Tag Archives: Tris Speaker

“He Called me the Freshest Busher he had Ever met”

15 Apr

When Tris Speaker died in 1958 it was noted that he earned $50 a month with the Cleburne Railroaders in the Texas League in 1906.

Speaker

Jesse “Doak” Roberts signed Speaker to that first contract and disputed the amount. Roberts was a prominent figure in Texas baseball.  He was the two-time president of the Texas League (1904-’06 and 1920-’29) and had an ownership stake and managed clubs in the Texas and North Texas Leagues.

Before his death in 1929, Roberts often told his version of Speaker’s signing, as recounted by The Associated Press:

“Roberts had driven in his bright new buggy to the field where Speaker was playing a semi-pro game. He called Tris over to talk contract and Speaker, wearing baseball spikes climbed onto the hub of the buggy. Roberts noted he had scraped some of the paint off, so he signed Speaker to a contract of $40 a month. Roberts had meant to make it $50 but held back the $10 to repair the buggy.”

The year before Speaker’s death, he told Jim Schlemmer—the sports editor of The Akron Beacon Journal—how he started the season in Cleburne and ended it in the outfield, while at spring training with Indians in Tucson:

“I was a good pitcher in my first six, although I didn’t win any. In one of these I allowed only two hits but lost because Benny Shelton, our player-manager, failed to cover first base on a grounder.

“I bawled him out and he called me the freshest busher he had ever met.”

Shelton took his revenge during Speaker’s seventh loss—in Speaker’s telling he had given up “22 doubles and 22 runs” to the Fort Worth Panthers:

“Shelton kept yelling ‘Stay in there, kid, they haven’t got a single off you yet.’”

Speaker always said he was 0-7 with Cleburne, but was actually 2-7.

Four years before his death, he told a similar version of the story is Ed Sullivan’s “Little Old New York” column in The New York Daily News which included how he ended up in the outfield:

“In the next game, Cleburne’s right fielder Dude Ransom, suffered a broken cheekbone, so Speaker became an outfielder.”

Julian “Dude” Ransom was struck in the face by a pitch during a game with the Waco Navigators on May 22, 1906 by pitcher Carl Hiatt, which, according to The Houston Post, “shattered and caved in his upper jawbone.”

Ransom’s professional career ended that day, but he continued to play and held ownership stakes in several teams based in Corsicana, Texas—including the one of the greatest team names in baseball history, the 1922 and ‘23 Corsicana Gumbo Busters– and became a prominent businessman in the town.

Ad for Ransom’s 1923 Corsicana Gumbo Busters home opener in the Texas Association versus th Marlin Bathers

Ransom earned his nickname because “He was always a neat dresser,” was for many years the “unofficial stout” for any clubs Roberts owned in Texas. The Post said:

“In Doak’s opinion, Ransom would have proved one of the greatest outfielders in the game but for the accident at Waco.”

Ed Barrow’s All-Time All-Stars

26 Mar

“The old-timers. They were better hitters! No question about it.”

Said Ed Barrow after he became president of the New York Yankees in 1939 and Jimmy Powers of The New York Daily News had the 71-year-old pick his all-time team.

Barrow

Powers said of Barrow:

“The beetle-browed executive, one of the few remaining links between the gas-lit, coach-and-four, Wee Willie Keeler era and the moderns, boomed at us across his wide, flat-topped desk in the offices of the New York baseball club.”

Barrow was “a great believer in ‘natural born’ stars,’ telling Powers, “A fellow has it—or he hasn’t it.”

He explained his theory:

“Once in a while a manager will make a few minor corrections in stance, or change something here and there, but if player hasn’t the natural coordination, the God-given physique, the reflexes for rhythm and timing, he’ll never get ‘em. Sometimes one man will get more mileage out of his talents than another because he will work harder. That’s why the old-timers were better hitters. They looked at better pitching, and they practiced and practiced and practiced.”

Barrow said there was one reason in particular for why old-timers were better hitters:

“The tipoff is in the strikeout column. The moderns strikeout oftener—and there’s your answer. The present-day hitter is so homerun crazy that half the time he closes his eyes and swings; four bases or nothing! Usually, it’s nothing.”

