Tag Archives: Tri-State League

“I’ve no Uniform that will fit a Giraffe like you”

3 Aug

Most biographies of Harry “Slim” Sallee, if they mention his brief time with the New York Highlanders in 1906, simply say he never appeared in a game because of “(A)n abundance of pitcher’s” on Clark Griffith’s club which battled the Chicago White Sox for the pennant.

The colorful 6’ 3” 180 pond Sallee, with the Cardinals in West Baden, Indiana before the 1912 season, told a reporter for The St. Louis Republic that there was more to his departure from New York, and while the story might have been a creation of Sallee’s imagination, it seems more appropriate for a pitcher as famous for hard-drinking, suspensions, and fines as he was for his 174 career wins.

Slim Sallee

Slim Sallee

Sallee reminded the reporter he was:

“An American League discard…Yes, sirree, I was turned down cold by Clark Griffith when the ‘Old Fox’ was managing the New York Americans …I joined the Yanks in the fall in St. Louis, Griff looked me over and said: ‘I’ve no uniform that will fit a giraffe like you.  Maybe I’ll be able to get one in Chicago.  Here’s a ticket—handing me a pocket register to keep tabs on people passing through the turnstile—go out and check up the bleacher gate this afternoon.

“Four thousand geeks passed through the bleacher turnstile at Sportsman’s Park that afternoon and I kept punching that register until I became almost black in the face.”

Sallee said he was given the same assignment in Chicago on September 21 -23 when New York took three out of four games from the White Sox and moved into first place.  New York went to Detroit and lost three straight, then dropped a game in Cleveland on the 27th,dropping three games back of the White Sox.  In Cleveland:

“‘Griff dug up an old uniform and told me to warm up.  The thermometer hung around the freezing point.

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

“Wonder if that crazy man thinks I’m goin’ to cut loose and take chances of ruinin’ my salary wing in this kind of weather said I to myself.

“Griff went to the plate himself. I ‘lobbed’ a  couple over and the ‘Old Fox’ roared like a mad bull. ‘You’ve got a lot of nerve trying to slip that stuff over on me,’ growled Griff.  ‘Put something on that ball.  I can’t detect anything that looks like a wiggle on your curve and you haven’t shown enough speed to break a pane of glass.’”

Sallee said he told Griffith:

“I’m there, Clarkie, old chap, with the real goods, but I couldn’t think of cuttin’ loose with my speed in this kind of weather.  I’m a hothouse plant from down in Old Alabama—I played with Birmingham that year.  Give me a chance when the sun is shinin’ and the thermometer is around 90 in the shade, and I’ll show you some pitchin’ that will curl your grey locks.”

Sallee said Griffith threatened to put him “back on the gate.”

“’No, you don’t,’ said I. ‘Pay me off and also come across with a ticket for Higginsport (Ohio, Sallee’s hometown) I’m through with the New York club and Clark Griffith.  And don’t send for me next spring.”

Whether because of too much depth on the mound or because of the story Sallee told, Griffith sold him to the Williamsport Millionaires in the Tri-State League.  Sallee went 22-5 in Williamsport in 1907 and the Cardinals purchased his contract in August

“The Nomad of the Interstate League”

25 Jul

There have been several incarnations of the Interstate League, the first began in 1885 and the final one played its last game in 1952.  None was more precarious than the one that operated in the 1890s, which newspapers annually announced was on the verge of collapse.  One Interstate League franchise, in particular, was always a little closer to collapse than the rest.

Frank J. Torreyson became the owner of the Wheeling (WV) Nailers in 1897.  He had been part owner of the Dayton franchise but just as that partnership was disintegrating the Wheeling team went on strike because they hadn’t been paid.  The league solved two problems by awarding the Nailers to Torreyson.

Torreyson had been a semi-pro player in Pennsylvania and managed teams in the Tri-State League. His first effort at team ownership involved starting a Pittsburgh franchise in the Pennsylvania State League in 1892.  By July He moved the team to Wilkes-Barre citing poor attendance.

His brother, Thayer “Heavy” Torreyson, was a 2nd baseman who had some excellent seasons in the Pennsylvania State and Atlantic Leagues; but by 1897 Thayer had literally grown into his nickname, and his best playing days were behind him.

Thayer joined Frank in the ownership of the team and continued to play and serve as captain.

In 1898, the Torreyson brothers moved the Wheeling franchise to Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Frank had necessitated the move when, immediately upon acquiring the franchise, he sold off the best players and alienated the Wheeling fans–he also played the two towns against each other.  While he was already aware he had worn out his welcome in Wheeling, he told The Grand Rapids Herald:

“I would very much like to have charge of an Interstate team here though Wheeling is a pretty good ball town.  We can’t play Sunday there, though, unless we get the grounds outside of the town which we expect to have if we stay there.”

He managed to get the city of Grand Rapids’ “West Side businessmen to bear half the expense “of readying two ballparks for the season—the team played most of their games at Recreation Park, but Sunday games were played at nearby Alger Park

The first home Sunday game was a harbinger of what was ahead for Torreyson in Grand Rapids.

Despite each person who “Patronized the grandstand” receiving “‘The Art Gallery of Prominent Baseball Players of America,” fans stayed away in droves.  Bad weather limited the crowd to “a few hundred,” and “stern luck was ‘agin’ the Cabinetmakers,”  Grand Rapids lost the game 6 to 5, and their record for the young season slipped to 2-5.

