Tag Archives: William A Phelon

“He Dresses as he Darn Well Pleases”

1 May

In 1914, writing about Honus Wagner in “The Baseball Magazine”, William A. Phelon said:

“Wagner’s dislike for fancy clothing is well known. I have seen the massive Teuton lounging in the swellest hotels with a grey flannel shirt and no sign of a necktie, while the fashionables were trooping by. Eccentricity? No—Honus doesn’t pose as an eccentric. Boorishness, ignorance of etiquette? Not that bird, for Hans Wagner is as pleasing a country gentleman as anyone could hope to meet.

“Presswork, publicity stuff? He does not need any. He is as independent as he is powerful; as solid and determined in mind as he is in body, and he dresses as he darn well pleases. He is Hans Wagner and he is worth five or six dressy dudes that look in agony upon his tieless flannels.”

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Wagner

Phelon shared several stories about Wagner—Phelon, like Hugh Fullerton, was known for his active imagination—the magazine said in the sub headline of the article: “We shall not endeavor to trace their origin any farther.”

Phelon described a night in Hot Springs with the Pirates shortstop:

“He commands attention and gets respect, even before folks know him for the great ballplayer…Wagner, correctly clad, a splendid picture of strength and manly perfection, was listening to the music in the big ballroom. Sitting beside me was a Chicago plutocrat who has his millions, all won by hustling every minute of his business hours. This man who did not know Hans Wagner, was studying the ballplayer’s general makeup. Finally, turning in his chair, the rich man exclaimed, ‘Who the devil is that man? He’s the sort of fellow I’d like to have working for me. Bulldog, fighter; think; learn a trick and never lose it; honest as the day is long—I wish I had him. Say, Bill who is that?’

“’Hans Wagner, Mr. ——-,’ I answered, strangling a grin. The millionaire took another long, long look. ‘So, that’s Wagner, hey?’ he murmured. ‘Now I understand why he has his reputation.’’

Phelon said it “delights a crowd” to see Wagner strike out “especially if the feat is performed by some kid pitcher.”

He then suggested:

“Perhaps I am wrong, but it has seemed to me, on several occasions, as if Honus deliberately struck out just to give the crowd a ration of glee and flatter the youngster on the slab. When the Pirates are safely ahead, and some young hurler has been sent to the hill by the losing foe, Hans actually seems to strike out far oftener than at any other time, and it always looked to me as if he did so—always making a terrific wild swing at the last one—just through good heartedness.

“And how the crowd always yells and bellows in sheer ecstasy! And how the kid pitcher swells up and hugs himself, while he thinks of the glory that is his—the joy of telling everybody, to the last day he lives, about the time he struck out Hans Wagner—and made him miss the big one by a mile.

“Of course, all these strikeouts may be accidental, and the old boy may be trying—but why is it that you will so often see Wagner miss three under such circumstances, while it’s blamed seldom you’ll see him fan is a tight game, with men on, and some star pitcher working against him?”

“Say, Rube, he ain’t Quite Dead yet”

16 Apr

In 1912, Arthur Irwin told William A. Phelon of The Cincinnati Times-Star:

irwin

Irwin

“Rube Waddell was even a richer card than was usually supposed and nobody unless he were to put it all down in a large, thick book will ever have an actual summary of the things G. Edward said and did during his long career in the fast company.”

Irwin said Waddell, despite his reputation for erratic behavior “had a kindly heart, always open to the cries of the unhappy, and especially gentle towards the ladies.”

rube

Rube

He told Phelon a story about  a dance they both attended in Philadelphia:

“Mr. Waddell arrived early and was quieted by being presented with a gorgeous badge denoting him as floor marshal. Armed with this, Mr. Waddell was as nice and polite as Lord Chesterfield himself and gave no trouble. The managers soon ceased to worry about Rube—and were given other things to trouble them.

“About midnight a prizefighter named Seiger of some repute as a rough, hardy slugger, came into the hall and at once started making war medicine.”