Barrow’s told Powers:

“Now, on my All-Star, All-Time team I’d put Cobb, Speaker and Ruth in the outfield. Chase, Lajoie, Wagner, and Jimmy Collins in the infield. Matty, Johnson, Waddell, and McGinnity, pitchers. And Bill Dickey, catcher…I’d put Joe DiMaggio on that team as utility outfielder. I’d put Lou Gehrig as substitute first baseman and pinch hitter. Bill Bradley, Eddie Collins, Swede Risberg, and Buck Weaver would also get contracts on this ‘Dream Team.’ Keeler would be another utility outfielder and Bresnahan would be my second catcher. Ruffing and Gomez would fill out my pitching staff!”

Barrow’s All-Stars

Barrow said he could offer “a million reasons’ for the rationale for each selected player. 

“(R)ecords can be misleading…I won’t quote you records of my All-Timers…A man must be in the dugout or in the stands to weigh the merits of a player and not be influenced by a record book.”

He said in choosing his team, he held “no grudges,” which is why he selected Risberg and Weaver, “Black Sox scandal or not.”

He said he would add Joe Jackson to the team, “if I thought he was smart enough. But Jackson, strange to say, was the only dumb one on that whole team. Up until 1938s Yankees—those Black Sox were the best team in baseball!”

As for some of his picks:

“Chase on first base! Nobody near him. He could throw a ball through a knothole, covered the whole infield like a cat, and remember he used a glove that just covered his fingers and seldom had a palm. The ‘peach baskets’ first basemen use today would have been barred years back, Chase could hit behind the runner, bunt, steal, fake a bunt at third and then bunt over the third baseman’s head. He could do all the tricks.”

Chase

He called Napoleon Lajoie “the most graceful second baseman I have ever seen. He had a rifle arm and was as slick as a panther,” and gave him the edge “by a slight margin” over Eddie Collins.

Honus Wagner, who Barrow signed for the Patterson Silk Weavers in 1896, “is my nomination as the greatest individual ballplayer of all time.”

Of his first impression of Wagner, he said:

“He was pretty terrible when I first ran across him, looked awkward as all get-out. But suddenly he would come through with a perfectly dazzling play that had everybody on our bench swallowing his tobacco cud in astonishment.”

Like Lajoie, Barrow said Jimmy Collins just edged out the second choice—Bill Bradley—because:

“Collins could make perfect throws to first from any position. When an infielder makes an off-balance throw today the crowd gives him a big hand. The old timers did it every play because the old ball was slow dribbling out there. Today the lively ball comes out fast in one or two hops, and this gives the third baseman a chance to make his throw from a ‘straightened up’ stance.…Remember, in the old days the ball was dark, wet with slippery elm juice; often it was smudged with grass stains, hard to follow.”

In the outfield, Barrow said, “I don’t think anyone will give you an argument on Cobb-Speaker-Ruth.”

He called Ty Cobb “the greatest hitter of all time,” with “a lightning-quick brain and plenty of gut.”

Babe Ruth, he said was, in addition to the being the “great slugger of all-time,” changed the game because of “His salary, his magnetic personality, and his publicity.”

Tris Speaker “was superb. A good hitter, a great fielder, a brainy man. He was so confident of his ability ‘to go back’ he practically camped on second base.”

Of the pitching staff, he said Christy Mathewson “could do almost everything with a baseball—practically make it talk.”

Of Walter Johnson he said:

“He had awe-inspiring speed. You’d stand up there watching and suddenly—pfffft—pfffft—pfffft. Three phantom bullets whizzed past. Too fast for your eyes to focus ‘em.”

Rube Waddell was “the best lefthander” he had seen.

Joe McGinnity appeared to be a sentimental choice:

“(He) was a work horse, a competent soul who loved the game so much I believe he’d work for nothing.”

Bill Dickey, he said was not “given the credit” he deserved:

“He’s a hitter. A workmanlike receiver. Handles pitchers marvelously. Has a good arm. Is fast. Is always one jump ahead of the opposition. Dickey does everything well.”

“Gibson Comes as Close to Ruth as You’ll Ever get”

24 Mar

In July of 1944, Jim McCulley of The New York Daily News sat with two men watching a game:

“’The greatest ball players I ever saw?’ Said the fellow on my left. ‘That’s easy.’

