Tag Archives: Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things: Predictions

18 May

Salaries

Ed Barrow, general manager of the New York Yankees, was sure of one thing in 1930, and according to Joe Williams of The New York Telegram, he was so sure of it his declaration “caused the window panes to shiver in the frenzy of a maddened Simoon.”

Joe Williams

Joe Williams

The Yankees had signed Babe Ruth to the largest contract ever, and Williams asked, “whether baseball would ever see another $80,000 hired hand.”

“’No, you will never hear of another ballplayer getting that kind of money,’ said the gentleman who functions as the watchdog of the treasury of the richest ballclub in the game.”

Ed Barrow

Ed Barrow

Ruth being Ruth, he said, would ensure that no player would ever be paid as much:

“’Even if another Ruth came along he wouldn’t be able to command it, because he would be just another Ruth, and that means he would not be a novelty.  He came along at a time when the receptivity of the fans welcomed a change from few-run games to batting orgies.  It was a situation into which he fitted perfectly.’

“’It isn’t possible for a similar situation to occur twice in the course of baseball.  All the great hitters in the future are going to suffer by comparison to Ruth, and this is going to operate against them as drawing cards.  Nobody prefers a copy of the original.’”

Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth

Barrow remained general manager of the Yankees until 1945, and baseball economics combined with the Depression and then a World War allowed his prediction to hold true throughout his career, but just four years later, his former club proved him wrong when Joe DiMaggio became baseball’s first $100,000 player.

Night Games

In August of 1930, Al Munro Elias, of the Elias Baseball Bureau, had some predictions about night baseball that he shared with The Brooklyn Eagle:

“’Night baseball (in the minor leagues) is succeeding now because it is a novelty.  It will prosper as long as the novelty lasts, that is if the novelty doesn’t last too long.  If it does, I fear there won’t be enough players to satisfy the customers’ desires.  Make no mistake about it, the night game is hard on the players.  The pitchers especially are going to feel the difference.  The old throwing arms need the hot sun.  Legs of all players’ need the sun…Night baseball isn’t real baseball.  Real baseball needs the sun and plenty of it.”

Al Munro Elias

Al Munro Elias

His brother, and partner, Walter B. Elias, who had yet to see a night game, had another concern:

“Now it’s a novelty and the fans flock to it…Night games can’t begin until 8 o’clock or so, and now while it is a novelty the men come to it, but wait until you hear the holler that the missus will put up when her husband stays out several nights to go to the ball game.”

Five years later the novelty expanded to the major leagues.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things, Bill Joyce Edition

2 May

Scrappy” Bill Joyce’s managerial career ended badly.  In 1898, the player-manager was fired by New York Giants owner Andrew Freedman and replaced by Cap Anson—only to return as manager for the remainder of the season after Anson failed to turn the seventh place club around.  The turmoil took its toll on Joyce; after four straight .300 plus seasons, he hit just .258 in 1898.

Although just 32, and despite numerous reports of his imminent return to the Giants—or several other teams, including the St. Louis Browns, Washington Senators, and Cleveland Spiders— as a player or manager persisted for the next several years, he never played or managed another major league game.

He returned to his hometown, St. Louis, and opened a bar with Patsy Tebeau, and then later ran his own establishment after the two dissolved their partnership.  And, perhaps because of the way his career ended, and because of his inability to ever again secure an on-field job, he never stopped talking baseball, and became a popular source for sportswriters.

Scrappy Bill Joyce

Scrappy Bill Joyce

The Superstitious Jesse Burkett

Joyce told The Boston Globe in 1905 that “Ball Payers are a superstitious lot,” and that Jesse Burkett was among the most superstitious.

He said Burkett had one day received a tip at the racetrack on a horse that did not come in.

“After the race Jesse made one of his characteristic snaring, sarcastic remarks (to the tipster), who whirled around, and, knowing Jesse’s susceptibility to superstition said: ‘I’ll put the Spanish curse on you for a week.’

“The next day Burkett failed to get a hit and muffed a fly.  The next day he booted a grounder and struck out twice.  That night he sent for (the man).

“The racetrack man came down to the Lindell Hotel (in St. Louis), where Jesse was stopping.”

The man accompanied Burkett, who “was as serious as if he was making his will” to his room:

“(Burkett) unwrapped a package lying on a dresser and taking out a beautiful silk cravat said:

“’George, I’ll give you this ascot–it cost me $2—if you’ take off the Spanish curse.  I can’t make a hit while it is on.’”

The man snapped his fingers and said:

“’It’s off.’

“’Here is the tie,’ said Jess.”

According to Joyce:

“(T)he next day  Jesse made three hits.”

