Tag Archives: Toronto Maple Leafs

Lost Advertisements: Lil Stoner for Mail Pouch

21 Jun

stoner

A 1928 advertisement for Mail Pouch Tobacco featuring Detroit Tigers pitcher Ulysses Simpson Grant “Lil” Stoner:

“Mail Pouch can be chewed all day long without causing a sign of heartburn.”

The following season–Stoner’s final with the Tigers–The Detroit Free Press determined that the pitcher was “jinx” for certain teammates:

“It shall be the fate of those who room with Lil Stoner to trek back over the trail of the minors.”

The paper said “nothing can save,” the players fated to have roomed with Stoner during his time with Detroit:

“King ‘Jinx’ speaks and his word is law. To be a ‘roomie’ of Stoner voluntarily is the next thing to suicide.”

The Free Press said the most recent victim of the  “jinx” was Al “Red” Wingo, who was sold to the San Francisco Seals after rooming with Stoner in 1928:

“Before ‘Red’ were (Johnny) Bassler, (Josh) Billings, (Jess) Doyle, (Clyde) Barfoot, (Les) Burke, and Rufus Clark.”

Bassler was released and joined the Hollywood Stars in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) after rooming with Stoner in 1927. Billings was sent to Reading Keytones in the American Association while rooming with Stoner in 1927. Stoner and Doyle were also roommates in 1927 when the latter was sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the International League, Barfoot suffered the same fate in 1926–he was released by the Tigers while rooming with Stoner and joined the Mission Bells in the PCL; Stoner’s final roommate in 1926 was Burke, who was released after the season and went to Toronto.  Clark roomed with Stoner in 1924 before being released to the Birmingham Barons in the Southern Association.

The paper suggested:

“Were Babe Ruth a roommate of Stoner he would contrive some way to break his neck. The jinx is more certain than death and taxes, and the only way to stop it is to shoot Stoner or lose him in the desert.”

The solution, according to The Free Press was to room Stoner with coach George McBride for the 1929 season because “George is going to remain.”

It was Stoner who finally succumbed to the “jinx” in 1929, after posting a 3-3 record and 5.29 ERA and finished the season with the Fort Worth Panthers in the Texas League

Lost Advertisements–The $30,000 Battery

30 Dec

otoolead

An advertisement from the spring of 1914 for Lewis 66 Rye from The Strauss, Pritz Co., of Cincinnati:

“When Barney Dreyfus gave $22,500 to the St. Paul Club of the American Association for the release of pitcher Marty J. O’Toole, the Pittsburgh National Leaguers up a new high mark in baseball finance.  To this sum, 7,500 was added and O’Toole’s battery partner–William Kelly–was also secured, giving the Pirates the highest priced battery in the world.”

The price paid for Kelly remains a matter of dispute.  The New York Times said he was acquired “for less than $5,000.”  The Washington Post put the price at $10,000 while The Pittsburgh Gazette Times, The Pittsburgh Press and The Associated Press said it was $12,500.

 

Kelly and O'Toole

Kelly and O’Toole

O’Toole posted a 24-27 record from 1911-1913.  He struggled in 1914, and with a 1-8 and record and 4.68 ERA in August, he was sold to the Giants, in 10 appearances with new York he was 1-1 with a 4.24 ERA.  Dreyfus’ “$22,500 Beauty,” was done as a major leaguer at 25 years old, seven months after the ad appeared.  He played four more seasons in the American Association and Western League; his professional career was over before his 30th birthday.

Kelly’s big league career was over before the ad came out.  In three seasons with Pittsburgh, he appeared in 104 games and batted .290, but was sold to the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League at the end of 1913 season.  The Pittsburgh Press said the sale came as no surprise:

“Kelly came here from St. Paul with Marty O’Toole, but he has not developed as was expected of him, and has long been rated as considerable of a disappointment. It looks very much as if he were just a trifle shy of major league calibre.”

Kelly played four years in Toronto, hitting .227 in 280 games; his professional career was over at age 31.

 

 

“Is Napoleon Lajoie a Hoodoo?”

14 Nov

Napoleon Lajoie had his share of superstitions and sought to avoid “Hoodoo,” like most players of his era.  But, as Lajoie was winding down his long career, hitting un-Lajoie like .246 for a horrible Philadelphia Athletics team (36-117) in 1916, The Philadelphia Bulletin presented a case that Lajoie himself was the problem:

“Is Napoleon Lajoie a hoodoo?

Napoleon Lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie

“Several baseball managers and ‘Larry’ himself would like to know the answer.  And here is why:

“Lajoie, for many years recognized as the king of second basemen and dubbed ‘King Larry,’ now has visions of the waning of his baseball star of fame, and he has never played on a pennant-winning team…For years he hit well over the .300 mark—once over .400—was one of the most dangerous men to pitch to in a pinch, and fielded his position around second base in a finished, manner—so finished in fact, that he won the distinction of being the classiest second-sacker in baseball.  Every move of the big Frenchman was grace personified.

“Notwithstanding the fact that he was a star of the first magnitude, ranking with Hans Wagner of Pittsburgh—and they are the two real stars of baseball of former years—he never was able to help his team to the pennant.  So, when Lajoie was sold to Connie Mack dopesters and Larry himself thought he eventually would get into a World Series.  But alas!