According to newspaper accounts, there were at least four fighters named Seiger or Sieger who had bouts in Philadelphia during the first decade of the 20th Century—the most prominent were both lightweights: Joe Seiger and Charley Sieger

Irwin picks up the story:

“Inside of ten minutes I had to go in and help the floor committee drag him off some inoffensive fellow who hadn’t kowtowed to his sovereignty. About 10 minutes later we had to sally in again and rescue some well-dressed gentleman from Seiger’s clutches. ‘Better cut it out,’ said I ‘you are looking for a trimming and you will get it, sure’

‘”Ain’t nobody on this floor goin’ to hand it to me,’ jeered Seiger, and back he went, shouldering through the throng.”

rubesuit

Rube

A minute later, Irwin said:

“I heard loud noises and then the thud of fast falling blows. In I rushed and beheld Mr. Seiger going rapidly round the floor under the mighty fists of Rube Waddell. Before the Rube’s gigantic strength and pile driving blows the prizefighter was helpless. Seiger was receiving a frightful beating, but he had it coming to him and no one interfered. Finally, Seiger fell against the wall, and the Rube, his eyes blazing with murderous delight, simply hailed blows upon the dazed and bleeding pugilist. Just as he was drawing back his great fists for another wallop, there was a shrill shriek and a woman fainted.”

Waddell turned away from the boxer, and:

“(R)an to the spot where the girl had fallen and picked her up. He bore her to an anteroom, poured ice water on her forehead and cared for her like a trained nurse till she revived.”

Someone told Waddell, as he administered to the woman:

‘”Say, Rube, he ain’t quite dead yet.’

“Rube shook his head, ‘Chivalry,’ said Waddell, ‘comes before pleasure. I ain’t going to move from here till this lady gets her thinks back. Soon as she’s all OK I’ll go finish him but I won’t stir a step till then.”

“The two Best Batsmen of the Game”

19 Aug

Jack Doyle spent part of 17 seasons in the major leagues from 1889 until 1905. In 1910, he told William A. Phelon of The New York Telegraph that among hitters, “There were two men who were real topliners in their trade.”

It was, he said, “Hardly probable,” there was anyone better than Pete Browning and Ed Delahanty.

browning

Browning

Doyle said neither benefited from “scorers who make everything a hit except a dropped pop fly.”

But, the two were largely dissimilar:

“(T)here never were two men more radically different in their ideas and their opinions of the game than those two great sluggers.”

“Pete Browning was an artist. To him baseball was an art or profession and batting an absorbing passion.

“Delahanty was a workman. Baseball to him was labor or a trade and batting simply part of the daily toil.

“When Browning left the field, the game wasn’t over. He continued to talk batting, theorize on batting, and I think dreamed of batting all night long.

“When Delahanty left the ballpark, the game was all through for the day, as if he were a laborer going home for supper. He ceased to think baseball and would only talk baseball when someone started the conversation that way.”

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Delahanty

Each handled success differently:

“Pete Browning made five hits one afternoon. He kept his clubmates awake for hours, telling it over and over. ‘Old Petey’s eyes is pretty bright yet, huh?’ he shouted. ‘Reckon the old man ain’t there with the hits no more, eh?’

“When Delahanty made the record in Chicago, four home runs and a single (July 13, 1896) and was told that he had outdone all former deeds, he grunted, said ‘That right?’ And wanted to know who won the second race.”

Their reaction to adversity differed as well:

“If Browning failed to make a hit at the time of need, he would have tears in his eyes and would bitterly bewail his misfortune. If Delahanty fell down in the pinch, he shrugged his shoulders, hoofed back to the bench and began to talk racing or the weather.

“When an outfielder galloped to the fence and pulled down one of Browning’s mighty drives, Pete would regard it as a personal insult, and glower at the defender like a baffled tiger. When an outfielder robbed Del of a home run, Ed would grunt ‘Good catch bo, didn’t think you’d get it!’ and forget it forever.”

