Tag Archives: Syracuse Stars

“The Story of Slattery is the Story of a Jinx”

22 Aug

Joe Slattery believed he was jinxed by an entire city.

Joseph Patrick Slattery was born on March 15 in 1888 or 1889—his WWI and WWII draft registrations give the 1889 date, early census data and his death certificate say 1888—in St. Louis.

He played with semi-pro teams in Mount Vernon and Kewanee, Illinois before playing his first professional game with the Dallas Giants in the Texas League in 1908.  Described by The St. Louis Globe as an excellent fielding first basemen with a weak bat, he lived up to that label during his first two seasons as a pro—hitting .125 and .199 with Dallas, the Brockton Tigers in the New England League.

In 1910, he joined the Rock Island Islanders in the Three-I League and began to hit.  He was hitting .300 in June when The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said:

Joe Slattery, Rock Island, 1910

Joe Slattery, Rock Island, 1910

“(Slattery) may obtain a trial with the Browns.  Early this week, owner (Robert) Hedges dispatched Harry Howell, one of his scouts, to look over Slattery.  It is said that Howell made a favorable report.

“Hedges is not the only club owner who has been tipped off about Slattery.  The Pittsburgh Club has had a scout looking over Slattery while it is understood that the Brooklyn Club has made an offer for his release.”

Slattery immediately went into a slump and finished the season with a .216 average.  With Rock Island again in 1911, Slattery hit .280 and was sold to the Syracuse Stars in The New York State League (NYSL).  Slattery played for three teams in the NYSL from 1912 to 1915, hitting in the .290s.

Then he had his best season as a professional—one that has been incorrectly credited to another player with the same last name.

Slattery was sold to the Montreal Royals in the International League in 1916.  He hit .298 and led the league’s first basemen with a .991 fielding percentage, but most sources incorrectly credit those statistics to John Thomas “Jack” Slattery—who  actually played his last professional game in 1911.

Near the end of the 1916 season, The Washington Herald reported in October that Slattery’s contract was purchased by the Senators, but later the same day Clark Griffith told The Washington Times that the report was untrue.

Slattery hit .252 in 1917 for Montreal.  Before the 1918 season, he was sold to the Memphis Chickasaws the Southern Association and went to the city that “jinxed” him.

The (Memphis) Commercial-Appeal reported before the season opened that the Chickasaws would “have their new first sacker longer than expected.”  It had been expected that Slattery would be drafted before the season began, but the paper said his draft board in St. Louis now said he wouldn’t be entering the military until later in the summer.

All involved later wished the delay never happened.

Slattery with Memphis, 1918

Slattery with Memphis, 1918

as the season progressed, The Memphis News-Scimitar said:

“Slattery is the greatest fielding first baser in the Southern today and he made stops and throws that would have done credit to Hal Chase…But Joe can’t get started hitting.”

Slattery appeared in 59 games for Memphis.  He hit .197 in 208 at bats and quickly became the most unpopular man in town

As he struggled, the paper said he was “the target for all verbal bricks the lower end of the stands could hurl.”  His “hitting fell off almost to nothing,” but the paper said it was “due for the most part to the panning the bugs handed him.”

Slattery thought he was jinxed and the newspaper agreed:

“The story of Slattery is the story of a jinx that has been camping on the big fellow’s trail…one of the niftiest first basemen in the game; Slattery from the outset has been handicapped by his inability to hit the ball.”

Slattery blamed the city:

“It’s a fact that I am absolutely jinxed in Memphis, I can hit the ball anywhere else in the world but Memphis, it seems.”

After being drafted, Slattery played first base for the Tenth Training Battalion at Camp Pike in Arkansas.  He returned to Memphis in the spring of 1919 and immediately stopped hitting again during exhibition games.

He told The New-Scimitar:

“When I was in camp at Camp Pike I hit for an average well in the .300 class, and I was hitting against good pitching, too.  But in Memphis, I’m helpless with the stick.  I guess I am too anxious to hit…Last season the jinx was astride my neck all year…I couldn’t hit at all like I used to…the jinx came back and got with me, and I have not been able to hit at all.”

