Tag Archives: Union Association

“Begged the Crowd for God’s Sake not to Kill Him”

21 May

Edward Siegfried Hengel (often misspelled Hengle during his career) was a well-known umpire and manager in the 1880s.

Born in 1855, Hengel managed the Union Association franchise that began the season in Chicago, and relocated to Pittsburgh in August, 1884.  His career is occasionally confused with Emery “Moxie” Hengel (also often misspelled Hengle) who played second base for 1884 Chicago/Pittsburgh club, and had a long minor league career.  (The two were born two years apart in Chicago, but there is no indication they were related).

Emery "Moxie" Hengel

Emery “Moxie” Hengel

In 1886 Ed Hengel was an umpire in the Southern Association.  On August 5 he was working a game between Savannah and the Charleston Seagulls.  The Macon (GA) Telegraph said, in the sixth inning:

“”At this point of the game it became apparent to the audience, as well as to the players of the local team, that Hengle (sic), the umpire, had sold the game to Savannah; but notwithstanding his adverse decisions, the locals kept the Savannah team down to one run till the end of the ninth inning.  During the latter half of this inning (Hengel) gave the visitor three runs, letting them score in the following manner:  (John “Tug”) Arundel was at the bat. There were two out.  He hit a grounder to (Henry “Heinie”) Kappel who stopped it and threw it to first.  Arundel had stopped running and left the line when (first baseman Jim) Powell   failed to catch the ball”

Arundel then came back onto the field and ran to first, Hengel declared Arundel safe and a  run scored; the next hitter, Joe Miller, drove in two more runs, to win the game for Charleston, 4 to 3

The Telegraph said:

“As soon as the crowd caught on to the steal the grand stand and bleaching boards emptied their male contents on the ground, and for five minutes (the umpire) was in danger of getting very badly hurt, if not killed, by the infuriated crowd.”

The management of the Charleston team helped keep the fans at bay until police arrived:

“It were (sic) best for (Hengel) to get transferred immediately as another disgraceful piece of umpiring will cost him some inconvenience.  The people of Charleston will not stand another robbery.

“(Hengel) was scared nearly to death; he was as white as a sheet, and it is said begged the crowd, for God’s sake, not to kill him.  He did not deny having sold the game when charged with it by a director of the baseball club after he was safe.”

Hengel did not work another game in Charleston that season.

In October of 1887 The Aurora (IL) Daily Express credited Hengel with signing “(Charlie) Hoover crack-backstop of the Western League” for the Chicago White Stockings—within weeks Hoover’s long series of troubles would begin.

HOOVER_LG

Charlie Hoover

Hengel continued as an umpire, including stints in the Tri-State and Pacific Northwest Leagues,  and minor league manager for the next decade.  While managing the Hamilton (OH) club in the Tri-State League, Hengel saved a young girl from drowning, and “her grateful parents presented him a pair of diamond sleeve buttons.”

Hengel disappears from the newspapers after 1892;  he died in Great Britain in 1927; presumably not at the hands of angry Charleston fans.

Note:  Henry “Heinie” Kappel does not appear on surviving rosters for the 1886 Charleston Seagulls, but contemporaneous accounts in The Sporting Life and other newspapers confirm he was with the team.

Alamazoo Jennings

16 Apr

Alfred Gorden Jennings earned his nickname the day after his only professional game, as the catcher for the  Milwaukee Grays in 1878; and it was given to him by on of the most famous baseball writers of the era.

The Grays had three catchers in 1878; Charlie Bennett, Will Foley and Bill Hobart, all of whom were injured on August 15 while Milwaukee was in Cincinnati for a series with the Reds.   Grays Manager Jack “Death to Flying Things” Chapman found Jennings, who had been playing with local semi-pro and amateur teams for a decade, and put him in the lineup for the August 15 game.

Pitcher Mike Golden was on the mound for Milwaukee, and Jennings told sportswriter Rem Mulford Jr. years later:

“We were all mixed in our signs.  I signed for an outcurve and got an inshoot which broke a couple of fingers.  ‘Go ahead,’ I said, ‘ I’ll stay here all day even if I have to stop ‘em with my elbows.  You can’t drive me away.’  Well they didn’t.”

