Tag Archives: Ty Cobb

“Spalding Threw a fit”

3 Jun

“The applause of thousands that once thundered across the baseball fields of the National League still echoes in the ears of a quiet man of sixty-three [sic, 68] who goes so unobtrusively about his simple duties in caring for a furnace at the plant of the New York Continental Jewel Filter Company at Nutley, NJ, that few know he was once one of the greatest figures in baseball.”

So, said Joaquin B. Calvo, writer for The New York World in 1922. The man he was describing was George Gore who played 14 major league seasons from 1879 to 1892:

georgegore

Calvo noted that Gore had done some catching before his major league debut and, “his gnarled and twisted fingers today bear mute testimony to this.”

Gore (or Calvo) knocked five years off the former player’s age, saying he was born in 1859 rather than 1854.

Gore repeated the story of having been “the first holdout” when in 1878 he negotiated his first contract with Albert Spalding before signing with the White Stockings. While the story was substantially the same as his other telling’s over the years, Gore added the detail that his asking Spalding for $2500 after initially being offered $1500 was the suggestion of Giants manager Jim Mutrie:

“He gave me some good advice, and one day I set forth to meet A. G. Spalding. Mutrie had told me to ask for $2500 and when I mentioned the figure Spalding threw a fit.”

Calvo said of Gore’s current activities::

“One of Gore’s greatest delights today is in teaching the young boys on the sandlots how to stand up at the plate, how to swing their bodies, and how to get that all important snap in the wrists as bats crash against balls. He is extremely active and has never lost his love for the game and, as he says, he tastes a little of the glory of yesterday when he plays with the youngsters and hears their cries of delight when he pounds out a home run.”

gore

Gore

Calvo asked him about being forgotten:

“Ah, well, it’s a busy world, he says modestly enough and the Cobbs and the Ruths of tomorrow will just as surely shove Babe and the Georgia Peach into oblivion, as they in their turn, have helped a thoughtless public to forget the diamond heroes of nearly half a century ago.”

Gore said of the differences in baseball in those nearly 50 years:

“The ball is livelier, but I don’t think the game is. In fact, I don’t think there is much science in baseball today as there was in the days when Anson and Spalding and others were putting their wits against some of the brightest minds baseball has ever known.”

Of Ruth, he said:

“I think he is a wonderful hitter, with a style all his own. I have never seen anything like it. There is a snap to his wrists when he hits the ball that accounts for the tremendous distance he knocks the pill. It isn’t his weight or strength; it is just his knack of hitting the ball.”

In closing, Calvo said Gore:

“(O)n days that he can get away from his furnace, he slips unnoticed into the stands at the Polo Grounds, the roaring applause of the mob blots out the picture of 1922 and brings back in sweetened memory those plaudits of the ‘80s that were for him alone.”

“The Realization of Their Carelessness”

1 Jun

After the 1910 season, Hugh Fullerton, writing in “The American Magazine” said baseball had no universal language.

“Each team has its different system of coaching, its different language of signs, motions, cipher words, or phrases, and no one man can hope to learn them all.”

Fullerton said the “worst of trying to study” the signs of various clubs was trying to track when they changed:

“If Arlie Latham jumps into the air and screams ‘Hold your base!’ it may mean ‘Steal second,’ today and tomorrow it may mean ‘Hit and run.’ One never can tell what a sign means. Hughie Jennings hoists his right knee as high as his shoulder, pulls six blades of grass and Jim Delahanty bunts. You are certain that Jennings signaled him to sacrifice, so the next day when Ty Cobb is bat and Jennings goes through the same motions, you creep forward and Cobb hits the ball past you so fast you can’t see it.

“If Connie Mack tilts his hat over his eyes and Eddie Collins steals second as the next ball is pitched, naturally you watch the hat, and lo, Jack Barry plays hit and run. You hear Clark Griffith yelp ‘Watch his foot!’ and see two of his players start a double steal. The next time he yells ‘Watch his foot!’ you break your neck to cover the base, and both players stand still.”

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Arlie Latham 

Fullerton said most fans gave up trying to figure out signs but they “mustn’t do that. Someday right in the middle of a game, you’ll strike the key to the language and read through clear to the ninth inning.”