Sold to the Tulsa Oilers in the Western League, he hit.263.  In July, Slattery was playing well in Tulsa, and The News-Scimitar reminded fans that his “jinx” was their fault.  The paper said from July 13 through July 17 Slattery was 8 for 23:

“Which goes to show that in the proper environment when he is not being ridden by the bugs as he was here, Slattery is a good hitter.”

He finished his professional career in 1920 where he started it in 1908, with Dallas in the Texas League.

Never to return to Memphis, he headed west.

He played semi-pro ball for the next decade, primarily with Brigham City Peaches in Utah.

Slattery with the Brigham City Peaches, 1922

Slattery with the Brigham City Peaches, 1922

The once “jinxed” Slattery settled in Idaho where he died on June 14, 1970.

“Stories of his Badness are told all over the League”

8 Oct

After “Bad Bill” Eagan finished the 1898 season with the Syracuse Stars –he hit just .227, his lowest recorded minor league season average—then returned to his native Camden, NJ–Eagan started his amateur baseball career in Camden as a pitcher, his catcher was another Camden native, William “Kid” Gleason.

Bad Bill Eagan

Bad Bill Eagan

The Harrisburg Telegraph—Eagan had spent two seasons playing in the Pennsylvania city—told the story:

“Bill Eagan the once great second baseman of the Harrisburg Club, in a fair example of what rum will do when it gets the upper hand of a man.  Eagan would have been one of the leading players of the profession if he had left strong drink alone.  He was a sure fielder, hard batter and quick baserunner and ought to be in his prime as a player by this time, but he has drained too many mugs and now winds up in a police court at his home in Camden, NJ, on a charge of attempted murder.

“Eagan was intoxicated yesterday and displaying a 48-caliber revolver, placed it to his temple and remarked: ‘I am going to kill my wife and blow my brains out.’ He paid Barber Riceman fifty cents which he owed him, and also paid a nearby saloon keeper $1 for drinks that he had bought.  Then he returned to the barber shop, said good-bye to his friends, and exclaiming; “Now I am free from debt and am ready to do the job,’ he started for his home and put the threat into execution.

When he arrived home Eagan fired two shots at—and missed–his wife, and then attempted to shoot one of the responding police officers, but because of “a quick blow from (another police officer’s) club the murderous weapon was knocked from the crazed man’s hand.”

The Chicago Tribune said:

“William Eagan, or, as he is known in the baseball profession, ‘Bad Bill’ Eagan, is a player of national reputation.  He is an ignorant man, and stories of his badness are told all over the league.  He was considered one of the best ball players in the profession.”

The Tribune said about Eagan’s brief stay with Pittsburgh earlier in 1898:

“He failed to behave himself, and drunkenness was the charge which let him out as a Pirate.”

Eagan was held in the Camden jail from October of 1898 until March of 1899; it is unclear what he was formally charged with, and he was never tried.

In spite of his reputation, baseball wasn’t done with “Bad Bill” yet.  Shortly after his release from jail, Syracuse sold Eagan’s contract to the Western League’s Detroit Tigers.  His statistics for the season don’t survive, but Eagan seems to have gone back to his old habits.  After he sat out both games of a double-header with the Kansas City Blues in July, The Kansas City Journal said:

“’Bad Bill’ Eagan acquired a jag yesterday and succeeded in making a holy show of himself.  Such creatures and ‘Bad Bill’ should be out of the game.”

Eagan was also seriously injured the same month when, according to The Associated Press, during a game with the Columbus Buckeyes, while trying to stretch a double into a triple:

“Eagan threw himself, feet foremost toward the bag.  His spike caught in the base sack and his right leg was given a terrible wrench.  ‘Bad Bill’ screamed with pain and in an instant was surrounded by members of both teams… (He) had thrown out his kneecap.  (A doctor) pushed the cap back and then the injured player was carried to the bench.”

Whether the injury contributed or not is unknown, but by August The Sporting Life reported that he had again worn out his welcome:

“Bad Bill” Eagan has worn a Detroit uniform for the last time. Eagan has not behaved at all and (George) Stallings has got through for good and all with him.”

