. You will be in a nice fix with Tener, won’t you. You will have a fat chance to umpire the world’s series. Go ahead and forfeit the game.”

Byron then summoned three police officers to remove Brainard, but according to Crane, the police sergeant said,” I will have to take the umpire along, too.”

This elicited more laughter from the Giants bench.

Crane’s story ends with McGraw chastising the umpire while finally telling Brainard to go, and Byron returning to homeplate while singing:

“Oh, I don’t know. The multitude and the players are enraged at me; but I gained my point. Oh, I don’t know; I ain’t so bad.”

And the game “then proceeded, and smoothly throughout.”

Crane claimed the whole ordeal took at least 15 minutes.

The Post-Dispatch didn’t mention police, implied that Byron clearly won the encounter, and said, “five minutes were consumed in this senseless argument.”

The paper scolded the umpire for the “bush league trick” of pulling out his watch, but said:

“In time, however, McGraw relented under the threat of a forfeiture, which means a fine of $1000, and Brainard went his way.”

McGraw might have gotten the better of Byron in their 1917 fight in Cincinnati, but in 1915 the umpire “landed twice” on Boston Braves third baseman Red Smith after the game when Smith renewed an earlier argument over balls and strikes September 16 in Chicago. Smith attempted to get at Byron after being hit but was stopped by the other umpire, Al Orth.

Byron and McGraw continued to butt heads and the umpire’s combative style and singing continued to draw attention.

George Moriarty, the Detroit Tigers infielder, turned American League umpire—who also wrote songs—and often included poems about players in the nationally syndicated column he began writing in 1917, said—in part–of Byron:

“It’s wonderful the way you face the throng of maddened players all season long;

While other umps get busted on the bean you pacify the athletes with a song.

You know that music charms the savage beast, and as they rush to stab you in the vest,

And tell you how they’ll tear you limb from limb, you sing like John McCormack at his best.”

More on Byron Wednesday.

“Keister was Bogus”

5 Apr

In March of 1901, second baseman Bill Keister jumped the St. Louis Cardinals for the Baltimore Orioles; St. Louis signed Dick Padden a week later to replace him.

Patsy Tebeau, who had managed the Cardinals to a 42-50 record before being let go in August, had no shortage of vitriol for his former player. He told The St. Louis Globe-Democrat:

“Padden has Keister beaten in every department of the game, and when it comes to ‘inside play’ the Baltimorean is entirely lost sight of.”

Keister had been purchased by the Cardinals with John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson before the 1900 season. The purchase of Keister had, said Tebeau, cost St. Louis “a good round chunk. And while not “Knocking any, it was illy spent.”

Tebeau

Then more knocking:

“Keister was bogus, a gold brick, a nonentity or what you will, and much of our ill-success in the early part of the race was due to his bobbling.”

Keister was not just bad, but historically bad, he said:

“If I live to be as old as Henry Chadwick, I never will forget a play Keister made in Philadelphia. We were playing a red-hot game with the Phillies, with a score of 2 to 1 in our favor along about the seventh inning. (Roy) Thomas and (Jimmy) Slagle both began by getting on base and (Ed) Delahanty sacrificed them along. (Napoleon) Lajoie followed with a stinging bounder straight at Keister. It came to him quick as a flash and on the first bound.  Fast as Thomas is, he was a goner at the plate had Billy slapped the ball home.

“But he didn’t, nor did he play it safe and shoot to (first baseman Dan) McGann. He balked for a moment and then slammed the sphere to the third corner. McGraw wasn’t within 15 feet of the sack but seeing the throw he ran over best he could. Biff came the ball, McGraw, and Slagle all in a heap.

“Slagle was safe, McGraw had his ankle turned, and the sphere kept on to the fence. All three runners scored, we were beaten, and McGraw, besides, was laid up for several weeks.”

Keister

Tebeau called it, “the worst play that was ever made by a professional.”

The play in question happened on May 25, and he got most of the details correct; except the score was 2 to 0 and it happened in the sixth inning. The Globe-Democrat described the play less dramatically the previous spring:

“Lajoie hit fast and high to Keister. The little second-sacker threw to McGraw at third, in an attempt to head off Slagle. The ball and runner reached ‘Muggsy’ at the same time. In the collision McGraw was spiked in the foot and the leather rolled to the fence, giving the Quakers their lone three runs in the contest.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The Republican both wrote that McGraw was on the bag awaiting Keister’s throw, contrary to Tebeau’s recollection.

