Tag Archives: Walter Johnson

Lost Pictures–Frank Leet Caricatures

31 Aug

leetjohnson

Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators, as depicted by Frank Rutledge Leet, a cartoonist for The Newspaper Enterprise Association, as well as the author of a number of children’s books, including one called, “When Santa was Late.

In 1912 and 1913 he provided caricatures for a number of articles featuring players telling their favorite baseball stories.  In addition to Johnson, Leet created images of Johnson’s teammate Germany Schaefer:

leetschaefer

Chicago White Sox pitcher Big Ed Walsh:

bigedwalsh

Johnson and Schaefer’s manager Clark Griffith:

leetgriffith

And, Detroit Tigers manager Hughie Jennings:

leethugh

Lost Advertisements–Home Run Baker, Ide Silver Collars

15 Jun

hrbakeradAn advertisement for Ide Silver Collars, featuring John Franklin “Home Run” Baker:”

“Your silver collars have certainly made a big ‘hit’ with me.  The buttonholes are the easiest and best ever.”

bakerpix

After Baker returned to baseball with the New York Yankees in 1916, he “wrote” a very short syndicated newspaper piece, part of a series which asked some of the game’s best hitters to name “The Six Hardest Pitchers I ever Faced.”

Baker said:

“In naming my six hardest and best pitchers, I must invade my old club for three of them, though I never batted against them in championship games.  From my standpoint, the six best during my career were:

“Walter Johnson–Washington Americans.

“Edward Walsh–Chicago Americans.

“‘Dutch’ Leonard–Boston Americans

“Eddie Plank–Philadelphia Americans

“Albert Bender–Philadelphia Americans

“John Coombs–Philadelphia Americans.

“Johnson is the present-day wonder; Walsh was the king in his prime, and young Leonard is a puzzle among present left-handers, but I must award the plum to my three great old pals.”

Baker 1916

Baker 1916

Lost Advertisements–“Come on, Boys!”

10 Jun

holmes

A 1916 advertisement for Holmes’ Milk-Made Bread featuring Walter Johnson.

“Come on, Boys!

“Get a Baseball Outfit for the whole team, Free!

“In order to promote the wholesome habit of eating Holmes’ Milk-Made Bread among the baseball Fans of Washington we have introduced a Great Baseball Outfit Contest.”

In order to win the contest, all 200 of the cards (one in each 10 cent loaf) would have to be collected and returned to the company.

The first prize was a complete set of 10 uniforms, second prize was 10 gloves, third prize was a complete set of catcher’s gear, and fourth prize was a framed sheet of the 200 cards.

The company encouraged kids to:

“Get busy–go around your home folks and friends, and tell them to buy Holmes’ Milk-Made Wrapped Bread every day and save the baseball pictures for you .  With a little hustling on your part, you will soon get the complete collection of pictures and cop out one of the prizes.”

Another ad included pictures of some of the cards–Hughie Jennings, Frank Baker, Johnson, Honus Wagner and Eddie Collins:

holmes'bread

There is no evidence that anyone actually collected 200 cards and won any of the prizes.

The Jim Thorpe card from the set

The Jim Thorpe card from the set

Lost Advertisements–“Walter Johnson says…”

22 Apr

goldsmithbb

A 1916 advertisement for the Goldsmith Official League Ball:

The Peer of All

“Walter Johnson says: ‘It is the best Ball I have ever pitched.’

“The only officially adopted League Ball played under the NAtional Agreement.

“Guaranteed for eighteen innings.”

The 18-inning guarantee and mentions of the leagues which had adopted the ball for use were a staple of Goldsmith’s advertising, like the one below from 1912, announcing that the ball would be used in the United States, Pacific Coast, and Western Leagues:

goldsmith1912

The 1912 ad used the same image–that of Honus Wagner–that appeared in the company’s 1911 sporting goods ad, which quoted Wagner: “Your baseman’s mitt and Professional Glove at hand and they are my ideal style of a glove.”

goldsmithwagner

By the 1920s, the 18-inning guarantee became generic throughout the sporting goods world

rawlings wilson yaleball

dm

Not to be outdone, the Goldsmith ball of the 1930s was “Guaranteed for 36 Innings:”

goldsmith30s

“Everyone seemed to be trying to pull off the Greatest Stunts of his Life”

28 Mar

Great plays are in the eye of the beholder.