“’Pitchers? Well, there was Christy Mathewson, old Pete Alexander, Walter Johnson and Three-Fingered Brown. There was Ty Cobb, a fat guy named Ruth and Joe Jackson in the outfield. Catchers? Let’s see now; there was Roger Bresnahan and I guess I have to put Ray Schalk in there along with Roger; There was (Pie) Traynor at third and the old Dutchman at short, of course, but do I have to tell you his name, Hans Wagner? Rogers Hornsby at second and Georg Sisler at first. They were the greatest I ever played against or saw, anyway, and I don’t think they can come much better.

“’Speaker? He was great all right, but naw, not in their class.”

McCulley’s other companion responded that Hal Chase belonged in place of Sisler.

“The fellow on the left smiled and said: ‘Leave me out of it.”

Hal Chase, 61 years old and in failing health, was on the East Coast “on a little vacation” attending games and attempting to rehabilitate his reputation. Although he shaved three years off his age and told McCulley his birthday was in a “couple of days, July 21st to be exact;” Chase’s birthday was February 13.

Chase

McCulley said the former first baseman, despite his many illnesses and injuries, “still has that athletic figure and moves around quickly and with the same grace which made him so outstanding on the ball field.”

Chase said he watched a dozen games on his trip East:

“Even went out to see Josh Gibson play the other day. There’s a hitter. One of the greatest of all time. He hit two home runs and they were belts. Say, if he played in the Polo Grounds 75 games a year, he’d hit 75 home runs.”

Chase even told an apocryphal story about the Negro League star:

“’You know how Gibson happened to start playing pro ball?’ asked Chase. ‘Well, one day the old Pittsburgh Crawfords were moving out of Pittsburgh in a bus. They happened to stop along side of a sandlot diamond on account of a traffic tie up. So they all took a look out the windows to watch the in progress. There was a mighty loud crack and a couple of seconds later a ball bounced off the top of the bus, which was parked about 400 feet from the home plate. Oscar Charleston, who managed the Crawfords at the time, got right out of the bus and hot-footed after the kid who had socked the ball.”

It is not clear whether the story was invented by Chase or a story he had picked up, but it ignores that Gibson began his professional career with the Homestead Grays and was well-known as a semi-pro player before his first professional game.

Chase said Gibson was the second-best player he’d ever seen:

“That fat guy was the greatest, of course. Nobody can come close to Ruth. He was the greatest that ever lived, better than Cobb or anybody else. If Ruth ever shortened up on the bat, he’d have hit over .400 every year. But Gibson comes as close to Ruth as you’ll ever get.”

Gibson

As for his own legacy:

“Chase still gets emotionally upset when the talk gets around to his final days as a player. It’s a well-known fact that he didn’t leave the game of his own accord, but we won’t go into that here.”

McCulley said the “name of Chase belongs alongside those of other all-time greats of the diamond,” and:

“The fact that his name isn’t listed in the Cooperstown museum cuts deeper and deeper into Hal as time goes on. It’s the one regret and the one dark thought in an otherwise brilliant baseball saga.”

Chase was dead less than three years later with thesame regret and dark thought unresolved.

His first major league manager, Clark Griffith told Shirley Povich of The Washington Post:

“You wouldn’t believe a man could do all the things on a ball field Chase could do. There wasn’t a modern first baseman who can come close to him. There wasn’t ever any ‘second Hal Chase.’ He was in a class by himself.”

“The People’s Pastime”

24 Feb

In 1911, The Chicago Tribune invited American League President Ban Johnson to write about the state of the game in the Twentieth Century.

Johnson said:

“I desire to state that I do not subscribe to the opinion entertained by a majority of the patrons, that the game’s progress in prestige and popularity in recent years is due solely to the improvement in individual and team work on the ballfield.”

Johnson

While Johnson said he did “not yield in admiration and appreciation,” for the players, he could not, “withhold recognition from other agencies” in putting “the people’s pastime on a higher plane.”

Johnson cited, “The splendid governmental system under which baseball has been operated since 1902,” enforcement of discipline, first class players, and providing patrons with superior accommodations as “potent factors “in the growth of the game.