Things never really improved.

Throughout the 1898 season, Torreyson complained about the lack of support from the Grand Rapids community and threatened to move the team.

For their part, the citizens of Grand Rapids, while not actually coming out to games in great numbers, seemed to appreciate Torreyson’s effort.  In August, with the team in fourth place, The Herald announced that a benefit—whereby blocks of tickets would be purchased by the city’s leaders—would be organized to try to get the owner out of the red:

“Torreyson has given the city the best team it has ever had and this being a bad season f0r the game, there has been no money in it for him.”

There was no report of how much the August 19 benefit raised, but Torreyson, at least for the moment, expressed his gratitude in a letter to the people of the city he was desperately attempting to flee:

“The results show that Grand Rapids people appreciate honest endeavors for clean baseball.  Hoping to continue to please all, I am, respectfully yours, Frank W. Torreyson.”

Frank Torreyson

Frank Torreyson

Over the next twelve months, he visited a number of cities in Ohio and Indiana soliciting the best offer to relocate the team.  Attendance in Grand Rapids decreased further in 1899—while Torreyson’s club had hovered near .500 throughout the 1898 season, they were wire-to-wire doormats, mired in last place for all of 1899– and the already struggling Interstate League was in danger of having a team fold during the season.

In order to keep the eight-team league intact, an unusual trade was made.  The Columbus Buckeyes in the Western League would move to Grand Rapids and Torreyson would take his team to Columbus, Ohio.  The move would benefit both leagues by reducing travel costs.

In mid-July of 1899, the move was made official.  Fans, thrilled to be rid of the cellar-dwelling Interstate League club, filled the ballpark for the first home game of the Grand Rapids Furniture Makers of the Western League.  Newspapers estimated the crowd between 1600 and 2000; at least double the best crowd Torreyson’s team had ever drawn.

Columbus fans were less enthusiastic; 167 attended the first home game of the Columbus Senators of the Interstate League, a 4 to 1 loss to the first place New Castle Quakers.  The Herald said of Grand Rapids’ former club’s first game in their new town:

“That same old story comes from Torreyson’s team.”

The low attendance—they drew just 288 fans for their first Sunday home game– and  not very  friendly reception from the city of Columbus made Frank restless again.  Less than two weeks later, he relocated once more, this time to Springfield, Ohio, where his team was appropriately dubbed The Wanderers.  The team finished the season 49-91, 38 games out of first place.

 

In less than two years, Torreyson had incurred the wrath of the league and each member city.  The Fort Wayne News called for the league to take the franchise away from him. The Toledo Bee said Torreyson was “Ruining the Interstate.”  The Mansfield (OH) News said the transfer of the teams would have been better for the league “If Torreyson had been lost in the trade.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“The managers of the various other teams in the league say that Torreyson has done more to injure baseball in the Interstate League since he got into it than all other drawbacks combined.  The say that if Torreyson is permitted to wander about the country with a club in Columbus this week, in Kalamazoo next week, Erie the following week, Saginaw of Bay City the week after, and God only knows where after that, the league might as well disband.”

Early in 1900, a deal was struck to buy him out of the franchise.  The Youngstown Vindicator said the league had contributed to the purchase price in order to rid them of Torreyson, who they called “The Nomad of the Interstate League.”  Torreyson, The Vindicator said, “(M)ilked at least three towns as dry as tinder. But then the fan is the legitimate prey of the magnet.  Torreyson is now running a billiard hall in Braddock (PA).”

That wasn’t the end of Torreyson’s story.

He did, along with “Heavy,” open a billiard hall in Braddock—then two more in Homestead and McKeesport.  But Frank also became a successful thoroughbred owner and managed dozens of boxers out of a gym in Braddock.

Thayer "Heavy" Torreyson

Thayer “Heavy” Torreyson

Both made headlines one more time.

In October of 1911, The Pittsburgh Dispatch said Thayer was on his way to New York and, “He took with him $21,000.  He will wager this amount that the Philadelphia Athletics will defeat the New York Giants for the world’s championship.”

In 1912, The Pittsburgh Gazette-Times said Frank paid passage for two boxers from Whales to come fight for him in Pennsylvania.   Leslie Williams and David John Bowen never made it to the United States; they went down with the Titanic on April 14.

Frank Torreyson died on April 10, 1918.

Thayer “Heavy” Torreyson continued to operate the billiard halls—and as The Pittsburgh Press said he was known to sell “horse race pools and (make) book on races.”  He also remained active in Pittsburgh area amateur baseball until his death on May 7, 1939.

A shorter version of this post appeared in September of 2012.

“Frysinger Hated in the Paper City”

28 Dec

It took less than two weeks for Jesse “Jess” M. Frysinger to go from being the most popular man in Holyoke, Massachusetts to becoming not just the most unpopular man in town, but a man reviled by the entire Connecticut State League.

His arrival in Holyoke in the winter of 1904 to take over the reins of the Holyoke Paperweights was met with great fanfare.

Frysinger

Frysinger

Born in 1873 in Chester, Pennsylvania, the son of a newspaper publisher, Frysinger was a well-known ballplayer around his hometown until his mid-20s when he became a manager.  He managed a local club in Chester from 1899 to 1901.  The 1901 team was a member of the Pennsylvania State League, and the following season Frysinger moved the team and most of the players to Wilmington, Delaware to join the “outlaw” Tri-State League.

