Tag Archives: Troy Trojans

“The only Great Game in the Country”

7 Aug

Smiling Mickey Welch spent his post-baseball years operating various businesses in Holyoke, Massachusetts, but visited Boston and New York often—until he eventually moved back to New York.

mickeywelch

Welch

In 1908, Welch, “one of the most famous pitchers of half a generation ago,” talked to Tim Murnane, the baseball writer for The Boston Globe, on a trip to visit his former teammate Tim Keefe in Cambridge, Massachusetts:

“’It certainly seems to me,’ said Welch a few days ago, ‘That the players of today have nothing over the stars of the past. I’m not at all prejudiced and I believe that I am at least fairly competent to judge, as I have kept right up with the many changes that have been made since I left the business.”

Murnane said of Welch:

“Mickey finished his career in the baseball world 15 years ago [sic, 16], but he still retains his deep interest in the great national game, and each season always plans to come to Boston or to go to New York to watch the work of the present-day players and compare them with those of his time, when by his superb work in the pitcher’s box he assisted in winning a couple of pennants and world championships for Gotham.”

Welch, who had just sold his salon in Holyoke, “to engage in the milk business with his oldest son, Frank,” asked Murnane:

welch.jpg

Welch, with wife Mary and seven of the couple’s nine children

“Where, for instance, is there today any greater baseball player than Buck Ewing was? Ah, he was the greatest of ‘em all—indeed the grandest that the game has ever known. Universally acknowledged by all followers of the sport as the king of catchers, he also shone in other departments, for he was a hard natural hitter, could run bases with the top-notchers and could play any of the infield or outfield positions as well as any of the regulars holding down those berths.”

Welch said he and Ewing—who died in October of 1906–were “the warmest of friends for years and that friendship dated from the days when as a member of the Troy team, I first became acquainted with him while he was with the Rochester club (in 1880).”

Welch said from the day Ewing joined Troy later that season and after they went to New York together when the Trojans disbanded after the 1882 season:

buck

Ewing

“Buck and I were chums and for all that time used to room together.”

Murnane said that Welch, who “always made it a point to take the very best care of himself,” was in “as splendid condition,” as he was when he pitched:

“One of his favorite hobbies is walking, and on every pleasant day in the fall and winter he and Jack Doyle, also a famous old-time ball tosser, may be seen setting from the Welch home to take a jaunt to Mt. Tom, which is between Holyoke and the neighboring town of Northampton.”

Some nights Murnane said the two went out in the evening and “they sit for hours and talk over the good old days when they were players of mark in the fastest company.”

After all of those talks with Doyle about their days in baseball, he maintained:

“I’m throwing no bouquets at myself but have there ever been any better pitchers than Tim Keefe, John Clarkson and Charlie Radbourn? I say ‘no’ emphatically. Then look at the rest. Dan Brouthers has never been excelled as a batsman and I don’t believe he ever will be. He could land a ball farther and with less apparent effort than any ballplayer that ever swung a bat. I faced him many a time and I could never discover that he had any weakness.

“(Cap) Anson was also a fine hitter, as were Deacon White, Hardy Richardson, Jim O’Rourke, Mike Tiernan, (Ed) Delahanty, and George Gore, to say nothing of a dozen more whom I might mention. Jerry Denny has never been excelled as a third baseman, and Johnny Ward is the headiest man that has ever played shortstop. ‘Dickie’ Johnston, pride of Boston for years, and Curt Welch of the old St. Louis Browns and (Jimmy) McAleer of the Clevelands were easily the most brilliant outfielders of the past.”

Welch also believed “the best club in the history of the game,’ were the 1888 and 1889 Giants—Welch was 26-19 1.93 in ’88 and 27-12 3.02 in 1889 for those New York teams.

“Buck Ewing was the captain, and a magnificent one he was too. Buck used to catch nearly all of the games.”

Welch said of the team:

“We won the pennant rather easily in the National League in ’88, and fully as easily beat out the St. Louis Browns for the world’s flag. But the next season of ’89, we had to go some right up to the very last notch to pull away from the Bostons in the National League, the championship not being decided until the final day of the season when we won in Indianapolis while the Bostons lost in Pittsburgh. Then we met the Brooklyns, champions of the American Association. In a series of nine games, we won five”

Welch got two details wrong; while 1889 was the first pennant decided on the season’s final day and Boston did lose to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, the Giants beat the Cleveland Spiders that day; also, in the series the Giants won six of the nine games with Brooklyn.

Welch vowed to Murnane, “I shall never lose my interest,” in “the only great game in the country.”

 

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #36

17 Jul

Bancroft on Radbourn

In 1900, in The Chicago Record, Frank Bancroft said of one of his former players:

“Charlie Radbourn did more scheming than any man that ever played baseball. When I had him in Providence, he always was springing something new and some of his ideas were exceedingly far-fetched.

“I remember on one occasion and at a critical period in a game Rad drew back his arm as if to pitch, then instead of delivering the ball to the batsman he threw it around his back to Joe Start, who was playing first base for us. It was only by the greatest effort that Start managed to get the ball. Had it gone wild the game would have gone against us as there were several men on the bases. When I questioned him regarding the throw, he claimed that it was a new idea, and that if Start had been watching himself he would have retired the runner on first.”

rad

Radbourn

National League Facts, 1880

The Chicago Tribune reported before the 1880 season that every National League charged $15 for a season ticket, except for the Providence Grays who charged $20.

The paper also calculated the miles each team would travel during the season (listed in order of finish):

Chicago White Stockings 6,444

Providence Grays 6,200

Cleveland Blues 5,592

Troy Trojans 4,990

Worcester Ruby Legs 6,470

Boston Red Stockings 6,240

Buffalo Bisons 5,356

Cincinnati Reds 6,294

Dan Brouthers and “Dude Contrivances”

In 1893, The Buffalo Courier reported that Brooklyn Grooms manager Dave Foutz told his players “there was nothing better than good bicycle practice to keep in condition.”