Jack Lelivelt said the greatest play he ever saw came in the greatest game he ever witnessed; the first game of a doubleheader played during the dog days of August by fourth and seventh place clubs hopelessly out of the American League pennant race.

Jack Lelivelt

Jack Lelivelt

Lelivelt watched from the bench on August 4, 1911, as his Washington Senators played the  Chicago White Sox.  Months later, he told Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Examiner the game included “(S)ix plays in it that might any one be called the greatest according to the way a man looks at it.”

The game was a 1-0, 11-inning victory for the Senators; Walter Johnson getting the complete game victory over Doc White.  And Lelivelt was not alone in his assessment.

One Star Pitcher

Walter Johnson

William Peet of The Washington Herald said:

“An old-time fan in the grandstand correctly described the curtain raiser when he slapped his neighbor on the back and cried: ‘That was the best game of ball I ever saw in my life.”

Joe S. Jackson of The Washington Post said:

“No more freakish game than the opener has ever been played at the Florida Avenue field (Griffith Stadium).”

Lelivelt told Fullerton:

“First, (Ping) Bodie caught a home run while running straight out nearly to the center field fence; then (Clarence “Tillie”) Walker caught a fly off one ear while turning a back somersault.”

Bodie’s play robbed Walter Johnson of at least extra bases, with a runner on first in the third inning—and Walker robbed Ambrose “Amby” McConnell of the White Sox in the eighth; The Herald said he “spared it with his bare hand.”

Ping Bodie

Ping Bodie

Lelivelt continued:

(Harry) Lord made two stops on the line back of third, and (Lee) Tannehill grabbed two line drives and started double plays.”

While noting Lord’s “two stops,” Lelivelt failed to mention his most notable play during the game; when he fell into the Chicago dugout to catch a George McBride foul pop out, a play The Herald called “one of the best catches ever seen here.”

Lelivelt said:

“Everyone seemed to be trying to pull off the greatest stunts of his life in that game…with White and Johnson pitching magnificent ball.  It is as if you took a dozen great games of ball and crowded the most sensational parts of each into 11 innings.”

As for the best play, Lelivelt said it came in the third inning after Johnson walked McConnell and Lord sacrificed him to second:

(Jimmy “Nixey”) Callahan whipped a fast hit right down between third and short, a hit that seemed certain to go through to left field without being touched.  The ball was hit hard and was bounding rapidly when McBride went back and out as hard as he could, shoved down his glove hand, scooped the ball and snapped it straight into (William Wid) Conroy’s hands on top of third base.  The play was so quickly made that McConnell saw he was out, and by a quick stop tried to delay being touched and jockeyed around between the bases to let Callahan reach second. He played it beautifully, but he never had a chance.  McBride jumped back into the line and before McConnell could even get a good start back Conroy whipped the ball to McBride and McConnell was touched out before he had moved five feet.

Wid Conroy

Wid Conroy

“So rapidly was the play made that as soon as McBride touched McConnell he shot down to second so far ahead of Callahan that Cal was able to turn and get back to first…If Callahan had reached second on the play Chicago would have won, as (Matty) McIntyre followed up with a base hit that would have scored the runner from second easily.”

Curiously, the play Lelivelt said was the greatest in a game of great plays, the greatest play he said he ever saw, received no notice the next day’s coverage of the game in either Washington or Chicago.

The Herald ran a column listing fourteen key plays in the game but failed to mention Lelivelt’s “greatest play” at all. The Post said only that McConnell was out “McBride to Conroy, on Callahan’s grounder.”  It received no mention in the Chicago papers.

The Box Score

The Box Score

Clark Griffith, “How I Win”

14 Mar

In 1910, Cincinnati Reds Manager Clark Griffith spoke to journalist Joseph B. Bowles for one of  a series of syndicated articles in which baseball’s biggest stars described “How I Win.”

“If a fellow is going to cut any ice he needs ice picks and the first way for a manager to win is to get men who can deliver, and men intelligent enough to take care of themselves.

“My theories in regard to what constitutes a winner are the only ones, and I use them in instructing my players what to do.  I used them in pitching, and they worked out, and I believe any player will succeed if he follows them.”

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

Griffith said baseball was “Ninety-nine and fifteen sixteenths” courage and nerve:

“It is more than that—it is what ballplayers call ‘guts’—which is courage with aggressive confidence behind it…The first thing to do to win baseball games is to go after anyone who does not wear a uniform that looks like yours, and go after him hard.  Hand every opposing player anything that will make him weaken or show the yellow.  Anytime I can convince my men that they are going to win and the other fellows that they are going to lose, I’ll win a pennant.”

