Tag Archives: Tom Burns

“Clark Griffith nearly Ended the Life of William Phyle”

19 Nov

Bill Phyle was expelled from baseball after failing to back up his allegations that the 1903 Southern Association pennant race was fixed—four years earlier he had an even more eventful season.

Phyle started his career as a pitcher; he was 18-9 in 1897, and 21-21 in 1898 for the St. Paul Saints when he was traded to the Chicago Orphans for Frank Isbell.

Bill Phyle

Bill Phyle

He appeared in three September games, winning two with a 0.78 ERA, and was expected to contribute the following season.

In March of 1899 Phyle failed to report to Hudson Hot Springs, New Mexico to join manager Tom Burns and Orphans for spring training.

The Chicago Tribune said the pitcher had refused to sign his contract:

“It is asserted on good authority that pitcher Phyle has refused so far to sign a Chicago contract owing to the insertion of a temperance clause in the document…Phyle objects strenuously to the temperance contract which has been offered to him.  He has asserted positively within the last three weeks that he would never sign such an agreement.”

The Tribune said the contract clause wasn’t the only issue that might keep Phyle from playing in Chicago in 1899; the pitcher had, inadvertently, alienated Burns and team president James Hart the previous September:

“Phyle was unfortunate in his entry into the major league in incurring the displeasure of the Chicago president and manager.  There is a peculiar story connected with the affair.  Last year some members of the Chicago team believed that someone was carrying reports to Hart and Burns regarding the conversations of the players concerning their opinions of the heads of the club.  One night in Washington some of the men put up a job on the man they suspected in order to find out if their suspicions were correct.    In the presence of the man in question they made unflattering remarks regarding the president and manager of the club, and Phyle, being an innocent party to the plot, listened, approved some of the statements quoted as facts, and also took up the discussion.  It is asserted the conversation was carried to President Hart and Manager Burns.  At any rate, Phyle has been in disfavor since that time.”

The Tribune said Phyle was the only player who was given a contract that included a temperance clause.

With the situation at an impasse, Charlie Comiskey, Phyle’s manager in St. Paul, intervened.  The Chicago Inter Ocean said Comiskey, who called Phyle “one of the most promising youngsters” in baseball, sent a “tersely worded” telegram to the pitcher who “decided to sign the Chicago contract temperance clause and all.”

Phyle reported to Hudson Hot Springs ten pounds overweight on March 21.

Three days later he went duck hunting with teammates Clark Griffith, Bill Lange, Jack Taylor and Jimmy Callahan at A.G. Spalding’s New Mexico ranch.  The Inter Ocean said of the trip:

“A bullet from a Winchester rifle in the hands of Clark Griffith nearly ended the life of William Phyle, the promising young pitcher of the Chicago ball team.”

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

Phyle, unbeknownst to Griffith, remained in the group’s boat while Griffith fired on a flock of ducks flying near the boat:

“Griffith pulled the trigger and a ball tore its way through the stem of the boat…The ball carried in a direct line over the young pitcher’s head, and could not have missed him by more than six inches.”

Phyle was shaken, but unhurt, while “Griffith’s nerves received such a shock that he was weak and almost prostrated for some time after.”

Things didn’t get much better for Phyle after his near-death experience—tomorrow.

“The Deterioration in the Morale of the Players”

10 Jun

The Chicago Tribune had had enough:

“The deterioration in the morale of the players has been followed by deterioration in that of the spectators.  The latter relish the obscene profanity and the slugging exploits of the hulking brutes of the baseball field.”

The Tribune provided an “account of the more disgraceful of the many rows witnessed by spectators of baseball games,” during the just-ended 1899 season:

“May 2—Row at Pittsburgh—St. Louis game.  (Frank) Bowerman was put out of the game.  (Jack) O’Connor was taken off the field by the police, and the crowd chased umpires (Tom) Burns and (William) Smith.

May 19—Umpire Burns put (Giants’ William “Kid”) Gleason out of the game at St. Louis.  Gleason’s protest was so strong Burns forfeited the game to St. Louis.

June 1—Row on the grounds at Washington.

June 16—After a long wrangle and continued rowing on the field at New York.  Umpire Burns forfeited the game to Brooklyn.

June 16—(Fred) Clarke and (Clarence “Cupid”) Childs fight on the field in Louisville.

June 27—Rowdy action of players caused the crowd at the Pittsburgh game to mob umpire (James “Chippy”) McGarr.

July 18—(Tommy) Corcoran slugged (John) McGraw at Baltimore after being first attacked, and his action started a riot.

July 26—(Emerson “Pink”) Hawley, (Fred) Tenney, and (Hugh) Duffy engaged in a game of fisticuffs at Cincinnati.

Aug 16—(Oliver “Patsy”) Tebeau, McGraw and (George “Candy”) LaChance fought at Baltimore

Aug 18—Riot at Baltimore game started by (Tim) Donahue throwing a handful of dirt at (Steve) Brodie’s face.

Sept 1—Childs and Aleck Smith fight on the field in Louisville.

Sept 7—Riots at St. Louis and Brooklyn.

Sept 15—Clarke taken off Philadelphia grounds by police.

