Tag Archives: Tri-State League

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.

Anger Management

27 Dec

Thomas Timothy “Tim” Flood just couldn’t control himself.

Flood was a solid infielder and somewhat erratic hitter.  As a 17-year-old he hit .364 with the New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern Association in 1894 but hit .266 in his minor league career and .233 as a Major Leaguer.

He had a late season 10-game trial with his hometown St. Louis Perfectos in the National League in 1899.  He was given his next shot in the National league in 1902 when he was signed by Ned Hanlon’s Brooklyn Superbas to fill the void left at second when veteran Tom Daly jumped his contract to join the Chicago White Sox.

Flood was an upgrade in the field, and while a weaker hitter than Daly, he quickly became a favorite of Hanlon who named him Brooklyn’s captain for the 1903 season.

Tim Flood

Tim Flood

1903 was not a good season for the new captain; he continued to struggle at the plate and dealt with a knee injury that limited him to 84 games.  He was also suspended for two games in July for a physical altercation in Cincinnati with umpire James “Bug” Holiday.  Holiday, a former Major Leaguer had a stormy half season as a National league umpire and resigned several days after tangling with Flood.

Flood was released by Brooklyn in March of 1904 and joined the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League.

He was a very popular player in Los Angeles and captained the Angeles in 1904 and part of 1905 until he assaulted Ira “Slats” Davis, another former Major Leaguer turned umpire during a game in June of 1905. Eugene Bart, president of the league suspended flood indefinitely.

Newspapers reported that Flood said he would “never fight another arbitrator whether he is in the right or wrong.”

In 1906, he signed with the Altoona Mountaineers in the “outlaw” Tri-State League, where he appears to have kept his pledge and had an incident-free season.

In 1907, he joined  the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern League and managed to play 29 games before he was in trouble again.  Flood assaulted an umpire named John Conway during a game in Toronto; the attack included a kick to the umpire’s chest.

Flood was arrested.

He was charged with assault and ordered to appear in front of a magistrate. Friends told Flood the hearing would be a formality and that he should plead guilty and receive a small fine.

No one told Magistrate George Taylor Denison who said, “This sort of thing must be discouraged,” and sentenced Flood to “Fifteen days in jail with hard labor.” At the same time Patrick Powers, president of the Eastern League, banished Flood from the league.

Toronto fans were outraged and immediately began circulating petitions which “included the names of several clergymen” and were presented by team officials to Minister of Justice Allen Bristol Aylesworth in hopes of getting Flood pardoned.

Opinions of the punishment varied.  Several newspapers carried the following poem which lamented Flood’s fate for “Sassing” an umpire:

“’Holy Moses!’  In Toronto

There is news to make you pale

Sass the umpire if you want to—

That is, want to go to jail!

There is woe among the batters,

As around the field they scud;

And their pride is torn to tatters

By the fate of poor Tim Flood

Fifteen days in jail for Timmy

Soon the parks will close so tight

That you couldn’t with a jimmy

Let in one small streak of light.”

Others, including two former players, said Flood got what he deserved and implied that his behavior was not limited to the three well-publicized incidents.

Charles “Count” Campau, a former Major Leaguer and umpire, who had been a teammate of Flood’s in New Orleans said:

“I am sorry to see anyone go to jail, but, for the good of baseball. I am glad to see Tim Flood out of it for good. Rowdies of the Flood type are a disgrace to any sport or business, and especially baseball. He was always mixed up in just this way and was chased out of California, where b« was playing, for the same kind of tricks. Umpire baiting was always his long suit, and, from what I can understand, his attack on Umpire Owens [sic] was a most cowardly one: Flood is a good ballplayer, but his hasty temper, his meanness has put him out of the game forever, and incidentally Into Jail.”