He compared that moment to getting “away one good drive,” in golf, “forever afterward you are a victim,” and can’t stop.

“Did you ever watch Hugh Jennings on the coaching line near first base during a hard-fought game? He doubles his fists, lifts one leg and shakes his foot, screams ‘E-yah’ in piercing tomes and stooping suddenly plucks at the grass, pecking at it like a hen. It looks foolish. I have heard spectators express wonder that a man of ability and nearing middle age could act so childishly. Yet hidden somewhere in the fantastic contortions and gestures of the Tigers’ leader there is a meaning, a code word, or signal that tells his warriors what he expects them to do.”

Jennings said of his signs:

“I change almost every day. I change every time I suspect there is a danger of the meanings being read. I am a believer in as few signals as possible and of giving them when they count, and I find that a lot of antics are effective in covering up the signals.”

Fullerton said Mack was “one of the most successful men” at “interpreting” opponents’ signs:

“Before the Chicago Cubs went into their disastrous series against the Athletics they were warned that if such a thing were possible Mack would have their signals. At the end of the game they called a meeting to revise signals, changing entirely, being certain the Athletics knew almost every kind of ball that was going to be pitched.”

Fullerton allowed that the Cubs instead might be tipping their pitches, because he was sitting with Ty Cobb during the series, and:

“(He) repeatedly called the turn on the ball that would be pitched before it was thrown, judging from the pitcher’s motion, and the Athletics may have been doing the same thing.”

Fullerton also said of the Cubs, that although they were “the cleverest baseball team in America, composed of smart men and a great manager, for years paid less attention to active coaching on the baselines,” than other teams.

“Possibly the reason was the confidence in their own judgment and their continued success, Frank Chance’s men made few blunders and the neglect was not noticeable, except to constant observers until 1908. Any player who happened to be idle went to the coaching lines and most of the time inexperienced substitutes did line duty. In 1908 during their fierce fight for the pennant, the realization of their carelessness was brought home to them and since then Chance has employed quick-thinking, clever men on the base lines, principally relying on (Ginger) Beaumont and (John) Kane.”

john kane

John Kane

Fullerton dated Chance’s new appreciation for competent coaching to July 17, 1908; that day the Cubs beat Christy Mathewson and the Giants 1 to 0 on an inside the park home run by Joe Tinker. Heinie Zimmerman was coaching third base for the Cubs.

The Chicago Inter Ocean described the play:

“Joe, the first man up in the fifth, hit one of Matty’s best as far as any ball could be hit in the grounds without going into the stands. Where the center field bleachers join the right field 25 cent seats is a V-shaped inclosure. Joe drove the ball away into this dent, and it took Cy Seymour some time to gather the elusive sphere. When Cy finally retrieved the ball, Tinker was rounding third.

“Zimmerman grasped this as the psychological moment to perpetrate one of the most blockheaded plays ever pulled off. He ran out onto the line and seized Joe, trying to hold him on third, when the ball was just starting to the diamond from deep center field. Joe struggled to get away, as his judgment told him he could get home, but Heinie held on with a grip of death. Finally, Tink wriggled away and started for the plate.”

 

heinie

Zimmerman

The paper said Tinker would have been thrown out had Al Bridwell’s throw to the plate been on target:

“Had Tinker been caught at the plate the 10,000 frenzied fans would have torn Zim limb from limb. Chance immediately sent Evers out to coach at third base and retired Zim to the dark confines of the Cubs’ bench.”

Thus, said Fullerton:

“Chance began to develop scientific coaching, and discovering its full value, took the lead in the matter, employing skilled coachers.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #42

11 May

Poker and Baseball

Tigers coach Jimmy Burke told The Detroit News in 1915:

“The good poker players on a ball club are generally the brainiest and best ball players.”

jimmyburke

Burke

Burke said he was opposed to gambling but nevertheless:

“The snap judgment, the taking of quick advantage of openings, and the continual head work required in the great indoor sport is the same type that makes a good ball player great on the diamond. There are a lot of good ball payers who do not play much poker, but the good poker players on a team usually are the smartest and most brilliant players.”

The News assured readers that poker games among the Detroit players all ended “at 11 PM and never exceed a five or 10 cent limit.”