And, of course, no one treated their bats and eyes the way Browning did:

“Pete Browning spent hours polishing his bats, hours rubbing his eyes, in the belief that it made them brighter. Delahanty, perhaps, spent an occasional half-hour fixing up his bats on a rainy afternoon.

“If you had told Pete Browning that the business was losing money, and that he would have to cut his salary next season, he would have accepted the money rather than lose the chance to play the game. If you handed that talk to Delahanty, he would have sneered scornfully, and remarked that you’d have to come up with 500 more beans before he’d even look at a contract.”

The two did have two things in common, he said:

“Neither Peter nor Del cared much where their teams finished on the season. Pete thought only of his hits and the glory of making them, Del thought of a comfortable winter life on the money he made in the summertime.”

Also, he said neither could bunt:

“Del wouldn’t simply try. Pete, with much groaning and protestation, would be coaxed to make the attempt, but his attempts were fizzles. Pure, old-fashioned, straightaway sluggers, both of them, and the two best batsmen of the game.”

“That big Lopsided man can Pitch”

4 Mar

Leonard Washburne, who wrote for The Chicago Herald and The Inter Ocean was another influential early baseball writer who died young—he was just 25.

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Leonard Washburne

He was killed in October of 1891 while riding in the locomotive of a Chicago and Eastern Illinois train with two other members of The Inter Ocean staff.  The three newspapermen and one member of the train crew were the only four fatalities in the wreck which took place in south suburban Crete, thirty miles outside of Chicago.

The Chicago Daily News said the train “struck a misplaced switch and the locomotive plunged through an engine house.  The engineer and the fireman jumped and saved themselves, but the three newspaper men were killed.”

train.jpg

Newspaper Rendering of the Crash

Washburne was sports editor at The Inter Ocean for less than a year, and left behind a small but colorful collection of observations:

When Harry Stovey was injured in a series in Chicago early in the 1891 season:

“Stovey dragged his six feet up to the plate like a man with one foot in the grave.”

On Amos Rusie:

“Rusie! He is not a handsome man.  His legs lack repose, his fists are too large for their age, his face is a clam-chowder dream, and his neck is so inextensive that he can not wear a collar without embarrassing his ears.

“But how that big lopsided man can pitch.”

amosrusie

Amos Rusie

When the Philadelphia Phillies snapped an eight game Chicago Colts winning streak, shutting out the Colts 3 to 0 on May 23, 1891:

“Maharajah Anson, who for eight days has been looking toward the pennant without pause was jerked to a standstill yesterday with a noise like a hook and ladder truck striking a beer wagon.”

Jim “Tacks” Curtiss made his debut with the Cincinnati Reds in July of 1891–he only appeared in 56 major league games, 27 with the Reds and 29 with the Washington Statesmen in the American Association–but drew Washburne’s notice:

“Mr. Curtiss is a medium-sized man with a comic-opera mustache and a mouth so full of teeth that he looks like the keyboard of a piano.”

Of Patsy Tebeau’s fifth place Cleveland Spiders, dropped their third straight game to Chicago during an August 1891 series:

 “(His) men wandered through the contest like men who have no idea of winning but hope to last four rounds.”

On Cy Young:

“Young is a big, slack-twisted lob, who throws a ball like a man climbing a stake-and-rider fence, and who will retain that indefinable air of the farm about him as long as he lives.”

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Cy Young

Of Brooklyn fans:

“There is nothing else under the administration like a Brooklyn ball crowd.  A Boston assemblage may be mildly enthusiastic; a New York crowd insanely unfair; a Cleveland one a mob of hoarse-voiced wild-eyed fanatics; but the memory of them all, when one sees a Saturday afternoon Brooklyn crowd, withers and fades away like a flannel shirt. No team was playing at Eastern Park when the late Mr. Dante wrote his justly celebrated “Inferno.” Hence the omission If Dante could have dropped in at Mr. Byrne’s Brooklyn joint before he wrote that book it would have given his imagination a good deal of a boost.”