When in 1903 Frysinger took over as manager of an independent team in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which would eventually join the Tri-State, he signed a young shortstop he knew in Chester named Joe Cassidy.  No statistics survive for the 1903 Harrisburg club, but Cassidy played well enough to be signed by the Washington Senators at the close of the season.  The 23-year-old was a promising prospect and rare bright spot with the horrible 1904 and ’05 Senator teams but passed away from either typhoid or malaria (depending on the report) in 1906 before he could realize his potential.

Cassidy

Cassidy

Frysinger managed the Tri-State League Wilmington Peaches in 1904, then left to manage Holyoke, making the bold prediction that he would bring a winning team to the paper producing capital of the world.  Frysinger brought with him several players from Pennsylvania who would make up the core of his ballclub, including Snake Deal, Chick Hartley and Butch Rementer.

The Paperweights quickly became the powerhouse of the Connecticut State League, in one stretch, beginning in late June the team won 20 of 23 games, and easily won the league championship.

Frysinger was given a $300 bonus on top of his $1200 salary and on September 12 signed a contract to manage the Paperweights in 1906 at a salary of $1400.  He was the town hero and was presented a diamond watch fob by the team’s directors.

Things changed quickly.

On September 29, while Frysinger and the Holyoke team were playing a series of exhibition games against local teams in Pennsylvania, he informed the Holyoke management that he had accepted an offer to manage the Lancaster Red Roses in the Tri-State League for $1800.  Holyoke refused to let Frysinger out of his contract so he simply jumped.  At the same time, Frysinger did exactly what he did when arriving in Holyoke; he took many Holyoke and Connecticut State League players with him.  In addition to Deal, Hartley and Rementer, Frysinger signed Fred Crolius, Pop Foster and Dave Altizer away from the league.

Holyoke was in an uproar.

“Frysinger Hated in the Paper City,” said the headline in The (New London, CT) Day, the story called Frysinger a”

“Traitor to Holyoke ideals and baseball ethics.”

The Bridgeport Herald said Frysinger “Is determined to take away from Holyoke all its best.”

No one in Holyoke or anywhere in the Connecticut State League seemed to care about the contract status of the players when they arrived with Frysinger, but their departure became the main focus of the league meeting in January of 1906.

There were demands to have Frysinger blacklisted, but the manager, recovering from appendicitis in Wilmington, Delaware told The Meriden Daily Journal “I brought them to Holyoke…why shouldn’t I try to bring them to Lancaster as well?”

Frysinger’s status would never be resolved.  The 33-year-old manager developed an infection from the surgery and died on February 5, 1906. The Philadelphia Inquirer said most of the Lancaster club and Philadelphia Athletics Manager Connie Mack were present at the funeral in Wilmington.

The Lancaster New Era reported that there was some concern in the city about whether the players signed by Frysinger would play for the team:

“(Q)uite a number of players affixed their signatures to local contacts for the only reason that they were to play under Frysinger, who had the reputation for being one of the squarest managers in the business….The deceased wife (Madge), who acted as the manager’s stenographer through his final illness is thoroughly conversant with the affairs concerning the local baseball situation, and she promises to retain the players already signed.”

She was true to her word; all of the players who were mentioned to have committed to Frysinger were members of the 1906 team which finished in third place in the Tri-State League

“The Duke of Minneapolis”

20 Nov

Martin F. Duck was born in Zanesville, Ohio in 1867.  He played under the name Martin Duke.   As he was becoming a well-known pitcher The Kansas City Times told a story which purported to explain why he changed his name:

 “The real name of the (Minneapolis) Millers’ best pitcher is not Duke, but Duck…Martin was pitching in a game up in Michigan and in the ninth his club led the opposing team by one run. (With two runners on base) a man up in the grandstand began imitating the quack of a duck…as the ‘quack, quack, quack continued his face became lobster-colored.  He shouted to his taunter that he would fix him after the game, but the fiend…went on with his ‘quack, quack, quack’”

At this point, Duck allegedly threw the ball into the stands at his tormentor, allowing both runs to score, “After that he dropped the name Duck entirely.”

By the time that story appeared Martin Duke seemed headed for a productive career.  He went 14-12 with the Zanesville Kickapoos in the Ohio State League in 1887.  In 1888, he again pitched for Zanesville, now in the Tri-State League and for The Toledo Maumees in the same league—no  records survive for that season.

The five-foot, five-inch Duke made a name for himself the following year.  While pitching for the Millers in the Western Association, he posted a 24-16 record and struck out 347 batters in 355 innings, earning the nickname “Duke of Minneapolis.”

In February of 1890, The Chicago Inter Ocean said Chicago’s Players League team was after the pitcher:  “Captain Comiskey of the Chicago Brotherhood has been on Duke’s trail for weeks, with the result that although Duke has not yet signed a contract we will play with the Chicago Brotherhood club this season.”

If Comiskey was, in fact, on Duke’s trail he never got his man.  Duke returned to Minneapolis, and while statistics for 1890 no longer survive, but the press routinely called him the Millers’ best pitcher.

