Tag Archives: Washington Senators

The Championship Banner Hoodoo

8 Jun

The Cubs raised their 1907 World Championship flag at West Side Grounds on May 21, 1908—the flag “orange letters on a blue field” according to The Chicago Inter Ocean; The Chicago Tribune described it as “royal purple and gold.”

I.E. Sanborn of The Tribune said “There were music, flowers and enthusiasm in bunches” at the ceremony, until:

“(T)he world’s champions spoiled it all by an exhibition which made the handsome creation of royal purple and gold hang its graceful folds in shame.”

The Boston Doves beat the Cubs 11-3.

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The Box Score

The Pittsburgh Press said the game was part of a trend:

“Undesirable happenings have attended the raising of the world’s pennants. The flag won by the Chicago Cubs from the Detroit Tigers was unfurled in Chicago Thursday.

“The result was saddening to the superstitious ones. The Cubs were walloped good and plenty by the Boston Nationals. It being necessary for the Cubs to sacrifice three pitchers in the carnage.”

The paper said the was a “Hoodoo connected” to the raising of championship flags.

“In the spring of 1906 the New York Giants floated the big flag in the Polo Grounds before a large crowd.”

The New York Times said of the June 12 ceremony:

“With admiring thousands following at the wheels, the New York Giants, the champion baseball team of the world—at least last year—paraded down Broadway in automobiles yesterday morning. Before and behind them marched a small army of boys baseball clubs…Mounted police clattered ahead of the procession to make clear the way. It was a great triumph for the Giants.”

The Times said the flag was “of blue bunting, trimmed with gold, is 45 feet long and 20 feet wide, and contains the inscription New York Baseball Club, 1906 Champions of the World.”

Then, “the Giants, whose fielding was extremely poor, while their batting was of an inferior order, only three men out of ten being credited with safe hits.”

They lost to the Reds 6 to 1.

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The Box Score

Then, said The Press, there was May 14, 1907, “the notable flag raising on the Chicago South Side Grounds.”

I. E. Sanborn described that flag raising:

“Just as 15,000 throats were swelling with the first notes of the grand paean which was to have marked the climax of Chicago’s biggest baseball fete, just as the silken banner, emblematic of the highest honors of the diamond, had shaken out its folds over the White Sox park and started its upward climb in response to the tugs of the heroes of the day, Comiskey’s veteran flagstaff swayed, trembled in every fiber, then broke squarely off in the middle and toppled back to the earth which reared it.

“The tall spire of pine which had withstood for seven years the fiercest gales, which had flaunted defiantly three American League pennants and a dozen American flags until they were whipped to ribbons by the wind, proved unequal to the task of lifting a world’s championship banner.”

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The scene just before the pole broke

The game itself lasted just four batters when “a heavy shower” ended the game with Washington “and drenched thoroughly the gay raiment of the great crowd, only a part of which could find shelter under the protected stands.”

The Press noted that not only did the Giants and White Sox have bad luck on flag-raising day, both “failed to repeat as winners” and said:

“The big flag may prove a hoodoo.”

“Piggy Ward, and Rightly Nicknamed is he”

15 May

After his off-season heroics, pulling an Altoona, Pennsylvania man from a fire, Piggy Ward, having been released by the Washington Senators, joined the Scranton Coal Heavers in the Eastern League for the 1895 season; The Scranton Times called him, “a very good man and will be heard from on the lines.”

He quickly became popular with his new club. The Scranton Tribune said:

“(He is) clearly a favorite with the unwashed bleacher—or, with the grandstand, for that matter…He is large bodied, somewhat round shouldered and looks awkward in repose. In action he is one of the quickest on the team and plays and steals bases with a vim and action that is refreshing.”

He hit .357—45 players with at least 200 at bats hit better than .300 that season in the Eastern League—The Sporting News said his manager found a way to get the most out of Ward:

“(Billy) Barnie gave him instructions to be in bed at least two nights a week. A little sleep and less booze and Ward is all right.”

 

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Ward caricature, 1902

His “coaching” did not seem to change, and on several occasions, according to the Scranton newspapers, he was ordered off the field “for offensive coaching.” And he was unpopular in the other league cities.

After Ward was thrown out of a game with the Rochester Browns in the third inning, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle said:

“’Piggy’ Ward, and rightly nicknamed is he.”

He was even less liked in Buffalo; The Courier said: “Ward is one of the most offensive coachers extant, and he would gain friends by bottling some of his exuberant flow of nonsense.” While The Enquirer was even less charitable:

“(H)is calliope-like voice is about as musical as a dynamite blast in a stone quarry. He evidently imagines he is pretty all right as a ‘kidder,’ but what he doesn’t know about being funny would fill several large volumes. Altogether as a joker, ‘Piggy’ is a rank, dismal, decided failure.”

The Tribune noted that the second baseman was a bit eccentric in other ways as well:

“Ward has a nondescript practice uniform which is a cross between the scant apparel of a Feeje [sic] islander and the hay-making garb of a farmer. It consists of a white negligee coat cut like a robe de chambre and reaching to the knees, a pair of loose trousers of the same color which reach to the shoe tops, a white cap and a sleeveless undershirt that is open to the waist.”

