Tag Archives: Tommy Tucker

“The Charming and Fascinating Pig Ward”

14 May

It was as a “coacher” that Piggy Ward—who appeared in 221 games over parts of six seasons with five National League teams between 1883 and 1894—was best known

That reputation began in the minor leagues. In 1889, when Ward was with the Hamilton Hams in the International League, The Detroit Free Press described him:

“A squatty, thickset man, with a bull neck, loaferish appearance, and voice a combination of the bellowing of a bull and braying of a donkey, attempted to make himself conspicuous in yesterday’s game and succeeded, to the intense disgust of the 1200 people present. Whenever the Hamiltons went to bat this unmitigated nuisance placed himself near third base and bellowed, roared, and ranted till everybody in the park was seized with a burning desire to rush upon and club him into silence.”

The paper called him “The champion lunatic of the noisy coaching clan,” but softened somewhat in their assessment of Ward later when it appeared he would not be returning to the International League:

“There is burning curiosity in this vicinity to whether the Hamilton management intends to sign that meadowlark of the ball field, the charming and fascinating Pig Ward. The echoes of his weird voice still reverberate around Recreation Park.”

piggy1904

The press, for the most part, did not approve of his technique. The Buffalo Express said:

“Ward’s coaching is too coarse altogether and should be stopped. The umpire’s voice is drowned in his babble.”

When he played for the New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern Association in 1893, The Birmingham Times noted that he was the first player of the season to be fined for his “loaferish behavior,” while coaching, the paper also said Ward “has entirely too good an opinion of his own merits and too much contempt for the lesser deficiencies of his brother players.”

Ward’s coaching received greater attention when he joined the Washington Senators in 1894.

The Washington Star said during one game in July, “Ward’s lamentations were loud, continuous, and contentious—so much so that (umpire Bob) Emslie warned Capt. (Bill) Joyce that ‘Piggy’ would be sent to the bench if he didn’t keep quiet.”

O. P. Caylor of The New York Herald, in noting that “noisy coaching” had become more widespread that year, referred to the, “(Tommy) Tucker—(Dad) Clarke—‘Piggy’ Ward method of making noise by howling and shrieking from the coaching lines, in order to ‘rattle’ the opposing pitcher.”

Caylor did not approve, and said the practice because “in part, the science of the game is obscured, owing to the frantic attempts of the players to confuse one another.”

Cap Anson agreed, telling Caylor:

“It isn’t respectable ball playing and neither will I adopt that method or let any of my players use it.”

Ward’s “coaching” caused Anson’s Colts a loss on July 8. The Chicago Inter Ocean was not amused:

“The trick which ‘Pig’ Ward resorted to yesterday in the seventh inning no doubt won the game for Washington, but if (manager Gus) Schmelz were not impervious to all decency and self-respect he would release the man on the ground of dirty ball playing. (Ed) Cartwright had hit a high fly to infield, for which (Charlie) Irwin ran. It was a hard sprint, but the shortstop got well under it, when Ward, imitating the voice of Anson, called out ‘(Bill) Dahlen!’ Irwin, who had to keep his eyes up in the air, of course dropped the ball. Cartwright and (Win) Mercer subsequently scored. The game finished 9 to 8, so that these two runs did the work.”

The paper complained that “under the rules there was nothing Umpire (Jack) McQuaid to do except to the fine the fellow, but even this that functionary refused to do. He should have been fined the limit and ordered off the diamond.”

That same season, his coaching, and the extra effort he added to it, drew the ire of The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“When a rotten ball player wants to keep his job, he resorts to dirty tricks to conch his position with his manager. Piggy Ward belongs to this class, and his latest is to paw first with his big feet around first base so as to blind the first baseman and prevent him from seeing thrown or batted balls.”

As Ward’s coaching antics became more commented upon and the nickname “Piggy” became more frequently used for him, The Brooklyn Citizen speculated it was “probably to distinguish him from Brooklyn’s gentlemanly and able Captain,” John Montgomery Ward.

Ward also engaged with fans form the “coacher’s box.” When he returned to Cincinnati as a member of the Senators, The Enquirer related a verbal sparring match Ward engaged in with a fan during a game:

“Piggy Ward is a good coacher. He is on the line nearly all the time, and he has been the target of a good many taunts and unkind remarks from the stand in the two games the last two days. He doesn’t seem to mind it a bit but goes on giving his directions and trying to rattle the opposing team as though everything that came to ears was complimentary.

“Yesterday, a waiter in a downtown restaurant who was with a party of fellow waiters, yelled at Ward:

‘”Who told you that you could play ball? You ought to be behind a plow.’