In 1891, he slipped to 10-11, and in May he was suspended for being, as The Sporting Life said, “Out of condition” (a euphemism for his problem drinking), but earned an August trial with the Washington Statesmen in the American Association.  The Saint Paul Globe said of his departure:

“Martin Duke–the one, the only, the statuesque Duke–has bidden good-bye to the ozone of Minnesota and beer of Minneapolis…Last night he boarded the train, moved his hand in adieu, cocked his hat to one side, closed an eye, uttered a certain familiar expression peculiar to Dukes and disappeared forever.”

Martin Duke

Duke failed his Major league trial.  In four games, he posted a 0-3 record and walked 19 batters in 23 innings.

Despite his poor debut, he received another opportunity, this one with the Chicago Colts in 1892. When he was signed in January, The Chicago Tribune said:

“Duke’s last season, owing to lax discipline, was not a success, but this season he promises to regain his old form, as he is bound by an ironclad contract to abstain from intoxicating drinks.  By his contract half his salary reverts to the club if he breaks the pledge.  This should keep him straight.”

He received a big buildup in The Chicago Daily News:

“(He) is one of Captain Anson’s new colts, and he not only puts the ball over the home plate with almost the speed of a cannon shot, but he also seems to have a head studded with eyes, for stealing second base when he is in the box is always most hazardous business.  His pitching arm is so strong and shapely and so well equipped with powerful muscles that it would win admiration from a blacksmith.”

Despite the accolades he was released before the beginning of the season, The Tribune said:

“Martin Duke is also down for release. He has shown up poorly so far, and the club cannot use five pitchers anyhow.”

He signed with the New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern Association and seemed to regain his old form posting a 13-3 record.  It was his last successful season.

After getting off to a 2-5 start in 1893 Duke was released by New Orleans, and initially there were no takers for his services.  The Milwaukee Journal said why:

“Martin was always a good pitcher, but his mouth and his temper were too great a load for any team to carry any length of time.”

Duke bounced around the minor leagues after that with short stints for teams in the Eastern League, Southern Association and Western League until 1895, when he returned again to Minneapolis.  But after 13 games with the Millers, he injured his arm and was released in June.  According to The St. Paul Globe, he injured the arm again in August; rupturing a tendon while pitching for a semi-pro team in Rosemount, Minnesota.

In 1897, The Sporting Life reported that Duke, employed in a Minneapolis tavern, was “Trying to get in shape” in order to return to the diamond that season, but he never played professional ball again.

Duke died from pneumonia on December 31, 1898, in Minneapolis.  The Sporting Life said:

“He possessed great ability as a pitcher, but never lasted long with any club, as he was a hard man to control, and was given to dissipation, which ultimately led to enforced retirement from the profession and untimely death.”

Duke was 31 years-old.

A shorter version of this post appeared in October 2012

Charlie Roy

27 May

Robert Charles “Charlie” Roy was one of the most sought after prospects in the country in the winter of 1905.  Raised on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, Roy was a pitcher for the Carlisle Indian School baseball team.

The Minneapolis Journal said of the 21-year-old:

“He has been pitching altogether four years, and he puts remarkable speed into the ball.”

In December of 1905, it was reported that Roy was about to sign with the Cincinnati Reds, but just days later he chose to return to Carlisle

The manager of the Carlisle baseball team in the spring of 1906 was Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Charles “Togie” Pittinger–who won 23 games for Philadelphia in 1905.

In March, it was announced  that Roy had signed a contract with the Phillies on the recommendation of Pittinger.  The Philadelphia Record said Pittinger compared the pitcher’s abilities to those of one of Roy’s childhood friends, another Carlisle product:

“He thinks Roy has every earmark of developing into one of the best pitchers in either major league, and predicts for him as bright a baseball career as that of (Chief) Bender.”

Cincinnati protested the signing and claimed Roy had “Verbally agreed,” to a contract the previous December and belonged to Reds.  As the National League considered which team he belonged to, Roy worked out with Phillies.

Charlie Roy, Carlisle Indian School, 1906

Any thought that he’d instantly join the team and be the next Bender was dispelled by Phillies Manager Hugh Duffy who was quoted in The Pittsburgh Press that Philadelphia would not appeal if Cincinnati won the claim because:

“Roy lacks the experience necessary to make him a success in the big league.  He is still green, and until the greenness wears off he will be of no value to big league team.”

The National League ruled that Roy was the property of Philadelphia, and regardless of Duffy’s assessment he made his debut for the Phillies in late June.  Roy only appeared in seven games, posted a 0-1 record with a 4.91 ERA and was sent to the Newark Sailors in the Eastern League.

Charlie Roy

Charlie Roy

He was 2-4 with Newark and was 2-4 again early in 1907 when he was released by the Sailors.  He signed with the Wilmington Peaches of the Tri-State League, although there is no record of him appearing in a game.  He finished the 1907 season with the Steubenville Stubs in the Pennsylvania-Ohio-Maryland League, appearing in 15 games.

Despite dropping from the Major Leagues to a class “D” league in 18 months, the 23-year-old pitcher was still considered a good prospect. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said after he won his first start for the Stubs, a 7-2 three-hitter against the Braddock Infants:

“He has plenty of speed and fine curves and looks like a winner.”

But near the close of the 1907 season it was clear he’d never be another Bender.  Despite being drafted by Boston Doves, The Associated Press reported that he would refuse to report to the National League club in the spring:

 “Charlie Roy, The Indian Twirler…has quit baseball to go into the evangelist field.”

Some papers reported the pitcher’s decision more impoliticly.