George Stallings

George Stallings

One more team was willing to take a chance on Eagan; he was signed for 1900 by the Youngstown Little Giants in the Interstate League.  After appearing in just 26 games The Sporting Life reported that:

“Eagan has been playing ball in Youngstown, OH, but he said he needed a rest.  He came to Detroit for that purpose Saturday morning, and he paid $5 in the police court this morning for the first installment. “Bad Bill” said he was so glad to get back and he met so many friends that he rather lost track of the proceedings. He had fallen Into a Rip Van Winkle sleep when the policeman picked him up. “Bad Bill” paid his fine and went out for the “rest.” Bill doesn’t think much of Youngstown, he says. “

The Youngstown Vindicator said Eagan was released by the Little Giants before he left for Detroit

In either case, he had finally run out of chances, and never played another professional game.

The Indianapolis News said, in late August of 1900, that Eagan was:

 “(P)icked up on the streets of Detroit) insane.  He was removed to the emergency hospital, where he became violent and it took a number of men to overpower him and take him to the station and confine him in a padded cell.  Drink caused Eagan’s downfall. Sober he was a hard working ambitious ball player; if a drink or two were given to him he became a dangerous maniac.”

He was released after several days, and the the many premature rumors of his death began at that point, while Eagan continued to tend bar in Detroit. In April of 1904 w he became ill and was sent to a tuberculosis sanitarium in Denver.  Ten months later “Bad Bill” was dead at age 35.

Despite having played just six games with Chicago in 1893 Eagan made such an William A. Phelon that more than 20 years later he wrote in “Baseball Magazine:”

 “Although the poor fellow had few chances given him in the big league, I always thought there never yet was a second baseman who mixed and mingled in the furtherance of infield plays like Bad Bill Eagan. Possibly I can best symbolize Eagan’s style of second-basing, for the present generation, by stating that he played second just about as (Fred) Tenney played first. (Eddie) Collins doesn’t go so far from second as Eagan did, nor does he carry out nearly so many plays—but it’s quite likely he could if he had to—if he didn’t have, through the past few years, the marvelous (Jack) Barry cutting in and taking his half of the proceedings.

Eagan, though, was almost uncanny at times. I saw him working with (Cap) Anson on first and (Bill) Dahlen at short. It might be taken for granted that Eagan would have to move round considerably on the side toward first, with the ponderous and fast-aging Anson on station one, but Dahlen was then in the flush of his youth and a moving streak at short—when he wanted to be. Yet I saw Eagan bewildering Dahlen as well as Anson by the phantom-like rapidity of his movements, and the way in which he suddenly appeared at the spot where the play should be kept going, arriving on the ground before Dahlen could even draw back his arm to throw.”

Bad Bill Eagan

6 Oct

William “Bad Bill” Eagan was just 35-years-old when he died from tuberculosis in 1905, but many people probably didn’t believe it when the news was first reported.  The hard-living Eagan’s demise had been predicted and reported several times.  In 1901, the year after his professional career ended, The Fort Wayne Sentinel said:

“’Bad Bill’ Eagan who died two or three times last year, is running a poker room in Detroit.  Eagan dies on the average of three times a year and is about due for the first of this year’s series.  Eagan captained and played first base for Youngstown before his second demise last season.”

Bad Bill

Bad Bill

In 1899 Connie Mack told The Philadelphia North American:

“Eagan would be one of the best second basemen in the business if he would keep in condition.”

Eagan quickly wore out his welcome during all three of his brief stints in the big leagues.  The first, with the St. Louis Browns in the American Association in 1891, ended, according to The Syracuse Standard after an incident with team owner Chris von der Ahe:

“(Eagan) was a jolly fellow and not afraid of discipline.  The Browns got on a train at St. Louis to come East…von der Ahe’s nasal organ was rather large and red for its age and ‘Bad Bill’ determined to have some sport.

“Walking up to his employer, he caught the nose between his fingers, and said: ‘Say, Chris, how much did it cost to color that?’

“The owner of the cerise nose was furious with rage.  He released Eagan at once.  The train was ninety miles east of St. Louis, and at von der Ahe’s order the conductor put the nose twirler off the train.”

Two years later Eagan joined ‘Cap’ Anson’s Chicago Colts.  Hugh Fullerton  told the story of how he wore out his welcome there after just six games:

“Anson was a quick thinker on the ball field, but once he released the best second baseman that ever wore a suit for thinking a little quicker than anybody else on the nine.

