Tag Archives: Tom Dolan

“Fight! Dolan! Sweeney! Cellar!”

13 Sep

Charlie Sweeney was a talented, troubled pitcher. Hall of Famer Tim Keefe called him, “The greatest twirler who ever lived,” and player turned sportswriter, The Boston Globe’s Tim Murnane agreed, and said Sweeney was the only pitcher he ever saw who could “curve and out-ball to a left-handed barrer,.”

Sweeney, after his best days were past, but still just 31, spent nearly three years in prison for killing a man in a San Francisco bar in 1894. It wasn’t the first time the pitcher pulled a gun in a bar.

In 1886, just days after being released by the St. Louis Maroons, the 23-year-old Sweeney appeared to have plenty of prospects. The St. Louis Republic said:

“In the Northwestern League he has been offered the managership of three clubs.”

The paper said he also had offers from at least two major league teams:

“The Cincinnati Club would take him, while Louisville will be glad to get him.”

Sweeney

Sweeney’s release came after what The Sporting News called “a gentle controversy” that turned into a serious altercation between the pitcher and his once close friend, catcher Tom Dolan who was also released:

“On the morning after the Maroons’ late arrival from the East, Mr. Sweeney, on going to his dressing case, found marked on it these words:

“Charles Dead Arm Sweeney.

“Only this and nothing more.

“On the very day following Mr. Sweeney’s find, Mr. Dolan, when about to enter his dressing case, found marked on it these words:

“Thomas Hamfat Dolan.

“Only this and nothing more.

“On the very next day Mr. Dolan collided with Mr. Sweeney at Sportsman’s Park. As they glanced at each other their eyes involuntary [sic] spoke

“Mr. Sweeney said ‘Hamfat.’

“Mr. Dolan muttered ‘Dead arm.’”

The two continued to taunt one another. Dolan reminding Sweeney he gave up seven home runs to the Detroit Wolverines on June 12. Sweeny pointing out that Dolan had seven passed balls in a recent game.

The following day, the two were practicing with their teammates at Union Grounds, when their tempers flared again:

“Mr. Dolan was seen to waltz up to (Sweeney) in a threatening manner.”

Sweeney suggested they go to “the cellar under the clubhouse.”

 While Sweeney and Dolan began to fight—with an audience of teammates Jack Glasscock and Henry Boyle, as well as groundskeeper Bill Richards.

Someone alerted manager Gus Schmelz, yelling:

“Fight! Dolan! Sweeney! Cellar!”

Schmelz arriving in the cellar, immediately, “released the prospective combatants from the St. Louis club and fined them $50 each.”

The two almost came to blows the following day, and:

“(Dolan) has given out from the start that blood will be spilled, so that something desperate may be looked for by the habitues of Union Park.”

The Sporting News noted that “the saddest part” of the fight was that “the writing on their dressing cases was the act of a practical joker,” and neither Sweeney nor Dolan was responsible.

Later in the week, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said, Sweeney found himself in a local tavern

“The hands on the big clock on the wall pointed to the hour of 2 and the bartender thought it was time his congregation dispersed and meandered homeward.”

As the bartender attempted to move the patrons towards the door:

“Charley Sweeney was among the number, and he rather objected to leaving the place at that early hour.”

Some other patrons helped lead him out the door:

“Sweeney was furious.

“He drew the revolver which he has carried about him lately and made an attack on the front door.

“In a moment, pistol shots seemed to be coming from every direction.

 The bullets, however, all cam from Charley’s favorite weapon.”

The paper said those left inside the bar “were paralyzed with fear” as Sweeney fired shits through the door.

“Some of them climbed over the counter and his under the pop bottles and kegs of beer.

“Others jumped behind posts and held their positions with a tenacity that was simply wonderful to behold.

“Others made their escape through the windows in the rear, for the doors were all locked, ahile a few scrambled under the table and did their best to get out of harm’s way.

“Sweeney emptied his revolver and then reloaded and emptied it again.”

After firing fourteen shots, police arrived “and called upon Sweeney to cease firing.”

Sweeney, then:

“(I)n the coolest manner possible, put his revolver in his pocket, laughed, and walked away.”

Sweeney had begun carrying the gun after he was “attacked by hoodlums” earlier in the year and was granted a permit by St. Louis Mayor David Francis:

“Ever since that he has gone around carrying a small arsenal in his rear pocket, and on several occasions has seen fit to flourish his weapon and threaten to let daylight out of those who happened to be in his way.”

Not another word appears to have been printed about the incident. Two days later, The St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported that Sweeney had signed for $1400 with the Syracuse Stars in the International League. He appeared in just two games for the Stars, losing both and posting a 4.85 ERA.

Happy Labor Day—the Oberbeck Case

2 Sep

Henry Oberbeck is barely a footnote in baseball history—he appeared in 66 American Association and Union Association games in 1883 and 1884, hitting just .176—but he scored a rare, early victory for the rights of players.

Henry Oberbeck

Henry Oberbeck

 

In 1883, after appearing in just two games with the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, Oberbeck was released and signed with the Peoria Reds in the Northwestern League.

