Tag Archives: Tommy Leach

“There is a Heap about Baseball that I do not Know”

4 May

After Ted Sullivan blamed Joe Nealon’s father for his failure to secure the first baseman for the Reds, James C. Nealon was not going to let his accusations stand, and sent a letter in response to Sullivan’s letter to The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“The public has always permitted, and will always permit a man who has lost the object he was seeking to compensate himself for the loss is excusing his failure by some worthy and absurd explanation, or by throwing the responsibility of the failure on someone else.”

Nealon said he was forced to respond because Sullivan “falsely placed myself and my son in an unenviable light.”

Nealon said he only cared about his son going to the club with “the best and most congenial associations,” and initially, many people he trusted told him Cincinnati was the best option.

He said Sullivan was the reason he and his son changed their minds.  Nealon said he checked train schedules and determined that Sullivan—who left Cincinnati on October 28—could have arrived in California no later than November 3, yet he did not hear from the Reds representative until after the contract was signed with Pittsburgh on November 6.

Nealon also said while he received a telegram from August Herrmann, Cincinnati Reds owner, with the offer of “a certain sum more than any other club,” he never shared that information with the Pirates Fred Clarke, and that the combination of being insulted by the Reds making their offer just about money and Sullivan not arriving in time made up his mind, and as a result:

 “I advised my son to sign a contract with any club he desired.”

After Sullivan arrived in San Francisco, Nealon said:

“He admitted to me that it was all his fault, yet he seeks in your paper to advise the public that it was the fault of my son and myself…I would rather (Joe) fail then to commit a dishonorable act, and I do not want the people of Cincinnati to believe his entry into the major league was associated in any manner with unfairness or unfair dealing.  Mr. Sullivan knows it was not.”

Joe Nealon wrote a letter to The Pittsburgh Post, and said he understood that when he joined the team in Hot Springs. Arkansas:

“There is a heap about baseball that I do not know.  I am eager to learn, however, and will gladly go under instructions.”

joenealon2

Joe Nealon

Even after the beginning of the 1906 season, the stories about what influenced Nealon to sign with the Pirates would not go away.  In May is was reported that it was Jake Beckley, former first baseman for the Reds and Pirates who influenced Nealon to accept Clarke’s offer.  Nealon told The Pittsburgh Press that Beckley had nothing to do with his decision, and continued to blame Sullivan who he said did not “keep faith” with him and his father.

Nealon appeared in every game, hit the Pirates first home run of the 1906 season on May 5, tied Harry Steinfeldt for the league lead in RBI, and led all NL first basemen in total chances and putouts.

At the end of the season it was widely reported that Nealon would not return to the Pirates for the 1907 season.  After the team lost five straight games in September and slipped to third place, Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss went on a tear to a wire service reporter—The Philadelphia Inquirer, under the headline “Barney Dreyfuss Lets Himself say Things” said:

“(Dreyfuss said) if his team doesn’t win second place for him he will keep their noses to the grindstone barnstorming for him until their contracts have run out (on October 16)”

Dreyfuss told the reporter:

“One of the things that ails our team is that there are too many capitalists on it.  The boys know that they do not have to play ball for a living, and sometimes that may affect their playing.  There is only one of the old players on the Pittsburgh team who is playing as a means of livelihood—that’s (Tommy) Leach.  The other could give up the game anytime.”

Nealon left the team immediately after the final game in Cincinnati and did not participate in the tour.  The San Francisco Call said he was done:

“Nealon, who became a great favorite in Pittsburgh and all over the league circuit, has had several grievances against Pittsburgh, and it was announced some time ago that the big San Francisco lad had declared himself in no unmeasured terms that he did not have to take the worst of it from anyone connected with the club, nor would he more than one season.”

The Call said Nealon became disenchanted in Pittsburgh when Dreyfuss attempted to trade him and “other Pittsburgh players” to the Brooklyn Superbas for Harry Lumley and Tim Jordan “although Captain Clarke had guaranteed him a full and free tryout for a year.”