One year after Washburne’s death, a delegation of more than 500 boarded a Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad train to Clinton, Indiana, to dedicate a monument at his grave.

monumentwashburne.jpg

Washburne’s one-time colleague at The Inter Ocean, and best friend, future Congressman Victor Murdock said at the dedication:

“I do not believe that any here who knew him had a feeling that could be called respect and admiration only There was an element of strength in him that did not brook so short a stop.  It was not respect, not admiration.  It was love—deep, strong, everlasting love.”

Years later, William A. Phelon, who was a 20-year-old reporter for The Chicago Daily News at the time of Washburne’s death, wrote in The Cincinnati Times Star that “every press-stand is full of keen-witted, clever boys who make their stuff entertaining and interesting ” as a result of Washburne’s influence.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up Other Things #25

15 Aug

“Used to Come Upon Field Staggeringly Drunk”

Arthur Irwin was a scout for the New York Highlanders in 1912 when he declared to William A. Phelon of The Cincinnati Times-Star that, “Players who are hard drinkers in the big leagues are scarce now.”

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Arthur Irwin

Irwin said a combination of “the improvement in morals” of players, and more so the fact that current players were “money mad” were the reason:

“Long ago the hail fellow and the good fellow, who believed that drinking was the jolliest part of life, were numerous in the big leagues, and there were surely some wonderful soaks in the profession.  Stars whose names will shine forever used to come upon the field staggering drunk, and other stars who had sense enough not to exhibit their follies in public would wait till the game was over and then tank up till dawn.”

Irwin told Phelon about King Kelly’s American Association team:

“The club that tried to play ball under King Kel in 1891 at Cincinnati was about the limit.  They made their headquarters at a saloon across the street from the ball park and some of them could be found asleep there at almost all hours when not actually in the game.  Some of the champion Chicago White Stockings and some of the old St. Louis Browns were likewise marvels on the jag, and it has become a baseball legend that the Browns defeated Anson’s men for the world’s championship (in 1886) because (John) Clarkson, Kelly and two or three others were beautifully corned.”

Clarkson won his first two starts of the series, but lost his next two.  Kelly hit just .208 in the series and St. Louis won four games to two.

Jennings’ Six Best

In 1916, Hughie Jennings “wrote” a short piece for the Wheeler syndicate that appeared in several papers across the country, about the six best pitchers he faced:

hughiejennings

Hughie Jennings

Jack Taylor and Nig Cuppy had fair speed and a fine curve ball, with the added advantage of a slow ball, and good control.  The latter, I contend is the most important asset a pitcher can possess.  My six greatest pitchers are:

Amos Rusie

Jack Taylor

Cy Seymour

Denton (Cy) Young

Charles “Kid” Nichols

Nig Cuppy

“Rusie, Nichols and Young had wonderful speed and fast breaking curves.  Cy Seymour also belonged to this case.”

“Batters Might as Well Hang up Their Sticks”

Add Ned Hanlon to the long list of prognosticators who were sure a rule change would be the death of the game—in this case, the decision in 1887 that abolished the rule allowing batters to call for high or low pitches.

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Ned Hanlon

 

According to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

 “Hanlon of the Detroits says the abolition of the high and low ball was a fatal mistake, and the batters might as well hang up their sticks.  Ned argues that as the pitcher has the space between the knee and the shoulder in which to throw the ball, all he has got to do is vary the height of his delivery with every ball he pitches, and thus completely delude the batter.  He claims that pitchers capable of doing head work will have a picnic, and that Baldwin will be particularly successful.”