He believed his confidence could successfully intimidate opponents:

“The best system of winning games is to tell the other fellow that you are going to beat him.  Tell it to him before the game starts and tell him in a way that will convince him.  You cannot convince him unless you believe it yourself.  I keep telling them all the time, and I believe it myself until the game is over and sometimes even then.”

Griffith said what he wanted most was for his players to:

“Take chances; any chance to gain an inch of ground or a base…Go after the game with intelligence and force every point as hard as possible…The player who takes chances of hurting himself seldom hurts either himself or his opponent and he will make a weak opponent run away.  More players get hurt stopping up on their feet and giving up before they are touched than are damaged in sliding to bases.”

He said that aggressiveness should also be directed at umpires:

“Then claim every point and claim it quick.  Holler.  ‘No, no’ real quick and beat the umpire to it on every close play a la (Johnny) Evers.  The umpire may be perfectly honest and square but on a close play the fellow who yells quickest is much more likely to get the decision.  I do not believe in fighting umpires or nagging at them.  I believe in yelling quickly.  Yelling quickly beats yelling loud all to pieces.  It is not cheating a bit, but simply protecting yourself on close plays not so much to get the decision yourself as to keep the other fellow from getting it.”

Griffith led the Chicago White Sox to the inaugural American League pennant during his first season as a manager in 1901.  And despite not winning one since, was very confident about his “theories” for success:

“These things, taken together with a little good pitching and perhaps one star pitcher, will win any pennant if carried out correctly and persistently, regardless almost of the mechanical ability of the players on the team.”

In the end, Griffith was unable “to win any pennant.”

His Reds teams in 1910 and 1911 were both sub .500 clubs and finished in fifth and sixth place.  He joined the Washington Senators in 1912, and finally with “one star pitcher’ he managed the team to two-second place finishes (1912-13), but did not win a pennant there either.  He stepped down as manager after the 1920 season to devote himself full time to his ownership duties.

One Star Pitcher

One Star Pitcher

He ended his managerial career with a 1491-1367 record over 20 seasons.

“Pulling a Lave Cross,” Eddie Collins on the Life of a Ballplayer

24 Feb

In 1914, Eddie Collins contributed an article about the life of a major leaguer in The National Sunday Magazine, a syndicated insert that appeared in several papers across the country.

Eddie Collins

Eddie Collins

He described the beginning of his first road trip in the big leagues:

“It happened two days after I had joined the Philadelphia Athletics.  As ‘Mr. Sullivan,’ (Collins initially played under the name Edward T. Sullivan), still being an undergraduate at Columbia, I had watched two games from the grandstand at Shibe Park.

“The series over, Manager (Connie) Mack told me to report at the railroad station in time to catch a train that was leaving at six o’clock.  The Athletics were to make a quick September (1906) swing around the circuit.”

Collins said he was “about the first one at the depot,” and “eager as a boy” to begin his big league career.

Once on the train, he described the reaction of the players the first time the porter announced that dinner would be served:

“What transpired, immediately, might have led one to believe that the porter had insulted nearly everyone in the car.  There was a stampede.  Every one of the Athletics was up and rushing down the aisle, throwing aside magazines and newspapers, tumbling and pitching toward the door. The porter was knocked over and it is no exaggeration to state that one of our players—a very fleshy outfielder with elephantine tread (Topsy Hartsel)—walked over him in his haste.

“’What’s the matter with those fellows?’ I asked a veteran who had not joined the stampede.

“In justice to him, be it explained that he had a sprained ankle and couldn’t run.

“’They’re pulling a Lave Cross,’ he threw over his shoulder, as he hobbled after the others as fast as his lame ankle would permit.

“I came to know what ‘Pulling a Lave Cross’ meant.”

Lave Cross

Lave Cross

Collins explained the term, which referenced the former Athletics player:

“He was in the big leagues for years and during that period, he was never beaten into a dining car or eating room of any sort.  He always caught the first cab out of the station; he always was the first to plunge into the sleeper and select the best berth.  He never ran second where personal comforts or tastes were at stake.  During all his years, and the competition is keen, he was supreme.”