Dan Brouthers said back home in Wappinger’s Falls, New York, people “never would recognize him again if they heard he had been riding one of those dud contrivances.”

brouthers

Brouthers

The paper corrected the first baseman: “Dan evidently needs a little education in cycling. The day has passed when a rider was regarded in the light of a dude.”

“The Disappearing Oakland Infielder”

7 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jimmy Frick

Jimmy Frick

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

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

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

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

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

Herb McFarlin, Secretary of the Oaks, said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gus Hetling, Frick's replacement at third

Gus Hetling, Frick’s replacement at third

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

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

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

“It is Not as Though they were Men of High Honor”

1 Apr

As the 1879 season drew to a close, The Chicago Inter Ocean lamented that the fourth place White Stockings, despite “the receipts of the year,” would only “have between $2,000 and $3,000 on the right side of the balance-sheet.”

According to the paper, the Cincinnati Reds would lose at least 8,000; the Boston Red Sox and Troy Trojans were both $4,000 in the red, the Cleveland Blues and Buffalo Bisons lost “a little,” while the National League Champion Providence Grays made “a little.”  The Syracuse Stars were “completely wiped out;” the franchise would be replaced by Worcester in 1880.

What was the reason for the lack of profits?  The Inter Ocean said it was those over paid players,:

“The folly of paying men from $1,000 to $1,800 for six months work.  It is not as though they were men of high order, who had spent large sums of money in training for a high profession…On the contrary, the best of them are nominally farmers or mechanics, who at their legitimate business are worth from $30 to $40 a month, and that is all they worth at baseball.”

Hall of Famer Jim O'Rourke hit .348 in 1879, "worth from $30 to $40 a month."

Hall of Famer Jim O’Rourke hit .348 in 1879, “worth from $30 to $40 a month.”

After all, The Inter Ocean said, “a majority of them are simply ‘hoodlums.’”’

“There is no league player who is a good investment, simply as player at over $2 a day and expenses…For a captain, a man of good executive ability, more might reasonably be paid.  The executive capacity should demand an extra remuneration above the manual labor supplied by the ordinary player.

“Players are now so plenty that there is no need of the usual insane rush for engagements.  This season has shown that cheap men can do no more nor no less than high-priced men—that is, fall all to pieces and lose everything.”

1879 National League Champion Providence Grays

1879 National League Champion Providence Grays

“A Star of the First Magnitude”

8 Nov

Huyler Westervelt was going to be the next big thing.

By January of 1894 the New York Giants had been trying to sign the 24-year-old Westervelt for more than two years.   Considered the best amateur pitcher on the East Coast, he pitched for a number of top teams including the Englewood Field Club, New Jersey Athletic Club, and Orange Athletic Club. Westervelt came from a prominent family in Tenafly, New Jersey and said repeatedly that he’d never play professionally.

Huyler Westervelt, standing second from right, with the Englewood Field Club team circa 1893

When Giants owner E.B. Talcott finally convinced Westervelt to play professionally he simply signed a piece of paper which said:

“I hereby agree to play with the New York Base Ball Club for the season of 1894 at a salary of $1800.”

Westervelt made his debut for the Giants on April 21, losing 4-3 to the Baltimore Orioles; but beat the Boston Beaneaters 5-2 on May 5, holding the defending champions to three hits and earning the fawning praise of New York Sporting Times columnist O.P. Caylor who said Westervelt was:

 “(A) newly discovered jewel who has flashed out in the baseball firmament as a star of the first magnitude.

“(On May 5) young Westervelt became famous, and his name flashed over thousands of miles of wires that night, while next day the whole country was reading about his triumph.”

Westervelt struggled for the remainder of the season; prone to wildness he finished with a 7-10 record and 5.04 ERA, but still figured into the Giants future plans.  He refused to sign a contract for 1895 which reduced his salary to $1500—Westervelt was added to Giants’ reserve list, where he would remain for several years.

Westervelt continued playing for amateur teams in New York and New Jersey, while working for the Overman Bicycle Company, and attempted to get the Giants to trade or release him.  He filed an appeal contending that he never signed a National League contract, only the piece of paper he signed with Talcott, and therefore the Giants had no right to put him on the reserve list.  He lost the appeal.

Huyler Westervelt

There were reports in early 1896 that Baltimore Orioles manager Ned Hanlon was trying to acquire the pitcher, they never panned out.  In April The Sporting Life said Westervelt was done with professional baseball, but later in the year he joined the Derby-Shelton Angels in the Naugatuck Valley League; no statistics survive other than a brief mention of a seemingly less than successful August game against the Torrington Tornadoes, “(Westervelt) received the warm reception of 16 hits.”

Westervelt returned to the amateur leagues, playing well into the first decade of the 20th Century, and went to work as a broker on Wall Street.  He remained on the reserve list of the New York Giants through the 1901 season, prompting The Sporting Life to say:

 “By the way, did you notice that New York still reserves Huyler Westervelt?  That is one of the standing jokes of each season.”

Westervelt made one more appearance in professional baseball; according to Baseball Reference he played 17 games for the Bradford Drillers in the Interstate League in 1905; while he is not listed on the roster of the Utica Pent-Ups in the New York-Penn League in 1905, he appeared in at least one game for that team, losing a 5-4 decision to the Troy Trojans on June 23.

While Westervelt never achieved the stardom Caylor predicted for him, he remained an important figure in amateur baseball circles until his death in 1949 at the age of 80.