“Larry joined the Athletics in the spring of 1915, and while his admirers were expecting him to get back his batting eye, which had apparently been dimmed while he was in Cleveland, Connie Mack decided to tear down his wonderful machine.  (Eddie) Collins, (Ed) Plank, (Charles “Chief”) Bender, (Jack) Coombs, and (Jack) Barry were sold (or released), while (Frank) Baker played bush league ball because Connie would not meet his salary demands, and the famous $100,000 infield of the Athletics was wrecked and the run making machine of the world champions was put out of commission.  And the hopes of Larry and his enthusiastic followers went glimmering.  He is on a tail-end team, just like he was at Cleveland.

“And worst of all from Lajoie’s point of view, the Cleveland team has been holding down first place in the American League for many weeks and is a contender for the pennant.

“The question, ‘Is Napoleon Lajoie a hoodoo?’ Again presents itself.”

While Cleveland was in first place as late as July 12, the Lajoie-hoodoo-free Indians still faltered and finished seventh in 1916.

After Philadelphia’s disastrous season—they finished 54 and a half games back—Lajoie accepted the position of player-manager with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the International League.  The 42-year-old second baseman hit a league-leading .380 and led the Maple Leafs to the championship in 1917—the first, and only of his career.

“This Fellow has about as much Judgment of Balls and Strikes as a Six-year-old Kid”

10 Sep

Umpire baiting was an art form for managers like John McGraw.  In 1906 Tim Murnane wrote in The Boston Globe about the way McGraw, and his players, intimidated a first-year umpire named John Conway during a game between the New York Giants and Boston Beaneaters.

On May 1 the Giants had defeated the Beaneaters 7 to 5, and according to Murnane:

“I was very much interested with the tactics of the Giants in a game here, when they found the clever Irvin Young in the box, and knew it would take extra work to defeat the local team.

“Umpire Conway was behind the bat in this game, and the New York boys went after the young umpire from the first ball pitched until the last man went out.  Conway was consistently giving Young the small end of the decisions on balls and strikes, and yet the New York men tried to make it appear that he was giving them a terrible roast.  The Giants worked like sailors, never letting up;  in fact, their good work with the stick and on the bases was commendable in every way, and what they were saying to the umpire could only be heard in the front seats, and perhaps that was a good thing for the game.”

Tim Murnane

Tim Murnane

Murnane said the actions of the Giants were reminiscent of those of McGraw and other members of the Baltimore Orioles in the 1890s, but “this time it was umpire and not their fellow players,” who were the target:

“As each man passed the umpire they would make some remark, until finally (Dan) McGann, (Roger) Bresnahan and McGraw were put out of the grounds by Conway.  Note the four names, all of Celtic origin, every man out for a salary, the umpire doing his best to please, and doing it certainly in a fair way to the visitors, and yet the trio must be doing something for effect, perhaps to give the umpire something to think of when he went to New York, or perhaps to affect his work in the next game.  There was an object in the uncalled-for nagging.  The result was that Pitcher Young was actually affected, and put up a weak all-round game as the contest went along, the Giants finally winning out as a result of his poor work.”

The Giants doubled-down on their harassment of Conway after the game was over.  Murnane said Fred Knowles, the Giants Secretary,

“(I)nformed me that the New York players complained of Conway’s breath, saying that he had been drinking and was under the influence of liquor during the game.  What are the honest facts?  A friend of mine at the same hotel with Conway and Bob Emslie (the other umpire) told me that he was with the umpires the night before, as well as that morning, and heard them refuse to take a drink of any kind.  I was speaking to Conway just before the game, and took pains to note if he had been drinking, and I can say positively that he had not.”

Murnane’s comments are curious, given that he said Knowles informed him of the accusation after the game, yet he claims he “took pains” to confirm whether Conway was drinking before the game began.

“Now, doesn’t it seem unfair to pass around cold-blooded lies about an umpire doing his duty, to a management who naturally listens to stories of this kind, and then tries to make it easy for players?  I could forgive every act of the New York men, as they are out for blood, and are fine ballplayers, but I must pass up players who will try to harm a good, honest fellow, for Conway is a good umpire and had the nerve to pick the big fellows out, and no two men in the business need the call-downs that McGann and Bresnahan do.”

Murnane’s Boston colleague, Jacob Charles Morse of The Herald, called the Giants actions “reprehensible,” but said the umpire was partially to blame:

“Had Conway started in at the very first a lot of trouble might have been obviated, but it was not until he had allowed the New Yorks to kick at strikes and decisions, to leave their places, something strictly forbidden by the rules, and to bellow like bulls.  Bresnahan could be heard all over the field telling the umpire to ‘get out.’  Early in the game a bunch gathered around the umpire without the least expostulation, and went back to their places when the seemingly felt like it.”

Despite McGraw, McGann and Bresnahan receiving three-game suspensions for their actions, Morse said “The penalty imposed for the actions of the individuals was ridiculously light; not at all commensurate with the gravity of the offense.”

Things did not get any easier for Conway.