The Harrisburg Telegraph:

“(Roy) says he has had all the National League game he wanted, and rather than report he will go back to the plains and throw mud balls at his fellow Indians.”

The Sporting Life:

 “(Roy) intends to forsake the diamond after the close of this season and equip himself for evangelistic labors among the redskins of the Northwest.”

Roy returned to the White Earth Reservation to preach and eventually settled in Blackfoot, Idaho  where he died in 1950.

A shorter version of this post appeared on October 30, 2012.

Humpy Badel

27 Apr

Fred Badel was the first player in professional baseball (and most likely the only one) who suffered from Kyphosis, the over-curvature of the upper back.  In less sensitive times, the first decade of the 20th Century, this led to his nickname: Humpy.

Badel was born in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, March 6, 1881, although contemporary newspaper accounts implied he was much older.  He never learned to read or write, and despite his medical condition developed into a solid ballplayer.

The Altoona Tribune said:

“He is a little left-handed hitter, fast on his feet, and an excellent baserunner.”

The Tribune also said he was “(A) protegé of (Honus) Wagner.”

The Pittsburgh Press said he was:

“[E]xtremely fast on his feet, can hit like a fiend, and fields his position in a most finished manner.”

That description of Badel’s abilities appeared in an article about “The assertion…there are three classes of men who do not succeed in fast company in baseball, namely Hebrews, hunchbacks and Negroes,” the article failed to mention the concerted effort of organized baseball to keep at least two of those “classes” out of the game.)

Fred “Humpy” Badel

His professional career began in 1905 with Johnstown in the independent “outlaw” Tri-State League, although earlier he appears to have played for the Youngstown team in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League, and independent teams in Pennsylvania.

No statistics survive, but Badel appears to have played well.  He was described variously by Pennsylvania papers as a “picturesque character” and “odd,” but there seemed to be general agreement that he was destined for the big leagues.  He also had a reputation for playing dirty, The Williamsport Sun-Gazette said he had “a nasty trick of trying to spike basemen.”

At the close of the 1905 season, Badel was signed by the Buffalo Bisons in the Eastern League, managed by George Stallings.  Stallings, who had managed the Bisons since 1902, took the team south for spring training for the first time.

George Stallings

The trip was so successful that Stallings said he’d never again hold spring training in a northern climate—a regular practice at that time.

When the Bisons stopped in Cincinnati for an exhibition game with the Reds on April 10, Badel made an impression.

The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“Humpy Badel was the bright particular star of the game…Badel is humpback, but a great athlete, with great speed and a fine arm.  An outfielder who cuts into two double plays in one game is going some.  He also made a fine catch on (Jim) Delahanty‘s drive in the second, which would have gone on for three bags…Badel was the main Bison slugger, securing two of the four hits off (Orville) Overall and one of the three off (Leo) Hafford.  Toward the end of the game, the bleacherites were cheering him on with cries of ‘good work, Humpy,’ and applauding every move he made.”

The Enquirer reported that Stallings turned down a  $4000 offer from Cincinnati–it was later reported to be $5000– to purchase Badel’s contract; the paper said Reds Manager Ned Hanlon badly wanted Badel.

Within months everything changed.  He was with Buffalo until July, 6, when without notice he jumped the team and returned to Johnstown.

badel

A cartoon from The Harrisburg Telegraph featuring Badel.

 

The Buffalo Courier blasted Badel; under the headline “Humpy Badel is a Foolish Man” the newspaper detailed how well he had been treated in Buffalo.  While acknowledging that Badel “Has the makings of a great player in him,” the paper repeatedly mentioned his illiteracy, claimed he “Lacked common sense,” missed or ignored signs, refused Stallings’ attempts to help him,  and was the subject of ridicule from his teammates who considered him ignorant.

The Buffalo Times summed up their view in verse:

“There was an outfielder named Humpy.

Whose work was decidedly lumpy;

So one bright summer day

He asked George for his pay,

And went back to the farm rather grumpy.”

Badel’s hometown papers in Pittsburgh and Sporting Life were somewhat less harsh, but all said that Badel’s leaving Buffalo probably ended a sure chance at a major league career.  Rumors that he jumped because oil had been found on his Pennsylvania land and he no longer needed to play ball were quickly dismissed.

There is no record of Badel ever having been asked for an explanation for why he left Buffalo and effectively ended any chance he had to play in the major leagues.

Badel hit over .300 in Johnstown during the second half of 1906.  He did not play professional ball in 1907, some reports said he had been blacklisted, others claimed he was ill–The Washington Herald said he was “in the grip of consumption,” although that report was likely false.

He appeared briefly with Johnstown again in 1908, but it appears he was not the same player.  The Harrisburg Star-Independent said:

“‘Humpy’ Badel has degenerated.  The eccentric one is no longer the valuable player which he showed himself to be in 1906.”

Badel is listed on the rosters of several independent, C and D league teams between 1910 and 1914, including the “outlaw” United States League in 1912 and the Federal League in 1913.  As was the case throughout his career, there are few extant statistics for Badel during this period.

The last mention of Badel in the press was the report of  his release from Maysville in the Ohio State League in June of 1914.  According to census records and his World War I registration card, he lived in Cincinnati, then Akron and worked as a carpenter until 1919.

 After 1919, there are no records of Badel, a suitable, enigmatic end to the story of an enigmatic man.