Joyce’s Tavern

In 1910, his tavern was located at 215 North Sixth Street in St. Louis.  But his love of taking baseball nearly cost him the business.

In August of 1910, The St. Louis Republic said:

“’Scrappy’ Bill Joyce, former captain of the New York Giants, and Washington’s old third baseman, forfeited his saloon license today because he kept open until 1 AM, Sunday, July 24, while holding a ‘fanning bee’ with (New York Giants Manager) John McGraw and Sam Crane, a New York sporting writer.”

Joyce testified in front of the city’s excise commission that no drinks were served after midnight, “All he and the two guests did until the policeman arrived was talk baseball.”

Later that month, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said, Crane, the former infielder, then writing for The New York Journal, and McGraw, both came back to St. Louis and met personally with the excise commissioner, Henry S. Caufield—who would later serve as governor of Missouri—and said the incident was “primarily their fault,” while both backing up Joyce’s assertion that no drinks were consumed after midnight.  As a result of their efforts, Joyce was allowed to keep his license.

“Told in a Man’s Way by a lot of Men”

While continuing to operate his tavern in St. Louis, Joyce finally got back into professional baseball.

In 1911, he became owner and manager of the Missoula (Montana) franchise in the newly formed Union Association.  But by August The Salt Lake City Tribune said he had been stripped of the franchise “for nonpayment of salaries.”  He later did  some scouting for the Federal League’s St. Louis Terriers.  While assessing current players, Joyce came to the conclusion shared by many of his 19th Century brethren. He told The St. Louis Globe-Democrat:

Bill Joyce, 1911

Bill Joyce, 1911

“Baseball today is not what it should be.  The players do not try to learn the fine points of the game as in the days of old, but simply try to get by.  They content themselves if they get a couple of hits every afternoon and pay an errorless game.  The first thing they do each morning is to get the papers and look at the hit and error columns.”

It was, of course, nothing like it was during his career—when the game was more scientific:

“When I was playing ball there was not a move made on the field that did not cause everyone on the opposing team to mention something about it.  All were trying to figure why it had been done and to watch and see what the result would be.  That move could never be pulled again without everyone on our bench knowing just what was going to happen.

“I feel sure that the same conditions do not prevail today.  The boys go out to the plate, take a slam at the ball, pray that they’ll get a hit and just et it go at that.  They are not fighting as in the days of old.”

And the way they behaved after a loss:

“Who ever heard of a gang of ballplayers, after losing a game, going into the clubhouse and singing at the top of their voices?  That’s what happens every day after the game at the present time.  Immediately after the last man is out the players make a dash for the clubhouse, the ‘quartet’ hits up a song and the whole squad joins in.

“In my days, the players went into the clubhouse after a losing game with murder in their hearts.  They would have thrown any guy out on his neck if they even suspected him of intentions of singing.  In my days the man who was responsible for having lost a game was told in a man’s way by a lot of men what a rotten ballplayer he really was.  Generally, he was told to go back to carrying the hod or to the police force.  It makes me weep to think of the men of the old days who played the game and the boys of today.  It is positively a shame and they are getting big money for it, too.”

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #19

23 Mar

“Strikes Never got a Pitcher Anything,” 1911

Two days before he collapsed on the field in Chattanooga, Tennessee on April 3, 1911 (and died 11 days later) Addie Joss spoke about pitching with a reporter for the final time.

Joss and the Cleveland Naps were in New Orleans when he told The Associated Press:

“Every time I fool a batter and he misses the ball I feel disappointed.

“Strikes never got a pitcher anything.  Strikeouts don’t win baseball games and increase a man’s salary.  It’s the man who wins games who gets the credit.

Addie Joss

Addie Joss

“What I have said may sound heretical.  But just think it over for a moment, and you will see why a pitcher should want the batter to connect when he is outguessed.

“When the pitcher outguesses the batter the batter is off his balance.  The chances are ten to one he hits at the ball in a half-hearted way.  The chances are twenty to one that if he does connect he will be an easy out.

“Now when that fellow strikes and misses don’t you see that the pitcher must start all over again?  The last strike is just as hard to get as the first one.  When a man misses a ball on which he has been fooled it is just like having an entirely new turn at bat.”

“In the Second Inning, things began to Happen,” 1909

William “Dolly” Gray was a 30-year-old rookie with the Senators in 1909; he came to Washington after pitching seven years for the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League compiling a 117-65 record.  That season he set a record which still stands: the most walks in an inning.

Dolly Gray

Dolly Gray

In 1923, in his syndicated column, Umpire Billy Evans called the game in which it happened, “The weirdest game I have ever seen.”