“The second baseman in question was “Bad Bill’ Eagan. Everybody who remembers ‘Bad Bill’ will admit his supremacy on the second bag.  When the play we celebrate came up there was a base runner on second.  Chicago was one run to the good, and it was in the last half of the ninth inning.

(Bill) Dahlen was playing third base for Chicago.  The man hit a sharp liner down to second.  ‘Bad Bill’ started for it and at the same instant the man started for third base.

Bill Dahlen

Bill Dahlen

“The liner was a clipper and the ball struck ‘Bad Bill’s’ hands and bounded out.  It struck the ground ten feet away, with ‘Bill’ right after it.  Once he got his hands on it and without stopping to look where he was throwing.  ‘Bill’ let the ball fly to third base.

“Most ball players after fumbling the ball would have tossed it to the pitcher or thrown it home if, after looking around, they saw that the base runner had started to try to score.

“In this case the base runner, after touching third, went on for twenty feet and then stopped for an instant to see what had become of the ball.  He saw it coming straight as a die for third base, and went back there like a flash.  But the ball beat him by ten feet.  Unfortunately for the game, and also for “Bad Bill’ Dahlen had taken it for granted that Eagan would throw the ball to the home plate, and was not looking for it to be thrown to him.  Consequently the ball went by him, going within four inches of his nose, and striking the grand stand far behind.

“The result was that both base runners got safely home before Dahlen recovered himself and the ball, and the game was lost to Chicago.

“Anson was furious and immediately after the game gave ‘Bad Bill’ his release for making that throw.  As a matter of fact, it was the best possible play under the circumstances, and Dahlen, rather than “Bad Bill’ was to blame for it not coming out as planned.  If ‘Dal’ had thought as quickly as ‘Bill’ the game might have been settled right then and there.”

Eagan received one more trial with a major league team in 1898.  He started the season on the bench for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but was given the opportunity to start when regular second baseman Dick Padden left the team over a dispute with Manager Bill Watkins in May.

Eagan hit .328, but committed 10 errors, in 19 games at Pittsburgh.  He was sold to Louisville Colonels on June 5. The Louisville Courier-Journal said:

“He is a clever fielder, a fair batsman, extremely aggressive and absolutely fearless (and will) certainly strengthen the team in one of its weakest spots.”

But Eagan never appeared in a game for Colonels.  The following day The Courier-Journal said the deal was off, and Manager Fred Clarke would only say, via telegram:

“Called deal for Eagan off for good reasons.”

The Colonels passed on Eagan despite being a team badly in need of a regular second baseman—Clarke tried nine different men at there during the season, and his primary second baseman, Heine Smith hit .190 and committed 16 errors in 26 games.

Eagan finished the 1898 season with the Eastern League’s Syracuse Stars, where he had played from 1894 to 1897.  He finished the year of 1898 in jail in his native Camden New Jersey.

That story  Wednesday

“Johnson can Hit the Ball as far as Anybody”

14 Oct

After Hal Chase replaced George Stallings as manager of the New York Highlanders, Otis “Ote” Johnson was given another opportunity to play for the team.

Highlanders’ second baseman Frank LaPorte and third baseman Jimmy Austin were traded to the St. Louis Browns for third baseman Roy Hartzell.  Chase said he’d move shortstop John Knight to second and playing Johnson at shortstop.

The Sporting Life quoted Chase saying he planned to play Johnson at short “for his batting,” but noted that Johnson “only batted .223 in the fast Eastern League last season.”

Otis "Ote" Johnson

Otis “Ote” Johnson

New York scout Arthur Irwin agreed with Chase that the team needed Johnson’s bat in the lineup, and told The New York Globe:

“Johnson can hit the ball as far as anybody, and what is more he can hit often.”

The New York Herald said:

“Johnson is a beautiful fielder as well as a good hitter, and it is Chase’s intention to have him take the shortstop job.”

That’s where Johnson was on Opening Day, a 2 to 1 victory over the defending World Champion Philadelphia Athletics; Johnson batted seventh, went 0 for two with a walk and a sacrifice, and scored a run.

After sweeping Philadelphia in three games, New York split a four game series with the Washington Senators.

