Tag Archives: Theodore Roosevelt

“Some Players seem Terribly Stupid”

7 Sep

Henry Beach Needham was a journalist and fiction writer, best known for being a long-time friend, and occasional biographer of President Theodore Roosevelt.  In 1906, he approached Connie Mack with a request to travel with the Philadelphia Athletics and publish a profile of the manager and his players.

Needham

Needham

Initially apprehensive, Mack allowed Needham to accompany the club and two became close friends.

Over the next nine years (until he was killed in a plane crash in France while covering the war) Needham would write many profiles of his friend Mack in pages of “McClure’s Magazine,” and syndicated in many newspapers.

In 1911, just before the start of the World Series, he asked Mack:

“What is the first thing you demand in a youngster?’

“’Speed!’ replied Mack.  ‘Double plays are what lose you your games.  A slow man gets doubled up at first.  The only excuse for having a slow man—unless he’s a first-class pitcher or a splendid catcher—is that he can play the hit-and-run.  If he can’t signal to the base runner and then connect with the ball, he will hit into a double play—and there goes your game.”

Next, Needham asked if “baseball brains” were next in importance:

“’Y-e-s,’ replied Mack, with some hesitation, and then he qualified:

“’Hold on!  There’s something to be said about gray matter.  Some players seem terribly stupid.  Why—you can tell ‘em a thing over and over, and they will go into the game and do exactly opposite to what you have told them.  Then—all of a sudden it will come to them—and then they have it.  Why—I know a great player in our league.  For two or three years he was as stupid a player as you ever saw.  Then—suddenly it all came to him.  Now he won’t make the wrong play twice in a season.’”

Mack

Mack

Needham asked about players staying in condition:

“’I take that for granted,’ said Mack.  “Major league players have got to be in condition—or their clubs can’t win.  I haven’t any rules.  Why—I never have had any.  But my men always take care of themselves.  This may interest you:

“’Before the World Series last year I got my team in a room together.  Why—I told them that, no matter what the results, we didn’t want to have any regrets.  I reminded them how in other years it was said that the losing team hadn’t taken care of themselves.  Then I said that I wanted every man who could honestly promise to say that he wouldn’t take a drink until the series was over.’

“’Now, if there is one of you who can’t do without his drink,’ I said to them, ‘I want him to say so.’ Then I went down the line, and they all promised, every one of the 23.’

“’Why—I’m morally certain that not one of those 23 men touched a drop in those two weeks.  And a few of them are accustomed to have their bottle of beer every day of their lives.’”

The sober Athletics

The sober Athletics

Needham said there was discipline on Mack’s club, but it was “discipline through force of example:”

“Connie Mack does not smoke or drink—merely because he cares for neither—and he is clean as a hound’s tooth.”

Needham, who said “No one can get (Mack) to prophecy” made a prediction about the manager, then 48-years-old:

“Twenty years may elapse before Connie Mack wins his last pennant.”

Mack did win his final  pennant twenty years later in 1931.

The Baseball Bandit

28 Jun
Frank Quigg hit .313 and went 1-0 as a left-handed pitcher for the Topeka Capitals in the Western Association in 1893; no statistics exist for the remainder of his career which included stops in the Southern Association and Texas League.

After he was done playing, Quigg became a pioneering figure in Oklahoma, organizing professional ball in the state with the creation of the Southwestern Association in 1901.  Quigg managed the Oklahoma City team in that league until 1903.  He also spent some time as an umpire in the California League.

An article in The Wichita Eagle in 1901 about the Southwestern Association provides interesting insight into the finances of turn of the century minor league baseball:

  “The salary limit of the league is to $450 per month and room and board for the Players…home teams paying the visiting club $25 per scheduled game, rain or shine.”

“The umpires are to receive $2.50 a game plus transportation.”

Later Quigg became an umpire in several leagues.

Bobby Eager, a former Pacific Coast League catcher, claimed he was the instigator in an incident that led to Quigg quitting his job as an umpire. Writing in The San Jose Evening News, Eager said the incident took place in Los Angeles during a game with the Oakland Oaks:

“Quigg was umpiring and he seemed to have an off day. I kept after him about not calling (strikes) and (Bill) Red Devereaux happened to be at the bat when (Quigg) missed one that was squarely over the middle.”