He had another run-in with the Giants at the end of June which resulted in another McGraw ejection.

He was also assaulted by two different St. Louis Cardinals; William “Spike” Shannon in June, and Mike Grady in August.  The August incident, during a game in Boston, required police to escort Conway from the field and resulted in a three game suspension for Grady.

Mike Grady had two altercations with Conway

Mike Grady had two altercations with Conway

After a second incident with Grady; this time in Pittsburgh on September 4, The Pittsburgh Press took the side of the Cardinals catcher, and harshly criticised Conway:

 “Umpire Conway officiated the game at Exposition Park yesterday afternoon.  To be more exact, a man named Conway attempted to imitate a real umpire, but the attempt was a failure…this fellow has about as much judgment of balls and strikes as a six-year-old kid, and he makes some of the weirdest mistakes ever seen.  To make matters worse, Conway thinks he is funny and laughs at his poor decisions…The Press never condones umpire baiting, but Conway called one strike on Grady that was not within two feet of the plate, and it is little wonder indeed that Michael was exasperated.

“It is to be hoped that Conway’s career as an umpire in the National League will end with the present season.  There are a score more competent men umpiring in the minor leagues today.  Conway is not fit for the position he occupies.  He takes trouble with him wherever he goes, owing to his inefficiency.”

National League President Harry Pulliam apparently agreed; Conway was not retained for the 1907 season.

He joined the Eastern League in 1907, but trouble continued to follow him.  In June he was assaulted by Toronto Maple Leafs second baseman Tim Flood—which resulted in Flood serving 10 days in jail.

Tim Flood

Tim Flood

 

Less than a week later, after the Jersey City Skeeters scored a run in the ninth inning to beat the Newark Sailors 2 to 1, Conway was attacked by fans in Newark’s Wiedenmayer Park.  The New York Times said:

 “A mob waited after the game until Umpire Conway left the dressing room on the grounds for the train, and when he appeared in the street the mob hooted, hissed and threw mud at him.”

He was escorted to the train station by “a squad of policemen.”

Just weeks into the 1908 season Conway decided he had enough, and resigned.  The Sporting Life said he “quit umpiring to go into business.”

Conway never worked a professional game again, although he worked several Ivy League games before giving it up all together in 1910.  He died in Massachusetts in 1932–the same year McGraw, too ill to continue baiting umpires, resigned as manager of the Giants.

Polchow and Starnagle

13 Aug

At the close of the 1902 Three-I League season two unlikely candidates for the big leagues were signed by Cleveland Bronchos Manager Bill Armour.

Pitcher Louis William “Polly” Polchow and catcher George Henry Starnagle (born Steurnagel) did not put up impressive numbers.   Neither the Reach or Spalding Guides included Polchow’s won-loss record, but both said the 22-year-old’s winning percentage was just .414 in 32 games for the Evansville River Rats.  Starnagle hit just .180 with 13 passed balls and eight errors in 93 games for the Terre Haute Hottentots.

Louis Polchow

Louis Polchow

The two joined the fifth place Bronchos in St. Louis on September 13.  The following day both made their major league debuts in the second game of a doubleheader against the second place Browns.

The St. Louis Republic said:

“Captain (Napoleon) Lajoie decided to try his new Three-Eye League battery, which reported to him yesterday.  Starnagle, the former Terre Haute catcher, was as steady as a veteran, but Polchow wobbled at the drop of the hat, and before he steadied himself the damage was done.

“Five runs in the first two innings gave the Browns a good lead, and it was well they made hay while the sun shone, for Polchow handed them six ciphers for dessert.”

Starnagle made an error in the seventh when he overthrew Lajoie on an attempted steal of second by Bobby Wallace—Wallace advanced to third on the error, but Polchow retired the side without a run.

George Starnagle

George Starnagle

In Cleveland’s half of the seventh Starnagle and Polchow had the opportunity to get them back in the game.  With two runs in, and a runner on first and one out Starnagle came to the plate.  The Republic said:

 “Starnagle tried to put on a Three-Eye League slugging scene.  He dislocated two ribs going after (Bill) Reidy’s slow ones and finally fanned.  Polchow forced (Jack) McCarthy.”

Starnagle was lifted in the ninth for a pinch hitter.  Cleveland lost 5-3.  Polchow gave up nine hits and walked four, striking out two, and was 0 for 4 at the plate.  Starnagle was 0 for 3, with one error behind the plate.  Neither would ever appear in another big league game.

The Box Score

The Box Score

Starnagle was 28-years-old, and had only played two seasons of pro ball before his game with Cleveland—he was semi-pro player with teams in Danville and Sterling, Illinois for nearly a decade before he joined Terre Haute in 1901.  He was considered a solid defensive catcher, but during 10 minor league seasons he only hit better than .230 three times.  When he played with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Royals in 1909 The Montreal Gazette said:

“Starnagle has been drafted every year by big league clubs, all of whom have been pretty well supplied with seasoned catchers; hence his failure to be kept.”

Polchow was just 22 when he pitched his only big league game.  Plagued by wildness, he spent three mediocre seasons with teams in the Southern Association and South Atlantic League (he was 36-45 for the Montgomery Senators, Macon Highlanders and Augusta Tourists), then pitched five seasons in the New York State League.