Sept 16—Chicago players jerked (Ed) Swartwood around the diamond because he called the game in the eighth inning on account of darkness.

Oct 9—(George “Win”) Mercer assaulted (Al) Mannassau at Washington.

Oct 14—(Jimmy) Scheckard assaulted umpire (John) Hunt, refused to retire, and Hunt forfeited the game to Brooklyn.”

Cupid Childs, repeat offender

Cupid Childs, repeat offender

Al Mannassau, assaulted by Win Mercer in Washington

Al Mannassau, assaulted by Win Mercer in Washington

In addition to the fans, The Tribune blamed team owners:

 “For the multifarious minor acts of blackguardism and rowdyism of which the hired men of the club owners were guilty there is no room.  It is sufficient to say that they, like the graver offenses mentioned above, did not wound the feelings or jar on the nerves of the proprietors of these baseball roughs.  Those proprietors seem to have come to the conclusion that audiences like these ruffianly interludes.”

Like hundreds of predictions before and thousands more to come over the years, The Tribune saw dire consequences for baseball given the current state of the game:

“There was a time when Chicagoans went to see the games of the Chicago club because they had a feeling of proprietorship in that organization.  That day is over.  Men do not go to see games out of local pride, nor do they go to see fine playing.  They go to listen to the language of the slums and to witness the horseplay and brutalities of the players or performers.  When these have lost their attractions professional baseball will disappear. “

Profiles of Members of Spalding’s World Tour, “The Stonewall Infield”

23 Apr

While with the players who took part in the world tour between the 1888 and ’89 seasons, Si Goodfriend observed:

 “My experience in traveling with baseball clubs, the circumstances of which necessarily brings about a close association, has impressed me with the fact that most of them are, as a rule, men of far more intelligence and better manners than they are generally given credit for.”

Among those players were all four members of the Chicago White Stockings “Stonewall Infield:” Adrian Constantine “Cap” Anson, Nathaniel Frederick “Fred” Pfeffer, Edward Nagle “Ned” Williamson, and Thomas Everett “Tom” Burns.

Goodfriend said of Anson:

“Decidedly the most unique and interesting figure of all is that of Captain Anson.  He shows the same peculiarities of temperament off as on the ball field.  He takes advantage of every point he sees and, and holds it…He may not admire a fellow baseball player personally, but this will not induce him to detract from his skill or standing as a player.

“’Old Anse’ has genuine sporting blood in him, and will bet on anything that turns up…There isn’t anything (aboard)the ship he won’t bet on if he has a fair chance of winning.  Anson’s nature is not nearly as harsh as some people imagine.  The rippling water in the moonlight or the graceful soaring of a bird will draw out the greatest sentiments from him.”

Like John Tener, Anson would enter politics, but was less successful.  After being elected Chicago’s city clerk in 1905, he was defeated in the Democratic primary for Cook County (IL) Sheriff in 1907

"Cap" Anson

“Cap” Anson

Of Pfeffer he observed:

“(He) is handsome and has no striking mental characteristics.  He has a long, flowing, brown mustache and soft brown eyes, both of which would readily come under the head of a womanly ‘lovely.’  To show the nature of the man I need only mention a little incident that is causing him much worry at the present time.  His only relative is his mother who lives in Louisville.  Before leaving on the trip he promised to write to her regularly and while on the ocean he promised to cable home from every point possible.  He did not know there was no cable from Honolulu, and now he is worrying himself that his old mother will be anxious about him until he can cable from Auckland.  It will seem an age to him until that city is reached.”

Pfeffer, along with “Monte” Ward was a leader in baseball’s nascent labor movement, Pfeffer was frequently at odds with Anson, and led the exodus of most of the White Stockings’ starters to the Players League.  Despite that, in 1918 Anson called Pfeffer the game’s all-time greatest second baseman after sportswriter Grantland Rice said Eddie Collins of the White Sox was the best ever.

Fred Pfeffer

Fred Pfeffer

Williamson, he said, was “unassuming” and:

“(A) big tender-hearted fellow, whom everybody likes.  He writes in an exceedingly clever and interesting style, and can ‘fake’ a good story like a veteran journalist.”

Ned Williamson with White stockings mascot

Ned Williamson with White stockings mascot

Williamson wrote his own dispatches from the tour which became popular features in Chicago papers.  He injured his knee on the tour and A.G. Spalding refused to help him with medical expenses; the 36-year-old Williamson jumped to the Players League in 1890, but his health began to deteriorate that year while playing for the Chicago Pirates.  He died of tuberculosis in 1894.

Goodfriend on third baseman Burns:

“(He) is a bright, intelligent man, who spends most of his time in reading; works of a standard heavy and weighty character being favorites.  He has the reputation of being a great dresser, and is said to have as many trunks with him as a New York belle would carry to Saratoga.”

Tom Burns

Tom Burns

Nearly a decade after the tour, Burns would be the man who replaced Anson as manager of the Chicago National League ballclub.  Burns took the reins of the “Orphans” in 1898, ending Anson’s 19-year run as manager.

Burns was named manager of the Jersey City Skeeters in the Eastern League in 1902, but died just weeks before the beginning of the season.