The Washington Herald said New York’s new shortstop “sure looked good, he fielded his position in fine shape,” and “keeps the infield alive with his funny remarks.”

A month after the season began The Indianapolis News said Johnson was “called home (to Muncie, Indiana) by the serious illness of his mother.”  Three days later the paper said he returned to New York “his mother’s condition having considerably improved.”  Within a week of his return the New York papers reported that Johnson had filed for divorce from his wife.

Less than two weeks later Johnson lost his starting job; Knight moved to short and Earle Gardner played second base.

Ote Johnson

Ote Johnson 1911

The San Francisco Chronicle said of the former Pacific Coast League star:

“Ote Johnson has been benched for his weak hitting.  He put up a star game in the field…but Ote did not respond with the hitting which featured his work when he was with Portland.”

Three days after he was benched Johnson left the team again to finalize his divorce.  After returning Johnson became New York’s primary utility infielder until he fell out of favor with Hal Chase.  The manager had been criticised as the team slumped for, as The Globe said “utterly lacking in the qualities for successful management.”

By August the team was fourteen games out of first place and The Herald said:

“Hal Chase, who has been very lenient with his players, is drawing the string tighter.”

The paper said Johnson “has been suspended without pay for violating the club’s rule of discipline.”  It was never revealed what rule was violated, but Johnson was suspended for about a week.  Johnson also hurt his throwing arm in August, further limiting his playing time.

Many in the New York press questioned Chase’s ability as a manager; Wilton Simpson Farnsworth of The New York Evening Journal was the exception.  Farnsworth said of Chase, when the team was 13 games back in August:

“Hal Chase, the game’s greatest first baseman, has made good as manager of the new York Yankees…Knockers claim that poor management is keeping the Yanks down, but forget it! A bad break in luck plus innumerable injuries is the cause.”

Hal Chase

Hal Chase

Regardless of the reasons, 1910’s second place team was limping to a sixth place finish. Chase resigned as manager in November.  Johnson hit just .234 and committed 31 errors in just 65 games.  He was released to the Rochester Hustlers in the International league in December.

Johnson spent just one season in Rochester; he hit .268 and got married; after the season his contract was sold to the Binghamton Bingoes in the New York State League (NYSL).  Johnson protested the pay cut his Binghamton contract called for, and initially threatened to jump to the PCL, he eventually signed a contract and became popular with fans.  He hit the Bingoes first home run of the 1913 season and was awarded with a free daily shave from a local barber and fan named Billy McCann.

He played most of the next three seasons in the NYSL—with the exception of 45-games with the St. Paul Apostles in the American Association at the beginning of the 1914 season.

After playing for the Elmira Colonels in 1915 Johnson recommended two players to his friend Walter “Judge” McCredie on the Portland Beavers—his teammate, pitcher Frank Caporal, and Syracuse Stars first baseman Owen Quinn—and it appeared the 31-year-old Johnson might be heading back to Portland where he remained very popular.

On November 9 Johnson went hunting with friend in Binghamton.  The (Portland) Oregonian said:

“Ote Johnson, famous ‘Home Run’ Ote of the Portland Pacific Coast team of 1907, 1908 and 1909, is dead…It seems Johnson, in company with a party of friends, went forth in search of game and while chasing a wounded fox stumbled and fell, both barrels of the shotgun he was carrying discharged into his abdomen.

“To the older generation of Portland fans Johnson will be remembered for his prowess in poling out long bingles.  He was one of the longest hitters that ever wore the livery of a Coast League club.  Some are prone to argue that he eclipsed the performances of (Frank) Ping Bodie and Harry Heilman, who are now the long-swat stars of the circuit.  Johnson also had a peculiar throw from third that will be remembered–He had a perfect underhand throw and was a wonder at handling bunts.”

He was buried in Johnson City, New York–his pallbearers included several players: Mike Roach, Charles Hartman, Mike Konnick, and William Fischer,

“In Baseball there is no such Advantage”

8 Oct

John Henry Mohardt was, with George Gipp, a member of the backfield on Knute Rockne‘s undefeated 1920 Notre Dame football team, and would go on to play for the Chicago Cardinals, Racine Legion and Chicago Bears in the NFL.