Evans said of the August 28, 1909, game:

“Gray allowed only one hit—a very questionable one—yet he was beaten 6 to 4. Not an error was made by his supporting cast…I umpired the game, and can recall the happenings of the unusual game as vividly as if they were just being staged.”

[…]

“In the second inning, things began to happen.  Pat Dougherty led off with a high bounder to Bob Unglaub, playing first base for Washington.  Unglaub jumped after it, the ball struck the top of his glove and was deflected into right field.  It was scored as a hit, but I have always thought that Unglaub should have easily handled the ball.

After Dougherty had reached first base, Gray developed a streak of wildness—the most unusual streak I have ever seen.  He walked seven men in succession, forcing in five runs.  The count was three and two on practically every batter.  A couple of outs and another base on balls were responsible for the sixth run of the inning.

Joe Cantillon, managing the Washington club, was short on pitchers at the time and let Gray take his medicine.  In the next inning Gray recovered control and for the rest of the game held the Sox runless and hitless.  Washington staged several rallies and Chicago had a hard time winning 6 to 4…Gray, who really pitched a no-hit game, was beaten…That game stands out in my memory as the most peculiar ball game I ever worked.”

The Box Score

The Box Score

Gray walked 69 batters in the other 217 innings he pitched in 1909.  His hard luck that day in August of 1909 extended for the duration of his short big league career; in three seasons with the Senators he posted a 3.52 ERA and was 15-51.

Meyers’ “Gnarled and Broken” Hand

Like all catchers of his era, John “Chief” Meyers’ hands were, as The New York Tribune described them “gnarled and broken.”

But the paper said he had found a cure after being drafted into the marines in November of 1918:

“(At Paris Island, Meyers) hands toyed with a Springfield, and when he swung the bat in the bi-weekly baseball games on the sand diamond at the great Marine Corps Training Station, where there is no fence, the horsehide pellet generally soared well out into the sea.

Chief Meyers

Chief Meyers

“Meyers says that his marine training has done wonders for him and that it has made him good for many more seasons behind the bat.”

After his discharge, the 38-year-old Meyers played just one more season, with the New Haven Weissmen in the Eastern League, hitting .301.

 

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #18

7 Mar

Tener on Anson

In 1917, John Tener wrote an article in “Baseball Magazine” about Cap Anson, his former manager with the Chicago White Stockings.

John Tener

John Tener

The former pitcher and outfielder, who went on to serve in the United States Congress and as Governor of Pennsylvania, and who in 1917 was president of the National League said:

“Pop Anson was the Greatest Batter who ever lived.  You may look up his record, compare it with others and draw your own conclusions.  When I say this I am well aware of the claims of Ed Delehanty, Hans Wagner and many other great hitters.  I give them all due credit, but in my opinion, Anson was the greatest of them all.

"Cap" Anson

Anson

“He was, first of all, a free hitter. He loved batting…He had that true eye which enabled him to hit the ball squarely on the nose.  His hits were line drives.  They were solid smashes with the full force of his muscular shoulders behind them.”

[…]

“He was an excellent judge of the precise fraction of a second that he needed to swing that heavy bat of his against the best the pitcher could offer.  He didn’t exactly place his hits, but he contrived to drive the ball behind the base runner about where he wanted to drive it…He was big and strong and heavy.  Some hitters of the present day fatten their averages by their nimbleness in reaching first.  Anson drove the ball solidly into the outfield and took his time in going to first.”

Conte on Mendez

Jose Pepe Conte was a well-known sportswriter in Havana, Cuba. Frank Menke of Heart Newspaper’s International News Service (INS) said of him:

Jose Pepe Conte

Jose Pepe Conte

“Pepe is a fellow who knows heaps and heaps about ancient history, European customs, chemistry, baseball and prize fighting.”

The Pittsburgh Press called him:

“(A) Cuban newspaperman, political personage, and unearther of baseball talent.”

In 1912, the INS distributed an article Conte wrote about the pitcher he thought was the best ever:

“American baseball fans can talk all they want about their (Chief) Benders, (Christy) Mathewsons, (Ed) Walshes and (Mordecai) Browns, but down in our country we have a pitcher that none of the best batters in the country can touch. This is the famous Black Tornado, (Jose) Mendez.  Talk about speed.  Why, when he cuts loose at his hardest clip the ball bounces out of the catcher’s mitt Talk about speed, Mendez has to pitch most of the time without curves because we haven’t a catcher who can hold him.  To make things better, Mendez can bat like (Ty) Cobb.  He has won his own games on various occasions with smashes over the fences for home runs.  He weighs about 154 pounds and is a little fellow.”