“Skill and sportsmanship in the players, fairness and firmness in the umpires, well-kept fields of such dimensions that a fast runner may complete the circuit of the bases on a fair hit to their limits in any direction, skirted with mammoth fireproof stands crowded to their capacity with real enthusiasts from all walks of life, are from my viewpoint, essential elements in Twentieth Century baseball.”

Johnson said baseball had reached the “exacting requirements of the ideal game,” the previous season when every major league city had a “modern baseball plant,” and he said the “guarantee of the American League goes with the purchase of every ticket to one of its parks that the game will be decided on merit and will not be marred by rowdyism.”

The “best asset” of baseball was “public confidence,” and Johnson insisted that fans understand the “difference between a team in a championship race” and playing in exhibition games:

“At the close of the American League race last fall a team composed of (Ty) Cobb, the champion batsman of the year, (Ed) Walsh, (Tris) Speaker, (Doc) White, (Jake) Stahl, and the pick of the Washington club under Manager (Jimmy) McAleer’s direction, engaged in a series with the champion Athletics at Philadelphia during the week preceding the opening game of the World Series.

“The attendance, while remunerative, was not as large as that team of stars would have attracted had it represented Washington in the American League.

“Although the All-Stars demonstrated their class by repeatedly defeating (Connie) Mack’s champions, many admirers of the Athletics preferred reading the scores to seeing the contests. It was not lack of loyalty to the home team or appreciation for the visitors that was responsible for this apathy, but simply indifference toward baseball of a high quality unless it be vouched for by a league.”

The All-Stars, dubbed “the scintillating bunch” by Jim Nasium (Edgar Forrest Wolfe) of The Philadelphia Inquirer took the first four games, the Athletics won the final game.

Jim Nasium cartoon after game 3 of the All-Star–Athletic series

Johnson pointed out that “26,891 people saw the Athletics defeat the Cubs, and 24,597 came back the next day.”

The attendance at the first all-stars versus Athletics game in Shibe Park was announced as 5,000; there was no announcement of the attendance at the other three games in Philadelphia—game four was played in Washington D.C., and the crowd was reported as 1500.

Johnson said of the difference:

“No better ball was played in (the World Series) games, for which advanced admission rates were charged, than in the All-Star—Athletic series, but the World Series games were conducted under the auspices of the National Commission and the result of each figured in the winning of the game’s highest honors.”

The American League president vowed that everything was being done to ensure that there was not widespread ticket scalping “and kindred evils.” He said, “Nothing will do more to estrange patrons,” than the “treatment accorded” to fans in Chicago during 1908 World Series, when it was alleged that wide-spread scalping took place with the approval of Cubs management. Johnson said:

“It is a prudent and sensible club owner who does not have the dollar always in mind in the operation of his baseball property. The national game’s best asset is the public’s faith in its honesty. Destroy that confidence and baseball will decline rapidly as the nation’s sport.”

Johnson lauded the Athletics as an organization for whom “one of the main planks…has been clean ball.”

He said during the 1910 season he had not had to discipline a single member of the club.

“The enactment and enforcement of wholesome laws, the confidence of those who supplied the capital when investment was a speculation, as well as the conduct of those who have played and are playing baseball for a livelihood, are factors in giving the American people twentieth century ball.”

“A Colorful Critter”

17 Feb

John Walter “Duster” Mails was another left-handed pitcher with talent who never lived up expectations and was labeled “eccentric,” or “Another Rube.”

John B. Foster of The New York Sun said:

“Mails’ ability is conceded so far as his arm is concerned, but when it comes to the illuminated phases of baseball Duster must have the center of the stage or he moans in a corner like a monkey with the pip. If he’d make the best use of his left arm, he should be able to win two games for every one he loses.”

Billy Evans, the American League umpire, and syndicated newspaper columnist called him, “A colorful critter.”

In 1925, when the St. Louis Cardinals acquired Mails from the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League for what would be Mails’ third and final shot at the big leagues, Evans wrote:

“Walter Mails has as much natural ability as Rube Waddell and no southpaw ever had more stuff than George Edward.

“Mails has a dazzling fastball. I umpired back of Waddell when he was at his best. If anything, Mails’ fastball had something on Rube’s.”

Mails

Evans concluded that Waddell “seemed to have uncanny control” of his pitches, which Mails lacked.