He also played baseball in at Notre Dame and was a highly sought after prospect.  Contemporary reports said he received offers from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indiana, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers.  He signed with the Tigers and manager Ty Cobb.

When it was announced that he would open the season as a member of the Tigers Mohardt was asked by reporters which sport was more difficult:

“Baseball, of course.  Football is team play, baseball largely individual effort.

“In football there is time enough to get set after each signal.  The calling of the signal tells you just what you are expected to do to put over the play.  Every player has a chance to firmly concentrate on his task.

“In baseball there is no such advantage.  There is never an opportunity to get set.

“In baseball the great weight is on the individual.  When I go to bat I am up there along.  I cannot depend on anybody but myself for help. “

Johnny Mohardt

Johnny Mohardt

Mohardt had never played football before entering Notre Dame and “Inside a week he was a first-string player,” as a result he said:

“It is easy to make football players, but from what I know of baseball it is necessary to have natural ability and also be able to think quickly.  Developing football players is easy.  If a fellow is physically fit the coach will do the rest.

“I have seen Coach Rockne make stars almost overnight at Notre Dame.  Every season brings forth scores of new stars in the football world.  In baseball I understand a new star a year is the exception.”

Mohardt was not the exception; he was 1 for 1 with a walk and 2 runs scored for the Tigers in five games in April, and after he was released hit .185 in 21 games for the Syracuse Stars in the International League—then returned to football.

Mohardt became a physician, served in the military in World War II and died in 1961.

An excellent biography of Mohardt written by Dan Cichalski appears on Gary Joseph Cieradkowski’s Infinite Baseball Card Set blog.

George Chalmers

5 Aug

George “Dut” Chalmers is one of only seven big league players born in Scotland.  He came to New York City as a young child and, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer “his baseball education was begun” with the Bradhurst Field Club which played their games at 145th and Lenox Avenue.  He also played on amateur teams in Hoboken, New Jersey and Red Hook, Brooklyn.

After attending Manhattan College, Chalmers began his professional career in 1909 with the Scranton Miners in the New York State League, managed by Gus ZeimerThe Sporting Life said:

“In George Chalmers, the giant young Manhattan College grad, Zeimer has landed what looks to be the prize-package pitcher of the league.   His work has been sensational.”

There are no complete statistics for 1909, but the following season the 22-year-old Chalmers was 25-6 for Scranton; finishing second in victories to 23-year-old Syracuse Stars pitcher Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander who was 29-11.

The Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader said Chalmers:

“Looks like one of the very best in the minor leagues, having a major league head and everything in the pitching line, including fine control and a spitball.”

At the end of the 1910 season the Philadelphia Phillies acquired both of the New York League’s star pitchers; Chalmers was purchased, for either $3000 or $4000, depending on the source, and Alexander was obtained through the Rule 5 Draft.

Both rookies made the club after spring training in Birmingham, Alabama.  Six years later The Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger said of Chalmers’ first days with the 1911 Phillies:

“Chalmers came with an elaborate trousseau, together with lots of pinch neckwear and considerable toggery that aroused the brunette population of Birmingham to deep, empurpled envy. “

chalmersasadude

George Chalmers, left, with teammate Alonzo Earl “Crossfire” Moore Displaying the style “that aroused the brunette population of Birmingham to deep, empurpled envy. “
Caption reads “Chalmers as a Dude.”  Photo from Chalmers’ personal scrapbook.

In addition to his fashion sense, Chalmers also impressed the Phillies with his pitching ability.

While Alexander got off to a great start, Chalmers started slow, but after back-to-back victories in July, Phillies manager and catcher Charles “Red” Dooin told The Philadelphia Times:

“That youngster is a great twirler.  You know they told me up in the New York League that Chalmers was a better pitcher than Alexander.

“Of course this is impossible because I think that ‘Alex’ is the greatest pitcher that ever drew breath, but I am going to say there’s not a club in either league which could beat the ball Chalmers has pitched for the last two weeks.

“I think I have another Alexander in Chalmers and if he don’t make good prediction I will say that he lacks the nerve and nothing else.  Chalmers has more stuff than Matty (Christy Mathewson) had.  He needs the experience and knowledge of batsmen, but aside from that he is the best young twirler I have ever seen excepting Alex.”