Jennings was officially credited with 10 passed balls (he claimed he had 17), a record that stood until 1884.

The morning after the game in The Cincinnati Enquirer, the headline on Oliver Perry “O. P.” Caylor’s story read:

Alamazoo Jennings Makes His Debut Behind the Bat

His Gall Holds Out but His Hands Weaken

Caylor said:

“(Jennings) looked so large and handsome and very like a catcher that Manager Chapman was mashed, and straightaway engaged him, and clinched the bargain with a dinner.  When Al pulled on his sole- leather gloves and poised near the grandstand at three o’clock, the crowd scarcely breathed.  Zip came the ball from Golden’s hand; bang it went against the backstop because Al had stooped too late to pick it up.  It took several minutes for him to gauge the speed of Golden’s pitching, but he got it down fine at last, and stopped a ball every once in awhile.  But, the low comedy parts came in when the new catcher went up close behind the bat.  A batter had but to get on first base and a run was scored.  They went to second and third without danger, and tallied on a passed ball.”

Jennings told Mulford his reaction to Caylor’s story:

“I read a few lines and wanted to fight.  I read a few lines more and had to laugh.”

The Box Score

The Box Score

That game was the end of Jennings’ one-day professional career.  Shortly afterwards he began a more than 10-year run as a minor league umpire in the Bluegrass, Southern, Northwestern and Interstate Leagues.  He also served as an umpire in the Union Association in 1884, his only season in a major league.

Mulford would occasionally update his readers about Jennings, of whom he said:

“With all his peculiarities, Amamazoo is a good fellow, and he has as many friends in and out of the profession as anybody ever connected with the great national game.”

By 1891 he gave up umpiring to become “The Parched Corn King of America,”selling his product in “three cities–Cincinnati, Covington and Newport—and netting every day ten times the amount of the original capital invested in the enterprise.”

by November of 1894 Jennings had moved on from the “parched corn” business, to “pushing an insect killer,” when as The Sporting Life said: “Death entered another victory upon his scorebook.”  He was 43-years-old.

The Enquirer said for his funeral his friends ordered a “floral piece…over seven feet high.  It is made of beautiful flowers.  Two large floral bats cross each other above, and below then are two floral balls, and at the bottom of the piece the inscription: ‘His Last Decision.'”

“The Money in Baseball” 1884

14 Mar

In 1884, under the headline “The Money in Baseball,” The Boston Globe expressed their antipathy about the “enormous salaries which the ‘kings of the profession’ demand.”

The Globe observed that “The best pitchers get as much money for working a few hours each day during seven months as many college professors receive for the entire year’s service.”

George Wright, Hall of Famer, and brother and teammate of Harry Wright with the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, told the paper

“The money paid the entire team would put a poor team on the field today.  My brother Harry was the most expensive man on the team, and he got $2000 for being captain and playing center field.  I was in my regular position at short and drew $1800.”

Wright said several players on the Red Stockings were paid less than $1000.

1869 Red Stockings, Harry Wright, standing third from left, George Wright standing to the right of him.

1869 Red Stockings, Harry Wright, standing third from left, George Wright standing to the right of him.

By comparison The Globe said:

“The salary list of the Boston League club amounts to $25,000 in round numbers…It is impossible to estimate how much has been paid in salaries to ballplayers throughout the country.  The eight League clubs will certainly average as much as Boston’s total…In the Union Association are eight more clubs…there is not much doubt that the eight clubs pay at least $125,000 in salaries.  The American Association has twelve clubs…the salary list of these three largest baseball associations in the country aggregate between $500,000 and $600,000.”

McCloskey, Mays and Hair Color

12 Mar

Carl Mays is best known for being the pitcher that hit Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman with a pitch, resulting in the only hit by pitch death of a Major League player. In fifteen seasons he posted a 208-126 record with a 2.92 ERA.

Five years before he became infamous for Chapman’s death, Mays became embroiled in a strange feud with former National League manager John James McCloskey; the dispute was over hair color.

Carl Mays

Carl Mays

In December of 1914, McCloskey was a well-respected figure in baseball, credited with being the “father” of the original Texas League in 1888, McCloskey had spent five seasons as manager of the Louisville Colonels and St. Louis Cardinals in the National League, and another 23 as a minor league manager and owner.