In 1896, Ward was again in Scranton, and he had vowed in the off season to be in the best shape of his life. In a letter to The Tribune he said he spent the winter “handling a pair of spirited mules,” and expected to report to Scranton weighing 185 pounds, down from his 217 the previous season. The paper said he appeared to have lost 20 pounds from the previous season upon his arrival.

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Piggy Ward

Also, in 1896, his one-man “coacher” show became a two-man show when Arlie Latham, released by the St. Louis Browns in mid May, joined the Coal Heavers. The Springfield (MA) News was one of the rare league newspapers that thought it was good thing:

“With two such comedians…the Scranton team ought to prove a great drawing card on the circuit, The Springfield crowd are anxious for Scranton series here.”

Neither made it through the season, Latham was released July 17, Ward, one month later.  When Ward signed with the Toronto Canadians, The Wilkes Barre Record said:

“Ward is a great batter and base runner. There we quit.”

The Wilkes Barre News said:

“(Ward) is just where he belongs on that gang of Toronto hoodlums.”

Al Buckenberger’s Canadians were considered to be the dirtiest team in the league, The Springfield Union said with the addition of Ward:

“The opponent that gets around first base now without being tripped is lucky to get past Piggy Ward in safety and is sure to be blocked or tripped at third by Jud Smith.”

After the 1896 season, some of the papers in the Eastern League cities suggested rules changes to eliminate Ward’s type of “coaching.” The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle said:

“The majority of ‘fans’ take as much delight in lively, witty coaching, such as has made Arlie Latham and Billy Clymer famous…There need not be anything offensive in aggressive work by men on the lines…but all players are not like Clymer (and Latham) and that big beast s like ‘Pig’ Ward make themselves obnoxious by their actions and language when in the coacher’s box.”

The Syracuse Herald suggested adopting a rule “ousting ‘Pig’ Ward and others of his ilk from the game entirely.”

Whether it was an attempt to improve his image or a function of playing on a smaller stage—with his hometown Lancaster Maroons in the Atlantic League and the Mansfield Haymakers in the Interstate League—Ward seemed to stay fairly quiet and avoid controversy among the press in the league cities from 1897 through 1899.

The 5’ 9” Ward seems to have played in his later years at between 220 and 230 pounds from various reports. Frank Rinn, who managed Ward for the three seasons in Lancaster talked to The Hartford Courant about him:

“Although he is heavy and sluggish Piggy has more ginger than a dozen ordinary players. Rinn was telling the other day how hard it was to get Ward to train…He was sent out to coach once and he pulled a cushion out from under his shirt and had a good seat on the ground.”

Ward bounced from no less than eight teams between 1900 and 1905, including playing for John McCloskey again—in 1902 in Pacific Northwest League with the Butte Miners—Ward stayed with the McCloskey for the entire season this time—winning a championship and receiving a gold watch and chain at season’s end for being voted by fans as the team’s most popular player in a promotion for a local jeweler. He also led the league with a .332 batting average; only seven players in the six-team Pacific Northwest circuit hit .300 or better that season.

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Ward and Butte Miners teammate Thomas Kelly in 1903.

The Cincinnati Times Star, still not recovered from his tenure with the Reds nearly a decade earlier said of Ward winning the watch:

“The booby prize was the best Ward could have captured in a similar contest during his stay in this city.”

In 1903, Ward reverted to some of his old ways.  With an already signed contract to return to Butte and a $100 advance in his pocket, he signed a contract and collected a $100 advance from the Portland Browns in the upstart Pacific Coast League. He ended up back in Butte, and when McCloskey left the club to manage the San Francisco Pirates, he told the Butte newspapers that Ward, who was already the team captain, was his choice to succeed him as manager; the club instead named shortstop Billy Kane manager.

When rumors swirled in 1905 that the cash-strapped Pacific National League might cut player salaries, The Spokane Chronicle said Ward tried to form a player’s union chartered by the American Labor Union which was formed in 1898 as the Western Labor Union to create a federation of mine workers. The rumored pay cuts never came, nor did the union.

Ward was reported to have died in January of 1906; the news made all the Philadelphia dallies and several other East Coast papers, and over the next month spread West.  The papers had confused Piggy—Frank G. Ward—with Frank P. Ward, a former amateur player who had died in Newark, N.J.

Ward was seriously injured that same winter when working as an electrician; he was shocked and fell from a pole.

The news of his death—despite being corrected in the papers—and the accident, were enough to make many believe Ward had died. When he traveled to Chicago in August of 1911 for former teammate Charles Comiskey’s birthday, The Chicago Daily News said Comiskey was shocked to see Ward, “whom he thought was dead.”

The not-dead Ward did not play professionally in 1906—the Frank Ward who appeared with the Glens Falls-Saratoga Springs team in the Hudson River League—listed among Ward’s career statistics on Baseball Reference—is a different Frank Wad.