A shorter version of this post was published on August 21, 2012

“Show yourself a man, Borchers, and Leave Boozing to the Weak Fools”

10 Feb

After defeating the Boston Beaneaters and “Old Hoss” Radbourn in his major league debut, George Borchers returned to the mound five days later in Chicago and beat the Philadelphia Quakers and William “Kid” Gleason 7 to 4.

With two wins in two starts the 19-year-old Borchers was, according to The New York Evening World, one of the most sought after players in the National League:

“There are several league clubs who would like to get hold of Borchers, the latest Chicago wonder, the only thing in the way of his acquisition is the $10,000 (the White Stockings were asking).”

Chicago probably should have sold Borchers while there was interest.  He injured his arm sometime in June, missed most of July, and according to White Stockings Manager “Cap” Anson “lacks the heart to stand heavy punishment.”

George Borchers

George Borchers

After his fast start, Borchers was just 4-4 in 10 starts when Chicago released him and Chicago’s other 19-year-old “phenom” Willard “Grasshopper” Mains (1-1 in 2 games) on September 6.

The Chicago Tribune said Borchers was on his way to Cincinnati to play for the Red Stockings, “he has plenty on speed and good curves, and it will not be surprising if he makes a success in the American Association.”

After the Cincinnati deal failed to materialize, Borchers accepted $100 in advance money to join the Stockton franchise in the California League.  After receiving the money he never showed up in Stockton.

No less a figure than the “Father of Baseball,” Henry Chadwick held out hope that Borchers would eventually be a successful pitcher:

“There is a chance that a first-class pitcher, who played in the Chicago team last season, is going to reform the bad habits which led to his release by Captain Anson in August (sic) last. I refer to Borchers.   (John Montgomery) Ward told me that Borchers was a very promising pitcher, and had he kept himself straight be would undoubtedly have made his mark. I learn that be is going to try and recover his lost ground, and if be shows the possession of the moral courage to reform, and the intelligence to keep temperate, he will yet find his way to fame and fortune. Show yourself a man, Borchers, and leave boozing to the weak fools of the fraternity who indulge in it at the cost of a fair name and of pecuniary independence.”

Borchers didn’t appear ready to “reform.”  Between the 1888 and ’89 season, according to The San Francisco Chronicle, he signed a contract to play for the Canton Nadjys in the Tri-State League, receiving $100 in advance money and also signed a contract with that Kansas City Cowboys in the American Association, receiving a $300 advance.

In February of ’89 Borchers was awarded to Canton.  Kansas City offered to purchase his contract.  Canton Manager William Harrington said in The Sporting Life that “Borchers will play in Canton or not at all.”

Borchers left for California.

Upon arriving in Sacramento Borchers was arrested as a result of the Stockton contract.  The Los Angeles Herald said:

“George Borchers, the well-known baseball player, was arrested this afternoon on a warrant from Stockton, charging him with having received money by false pretenses.”

Borchers pleaded guilty and paid a fine in March.  In April he attempted to sign with the Sacramento Altas.  The San Jose Evening News said:

“Sacramento being in need of a pitcher, induced Borchers to agree to play there and asked the Stockton Club to allow him to do so.  This President Campbell (of Stockton) refused and the league directors have sustained the action.”

The California League ruled Borchers ineligible for the season.

With too much time on his hands, Borchers couldn’t stay out of trouble.  The Associated Press reported on June 27:

“Shortly after 11 o’clock tonight a barn belonging to Mrs. Borchers, mother of George Borchers, the well-known baseball pitcher, was destroyed by fire, causing a loss of nearly $1000.  When the Fire Department arrived on the scene George Borchers tried to prevent the firemen from fighting the flames.  He was drunk and very boisterous.  Finally Chief Engineer O’Meara ordered his arrest.  When two officers took him in custody he fought desperately, and had to be handcuffed and placed in a wagon before he could be got to prison.”

The story said Borchers, who “has been loafing about town (Sacramento) for several months, drinking heavily” had made threats that he’d burn down the barn because his mother would not give him any more money.  Mrs. Borchers had “recently expended a large sum of money to get him out of trouble at Stockton.”

Whether his mother paid his way out of this or not is unknown, but the charges against Borchers went away, and he spent the remainder of the 1889 baseball season pitching for a semi-pro team in Merced, California.

He returned to the California League on March 23, 1890 when he pitched for Stockton in the season opener against the Haverlys at San Francisco’s Haight Street Grounds.  Borchers and Stockton lost 11 to 5.

His time in the league would be short.

In Early May he began complaining of a sore arm; The San Francisco Call said that “Borchers is known to have received an offer from the New York Brotherhood (Players League) Club and the Stockton directors think he’s playing for his release.”

On May 11 Borchers, according to The Sacramento Bee arrived at the ballpark in Stockton, on horseback and “extremely drunk.”  Catcher/Manager Mike DePangher sent Borchers home.  Borchers instead went on a bender that ended the following evening in a Stockton restaurant where he was arrested for being drunk and disorderly.

The Call said:

“If he took this means to sever his connection with the Stockton Club and join the Brotherhood, he not only brought disgrace in more sense than one upon himself, but has probably ruined his chance of an Eastern engagement.”