 

Steinfeldt spins a Yarn

9 Jun

Harry Steinfeldt was born in St. Louis, but his family moved to Fort Worth, Texas when he was five years old.  In 1912, he told William A. Phelon of The Cincinnati Times-Star what baseball was like in Lone Star state in the 1880s and 90s:

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Steinfeldt

“Texan audiences used to be pretty rough stuff when the Texas League began—especially in the more Western cities—and the merry cowboys—gone now forever—were quite a disturbing element.  They used to spring jokes about cowboys lassoing outfielders to keep them from chasing the ball.”

Steinfeldt told Phelon about an incident he claimed happened during a game in the 1890s:

“Fort Worth and Waco were grappling in a desperate struggle—a game that might have considerable bearing on the percentages and on the ultimate disposition of the flag.  The teams were batting heavily, for both pitchers were scared to death and neither seemed to have much of anything.  First one side would rush ahead and get what seemed like a good, safe lead, and then the other team would overcome the advantage and collect a wad of runs. In the seventh, Fort Worth was leading 8 to 7, and looking fairly sure, but Waco came through with three in the eighth.  They came into the ninth with the score 10 to 8 in Waco’s favor.

“Two men were easily disposed of; then came three successive, and the right fielder returned the ball clear over the catcher’s head, letting one man in, while the catcher, by desperate scrambling, just managed to drive another runner back to third.  Men on third and second, two gone, the best of the Fort Worth hitters up, and the crowd bellowing till you’d think pandemonium had been let loose.

“The batsman swung on a fastball, and it sailed out in a long, arching curve, settling near the left field bleachers, but with the left fielder backing up and settling himself for the catch.  Just as the ball was coming down, a revolver cracked, and the ball, struck by a big 45 caliber bullet, flew to pieces in midair.

“The two men on the bases ran in, and a wild riot started round the plate.  But the umpire was a man of nerve.  He held up his hand to still the tumult, and then roared ‘Dead ball! Batsman must hit over again.’

“And there wasn’t a kick as the batter came back and missed his third strike on the next pitch.  Even the cowboy who had shot the ball didn’t make any objection.  ‘I reckon,’ said he, as he climbed down from the bleachers, ‘that there decision was plumb right—for if ever a ball was a dead one it was the particular ball after I done plugged it.’

“Those were great days, and no mistake about it.”

“Frank Chance Stands Forth as the Biggest Individual Failure”

21 Dec

It was widely assumed that American League President “Ban” Johnson had a hand in the transactions that resulted in Frank Chance coming to New York to manage the Yankees in 1913—Chance was claimed off waivers by the Cincinnati Reds in November of 1912, then waived again and claimed by the Yankees a month later.

Ban Johnson

Ban Johnson

William A. Phelon, the sports editor at The Cincinnati Times-Star noted “(T)he strange fact that all the clubs in the older league permitted him to depart without putting in a claim,” as evidence of the fix being in.  And, in “Ban Johnson: Czar of Baseball,” author Eugene Murdock said “Johnson masterminded a series of intricate maneuvers,” to bring “The Peerless leader” to New York.

Chance’s arrival in New York was heralded as a turning point for the franchise, and he made no effort to downplay his confidence.  On January 9, 1913, The Associated Press reported that chance told Yankees owner Frank Farrell:

“I will win the pennant for you before I get through in New York. That may sound like a bold statement to make at this time, but I ask you to remember my promise.”

Frank Chance

Frank Chance

Despite the maneuvers on Chance’s behalf and Chance’s own confidence, he failed miserably in New York. The club finished seventh with a 57-94 record in 1913. The following season, the team was 60-74 when Chance resigned.   The resignation came after a tumultuous season which included charges by Chance that the team’s failures were largely the result of scout Arthur Irwin’s failure to sign decent players.  He also secured a guarantee of his 1915 salary from Farrell before he resigned.