Jose Mendez

Jose Mendez

[…]

“No one has been found who can hold him when he really extends himself.  He has shown his skill in the past when he has faced the best batters of the Cubs and Detroit teams when those teams were champions, and when the Athletics went there last year.  Mendez has more curves than any pitcher in America, and if some inventive genius could produce a whitening process whereby we could get the fellow into the big leagues he could win a pennant for either tail-end team in either league.”

Sullivan on Comiskey

In his book, “The National Game,” Al Spink said Ted Sullivan was “the best judge of a ball player in America, the man of widest vision in the baseball world, who predicted much for the National game years ago, and whose predictions have all come true.”

Ted Sullivan

Ted Sullivan

Sullivan was a player, manager, executive, and in 1921, he wrote a series of articles for The Washington Times called “The Best of my Sport Reminiscences.”  He said of Charles Comiskey, who he was crediting with “discovering” at St. Mary’s College in Kansas:

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

“As a player, Comiskey was easily the best first baseman of his time…His intuition in defining the thoughts of his opponents and making his play accordingly placed him head and shoulders over any man that played that position before or after.

“Comiskey was with John Ward and King Kelly one of the greatest of base runners.  I do not mean dress parade base running, either, merely to show the crowd he could run.  Comiskey’s base running was done at a place in the game when it meant victory for his side.  He was far from being the machine batter that Anson, Roger Connor and some others were; but as a run-getter, which means the combination of hitting, waiting, bunting and running, he outclassed all others.  Jack Doyle, when in his prime with Baltimore and New York, was the nearest approach to Comiskey in brainwork.  There are no others.”

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #17

10 Feb

Honus Wagner on Integration, 1939

As part of a series of articles on the long overdue need to integrate major league baseball, Wendell Smith of The Pittsburgh Courier interviewed many of baseball’s biggest names.  One of the most vocal proponents was Honus Wagner.

Wagner

Wagner

The then 65-year-old Pittsburgh Pirates coach told Smith:

“Most of the great Negro players I played against have passed on, but I remember many of them well.

Rube Foster was one of the greatest pitchers of all time.  He was the smartest pitcher I have ever seen in all my years of baseball.

“Another great player was John Henry Lloyd.  They called him ‘The Black Wagner’ and I was always anxious to see him play.

“Well, one day I had an opportunity to go see him play.  After I saw him I felt honored that they should name such a great ballplayer after me, honored.”

Rube Foster

Rube Foster

Wagner said the “Homestead Grays had some of the best ballplayers I have ever seen.”

John Henry lloyd

John Henry lloyd

Although he misidentified one of them as “lefty,” Wagner also said of William Oscar Owens, a pitcher and outfielder for the Grays and several other clubs:

“He was a great pitcher and one of the best hitters I have ever seen.”

More recently, Wagner said Oscar CharlestonJasper “Jap” Washington, Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson “could have made the grade easily had they been accepted.”

Wagner concluded:

“Yes, down through the years, I have seen any number of Negro players who should have been in big league baseball.”

 

Uniform Criticism, 1923

The Decatur (IL) Herald found the state of baseball uniforms worthy of an editorial in March of 1923:

“Pictures of baseball players in training reveal that the season of 1923 has brought no marked change in the style of uniform.  It is quite as baggy and unbecoming as ever.

“Baseball players refer to their costumes as ‘monkey suits,’ a term that is supposed to establish some sort of connection with the cut of the affairs worn by the little animals that pick up the organ grinder’s pennies.  However, that may be, no sensible man imagines that his uniform accentuates his good looks.  It is purely a utility costume and smartness has no place in it.”

ruthandgehrig

Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth in their “baggy and unbecoming” 1923 uniforms

 

The paper was most concerned about the uniform’s tendency to make players look foolish and appear to be out of shape:

“A collarless blouse with an awkward length sleeve bags at the belt in a way to emphasize abdominal prominence instead of athletic trimness about the loins.  Loose knickerbockers gathered at the knee resemble the khaki uniforms of the Spanish-American War period in their voluminousness and wrinkles…A cap fitting close about the head and bringing ears into striking relief is the climatic feature of this make-up.

“Underneath this covering of dirty gray or brown there are doubtless lithe limbs and well developed muscles, but the spectator doesn’t see them.  The baseball costume doubtless serves its purpose, it fails lamentably to make the wearer look like an athlete.”

No Women Allowed, 1912

Coming out of the 1912 winter meetings in Chicago, The New York Globe said:

“Nothing doing for suffragettes in the American League!  Not even if they march to the meeting.  They may be making great progress in their cause, but there will not be any Mrs. Brittons in the Ban Johnson organization.”