Nealon returned to San Francisco to play winter ball, but he failed to make a trip to Stockton for the first game.  The San Jose Evening News said:

“Many San Joseans who took the trip to Stockton…were disappointed in not seeing Joe Nealon…the big first baseman, met with an accident Saturday evening.”

While racing to catch the train to Stockton, Nealon tripped and fell into a stone wall.  He broke two bones in his left hand.”

In December, the Pittsburgh papers reported that Nealon had declared himself “Completely healed,” in a letter to Barney Dreyfuss.

By February The Pittsburgh Press was assuring readers:

“Reports from the West have Joe Nealon in the best condition of his career.  Just keep your eyes on this big fellow this season; he is going to be a winner in every sense of the word.”

Despite the high expectations, Nealon was a disappointment to the pirates when he reported to  West Baden, Indiana in March.  The Press said:

“If the fans at home could see big Joe Nealon now they would not know him.  With his sweater on he looks like a three hundred pounder.”

Nealon actually weighed 216 pounds, roughly 20 pounds heavier than he was in 1906.

Additionally, The Pittsburgh Post said Nealon was experiencing stiffness in his left hand.

The Press announced that Nealon had gotten down to his playing weight and that his had had healed just in time for the opening of the season, but a knee injury sliding into second during the Pirates third game sidelined him for nearly two weeks, and according to The Post included a visit to John “Bonesetter” Reese, the Youngstown, Ohio doctor who treated many major leaguers.

Nealon was hitting just .217 in June when The Washington Post noted that two California Thoroughbreds—Nealon and Joe Nealon—both bred by friends of Nealon’s father, and both stakes race winners in 1907, were having decidedly better years than the first baseman.

Nealon steadily improved his batting average but had already fallen out of favor with fans and in the papers.  Rumors persisted that the Pirates were trying to trade for Fred Tenney of the Boston Doves.  By September, The Press said:

 “There is suspicion among the Pittsburgh players that Tenney may be secured as first baseman…to succeed Joe Nealon whose work this season is said to have been below standard.”

When Harry Swacina was purchased by the Pirates from the Peoria Distillers in the Three-I League that same month, the Pittsburgh correspondent for The Sporting News said:

 “He is an improvement over Joe Nealon in every department of the game.”

The New York Sun summed up the consensus view:

“Joe Nealon came out of California with the reputation of being a better first baseman than Hal Chase was, but in making a big league reputation Chase simply lost his fellow Californian.”

Swacina hit just .200, but got most of the playing time at first base in September, Nealon finished with a .257 average.

joenealon

Nealon

The Press speculated in November about who would play first base for the Pirates in 1908:

“Most of the fans have eliminated Joe Nealon from the competition all together, for it is an open secret that both President (Barney) Dreyfuss and Manager (Fred) Clarke were displeased with the way the young Californian acted this year, and it is presumed that no further time will be wasted with him, but that he will either be traded or released outright.”

In December, Nealon ended any remaining speculation by announcing his retirement—two weeks before his 23rd birthday. The Post said:

“The big Californian has quit the professional diamond for all time and will become a partner in business with his millionaire father…But for the intercession of Fred Clarke, it is said he would have been asked to retire about mid season, alleged infractions of the club’s rules and his general attitude of indifference being criticized by the local management.”

Nealon went to Hawaii in December with a team of West Coast stars—including Bill Lange and Orval Overall— formed by Mique Fisher and told reporters he would play weekends in San Francisco in 1908.

After returning from Hawaii, Nealon made his retirement official in a letter to Dreyfuss.  The Press said:

Joe writes that he is helping his father  who has a contract to erect a large public building in California…he asks, however, that his name be kept on Pittsburgh’s reserve list and wishes his teammates the best of luck.”