Mays was coming off a 24-8 season for the Providence Grays in the international League, and while called up to the Red Sox in the closing weeks of the season had not yet appeared in a big league game.

The controversy originated when Charles “Toby” Fullerton, a pitcher for the Seattle Giants in the Northwestern League was quoted in an article that appeared in The Pittsburgh Press and several other newspapers about pitcher “Seattle Bill” James, who had just led the Boston Braves to a World Championship.  Fullerton said when he and James were teammates in Seattle in 1912, manager Shad Barry had “condemned the youngster for being a blond,” then was quoted saying McCloskey also “has no use in the world for blonde ball players.”

"Seattle Bill" James

“Seattle Bill” James

The strange, silly, throwaway quote should have been the end of it, but it was apparently serious enough for McCloskey to issue a long denial from his home in Louisville, Kentucky.   The full-page letter McCloskey wrote appeared in more newspapers than the original story, and read in part:

“Let me say, I have been accused of every crime in the calendar, but this is too much.”

McCloskey claimed the “rumor” originated when he was managing the Milwaukee Brewers in the American Association in 1910.  Outfielder Rube DeGroff played for McCloskey (incidentally, Shad Barry was also a member of the team), and according to McCloskey:

“We were playing in Kansas City, we were behind…and made a big rally that came near giving us the game.  The bases were full in the last inning, with two men out, when the big, blonde and good-natured Rube DeGroff, who was a splendid all-around player and life of the club, came to bat with the bases full and struck out.  I was sore over losing the game and made the remark that I never saw a cotton-top who ever made good in a pinch.”

McCloskey said he also believed anything Barry might have said to or about James was certainly a joke, and closed with a final defense:

“In fact, in my humble opinion, I think the blonde has a shade over the brunette.  But why the color of a man’s hair should have anything to do with his ability as a ball player is a mystery to me, and I hope this explanation will put an end to these silly rumors.”

It didn’t.

Within days Carl Mays weighed in, claiming that he had twice been rejected for an opportunity to pitch for McCloskey’s Ogden Canners in the Union Association because he was blond.

Mays said:

“McCloskey is a liar pure and simple…In 1912, when I was on my way to Boise to try out for the Boise team; I stopped off at Ogden, thinking possibly owner McCloskey might give me a trial.  I met him downtown in a billiard parlor and went up and introduced myself.

“McCloskey looked me over carefully, like a horse-trader examining a piece of horseflesh, and then suddenly espied my blond hair.  ‘No,’ said he coolly, ‘I don’t want you.  In fact I wouldn’t have you around the ranch.  I don’t want any blonds in my camp.’”

Mays also claimed that later in 1912 while compiling a 22-9 record for the Boise Irrigators in the Western Tri-State League; he was nearly sold to McCloskey’s pitching-strapped Ogden Canners until:

“One of the Ogden players happened to mention the fact that he was the same blond-haired fellow who had asked for a job earlier.”

According to Mays, McCloskey said:

“’Deal is off.  Send that white-haired guy over here and I’ll kill him.’”

The story stuck with McCloskey for more than 20 years.  A 1916 story in The Providence Tribune said:

“Scouts all over the country know McCloskey and never did one in his employ recommend a light-haired ballplayer…His peculiarity was well-known, and he knew that no one would have the temerity to recommend to him a blond or light-haired ballplayer. “

The black-haired John McCloskey

The black-haired John McCloskey

In 1934, The Milwaukee Journal called McCloskey “one grizzled veteran who frowned on blond athletes.”  The article quoted E. Lee Keyser, a long-time minor league executive, who said when McCloskey managed Butte “One of (McCloskey’s) players was an Indian outfielder whose hair was black,” the player struck out in a critical situation.  According to Keyser, when the unnamed player returned to the clubhouse later, McCloskey grabbed his hair and said:  “I just want to know if you’re wearing a wig.  You hit like a blond.”

McCloskey managed in the minor leagues until he was 70-years-old, he died eight years later in 1940.

Fielder Jones and the Chehalis Gophers

11 Feb

Most biographies of Fielder Jones—player-manager of the 1906 World Champion Chicago White Sox, the Hitless Wonders—mention that he managed the Chehalis Gophers, a team in the Washington State League, in 1910;  they never mention that he ended up there because of a near-fatal assault before he arrived.