Collins said while Cross’ behavior might have been extreme, “haste” was “a habit inbred in all successful” ballplayers:

“I have noticed that after the game we all dress like firemen getting three alarms, race back the hotel, race into the dining room, race through our meal.  Then we saunter out into the lobby and kill two or three hours trying to see which foot we can stand on longer.  At first I marveled at this, then I found myself racing along with the rest of them.”

Calling himself, and his colleagues “rather peculiar individual(s)” Collins said of ballplayers:

“On the field, all his energies and thoughts are concentrated on one idea—the winning of the game.  His day’s work done, however, he throws that all off.  His first desire is to avoid the crowds and excitement.  Then he persistently refuses to talk baseball.  If you want to make yourself unpopular with big league ballplayers, drop into their hotel some night and try to talk baseball to them. “

Collins next provided readers with “some idea of ballplayers out of spangles,” to bring them into “closer touch.”

Honus Wagner, he said, was not a fan of fans:

“Down in Carnegie (PA) there are about twenty unfortunates…who are taken care of solely through Wagner’s generosity.  He has a heart as big as his clumsy looking body, but he hates the baseball ‘bug.’  Frequently wealthy fans have called at Wagner’s hotel on the road and tried to engage him in conversation.  Generally he will excuse himself and going over to the elevator boy will sit and chat with him for an hour at a time.  Wagner’s worst enemy will not tell you he is conceited, but he hates the fans prying into his affairs.”

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

Connie Mack, he said, “is the same kind of man” as Wagner:

“Connie is forever handing out touches to old time players.  He is always thinking of anybody connected with baseball from the bat boys up. I know he insisted out little hunchback mascot (Louis Van Zelst) getting a share of the World Series’ money—not that any players objected—but it was Connie’s thought first.

“’Little Van comes in on this,’ he said.”

Louis Van Zelst

Louis Van Zelst

 

Collins also talked about how his teammates occupied themselves on the road:

“You will never find Chief Bender, our Indian pitcher, hanging around the hotel.  Too many original fans are apt to salute him with a war-whoop.  Besides, he is golf mad and when not on the diamond, he is to be found on the links… (Carroll “Boardwalk”) Brown, the young pitcher who did so well for us last year, is a billiard expert… (Stuffy) McInnis and (Eddie) Murphy are the ‘movie fiends’ of our club and are the only ones (Collins said many players were scared to go to the movies because they thought it would damage their eyes).  They can call the name of every star as soon as they see the face on the screen. Jack Barry, our shortstop, is inordinately fond of Hebrew literature and Biblical history.  This, although he, as well as his name, is Irish.”

Collins also shared his manager’s rules for the Athletics when the team was traveling:

 “It is one of Mack’s rules that we are only allowed to play cards on the trains…Connie is against card playing, which only leads to-night after night sessions, ill feelings and finally, disruption. I could tell you of at least one American League team that was broken by card games…Everybody has to be in bed by half past eleven and report in Mack’s room at half past ten in the morning.  For an hour Mack talks baseball, planning our campaign for the day.”

After Mack’s meeting, it was time to eat, and Collins shared his insights on ballplayers and food:

He said a “young pitcher on our club” should be a star, but “he has a weakness for roast beef,” and “persists in stuffing himself at noon time.”  He didn’t name the pitcher.

 “Walter Johnson, the greatest pitcher in baseball, also has a noonday weakness.  It is ice cream, but he seems to thrive on it.  Jack Barry feels off-color if he does not get his slice of pie…On the day he is going to pitch, Eddie Plank, our veteran left-hander, always eats tomato soup.  He thinks he would lose if he did not observe this ritual.”

Collins concluded:

“There is great temptation for the young minor league player, being put up at first class hotels…to eat his head off.  I honestly believe that more good youngsters have been ruined for big league work simply from overeating than any other extraneous cause.”

Other than their general disdain for ‘bugs,’ Collins said, in the end, players of the current era were unrecognizable from their counterparts of a generation earlier:

“Ballplayers today are scrupulously careful never to offend anyone in any way.  Especially do they take pride in being Chesterfields when women are around.”

Lost Advertisements–Grover Cleveland Alexander, Sweet Caporal

19 Feb

alexandercaporal

A Sweet Caporal advertisement featuring Grover Cleveland Alexander:

  “Sweet Caporals have led the smoke league for a great many years.  For real flavor and satisfaction you can’t beat them.”