He was hired in 1907 as an umpire in the Northwestern League. The Butte News celebrated the move:

“’Piggy’ promises to be as popular an umpire as he was a player…He is firm, has a good voice, and is known to all the of the Northwest, and President (William Henry) Lucas made a 10-strike when he appointed him  on the league staff.”

He lasted just two games. The Spokane Press said he:

“(B)roke down completely last night. This morning he was almost a nervous wreck. A collection was taken up among the ballplayers and he was sent back to his home in Scranton, Pennsylvania”

The paper said Ward’s wife had suggested he take the position because it might “build him up,” after the electrocution, but the stress was “too much for him.”

Four months after Ward’s reunion with Comiskey, The Pittsburgh Gazette Times said he was “near death,” a pitiable wreck,” suffering from “brain disease,” in an Altoona hospital.

Ten months later, on October 23, 1912, 45-year-old Piggy Ward died. The Altoona Tribune called him “one of the most famous diamond stars in the land,” and said:

“He possessed several expensive pins, a beautiful watch, and other jewelry presented to him by admirers when he was thrilling fandom with his feats.”

“The Charming and Fascinating Pig Ward”

14 May

It was as a “coacher” that Piggy Ward—who appeared in 221 games over parts of six seasons with five National League teams between 1883 and 1894—was best known

That reputation began in the minor leagues. In 1889, when Ward was with the Hamilton Hams in the International League, The Detroit Free Press described him:

“A squatty, thickset man, with a bull neck, loaferish appearance, and voice a combination of the bellowing of a bull and braying of a donkey, attempted to make himself conspicuous in yesterday’s game and succeeded, to the intense disgust of the 1200 people present. Whenever the Hamiltons went to bat this unmitigated nuisance placed himself near third base and bellowed, roared, and ranted till everybody in the park was seized with a burning desire to rush upon and club him into silence.”

The paper called him “The champion lunatic of the noisy coaching clan,” but softened somewhat in their assessment of Ward later when it appeared he would not be returning to the International League:

“There is burning curiosity in this vicinity to whether the Hamilton management intends to sign that meadowlark of the ball field, the charming and fascinating Pig Ward. The echoes of his weird voice still reverberate around Recreation Park.”

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The press, for the most part, did not approve of his technique. The Buffalo Express said:

“Ward’s coaching is too coarse altogether and should be stopped. The umpire’s voice is drowned in his babble.”

When he played for the New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern Association in 1893, The Birmingham Times noted that he was the first player of the season to be fined for his “loaferish behavior,” while coaching, the paper also said Ward “has entirely too good an opinion of his own merits and too much contempt for the lesser deficiencies of his brother players.”

Ward’s coaching received greater attention when he joined the Washington Senators in 1894.

The Washington Star said during one game in July, “Ward’s lamentations were loud, continuous, and contentious—so much so that (umpire Bob) Emslie warned Capt. (Bill) Joyce that ‘Piggy’ would be sent to the bench if he didn’t keep quiet.”

O. P. Caylor of The New York Herald, in noting that “noisy coaching” had become more widespread that year, referred to the, “(Tommy) Tucker—(Dad) Clarke—‘Piggy’ Ward method of making noise by howling and shrieking from the coaching lines, in order to ‘rattle’ the opposing pitcher.”

Caylor did not approve, and said the practice because “in part, the science of the game is obscured, owing to the frantic attempts of the players to confuse one another.”

Cap Anson agreed, telling Caylor:

“It isn’t respectable ball playing and neither will I adopt that method or let any of my players use it.”

Ward’s “coaching” caused Anson’s Colts a loss on July 8. The Chicago Inter Ocean was not amused:

“The trick which ‘Pig’ Ward resorted to yesterday in the seventh inning no doubt won the game for Washington, but if (manager Gus) Schmelz were not impervious to all decency and self-respect he would release the man on the ground of dirty ball playing. (Ed) Cartwright had hit a high fly to infield, for which (Charlie) Irwin ran. It was a hard sprint, but the shortstop got well under it, when Ward, imitating the voice of Anson, called out ‘(Bill) Dahlen!’ Irwin, who had to keep his eyes up in the air, of course dropped the ball. Cartwright and (Win) Mercer subsequently scored. The game finished 9 to 8, so that these two runs did the work.”

The paper complained that “under the rules there was nothing Umpire (Jack) McQuaid to do except to the fine the fellow, but even this that functionary refused to do. He should have been fined the limit and ordered off the diamond.”

That same season, his coaching, and the extra effort he added to it, drew the ire of The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“When a rotten ball player wants to keep his job, he resorts to dirty tricks to conch his position with his manager. Piggy Ward belongs to this class, and his latest is to paw first with his big feet around first base so as to blind the first baseman and prevent him from seeing thrown or batted balls.”

As Ward’s coaching antics became more commented upon and the nickname “Piggy” became more frequently used for him, The Brooklyn Citizen speculated it was “probably to distinguish him from Brooklyn’s gentlemanly and able Captain,” John Montgomery Ward.