A syndicated story from The American Press Association said Chalmers had given up other sports for baseball:

“George Chalmers, one of the pitching sensations of the Philadelphia National League team, is a motorcycle rider as well as a box artist.  Before he joined the Phillies Chalmers occasionally picked up a little spare change acting as a pacemaker for Elmer Collins, the bicycle rider.  Chalmers has paced Collins several times in the latter’s races against Bobby Walthour.  Chalmers, however, doesn’t intend riding any more.  He fears a spill that might injure his arm and affect his pitching.

“Chalmers at one time had an ambition to become an automobile race driver.  He gave up this notion when he got his chance to join Philadelphia.  The big right-hand pitcher is not sorry that he sidetracked that ambition, for his pitching now is yielding him a healthy income.”

While he was overshadowed by Alexander, who was 28-13 with a 2.57 ERA, Chalmers had a respectable rookie season posting a 13-10 record with a 3.11 ERA.

In September it was announced that the Phillies would travel to Cuba for a 12-game series with the Almendares and Havana teams in November.  As the October 31 departure date drew near it became clear that, for a variety of reasons, many of the Phillies would not be making the trip.  Most notably Alexander, locked in a contract dispute, and Dooin would remain at home.

Besides Chalmers, the players who made the trip were:

Wallace “Toots” Shultz P

Eddie Stack P

Bill Killefer C

Fred Luderus 1B

Otto Knabe 2B

Hans Lobert 3B/MGR

Jimmy Walsh SS

Sherry Magee OF

Mike Mitchell OF (Borrowed from Cincinnati Reds)

Dick Cotter OF

Chalmers and his Phillies teammates on the beach in Havana, Cuba

Chalmers and his Phillies teammates.  Caption reads “In the surf Havana Cuba”
Photo from Chalmers’ personal scrapbook.

The first game of the series, reduced from 12 to nine games because of the Phillies’ limited roster, took place on November 5.  Chalmers faced Almendares and Cuban legend Jose Mendez; the Phillies lost 3-1.  It is likely Chalmers hurt his arm during the series; he did not start another game, and Schultz picked up the slack, pitching six games, he was credited with the victory in the five games the Phillies won.

Upon returning to Key West the last week of November, Chalmers was briefly detained by authorities. The Philadelphia Times said the ship’s manifest listed Chalmers as American, but:

“On arrival in the states when he had to sign a long paper of identification, he told the officials that he was Scotch and never naturalized…Chalmers was reprimanded and the ship company was fined for carelessness”

Heading into the 1912 season The Philadelphia Times, and the second year pitcher, had high hopes:

“Chalmers is young and has every confidence in himself.  He is big and strong and is a perfect running mate for Alexander the Great.”

But the George Chalmers who returned from Cuba would never be the same pitcher.

More tomorrow.

Special thanks to Karen Weiss, George Chalmers’ great niece, for generously providing copies of photos from Mr. Chalmers’ scrapbook.

Thanks to Mark Fimoff co-chair SABR Pictorial History Committee for identifying Earl Moore in the first picture and correcting my incorrect, original caption placing Chalmers on the right–the information has been corrected in the caption.  October 18, 2013

“It is Not as Though they were Men of High Honor”

1 Apr

As the 1879 season drew to a close, The Chicago Inter Ocean lamented that the fourth place White Stockings, despite “the receipts of the year,” would only “have between $2,000 and $3,000 on the right side of the balance-sheet.”

According to the paper, the Cincinnati Reds would lose at least 8,000; the Boston Red Sox and Troy Trojans were both $4,000 in the red, the Cleveland Blues and Buffalo Bisons lost “a little,” while the National League Champion Providence Grays made “a little.”  The Syracuse Stars were “completely wiped out;” the franchise would be replaced by Worcester in 1880.

What was the reason for the lack of profits?  The Inter Ocean said it was those over paid players,:

“The folly of paying men from $1,000 to $1,800 for six months work.  It is not as though they were men of high order, who had spent large sums of money in training for a high profession…On the contrary, the best of them are nominally farmers or mechanics, who at their legitimate business are worth from $30 to $40 a month, and that is all they worth at baseball.”

Hall of Famer Jim O'Rourke hit .348 in 1879, "worth from $30 to $40 a month."