All three papers agreed that McGraw was badly injured beyond having his “ankle turned.” In addition to the collision, the Cardinals captain was spiked in the foot. The Post-Dispatch said the game was delayed 10 minutes before McGraw returned to the field—he was removed from the game after the end of the inning. The Republic said his toe was “badly split” and that he, “dropped like a poppy cut down by a cane twirled in the hands of a careless stroller.”

With McGraw in and out of the lineup over the next several weeks, the Cardinals went from 3 ½ games back to 11 games back after a disastrous 5-15 June.

Tebeau held a grudge:

“I consider that Keister was a star in Oysterville in 1899, but out in Missouri, where the ‘fans’ have got to be shown, he was about the worst I ever saw.”

“The worst” Tebeau ever saw played three more seasons in the major leagues; Keister was playing outfield and hitting .320 for the Phillies in August of 1903 when he tore a ligament before the August 26 game in Brooklyn. He never played in the major leagues again but played eight more seasons in the minors.

Tebeau never managed in the big leagues again. He killed himself 18 years later; Louis Dougher of The Washington Times said Tebeau wrote in a suicide note:

“I am a very unhappy and miserable man.”

“A Colorful Critter”

17 Feb

John Walter “Duster” Mails was another left-handed pitcher with talent who never lived up expectations and was labeled “eccentric,” or “Another Rube.”

John B. Foster of The New York Sun said:

“Mails’ ability is conceded so far as his arm is concerned, but when it comes to the illuminated phases of baseball Duster must have the center of the stage or he moans in a corner like a monkey with the pip. If he’d make the best use of his left arm, he should be able to win two games for every one he loses.”

Billy Evans, the American League umpire, and syndicated newspaper columnist called him, “A colorful critter.”

In 1925, when the St. Louis Cardinals acquired Mails from the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League for what would be Mails’ third and final shot at the big leagues, Evans wrote:

“Walter Mails has as much natural ability as Rube Waddell and no southpaw ever had more stuff than George Edward.

“Mails has a dazzling fastball. I umpired back of Waddell when he was at his best. If anything, Mails’ fastball had something on Rube’s.”

Mails

Evans concluded that Waddell “seemed to have uncanny control” of his pitches, which Mails lacked.

He argued that given Mails’ personality quirks, he would be “rival Babe Ruth” as a newspaper copy generator if he could recreate his short period of major league dominance in 1920:

“Joining Cleveland late in the season, when the Indians were on the ropes because of lack of pitching, Mails proved the man of the hour.

“Taking part in nine games he turned in seven victories and didn’t suffer a single defeat.”

The Indians won the pennant by two games over the White Sox.

“Late in the season when Cleveland met Chicago in the final and all series between the two clubs, Mails remarked to me before the first game:

“Those birds are made to order for me; If (Tris) Speaker starts me against them I won’t be satisfied with anything but a shutout.”

Mails shut the White Sox out and beat Urban Faber 2 to 0; the September 24 victory increased the Indians lead over the Sox to 1.5 games.

“In one inning, after walking three men a la Waddell, he continued Rube’s trick by striking the next three out.”

Evans’ recall was slightly off.

In the fifth inning, Mails retired Swede Risberg, then walked Ray Schalk, Faber, and Amos Strunk. 

Mails then struck out Buck Weaver and Eddie Collins, The Chicago Tribune said, with a full count, Collins:

“(H)it three fouls in succession, swung at a bad ball and struck out.”

Mails’ dream season continued through the World Series, he relieved Ray Caldwell in the first inning of game three, pitching 6 2/3 scoreless innings in a 2 to 1 loss to the Brooklyn Robins.

Evans said Mails told him:

“If Speaker had only started me that one run we made would have been enough to win. He says he is going to give me a chance against (Sherry) Smith the next time he starts. Those birds will be lucky any time they score on me.”

He shut out the Robins and Smith 1 to 0.

Mails posted a 1.85 regular season ERA in 1920 which ballooned to 3.94 in 1921 and 5.28 in 1922, before he was sold to Oakland.

Mails’ final big-league stint ended like his first two, flashes of brilliance punctuating an overall lack of control and discipline.