Ward also engaged with fans form the “coacher’s box.” When he returned to Cincinnati as a member of the Senators, The Enquirer related a verbal sparring match Ward engaged in with a fan during a game:

“Piggy Ward is a good coacher. He is on the line nearly all the time, and he has been the target of a good many taunts and unkind remarks from the stand in the two games the last two days. He doesn’t seem to mind it a bit but goes on giving his directions and trying to rattle the opposing team as though everything that came to ears was complimentary.

“Yesterday, a waiter in a downtown restaurant who was with a party of fellow waiters, yelled at Ward:

‘”Who told you that you could play ball? You ought to be behind a plow.’

“’Is that so?’ said Piggy. ‘What are you doing for a living now? The same thing, I suppose. Turning cakes in a fifteen-cent restaurant?’

“Whether it was a chance thrust or not it went home, and for a few moments the waiters and those n the vicinity made matters unpleasant for the fresh young man who endeavored to kid the ballplayer.

Despite having his best major league season at the plate in 1894—hitting .303 in 98 games with the Washington Senators—Ward, who also committed 52 errors at four positions, was often belittled in the press. Sporting Life said:

“Piggy Ward of the Washingtons appears to like the bench better than the field. He was ordered there during the season oftener than any other player in the League.”

Sporting Life also called him “A wretchedly bad second baseman.”

The Star related a conversation between him and his manager:

“’Are you a ballplayer?’ said Schmelz to Piggy Ward. ‘Well, the newspapers say I’m not,’ responded the ever-ready Piggy.”

Ward fractured his thumb on August 14, The Washington Post said the injury occurred while he was “trying to tag a man” at second base.  The injury kept him out of the lineup for several days.

He was released by Washington, ending his big-league career, but not his reputation as a “coacher,” or his story.

Shortly after being let go by Washington, Ward became more of a local hero in his hometown of Altoona, Pennsylvania. A fire broke out in the shop of a black barber named J. H. Crocker. The Altoona Tribune said, after several people, tried but failed to get through the dense smoke:

“Frank Ward then made another attempt to get in and succeeded in catching hold of the arm of the man and dragging him out.”

While the man later died, Ward’s heroics were reported in major newspapers in the East.

More Ward tomorrow.

“The Purest Rot”

17 Feb

Johnny Evers, shortly before becoming manager of the Chicago Cubs in 1913, joined the pantheon of baseball legends who advocated for rule changes that would have radically altered the game.

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Johnny Evers

Before attending the rules committee meeting that winter, Evers told a reporter from The Chicago Evening Post, that he would recommend three new rules.

That rules committee meeting, incidentally, was the same in which National League Secretary John Heidler also made a recommendation he would later attempt to promote when he became the league’s president in 1918; he told The Associated Press:

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John Heydler

“With few exceptions practically, all pitchers are weak hitters and weaker base runners. When they come to bat they literally put a drag on the game…Now it is my idea that this could be eliminated with the adoption of a rule permitting a pinch hitter to do the batting for the pitcher each time the pitcher’s regular time at bat came around without forcing the removal of the pitcher from the game…there doubtless are several details that would have to be worked out later. For one, I think it would be best if the same pinch hitter did all the batting for one pitcher and that this batter be designated by the manager before game time.”

Evers’ equally radical rule suggestions were, first:

“When a pitcher intentionally gives a base on balls to a heavy hitter to get a weaker one to the plate baseball crowds usually cry out in protest. It is often the case that players will reach third and second bases with a strong batsman coming up. The latter is passed purposely and the next man, a comparatively poor hitter, is disposed of easily.”

Evers solution:

“If the pitcher walked a big hitter with a man on third the latter would be permitted to score a run, while a man on second would go to third. It is my idea that a pitcher should be compelled to put the ball over the plate under these conditions.”

Evers also proposed another rule change to increase run production:

“The foul strike rule has increased the effectiveness of the pitchers to an alarming degree so that, in my opinion, they should not be allowed to tighten their grip on the batsman. That is why I will suggest that the number of called balls be reduced from four to three. Then it would be impossible for a pitcher to waste balls to handicap the chances of base runners.”

The third suggestion was to move the “coachers box” back five feet, thus making it more difficult for coaches to steal signs.

Washington Senators manager Clark Griffith told Ed Grillo of The Washington Post that he agreed with Evers’ suggestion to re-position first and third base coaches but said his other two ideas we “The purest rot,” that would be laughed out of the meeting:

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Clark Griffith

“Evers would have three balls give a base, and we all know that right now the average pitcher has trouble enough getting the ball over.”

Griffith said Evers’ intentional walk rule would “Penalize the pitcher because he displays a little judgment and takes a chance.”

Griffith declared:

“The rules are satisfactory and should not change.”

Evers’ suggestions to increase run production and Heydler’s rule for a “designated” pinch hitter for the pitcher did not gain any traction among the rules committee in 1913.