Charles "Count" Campau

Charles “Count” Campau

Tim Murnane, Major Leaguer turned baseball writer said:

“Tim Flood has a new record, and will now be in a position to go back to his trade and give up the game he was unfitted for.  The courts all over the country should follow the example of the Canadian judge, who sent a ballplayer to lock-up for assaulting an umpire.  It wouldn’t take many decisions of this kind to drive the bad men out of the sport.  Imagine a player taking a running jump at a man and hitting him in the breast with his spiked shoes!”

Tim Murnane

Tim Murnane

After serving 10 days, Minister of Justice Aylesworth ordered Flood released.  The player, in various reports, claimed he lost between 10 and 16 pounds during his incarceration, citing the poor quality of the food.

President Powers rejected pleas from the Toronto management to reinstate Flood and permanently banned him from the Eastern League; however, contrary to Campau’s and Murnane’s wishes, Flood was out of baseball for less than a month.

Flood was signed before the end of July by the Saint Paul Saints in the American Association and vowed, as he had before, that he was a changed man.

It appears 10 days in jail might have made a difference.  Flood was named manager of the Saints in 1908 and continued to play and manage in the minor leagues for five more seasons, apparently without incident.

In 1914, The Sporting Life reported, with no irony, that Flood was hired as an umpire in the Northern League.

Flood died in St’ Louis in 1929.

Chief and Cy

19 Dec

Charles “Chief” Zimmer caught Denton True “Cy” Young’s first Major League game; an 8-1 victory for the Cleveland Spiders over Cap Anson’s Chicago Colts.

Years later, Davis Hawley, a Cleveland banker and hotel magnate who also owned a minority share of the Spiders and served as the team’s secretary, related a story about Young’s debut:

“The night of Young’s first National League game, he complained to me that although he had let Anson’s team down with a few hits, he had not had his usual speed.”

Hawley who had watched him pitch in the Tri-State League asked why he felt that way.

“Well, down in Canton the catchers could not hold me I was so fast, but this man Zimmer didn’t have any trouble at all, so I guess I didn’t have much speed.”

Zimmer would go on to catch 247 of Young’s starts through 1898, including 19 shutouts; second in both categories to Lou Criger, who played with Young in Cleveland, St. Louis and Boston.

Zimmer would catch Young a few more times after 1898.

In 1921 the 54-year-old Young pitched two shutout innings, with the 60-year-old Zimmer catching, in a game between Cleveland Major League legends and amateur stars staged as part of Cleveland’s 135th anniversary celebration.  In addition to Young and Zimmer, Nap Lajoie, Earl Moore, Bill Bradley, Charlie Hickman, Nig Cuppy and Elmer Flick were among the participants.

Earl Moore, Cy Young, Bill Bradley, Charlie Hickman, Nap Lajoie and Chief Zimmer at the 1923 game.

Earl Moore, Cy Young, Bill Bradley, Charlie Hickman, Nap Lajoie and Chief Zimmer at the 1923 game.

The game was such a success that for the next four years it became an annual event at League Park (called Dunn Field during the 1920s); Young pitched the first two innings of each game with Zimmer catching. The event benefited the Cleveland Amateur Baseball Association medical fund.

Young always shared credit for his success with his catchers.  In the 1945 book “My Greatest Day in Baseball As told to John P. Carmichael and Other Noted Sportswriters,” he said:

“Every great pitcher usually has a great catcher, like Mathewson had Roger Bresnahan and Miner Brown had Johnny Kling. Well, in my time I had two. First, there was Chief Zimmer, when I was with Cleveland in the National League, and then there was Lou Criger, who caught me at Boston and handled my perfect game.”

A little more “Chief” tomorrow.

What Goes Around…

12 Dec

Harry “Bird Eye” Truby’s best days were behind him by 1905.  He broke in with Rockford in the Central Interstate League in 1888, had spent part of 1896 and ’96 in the National League with the Chicago Colts and Pittsburgh Pirates, and for the next decade was a solid minor league player.  But his skills had eroded and by 1902 he was playing in lesser quality leagues.