Shortly before the 1915 season, Damon Runyon, writing in The New York American compared Alexander and Walter Johnson:

Damon Runyon

Damon Runyon

“Whenever we see Grover Cleveland Alexander pitching at top form, we conclude that he is the greatest right-handed pitcher in the land, and we cling to that conclusion until Walter Perry Johnson comes along with a line of his best pelting.  Then we decide that Walter is the greatest, and we hold that decision to the day that ‘Alex’ reappears.

“In short, our mind–probably none to stable at best–does a heap of vacillating between these Western wonders, and we are certain of only just one thing with respect to their ability–which is that it’s either Grover or Walter who is the greatest righthander…You may think that (Christy) Mathewson, or (Dick) Rudolph, or Bill James or Willie (Bill) Doak is greatest, and we have no doubt that you can produce just as many arguments in support of your belief…but it is our opinion that Johnson and Alexander today stand head and shoulders above all the rest.”

Runyon said that neither, however, were better than Mathewson when Matty was at his best:

“They are both great pitchers, but there have probably been many just as great–and there has been only one Mathewson.”

Runyon also claimed that players who faced both Alexander and Johnson agreed that one was the better pitcher:

“Ball players who have hit against both men–or rather who haven’t hit against them, for there is never much hitting against Walter or Grover–say that the Nebraskan is the better of the two.  They say he has as much ‘stuff’and knows how to use it better than Johnson.”

Morris' ride, Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson

Most important to Runyon, he said, was that he preferred watching Alexander pitch:

“As a matter of personal choice, however, we would rather watch Alexander work than Johnson:  To us, it seems that he has more natural grace in the box…than the big Washington propeller.  There are mighty few pitchers who come under the head of things of beauty when they are working, but ‘Alex’ is one of them.”

As for a forecast for the coming season, Runyon said:

“Some fans are dreaming this year of seeing Alexander and Johnson as opponents in the first game of the 1915 world’s series, but they are mostly Philadelphia and Washington fans who are having those dreams, and we doubt if the dreams will come true.”

Both pitchers were dominant that season.

Johnson was 27-13 with a 1.55 ERA for a team, true to Runyon’s prediction, could only dream of a pennant–finishing fourth.

Alexander, however, was 31-10 with 1.22 ERA and did pitch the first game of the World Series for the pennant-winning Philadelphia Phillies–he won the opener 3 to 1, beating Ernie Shore and the  Red Sox, but Boston came back and won four straight, including Dutch Leonard‘s 2 to 1 victory over Alexander in Game 3.

Lost Advertisements–Walter Johnson Car Ads

9 Nov

johnsoncolecar

Two 1913 advertisements for automobiles featuring Walter Johnson.

Above, an ad for a Washington D.C. Cole dealership–the picture at the top is of Johnson and outfielder Clyde Milan “In their Cole Roadster”:

Speed and Reliability

Two points of similarity between Walter Johnson and 

The Cole Car

The world’s first completely standardized car

The second ad, below, is for the local Detroit Electric dealership:

2 Record Breakers

Walter Johnson 

and the

Detroit Electric Brougham

johnsondetroitelectric

Johnson remained on the mound longer than Cole stayed in business; the car maker closed in 1925.  Detroit Electric continued building cars until 1939 and the company was revived in 2008.

Lost Advertisements–“Fireball” Johnson

30 Oct

walterjonsoncoke1915

“‘Fireball’  Johnson Drinks Coca-Cola–Says it’s the greatest drink ever for a hot, tired, and thirsty pitcher. All the stars in every  line of work star Coca-Cola–so will you.”

In 1913, The Washington Times presented Walter Johnson with a cup honoring him as “Greatest Pitcher in the World,” and published a special section including quotes from his contemporaries:

Cup presented to Johnson by The Washington Times

Cup presented to Johnson by The Washington Times

Napoleon Lajoie:

“I like to bat against Johnson.  There’s some satisfaction hitting against a hurler of such pronounced class.  When I make a hit off Johnson I know it’s well-earned, and the sound of a good, solid swat made off one of Walter’s curves is the most welcome music I hear during the season.”

George Stovall:

“I consider Walter Johnson the greatest pitcher in the game today and one of the finest fellows on and off the ball field.”

Nixey Callahan:

“You may say anything good for me regarding Walter Johnson that you care to. I consider him one of the greatest pitchers that the game has ever known and an ornament to the profession in every way.”

Russ Ford:

“He is the King Pin of them all, and yet remains just the same quiet, good fellow who broke in six years ago.”

Joe Birmingham

“May your curve always break and your speed never diminish.”