“’Is that so?’ said Piggy. ‘What are you doing for a living now? The same thing, I suppose. Turning cakes in a fifteen-cent restaurant?’

“Whether it was a chance thrust or not it went home, and for a few moments the waiters and those n the vicinity made matters unpleasant for the fresh young man who endeavored to kid the ballplayer.

Despite having his best major league season at the plate in 1894—hitting .303 in 98 games with the Washington Senators—Ward, who also committed 52 errors at four positions, was often belittled in the press. Sporting Life said:

“Piggy Ward of the Washingtons appears to like the bench better than the field. He was ordered there during the season oftener than any other player in the League.”

Sporting Life also called him “A wretchedly bad second baseman.”

The Star related a conversation between him and his manager:

“’Are you a ballplayer?’ said Schmelz to Piggy Ward. ‘Well, the newspapers say I’m not,’ responded the ever-ready Piggy.”

Ward fractured his thumb on August 14, The Washington Post said the injury occurred while he was “trying to tag a man” at second base.  The injury kept him out of the lineup for several days.

He was released by Washington, ending his big-league career, but not his reputation as a “coacher,” or his story.

Shortly after being let go by Washington, Ward became more of a local hero in his hometown of Altoona, Pennsylvania. A fire broke out in the shop of a black barber named J. H. Crocker. The Altoona Tribune said, after several people, tried but failed to get through the dense smoke:

“Frank Ward then made another attempt to get in and succeeded in catching hold of the arm of the man and dragging him out.”

While the man later died, Ward’s heroics were reported in major newspapers in the East.

More Ward tomorrow.

“’Amos, old Boy, don’t Forget the left foot Racket.’

12 Dec

Long after “Dasher” Troy’s last professional game in 1888, he remained a good source of quotes for sportswriters; at the Polo Grounds, or after 1900, at his Manhattan tavern.

Dasher Troy

Dasher Troy

When he wrote a series of columns for “Baseball Magazine” in 1915 the magazine said about him:

“There was a day when John (Dasher) Troy was one of the bright lights of the diamond.  Advancing age has long since driven him from his favorite haunts. But, though, as he admits, he has “had his day and that day is a long time past,” still he has ‘seen more baseball games than any other player in the country,’ and remained throughout a close student and observer of the game.”

And, humility was not his strong suit.

Four years before he was given credit for fixing Hughie Jennings broken nose, Troy took credit for another player’s success.

After Amos Rusie’s great 1894 season—36-13, 2.78 ERA–Troy told The New York Sun:

“Very few people know just what made the big pitcher so effective last season, but can explain it… (Rusie) had a wrinkle last season that was of my own invention…I had noticed that every League batsman, barring one or two like (Ed) Delehanty(Dan) Brouthers, and a few more, stepped back from the plate whenever Amos pitched a fast ball.  So I went to the big fellow one day and said:

“’Amos, when you see a batter’s left foot—providing he is a right-handed hitter—move back a trifle, just drive that fast straight ball or your outshoot, over the outside corner of the plate, and you’ll find how easy it is to fool these ducks.  Just try it and see if I ain’t right.’

Amos Rusie

Amos Rusie

“Well, Amos did just as I told him the next game he pitched, and he was laughing in his sleeve.  The minute he saw a batter’s left foot move back, he grinned all over.  Then he let ‘er go.  The ball whistled like a small cyclone up to and over the outside corner of the plate, and the batter made such a wild stab at it that the crowd roared.  But nobody knew what the wrinkle was.

“By and by, when I saw that Amos had mastered the trick to perfection, I thought it was time to gamble a little on it.  So I just took a seat back of the home plate among a lot of know-alls and watched the batter’s feet closely.  Whenever I saw a left foot move back I just took out my coin and yelled:

“’Three to one this duck doesn’t make a hit!’

“There were lots of fellows around me who would take up the short end, and as a result I had a good thing on hand right along.  But the cinch came when the Bostons came over here on August 31 to play off a tie game with the New Yorks.  There were nearly 20,000 people on the Polo Grounds, and Amos was slated to pitch.  He was as fit as a fiddle, and just before the battle began I leaned over the grandstand and whispered to him:

“’Amos, old boy, don’t forget the left foot racket.’

“He said, ‘All right,’ and then he began his work.  Every one of the Bostons stepped back from the plate—even (Hugh) Duffy, (Tommy) McCarthy and (Tommy) Tucker.  Amos just grinned, and sent that ball over the corner until the champions were blinded.   Laid three to one against each Boston batter and during the entire game the champs made but five scattered singles.”