Nealon went to work with his father and appeared in 62 games for the Sacramento Senators in the California State League in 1908—hitting .372; as late as July he was hitting .436.  Nearly every Pacific Coast League time tried to sign him that summer, but The Oakland Tribune said:

“(Nealon) declared positively to the writer yesterday that he would not play ball, except as he is doing now, and Joe said there was not enough money in any of the Coast League treasuries to make him change his mind.”

Despite his protestations, nearly every team on the West Coast sought to sign Nealon.  Charlie Graham, Owner of the Sacramento Sacts made an offer that The San Francisco Call said led Nealon to tell a friend he wasn’t sure he could refuse.  He eventually did refuse, and instead signed to play for the Oakland Commuters in the California State League. The Call said he was the highest paid player on the West Coast.

Nealon captained the Oakland club, and hit .274 in 138 games.  How Nealon differed from his teammates and most players was probably best illustrated during a bench clearing brawl between Oakland and the Stockton Millers in June.  The Oakland Tribune said:

“(E)very man on both teams, with the exception of Joe Nealon, was mixed up…Nealon simply walked about the field and sat on the bench while the trouble was going on, and if anyone should ask right quick what player showed the only good judgment on the field the answer would be Joe Nealon.”

Nealon announced his retirement again, a week after his 25th birthday.

Nealon’s father had just helped elect San Francisco’s new mayor, Patrick Henry McCarthy, The Tribune said Nealon was “slated for a fat political job.”

Nealon was appointed deputy in the San Francisco County Clerk’s office in January.

On March 28, The Tribune said:

“(Nealon) is lying on death’s door in his home in San Francisco, suffering from typhoid fever.  Several physicians have been at the bedside of the ill athlete almost constantly for the past few days, and although they hold out but slight hope for his recovery, they state that his splendid physique may enable him to pull through.”

Nealon died five days later.

 

“In Baseball Words, ‘I Wised up’”

17 Jun

Charles “Babe” Adams was on his way to an 18-9 season with a 2.24 ERA (on the heels of 12-3, 1.11) in his second full season in the major leagues.  The 28-year-old was asked by Chicago journalist Joseph B. Bowles to tell readers “How I Win,” for a series of syndicated articles.

Babe Adams

Babe Adams

Adams was initially reluctant:

“I have been asked to tell how I win, and it may sound immodest for a new man to try to tell such things.  You say it is for the benefit of young players, so I’ll tell some of the things I learned after coming to Pittsburgh.  The first thing I found out was that (Fred) Clarke was boss, and that he knew more about the game than I ever thought was in it. After a few bumpings, I learned that (catcher George) Gibson knew a lot more about what to pitch to batters than I did.  I think I began to improve as soon as I found out these things.  The next was that I had to have confidence in the team to make them have confidence in me.  In baseball words, ‘I wised up.’”

George Gibson

George Gibson

Adams’ view of what made a good pitcher was the same in 1910 as it would be nearly a decade later after he had been released by the Pirates and worked his way back to the team and reestablishing himself as an effective pitcher in his late 30s:

“Now a pitcher can have all the speed and curves and control in the world and still not be a good pitcher until he gets wise.  This Pittsburgh crowd plays the game to win, and it is because they work together, hit together, and because each man relies on the others, that they win.  At first, I thought Gibson made some mistakes in telling me what to pitch.  In fact, I was wrong most of the time.  He taught me what to do with a curve ball, and when my control was good enough to pitch where he wanted the ball pitched, things went right.   Sometimes I laughed at myself remembering the mistakes I used to make—some of them I still make…The pitcher must remember that the chances are the batter is as smart and experienced as he is, and keep thinking all the time;  trying to guess what the batter is thinking, and then pitching something else.”

Adams

Adams

Adams continued to credit his teammates for his success:

“It is a big help tp a pitcher to look around in a tight situation and see where Clarke, or (Tommy) Leach, or (Honus) Wagner are playing.  A fellow can learn a lot and get a lot of help by taking his cue from them and pitching the ball where they seem to want it pitched.  It gives a man confidence, too, to know he can make that batter hit the ball, and that back of him are a crowd of men who will come to the rescue and save him when he needs it.