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #38

5 Aug

Scrappy Bill and Small Ball

The New York Herald lamented in August of 1897 about New York manager Bill Joyce:

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Joyce

“Scrappy’s Giants are doing less sacrificing than any team in the major league. Mike Tiernan has but one sacrifice to his credit. Scrappy, like Ed Hanlon, regards sacrificing as a necessary evil—a last resort.”

The paper wanted him to follow the example of Fred Clarke:

“(T)he captain of the Colonels in a firm believer in sacrificing early in the game for one run, as well as late in the contest, when a tally is of more importance than at an early stage of the game.”

Joyce’s third-place Giants sacrificed just 45 times in 1897; Clarke’s 11th-place Colonels were fourth with 101.

Cy’s Arm

During spring training in 1905, Naps pitcher Bill Bernhard told The Cleveland News:

“There is no use talking, there is only one Cy Young. When the rest of us pitchers report in the spring we act as if those deceiving arms of ours were made of glass and humor them accordingly. But not so with old Cy. The very day he reached Hot Springs a week or so ago, he cut loose as if he had been pitching all winter. Great Scott, but he had speed to burn, and the next day and the next it was just the same. And curve them? Well, you ought to have seen the old boy.”

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Young

That season, the 38-year-old Young was 18-19 with a 1.83 ERA for the Boston Americans.

Johnson’s “Destiny”

Grantland Rice’s lede in The New York Herald Tribune on the final game of the 1924 World Series:

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Rice

“Destiny, waiting for the final curtain, stepped from the wings today and handed the king his crown.

“In the latest and most dramatic moment of baseball’s 60 years of history the wall-eyed goddess known as Fate decided that old ‘Barney’ had waited long enough for his diadem of gold and glory. So, after waiting 18 years, Walter Johnson found at last the pot of shining gold that waits at the end of the rainbow.

“For it was Johnson at last, the old Johnson brought back from other years with his blazing fastball singing across he plate for the last four rounds, who stopped the Giant attack from the ninth inning through the 12th and gave Washington’s fighting ballclub its World’s Series victory, 4 to 3.

Washington won just at the edge of darkness, and it was Johnson’s great right arm that turned the trick. As (Earl) McNeely doubled and (Muddy) Ruel galloped over the plate with the winning run in the last of the 12th, some 32,000 fans rushed upon the field with a roar of triumph never known before, as for more than 30 minutes, packed in one vast, serried mass around the bench, they paid Johnson and his mates a tribute that no one present will ever forget.”

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Johnson

Rice’s account of the game was recognized as the best “major league baseball story of the year” by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

 

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #33

7 May

Radbourn on Rule Changes

Old Hoss Radbourn told The Boston Journal that he thought the new rule changes for 1887—including the four-strike strikeout and abolishing the rule that allowed batters to call for high or low pitches—would have very little impact:

“Radbourn says it is a mistake on the part of anybody to think that (Dan) Brouthers can’t hit anything but a low ball. He thinks they will find that when it is absolutely necessary Brouthers can hit almost anything. When asked what effect the thought the new rules would have on Anson’s batting, Radbourn smiled and said: ‘Anson’s all right. He has more chances than anyone else. A man has to get five strikes on Anson before the umpire will call him out. Umpires don’t like to call strikes on Anson. I don’t know why, but they don’t. The pitcher who strikes out Anson does a big thing.”

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 Radbourn

Brouthers’ average dropped 32 points to .338, but he still led the league in runs, doubles and on base percentage.  Anson’s fell 24 to a league-best .347—he had 18 strikeouts in 533 plate appearances. Radbourn posted career highs in walks (133) and ERA (4.55) for the fifth place Boston Beaneaters.

Comiskey on ‘Friends’

Charles Comiskey said he had no friends in the American League. He told The Pittsburgh Press before the 1902 season:

“There’s Connie Mack, if he thought I could use one of his players he would keep him around until the Fourth of July, and then, if I hadn’t got that place filled, he would take the player out behind the grandstand and shoot him rather than turn him loose so I could sign him. The rest are getting as bad as Connie too.

“When (Tom) Loftus came back into the league I thought I would have at least one friend. Now he puts blinders on his players every time I get anywhere near them. Just to show you; before Loftus went East recently, I framed it all up for him to get a good second baseman for his team. I knew (John) McGraw couldn’t use all his infielders, so told Loftus to go after either (Bill) Keister or (Jimmy) Williams. McGraw would talk to Loftus, but not to me, when it came to players.”

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 Comiskey

Loftus ended up signing Keister as a free agent.

“Well, Loftus got Keister, you know, and I figured that would solve my third base problem, for he can’t use both (Harry) Wolverton and (Bill) Coughlin at third, and neither is much good anywhere else. So, when Tom came back, I led him up to the subject gently and proposed taking one or the other of them off his hands. Then what do you think Loftus sprung on me? He said he though of playing Keister in the outfield next year so he would need all his infielders. He looks like all the rest to me now.”