Borchers was fined $10 in court, the Stockton club fined him $100 and suspended him for the remainder of the season and sold his contract to Portland in the Pacific Northwest League–but not before the Sacramento Senators attempted to use him in a game.  The Call said Stockton protested:

“(Sacramento) Manager (George) Ziegler thought it best not to play him.  When George was informed that he was not to play he good-naturedly said:  ‘All right, old man,’ and then added, ‘One suspension, one release, all in two weeks.’”

George Ziegler

George Ziegler

On June 1 he won his first start for Portland, beating Spokane 7 to 6.  The Oregonian said “Borchers pitched a splendid game for the Portlands.”

Borchers split the remainder of the season between Portland and Spokane, compiling a 14-14 record with a 1.44 ERA.  When the Pacific Northwest League season ended Borchers returned home to play in the California League again; The Sacramento Record-Union printed a letter from his manager at Spokane, William “Kid” Peeples:

“Borchers has been pitching ball out of sight, and has not tasted a drop of liquor while up north.  He says he is going to stay straight, and finish the season with the Sacramentos.  He will have all the California boys guessing, as he did here.”

The San Francisco Call said Borchers was “a dismal disappointment” after he lost his first two starts for the second place Senators—both losses were against the league-leading San Francisco Haverlys.  San Francisco Manager Mike Finn filed a protest with the league, claiming Borchers should be declared ineligible because he was still on the reserve list of the Spokane club.

Mike Finn, manager, San Francisco Haverlys

Mike Finn, manager, San Francisco Haverlys

In his third start Borchers allowed Stockton to score three runs in the first inning on five walks and a wild pitch, but settled down and won 7 to 6. He beat Stockton again three days later, 15 to 10. The Record-Union criticized all four of his performances and said he had reverted to “his old ways.”

The 21-year-old finished the 1890 season with a 2-2 record for the second place Senators; San Francisco won the championship.  At the end of the season the California League upheld Finn’s protest over Borchers and fined Sacramento $500.

The rest of the George Borchers story on Wednesday.

“Wilmington is in to the Finish”

10 Dec

When first-year manager Edgar Bear’s 1-9 Wilmington Sailors took the field on May 17, 1902 against the Durham Bulls, George Dudley Proud was, contrary to speculation in the press, assigned to work as umpire.

With the season just 10-games old Proud’s abilities as an umpire had been called into question by Bear, by Greensboro Farmers manager George “King” Kelly, and the press in Greensboro and Wilmington.

The game remained a scoreless tie into the bottom of the seventh inning.  The Wilmington Messenger said:

“Up to that stage it was a clean game, and there were many brilliant plays.  Neither side had scored.  Wilmington took her seventh inning and retired without any chance at the home plate.  Durham came up and (Otis) Stocksdale reached first on a clean hit and stole second. “

The next batter, John Curran, hit a ground ball to first baseman William “Germany” Dommel.  Proud ruled that Dommel did not touch first base and called Curran safe:

“This caused the trouble that resulted in Wilmington’s leaving the field.”

The team left the field and refused to return; Proud awarded the game to Durham by forfeit.  Bear’s role during the incident that led to the forfeit is unclear.   The Wilmington papers said he was present and in the stands, The Durham Herald said he was not at the ballpark when the incident took place.

What happened next is not in dispute.

The Durham Herald said:

“Umpire G. D. Proud, of the State Base Ball League, was assaulted last evening by Mr. E. J. Bear, manager of the Wilmington club.  The assault was the outcome of the kicks made by the Wilmington players in the game yesterday.”

According to the paper, Bear, accompanied by five Wilmington players, went to Durham’s Central Hotel and confronted the umpire.

“(Bear) knocked on the door of Proud’s room and being told to enter; he did so and started off by using insulting language.  This was followed by an attempt to strike the umpire.”

Bear was restrained by two hotel guests and arrested for assault.  Proud was fined $25 and released from jail the following morning.

The Messenger said:

“(Proud’s) conduct in Durham was such to make him many enemies, he told (a reporter) this morning that Durham had tried to ruin him and now he intended to break the state league if possible.  It is learned he telegraphed (North Carolina League) President (Perrin) Busbee this afternoon telling him either Durham or Wilmington had to get out of the league.”

On May 20 The Charlotte Observer published a letter from Bear, which read in part:

“I do most earnestly declare that in my opinion Mr. Proud is totally incompetent as an umpire, and the earlier he is relieved of his job the better it is for the league, and I desire to deny most emphatically that I ever made the statement that Wilmington was going to try to break up the league, or that either Durham or Wilmington had to get out of the league.”

Bear claimed he had not been in contact with the league president and said:

“I am manager of the Wilmington club at a great financial loss, but I have only the good of the league at heart, and intend that Wilmington shall remain a member of the league as long as any other club is in it, whether the Wilmington club wins another game or not.  And further that my best efforts will be given to make the league a success, financially and otherwise.  Wilmington is in to the finish.”

Wilmington was in to the finish—Bear was not.

The New Bern Daily Journal said:

“Manager Edgar Bear rather unceremoniously relinquished the management of the Wilmington baseball club (on May 25) by failing to provide transportation for the team to leave for the game at New Bern.”

Bear had disappeared.  His career as a professional baseball manager was over in less than a month.  He was replaced Harry Mace, who was an umpire in the league and a former professional player who had pitched in three games for the Washington Statesmen in the American Association in 1891.  Wilmington was 10-40 at the beginning of July when the team disbanded and the league was reconstituted with four teams.  Mace rejoined the league’s umpire staff.