He returned to the minor leagues for another decade. 

Early in his career, Mails tried to explain his control issues to The Spokane Spokesman Review:

“In my younger days, my folks used to live just a short distance from the San Quentin penitentiary. It was always a hobby with me to throw stones at the guards on the ramparts to kid them. One day I thought I could get control by aiming at them, but the darn fools always used to be on the move and even today when I am out on the mound pitching, the home plate seems to act like those guards, always on the move. So, you can see I have an excuse coming.”

“We went out and as Usual got Geeked and also Pinched”

25 May

During Bugs Raymond’s brief sobriety before the 1911 season, he gave an interview to The St. Louis Post Dispatch and talked about his experience the previous season when Giants manager John McGraw hired a retired police officer to accompany Raymond everywhere to attempt to keep him in line.

“(O)ld Dick Fuller, the fellow they hired as my keeper. At times he was a good scout, but he didn’t exactly treat me right.”

bugs19112

Bugs

Raymond said he had given Fuller some advice:

“I got down to brass tacks with him and told him how he could conch his job for life if he wanted to. I explained that he ought to let me cut loose just a trifle, now and then; but he couldn’t see it that way. He always wanted to strap me down.”

Raymond said he was OK with Fuller until he discovered something:

“The thing that got me sore on him was when I found out that he was a tank like myself. For quite a while, when we went out together, he would always drink soda or sass while I inhaled the foamy stuff. Later, though, I learned that he would get up early in the morning, go down to the bar and inject about a half dozen or ten ‘little ‘big’ ones into himself. Then when I wanted to get my morning’s morning he would simply give me a morality fizz fresh from that carbonating plant he called his noodle.”

Raymond said he “had great times” ditching his chaperone:

“One night in Chicago some of my friends had a little beer fiesta scheduled.”

Bugs had told Fuller he was going to bed early. On this trip Fuller was in an adjoining room:

“I crawled in the hay. When I thought he was sleeping, I climbed out the fire escape and started going down. I happened to look up and saw Fuller’s head rubbering out the window. He lost no time in chasing down the fire escape after me, but I beat it u the alley and got away.”

Raymond wanted to attend “another little function” the following night:

“Right after the game I got an old sack, filled it with hay, put it under the cover and turned the light low. Of course, when Fuller looked through the transom and saw the lump in the bed, he thought it was me.

“Well, that night we went out and as usual got geeked and also pinched. We had no trouble getting out of the Bastille but had to appear in police court the next morning. Fuller went along with me and was nearly fined himself for contempt of court. He swore that I hadn’t been out of my room all night.”

Raymond told the paper he liked New York but it doesn’t compare” to St. Louis, and how much he liked playing for former Cardinals manager John McCloskey:

“He and I were continually having a ‘run in,’ but he’s a good scout. Mack was always fining me.”

mccloskey

McCloskey

Raymond said on an off day, McCloskey wanted him to pitch in an exhibition game in New Haven, Connecticut:

“Instead I hopped down to Long Island and got $100 for pitching a game. The next day Mack told me he was pretty sore because I didn’t go along with the team. He said I would have to buy him a new hat to square myself. I told him to go get the hat.

“After he came back to the hotel with it he announced that he would fine me $100 for pitching for another team. And I got a bill for $7 for the hat, too.”

Raymond said he spent a lot of time with Slim Sallee during the 1908 season—Sallee, then a 23-year-old rookie, quickly gained a reputation for his drinking; likely exacerbated by his friendship with the 26-year-old Bugs:

“We got pretty thick, so thick we couldn’t stir. In fact, McCloskey issued an ultimatum one time that he would fine either or both of us $100 if he caught us out together, rooming together, eating together, or even looking at one another.

“We would have owed the club our salaries if he had caught all the fractures we gave that rule.”

“I can Pitch Ball when I’m Geezed”

21 May

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

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

 

bugs19102

Bugs

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

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

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

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

The paper doubted the success and concluded:

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

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

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

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

dickkinsella

“Sinister Dick” Kinsella

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

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

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

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

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

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

bugs19104

Bugs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

McGraw said:

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

As was well, until March 31.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Atlanta Georgian and News did not retract:

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

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

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

The St. Louis Times said:

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

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

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

Winsted lost 6 to 4 and Raymond was let go.