In 1906 he helped lead the Scranton Miners to the New York State League championship (the team’s leading hitter was Archibald “Moonlight” Graham), although The Scranton Republican said his first start with the team was nearly his last.  Polchow lost 12 to 2 to the Utica Pent-Ups, walking 10 and giving up 10 hits.  After the game Polchow accused catcher “Wilkie Clark of throwing the game.  A fight followed and Clark and Polchow never worked together after that.   Andy Roth was Polchow’s battery partner during the remainder of the season.”

Starnagle retired after the 1910 season.  He returned to Danville, Illinois where he died in 1946; he was 72.

Polchow played through the 1911 season, and then became ill.  He died of Bright’s Disease at 32-years-old in August of 1912

In addition to Polchow and Starnagle, the Bronchos signed two other Three-I League players in September of 1902—both had somewhat more success.

Rock Island Islanders catcher George “Peaches” Graham made his debut the same day as Polchow and Starnagle, during the first game of the doubleheader; he struck out as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning of a 3 to 1 loss. He spent parts of seven seasons in the major leagues, and hit .265.  Decatur Commodores pitcher Augustus “Gus” Dorner made his debut three days later beating the Chicago White Sox 7 to 6.  He pitched for parts of six big league seasons, compiling a 35-69 record.

 

Morrie Rath

25 Nov

In August of 1913, the Chicago White Sox sold second baseman Morris “Morrie” Rath to the Kansas City Blues of the American Association.

Morrie Rath

Morrie Rath

The Chicago Eagle said the sale wasn’t the result of Rath’s .200 batting average, or 16 errors, but because of his performance coaching first base during a game in Philadelphia earlier in the month:

“Morris was coaching at first base and (Manager Nixey) Callahan was at third.  (Harry) Lord was at bat.  He hit a bounder to one of the infielders and as it was a slow hit he figured he could beat it out.  He ran with every ounce of speed and strength that he possessed.  The play was mighty close.

Harry Lord

Harry Lord

“’Out,’ cried the umpire.

“Lord figuratively hit the ceiling.  He threw his cap down and jumped upon it.  He picked it up and threw it down again.  He howled and he scowled.  He allowed that if there ever was a blind umpire that he was working on the bases that day.  He assured the ump that in all his experience as a ball player it was the worst decision he ever saw.  Then up spoke Rath.  His voice was as gentle as could be:

“’Yes, you were out Harry.’

“And Lord collapsed.  That beat the other thing.  Never in his experience as a ball player had he heard another player agree with the umpire when it meant that one of his pals was out instead of safe.  That was beyond the comprehension of Lord.  He just wilted and staggered to the bench.

“By this time Callahan was over there.  There was fire in his eye, and he was fighting mad.  ‘Of all the—‘ he started in and then stopped.  For the umpire was laughing.

‘What’s the matter?’ howled Cal.

‘Why Rath here agrees that he was out,’ laughed the ump.

“What did Cal do?  What could he do?  He also was dazed.  It was a new one on him.  He had been around ball fields for many years, but never before had a member of his team taken sides with the ump against a teammate.”

It was a long road back to the big leagues for Rath.  He played for Kansas City until June of 1915 when he was sold to the Toronto Maple Leafs.  In 1916, He joined the Salt Lake City Bees in the Pacific Coast League, after hitting .300 and .341 he was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds after the 1917 season in the Rule 5 Draft.

After spending 1918 in the United States Navy where he was captain of the baseball team at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Rath finally joined the Reds for the 1919 season.  He was Cincinnati’s regular third baseman in 1919 and 1920 and appeared in all eight games of the 1919 World Series against his former team.

Rath finished his career with the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League in 1921.

After his career, he operated a sporting goods store in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.  In 1945, suffering from ill-health, he committed suicide.

“I Consider him a Weak, Foolish Talker”

13 Nov

Bill Phyle was a no-show.  He failed to appear before Southern Association President William Kavanaugh at the league’s hearing regarding his charges that the end of the 1903 season was fixed.  After the league suspended him he failed to appear in St. Louis to defend his charges in front of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (NAPBL).  He claimed he was too ill to attend either meeting.

As a result he was expelled from organized baseball in October of 1903.  His appeal was denied in December.

Phyle had very few supporters by the time his fate was settled by the NAPBL, but he still had at least one—kind of:  Milwaukee Brewers Manager “Pongo” Joe Cantillon, the man who sold Phyle’s contract to the Memphis Egyptians.

Joe Cantillon

Joe Cantillon

Cantillon told William A. Phelon of The Chicago Daily News that his former player wasn’t too bright, but that he also wasn’t wrong:

“I consider him a weak, foolish talker, who opened his head when it did not do him any good.  Just the same, Billy Phyle had cause for the charges which he made, and I got it good and straight that there was work done in the Southern league last season which was on the scandalous pattern.”

Cantillon stopped short of saying the season was fixed—but not very far short:

“Understand I do not say, neither does Phyle charge, that any games were sold, or that either manager or club owners were in on any such deals.   Even though there are thousands who say—apparently with mighty good reason—that the league is crooked, always has been crooked since it started, and always will be crooked—I do not accuse anyone of selling out.”