No records survive for Oberbeck’s time in Peoria, but the outfielder caught the eye of St. Louis Browns owner Chris von der Ahe, and the St. Louis native jumped his contract with Peoria to sign with the Browns on May 24.

Chris von der Ahe

Chris von der Ahe

Oberbeck’s short tenure with St. Louis was unimpressive.  He played four games and was hitless in 14 at-bats.  The Browns released him on June 23.

He found himself out of a job in the American Association and was unable to return to Peoria because he had been blackballed by the Northwestern League.

Oberbeck filed a lawsuit in St. Louis claiming the Browns owed him the entire amount of his contract –$785.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the “case is regarded as a test,” and is “being fought very earnestly.”

The March 1884 trial included testimony from  Overbeck’s teammates, catcher/outfielder Tom Dolan and pitcher George “Jumbo” McGinnis.  Dolan, a .204 lifetime hitter whose .214 average lowest among the Browns 1883 regulars testified that Oberbeck was a poor hitter who “hit wind nearly every time.”  McGinnis also said Overbeck deserved to be released.

Despite the testimony of his teammates, the jury found in favor of Oberbeck and ordered the Browns to pay him $431.12—although most newspapers incorrectly reported the amount paid as $738.

The press assumed the decision would have a lasting impact.  The Post-Dispatch said:

“The case is one of interest to base ball players, inasmuch as it proves that the contracts are binding upon the part of the club as well as the player.”

Oberbeck was signed by the Baltimore Monuments of the Union Association for 1884, and played a total of 60 games for Baltimore and the Kansas City Cowboys that season—he hit .186 as an outfielder/first baseman and was 0-5 in six appearances as a pitcher.

The Browns appealed the case and lost, but by the time the appellate court upheld the original decision in Henry Oberbeck v. Sportsman’s Park and Club Association in April of 1885, Oberbeck’s victory for the rights of baseball players was already largely forgotten.

In 1885, The Post-Dispatch said Oberbeck had been reinstated by the Northwestern League, although there is no record of his ever having returned to the league.   The Youngstown Vindicator said he had signed with that city’s team in the Interstate league for 1885 season.

No statistics survive for Oberbeck after 1884, and his groundbreaking role in baseball’s labor movement is all but forgotten.

He returned to St. Louis after his career and worked for the post office until his death from cancer in 1921.

“Sweeney Emptied his Revolver”

6 Apr

Charlie Sweeney was attempting to resurrect his career in 1886.  The previous season he was 11-21 for the St. Louis Maroons and had alienated most of his teammates when after a fight with outfielder Emmett Seery during a post-season exhibition tour.

Things didn’t start much better in 1886.  Sweeney was beaten up in May by five “thugs,” as he walked home from Union Grounds in St. Louis—some have speculated that Seery was behind the attack.

SweeneyCharlie

Charlie Sweeney

Regardless of who was responsible, the beating led to Sweeney petitioning for, and being granted, permission to carry a gun in St. Louis.

Sweeney was 5-6 with a 4.16 ERA on June 27, when, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he and catcher Tom Dolan attended the St. Louis Browns game, and took part in:

“(A) little difficulty at Sportsman’s Park…in which these two players took an active and disturbing part, for which the Maroons managers thought called for prompt and severe action.”

tomdolan

Tom Dolan

The details are scarce; wire reports simply referenced “ungentlemanly conduct” on the part of the Maroons players, but in any case both were released for their behavior.

Within days of being released and within weeks of being granted permission to carry a gun, it was obvious an armed Sweeney was not a good idea.

In July, The Sporting News reported on an incident following his release:

“The hands of the big clock on the wall pointed to the hour of two, and the bartender thought it was time his congregation should disperse and meander homeward.

“He locked the side door and stood near the front entrance, inviting all the boys that were there to take a walk.

“Charley Sweeney was among the number, and he rather objected to leaving the place at that early hour.

“Some of the boys took hold of him and jerked him out of the door.  He had no sooner reached the sidewalk than the door was slammed upon him.  Sweeney was furious.

“He drew the revolver which he has carried about him lately and made an attack on the front door.

“In a moment pistol shot seemed to be coming from every direction.  The bullets, however, all came from Charley’s favorite weapon.

“The few favored ones who had been left behind on the inside were paralyzed with fear.  Some of them climbed over the counter and hid under the pop bottles and kegs of beer.

“Others jumped behind posts, and held their positions with a tenacity that was simply wonderful t behold.  Others made their escape, through the windows in the rear, for the doors were all locked, while a few scrambled under the table and did their best to get out of harm’s way.

“Sweeney emptied his revolver and then reloaded and emptied it again.  The fourteen shots attracted the attention of the police, who soon surrounded the building and called upon Sweeney to cease firing.

“He in the coolest manner possible, put his revolver in his pocket, laughed and walked away.”

The article went on to say that once granted a gun permit from the city after the beating:

“Ever since that he has gone around carrying a small arsenal in his rear pocket, and on several occasions has seen fit to flourish his weapon and threaten to let daylight out of those who happened to be in his way.”

Sweeney’s major league ended the following season, at age 24.

In 1894, he was convicted of manslaughter after shooting a man in a bar in San Francisco.

He was dead before his 39th birthday.