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

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

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

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

The Atlanta Constitution said:

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

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

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

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

Borrowed Uniforms

20 Apr

Ernest Lanigan, writing in The Cleveland Leader in 1918 said:

“One way a team could be assured a victory in every stop on a trip, would be to lose its uniforms.”

Lanigan said it happened twice in the last four seasons:

“Last season, on their way East, the Saint Louis Cardinals lost their baggage and had to meet the Superbas in clothing for which Charles Hercules Ebbets had paid. The result was a 9 to 2 victory for Jack (manager Jack) Hendrick’s team.”

The Brooklyn Citizen described the June 1, 1918 game:

“The schedule called for a game between the Saint Louis Cardinals and the Robins. But if the fans were just going by the uniforms the players wore, then it was a combat between the HOME and the TRAVELING uniforms of the Brooklyn Baseball Club, for the Cardinals were arrayed in the traveling unies of the Robins.”

Fourteen trunks belonging to the Cardinals failed to make it from Pittsburgh with the team.  The paper said the Cardinals did have to purchase shoes for the team from a local store:

“(Hendricks) had to order 15 pairs of new ones, which will set the club back $210.”

In a borrowed uniform and in new shoes, Red Ames allowed 10 hits, but just two runs, and the Cardinals chased Rube Marquard in the fifth inning—scoring six runs off the Brooklyn starter.

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Red Ames

Lanigan said the previous time a team played in their opponents’ uniforms was 1915:

“The Saint Louis Browns reached Detroit minus uniforms and attired in Tiger togs they defeated the Junglemen, 1 to 0.”

Edward A. Batchelor of The Detroit Free Press said of the June 20th game:

“You see it was this way. The St. Louis club’s baggage went astray somewhere between Boston and Detroit and when the Browns arrived, they possessed nothing in the way of baseball equipment except the usual number of arms and legs. Some of them had heads, though this is not considered a requisite in big league ball anymore. They didn’t even have a manager, as Branch Rickey refused to come along. He won’t even look at Sunday ball.

“With true hospitality the Tigers took pity on the forlorn crew and outfitted them completely in the Detroit Road uniforms. They also loaned them gloves and shoes and otherwise contributed to their comfort and convenience.”

Dressed in Detroit uniforms, Batchelor said the Browns “forgot they are tail-enders and imagined they were really the Jungaleers.”

Carl Weilman pitched a four-hit shutout for the seventh place Browns.

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Carl Weilman

Lanigan said one had to go back to 1912 to find a team losing in borrowed uniforms:

“A game which a visiting team did not win when it was compelled to play in the home club’s regalia because of the non-arrival of its baggage took place at the hilltop, in New York on August 12 [sic, August 13]. The Tigers and their baggage parted company in Syracuse and Jennings’ men played in the Yanks’ road uniforms, being beaten 3 to 2.”

Batchelor said in The Free Press:

“A most peculiar combination of circumstances thwarted the well laid plans of Hughie Jennings and kept the fiery siren dumb on the bench in civilian clothes. Detroit’s baggage was misplaced somewhere in Syracuse where an exhibition game was played yesterday. Only the artful hospitality of manager (Harry) Wolverton saved the Jungaleers from forfeit. Wolverton lent the visitors his road uniforms. But had no shoes of guaranteed fit.

“Consequently, the entire invading squad had to go out and purchase new kicks. Winning ballgames in unbroken brogans is no nice business.”

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Harry Wolverton

Batchelor said the bats loaned to the Tigers were “so full of holes that Jennings’ heavy artillery were able to collect a measly bundle of three hits”

The Tigers scored two runs in the first inning of New York starter Ray Fisher, who was ejected along with Wolverton for arguing a call at first base.  Jack Warhop pitched 8 ½ innings in relief, giving up just two hits in the 3 to 2 victory.

“Killing Minor League Baseball as a Business”

20 Mar

Charles A. Lovett was just 15 years old when he became the sports editor of the Peoria (IL) Herald-Transcript in 1909; by the time he was 20 he had become a sportswriter at The St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

In September of 1918, with minor leagues having shut down all season and the major league season ended on Labor Day, Lovett spoke to “Sinister” Dick Kinsella, the former the former minor league magnate and major league scout, who predicted the dire future of baseball in general and the minor leagues in particular:

“Few followers of major league baseball realize how many are affected by the present condition of the sport—with the game literally shot to pieces.”

