Tag Archives: Tom Lynch

Tom Lynch’s Broom

24 Sep

In 1905 Chicago White Sox outfielder Jimmy “Nixey” Callahan talked about his first season in Chicago in 1897 in an article distributed by “Newspaper Enterprise Association” to several newspapers across the country:

“’Bill’ Lange, who is now a prosperous real estate dealer in Frisco, and former Umpire Tom Lynch, who is a theatrical magnate in New Britain, Conn., were sworn enemies of the diamond.  On the ball field Lynch insisted on being addressed as ‘Mr. Lynch’ and was probably the strictest disciplinarian that ever wore a mask.

“We were playing in Boston with the old Chicago club, under (Cap) Anson, and noticed that the broom used to brush the plate was always kept or thrown over to our side, due to some superstition of other on the part of the Boston players to have it on the visitors’ side.  Lange was leading off about the fifth inning and as he walked to the plate he picked the broom up and threw it over on the Boston side.  (Hugh) Duffy, who was then captain of the Boston nine, threw it back.  One of our players ran from the bench and hurled the broom over to the Boston side.  The large crowd began to see the humor of the situation and began cheering the players as the broom passed back and forth.  Lynch stopped the game and as a truce umpired the rest of the game with the broom in his possession.  The next day the broom was missing and Mr. Lynch carried a small whisk broom in his pocket.”

National League President Thomas Lynch

National League President Thomas Lynch

During the same series, Callahan said:

“Lange’s method of annoying Lynch was artistic.  When at bat or passing Lynch he would say” ‘Don’t you think Boston will win today Mr. Lynch? Or ‘Don’t you think Boston will win the pennant Mr. Lynch? Would you as a disinterested party like to see Boston win, Mr. Lynch?’  Never giving Lynch a chance to fine him by being vulgar or noisy, Lange would not stop walking when addressing him, ever.

“He would have Lynch furious, but as he kept within the bounds Lynch was forced to take his medicine.”

Five years later, after Lynch had been named president of the National League; Lange retold the broom story to a reporter and said:

“After the damage had been done I suggested that we compromise by allowing one half the handle to lie on one side of the plate and the other half on the other.”

Years later, another National League umpire, George Barr, told a reporter for The Associated Press that the umpire’s whisk broom was “The most important thing, he possessed on the field:

“That little whisk-broom which most of the fans and players, too, believe is carried around to keep the plate free from dust is actually the symbol of authority the umpire has over the game.

“So when you are working behind the plate, stride up to the old pan and give her a vigorous dusting, even if the thing’s as clean as a whistle.  That’s to let the fans and players know you’re in charge of the game—that you’re the official representative of the league which, in fact, you are.”

George Barr

George Barr

“Atlanta’s Baseball Bullies”

17 Jun

During the 1885 season, Lewis Henke of the Southern League’s Atlanta Atlantas was killed during a game; the death was attributed to on-field rowdyism by the Southern press who hoped the death of the popular player would help end brawling behavior in the league.

In January of 1886, the Atlantas hired a new manager, William Aloysius “Blondie” “Billy” Purcell.   Purcell had split the 1885 season between the Philadelphia Athletics in the American Association and the Boston Beaneaters in the National League, hitting .279 in 87 games.  The Sporting Life said:

 “Billy will make a good manager, and is capable of securing a team—even at this late date—to win the championship. “

William "Blondie" Purcell

William “Blondie” Purcell

Purcell came to Atlanta with an excellent reputation, The Philadelphia Inquirer described him as being “Of a genial, happy disposition,” who was very popular when playing for the Athletics, and in 1883 and ’84 as a member of the Quakers.

That changed quickly, just two weeks into the season The Macon Telegraph said under the headline “An Alleged Conspiracy against Purcell,” that the new manager had incurred the wrath of his players by “ruling the team with an iron hand.”

After the rough start, the team appears to have turned their wrath towards their opponents and became the most hated team in the league.

Over the course of the next four months, Southern papers chronicled the bad behavior of the Atlanta squad.

It started with a game against the Charleston Seagulls when Purcell was accused of cheating, The Charleston News and Courier said:

“Manager Purcell was playing in the left field and the Charleston team was at the bat.  During the inning one of the Charleston team batted a ball to left field.  It went over the fielder’s head and, after striking the fence, rebounded and then went into the ditch.  The fielder started for it, but after running only a short distance took a ball from his shirt pocket and through it to the diamond.  The remarkable rapidity with which the ball was fielded was loudly applauded at the time…The fielder subsequently went to the ditch, picked up the ball and tossed it in the diamond…The incident was witnessed by several people, and the statement can be substantiated if the proof is demanded.”

Cheating turned to “bullying” as the season progressed.

The Savannah Times dubbed the team “Purcell’s Plug-Uglies,” and said of them after a July game:

“From the start of the game yesterday the Atlantas began their rowdyism, (Tom) Lynch was running to first in the first inning, the ball got there just ahead of him, Lynch deliberately struck (Jim) Field with his fist…from then on the whole team began to kick and try to hack the umpire.  In this Purcell was ably assisted by (John “Monk”) Cline and (John “Cub”) Stricker, two of the rowdiest  ball players that have been seen on our field…The conduct of the Atlanta club was most reprehensible, and has placed them in an exceedingly unenviable light.”

