Tag Archives: Tubby Spencer

Coast League Stories

5 Dec

Abe Kemp began working at newspapers in San Francisco in 1907, when he was 14 years old, and spent the next 62 years primarily at The San Francisco Examiner where he covered his two passions, baseball and horse racing.

kemp

Abe Kemp

Over the years he collected a number of stories of baseball on the West Coast.

Catcher Tubby Spencer hit just .127 in 21 games for the San Francisco Seals in 1913. Contemporaneous reports said Spencer wore out his welcome with manager Del Howard in Portland. Years later, Kemp said the decision to let Spencer go was made during a team stopover in Sonoma County, and not by Howard. Kemp said he saw:

“Spencer staggering down the highway at Boyes Hot Springs one morning and President/Owner Cal Ewing yelling at him, ‘Hey, ‘Tub,’ where are you going?’

“’I’m going for a little air,’ yelled back Tub.

“’Then keep going,’ shouted Ewing, ‘because you will need it. You’re through.’”

tubbyspencer

Tubby Spencer

Harry “Slim” Nelson was a mediocre left-handed pitcher and weak hitter who played a half a dozen years on the West Coast. Kemp told of witnessing him “hit a home run through the screen at Recreation Park” in San Francisco when Nelson was playing for the Oakland Oaks.

“(He) became so excited when he reached second base that he swallowed his cud of chewing tobacco. Later on the bench, Slim was asked how the home run felt and he replied ‘it would have felt a whole lot better if I could have cut it up into singles to last me the season.”

Kemp said when George Van Haltren made the switch from Oaks player to Pacific Coast League umpire in 1909 he told Kemp and umpire Jack McCarthy “umpiring would be easy…because he had so many friends,” throughout the league. Kemp said McCarty responded:

“You mean you had so many friends. You haven’t any now.”

McCarthy appears to have been correct. Van Haltren was criticized throughout his short time as a Coast League umpire, and became a West Coast scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates the following two seasons. Van Haltren made one more attempt as an umpire, joining the Northwestern League staff in 1912; he was no more successful, lasting only one season after incurring the season-long wrath of Seattle Siwashes owner Dan Dugdale who demanded Van Haltren not be retained for the 1913 season.

George Van Haltren

Another player who had similar training habits to Tubby Spencer, according to Kemp, was Charles “Truck Eagan. Kemp said he was with Vernon Tigers manager Wallace “Happy Hogan” Bray one day when Eagan played for the Tigers near the end of his career in 1909:

“Eagan, suffering from the effects of a bad night (told) manager Hap Hogan he was suffering from an attack of ptomaine poisoning.

‘”What did you eat’ the artful and suspicious Hogan asked.

“Eagan scratched his head a minute, then said guiltily, ‘It must have been the (bar) pretzels and herring, Hap.”

One Minute Talk: Tubby Spencer

22 Sep

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

Edward “Tubby” Spencer, Detroit Tigers catcher:

“Most ballplayers can tell you to a fraction just what their batting average is any time you ask them.  I can’t, though.  In fact, I don’t know what my average was in any year that I was in the majors.

“When I was with St. Louis and Boston I never bothered about my hitting.  I tried to drive in runs when I got a chance, of course, but I wasn’t figuring on a base hit or my average.

“Now that I’ve got some sense it’s different.  I want those blows as much as anyone.  I’m going to try to get them.  No more fooling for Tubby.  I only wish I had started sooner.”

Tubby Spencer

Tubby Spencer

Spencer, in his first six major league seasons, from 1905-1909, and 1911 With the St. Louis Browns,  Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, hit just .214.

In 1916, when there was “No more fooling for Tubby,” he hit .370 in 54 at-bats for the Tigers.  Spencer apparently reverted to his old form after that, hitting .240 and .219 in  his final two major league seasons.

Dave Altizer

4 Apr

David Tilden Altizer did not begin playing professional baseball until 1902 when he was 25; he made his debut with the Washington Senators four years later.  A member of the US Army, he was in China for the Boxer Rebellion and the Philippines during the Spanish-American War; he began playing baseball while in the service.

Most recent mentions of Altizer list his nickname as “Filipino,” but while his service was often mentioned, this nickname is rarely found in contemporaneous stories; rather he regularly referred to by the nickname “daredevil.”

Dave Altizer 1909

Dave Altizer 1909

Altizer was one of the more colorful figures of his era and made good copy, but many of the stories have been lost for years.  Here are a few:

In 1910 Altizer was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds from the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association.  Unaware he had been drafted; Altizer went to Chicago at the close of the millers’ season and disappeared.  The Associated Press said he thus became “the only ballplayer who has been ‘found’ with a newspaper want ad.”

The story said Reds manager Clark Griffith, unable to find Altizer, contacted “Nixey” Callahan, who was playing in Chicago’s City League, and asked him to put an ad in Chicago newspapers to find Altizer.

“This was done and in the early hours of the morning some unknown person called Callahan and gave him Dave’s number.”

Altizer appeared in three games for the Reds after he was located; he had six hits in 10 at bats, walked three times and scored three runs.

Altizer had been the starting  shortstop for the Senators in 1907.  In December The Pittsburgh Press ran a wire service story from Washington under the headline “Dave Altizer is Dead Broke:”

“Dave Altizer, the most popular player on the local team, recently fell victim to a pickpocket, and was relieved of his year’s savings.”

The story said Altizer, alarmed by the “financial stringency (the Panic of 1907)…has carried his savings on his person, not wanting to take any chances of having them tied up in a bank.”

Altizer went to sleep in a Pullman car on a train to California with “$1,475 in large bills” in his vest pocket and discovered when he awoke that the money was gone.  It was never reported if the money was recovered of if the thief was caught.

Altizer with Washington

Altizer with Washington

Gabby Street claimed he saw Altizer do the dumbest thing he had seen in a game, and “topped (Fred) Merkle,” while they were teammates in Washington:

“St. Louis had us beat, 3 to 2, and there were two outs in the ninth.”

Altizer was batting with two strikes and runners on second and third.

“The next strike came over and (umpire John) Sheridan called it a strike.  The ball whizzed right through (Tubby) Spencer’s mitt and bounded up against the grandstand and shot off at an angle, while the chubby Spencer pursued it.  Both of the Washington runners on the bases scored easily.

“But all the time Altizer refused to leave the plate.  He was in a hot argument with Sheridan and insisted the ball wasn’t over the plate and was two feet wide.  In the meantime Spencer got the ball.  There was no chance to get either of the runners at the plate, but he fired to first and retired Altizer.  It made the last out of the game and Altizer’s failure to run cost us the two runs and lost the game for Washington.  And they talked about Merkle.”

Gabby Street

Gabby Street

After Altizer finished his Major League career with the Reds in 1911, he returned to Minneapolis where he played until 1918.  He played and managed two more seasons with the Madison Grays in the South Dakota and Dakota Leagues, before retiring from baseball at age 44.  He died in Pleasant Hill, Illinois in 1964 at age 87.