Cantillon then came pretty close to accusing Atlanta of selling out:

“This is the way the thing was done—and if anybody wants to howl I’ll show the goods and produce the names.  When Memphis was playing Atlanta it was a case of anything to beat out Little Rock.  The Atlanta players, knowing that their only chances had gone glimmering, were anxious to help their friend’s to beat Mike Finn’s gang (Little Rock).  There was no sell out and there were no intentional errors—nothing so gross and coarse as that.  But a couple of the best regulars on the Atlanta team were laid off; a couple of substitutes were put in their places; a raw, unseasoned amateur was sent in to pitch, and then, to make assurances doubly sure, the Atlanta catcher told each Memphis batsman just what to expect as he came to the plate.”

Cantillon also said the Birmingham Barons were “trying to help (Little Rock) along,” and:

“Every player in the league was dead wise to the whole situation, but Billy Phyle was the only man who was foolish enough to open his face, and he got soaked proper.”

Cantillon claimed to “positively know” that Phyle had been sick, and that was the only reason he failed to appear to substantiate his claims in front the league and the NAPBL.  Regardless, he said Phyle would have had a difficult time:

“Even if he had been able to attend, what show would he have had, with every manager determined to clear his own skirts and swat Bill for the squeal he made?”

Cantillon challenged anyone in the Southern Association to refute his allegations.

In February of 1904 Cantillon cancelled a scheduled spring tour of the South and Phelon said in The Daily News that Southern Association teams had refused to play against Brewers.

The following month Clark Griffith, who was in the South with the New York Highlanders, told The Atlanta Constitution that Cantillon was “ a nice fellow,” who “had been misquoted and had not authorized the interview, and in fact knew nothing of it until it appeared in the press.”

Cantillon himself never directly denied his statement, but The Constitution, content to keep the focus of Southern wrath on Phyle was happy to give the Milwaukee manager a pass:

“(Griffith’s claim) puts a new light on the question and it is very probable that he has been judged too harshly in the south…Phyle as a baseball issue is now dead.  Any effort to revive him and bring him forward on the stage either as a hero suffering persecution or a sick man worrying his life out by the blacklist hanging over him, will meet with the opposition of every paper in the south.”

Phyle went to Toledo and spent the spring and summer wiring Southern Association President Kavanaugh asking for reinstatement so his contract could be assigned to the Mud Hens.  After his application was rejected in May, and again in July, Phyle joined the independent Youngstown Ohio Works team.  The team played exhibition games that summer with the Brooklyn Superbas and Pittsburgh Pirates—both National League clubs were fined $100 for playing against the blacklisted Phyle.

(Some sources list Phyle as a member of the 1904 Johnstown Johnnies in the independent Pennsylvania League, but several Pennsylvania newspapers, including The Williamsport Gazette and The Scranton  Republican said in August “Phyle turned down a $225 per month offer from Johnstown.”)

Phyle became part of another scandal in 1905.

Bill Phyle

Bill Phyle

Youngstown joined the newly formed Ohio-Pennsylvania League, and needed to submit a roster to the NAPBL for approval.  Phyle’s name did not appear on the submitted list, but he played third base for the club all season, including an exhibition with the Cincinnati Reds on August 31. Youngstown was fined $500 in mid September and ordered to release Phyle.  Cincinnati was fined $100.

Phyle was finally reinstated in February of 1906, after he submitted a letter to the directors of the Southern Association retracting all of his 1903 allegations.

His contract was assigned to the Nashville Volunteers who sold him to the Kansas City Blues in the American Association.  After hitting .295 in 72 games, Phyle got one last trip to the National League.  He was traded to the St. Louis; he hit just .178 for the Cardinals.  He retired after playing three years in the Eastern League with the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1907-1909.

More than twenty years later Joe Cantillon was apparently forgiven in the South.  He managed the Little Rock Travelers to back-to-back eighth place finishes in 1926 and 1927.

The rest of Bill Phyle’s story next week.

“The Disappearing Oakland Infielder”

7 Aug

James Ernest “Jimmy” Frick began his career with the Iola Gasbags in the Missouri Valley League in 1904, hitting .331 in 106 games.  While Frick began the 1905 season with the Oklahoma City Mets in the Western Association, a “C” level league, press reports said he could have played at a higher level and The Sporting Life said St. Louis Cardinals, Hall of Famer pitcher Charles “Kid” Nichols “cannot understand why Jimmy Frick of Oklahoma City persists in hiding out it the bushes when he can make good in fast company.”

Frick was hitting above .300 in July when he was sold to the Seattle Siwashes in the Pacific Coast League; he hit .252 in 18 games until August 18 when The Associated Press said Frick “disappeared mysteriously.”

Four days later The Seattle Star said Frick who “was very popular” with local fans had jumped the Siwashes and rejoined Oklahoma City having been promised “$1000 and a chance to manage the team next year.”

Whether the reported deal was actually promised to Frick is unknown.  While he returned to Oklahoma City he never joined the Mets and finished the season with the Wichita Jobbers.