The 36-year-old Jones left the White Sox after the 1908 season to settle in the Portland, Oregon and tend to his many business holdings in the area.  In 1909, he was named president of the Northwestern League, and served for one season.  According to West Coast newspaper reports, Jones was in the running to named president of the Pacific Coast League in 1910, before Thomas Graham was elected as a compromise candidate.

In the spring of 1910, Jones coached the Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State) baseball team to the school’s first conference championship.

At the same time, Jones was coaching at OAC, the Washington State League was getting underway—the league had been operating for at least three seasons, but 1910 was the first year it was recognized under baseball’s national agreement as an “official” minor league.

The Chehalis Gophers were led by 27-year-old Fred Nehring; he had previously played on the Pacific Coast, Northwestern and Connecticut State Leagues.  Nehring, who was born in Pueblo, Colorado in 1883, but grew up in Chehalis, had been playing on and off with the local team since leaving the Tacoma Tigers in 1908

1908 Chehalis team. Fred Nehring standing 2nd from left, Tamp Osburn, standing 4th from left.

1908 Chehalis team. Fred Nehring standing 2nd from left, Tamp Osburn, standing 4th from left.

Another player who had spent time with Chehalis since 1908 was a pitcher known variously as “Tamp” Osburn, Osborn or Osborne (for the purpose of this story we’ll call him Osburn—most common usage by contemporaneous sources).  Tamp Osburn has, at least, two separate, partial listings on Baseball Reference.

Osburn was considered a talented pitcher, but an erratic character.  While pitching for the Spokane Indians in Northwestern League in 1907, he quit the team in June.  According to The Spokane Daily Chronicle:

“The whole trouble yesterday started when a couple of misplays in the eighth inning put a losing aspect on the game…Tamp blames the whole trouble on (William ‘Terry’) McKune, who he says ‘threw’ the game on him.”

Osburn had additional problems with teammates and developed a reputation as an eccentric, and like all eccentric pitchers of the era there was one he was often compared; The Daily Chronicle called him “The Rube Waddell of the Northwestern League.”

After playing together for Chehalis in 1908, both Nehring and Osburn played in the short-lived Inter-Mountain League in 1909; both returned to Chehalis after that league folded in July.

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“Tamp” Osburn, 1908 with Spokane Indians

On May 20, just after the 1910 season opened, the Chehalis team boarded a train.  According to The Chehalis Bee-Nugget:

“(Osburn) who had been drinking before the train left Chehalis became so unruly on the train that the train crew called on Fred Nehring, captain of the Chehalis team to quiet him.  Tamp resented Nehring’s efforts to keep him from cursing in the presence of ladies, and pulled a knife and began to slash Nehring…Two severe cuts…in the left arm, and the other was in the breast.  If the latter had been an inch farther over, it would have penetrated the lungs.”

Nehring had the wounds dressed, left the hospital against doctor’s advice and managed the Chehalis team “from the bench.”  Despite the seemingly quick recovery, Nehring only appeared in a few games the rest of the season.  Osburn was arrested.

The Chehalis team floundered for the next several weeks.  In late June, it was announced that Fielder Jones would join the team as manager and centerfielder.

Under Jones, who was still property of the White Sox and needed Charles Comiskey’s approval to play, Chehalis easily won the league championship; Jones hit .358 in 37 games.

Jones had agreed to play for the team for no salary and was only reimbursed for his expenses.  This arrangement nearly cost Chehalis the league championship.  According to The (Portland) Oregonian, the second place Raymond Cougars protested to the league and the National Commission that all wins under Jones should be forfeited because Jones “was not under contract.”  The protest was denied and Chehalis was declared league champion.

Osburn was sent to the Lewis County Jail while awaiting trial, and according to The Oregonian was involved in an attempted escape along with other prisoners who occupied the jail’s first floor, a week after his arrest.  The paper said of Osburn “the baseball player, and one other man were taken to the cells on the second floor and locked up securely.”