Hall of Famer Jim O’Rourke hit .348 in 1879, “worth from $30 to $40 a month.”

After all, The Inter Ocean said, “a majority of them are simply ‘hoodlums.’”’

“There is no league player who is a good investment, simply as player at over $2 a day and expenses…For a captain, a man of good executive ability, more might reasonably be paid.  The executive capacity should demand an extra remuneration above the manual labor supplied by the ordinary player.

“Players are now so plenty that there is no need of the usual insane rush for engagements.  This season has shown that cheap men can do no more nor no less than high-priced men—that is, fall all to pieces and lose everything.”

1879 National League Champion Providence Grays

1879 National League Champion Providence Grays

Fall from Grace

24 Oct

Grayson S. “Gracie” Pierce played parts of three seasons in the major leagues and was a National League umpire selected to preside over the final game of the 1886 championship series.  It went downhill from there.

Pierce was born in New York City in 1860.  Nearly every contemporaneous newspaper account referred to him as “Grace,” not “Gracie.”

Grayson Pierce

Pierce hit .186 playing for five different teams in the American Association and National League during his brief big league career; he was only slightly more successful during his single minor league season playing with the Hartford Babies and Binghamton Bingoes in 1885.

During his playing career there are references to Pierce occasionally serving as an umpire in college and professional games, and according to The Cincinnati Commercial he worked as a longshoreman in New Orleans each winter; he became a National League umpire in 1886,

In October of 1886, The Chicago White Stockings of the National League met the St. Louis Browns in the 1886 World Series.  Pierce was selected to serve as umpire in game 5, but according to The St. Louis Globe- Democrat, “(H)e was not on the grounds, as a long search revealed.”

Pierce got his chance the following day—with St. Louis leading the series 3-2, he was again selected to serve as umpire.  It didn’t go well for the White Stockings or Pierce.

Chicago blew a 3-0 lead in the eighth inning and lost the game in the tenth.  Pierce’s performance was universally panned.  The Globe-Democrat said:

 “For Umpire Grace Pierce of the League staff had been selected.  His judgment was weak and his decisions throughout the game gave rather poor satisfaction.”

The Globe-Democrat’s assessment was echoed elsewhere as well.  The Chicago Inter Ocean said that among the crowd:

“There was much loud talking and opinions of Pierce were quite freely expressed.”

Pierce was not a member of the National League staff the following year and instead worked in the International Association.  In September, a variety of charges were made against Pierce by the owner of the Syracuse Stars.  The complaint, filed with the league, said Pierce was drunk at games in Syracuse and Newark, and also claimed as reported by The Rochester Post-Express:

 “(Pierce) had forced Con. Murphy (Cornelius Murphy) to drink against the latter’s will and that he took (Tom) Lynch out of bed at 10 o’clock at night and started out ‘to do the town’  both returning in the morning ‘boiling drunk.’”

Pierce denied the charges saying Murphy concocted the story after Pierce had ejected him from a game and fined him $3 in Newark.  The Post-Express sided with Pierce and said:

“Grace is not a total abstainer, but in his long career on the ball field he has never been charged with drunkenness.  So far as Con. Murphy is concerned it has never been known before that he would have to be forced to take a drink.”

As for the charges regarding the drinking binge with Lynch, Pierce said:

“I was going home I found Lynch drunk in the street, I took him home and put him to bed.”

There is no record of what became of the charges, but Pierce did continue working as an umpire on the East Coast through the 1891 season.

The Sporting Life reported that Pierce did not have a position with a league for the 1892 season.

He disappeared for two years and  was not heard from again until July of 1894 when The New York Times reported:

“(Pierce) formerly a baseball player and umpire, was arraigned before Justice Burke in the Harlem Police Court yesterday morning charged by Barney Brogan a liquor saloon keeper…with stealing $35 from his cash drawer after the saloon was closed.”

Pierce, who The Brooklyn Daily Eagle described as being “in a half-dazed condition” in court,   denied the charges but was unable to post the $1000 bond.  He was sent to Blackwell’s Island (the prison located on what is now Roosevelt Island). He became ill and died at City Hospital on Blackwell’s Island six weeks after his arrest.

City Hospital, Blackwell’s Island