Proud did not last much longer.  The day The New Bern Daily Journal reported on Bear’s exit, another article said:

“The New Bern team (the Truckers) arrived here (May 25), after its tempestuous three games at Raleigh…The team felt no discouragement from the loss of those games, which were under the complete control of Umpire Proud, who never gave new Bern a chance to win.”

Proud would resign before the end of May.  The Wilmington Messenger said he was “Honest, but not up to the requirements of the position.”

Proud became an umpire in the Tri-State League a month later.  He was also involved in automobile racing on East Coast, and created road maps.

Bear made the papers one last time.  On September 18 1905, Bear, going by the name of Eddie Merode and working as an acrobat in vaudeville performances in Utah.  The Charlotte Observer said police were called to “an opium joint” in Salt Lake City’s Chinatown were they found him “apparently dying of opium poisoning.”  He died later that day.

Gus Dorner’s Spitball

7 Jun

dorner1 dorner2

Augustus “Gus” Dorner suddenly became a successful pitcher in 1904.  He had brief trials with Cleveland in the American League in 1902 and ’03, he was 6-6 and control was a problem; on May 23, 1903, walked 11 batters in a game against the Philadelphia Athletics.  He finished the 1903 season with the Columbus Senators in the American Association posting a 7-7 record.

The next two seasons in Columbus Dorner was 18-10, and 29-8.  The Fort Wayne Daily News said:

“The big German attributes his success to condition, control, study of the batsman and mastery of the spitball.”

Dorner said, “I use the spitball a great deal.”  As a result of his new pitch he said:

“(I) have not had the slightest trouble with my arm this year.  I have worked hard to get control and perfect the spit ball.”

The magic was short-lived.  Dorner earned a return to the big leagues in 1906 but was a combined 8-26 with the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Beaneaters.  Overall he was 29-62 in parts of four seasons with Boston.

Gus Dorner

Gus Dorner

He didn’t fare much better in the minor leagues, going 25-29 his last three seasons as a professional.  After his release from Boston in May of 1909, he finished the season with the American Association’s Kansas City Blues with a 9-18 record.  The last two years of his career were spent with the Wilkes-Barre Barons in the New York State League and the Harrisburg Senators in the Tri-State League.

“Begged the Crowd for God’s Sake not to Kill Him”

21 May

Edward Siegfried Hengel (often misspelled Hengle during his career) was a well-known umpire and manager in the 1880s.

Born in 1855, Hengel managed the Union Association franchise that began the season in Chicago, and relocated to Pittsburgh in August, 1884.  His career is occasionally confused with Emery “Moxie” Hengel (also often misspelled Hengle) who played second base for 1884 Chicago/Pittsburgh club, and had a long minor league career.  (The two were born two years apart in Chicago, but there is no indication they were related).

Emery "Moxie" Hengel

Emery “Moxie” Hengel

In 1886 Ed Hengel was an umpire in the Southern Association.  On August 5 he was working a game between Savannah and the Charleston Seagulls.  The Macon (GA) Telegraph said, in the sixth inning:

“”At this point of the game it became apparent to the audience, as well as to the players of the local team, that Hengle (sic), the umpire, had sold the game to Savannah; but notwithstanding his adverse decisions, the locals kept the Savannah team down to one run till the end of the ninth inning.  During the latter half of this inning (Hengel) gave the visitor three runs, letting them score in the following manner:  (John “Tug”) Arundel was at the bat. There were two out.  He hit a grounder to (Henry “Heinie”) Kappel who stopped it and threw it to first.  Arundel had stopped running and left the line when (first baseman Jim) Powell   failed to catch the ball”

Arundel then came back onto the field and ran to first, Hengel declared Arundel safe and a  run scored; the next hitter, Joe Miller, drove in two more runs, to win the game for Charleston, 4 to 3

The Telegraph said:

“As soon as the crowd caught on to the steal the grand stand and bleaching boards emptied their male contents on the ground, and for five minutes (the umpire) was in danger of getting very badly hurt, if not killed, by the infuriated crowd.”

The management of the Charleston team helped keep the fans at bay until police arrived:

“It were (sic) best for (Hengel) to get transferred immediately as another disgraceful piece of umpiring will cost him some inconvenience.  The people of Charleston will not stand another robbery.

“(Hengel) was scared nearly to death; he was as white as a sheet, and it is said begged the crowd, for God’s sake, not to kill him.  He did not deny having sold the game when charged with it by a director of the baseball club after he was safe.”

Hengel did not work another game in Charleston that season.

In October of 1887 The Aurora (IL) Daily Express credited Hengel with signing “(Charlie) Hoover crack-backstop of the Western League” for the Chicago White Stockings—within weeks Hoover’s long series of troubles would begin.

HOOVER_LG

Charlie Hoover

Hengel continued as an umpire, including stints in the Tri-State and Pacific Northwest Leagues,  and minor league manager for the next decade.  While managing the Hamilton (OH) club in the Tri-State League, Hengel saved a young girl from drowning, and “her grateful parents presented him a pair of diamond sleeve buttons.”

Hengel disappears from the newspapers after 1892;  he died in Great Britain in 1927; presumably not at the hands of angry Charleston fans.

Note:  Henry “Heinie” Kappel does not appear on surviving rosters for the 1886 Charleston Seagulls, but contemporaneous accounts in The Sporting Life and other newspapers confirm he was with the team.