At the end of the 1905 season multiple teams laid claim to him.  The Associated Press said:

“The case of J. Frick who was claimed by Indianapolis, Wichita, Seattle and Oklahoma City was referred to Secretary (John) Farrell (of the National Association).”

In February of 1906 Frick was awarded to Wichita then immediately traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern League.  He spent the next five and a half years in the Eastern League with Toronto, the Baltimore Orioles and the Newark Indians.

On July 16, 1910, while with Baltimore, Frick was hit in the head with a pitch.  In August The Sporting Life said he had not yet returned to the lineup:

 “(Frick) is in a bad way in this city, as the result of being hit on the head by a pitched ball during the last home series of the Birds. Although the accident happened at least three weeks ago, Frick’s head is still in bad condition, his face is swollen and dizziness seizes him on the slightest provocation. It is doubtful if Frick will play again this season.”

He did return at the tail end of the season, but only appeared in a few games.  In 1911 he was sold to Newark, and after hitting just .200 in 28 games he was sold to the Troy Trojans in the New York State League.

Jimmy Frick

Jimmy Frick

Before the 1912 season, Harry Wolverton, third baseman and manager of the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League, was named manager of the New York Highlanders in the American League.  Oakland hired Bayard “Bud” Sharpe to manage the team; one of his first moves was to purchase Frick from Troy to fill the void Wolverton left at third.

By March 7 The Associated Press said Sharpe was “somewhat exercised about infielder Frick.”  The new third baseman had arrived in Oakland by train several days earlier, but had not arrived at the Oaks training camp in Livermore, California and had not been heard from him.  Sharpe showed up the following day, but it was reported he had spent several days in an Oakland hospital—it was not reported why he was hospitalized.

Frick began the season as the Oaks starting third baseman, but after hurting his foot in April, August “Gus” Hetling filled in and Frick never returned to the regular lineup.

On September 17, with Oakland in a battle for the pennant with the Vernon Tigers, the team was in Los Angeles when Frick, according to The Associated Press left his room at the Hotel Rosslyn and “dropped from sight.”

The Los Angeles Examiner said the Oakland team and the Los Angeles Police Department had looked for Frick for more than a week and found no sign of the infielder.  The Associated Press said “all of Frick’s haunts have been searched,” and that the disappearance “may hurt Oakland in their fight for the pennant, as he is considered the best utility infielder on the team.”

Herb McFarlin, Secretary of the Oaks, said:

“Frick has always been a steady player, not inclined to drink or run around.  He always has been absolutely dependable.”

On October 4 The Associated Press said “the disappearing Oakland infielder” had been found by his wife:

“He had been ill in a Los Angeles Hospital, assuming an alias so that he would not be bothered.”

As with his spring disappearance there was no mention as to why Frick was in the hospital.

On October 5 he was with the Oaks in Portland for a game with the Beavers, he did not play, but was “out on the coaching line rooting for his team.”

Frick was with the team on October 27 when they took both games of a double-header in Los Angeles; Vernon won both games of a doubleheader from Portland, and Oakland took the pennant with a winning percentage of .591 to Vernon’s .587.

Frick saw little action in the final weeks of the season, his replacement Hetling hit .297 and was awarded a Chalmers Automobile as the league’s most valuable player.

Gus Hetling, Frick's replacement at third

Gus Hetling, Frick’s replacement at third

Frick and his wife went to Portland at the end of the season, and in late November planned to leave for Oklahoma City where they owned a farm.  On November 20 Mrs. Frick went to pick up tickets for the trip, when she returned home, she found Jimmy Frick dead.  He committed suicide by drinking carbolic acid. (Baseball Reference incorrectly lists his date of death as November 18),

The Portland Oregonian said Frick had been “ill and despondent,” and said he was suffering from “brain fever.”  (Brain fever is an antiquated and vague term used for inflammation of the brain).

None of the stories about Frick’s suicide and “brain fever” mentioned the severe injury he had received when he was hit in the head in 1910, so  it’s impossible to determine whether it contributed to the erratic behavior that year, hospital stays, or death of the disappearing Oakland infielder.”

Hap Myers

29 Jul

When the 6’ 3” 175 pound Ralph Edward “Hap” Myers was let go by the Boston Braves after the 1913 season a reporter told Braves shortstop Rabbit Maranville he was sorry to see Myers go.  Maranville joked:

“Well, you might be, but I’m not.  Do you know that guy is so thin that every time I picked up a grounder I had to shade my eyes with my gloved hand to locate him before throwing the ball.”

Myers began his professional career after graduating from University of California, Berkeley in 1909, where he also played baseball.  The San Francisco native hit a combined .311 playing for the Sacramento Sacts in the Pacific Coast League, and the San Jose Prune Pickers and Santa Cruz Sand Crabs in the California League.

Myers went east in 1910 after being purchased by the Boston Red Sox, but became ill, with scarlet fever, and as a result appeared in only six games in Boston before being  sent first to the Toronto Maple leafs in the Eastern league, then the Louisville Colonels in the American Association.

Despite hitting just .240 with Louisville, Myers was selected by the St. Louis Browns in the Rule 5 draft.  The Red Sox claimed Myers still belonged to them and his contract was awarded to Boston, where he began the season, was sold to the St. Louis Browns, who quickly released him despite hitting .297 in 11 games, then back to the Red Sox where he hit .368 in twelve games before being sent to the Jersey City Skeeters in the Eastern League.

