Tag Archives: Ted Breitenstein

“The Montgomery Team Threw to us Three Games by Arrangement”

12 Nov

The Southern Association kicked off their 1903 season assuming things couldn’t help but go better than the previous year.  The actions of Memphis Egyptians owner/manager Charlie Frank—who continued to put players in the Memphis line up who had been blacklisted by the league—had thrown the season into chaos.  The situation became so contentious that the headline in The Atlanta Constitution said after the final day of the season:

  To The Relief of All the Season is Now Over

A post season agreement restored the league—and made Frank even a greater power in the league.

As part of the settlement Frank received an estimated $5000 which he immediately put towards building a contender for 1903.

Frank built a good team and continued to improve it; as the team battled for the pennant in the final month the roster included veterans Perry Werden, Joe Delehanty, and Charles “Dusty” Miller.

In July he paid a reported $2500 to the Milwaukee Brewers in the American Association for outfielder Sam Dungan, pitcher Ray “Dad” Hale and third baseman Bill Phyle; Frank named Phyle team captain.

Bill Phyle

Bill Phyle

Frank’s team finished strong and edged out the second place Little Rock Travelers on the final day of the season; Memphis beat the Atlanta Crackers 9 to 5 in front of 7500 fans—the then largest ever crowd at Atlanta’s Red Elm Park.

The final standings

The final standings

The following week Little Rock defeated Memphis 3 games to 2 in a best of five series; the Southern Association season appeared to have come to peaceful close on September 28, 1903.

That changed two days later.

Newspapers across the South reported on serious charges that were being made in Memphis.  The Associated Press said:

“According to statements made by William Phyle, former National League player and this year a captain of the pennant-winning Memphis team…the Memphis club won first honors by inducing players on the opposing team to ‘throw’ the final (series).”

Phyle told reporters the scheme began earlier in September:

“The Montgomery team (Black Sox) threw to us three games by arrangement, but Little Rock kept on winning and kept it close on out heals.  I knew that Birmingham (Barons) threw to Little Rock too.  Then the deciding and final game of the season between Memphis and Atlanta arrived, and we had to win the last two games to keep the lead.  Two of the Atlanta pitchers were given $25 each to allow Memphis to win…and another player was also bought.  We won one game by (George) Winters misjudging a fly that allowed (Ted) Breitenstein a three-bagger and the deciding run.”

Winters error came in the second to last game; he was absent from the final game of the season.

Phyle later told an Atlanta reporter that the pitchers who were paid off were Frank “Zeke” Wilson and John Ely.  Charlie Frank, who had just announced he was leaving Memphis to take control of the New Orleans Pelicans, denied the charges and claimed Phyle was simply angry over a “dispute involving money.”

Zeke Wilson

Zeke Wilson

Phyle also said the five-game post season series was “prearranged, so that the deciding game was played in Memphis before a Sunday crowd.”

League President William Kavanaugh scheduled a meeting in Memphis for October 17 to investigate the charges, and Phyle went to West Baden, Indiana.

Phyle demanded travel expenses to return to Memphis for the meeting, he initially claimed that the money the league wired came too late. Then Kavanaugh ordered him, by telegram, to “catch the first train for Memphis,” Phyle refused, now claiming he was ill.

The meeting was held without Phyle.  Zeke Wilson testified that he had received $50 from Charlie Frank, but that it was given to him after the season in order to secure his release from Atlanta.  He said he intended to sign with Frank in New Orleans (he ended up signing with Montgomery in 1905, but joined Frank in New Orleans in 1905).

As for Winters, who made the error that allowed Memphis to win the second to last game and was absent for the final game, The Sporting Life said that charge was “very easily explained.” It was claimed he failed to appear in the final game because of a dispute with Atlanta management over transportation money.

Managers Lew Whistler of Montgomery and Michael “Duke” Finn of Little Rock denied that either club was involved in “anything crooked.”  John Ely did not appear but sent a letter denying all charges.

Without Phyle in attendance to provide his evidence the league “exonerated all clubs and players mentioned in his charges,” and suspended Phyle indefinitely.

Next Phyle was ordered to St. Louis to defend his charges before the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues.  He again failed to appear.

On October 25 Bill Phyle was expelled indefinitely from professional baseball.