“Mrs. Britton” was Helene Hathaway Britton, who became owner of the St. Louis Cardinals after the death of her uncle Stanley Robison.

Helene Hathaway Britton with children Marie and Frank

Helene Hathaway Britton with children Marie and Frank

 “A decision was reached that no woman can own a club or even attend an American League meeting.  According to the owners it was a good decision, as they did not want to get into the same mess of trouble which the National League has encountered since one of its clubs fell into the hands of a woman.  Which shows the American League is constantly being benefitted by the experience of the National.”

The “trouble” referred to tension between Britton and Manager Roger Bresnahan, who she had given a five-year contract before the 1912 season.  The two feuded after the team struggled and Britton rejected numerous overtures from Bresnahan to buy the team.  She eventually fired the manager and a very public battle ensued.  Sinister “Dick” Kinsella, who along with Bill Armour comprised the Cardinals’ scouting staff, resigned claiming Bresnahan was “Not treated right.” Armour remained with the club and a settlement was finally reached when Bresnahan was named manager of the Chicago Cubs.

bresnahanandtoy

Bresnahan moved on to the Cubs

One American League owner told The Globe:

“I think it will benefit our league to keep the women out of baseball.  It is almost impossible to do so, but we must keep them out of baseball.  A woman owning a ballclub is about the limit, and the American League made a great move when they decided to bar female magnates.  Votes for the women may be alright, and we do not blame them for battling for them, but it would be a terrible thing to have them in baseball as owners.  It would mean the ruining of the game.”

Grace Comiskey, who became owner of the Chicago White Sox after the death of her husband John Louis Comiskey in 1939–she was forced to go to court to get control of the club from The First National Bank of Chicago; as trustees of the estate, the bank wanted to sell the team because there was no specific instruction in the will that his widow should take control.

She became the American League’s first woman owner.

The game appears not to have been “ruined” during her tenure.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #16

21 Oct

Pirates Slump, 1921

The first place Pittsburgh Pirates were preparing for a doubleheader with the New York Giants on August 24, 1921, when the team took time out to pose for a photo.  The Pittsburgh Leader said:

“Someone happened to mention, as the photographer moved away, that for a whole team to watch the little birdie at once was a jinx.”

The team promptly went out and dropped the doubleheader, then lost three more to the Giants.  The paper said of the five straight losses:

“It doesn’t prove the jinx exists.  But it does prove that to imbue a man or a team of men, with the idea that they can’t win a ballgame generally means that they won’t win.  For their pep and enthusiasm has been stolen.”

The Pirates finished second, four games behind the Giants.

Anson’s All-Time Team, 1918

While visiting St. Paul, Minnesota in the summer of 1918, Cap Anson was asked by a reporter for The Associated Press to name his all-time all-star team.  The reporter said the team was most “notable for including in its makeup not one” current player:

"Cap" Anson

                        “Cap” Anson

“According to Captain Anson, at  least four outfielders of old times are better than (Ty) Cobb or (Tris) Speaker and (John) Clarkson, (Amos) Rusie, and (Jim) McCormick, he thinks were better pitchers than (Grover Cleveland)  Alexander  or (Walter) Johnson.  His line-up would be:

Catchers—William “Buck” Ewing and Mike “King” Kelly

Pitchers—Amos Rusie, John Clarkson, and Jim McCormick

First Base—Captain Anson, himself

Second Base—Fred Pfeffer

Third Base—Ned Williamson

Shortstop—Ross Barnes

Outfielders—Bill Lange, George Gore, Jimmy Ryan and Hugh Duffy

Cy Young’s Five Rules, 1907

Forty-year-old Cy Young won 21 games for the Boston Americans in 1907 and his longevity became a popular topic of newspaper copy until he pitched his final major league game four years later.

Cy Young

                                             Cy Young

During that 1907 season he gave a reporter for The Boston Post his advice for young players:

“(T)o the young player who seeks his advice about getting in condition and being able to stay in the game as long as the veteran himself, Cy lays down a few simple rules, which are as follows:

  1.  Live a temperate life
  2. Don’t abuse yourself if you want to attain success
  3. Don’t try to bait the umpires; abusing the arbitrators does a player no good and harms him in the eyes of the umpires, players and public in general
  4. Play the game for all you are worth at all times
  5. Render faithful service to your employers

Regarding his “rule” about umpires, Young said:

“What’s the use in kicking?  The umpire won’t change his decision, and kicking will give him another chance to get back at you for your silly abuse.”