There is no record of whether Osburn was convicted; in any case, he was free by July of 1911 and was pitching for the Missoula, Montana franchise in the Union Association when The Helena Daily Independent reported that Osburn:

“The Missoula pitcher, who started a rough house in a Missoula cafe and pulled a knife on a stranger, drew a severe panning from the judge, who, after fining him $25, -said: ‘There are some good men on your team, who behave themselves, but there is a lot of you whose conduct is a disgrace to the city and the national game. We don’t want that kind of men in Missoula uniforms, and you fellows have got to stop such actions.”

Contemporaneous newspaper accounts say he was a native of Utah, but given the inconsistent spelling of his last name, and a full first name never being listed, the trail for Osburn ends after this 1911 incident.

Nehring remained in Chehalis where he died on February 19, 1936.

Jones returned briefly to baseball in 1914 and 1915 as manager of the Saint Louis Terriers in the Federal League.  He died in Portland in 1934.

Fielder Jones, 1914

Fielder Jones, 1914

“King of the Natural Hitters”

25 Jan

Percival Wheritt “Perry” “Moose” Werden began his baseball career as a pitcher for the semi-professional team of his employer; the Ira Perry Pie Company in Saint Louis.  He was discovered by the St. Louis Browns who offered him a contract but ultimately signed with the Saint Louis Maroons in the Union Association.

(An oft-repeated story that Werden’s discovery involved him leaving a pie wagon unattended to join a game, resulting in the wagon being destroyed is almost certainly apocryphal, although it has been repeated as fact with little or no support by several writers)

In 1884 the 22-year-old was 12-1 with a 1.97 for the Maroons who at 94-19 won the Union Association pennant by 21 games; despite the strong start, Werden would never pitch in the Major Leagues again.

The Maroons joined the National League the following season and Werden ended up with the Memphis Reds in the Southern League.  He was primarily a catcher a first baseman, and his career as a pitcher pretty much ended; he appeared on the mound in only three games that season and had only 14 more minor league appearances over the next 10 years because of arm trouble.

Perry Werden, 1908

Perry Werden, 1908

From 1886-88, Werden played with five minor league teams and played three games in the National League with Washington in 1888.  In 1889, Werden joined the Toledo Black Pirates in the International League, where he became a great hitter.

Werden hit .394 for Toledo; in 424 at-bats, he had 167 hits, which was the hit record for the franchise for nearly 100 years, finally broken by Greg “Boomer” Wells in 1982 (Wells had 182 hits in 541 at-bats).

Toledo became a Major League franchise the following season, joining the American Association as the Maumees, Werden was the their starting first baseman, hit .295 and led the team in hits, runs, triples, and RBIs.  The Maumees finished 68-64 in their only season.

Werden was sold by Toledo to the Baltimore Orioles in 1891 and had another solid season, leading the team in hits, triples and RBI’s.  The following season he was signed by the Saint Louis Browns to replace Charles Comiskey at first base; Comiskey had jumped the Browns to join the Cincinnati Reds.

Werden hit .256 and .290 in two seasons with the Browns.  In 1894, he returned to the minor leagues with the Minneapolis Minnies in the Western League.  That’s where he became a legend.

In 1894, Werden exploded.  He hit .417 with 43 home runs.  In 1895, he improved to .428 with 45 home runs.

The Western League was no doubt a hitter’s league; eight players with at least 100 at-bats hit .400 or better in 1894 and 11 did so in 1895.  And the Minnies home field, Athletic Park, where Werden hit most of his home runs, was by all estimates a hitter’s paradise with a short (some sources say 250 feet) fence.

Regardless, 45 home runs would remain a professional baseball record until 1920. The Duluth News-Tribune said several years later that Werden hit seven home runs in a double-header in 1895; under the headline “Perry Werden was King of the Natural Hitters:”

“It was one of the greatest batting feats ever seen on a baseball lot anywhere.”

Werden had one last season in the Major Leagues.  At 35-years-old in 1897, he hit .301 for the Louisville Colonels, then returned to the minor leagues where he continued to hit well; .330 for his minor league career.

Werden became an umpire in the American Association in 1907, and became a baseball pioneer in 1908 when he joined the Indianapolis Indians in the same league; he was one of the first full-time coaches in professional baseball.  The Associated Press said:

“Perry Werden will go to Indianapolis to act as assistant manager, coach and advisor in general of the Indianapolis baseball club this year.”