The Box Score

The Box Score

Twenty years later, in one of the columns he wrote for “Baseball Magazine,” Troy again took credit for Rusie’s performance in the Boston game, but embellished the details further:

“There were a lot of my friends there that day trying to show me, so they said how much I knew about the game. So I thought I would take a look at my old friend, Amos Rusie, who was pitching for the Giants.  He never had more speed, and his inshoot was working fine on the inside corner of the plate… I sent one of my workmen down to Amos on the players’ bench with a note.   In this note I told him not to pitch his inshoot, that nearly every one of the Boston Club was pulling his left foot back from the plate, and that the batter could not hit a ball out of the diamond if he would put them low and over the plate.

“Hugh Duffy was the first man up for the next inning, and he hit a slow grounder to the first baseman; the second batter hitting to the second baseman, and the third to the third baseman. When Amos was walking to the bench he looked up toward the bar on the grandstand, which was behind the catcher at the back of the stand, and he had a big broad smile on his face. Any player who pulled his left foot back, or left-hander who pulled his right foot back, never hit Amos very hard after that.”

There’s no record of Rusie having credited Troy as the reason for his greatest season.

Troy remained a popular figure in New York baseball circles, and a popular story teller, until his death in 1938.

 

“First thing I know they had the Cushions Populous”

15 Aug

Nearly two decades after he claimed it happened, Clark Griffith told a reporter from The Sporting News a story about getting the final out, and humiliating a friend in the process:

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

“It has been my luck to see a large number of peeved and angry people in this old game of baseball, particularly gentlemen against whom I have been lucky enough to do some successful pitching.

“I still think, however, that the maddest man I ever did behold was that grand old Monolith of the Boston team—Mr. Thomas Tucker.  The Occasion on which I beheld the fury of this famous warrior is still green in my memory, and can never forsake me.

“Old Tommy Tucker was pretty nearly on his last legs so far as big league baseball was concerned, and hits to him were more precious than rubies and diamonds when we bumped together one summer afternoon.  It was a big game, a most important game, and I really had to win it.  I love Tom Tucker very much, but I loved my salary more.

Tommy Tucker

Tommy Tucker

“The battle was a hot one, running along on pretty even terms till near the close, when we managed to get a couple on the bases when good old Uncle (Cap) Anson did the rest with one of those murderous  hits that they don’t make now, the old man not being there to soak them.  That Boston bunch was never whipped till the last man was counted out, and they went after me strong in the last death rally.  First thing I know they had the cushions populous, two down and old Tom Tucker standing grimly at the plate.  I worked him into biting at two wide ones, then fed him two more which he refused to reach after.  It was coming down to cases and no mistake.

“Just at this juncture I happened to remember a trick of indoor baseball—the enormous upshot which is put on an indoor ball by swinging it underhand, with the knuckles uppermost and the ball rolling off the palm.  It causes a huge upshot ball, but it is not practicable for outdoor ball because, at the greater pitching distance, the ball would lose all its speed before it reached the platter.

“I decided to throw the ball just once, as a desperate experiment, and I threw it.  The globule sauntered along, way low, below Tom’s knee line, and he stood scoffing at it.  Then, just as the ball came parallel with him it leaped up and whirled over the plate, while the umpire yelled ‘strike three.’

“Old Tom Tucker laid down his bat and started toward me, with evidence of much excitement on his face, but I was already on my way, and was going fast.  That night he came to the hotel looking for me, and publicly announced that he intended to slay me on sight, but I was not in, and he never got his hands upon me.”

The pitch used to strike out Tucker was not the only one Griffith said originated with him.  In addition to his claim to have invented the screw ball, in 1899 The Chicago Daily News said Griffith claimed to have perfected a new type of curve which “is said to be an amplification of his celebrated slow ball, with which he has in times past puzzled so many batsman.”

The “celebrated slow ball” was taught to Griffith by Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourne—as a result The Chicago Tribune’s Hugh Fullerton said Griffith held “practically a monopoly on the slow ball and (used) it with wonderful effect.”

Griffith said he developed this new curve when shooting pool:

“You simply English the ball with your hand instead of the cue that is the only difference.  In other words, before the ball leaves my hand it is set to spinning in a direction towards my body.  All the time it is going through the air towards the batter it has this rotary motion.”

The Daily News described the pitch:

“It is believed that the air in the case of a curve of this kind acts like the cushion of a billiard table and accentuates the tendency to return, which underlies the forward motion of the baseball.  Be that as it may, the result is astonishing.  A ball that starts out with great velocity from Griffith’s hand in this experiment, as it gets to the batter suddenly slows up to a speed not more than one-half as great as that at which it was launched.  The effect on the batter, who is expecting a swift ball, can readily be imagined.  He strikes at the leather globe before it reaches him, and the chance that he hits it is reduced to a minimum.”