Cobb on Dean

In 1937, Ty Cobb told Grantland Rice of The New York Herald Tribune that he was an “admirer” of Dizzy Dean:

diz

Dean

 

“I saw him work in an exhibition last fall. Dizzy was using a change of pace and a side-arm delivery. I asked him to show me a few overhands. The next inning, he used nothing but an overhand delivery, and he had plenty on it. He proved to me that he had about everything a good pitcher needs—including smartness and control.”

Cobb had one criticism of Dean:

“I still think Dizzy would be better off if he worked more in the general interest of the team, and his manager, Frank Frisch. You might call this color and like it—but baseball is supposed to be a team game, and the manager is supposed to be the boss. I know. I felt that way about Hughie Jennings when he ran the Tigers.”

Rickey’s Priorities

Nine games into the University of Michigan’s 1913 season, George Sisler was hitting .528 in 36 at bats and was the team’s top pitcher—in a late April game against Kentucky State University Sisler worked five innings, and according to The Associated Press (AP), “He struck out 14 batters, and caught a pop fly sent up by the fifteenth man.”

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Sisler

On the same trip through the South, the wire service said Sisler was called in to pitch the final inning of a game when the club needed to catch a train and needed a quick finish:

“This he did by pitching nine balls, striking out the last three batters, who only heard the ball whizz past.”

Despite his success, The AP said that his coach Branch Rickey, “is worried about Sisler,” because his star player had other priorities.

“Rickey claims he has to all but kidnap Sisler to get him away from his books to practice…Sisler’s ambition is to shine in his class work and Rickey is afraid his studious disposition will ruin his ‘batting eye.’”

“They say I ran wild”

6 Apr

In 1937, Grantland Rice of The New York Herald Tribune met Ty Cobb for a round of golf at Pebble Beach:

ricegolfing

Grantland Rice

“His hair was a trifle thinner and he had put on a few pounds in weight since the big years of his career. But he still looked fit—life had given him a better break than any other retired major league star in history…The legs that carried him at a headlong pace around the bases for 24 years still had enough left to take home through the wilds of Montana, Oregon or Wyoming after quail, deer, or mountain lions—day after day on extended hikes.”

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Cobb

Rice asked Cobb what he thought about the current state of baseball:

“I haven’t seen much baseball or followed it closely, for two reasons. One is that 24 years of hard competition in more than 3000 ballgames burns away most of the lure. The other is that the introduction of the rabbit ball took away most of the science from the game I knew and loved so well. It has been a different game.

“In those years we had to battle for a run. I used to lay plans days or weeks ahead to use against some club to get that run. They say I ran wild. I did it with a purpose—but only when we had a good lead and I could afford to waste a play. I wanted them to think I was a crazy runner—in order to hurry the play of either infield or outfield—to upset what you might call their mental balance. Today, in the main, they wait around for someone to hit a home run. A single run rarely means anything.”

Cobb said he understood he had a reputation “as a rough rider around the bases,” but:

“I recall only three men I spiked in 24 years. I don’t believe the total would be over six or seven”

He told Rice the famous 1909 spiking of Frank “Hone Run” Baker:

“I barely scratched his arm…The Baker incident gave me a reputation I never deserved.”

cobbbaker

Cobb slides into Baker, 1909

Later, Rice asked Cobb about the best pitchers he faced:

 “My number one pitcher would be Cy Young. Cy won more than 500 ballgames in two big leagues. He was still a fine pitcher after more than 20 years…Ate the age of 65, in the veterans’ game, old Cy pitched three run less innings. He had a world of stuff—he had a game heart and he had control.

“Next to Cy, I’d name (Walter) Johnson who led them all in shutouts and strikeouts. That’s the main answer”

Cobb called Big Ed Walsh:

 “The most valuable five-year pitcher I ever saw. In one season (1908)  he worked 66 games, won 40 and saved 12 others [sic, 6]. Right after this he stepped in and pitched almost every game in the Chicago City series. Big Ed was the star workhorse of them all for about five years before the arm gave out.

Cobb told Rice his “Biggest day, I suppose was that afternoon against the Yankees just after a ball pitched by Carl Mays killed Ray Chapman.”