“I think Gibson did more to make me a winner than anyone else.  He is a great catcher, and he rather inspires a pitcher, and makes him do better.”

Adams credited Gibson with his success in the 1909 World Series—when he won three games:

“In the World Series against Detroit, I made a lot of bad breaks in the first game.  Gibson steadied me up and coached me all the way.  He had a theory the Detroit team would not hit low curves , and after we began to study them and see how they hit, we fed them low curves , fast and slow, just inside the outside of the plate, but always low, and we beat them with that kind of pitching.”

Adams also shared a view of strikeouts that would be repeated by Hall of Famer Addie Joss during Joss’ final interview, two days before his death in 1911:

“I found out striking out batters is not the way to win, and that a pitcher must depend rather on making them hit bad balls or balls where the batter does not expect them to be, than in pitching himself out early in a game trying to strike out hitter.”

Addie Joss

Addie Joss

Adams, who won 194 games (losing 140) with a career 2.76 ERA, struck out  just 1036 batters in 2995.1 innings over 19 seasons.

A Goat and a Dog

9 Jul

Edward John “Goat” Anderson played just one season in the major leagues, hitting .205 for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1907.  He also played 10 seasons in the Central, Eastern and Western Leagues.

Described as eccentric, he made an impression on The Fort Wayne Sentinel in 1903, his first professional season with the South Bend Greens:

“’Goat’ Anderson who made it a rule during the games here to leave his post and come into the infield to argue every point raised by the umpire’s decisions, has stamped himself as the prize rowdy of the association.”

The Pittsburgh Leader said Pirate outfielder Tommy Leach had recommended the team sign Anderson, and told a reporter in the spring of 1907 that Anderson made the team because he was willing to stand up to Manager Fred Clarke while training in Hot Springs, Arkansas:

“(Clarke) had told Anderson to bunt at the signal from a man on first…The ball was pitched five feet outside, and of course, the catcher flagged the man going to second.  Anderson made no move to bunt or even to strike at the ball.  Clarke started to call him.  ‘Shut up,’ you don’t know all there is in the books,’ Anderson replied.  The answer made Clarke gasp…’All right, son,’ grinned Clarke.  ‘I guess you haven’t got stage fright when you can give it to your manager that way.’”

Edward John “Goat” Anderson

Edward John “Goat” Anderson

 

His excellent fielding, .343 on base percentage and 27 stolen bases with the Pirates impressed the local press, if not the fans.  George Moreland of The Pittsburgh Press said:

“Some fans are of the opinion that “Goat” Anderson, the hustling little right fielder of the Pittsburgh team, is not much of a general use to the Pirates, and that a good move would be made to get another man for the job.  These same fans are the ones who believe that a ballplayer is not worth his salt unless he is a slugger of the Wagnerian stripe…Manager Fred Clarke knows how to win games, and he also knows where to place a player in the batting order to get the most out of him.  That is the reason that the ‘Goat’ has been put at the top of the list to lead off.  It is not that Anderson makes a large number of hits.  Even when he does hit, he has difficulty in getting the ball out of the diamond.  But, somehow or other he manages to get to first base just about as often as any of them and when he does get there he is not slow about getting around the circuit.”

The Leader was even more enthusiastic about the new outfielder:

“The way little Goat Anderson has been hitting the ball and running bases insures him a permanent berth in the outfield.  Anderson has proved one of the finds of the season.  If there ever was another Wee Willie Keeler it is Anderson.  He is a ‘drop hitter’ of the Keeler style, and can run bases and bunt with the star of the New York Highlanders.  As a matter of fact, Anderson is of more value to the team than Keeler, because the latter’s star seems to be sinking.”

Despite the praise, Anderson was sold to the Rochester Bronchos of the Eastern League in January of 1908.

While with Rochester, Anderson attempted to get a patent on a sliding pad he invented; there is no record of a patent being awarded.  He also suggested a novel idea for improving his batting average.