Truby started the season in the D-level Cotton States League with the Jackson Blind Tigers, by June he was either released or sold (depending on the source) to the Meridian Ribboners in the same league—he was acquired by the Niles Crowites in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League on September 1—within days his career was over.  The Youngstown Vindicator said:

“Harry Truby won’t have a chance to slug any more umpires for a while (sic) unless he makes a special appointment with them.”

In a Labor day game against the Akron Buckeyes Truby punched an umpire named List after he called a Niles player out for not tagging up on a fly ball; The Vindicator said of the resulting melee which involved at least two other players and some fans:

“It was a disgraceful scene, indeed.”

League president  Charles Hazen Morton suspended Truby indefinitely; the suspension effectively ended his career.

Harry Truby, 1898

Harry Truby, 1898

The following season Truby became an umpire, quickly worked his way back to the Big Leagues,  and was named to the  National League staff at the beginning of the 1909 season; however, he was let go or resigned in July (again, sources disagree).  In August Truby became an umpire in the Tri-State League.

Within days of joining the Tri-State,  Truby umpired a game between the Williamsport Millionaires and Trenton Tigers in Williamsport, PA.  Williamsport argued a number of calls and Truby had already ejected three of their players: Bert Conn, George Therre, Tom O’Hara, when in the seventh inning he ejected a fourth, outfielder Rip Cannell. The Pittsburgh Press said:

“(T)he crowd, enraged by (Truby’s) poor work and apparently uncalled for action against the local team swarmed  upon the diamond.  He was knocked down…and struck on the nose by a stone.  The police quickly ended the disturbance, but after the game the crowd was in waiting and ran the umpire into a shed from which he was rescued by two officers in an automobile.  The crowd tried to pursue the automobile but it pulled ahead and at 7 o’clock he reached his hotel.”

Truby worked as an umpire in the Tri-State and Ohio State Leagues through the 1913 season, and seems to have avoided any additional attacks by angry mobs.

He died in 1953 in Ironton, Ohio.

“The Rube Waddell of the Central League”

11 Oct

Edward S. Van Anda was the most talented pitcher in the Central League from 1904 to 1908; he was also the most erratic personality in the league–and was often compared to baseball’s most eccentric pitching legend “Rube” Waddell.

Van Anda was born June 6, 1881 in Wapakoneta, Ohio. He pitched for independent teams in Ohio from 1900-1903, getting as much attention for his enormous ego and behavior as he did for his pitching.

Nicknamed “Lord Chesterfield,” or simply “Chesty,” Van Anda would disappear for long stretches and his shameless self promotion made him unpopular with teammates He was signed by the Fort Wayne Railroaders in the Central League in 1904. His statistics for that season are lost, but according to The Youngstown Vindicator: “(H)e won every game he pitched except one toward the close of the season.”

In 1905 Van Anda again pitched for Fort Wayne (the team relocated to Canton, Ohio during the season) and posted a record of 20-14. The Fort Wayne News described Van Anda’s abilities as a ballplayer:

“There is only one thing Van Anda can do and that is pitch. He cannot hit a balloon and he runs bases like an ice wagon.”

The Fort Wayne Gazette said:

“He is rather erratic but has great pitching caliber in him.”

Every article about Van Anda described him as “eccentric,” or as the Toledo Bee put it:

“That Freak Van Anda.”

And the Bluffton (IN) Chronicle said:

“Van Anda is the name of the latest freak to break into baseball.”

A story about his self promotion that made the rounds in newspapers in 1905 was retold several years later in column by former major league pitcher Al Demaree:

“I used to know a fellow named Van Anda…he’d go out into the bleachers, and if the pitcher in the box began to falter, he’d yell “Put in Van Anda he’s the best pitcher on the club. Then he’d move over back of third and start up the same cheer in the crowd.”

The 1905 version of the story included his fellow pitchers, angry at Van Anda’s antics, setting him up

But he could pitch, and appeared destined for the Major Leagues. The Youngstown Vindicator said at the close of the 1905 season:

“Van Anda, known on account of his eccentricities as “the Rube Waddell of the Central League,” has been drafted by the Cincinnati Reds.”