The New York Tribune said the fans were “in an uproar” over comments Cobb had allegedly made to Associated Press (AP) reporters. On the day of Chapman’s death, The AP reported:

“Ty Cobb, the Detroit star asserted that summary measures should be taken against Mays immediately.”

mays

Mays

The AP also said in a separate article:

“After the funeral of Roy Chapman has been held, Ty Cobb will have a few things to say regarding Carl Mays…’I am too upset over the death of Chapman to say anything now,’ he said. Cobb, however, added

That he had his own experiences with Mays’ bean-ball and that he would be willing to give some of his opinions about the Yankees submarine pitcher when he does talk.”

chapman

Chapman

It was also reported that Cobb was among a group of players who would refuse to play against Mays.

Describing the scene at the Polo Grounds nearly 17 years late, Cobb told Rice:

“I had been misquoted and when I came into the park there was the loudest chorus of boos and hisses, I ever heard.

“Naturally I felt bitter about this. It isn’t a pleasant feeling to be booed and hissed by 35,000 of your fellow citizens, I went out to show them up I happened to have one of my best days.”

Cobb’s “Biggest game” was actually the second game of the series. During the first game of the series on August 21, The Tribune said:

“(T)he booing and hissing were violent every time Cobb came to bat. This roused Cobb’s belligerency and he exchanged some sharp repartee with the crowd by the Detroit dugout. He was surrounded by a growling mob as he left the field, but Cobb, who rather enjoys being a storm center, walked off the field slowly and deliberately”

Cobb, who went 1 for 4 with a stolen base, told reporters after Detroit’s 10 to 3 win:

“Some Boston people who have a grudge against Carl Mays used me as a smoke screen. I did not say a word against Mays, and I attended no meeting to boycott him.”

The following day, August 22, with 37,000 fans in the Polo Grounds was the “Biggest day,” Cobb was 5 for 6 with a double and three stolen bases and scored two runs in an 11 to 9 victory.

Back to the game at Pebble Beach, Rice said of Cobb:

 “Golf is one game that has left him baffled. Once in awhile he breaks 80, but his average score is around 82 or 83. He hits a long ball and he is a first-class putter but is still erratic on the in between shots. Always full of tension…If he could relax more, there would soon be a great improvement in his game. But the mental habit of a lifetime isn’t so easily overcome. The more delicate shots give Ty his greatest trouble. This is where tension nearly always takes its toll. The mental factors that make a great ballplayer or football player may be ruinous for golf.”

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.

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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 or 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.”

“He’d Deliberately do Something to Rile a Hostile Crowd”

9 Aug

Edgar Munzel covered baseball for Chicago Newspapers from 1929 until 1973; he, along with Gordon Cobbledick, from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, received The J.G. Taylor Spink award in 1977.

munzel

Munzel

While writing for The Chicago Sun in 1943, Munzel was in a French Lick, Indiana hotel, “seated in a circle on lobby chairs.” With Harry Heilmann, then a Tigers broadcaster, Jimmie Wilson and Kiki Cuyler, Cubs manager and coach, and Tigers pitcher Dizzy Trout.

Munzel said Trout was there “only as a sideline agitator to keep Heilmann in a reminiscent vein,” while the three former players told stories about players fighting with fans after Wilson said how a group of soldiers in the stands “were really on me, Must’ve been from Philadelphia.”

Wilson said:

“Boy, how they used to give it to you there, even when you were the home team. Did you ever have them hollering at you Harry?”

Heilmann said:

“I’ll never forget those Philadelphia fans as long as I live…Ty Cobb had injured his hand in a fight with some butcher in Detroit and I had to play centerfield for the Tigers. Well, those Philly fans had paid to see Cobb and they took it out on me—called me every variety of busher they could think of.”

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Heilmann

Wilson, a Philadelphia native who spent 11 seasons with the Phillies, said the city’s fans loved watching Cobb play the Athletics:

“I think they got half their enjoyment trying to get him mad. I still remember watching a game as a kid when Cobb got so hot, he charged right into the stands and challenged everybody.”