Keister and Coughlin remained with the sixth place Washington Senators all season—Coughlin at third, Keister splitting time at second and in the outfield—Wolverton, who had jumped to the Senators returned to the Philadelphia Phillies mid-season. Comiskey tried to solve his “third base problem” by acquiring Sammy Strang from the New York Giants. Strang hit .295 but committed 62 errors and was released in September.

Warner on Revenge

In 1906, Washington catcher Jack Warner told The Boston American how he had gotten even with Cupid Childs for spiking him. The incidents occurred, he said, in 1895 when he had recently joined the Louisville Colonels and Childs played for the Cleveland Spiders.

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Warner

Warner said he had received the throw to the plate well ahead of Childs:

“Well, sir, Cupid came in like the Empire State Express, feet first and his body high in the air. And say, he planted those mudhooks of his on my right side with such force that I flew twenty feet. Then there was absolutely no excuse, as the play was not close, me being there waitin’ there to receive him. I put up a howl but that was useless, so I made up my mind to work the next day and watch for a chance to get even. I was lucky to have the same sort of play come off.

“Up in the sky went Mr. Cupid again. But this time I was not there, only thereabout. I had plenty of time to look him over and pick out a soft spot in his architecture. They had to pry the ball out and it took half an hour to bring him back from dreamland. That’s the way to do it when you know a lad it trying to get you. And you can always tell if he is on the level after a couple of encounters.”

“A Loyal Little Rooter has Gone to his Long Rest”

3 May

Harry Davis thought he was about to make the biggest off-season acquisition in the American League before taking the reins of the Cleveland Naps in 1912. He had been given the job, as The Cleveland News said, “over the objection” of many. George Stovall had replaced Deacon McGuire after a 6-11 start in 1911 and led the team to an 80-73 third place finish.

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Davis

Davis was, according to The Chicago Inter Ocean about to steal Joe Magero from the Chicago Cubs as “the official hoodoo chaser of the Cleveland team.”

Magero had been the Cubs mascot since 1907, and several times a season “donned the White Sox of the South Side athletes.”

The paper said:

“Davis wanted Magero on account of his resemblance to (Louis) Van Zeldt, a hunchback who is the mascot of the world’s champion Philadelphia Athletics, the club with which Davis had been connected.”

Magero was “discovered” while working for Albert R. Tearney—Tearney was President of Chicago’s Amateur Baseball Manager’s League, the governing body of city’s amateur and industry clubs, of which there were more than 400. Tearney would later become president of the Three-I League and was elected to Chicago’s city council. Tearney, it was said, got Magero in “the professional mascot business” after seeing him selling gum on a street corner.

Magero first appeared as a mascot for Nixey Callahan’s Logan Squares in the Chicago City League in 1906. After the Logan Squares defeated both World Series participants—the Cubs and the White Sox—in exhibition games after the 1906 season, Magero having “brought luck” to Callahan’s club became a hot commodity and joined the Cubs in 1907.

 

Except for his occasional paid forays to the Southside and a brief stint in August of 1911 as “hoodoo chaser” for the Lincoln Railsplitters in the Western League, Magero was a fixture at West Side Park.  He was popular enough at one point that The Chicago Tribune said he and Germany Schaefer “are considering an offer to go on stage this fall with a skit entitled ‘What are we?’”

The Inter Ocean said:

“It was while acting as ‘jinx wrecker’ for Comiskey’s clan that Joe met Schaefer, the witty and able player of the Washington American League club. A warm friendship sprung up between the two and Joe and ‘Germany’ made it a point to be with each other as much as possible when Schaefer’s team was in Chicago.”

The 21-year-old Magero, who stood just three feet tall and immigrated from Italy in 1900, was ready to join Davis and the Naps for the opening of the 1912 season, but said The Inter Ocean, “The Grim Reaper intervened.”

Magero died of pneumonia at Chicago’s St. Joseph hospital on March 14.

The paper said:

“News of the death…was received with sorrow by the veteran members of Chance’s team at New Orleans, according to word received here yesterday by members of the little mascot’s family.  Mordecai Brown, Joe Tinker, John Evers, and the Peerless Leader were particularly affected by the tidings.”

The Chicago Daily News said:

“Joe, bent of frame and physically a weakling, nevertheless played his part in bringing victory to the Cubs. He twirled no games like Brownie, he slammed no home runs like Schulte, neither did his inside work win games as did that of Evers. But he was the mascot of the team, and as a mascot his services proved as valuable as did the work of those upon whom nature had bestowed more generous gifts…There is sorrow in all of belldom, for a loyal little rooter has gone to his long rest.”

Without his mascot, Davis was 54-71 and resigned on September 2. The Cleveland News said:

“The team’s poor showing and the fact that he had been subject to severe criticism by the public and the press are given as Davis’ reasons.”

He never managed again.

“Who’s the Greatest Ballplayer that Ever Lived?”

13 Mar

In the 19th Century, conversations about baseball in hotel lobbies

The Chicago Daily News shared one such discussion in 1896:

“’Who’s the greatest ballplayer that ever lived?’ Demanded the old ball crank of the gathering at the hotel.  And there were, straightaway, almost as many opinions as there were gentlemen in the party.”