He argued that given Mails’ personality quirks, he would be “rival Babe Ruth” as a newspaper copy generator if he could recreate his short period of major league dominance in 1920:

“Joining Cleveland late in the season, when the Indians were on the ropes because of lack of pitching, Mails proved the man of the hour.

“Taking part in nine games he turned in seven victories and didn’t suffer a single defeat.”

The Indians won the pennant by two games over the White Sox.

“Late in the season when Cleveland met Chicago in the final and all series between the two clubs, Mails remarked to me before the first game:

“Those birds are made to order for me; If (Tris) Speaker starts me against them I won’t be satisfied with anything but a shutout.”

Mails shut the White Sox out and beat Urban Faber 2 to 0; the September 24 victory increased the Indians lead over the Sox to 1.5 games.

“In one inning, after walking three men a la Waddell, he continued Rube’s trick by striking the next three out.”

Evans’ recall was slightly off.

In the fifth inning, Mails retired Swede Risberg, then walked Ray Schalk, Faber, and Amos Strunk. 

Mails then struck out Buck Weaver and Eddie Collins, The Chicago Tribune said, with a full count, Collins:

“(H)it three fouls in succession, swung at a bad ball and struck out.”

Mails’ dream season continued through the World Series, he relieved Ray Caldwell in the first inning of game three, pitching 6 2/3 scoreless innings in a 2 to 1 loss to the Brooklyn Robins.

Evans said Mails told him:

“If Speaker had only started me that one run we made would have been enough to win. He says he is going to give me a chance against (Sherry) Smith the next time he starts. Those birds will be lucky any time they score on me.”

He shut out the Robins and Smith 1 to 0.

Mails posted a 1.85 regular season ERA in 1920 which ballooned to 3.94 in 1921 and 5.28 in 1922, before he was sold to Oakland.

Mails’ final big-league stint ended like his first two, flashes of brilliance punctuating an overall lack of control and discipline.

He returned to the minor leagues for another decade. 

Early in his career, Mails tried to explain his control issues to The Spokane Spokesman Review:

“In my younger days, my folks used to live just a short distance from the San Quentin penitentiary. It was always a hobby with me to throw stones at the guards on the ramparts to kid them. One day I thought I could get control by aiming at them, but the darn fools always used to be on the move and even today when I am out on the mound pitching, the home plate seems to act like those guards, always on the move. So, you can see I have an excuse coming.”

“He Seems to Possess a Sixth Sense”

4 Dec

In 1912, the Continental News Service which served several newspapers in the South and Midwest, published a long interview with 24-year-old Cleveland Naps outfielder Joe Jackson.

“The lanky Southerner’s prowess with his formidable black bat has won him an enviable niche in the baseball Hall of Fame, and his work in the outfield is only slightly less remarkable. He seems to possess a sixth sense—a sort of second sight—that enables him to guess just where a given batsman will place a hit, if it is in the direction of right garden, where Jackson holds sway.”

Jackson was asked, “how he sizes up the intentions of an opposing batter, as it appears from the different positions he takes as various men com to bat, he seems to sense just where each man will hit.”

His response:

“I’m not any surer than you where any particular player will hit, but a man isn’t in the game very long before we learn his failings and endeavor to use them to his disadvantage.

“With such men as (Ty) Cobb, (Joe) Tinker, (Heinie) Zimmerman, (Tris) Speaker and other well-known sluggers I know that if they hit out of the infield I have got to be playing deep in order to stand  any chance of getting them. On the other hand, I also know certain players who never hit further than back of the bases. These hitters cause the fielders more trouble than the sluggers because it’s anybody’s ball. That is to say, a baseman may be just as close to it as a fielder, and where two men are going after the same fly the chances of a collision sometimes causes an easy out to be turned into a safe drive. A fielder coming in on a ball has a much better chance of getting it than a baseman who has got to run back for it, even though the latter has a shorter distance to cover.”

Jackson

Jackson said while less balls were hit to right; it was the most difficult position:

“Balls hit to right field if not caught are always dangerous, and especially so when there are men on bases. I am so far from third that the average runner can easily go from first to third if I am not able to make a quick recovery and return.”