Heilmann, who played with and for Cobb, said:

“(He) was always doing something and quite often it was with an eye towards the gate. He actually considered it a personal affront if only a few thousand turned out and he’d deliberately do something to rile a hostile crowd on the road so the next day there’s be 40,000.”

He said is Boston, Cobb “threw a bat at Carl Mays’ head

“He did it in his usual clever way. Mays always looked at the ground during his one point in his underhanded delivery just before he let go of the ball. Cobb started heading for the pitcher’s mound just at the split-second Mays turned his eyes toward the ground. Thus, he was able to take a half dozen steps forward before Mays looked up again. By that time, he had let fly with the bat and it missed Mays’ head by inches.

“That day we had to have a police escort get us out of the park.”

cobb

Cobb

Heilmann recalled a fight he participated in:

“(O)ne day a couple guys in the stands were giving us a brutal riding. Right after the game Cobb charged after one of them underneath the stands and I was right behind him.

“He swung at his man and I tried to reach over his shoulder at the other fellow. But it turned out our two annoyers were just a small part of a gang of about a dozen. What a going over they gave us. We wore adhesive from head to foot when it was over. But I always remember when they knocked Cobb down, he tackled his man around the legs as he was falling. He hauled him down with him and battled there underneath the pile, oblivious of everything else going on around him. He had the man he was after.”

Wilson said when he was managing the Phillies, he “got my man once, too.”

He said he had “been telling my players all year,” to ignore the heckling from their hometown fans:

“But there was one particularly obnoxious guy one day and I walked out towards the stands to bark back at him after the game. And when I did, he leaned over the railing and spit in my face.

“That infuriated me, so I ran into the stands and grabbed him by the lapels.”

But, Wilson said, he took pity on the man and let him go, despite fans “hollering for me to ‘let him have it.’”

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Wilson

Cuyler then told the story of the “funniest thing” he recalled about a player fighting a fan:

“(It) happened to Hack Wilson in Wrigley Field. Somebody was riding him unmercifully one day from a front row box. Hack went over to the grandstand rail at that point and put his legs up to climb over and –wham—the heckler knocked him back onto the field. Hack tried it again but before he could get his short legs over, he was smacked down once more. I think it happened a third time before somebody hauled the befuddled Hack away.”

“Diabolical—Nothing Else.”

2 Aug

The introduction of baseball cards in cigarette packages by the American Tobacco Company was largely uncontroversial—except in the company’s backyard, the heart of tobacco country.

The Charlotte Observer was the first large paper to condemn the practice. In August of 1909 the paper editorialized:

“(T)rading upon the small boy’s passion for baseball as well as for collecting to make a cigarette fiend of him, is diabolical—nothing else.”

The Observer described the “mania” among the city’s boys:

“More especially the likenesses of Ty Cobb and Hans Wagner are most desired, and until a week ago only a few pictures of Cobb had been found, two of these being in the possession of the Buford Hotel cigar stand.”

wagnercobb

“Most desired” among the boys of Charlotte

The paper said 13 Cobb cards were then found in purchases made at “The Wilson Drug Store, on East Trade Street,” and “The boys of the street went wild.”

The Observer conceded that some of the younger boys took the cards then sold the five-cent packs of cigarettes were offered to passers by for two packs for five cents, but maintained their editorial opinion that young kids were being induced to smoke.

The Raleigh News and Observer agreed about the “baseball picture bait,” and added:

“The cigarette trust, it seems, would stop at nothing to get money.”

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Old Mill ad “Baseball pictures and a valuable coupon in each package.”

The cause was taken up by numerous papers across the state, The Statesville Landmark said:

“(I)f the enormity of the offense was appreciated as it should be it would arouse a spirit of indignation in North Carolina that would stop this traffic in the bodies and souls of boys.”

The Winston Sentinel said:

“It will do more to start young boys smoking than any other agency of which we can conceive.”

The Raleigh Times said the introduction of the “baseball pictures” coincided with an increase in “the number of licenses to sell cigarettes” in the city:

“That the boys are buying the cigarettes is a settled fact and there are always people who will sell anything for money.”