Eager said the pitch should have been the third strike and “hollered” at the umpire:

Bobby Eager

Bobby Eager

“And Devereaux immediately took up the umpire’s part by saying ‘What’s the idea? Are you going to let Eager run the game and do the umpiring too?  Throw him out of the game and take some of his money, he’s trying to make a bum out of you.’”

Devereaux singled on the next pitch, driving in a run. Eger said he “put up a holler” and was ejected and fined $10.

The next day Eager sought to pay Devereaux back:

“I kept telling Quigg that all that Devereaux did was try and bull the umpires and that he boasted downtown that he got him, meaning Quigg, to chase me out and that he knew that he was out on the third strike.  This statement made Quigg pretty sore and about the fifth inning he called bill out on third on a close decision. Red Dog sure told him a few things and the result was he ran Bill out of the game and fined him $10.”

Devereaux

Devereaux

Devereaux attempted to attack Quigg and police were called to escort him from the field and the fine was raised to $25.

Devereaux, now in the stands, began to heckle Quigg to an extent that the game was again halted and the police officer escorted Devereaux to the clubhouse.  According to Eager, and contemporary accounts, Devereaux was just getting started.

“He was on the roof waving a red flannel shirt and running up and down like a monkey; everybody laughed and enjoyed it more than the bad game.  Somebody went over and slipped Bill a pair of false whiskers and about the eighth inning he came back to the bench and sat there, and when the umpire wasn’t looking he went over to third base and was getting ready to play, when Quigg saw him.  Of course Bill wouldn’t be allowed to play, but it was some minutes before the umpire got wise as to who he was.  I never saw such a demonstration in my life, and people just went wild.”

The day after the incident, The Los Angeles Examiner said Devereaux was suspended “for his abuse of Quigg” and:

“Umpire Quigg resigned his position.”

The paper said his decision was the culmination of the events the previous day, and an incident two weeks earlier when San Francisco Seals pitcher Clarence “Cack” Henley threw a baseball at Quigg during an altercation.

The umpire joined the Texas League the following season.

Throughout his career, Quigg had an excellent reputation in baseball circles. His father was a Civil War veteran, and according to The Associated Press, his brother George served under Theodore Roosevelt with the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War.  Contemporaneous newspaper accounts described the family as being extremely wealthy—already well off; Quigg’s mother married another wealthy man after the death of her first husband.

All of which made what happened next so unusual.

On December 31, 1909, Quigg and four other men attempted to rob the bank and post office at Harrah, Oklahoma.  Newspaper accounts said the robbery was well planned but that one of Quigg’s associates had discussed it with a friend who reported the plan to postal authorities.

John Reeves “Catch-‘em-alive” Abernathy, who was appointed as Oklahoma’s first US Marshall by his good friend, and Quigg’s brother’s former commanding officer, President Theodore Roosevelt, staked out the post office and attempted to the apprehend the robbers as they entered through a back door. Abernathy didn’t “Catch-‘em alive” that day.

abernathy

Abernathy

As the robbers attempted to escape Abernathy and his men shot three members of the gang. Quigg, who was living under the alias Barney and an associate named Frank Carpenter were killed.  One robber was wounded and captured while two escaped.

In the aftermath of Quigg’s death, it was reported by several newspapers, including The Abilene Daily Reflector, his hometown paper, that the gang had recently pulled off successful post office robberies in Trinidad and Golden, Colorado.

Most newspapers continued to paint Quigg as a good man gone wrong for no apparent reason, other than a vague observation about his mother’s remarriage:

“The match did not please the son.”

But one paper, The Arkansas City (KS) Traveler saw it differently:

“(Quigg) worked this town for several hundred dollars a few years ago, got the money, organized a club, went to Enid (OK) and that was the last ever seen of him by his backers.  He was a booze-fighter by the full meaning of the word and if there was any good in him it never came to the surface so the public could catch a glimpse of it.

Whatever the reason for his descent into a life of crime, it appeared Quigg hadn’t completely given up on baseball at the time of his death.  According to The Fort Wayne Sentinel he “Had an application in (to work as) an umpire in the Central League” for the 1910 season.

I published a  shorter version of this post was published in September of 2012.