The Lexington Herald said Anderson, who trained in Kentucky with the Bronchos before the 1909 season made this recommendation:

“Cut down the size of the home plate and I’ll hit .500 as long as the season lasts.  Where the front of the home plate is seventeen inches wide make it 10 or 12.  Then the batter will be able to get an even break with the pitcher, who now has everything in his favor.  With a home base half its present size a pitcher would need perfect control to get the ball over.  All this business of cutting across the inside and outside would be a thing of the past.  There wouldn’t be enough of the plate to give the pitcher the advantage of feeding outside low ones that can only be hit into someone’s hands…With a home base ten inches wide the ball would have to look pretty good right from the start, and if it didn’t a batter could easily pass it up.  There would be more bases on balls at the start, and that would mean a base on balls or a hit, or a hard liner that would bring a fine fielding play.  A smaller plate seems to me to be the thing.”

The small plate was the wish of a man who hit .222, .201 and .138 from 1908-1910 in Rochester.

Goat Anderson saved his greatest moment for his final season in professional baseball.  As the manager and leftfielder for the Terre Haute Terriers (or Terre-iers) in the Central League, he filed one of the most unusual game protests in history.

Goat Anderson (2), with the Terre Haute Terriers.

Goat Anderson (2), with the Terre Haute Terriers.

The Terriers were leading the Fort Wayne Champs 6 to 0 in the bottom of the seventh inning during the first game of a doubleheader.  Fort Wayne had a runner on first base with no outs with catcher Harry Martin at the plate.  The Fort Wayne Daily News picks up the story:

“Martin poked a drive into left field.  The ball rolled almost to the club house with ‘Goat’ Anderson in full cry after it.  Then came the cause for the protest in the person of Don.”

“Don” was a Great Dane who belonged to a Fort Wayne man named Ed Longfield.

“Don can’t bite, and wouldn’t if he could, but Anderson didn’t for sure know that, so ‘Goat’ hesitated a second in chasing the ball and Martin got a triple, Ted Anderson scoring. “

Fort Wayne went on to score six runs in the inning to tie the game and scored a run in the 10th to win 7 to 6.

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette said:

“Toothless Don, Ed Longfield’s dog, is supposed to be harmless.  Goat Anderson, Terre Haute manager and left fielder evidently doesn’t think so and because dog Don jumped at him during the seventh inning romp in the first game yesterday Goat will file a protest with President (Louis) Heilbroner, requesting the game be played over.”

Heilbroner ruled against Anderson’s protest saying the play did not have a sufficient impact on the outcome of the game, but he did order that Don would no longer be allowed on the field during games.

Terre Haute finished fifth in the six-team league with 60-79 record.  Anderson was rumored to be considering offers from Federal League teams for 1914, but never signed with a team and his career was over.

He returned to his home in South Bend, Indiana.  He died of stomach cancer 10-years later at age 43.

“A Baseball with a Mystery Attached to it”

13 Jun

The Chicago Tribune’s Hugh Fullerton claimed that somewhere at Chicago’s West Side Grounds, home of the Cubs, “if it has not decayed, there is a baseball with a mystery attached to it.”

Hugh Fullerton

Hugh Fullerton

The incident took place on May 11, 1899 “in the middle of a hot game between Louisville (Colonels) and Chicago…this ball disappeared—and as far as anyone knows never yet has been found.”

Fullerton said:

“The score was 4 to 4 in the seventh inning, with Chicago at bat, when Arthur Nichols, the little catcher, came up with one man out. He whanged into the ball and drove it safe to right.  Charlie Dexter threw to second and Nichols slid safe just as the ball arrived.  Tommy Leach was covering second base, and as Nichols slid he lost sight of the ball.  He said it struck his forearm and fell to the ground, and when he started to pick it up it wasn’t there.  He thought it was under Nichols and waited until the runner arose. The ball was not there.