But smoking wasn’t the only concern. The Reidsville Review said:

“Almost any day groups of youngsters may be seen on the streets of Reidsville ‘matching’ pictures of baseball men. It seems a harmless amusement, yet it is gambling all the same, and has been so decided by a judge in Washington (NC). He dismissed the first bunch of boys brought before him for matching baseball pictures with a reprimand but intimated that hereafter he would impose the gamblers’ sentence.”

“Matching pictures” was simply flipping game where a card was won or lost if landed face up or down.

One major daily paper in the state took up the cause of the tobacco company, The Greensboro News said:

“Considerable criticism, and of a right severe kind, has been leveled lately at certain cigarette manufacturers for their practice of putting pictures of baseball players in their cigarette boxes.”

The paper said the “criticism” was based on an incorrect notion, and claimed “we have our doubts” that more children were smoking:

“Our observation is that he relies mainly on begging his pictures from the large boys and grown men.”

The paper acknowledged, “Of course, some very small boys smoke,” but claimed the increase in cigarette sales was not because of the “baseball pictures,” and instead due to changing “tastes of the public,” for “ready-made cigarettes” rather than rolling them themselves.

The paper concluded their theory was “far more reasonable than the baseball picture idea.”

The brief outcry changed nothing—by the time American Tobacco introduced cards, the company which had a virtual monopoly on the sale of “ready-made” or manufactured cigarettes since it was formed, had a near monopoly on the sale of all tobacco. At the same time, the company was already defending itself from the federal anti-trust case that led to the 1911 Supreme Court decision which dissolved the company.

The “baseball picture” craze did result in at least one homicide in North Carolina. In 1910, The Laurinburg Exchange reported that a 16-year-old had hit another 16-year-old “in the head with a ginger ale bottle,” during an argument over a “matching game with baseball pictures out of cigarette packages,” rendering the victim unconscious–he never regained consciousness and died a week later.

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.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #32

8 Apr

“He Runs Bases Like a cow”

John Irwin began 1891, his eighth and final major league season playing for the Boston Reds, managed by his brother Arthur.

After a June game with The Colonels, The Louisville Courier-Journal said the connection was not an accident:

“John Irwin, who is a ball player because his brother is a baseball manager, was in a part of yesterday’s game. He runs bases like a cow and was caught off first yesterday in the easiest manner possible. He foolishly ran out between the bases and then waited until (catcher Jack) Ryan had thrown the ball to get him out. He is very gay and is never happier or more fatal to Boston’s chances then when he is coaching. His dangerous advice got one man out yesterday.”

irwin.jpg

John Irwin

The paper said when Irwin entered the game, at least one of his teammates, right fielder, Hugh Duffy was not pleased:

“Duffy was seen to remonstrate yesterday, when Irwin took (Paul) Radford’s place. It was like leaving the short field without a man. Irwin would be cheaper to the Boston club were he paid five times as much as he is now, with the proviso that he did not in the field—except to bring a bat.”

Irwin was released by the Boston Reds on July 16, and immediately signed by the Louisville Colonels.

“He Fairly Flew at me”

Roger Connor jumped the New York Giants and signed with the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association in November of 1891. Before he left New York, he sought out Sam Crane, former major leaguer and reporter for The New York Press, to settle a score in “an uptown saloon.”

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Connor

Crane told the story in the pages of The Press:

“I know Roger fully believes what he says. I had a short séance with him recently and was unfortunate enough to strike Roger in a very unamiable mood. Talk about the effect of a red flag on a mad bill.”

According to Crane, when Connor approached him in the bar:

“He fairly flew at me and threatened to knock seven kinds of daylight out of me, or any other baseball reporter that ever lived, in as many minutes.”

The New York Herald said Connor had also threatened George Erskine Stackhouse of The New York Tribune and Charles Mathison of The New York Sun.

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Crane

Crane continued the story:

“His big form loomed over me and his brawny fist made belligerent hieroglyphics before my face a very vivid recollection came to me of what an effect that same fist on the features of (his former New York teammate) Ed Caskin several years ago. I would bet even money just at that stage of the game that he could lick John L. Sullivan in a punch, and I decided to forego, for some time at least, all further thought of making any arguments with him.”

Crane suggested that those who called him “a gentleman” and congratulated him on staying above the fray and not getting in a fight with Connor were not considering Connor’s point of view:

“Roger laid great stress on the fact that I once said, ‘he hadn’t a heart as big as a pea.’”