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“Sinister Dick” Kinsella

Major league clubs, Kinsella said:

“(R)olled in wealth until the war came in 1914. I was in on the ground floor, and don’t let ‘em tell you different. I was only one of the help but the Cardinals paid me $5000 and expenses to scout in 1912.”

Kinsella said even after the war started in Europe, he had earned $6500 with the Giants in 1915.

“I might name other of the huge profits that were piled up in the majors, but it may suffice to say that even the Cardinals, in 1911, made $130,000 net. (Roger) Bresnahan told Bill Armour and myself—we were both scouting for (owner Helene Hathaway) Britton in 1912—to go out and buy some good players. I bought one, Frank Snyder for $1200 [sic, published reports at the time said the price was $2000] and the club turned down an offer of $15,000 for Frank that winter, or to be exact, before the team went into training in the spring of 1913. Armour recommended one, George (Possum) Whitted…(we) earned our salaries.”

Now, said Kinsella, who had returned to his hometown of Springfield (IL) after the season ended to tend to his paint manufacturing business:

“I’m peddling varnish and I can’t complain, either. Armour’s running a saloon in Kansas City and pretty soon he’ll be doing something other than marketing internal varnish.”

The season after Kinsella signed Snyder, there was still so much money in baseball, he said that:

“Bresnahan quit the Cardinals $27,000 to the good. Mrs. Britton settled with him for $12,500 and Charles Murphy gave him $15,000 to sign with the Cubs. Roger showed me the checks in the Planter’s hotel, St. Louis, then bought a bottle of wine and handed the waiter a $5 tip.”

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Contemporaneous reports indicate Kinsella ‘s recollection was off, and low—Bresnahan was said to have received a $25,000 signing bonus from the Cubs and settled a lawsuit against Britton and the Cardinals for $20,000

Kinsella said, as poor a financial state as the major leagues were in as a result of the war and the ravages of the flu epidemic, the minor leagues were in their death throes:

“Ten years ago, there were a dozen minor league franchises worth from $50,000 to $150,000. Charles Ebbets (Jr., son of the Dodgers owner) made $80,000 net one season with the Newark International League team. This s only a sample of the big money that was in baseball among the smaller teams.”

Kinsella said his experience as a club owner was indicative of the decline and impending doom that faced the minor leagues:

“I used to own the Springfield three I League club and sold out ten years ago when I saw the handwriting and realized that golf, automobiles, and country clubs were killing minor league baseball as a business. The Springfield businessmen who bought the franchise lost $30,000 before they gave up the ghost.”

In addition to the businessmen that lost money after buying his club, Kinsella predicted doom for Bresnahan who used the money he received in 1913 to buy the Toledo Mud Hens in 1914, rather than accept Kinsella’s offer to help him invest it.

“If he had it to do over again, I’ll bet he would stick that money in Liberty Bonds.”

Bresnahan owned the club until 1924 and did lose money on the investment.

“That Night I was as Chesty as a Pouter Pigeon”

23 Aug

Red Donahue spent five seasons, and part of a sixth, during his 13-year major league career as a teammate of Napoleon Lajoie. In 1905, he told The Cleveland News that before they became teammates for the first time in 1898:

“For just a few days once, I imagined I had discovered how to cut down Larry’s batting average.

“I was with the Cardinals and Lajoie was with Philadelphia, when someone told me the big Frenchman could not hit a slow ball. When my turn came to face the Phillies, I handed up a slow teaser to Lajoie and he hit the ball to me for an easy out. Four times I tossed him out at first and each time on a high slow one.

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Donahue

“That night I was as chesty as a pouter pigeon and told the other pitchers to hand slow ones to Larry and he was easy money. Later, I again pitched against the Phillies and with visions of retiring the king I cut a fast wide one over and followed it with a slow ball just like those he had failed to get out of the diamond the last time I faced him.

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Lajoie

“Well, Larry met the ball and it went out of the lot. Next time I served him a high fast one, but the result was the same. He had a three-base hit.  I tried everything I had that day, but no matter where the ball went, high, low, wide or in close. Fast or slow, when Larry got ready to wallop it he did, and I was chalked up with four hits to my discredit.”