It was never clear why, in spite of hitting .333 in 81 at bats in 1910-1911, Myers couldn’t stick in the American League.

In 1912 he returned to the West Coast to play for the Spokane Indians in the Northwestern League where he led the league in hits, and runs, hit .328, and led all of professional baseball with 116 stolen bases.  The Portland Oregonian said:

“Myers base stealing smashes any previous performance in Northwestern League history.  You have to go back 20 years in official guide books to find any record to compare…and that includes every league in organized baseball.”

Spokane owner Joe Cohn went overboard in his praise of Myers in The Spokane Spokesman-Review:

“Best ballplayer in the Northwestern League by a long shot.  He is the greatest ballplayer I ever saw.  Boy I tell you this Myers is a wonder.  Ty Cobb, Hans Wagner, Tris Speaker and all of them have nothing on Myers…I think Myers has it on Cobb, Wagner, Lajoie, Jackson and the whole bunch.”

Myers, and Portland catcher Rex DeVogt were purchased by the Braves from Portland, Devogt would only last for three games, and six hitless at-bats in April of 1913.  Myers would become the Braves starting first baseman.  Another Pacific Coast League player, pitcher “Seattle Bill” James also joined the Braves.

hap3

“Seattle Bill” James and “Hap” Myers

Myers got off to a slow start; he was hitting just .224 in early July, but was leading the National League in steals.  An article in The Tacoma Times said:

“When Hap Myers, recruit first baseman of the Boston Braves is in full stride stealing bases, he covers nine feet…the average stride of a sprinter is six feet. “

The article said the average player took 13 steps, roughly seven feet per step, between bases but Myers took only ten steps:

“Myers is something of a baseball curiosity, and his work is watched with interest by the fans.  If the time comes that the big fellow climbs into the .300 class as a batter, he is apt to become a veritable terror of the paths.”

He was also said to use “a bat of unusual length,” but the size was never mentioned.

After the slow start, Myers hit well in the second half of the season, ending with a .273 average and 57 stolen bases (second to Max Carey of the Pittsburgh Pirates who stole 61).  Despite his strong finish, Myers was replaced at first base for 22 games in August and September by Butch Schmidt, who was purchased from the Rochester Hustlers in the International League.

"Hap" Myers

“Hap” Myers

At the end of the season Myers was sold to the Hustlers, the deal was, in effect, a trade for Schmidt.  The Boston press simply said Myers did not get along with manager George Stallings; Myers told a reporter in San Francisco that there was another reason; baseball’s labor unrest:

  “I was assigned by the fraternity to get as many Braves as possible into the fraternity, and succeeded in enrolling nearly the entire team.  The powers that be evidently didn’t relish my actions for soon my every move began to bring calldowns and I was not surprised to read in the newspapers a little later that I had been sent to Rochester.”

Myers jumped Rochester to join the Federal League; his signing was reported months before he actually signed.  The Associated Press said in March of 1914:

“Although it has been generally understood that Hap Myers, last season’s first baseman of the Boston National has been under a Federal League contract for some time, the elongated first sacker did not put his name to a contract until yesterday afternoon.  Myers originally expected to play with Larry Schlafly on the Buffalo Federals, but was transferred to Brooklyn, and seemed altogether pleased with the move.”

Myers got off to a strong start, and The Sporting Life said:

“Brooklyn fans cannot understand why Hap was passed out of the National League. They have had a chance already to give his successor at first base on the Boston team (Butch Schmidt) the once over, and the general opinion is that- Hap Myers “lays all over.”

His success in Brooklyn didn’t last; in 92 games Myers hit just .220.

Hap’s story continued tomorrow.

Another “Rube”

4 Mar

Hall of Famer “Lefty” Grove and Jack Ogden were the best known pitchers of the great Baltimore Orioles teams that won seven straight International League Pennants from 1919-1925, but in 1923 both were out-pitched by James Arthur “Rube” Parnham.

Parnham began his professional career in 1914 with the Huntington Blue Sox in the Ohio State League.  In 1915 he joined the Raleigh Capitals in the North Carolina State League, managed by Connie Mack’s son Earle.  The 21-year-old was an unspectacular 9-15 for Raleigh, but caught the eye of the elder Mack and spent the spring of 1916 with Jacksonville with the Philadelphia Athletics.

Rube Parnham, 1917

Rube Parnham, 1917

Parnham returned to the North Carolina State League for the 1916 season, splitting time between Raleigh and the Durham Bulls, posting a 17-19; his contract was purchased by the Athletics in late August.  Nearly a month later Parnham made his Major League debut; he appeared in four games for Mack’s last place (36-117) ballclub, he was 2-1 with a 4.01 ERA.

Parnham was with the Athletics in Jacksonville again in 1917, but was sent to Baltimore before the beginning of the season.  He won 16 games for the Orioles and earned one more shot with Mack in Philadelphia; Parnham was 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA in two September appearances.