In October The Indianapolis News declared Werden a success in the new role:

“Werden was one of the biggest factors in bringing Indianapolis her first pennant since 1902.  Without his services it’s highly probable the flag would have flown elsewhere”

The Indianapolis Star predicted that Werden’s “novel position,” would become the norm with the Indians, and throughout baseball.

Werden eventually returned to umpiring, working in the western, Dakota, South Dakota and Northern leagues.

His 43 home run season became news again in 1920 as Babe Ruth was closing in on Werden’s professional record.  Werden said there was one player in his era who was Ruth’s equal as a hitter.  Who was it?

Read about it on Monday.

The 1888 Texas Southern League

17 Jan

The Texas Southern League was in existence for half of one season; the reason for its creation was that the Dallas Hams were just too good a team in 1888.

In the winter of 1887 the Texas League was formed with six teams: the Dallas Hams, Austin Senators, Fort Worth Panthers, Galveston Giants, Houston Babies and San Antonio Missionaries.  Representatives from the Memphis Grays and New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern League, which was struggling to replace teams that had folded, also attended the meeting and lobbied for the league to be expanded to eight teams, but the six Texas-based teams voted not to include them;   New Orleans and Memphis joined the 4-team (down from 7) incarnation of the Southern League, which also included the Birmingham Maroons and Charleston Sea Gulls.

Charlie Levis, who had played Major League ball in The Union Association and American Association in 1884 and ’85 was named manager and played 1st base for Dallas.  Levis, a St. Louis native, brought in several Missourians including some who had spent time in the Major Leagues and built a strong team.

The Sporting News said Levis:

“Signed a team of professionals for Dallas that would do credit to almost any league in the country…They are all splendid fielders and batsmen and fair base runners.”

The team was so strong according to The Dallas Morning News that:

“So good was the Dallas team that club after club dropped out after repeated drubbings at its hands.  Dallas won so many consecutive victories that the other cities lost their appetite for baseball and withdrew.”

By late June, Dallas led the league with a winning percentage above .800; Austin and Fort Worth had dropped out and all the remaining teams were losing money with players often going several weeks between paydays.  At the same time, the Southern League was collapsing.  In early July, a deal was struck to create the five-team Texas Southern League with New Orleans joining Dallas, Galveston, Houston and San Antonio.

The 1888 Dallas Hams--Identifiable players: Front right Bill Goodenough, front left, Pat Whitaker, seated left, Ducky Hemp, standing left Charlie Levis, standing right John Fogerty,

The 1888 Dallas Hams–Identifiable players:
Front right Bill Goodenough, front left Ducky Hemp, seated left Pat Whitaker, standing left Charlie Levis, standing right John Fogarty,

While New Orleans provided some much-needed competition for Dallas the Texas Southern League half-season was not much different from the Texas League half-season.  Dallas finished with a winning percentage of .826, New Orleans finished second followed by San Antonio, Galveston and Houston.  The Morning News said on the final day of the season:

“The league is dead, and the Dallas club carries off the glory, waves high the pennant, and stands the champion club not only of the league but of all the South.”

The following season Austin and Fort Worth rejoined and the Waco Babies replaced the San Antonio Missionaries to again form a six-team Texas league; New Orleans returned to the Southern League, and the Texas Southern League was finished.

The story of one member of the 1888 Dallas Hams tomorrow.

Rooney Sweeney

18 Oct

John “Rooney” Sweeney was better known for his unpredictability and for making  good copy for the 19th Century press than for anything he did on the baseball field.  He remains one of the few Major League players for which a date of death is unknown.

Born in New York City in 1858, Sweeney’s first professional experience was in 1881 in the Eastern Championship Association, a league which only lasted one season.  Like many of the short-lived leagues of baseball’s first 30 years, the ECA had no fixed schedules and no control over player movement making it impossible to keep full rosters.  Sweeney played with four teams in the league: The Brooklyn Atlantics, New York Mets, New York Quick Steps and New York New Yorks.

There’s no record of where Sweeney played the following season, but in 1883 he played for Camden Merritts in the Interstate Association and made his Major League debut with the Baltimore Orioles in the American Association.