A man in town on business said:

“To my mind, Anson outranks them all.  When you consider the wonderful grip which Anse has retained on the sport for all these twenty-five tears, when you take into consideration his qualifications as a player and as a man, his work as a leader and a general, the great batting he has always done every little point that can be recalled about both uncle and the game, I can’t see where any other player, living or dead, ranks with Anson.”

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 Anson

The paper said there were murmurs, then the night clerk weighed in:

“Mike Kelly was his ideal.

“‘Poor old Mike,’ said he, ‘had baseball genius and brilliancy to an extent never paralleled.  He had the mind to originate, the ability to execute.  He was, in the hearts of the masses, what John L. Sullivan was to pugilism.  Remember the tricks he worked, the batting and the base running he did, and the way in which he filled every position—remember only his methods of play, if you will, and then see if any one can compare with poor dead King Kel!’

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 Kelly

The “theatrical man” in the group said:

“’Bill Lange is the best that ever came down the road.  Who is there who does not like to see Lange play ball? What other player in the league, taking batting, base running and fielding into account, is as of as much value as Lange? What club would not eagerly give him the best position and the best salary it could command?  Bill Lange is destined to leave a mark in baseball history as deep as that Mike Kelly made, and future generations will speak of him as they do of Kelly now.’”

Then the “Old baseball crank” spoke up:

“’To my mind gentlemen, the greatest player of them all was Charlie Ferguson of Philadelphia.  There was a man who never realized how good he was.  When it came to effective playing, in any position, Ferguson was the man who could step into the gap so well that the regular man would never be even missed.  He could kill the ball, he was fast on the bases, and we all know he could pitch.  And the head that Charlie Ferguson wore was as good a head as ever decorated any player’s shoulders.  I saw hundreds of great players before Ferguson came, I have seen hundreds since he died, but I never to my mind at least, have seen his equal.’”

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Ferguson

The assembled men said the paper, “remembered the time of Ferguson,” with “nods and mutterings of assent,” thinking of Ferguson’s four seasons in Philadelphia—he died just 12 days after his 25th birthday in 1888.

 “Jim Hart, who ought to be a good judge of players, thinks Ferguson the greatest that the world has ever known. A canvass of ball cranks would probably show sentiments about equally divided between Ferguson and Mike Kelly.”

The paper concluded that there were, and would be, “few such popular idols” as Kelly and Ferguson:

“The increased batting has, queer as it may seem, done away with hero worship.  In the old days hits were few and the man who could step up and kill the ball was a popular king.  Nowadays the fact that nearly everybody is apt to hit takes away the individuality and accompanying romance of the great isolated sluggers.”

The paper said Lange was one of the few contemporary players who “comes as near being the subject of hero worship,” as players in previous years and that there were only players who had that impact in their own cities:

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Lange

“(Jesse) Burkett might be worshipped in Cleveland for his grand batting, but is handicapped by morose, unsociable ways.

‘(Jimmy) McAleer’s fielding would make him an idol, but his batting is pitifully light.  Baltimore’s great hero is Hughey Jennings, and the cranks treat him as though he owned the town. Brooklyn has no heroes.  There is nobody on the Boston nine whom the crowd raves over, even Hugh Duffy having lost his grip.”

“Eddie Burke and Charlie (Dusty) Miller have great followings in Cincinnati.  Louisville dotes on (Charlie) Dexter and Fred Clarke.  New York is idolless.  Philadelphia gives ovations to the whole team as a matter of principle but singles out no player.  Pittsburgh is the same way.  There is nobody at St. Louis or Washington whom the crowds adore.”

“Doyle Made him Drink Bass Ale”

6 Mar

The Louisville Courier-Journal caught up with Colonels Captain John O’Brien “in a talkative mood” before the 1896 season, and the 29-year-old second baseman shared his philosophy on spring training:

“I don’t think all the men should be worked hard.  Some of them are down to weight already.  As for myself, I will work off about seven pounds and then I will be down to a good playing weight. I have looked over the players who have arrived in the city and find that most of them are already trained down.”

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John O’Brien

O’Brien said Fred Clarke, Tom Morrison, and Herm McFarland “don’t look like they need a bit of training.”

O’Brien cautioned against “too much training,” and cited the example of William “Yale” Murphy, the Ivy League graduate who spent the two previous seasons with the New York Giants:

”He was trained down until he was a mere shadow and was so weak he could not play good ball.”

O’Brien said when Jack Doyle took over as manager of the Giants in June of 1895, he tried to undo the damage to Murphy:

“Doyle made him drink Bass Ale, and that was wonderfully strengthening.  In fact, I think an occasional glass of beer after a hard day’s training helps a man wonderfully.  Don’t understand me to mean by that I believe in ‘lushing.’ A player who drinks whiskey or who drinks so much beer that he can feel the effects of it, is no man for a ball team.  I have tried a glass of beer after a game, when I was hot and worn out, and I tell you it did me good.”