Everyone had Donahue’s number in 1896 and ’97–he was 17-59 with a 5.99 ERA—in 1898 he joined Lajoie in Philadelphia.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up Other Things #30

30 Jan

Reddy’s Last Words

When Tom “Reddy” Miller, the catcher for the 1875 St. Louis Brown Stockings, died in May of 1876 (he was, depending on the source, somewhere between 24 and 26 years old at the time of his death), The St. Louis Globe-Democrat noted his handling of pitcher George Bradley:

“The brilliant manner in which the plucky little fellow supported Bradley last season is a matter of record.”

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Bradley

Apparently, according to The Chicago Tribune, catching Bradley was the last thing Miller thought about before his death:

“In his last moments he was delirious, and fancied he was at his place in the ball-field, facing his old pitcher, Bradley. His last words were ‘Two out, Brad—steady, now—he wants a high ball—steady, brad—there, I knew it; that settles it.’”

Altrock on Alexander, 1928

On June 11, 1928, 41-year-old Grover Cleveland Alexander held the Boston Braves to one run on nine hits in an 8 to 1 complete game victory. Nick Altrock, Washington Senators coach, told The Cleveland News:

“Boston got nine hits off Grover Alexander Monday, but got one run, which is why I claim Alex is the world’s greatest pitcher. He is as easy to hit as a punching bag, but you can’t knock him off the rope. Alex pitches like a busted chewing gum slot machine. You keep dropping your nickels in it but no chewing come comes out.”

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Alexander

Alexander was 16-9 with a 3.36 ERA for the pennant winning St. Louis Cardinals.

Baker’s Homerun Ball, 1911

Frank Baker’s game-tying ninth inning home run off Christy Mathewson in game three of the 1911 World Series quickly became legendary, and people began asking about the whereabouts of the ball.

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Baker

The New York Bureau of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch solved “The great mystery of what became of the ball” three days later:

“In the Brush stadium Tuesday, occupying a seat in the eighth row on the projecting line drawn through home and first, sat Mrs. Charles F. Hunt of 537 West 149th Street. Her husband Dr. Hunt, is a physician to the Yankees.”

According to the paper, just as Baker connected:

“(S)omeone got up in his seat just ahead of Mrs. Hunt and she could not follow the course of the ball. The man apparently tried to catch it.

“Then as Mrs. Hunt sat still the ball flattened the left side of her head with a blow on the left temple.”

Despite being dizzy, the paper said Hunt continued watching the game, “pluckily refusing medical attention.”

Hunt also refused to be taken out of the stands, telling her husband:

“I feel so hysterical that if I try to go out, I’m afraid I’ll create a scene.”

After the Athletics won 3 to 2 in 11 innings, Hunt remained in her seat for another hour, and when she finally returned home, the paper said she spent the next 24 hours ill in bed, and “the bump” remained on her head:

“What became of the ball? Oh, yes. Mrs. Hunt didn’t get it. The moment it fell from her head to the floor, a youth grabbed it.”

Gehrig on the Greatest “Team man, 1937

Dan Daniel of The New York World Telegram did his part to add to the Babe Ruth/ Lou Gehrig feud in February of 1937—just days after Ruth questioned Gehrig’s consecutive game streak, calling it “One of the worst mistake a ballplayer could make.”

Daniel visited with Gehrig in his New Rochelle home, and asked readers if their was a “War between” the two.

He said he asked Gehrig to name the all-time greatest player; Gehrig responded

“Honus Wagner the flying Dutchman…I say Wagner because there was a marvelous player who went along doing a grand job without any thought of himself. He was the team man of all time.”

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Gehrig

In addition to his snub of Ruth, Gehrig talked about his “greatest thrill” and the best pitcher he ever faced:

“’The greatest thrill of my baseball career?’ Gehrig furnished the reply without a moment’s hesitation. ‘It came when I hit that home run off Carl Hubbell in the third inning of the fourth game of the World Series last October…You don’t hit against very many pitchers like Hubbell in a lifetime and you don’t hit very many homers off the Hubbells in such situations.’ The Iron Horse continued.

“’But the greatest hurler I have seen was not Carl. My vote goes to Lefty Grove. When that bird was powdering them in at the top of his form, he was about as terrible a proposition for a hitter as you could imagine, even in a wild nightmare.’”