Jackson said even as a child he never liked playing infield and:

“Center and right field are the only two positions I have ever played (he had played three games in left field for Philadelphia in 1909)…I was always considered a speedy runner and won many a sprint race back home before I took to playing ball for a living. My father was, and is today, opposed to the playing of the game for money, but as I have six other brothers, all ballplayers, two of whom are in the minor leagues. It looks as though he’ll have to get used to it. Last Fall was the first time he ever saw me in a game, and then only because he had a business engagement in Cleveland.”

Jackson recounted his greatest play in right field:

“I have made several ‘grandstand’ catches in the outfield but the one I feel the proudest about occurred when I nailed (Del) Gainer’s drive off the cement wall in our home grounds.”

Jackson said Cobb was the fastest player he had seen going from home plate to first base:

“Still, a Cleveland fan claims that he clocked me going from home plate to first, and that I covered the distance in less than three seconds. It may be possible that I did, but I rather think the watch or something else was out of order.”

Jackson said the claim made him curious and he tested his speed from hoe to first:

“I got a stopwatch and made several trials. The best I was able to do was a fraction over three seconds. It’s just possible that the excitement of the game may have made me go faster than I did in practice, but with all due respect to the gentleman who timed me I hardly think there is a player in the game today that can hit and make first in less than three seconds.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things: Clark Griffith

3 Feb

Griff out West

Griffith loved to tell stories about his time playing in Montana, one story the “truthfulness” of he “vouched” he told The Cleveland Leader in 1912:

leetgriffith

Griffith

“The scene was at Butte, back in the nineties (1892), and the story resulted from a baseball game between Missoula and Butte at the latter town. There were a lot of gamblers in Butte who wanted to back the team, so about $5000 was bet on the game.”

Griffith was on the mound for Missoula:

“Everything went along nicely for a while, with a monster crowd on hand hollering for everything it was worth for Butte to win.

“In the ninth inning Missoula was leading by one run, but after two were out Butte got a man on third and then the catcher let the ball get away from him. It rolled a short distance, but when the catcher went to retrieve it one bug leaned over the stand with a six-shooter in his hand. ‘Touch that ball and you are dead,’ he shouted. And the catcher stood stock still in his tracks.”

Griffith said the players “were scared stiff” and watched the tying run cross the plate. He claimed Missoula scored in the 10th and won the game 5 to 4.

Griff on Lajoie

In 1900, Griffith and Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Tribune were watching Napoleon Lajoie take ground balls during practice:

“He looks less like a ballplayer, handles himself less like an infielder, goes at a ball in the strangest style, and gets them more regularly than any fellow I ever watched. He fights every ball he picks up, scoops them with without looking, and keeps me nervous all the time.

lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie

“Every time a grounder goes down to him, I want to bet about three to one he will fumble, but he always gets them. He has some system for making the ball hit his hands which I don’t understand. And I’ll tell you a secret: He has a system of making his bat hit a ball which drives pitchers to drink.”

Griff’s All-Time Team

In “Outing Magazine” in 1914, Griffith presented his all-time team:

P: Amos Rusie

P: Walter Johnson

P: Cy Young

P: Christy Mathewson

C: Buck Ewing

1B: Charles Comiskey

2B: Eddie Collins

3B: Jimmy Collins

SS: Herman Long

LF: Bill Lange

CF: Tris Speaker

RF: Ty Cobb

Griffith’s most surprising pick was choosing Comiskey over his former teammate and manager Cap Anson. He told the magazine:

“(Comiskey) was the first man to see the possibilities of the position. Before his day a first baseman was only a basket. He stood glued to the bag, received the balls thrown to him, but never moved away.”

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

He said Anson, “Although a great player, was not Comiskey’s equal.”

He chose Long over Honus Wagner he said, because “Hans has a barrel of ability, but he’s not such a foxy player as many persons think, but he is a wonderful batter.”

Griffith called Jimmy Collins, “The most graceful fielding third baseman the game has ever seen,” and said Tris Speaker ”is the most remarkable outfielder that ever lived.”

As for his chosen catcher, Griffith said:

“Buck Ewing never has known an equal as a catcher. I call him the best ballplayer the world ever has known. The only man who approached him was Mike Kelly of the old Chicago White Sox, Kelly too, was a wonder, but not quite equal to Ewing.”