Doyle’s plan appears to have not worked;  Murphy who hit .272 as a rookie in 1894, ended the 1895 season with a .202 average, and the remainder of his major league career consisted of just eight hitless at bats in 1897.

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Yale Murphy

O’Brien predicted big things for the Colonels:

“I believe we will have a winning team…I know there is good material in the team, not counting the new men.  The newly signed players all look like ‘top-notchers.’ My private opinion of the outfield (expected to be Clarke, McFarland, and Ducky Holmes) is that it will prove to be the best in the League.  There is no fear on that score.  The pitching department seems good, and I know the backstops are strong.”

O’Brien was mistaken, the ’96 Colonels were even worse than they were the previous season.  When O’Brien was traded to the Washington Senators on July 3, the team was 11-44, and finished the season 38-93.

O’Brien apparently got himself into shape, he was hitting .339 on the day of the trade, eight-five points above his career average; he hit just .267 after the trade.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up Other Things #30

30 Jan

Reddy’s Last Words

When Tom “Reddy” Miller, the catcher for the 1875 St. Louis Brown Stockings, died in May of 1876 (he was, depending on the source, somewhere between 24 and 26 years old at the time of his death), The St. Louis Globe-Democrat noted his handling of pitcher George Bradley:

“The brilliant manner in which the plucky little fellow supported Bradley last season is a matter of record.”

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Bradley

Apparently, according to The Chicago Tribune, catching Bradley was the last thing Miller thought about before his death:

“In his last moments he was delirious, and fancied he was at his place in the ball-field, facing his old pitcher, Bradley. His last words were ‘Two out, Brad—steady, now—he wants a high ball—steady, brad—there, I knew it; that settles it.’”

Altrock on Alexander, 1928

On June 11, 1928, 41-year-old Grover Cleveland Alexander held the Boston Braves to one run on nine hits in an 8 to 1 complete game victory. Nick Altrock, Washington Senators coach, told The Cleveland News:

“Boston got nine hits off Grover Alexander Monday, but got one run, which is why I claim Alex is the world’s greatest pitcher. He is as easy to hit as a punching bag, but you can’t knock him off the rope. Alex pitches like a busted chewing gum slot machine. You keep dropping your nickels in it but no chewing come comes out.”

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Alexander

Alexander was 16-9 with a 3.36 ERA for the pennant winning St. Louis Cardinals.

Baker’s Homerun Ball, 1911

Frank Baker’s game-tying ninth inning home run off Christy Mathewson in game three of the 1911 World Series quickly became legendary, and people began asking about the whereabouts of the ball.

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Baker

The New York Bureau of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch solved “The great mystery of what became of the ball” three days later:

“In the Brush stadium Tuesday, occupying a seat in the eighth row on the projecting line drawn through home and first, sat Mrs. Charles F. Hunt of 537 West 149th Street. Her husband Dr. Hunt, is a physician to the Yankees.”

According to the paper, just as Baker connected:

“(S)omeone got up in his seat just ahead of Mrs. Hunt and she could not follow the course of the ball. The man apparently tried to catch it.

“Then as Mrs. Hunt sat still the ball flattened the left side of her head with a blow on the left temple.”

Despite being dizzy, the paper said Hunt continued watching the game, “pluckily refusing medical attention.”

Hunt also refused to be taken out of the stands, telling her husband:

“I feel so hysterical that if I try to go out, I’m afraid I’ll create a scene.”

After the Athletics won 3 to 2 in 11 innings, Hunt remained in her seat for another hour, and when she finally returned home, the paper said she spent the next 24 hours ill in bed, and “the bump” remained on her head:

“What became of the ball? Oh, yes. Mrs. Hunt didn’t get it. The moment it fell from her head to the floor, a youth grabbed it.”

Gehrig on the Greatest “Team man, 1937

Dan Daniel of The New York World Telegram did his part to add to the Babe Ruth/ Lou Gehrig feud in February of 1937—just days after Ruth questioned Gehrig’s consecutive game streak, calling it “One of the worst mistake a ballplayer could make.”

Daniel visited with Gehrig in his New Rochelle home, and asked readers if their was a “War between” the two.

He said he asked Gehrig to name the all-time greatest player; Gehrig responded

“Honus Wagner the flying Dutchman…I say Wagner because there was a marvelous player who went along doing a grand job without any thought of himself. He was the team man of all time.”

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Gehrig

In addition to his snub of Ruth, Gehrig talked about his “greatest thrill” and the best pitcher he ever faced:

“’The greatest thrill of my baseball career?’ Gehrig furnished the reply without a moment’s hesitation. ‘It came when I hit that home run off Carl Hubbell in the third inning of the fourth game of the World Series last October…You don’t hit against very many pitchers like Hubbell in a lifetime and you don’t hit very many homers off the Hubbells in such situations.’ The Iron Horse continued.

“’But the greatest hurler I have seen was not Carl. My vote goes to Lefty Grove. When that bird was powdering them in at the top of his form, he was about as terrible a proposition for a hitter as you could imagine, even in a wild nightmare.’”