Although there is no other source for the claim, a 1910 article on the origin of catcher’s equipment in The Freeman claims that Sweeney was playing on the West Coast in Oakland for part of 1883 and was one of the first catchers to wear a mask, “The day he placed it on his head and went up behind the bat he was ‘Booed’ until he took it off in disgust.  Later the fans began to see the benefits of the wire covering.”

John “Rooney” Sweeney”

Sweeney then played with the Baltimore Monumentals in the Union Association in 1884.  He appeared in three games for the St. Louis Maroons in the National League in 1885 before being released.

According to The Sporting Life:

“When Rooney Sweeney was recently released by (Maroons owner Henry) Lucas he had quite a roll. So before leaving St. Louis, just to blow in a dollar or two, Rooney… hired a fine team of grays and a park wagon from a livery stable.  This was at ten o’clock Thursday morning.  At three o’clock Friday morning, eleven hours behind time, a messenger boy drove the team into the stable. Both the grays looked ready for the bone-yard and the owner at that moment would have sold them for a song. Their whole appearance showed that they had been driven nearly to death.

“Several men in the stable armed themselves with clubs and horsewhips and started out in search of Rooney. He must have been told of their coming, however, for before daybreak he took a train. It was lucky for him that the train started out before the livery men caught him.”

Rooney’s never again appeared in the Majors, but was said to have joined a team in Troy, New York after leaving St. Louis.  In 1887 and ’88 he played in the New England League, and then dropped out of sight, and apparently out of baseball, again.

In 1890, Sweeney signed with the London Tecumsehs in the International Association.

Official records indicate that he only appeared in one game—The Chicago Tribune, on May 12 reported on his debut:

 “Rooney Sweeney’s return to the diamond was not a success.  In his opening game nine bases were stolen on him and he had three errors.”

Things went downhill from there.  Sweeney was released in mid-May but apparently remained in London.  In June, it was reported that he had been arrested for stealing $40 from London pitcher James Maguire.

He received four months in jail and as the judge handed down the sentence The Sporting Life said, “Sweeney wept copiously.”

It was reported that Sweeney spent his time in jail writing letters to friends, one of which found its way into several newspapers.  Regarding the crime he was convicted of, Sweeney wrote:

 “We were all playing poker in a room up here and there was a big pot on the table.   Just then somebody flung a big black cat square on the table.  Of course the cat was scared and in her hurry to get away scattered the chips every which way and knocked down the stacks that were standing in front of the players.   Well, I just grabbed what I thought was my share, the same as any man would do, and it got me into jail, that’s all.”

After his release from jail, there are no records that indicate he ever again played in a professional game, but nearly every article written about him mentions that “He is not averse to playing baseball again.”

In 1892, Sweeney became involved in boxing, claiming he was going to manage fighters.  Just weeks later he was reported he was through with boxing and said:

 “I thought ballplayers was (sic) the ungreatfullest (sic) lot on earth, but they ain’t in it with fighters.”

And of course, the articles said, “Rooney is going to try his hand again at catching.”

Within a year of Sweeney’s foray into the boxing world both of his parents and his brother, New York City police officer Jeremiah Sweeney, died, and it was reported that he had inherited a great deal of property in New York and New Jersey, but of course in between collecting rents he said he’d like to play baseball again.

Sweeney was next heard from in September of 1897 when The Sporting Life said:

 “John Sweeney, a once famous base ball player, more popularly known as “Rooney” Sweeney  is dying in the Hudson Street Hospital as the result of injuries sustained by a fall in Battery Park last night.

“For some past Sweeney has been assisting the boatmen at the Battery…last night, while seated on the excursion pier, he was seized with an epileptic fit, and fell heavily to the ground, sustaining a concussion of the brain. An ambulance was rung up, and he was hurried to the hospital.  Sweeney has played with many of the principal base ball clubs both in the East and West, being at one time a member of the famous Metropolitan nine. He was also identified during his career with the St. Louis and Indianapolis.”

But that might not have been the end for Sweeney.  Three years later it was reported that he was working as a “Fireman on a tug boat.”

Sadly, that’s the last bit of information about the enigmatic Sweeney.  Whether he had succumbed to his illness in 1897 or he recovered and ended up aboard that tug boat we may never know.  No records of his death are available.