At the close of the 1905 season Van Anda pitched for the local Wapakoneta team in an exhibition against the Reds, the Major Leaguers got 14 hits and beat Van Anda 12-0, it was the last time he faced a Major League team.

After a strong 1906 season with the Grand Rapids Wolverines (23-13), Van Anda was acquired by the Trenton Tigers in the Tri-State League. His time there was short; during a spring training game Van Anda walked off the mound and led the field in the middle of a game, which led to his immediate release.

According to The Fort Wayne News Van Anda “Known all over the Central as an eccentric …was given a bus ticket and returned to Fort Wayne.”

Edward Van Anda

Van Anda pitched for neither Trenton nor Fort Wayne during the 1907 regular season, but signed with the Central League South Bend Greens in June. He only appeared in one game, losing 7-1 to the Wheeling Stogies. He was released a few days later, not resurfacing until the following season.

In 1908 he went 15-11 for Fort Wayne and was purchased by the Montgomery Senators of the Southern Association and posted a 6-5 record. Early in the 1909 season Van Anda was suspended indefinitely by Fort Wayne for “insubordination.” The Fort Wayne News reported that Van Anda signed with the Galveston Sand Crabs of the Texas League, but there is no record he ever played for that team.

Van Anda became a traveling salesman in 1910. He remained in Fort Wayne until his death on October 17, 1965.

“Champ” Fertsch

5 Oct

A bullet nearly ended Edward “Champ” Fertsch’s career before it really got started.

Fertsch was born in Moorestown, New Jersey (birthplace incorrectly listed as Reading, PA in Baseball Reference) in 1874. The 5’ 10” 175 pound righthander played with the Carlisle Colts of the Cumberland Valley League in 1895, then pitched for Salisbury in the unaffiliated Peach Tree League in Maryland and Taunton in the New England League—records are incomplete or nonexistent for these seasons.

Fertsch joined the Reading Coal Heavers of the Atlantic League in 1898 and played two seasons, winning 14 games in 1899.  In 1900 Fertsch split time between New Castle in the Interstate League and Buffalo Bisons in the then minor league American League.  Fertsch’s contract was purchased by the Brooklyn Superbas, but he never had the opportunity to report the following spring.

That fall Fertsch was hunting with a friend, as the friend climbed a fence his gun discharged and Fertsch was hit the left arm.  Initially the arm was to be amputated, but Fertsch implored doctors to save it.

Assuming his career was over Brooklyn released Fertsch, but he sufficiently recovered to rejoin the Coal Heavers for the 1901 season.

According to the Reading Eagle “Fertsch cannot use the limb very well in delivering or batting, but it does not seem to hinder his twirling.”

“Champ” Fertsch

No records survive for the 1901 season, but Fertsch pitched well enough coming off the shooting to earn another shot in the Eastern League; splitting time with the Providence Grays and the Jersey City Skeeters Fertsch posted a 17-11 record.

Fertsch remained in the Eastern League for the next four seasons (no statistics survive for 1902 or ‘03), after 9-10 and 11-14 seasons in 1904 and ’05, Fertsch played the next four seasons with the Lancaster Red Roses and Reading Pretzels in the Tri-State League.

Again no complete records are available for those years, but Fertsch was frequently referred to in the Eagle as Reading’s and the Tri-State’s “Highest paid professional ballplayer.”

Fertsch was plagued by arm injuries after returning to the Tri-State and retired at the close of the 1909 season.  He became an umpire in the Tri-State League in 1910, but only served for one season because of a league rule change which no longer allowed umpires to be residents of one of the Tri-State club’s cities.

Fertsch again attempted to pitch for Reading in 1911, but only appeared in one game.

After baseball Fertsch was considered one the best bowlers in Pennsylvania.

He died in Reading in 1964.

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