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #15

17 Jun

Fullerton’s Prediction

Seven years before he watched the events of the 1919 World Series unfold from the press box, Hugh Fullerton warned readers of The Chicago Record-Herald:

“Baseball as a great national sport is in greater peril today than ever before.  Not until the present week did I realize this fact.  The gamblers, bookmakers and handbook men, who ruined horse racing…and who made fighting a noisome scandal, have attached themselves to baseball this year as never before”

Hugh Fullerton

Hugh Fullerton

“The King of them all for Superstitiousness”

In 1916, Napoleon Lajoie, then a member of the Philadelphia Athletics, told The Cleveland Press:

“I have known many a ballplayer who collected hairpins, held his breath if he saw a circus horse, but Bill Armour was the king of them all for superstitiousness.

Bill Armour

Bill Armour

“If you put a ladder in front of the door to his room Bill would have jumped out of the window sooner than have come under that ladder.  I think he would have stayed in there and starved to death rather than let the ‘jinx’ take him overboard because he went under a step-ladder.   Me?  No, I am not superstitious, it’s all nonsense.

“Going to fetch me a black cat?  Don’t bring it up here; we have enough bad luck as it is without any black cat hanging around the clubhouse.”

Napoleon Lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie

Black cat or not, Lajoie was correct about the Athletics “bad luck.”  The team finished in eighth place with a 36-117 record.  The forty-one-year-old Lajoie hit just .246; 92 points below his career average.  He retired at the end of the season.

“Any old Manager can run a Team of real Baseball Players”

Bill Dinneen pitched in the major leagues for 12 seasons, and a month after his playing career ended he began his 28-year tenure as an American League umpire

Bill Dinneen

Bill Dinneen

In 1910, he told Joseph Samuel “Joe” Jackson, sports editor of The Washington Post, how major league clubs should allocate money:

“’If I were a club owner, I would invest $15,000 in a scout and $5,00 in a manger  And old manager can run a team of real baseball players  But the best leader in the world can’t make bad material good  Every major league team needs a thoroughbred judge of raw material more than a teacher of baseball tricks’’’

Jackson said Dinneen’s observation confirmed what he thought while watching the Philadelphia Athletics beat the Chicago Cubs four games to one in that year’s World Series

“His remarks come merely to emphasize what the world’s series showed—that a club that is hitting the ball over the lot, and giving its pitchers support, will set at naught all schemes to beat it by carefully thought out plans that might be applicable if the other fellows would stop making so many base hits”

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #14

29 Apr

Wishful Thinking in Boston–1921

Arthur Duffey was a former track athlete—he finished fourth in 100 yard dash in the 1900 Olympics—turned sports columnist for The Boston Post.

Arthur Duffey

Arthur Duffey

Like many in Boston, he hoped Babe Ruth would be unable again put up the type of numbers he did in 1920—54 home runs, 135 RBI, .376 average– after being sold by the Red Sox to the New York Yankees.

Ruth

Ruth

Duffey had received word in March of 1921 that his hopes would be realized:

“According to all reports from Hot Springs way where Babe Ruth is putting in his preliminary canters for the coming American League race, Babe evidently believes in that old slogan about ‘Living to eat instead of eating to live,’ for the Bambino is pounds overweight and not a few predict that he is going to have his troubles in getting down to anything like his baseball scale of last season…(Ruth) has no doubt been living the life of Reilly since he has proven himself the ‘King of Swat.’ But, is he going to eat himself out of another chance to beat that home run record?”

Ruth managed to “eat himself” into a season that included new career highs for games (152), at-bats (540), runs (177), home runs (59), RBI (168), and batting average (.378).  The Yankees won the American League pennant and the Red Sox finished their second straight fifth-place, Ruth-less season.

Wishful Thinking about honesty, 1901

George Erskine Stackhouse, sports editor of The New York Tribune, assured readers of “Leslie’s Weekly Illustrated” magazine, that there was no corruption in baseball:

“Baseball is honest.  Some peculiar things happen in baseball at times, but I have watched the game very closely for a great many years and believe that it is at least as close to perfect honesty as any professional sport in the world.”

George Erskine Stackhouse

George Erskine Stackhouse

Stackhouse also refused to believe that gamblers had any role in the game:

“Baseball has no side-show features, such as betting and the like, and soon as the average ‘fan’ thought the games dishonest he would lose all interest in the sport.”

But, Stackhouse assured his readers he was not naïve, but everyone involved in baseball had learned their lesson from the scandals of the 19th Century:

“I do not mean to say that there are not players and club owners who would not be tricky if they dared.  They simply don’t dare.