Connie Mack Calls “Bunk”

19 Apr

In the month leading up to the 1944 season there were concerns about there being a season.

Ty Cobb told an Associated Press (AP) reporter that “the baseball men have a mission to perform” by keeping the game alive during the war, even if “it is played by old men.”

Cobb said:

“If worst comes to worst, I’d get back into the harness myself to help preserve it.”

cobb

Cobb

The thought took hold in some circles.

Nearly fifty-year-old Howard Ehmke, whose business making canvas tarpaulins was now making protective covering for naval warship guns, told The AP:

“I’ll be 50 in April and I’m pretty busy around here, but if baseball needs me, I’ll come running. I won’t say much about my arm, but I ought to be able to do something. The game was good to me when I was in it, and I feel I owe it something.”

The idea was shot down by baseball’s oldest manager.

Connie Mack said the idea was “all bunk.”

He told The Philadelphia Record:

“We don’t need them; we don’t want them; I doubt if any of them wants to come back, and they can’t play anymore anyway. I’d much rather keep the game going with 14 and 15-year-olds.”

Mack said he felt there were enough men classified as 4-F combined with those not yet drafted and those too young to serve to carry on.

And he didn’t spare any of the former greats who suggested they might be willing to come back:

“It’s a joke to talk about such men as Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, and Al Simmons making comebacks.

“We appreciate the fine spirit they have shown to help baseball, but they can’t play now. Once a man has passed 35 or 40 and then gives up the game for a year or so, he can’t come back.”

mack

Mack

Mack said he “pitied” the old-timers he watched play in a war bond game the previous summer.

“Great outfielders like Speaker—one of the finest flycatchers of all time—looked pitiable. I was afraid he would get hit on the head.”

Besides, said Mack, all fans cared about baseball, not the caliber of the game, and kids and 4-F’s could carry the load:

“They don’t look for super-excellence these days.”

“Ball Players of Today are More Sensitive”

7 Jan

When Lee Fohl took over the reigns of the Cleveland Indians in 1915—his first major league managerial job which Indians owner Charles Somers said was a temporary appointment—the syndicated News Enterprise Association presented Fohl as a new kind of manager:

“The baseball manager who wants to make a success of it these days will forget that John McGraw and Frank Chance won pennants by driving players.

“Such is the philosophy of Lee Fohl, temporary manager…who most likely will start the 1916 campaign as their regular manager.”

Fohl said:

“Ball players of today are more sensitive than those of 10 years ago.  You can’t get anywhere by driving them.  Hammer team work into them, let each one work out his own problems most of the time and correct their mistakes without handing around ‘bawl outs.”

fohl.jpg

Fohl

Fohl said he studied “his player’s faces,” and determined the best way to handle each individual while never “riding any of them.”

Fohl also shared some of his managerial philosophy:

“A manager should not send a batter up to the plate with definite orders.  Any time you put a batter under orders you are taking something away from him for, in following instructions he may be forced to let a grand opportunity pass.”

Fohl was also critical of managers who worked their pitchers too much before the season:

“Pitchers should not be worked too hard in the spring training camp.  That’s when their arms are the weakest, but custom is to make them do more than twice as much labor as they will be called to perform later when their arms are strong.”

The Indians improved as a result of Fohl’s philosophy—after riding out the horrible 1915 season when they were 45-79 under Fohl–they finished 77-77 in 1916 and improved to 88-66 and 73-54 in 1917 and ’18, third and second place finishes.  Cleveland was 44-34 in third place on July 19, 1919, when Fohl resigned and was replaced by Tris Speaker. He managed six more seasons—1921-23 with the St. Louis Browns and 1924-26 with the Boston Red Sox; he finished with a 713-792 managerial record.

“The Twenty Greatest Fever”

2 Oct

In November of 1911, an interviewer asked industrialist Andrew Carnegie to name the 20 greatest men of all time.  Within days, Carnegie’s list was parsed and picked apart, and led to what The Chicago Daily News called “The twenty greatest fever.”

Lists of the twenty greatest everything appeared in papers across the country for the next year.  Of course, the question was put to many baseball figures and led to a number of interesting lists and quotes.