Tom Lynch, one of Atlanta's bullies

Tom Lynch, one of Atlanta’s bullies

Earlier that month after a couple of close wins over the Seagulls, The News and Courier again criticized the Atlantas saying the team “ought to be kicked out of the league,” and said:

“(T)here was an immense crowd present to witness the game, but their afternoon’s pleasure was completely spoiled by the disgusting behavior of the visitors, whose kicking and sharp practices are sufficient to drive any respectable audience from a ball field.”

After another game in Charleston, The News and Courier said Purcell’s team used “blasphemous and obscene language,” and:

“Those who attended the game this afternoon are outspoken in their condemnation of the disgraceful behavior of the Atlanta team, and declare that either they should not be allowed to continue in the league, or that they should be made to behave themselves at least decently in the presence of the communities where they have to play.”

The Macon Telegraph called the team “Atlanta’s Baseball Bullies,” and said after a game in which Purcell was fined $10 “for his ungentlemanly remarks,” that Atlanta played “good ball,” but that it was “marred” by their conduct.  The paper also said:

“The Atlanta team is evidently akin to the bulldozing idea.  The bullies and braggarts who compose the team have evidently been taught that an umpire is a very insignificant personage and to be influenced by blackguardism.”

Similar charges of “rowdyism” and “bullying” were made throughout the season.

The Atlanta Constitution saw nothing wrong with the team and blamed the criticisms from the papers in other Southern Association on “jealousy” over the team’s success.

With Atlanta holding on to a small lead for the league championship, the most serious charges would wait until the final weeks of the season, and include two of Atlanta’s most prominent citizens …tomorrow.

Fall from Grace

24 Oct

Grayson S. “Gracie” Pierce played parts of three seasons in the major leagues and was a National League umpire selected to preside over the final game of the 1886 championship series.  It went downhill from there.

Pierce was born in New York City in 1860.  Nearly every contemporaneous newspaper account referred to him as “Grace,” not “Gracie.”

Grayson Pierce

Pierce hit .186 playing for five different teams in the American Association and National League during his brief big league career; he was only slightly more successful during his single minor league season playing with the Hartford Babies and Binghamton Bingoes in 1885.

During his playing career there are references to Pierce occasionally serving as an umpire in college and professional games, and according to The Cincinnati Commercial he worked as a longshoreman in New Orleans each winter; he became a National League umpire in 1886,

In October of 1886, The Chicago White Stockings of the National League met the St. Louis Browns in the 1886 World Series.  Pierce was selected to serve as umpire in game 5, but according to The St. Louis Globe- Democrat, “(H)e was not on the grounds, as a long search revealed.”

Pierce got his chance the following day—with St. Louis leading the series 3-2, he was again selected to serve as umpire.  It didn’t go well for the White Stockings or Pierce.

Chicago blew a 3-0 lead in the eighth inning and lost the game in the tenth.  Pierce’s performance was universally panned.  The Globe-Democrat said:

 “For Umpire Grace Pierce of the League staff had been selected.  His judgment was weak and his decisions throughout the game gave rather poor satisfaction.”

The Globe-Democrat’s assessment was echoed elsewhere as well.  The Chicago Inter Ocean said that among the crowd:

“There was much loud talking and opinions of Pierce were quite freely expressed.”

Pierce was not a member of the National League staff the following year and instead worked in the International Association.  In September, a variety of charges were made against Pierce by the owner of the Syracuse Stars.  The complaint, filed with the league, said Pierce was drunk at games in Syracuse and Newark, and also claimed as reported by The Rochester Post-Express:

 “(Pierce) had forced Con. Murphy (Cornelius Murphy) to drink against the latter’s will and that he took (Tom) Lynch out of bed at 10 o’clock at night and started out ‘to do the town’  both returning in the morning ‘boiling drunk.’”

Pierce denied the charges saying Murphy concocted the story after Pierce had ejected him from a game and fined him $3 in Newark.  The Post-Express sided with Pierce and said:

“Grace is not a total abstainer, but in his long career on the ball field he has never been charged with drunkenness.  So far as Con. Murphy is concerned it has never been known before that he would have to be forced to take a drink.”

As for the charges regarding the drinking binge with Lynch, Pierce said:

“I was going home I found Lynch drunk in the street, I took him home and put him to bed.”

There is no record of what became of the charges, but Pierce did continue working as an umpire on the East Coast through the 1891 season.

The Sporting Life reported that Pierce did not have a position with a league for the 1892 season.

He disappeared for two years and  was not heard from again until July of 1894 when The New York Times reported:

“(Pierce) formerly a baseball player and umpire, was arraigned before Justice Burke in the Harlem Police Court yesterday morning charged by Barney Brogan a liquor saloon keeper…with stealing $35 from his cash drawer after the saloon was closed.”

Pierce, who The Brooklyn Daily Eagle described as being “in a half-dazed condition” in court,   denied the charges but was unable to post the $1000 bond.  He was sent to Blackwell’s Island (the prison located on what is now Roosevelt Island). He became ill and died at City Hospital on Blackwell’s Island six weeks after his arrest.

City Hospital, Blackwell’s Island