The following week he appealed the decision; claiming his illness was the only reason he failed to appear and that if allowed “he will appear and substantiate the charges which he has made.”

He was never given another opportunity to present his case.  His appeal was denied in December.

Tomorrow: More on Bill Phyle.

The 1903 Memphis Egyptians--

The 1903 Memphis Egyptians–Bill Phyle is number 11, Joe Delehanty 2, Perry Werden 4, “Dusty” Miller 12, Ted Breitenstein 13, Charlie Frank, bottom left with bow tie

Defending their own Honor

12 Aug

In 1909 the Atlanta Crackers won their second Southern Association championships in three seasons.  Big things were expected for 1910; the team’s two 20-game-winning pitchers Tom Fisher and Harold Johns were returning.

The team the Southern press called “the hitless wonders,” which hit .222 while winning the championship added two new bats, outfielder Arista DeHaven, .336 with the Terre Haute Hottentots in the Central League and Charlie Seitz, .326 with the Norfolk Tars in the Virginia League.

But it took very little for near panic to take hold in Atlanta.

Only eight games into the season the Crackers were 3-5, tied for sixth place.  The Birmingham Age-Herald was ready to pronounce the defending champions finished, and said “there was dissention and dissatisfaction in the ranks.”   The article said that manager Adolph Otto “Dutch” Jordan had already lost control of his team.

The 1910 Atlanta Crackers:  Standing, from Left to right: Arista DeHaven, Charlie Seitz, Paul Sentell, Brown Rogers, Hyder Barr, Roy Moran, and Ed Hohnhorst,  Seated from left: Scott Walker, Hank Griffin, Syd Smith, Otto Jordan, Bick Bayless, Erskine Mayer, Harry Matthews, Harold Johns and Tom Fisher.

The 1910 Atlanta Crackers: Standing, from Left to right: Arista DeHaven, Charlie Seitz, Paul Sentell, Brown Rogers, Hyder Barr, Roy Moran, and Ed Hohnhorst, Seated from left: Scott Walker, Hank Griffin, Syd Smith, Dutch Jordan, Dick Bayless, Erskine Mayer, Harry Matthews, Harold Johns and Tom Fisher.

It wasn’t enough for the team to simply deny the charges; in an unprecedented move they went right to the fans to assure them they were trying to win and happy to be members of the Crackers.

On May 1, The Atlanta Constitution ran a letter “gotten up without solicitation by the boys and the autographs of each and every man is attached hereto:”

A Card to the Faithful Fans of Atlanta:

We the undersigned players of the 1910 ballclub, appreciating to the full the kind of loyal support always accorded us by the good citizens of Atlanta, desire hereby to register an emphatic protest against a statement recently made in a Birmingham paper to the effect that there was dissention among us, and that this dissention, so it was alleged, was the cause of our defeats on the last road trip.

Without stopping to discuss the real reasons which gave us more defeats than victories, we wish to state that it gives us much satisfaction to put our friends on notice that there is not one word of truth in this malicious slander, and further, that we know of no reason why there should be any dissention in our club…It should be further interesting to state, as we do, that the very best of feeling prevails among us all, and there is not one of us who is not doing his very utmost to land another pennant for Atlanta.  We simply ask our friends to continue to put their faith in us, and in return, we desire to give them the assurance that, whether we win another pennant, or not, we are firmly determined to play the best and sincerest ball of our careers—at least so far as honest and persevering effort can aid in bringing about so happy a result.  We confidently hope to amply show both friend and foe, long before the summer of 1910 has passed into baseball history, just how basely we have been misrepresented by this idle and empty charge.

The signatures of the 1910 atlanta Crackers that appeared with their open letter to the fans.

The signatures of the 1910 Atlanta Crackers that appeared with their open letter to the fans.

After the slow start, and their pledge to “play the best and sincerest ball” of their careers,  Atlanta played well the remainder of the season, finishing with a 75-63 record, but the New Orleans Pelicans, behind “Shoeless Joe’ Jackson’s league leading .354 average, and the pitching of 41-year-old Ted Breitenstein (19-9, 1.53 ERA), and 31-year-old Otto Hess (25-9), went wire-to-wire, winning the pennant with a record of 87-53.

Atlanta would not win another pennant until 1913.