One of the first to weigh in was Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, in The Daily News:

  • Buck Ewing
  • King Kelly
  • Cap Anson
  • Charlie Ferguson
  • Fred Pfeffer
  • Eddie Collins
  • Honus Wagner
  • Jack Glasscock
  • Harry Lord
  • Ty Cobb
  • Fred Clarke
  • Willie Keeler
  • Tom McCarthy
  • Napoleon Lajoie
  • Charles Radbourn
  • Bobby Caruthers
  • Christy Mathewson
  •  Clark Griffith
  • Ed Walsh

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Charles Comiskey

Comiskey said Eddie Collins, who would acquire for $50,000 three years later, was the best current player:

“He’s got it on all the others in the game today.  I don’t know that a good lawyer went to waste, but do know that a mighty good ballplayer was found when Eddie decided to give up the technicalities of Blackstone for the intricacies of baseball.   There isn’t much use saying anything about Connie Mack’s star, everybody knows he is a wonder as well as I do.”

Cy Young was asked by The Cleveland News to name his 20 greatest:

“I guess we’d have to make a place for old Amos Rusie, ‘Kid’ Nichols should be placed on the list too, ‘Kid’ forgot more baseball than 90 percent of us ever knew.  And there was Bill Hutchinson, just about one of the greatest that ever lived.  You can’t overlook Walter Johnson, and, by all means Ed Walsh must be there.  The same applies to Mathewson.  Then comes my old side partner, Bill Dinneen.  Bill never was given half enough credit.”

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Amos Rusie

Young rounded out the battery:

“I’d pick old Lou Criger first of all the catchers.  George Gibson of the Pittsburgh team, to my way of thinking, stands with the leaders.  Give the third place to Oscar Stanage of Detroit, and I feel safe in saying that I have chosen a really great catcher.”

Young said:

“Doping out the infields is comparatively easy.  Without hesitation I would name Hal Chase, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Hans Wagner, Bobby Wallace, Jimmy Collins, Herman Long, and Charlie Wagner.”

Young said of his infield choices:

“You can’t get away from Bobby Wallace for a general all round gentlemanly player, he has never had a superior at shortstop unless that man was Honus Wagner.  Maybe Johnny Evers is entitles to consideration, but I never say him play.”

As for his outfielders, Young said:

“Ty Cobb’s equal never lived, according to my way of thinking, and I doubt if we will ever have his superior.  Say what they will about Cobb, but one who is true to himself must acknowledge his right to rank above all other players.

“I chose Cobb, Fred Clarke of Pittsburgh, Tris Speaker of Boston and Bill Lange for the outfield, and regret that the limitations prevent me from choosing Jim McAleer.  McAleer was the best fielder I have ever seen.  I say that with all due respect to Cobb and other competitors.

“Tris Speaker is a marvel, and only because of his playing at the same time as Cobb is he deprived of the honor of being the greatest outfielder…Many fans of today probably don’t remember Bill Lange.  Take my word for it, he was a marvel.  He could field, bat, and run bases with wonderful skill.  No man ever had the fade-away slide better than Lange.”

The reporter from The News noticed that Young had, “chosen his twenty greatest players without mentioning his own great deeds,” and asked Young whether her felt he belonged on the list.  Young said:

“Oh, I’ve heard a whole lot of stuff about myself as a player, but I was but ordinary when compared to the men I name as the greatest in the game.”

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Cy Young

When Ty Cobb presented his list of the 20 greatest current American League players to The Detroit News, the paper noted his “Very becoming modesty” in leaving himself off of his list.  Cobb’s picks were:

  • Ed Walsh
  • Bill Donovan
  • Walter Johnson
  • Jack Coombs
  • Vean Gregg
  • George Mullin
  • Billy Sullivan
  • Oscar Stanage
  • Ira Thomas
  • Hal Chase
  • Napoleon Lajoie
  • Eddie Collins
  • Jack Berry
  • Owen Bush
  • Frank Baker
  • Harry Lord
  • Sam Crawford
  • Clyde Milan
  • Joe Jackson
  • Tris Speaker

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Ty Cobb

Cobb included Bobby Wallace, Russ Ford, and Heinie Wagner as honorable mentions.

More of the lists and quotes from “The twenty greatest fever,” on Thursday