Tag Archives: “Wid” Conroy

“Those $8 Diamond cuff buttons cost us the Championship”

11 Apr

Clark Griffith never got over losing the pennant to the Boston Americans by 1 ½ games in the American League’s first great pennant race in 1904.

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

Over the years, he wasn’t even able to decide which of his New York Highlanders’ three straight losses to Boston in October was the most “hard luck” game, and just who he blamed for letting the season slip away.

In 1914, Griffith told Stanley Milliken of The Washington Post that second baseman Jimmy Williams, who failed to heed his instructions at the plate during the game that gave the pennant to Boston on October 10—Griffith barely mentioned the wild pitch Jack Chesbro threw which allowed Boston to score the winning run.

But two years earlier, he told a different story to Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Examiner –in in this one he put the blame on himself and Chesbro, but not for the October 10 game:

“There never was any hard luck except mine.  Whenever I hear them tell hard luck stories I think to myself that they don’t know what it is.”

[…]

“The race had narrowed down to New York and Boston.  We both came east from our last Western trip with (a half game) separating us.”

Griffith said his club returned to New York believing all five games would be played in New York as scheduled, but discovered that New York owner Frank Farrell “not thinking we would be in the race at all, had in the middle of the season leased the Highlanders park to the Columbia University team for football on Saturday.”

As a result, the two Saturday games were moved to Boston.

“We beat Boston on Friday 3 to 2, and that put us where we only had to break even in the next four games to win.  Chesbro had pitched the Friday game.  I did my planning and decided to pitch Jack Powell the two games in Boston on Saturday, and to leave Chesbro at home to get a good rest over Sunday and to be ready to pitch the two games on Monday if it became necessary, knowing that with two days of good rest he could do it.”

chesbro2

Jack Chesbro

Griffith said his pitcher had other plans:

“When I got down to the depot that night there was Chesbro begging to go with us to Boston.  Some fool friends of his had notified him that they intended to present him with diamond cuff buttons in Boston, and he was wild to go.  I could not refuse him under the circumstances but those $8 diamond cuff buttons cost us the championship.

“(Once in Boston) Chesbro was crazy to pitch, and he warmed up in Boston and declared he felt better than at any time during his life.  I was angry because I wanted him to rest, and refused him.   He almost cried and said he had repeated numerous times during the season and always had won.  I said ‘no’ that we couldn’t take the chance.”

But Griffith said his team pressured him:

“Chesbro got (Wee Willie) Keeler, (Kid) Elberfeld and all the boys to come to me and beg me to let him pitch.  (Jack) Powell came to me and said he would keep warmed up and ready to relieve Chesbro in the first game.  I fell for it, seeing Chesbro had already warmed up and my plan for resting him was spoiled. He was good for (three innings), but before anyone could relieve him in the next Boston made six runs and the game was lost (13-2)…Powell  and Cy Young met in the second game and Boston won 1 to 0.”

And Griffith was quick to blame that loss on his “hard luck” as well:

Griffith's "Hard Luck" Highlanders

Griffith’s “Hard Luck” Highlanders

“The one run was scored on the rankest kind of luck.  A ball thrown (by John Anderson) from the outfield to (third baseman Wid) Conroy got by him…allowing the run to score.  The ball would not have rolled five feet from Conroy, but the crowd had pushed up to within three feet of third base.

This made it necessary for us to win both games on Monday.  And in the first game, in the ninth inning, with two out and two strikes on (Freddy) Parent, Chesbro let his spitball slip for a wild pitch and gave Boston the game.  We won the next 1 to 0 but the pennant was done.

“If there ever was harder luck than that, I don’t want to hear of it.”

“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

Lost Team Photos–1903 New York Highlanders

3 Jan

1903NY

Five members of the first New York Highlanders team and a New York sportswriter photographed at Atlanta’s Piedmont Park in March of 1903. The financially failing Baltimore Orioles franchise was transferred to New York for the 1903 season.

From left: William “Wee Willie” Keeler (RF), James “Gym” Bagley of The New York Evening Mail, Harry Howell (P), William “Wid” Conroy (3B), Monte Beville (C), and John Ganzel (1B).

Atlanta Was thrilled to host the team.  The Atlanta Constitution said on the morning the team was due to arrive:

“The hearts of the local fans will be made glad today by the arrival of the New York American baseball team, for this afternoon on there will be something doing at the park.

“Manager Clark Griffith will have charge of the team, and will bring them in with him this afternoon on the Southern’s No. 27 from Washington, which is due in the city at 3:55 o’clock.

“The aggregation is nothing less than a bunch of stars.”

Large crowds came out to Piedmont Park for the team’s morning and afternoon practices and for the Highlanders first spring game on March 26 against the Atlanta Crackers.

advertisement for the 1903 New York Highlanders spring games with the Atlanta Crackers

Advertisement for the 1903 New York Highlanders spring games with the Atlanta Crackers

 

Griffith’s team finished fourth in the American League with a record of 72-62.