“The lesson dealt out to the early evil-doers who were charged with selling games in the interest of certain gamblers, has had a splendid effect.  The sentence hangs over those men yet, and the disgrace will remain with their children and their children’s children.  I believe that there have been hundreds of fake horse races, prize fights, wrestling matches, and professional running races to one really crooked baseball game.”

Stackhouse died in 1903 at the age of 42, content in the knowledge that baseball remained “close to perfect honesty.”

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things–Sunday Baseball Edition

4 Feb

What type of Sunday Ball? 1863

In 1863, The Brooklyn Eagle—there was no byline on the story, but it was likely written by Henry Chadwick—wanted the police department to make a clarification:

“We see by the police records that a party of forty or fifty persons was arrested for playing ball in Sunday, at the ‘ball alley’ corner of Green Lane and York Street.”

Henry Chadwick

Henry Chadwick

The paper’s complaint was that the notice from the police lacked “any description…of the character of ball playing indulged in,” which left a mistaken impression.

“We beg to state, for the benefit of ignorant outsiders, that any base ball club belonging to the National Association is yet to be disgraced by the stigma of playing base ball on the Sabbath.  Not a club in the community can be charged with such a things and this fact should be understood.

“The game the parties were engaged in who were arrested is that known as ‘house ball,’ where the players knock the ball up against the side of a wall with their hands.  No responsible base ball player engages in a game on Sunday, and we trust the police reporters will in future bear this fact in mind and state the kind of game those arrested were engaged in.”

John L. Sullivan and Sunday Baseball, 1885

Heavyweight Champion John L. Sullivan, arrived in Cleveland, Ohio on Friday, September 11, 1885.  The Cleveland Press said he would be pitching on Sunday for a local semi-pro club, the Forest Cities—the Western League team of the same name had folded in June–in an exhibition game against a team from Sandusky.  The scheduling of a game on Sunday had raised the ire of the local “Law and Order League,” who the paper said “were up in arms,’ and attempted to get the game canceled.

John L. Sullivan

John L. Sullivan

Despite the protests, the game, at Cleveland’s Brooklyn Park, went ahead as scheduled.  Sullivan was paid $900 for his appearance and pitched well—he gave up just five hits in nine innings, a fifth inning error allowed Sandusky to score two runs, and Sullivan and the Forest Cities lost 2 to 0.

The Press said as soon as the game ended Sullivan was placed under arrest by “a meek constable” named Jones, who “feared to arrest (him) during the game.”

The move was roundly criticized as simply a publicity stunt, given that the Law and Order League failed to swear out warrants against the other seventeen players or the game’s organizers.

Bond was posted for Sullivan and the fighter left town that evening.  The following day an attorney pleaded guilty on Sullivan’s behalf that he had “engaged in a game of ball on Sunday.”

The attorney for the “Law and Order League” asked the judge to “uphold the sacred day of rest by assessing a fine of such proportions as would teach the law-breakers and Sabbath-desecrators a wholesome lesson.”

The judge fined Sullivan $1 plus costs “amounting in all to $15.90”

Sunday Baseball in Chicago, 1894

During the spring of 1894 a man named William W. Clark met with Chicago Mayor John Patrick Hopkins.

The Chicago Inter Ocean said Clark was “Secretary of the International Sunday Observance League,” The Chicago Eagle called him as “a blue-nosed individual in clerical garb.”

Chicago Mayor John P. Hopkins

Chicago Mayor John P. Hopkins

Clark presented the mayor with a resolution requesting a ban on Sunday games in Chicago.

The Eagle described the meeting:

“He was accorded a courteous hearing, in the course of which the clerical gentleman expatiated upon the enormity of ‘catching men out,’ of making ‘home runs’ on Sunday.  Such practices he said were wrong and highly immoral.  Mayor Hopkins listened in mild surprise.  When the gentleman got through His Honor announced that he used to play ball on Sunday’s himself, and sometimes attended a game even yet, and saw nothing immoral about it.

“The cleric was unable to specify any particular enormities growing out of the game, but proceeded to hold out threats.  Then Mayor Hopkins announced that he had been elected by the liberal-minded people of Chicago, and as they appeared to be in the majority here, he, Mr. Hopkins, intended to be governed by their wishes.”

The Eagle editorialized that the mayor had “made another of his famous home run strikes on the particular occasion.”  And, “As for the clerical visitor, the poor man struck out.”

The International Sunday Observance League abandoned their effort to make Sunday baseball illegal in Chicago.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #13

22 Dec

Chief Meyers on the Plight of the Native American, 1913

John W. McConaughy, the former sports editor of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was no longer writing about baseball regularly as the New York Giants prepared to face the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1913 World Series.  McConaughy, who was the Washington correspondent for The New York Journal, was enlisted by the paper to write about some of the key figures of the series.