Connor was assigned to the Philadelphia Phillies after the American Association folded.

“He Never Gave the Game Enough”

The Detroit News said during the spring of 1912, Hughie Jennings told young players as the Tigers trained in Louisiana that to be successful a player “must breathe baseball, eat baseball, play baseball, and sleep baseball.”

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Hugh Jennings

Jennings said four of his players—Ty Cobb, Donie Bush. Sam Crawford, and Del Gainer—“devote their entire time and attention” to baseball.

“The man who is successful is the man who trains himself to his work and keeps his mind on it.”

Jennings then mentioned his only exception to that rule:

“In my career in the game I have known but one really good player who could place baseball second to other things. That man is Bill Dahlen, now manager of the Brooklyn team. Dahlen played the ponies and indulged in other outside affairs. He never practiced. He never gave the game enough when off the field, and he always reached the clubhouse two or three minutes before starting time. Sometimes the game had to wait till Bill took his position at short.”

Jennings, who was Dahlen’s teammate in 1899-1900 in Brooklyn said:

“If Dahlen had devoted his entire time to baseball he would have been the greatest infielder of all time. He could take a grounder on either side of him while in motion and throw without hesitating a moment. He could smash the ball to any part of the lot and bunt perfectly. He was a great baserunner. There was no more brilliant fielder.”

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Bill Dahlen

Jennings acknowledged that his former teammate was not the “greatest of all time,” but:

“He should have been.”

“I am a Perfectly Harmless House-Cat Sort”

11 Mar

In 1914, an “as told to” story about Ty Cobb appeared in the magazine section of several Sunday papers which were part of The Associated Sunday Magazines syndicate.

The writer, Edward Lyell Fox, was one of the most famous journalists of the decade, but just four years later his career ended in scandal.  Fox was sent to Germany to cover the war for the Hearst newspapers, but in 1918 he was accused of writing “propaganda stories” for the German government—Fox’ career was ruined, and he was the subject of Congressional hearings, although the charges were never substantiated.

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Fox

Some of the stories from the Fox piece appear in the rare 1914 book “Bustin’ ‘em” “by” Cobb, although Fox is not credited.

Cobb told Fox:

“I think I have more trouble with crowds than any other ballplayer. This is due to the fact that when I broke into the big leagues, I was pretty young and had a tempter that was too quick for my own good.  Only in later years have I successfully curbed it.  But the crowds remember those flare ups of the past. Then my manner on the field is aggressive. It’s part of my game.  I couldn’t play ball if I didn’t feel aggressive. But I think that anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a perfectly harmless, mild-mannered, house-cat sort of individual off the field.”

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Cobb

Cobb then told Fox about an experience with a hostile fan in Cleveland:

“I slid into third base ‘riding high,’ with spikes aglimmer.  I did this purposely; for (Ivy) Olson, the Cleveland baseman, had been blocking runners. I wanted to scare him.  He saw the spikes and kept out of the way thereafter.

‘”I guess I will call it off, Ty,’ he said, and grinned.  There was no hard feeling between us.  It was all in the game.”

One Indians fan did agree with Olson that there we no hard feelings.

“Behind the (Tigers) bench was a man with the voice of monstrous bullfrog. Every time there was a lull in the uproar of the park his voice would croak, ‘Dirty work! Dirty work, Cobb! I’ll get you after the game! Look out for me at the players’ gate!’

“Well he kept after me all the afternoon and began to get on my nerves.  Finally, I shouted back something in his general direction.  I couldn’t see who he was; but I concluded he must be as big as a house; possibly a pugilist.  The game over, some of the players offered to go out the gate with me.  If there was going to be an attack, they wanted to see that I got a square deal. As we passed through the gate I heard the bullfrog voice, only now if was very friendly.  It said

“’Hello, Ty! How are you?’

“I looked around, and saw an amazing sight.  That voice was coming from a man who looked five feet high and didn’t weigh a hundred pound.

‘That’s the fellow who was going to beat you up, Ty,’ said (George) Moriarty. Well, the players gave me the laugh on that thing for a couple of days.”