As Parnham started winning games for Baltimore he developed a reputation as a work horse; in 1917 he won both ends of a double-header against the Rochester Hustlers, pitching a total of 24 innings in two 3-2 victories; in 1919 he won both games of a twin bill twice.   At the same time he began to earn a reputation as “eccentric’ and “erratic,” the inevitable comparisons to Rube Waddell and his small time roots earned Parnham the nickname “Rube,” he was also known as “Uncle.”

Baltimore sold Parnham to the Louisville Colonels in the American Association in March of 1918, but within two months was sold back to Baltimore, where he rejoined manager Jack Dunn, with who he had, and would continue to have, a contentious relationship.  He won 22 games in 1918 and followed with 28 in 1919, leading the Orioles to their first championship since 1908.

As the Orioles jumped out to a quick lead in 1920 (Parnham was 5-0, and was joined on the pitching staff by Ogden and Grove) the erratic Rube Parnham surfaced again. He was prone to disappearing for days at a time and also appears to have been hurt.  By mid-season he was gone.

More recent accounts have said Parnham jumped the Orioles to play semi-pro ball in Pennsylvania; just as likely, Parnham, who was suspended in June by Dunn for being out of shape, and who was clearly overshadowed by Grove (12-2) and Ogden (27-9); as well as Jack Bentley (16-3) and Harry Frank (25-12), was let go.

Lending credence to Parnham not having jumped is a January 1922 Associated Press item that said the pitcher “whose arm went on him” would rejoin “the Baltimores for the 1922 season.  Parnham wrote Dunn that he believed he could come back next season and pitch successfully.”  He won 16 games for the Orioles in 1922.

The following season would be Parnham’s best; the 29-year-old pitcher led the Orioles with a 33-7 record, Grove was 27-10, Ogden 17-12.   In addition to out-pitching his two teammates, Parnham set an international League record by winning 20 consecutive games.

Parnham’s old ways returned before the 1924 season when he failed to report to Florida for spring training.  The Associated Press said:

“Rube never reported at the Oriole training camp in the south and never even deigned to notify Jack Dunn whether he was going to play ball this year.”

Parnham eventually reported, but had another stormy, abbreviated season.  With a 6-5 record and a 4.84 ERA, Dunn suspended the pitcher in June, and he appears to have not pitched for the Orioles again that season.

The only reference to Parnham in 1925 was a May game he pitched for a semi-pro team in Duquesne, Pennsylvania and was beaten 8-0 by the Homestead Grays.

His career appeared to be over, but Dunn, it seems was willing to give his pitcher one more chance.

The Baltimore Sun said shortly before the 1926 season:

“Uncle Rube Parnham, the most colorful figure in the International League, will be back on the mound for the Orioles next season.”

Parnham was 13-9 with a 5.05 ERA, and spent the entire season feuding with Dunn; It was the end of the Orioles dynasty, the Toronto Maple Leafs won the championship in 1926 and Baltimore would not finish first again until 1944.

The Orioles were finally through with Parnham, The Baltimore Sun said:

“There was so much trouble between Parnham and Dunn last year that it was apparent Rube had spent his last season with the Orioles.” “

The 32-year-old was still considered valuable enough that the Milwaukee Brewers in the American Association purchased the pitcher from Baltimore.

The Brewers expected big things from their new pitcher, The Milwaukee Journal said:

“At times his playfulness leads him away from the straight and narrow, and he nearly drove Jack Dunn nutty last season…But Parnham is a great pitcher, despite his eccentricities, and if (Brewers owner) Otto Borchert can hire a good keeper for him is certain to be a winner with the Brewers.”

By March Parnham had worn out his welcome with another manager when he didn’t bother to report to Hot Springs, Arkansas for spring training.  The Journal said:

“Disgusted with the dilatory tactics of Rube Parnham, Jack Lelivelt, boss of the Brewers, hinted Saturday night that unless the eccentric righthander reports at once that he would probably be turned back to Baltimore.  Former International Leaguers …have told the Milwaukee leader about some of Reuben’s idiosyncrasies  and Lelivelt is beginning to feel that he will become a stepsister to Kid trouble if he had the former Oriole on his club.”

Parnham never played for the Brewers, and was returned to Baltimore, but Dunn was finished with him as well and he was shipped off to the Reading Keystones.  After a 2-8 season split between Reading and the Newark Bears, Parnham’s career was over.

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Rube Parnham, 1923

Parnham retired to McKeesport, Pennsylvania, where the troubles that followed him throughout his career seem to have continued.  James Bready, an editor for The Baltimore Sun went to Pennsylvania to interview the former Oriole hero in 1961:

“The story was that he had gone downhill. Falling asleep in the snow, recently, he had lost several toes. On the phone, the director of a home for indigents said he would notify Parnham of the interview project. He gave me the street address — and a caution: ‘Try to get here before noon.’

“Paper, pen — I knocked and Rube beckoned me inside what today would be called a shelter. He was wearing an overcoat (I understand that better, now) and had not shaved recently. We sat down, facing, on two of half a dozen cot beds.  I tried a question. ”Gbbmhdahlr,” he replied. I stared at him; slowly, the meaning penetrated. I reached in my pocket and handed him a dollar.”

Parnham died two years later in McKeesport.