“Nichols waited and held the base, fearing the ball was hidden and he would be tagged out. (Claude) Ritchey and Leach were busy hunting for it.  Everybody joined in.  Still Nichols feared a trick and stuck to the bag.  After five minutes umpire (William) Smith, who was working on the bases, called the Louisville players down, and after accusing them of hiding the ball threw a new one into play.  Chicago kicked and Nichols was ordered to run home.  He ran, but Smith sent him back to second and ordered play begun with a new ball.”

Art Nichols

Art Nichols

Pitcher Jack Taylor singled to right, and Nichols was thrown out at home plate by Dexter.  Louisville went on to win the game 5-4 in ten innings.

Fullerton said:

“Leach, Nichols and Ritchey, the only men near the ball, vowed they never saw it.  What really became of it no one seems to know.”

The Box Score

The Box Score

Zimmer Rules

20 Dec

After Charles “Chief” Zimmer’s single, difficult season managing the Philadelphia Phillies he briefly became a National League umpire.

Reports said the adjustment from player and manager to umpire were difficult at first.  According to a brief story that appeared in several newspapers on the eve of Opening Day:

“Chief Zimmer umpired the Pittsburgh-Little Rock game last week, but he could not resist coaching the players, for he forgot himself once in the third inning and yelled ‘Look out!’ to (Tommy) Leach when Little Rock was trying to catch him off first.”

But by May he seemed to have eased into his new position, telling reporters:

“I hesitated about taking up the work, knowing that the life of an umpire is supposed to be filled with anything but joy.  However, I can honestly say that I am more than pleased with the experience thus far.  I have had no trouble at all, and players and spectators have accorded me the best treatment.  I don’t think I’d give up my present work to go back to catching.”

In September The Pittsburgh Press said there was “No doubt (Zimmer) will be reappointed,” as a National League umpire in 1905, but by January it was announced that he had not been retained.

Zimmer entertained offers to play for the Toledo Mud Hens of the American Association and the Rochester Bronchos of the Eastern League, but instead took a position as an Eastern League umpire.

He returned as a player/manager the following season with the Little Rock Travelers in the Southern Association.

Through it all Zimmer was one of baseball’s earliest and best self-promoters.  In addition to endorsing Zimmer’s Baseball Game and his cigars, produced in what The Sporting Life said was “an extensive cigar factory in Cleveland.”  Zimmer always talked to reporters and always gave them something to write about, including his ideas for rule changes.

Zimmer's Baseball Game

Zimmer’s Baseball Game

In 1905 The Pittsburgh Press said “’Chief’ Zimmer has a scheme which he thinks would increase batting without abolishing the foul strike rule.” (The “scheme” was not Zimmer’s idea; it had been advocated by some for more than two decades, including “Cap” Anson and Zimmer’s former boss, Cleveland part owner Davis Hawley).  The plan would:

“Increase the territory of the fielders without increasing the length of the base lines…new foul lines (would be) drawn from the home plate to the fences.  At the point where they would pass first and third bases the lines would be six feet distant from the bases, gradually increasing the distance from the present foul lines as they neared the fences.”

Later he can out in favor of abolishing the foul strike rule when the issue was briefly discussed in the aftermath of the relatively low-scoring 1905 World Series.

In 1909 Zimmer suggested another rule; this one would essentially eliminate intentional walks by allowing any man on base to advance one base after a walk.  Zimmer said:

“It’s not right for a pitcher to take away Lajoie’s chance of hitting by walking him when there are men on bases.  I saw Larry passed four times in two games last fall.  He was paid to hit with the men on bases…Pitchers would have to put the ball over and the good batters would get a chance to do what they are paid for.”

Luckily like most of the other odd rule changes suggested during baseball’s first several decades, Zimmer’s “schemes” received little traction as both would have radically altered the game.  But Zimmer’s rules did succeed in accomplishing what they were most likely intended to do: they kept Zimmer’s name in the paper long after his career was over.

A final post on Zimmer and, perhaps, his greatest contribution tomorrow.