The result was, in the case of John “Chief” Meyers, a profile that went beyond a typical baseball story:

Chief Meyers

Chief Meyers

“Meyers is one of the coolest, shrewdest and quickest thinking catchers that ever came to the big leagues.  He has both gray matter and gumption, and the one is useless without the other in baseball as elsewhere.  He has a fund of general information that runs from national politics to the philosophy of Plato, and a delicately adjusted sense of humor, and these two combine to give him a good perspective of the national game.”

[…]

He is ready to fight any time for justice and fair play and he is so good-natured that he isn’t seriously annoyed when the fans perpetrate that bum war-whoop every time he comes to bat.

[…]

“One day in Cincinnati he asked the writer to go out to the art museum with him.  We came upon a bronze—an Indian turning to shoot an arrow at his pursuers.

“’There’s the idea.’ He said, pointing to the warrior.  ‘They never learned how to fight.  They had nothing but the willingness.  If Tecumseh had been as big a man as Napoleon he would have killed off the medicine men as his first official act, learned the white man’s style of warfare—and there would have been an Indian nation here today.

“’I don’t mean that the white man would not have been here, too.  But with a few leaders—real big men—our fathers would have come to see that the white man’s type of civilization was the highest, just as the (Japanese) have done.  We would have had great states and communities in the union, and we would have been useful, progressive citizens.

“’As it is the Indian is robbed by agents and shifted from reservation to reservation whenever anyone happens to want their land.  Tribe after tribe is scattered, and in another hundred years my people will have gone the way of the Aztecs.’

“Still, there will always probably be a few fans who will think it bright to pull the war-whoop when the Chief comes to bat.”

Tom Lynch Cracks Down, 1910

In June of 1910, The Associated Press said that after a 5 to 4 New York Giants victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, umpires Jim Johnstone and August Moran “stood in front of the press box and made remarks about the baseball writers.”

National League President Thomas Lynch, who had announced his intention to “break this habit of having players call the arbitrators bad names” said in response:

“I also will not stand for umpires talking back to spectators or taking it upon themselves to criticize newspaper men.”

National League President Thomas Lynch

National League President Thomas Lynch

He fined Johnstone and Moran $25 and $15 respectively for the incident.

In that era of newspapermen as frustrated poets, George E. Phair, then of The Milwaukee Sentinel, was one of the most prolific, often including a poem in his articles.  He dedicated the following verse to the National League President:

Old Thomas Lynch, who runs a league,

     Would propagate urbanity;

In fact, Sir Thomas would intrigue

     To curb the umps’ profanity.

He warns his umpires while within

     The baseball scribes vicinity

To speak no words that reek of sin,

     But emulate divinity.

He tells them not to harm the scribes,

     Nor flout at their ability;

Nor pester them with jokes or jibes;

     Nor laugh at their senility.

He plasters fines upon his umps

     For showing their ferocity

And calling scribblers ‘mutts’ and ‘chumps’

      With Teddy-like verbosity.

The veteran Sir Thomas is

     Most generous and affable,

But we’re inclined to think that his

     Solicitude is laughable.

The ump may blunder now and then

     And break into profanity;

The scribbler jabs him with his pen

     And drives him to urbanity.

Comiskey Tells a Tommy McCarthy Story, 1899

George Erskine Stackhouse, the baseball editor of the editor of The New York Tribune, spoke to Charles Comiskey in 1899 and found him in a “somewhat reminiscent mood.”  Comiskey told a story Tommy McCarthy when the two were with the St. Louis Browns:

Tommy McCarthy

Tommy McCarthy

“I heard in Chicago the other day that tom is in Boston, as fat as a Tammany alderman, and making money out of a big bowling alley.  (Hugh) Duffy owned an interest in it, but they say Tom bought him out.  I had Tom with me in St. Louis.  And say, St. Louis is the best town on earth for a winner.  They used to distribute among the players every season watches and rings and studs and pins enough to stock a jewelry store.  There was a diamond medal offered one year for the best base runner on the Browns.

“Tom McCarthy was quite a boy to steal bases, and after the medal was offered he wouldn’t run out his hits.  If he made a two-bagger, he would stop at first, and if he slammed the ball for a triple, he would manage to bring up at second, so as to get a chance to steal a base.  Of course, after a bit, I got on to him, and I had to warn him that if he didn’t stretch those hits I would have to lay him off altogether.  That helped some, but he was always hanging back when he thought he could get away with it.  I remember once that he had a chance to go down to second on a wild throw to first, and what does he do but toss his head and drop off his cap, so that he could stop and come back after it and stick at first.  He won that medal.”