Two months after Chance’s exit, the man who “masterminded” the moves that brought him to New York, unleashed his wrath on the former manager to Ed Bang of The Cleveland News:

“You can say for me that Frank Chance stands forth as the biggest individual failure in the history of the American League.  That’s the sum and substance of what B. B. Johnson, president of the American League said a short time since when “The Peerless Leader” came up for discussion, ‘and what’s more, you can write a story to that effect and quote me as strong as you’d like,’ Ban continued.

“President Johnson had great hopes of Chance molding a winner in New York, and when, after almost two years as the leader of the Yankees, he quit a dismal failure, the blow all but floored Ban for the count.  The American League has always played second fiddle to the Giants in New York, and Ban and other American Leaguers figured that Chance was the man to bring about a change in the condition of affairs.”

Bang said Johnson took Chance’s failure “to heart,” because he believed he “made a ten-strike” for the league when Chance came to New York.  Johnson told him:

“’Chance had the material in New York and I think any other man would have made a success og the venture,’ said Ban.  ‘Surely no one could have done any worse.  Of all the players that were on the New York roster in 1913 and 1914, and there were any number of likely looking recruits, Chance failed to develop even one man of class.  Why, it was an outrage.’

“’And then when he made up his mind that he was a failure, or at least when he was ready to step down and out he had the unmitigated nerve to ask for pay for services that he had not performed.  That surely was gall, to say the least.”

Johnson finished by comparing Chance unfavorably with the Yankees’ 23-year-old captain who replaced him and guided the team to a 10-10 finish:

“’Why, Roger Peckinpaugh, youth though he is, displayed far more class as manager of the Yankees in the short time he was at the helm than Frank Chance ever did.”

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Roger Peckinpaugh

Irwin left the Yankees in January of 1915 when Farrell and his partner William Devery sold the team to Jacob Rupert and Cap Huston.  Peckinpaugh remained captain but was replaced as manager by Bill Donovan, who guided the Yankees for three seasons–a fifth, a fourth and a sixth-place finish with an overall record of 220-239.

Armando Marsans’ Tall Tale

19 Oct

Baseball writers were fascinated by every utterance of the Cincinnati Reds’ two Cuban players, Armando Marsans and Rafael Almeida.  Marsans was the more popular—and more successful—of the two.   He was also the product of well-to-do background.

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                           Marsans and Almeida

William A. Phelon of The Cincinnati Times-Star illustrated the cultural difference between the Reds’ two Cuban players:

“(S)omeone asked Almeida and Marsans if they wouldn’t like tickets to a grand opera.  ‘Si, si, accented Marsans, delightedly.  I love grand opera—eet ees fines’ of all entertainment for a gentleman.’

‘I thank you much,” negatived Almeida, “but I care not to go.  To me, grand opera eet sound like de screech of de beeg tomcat, and about so much sensible.’”

Perhaps made up on his own, perhaps captivated by the erudite Marsans, perhaps in on the joke—it wasn’t always clear when Phelon was in on the joke—he quoted Marsans spinning a tale of a Cuban legend in his column in 1912:

“I have seen all the great ballplayers of the present time.  I have been in post-season series against (Napoleon) Lajoie and (Joe) Jackson and have made trips just to see Ty Cobb.  They are wonderful ballplayers, but I give you my word that the greatest I ever looked upon was an Indian named Canella, and popularly called Cinnamon.

“Canella was of a strange Indian race that is supposed to be extinct—the Sibboneys [sic Ciboney] of Cuba, who populated the island when the Spaniards came.  The historians and scientific books all say that they are extinct, and it would doubtless be so, if it were not for the fact that they still live in eastern Cuba and have a little city of their own.  They are tall men with ancient Greek faces—nothing but the color of the Indian to make resemble such men and (John “Chief”) Meyers and (Charles “Chief”) Bender—and they are an athletic people, more agile and active by far than we.  Baseball is their own pet diversion, and Canella, known as Cinnamon, was the greatest of them all.

“Canella, who cannot be over 27 even now, came out a few years ago, and at once became the marvel of eastern Cuba.  He was a pitcher, and a star on the slab, but he was also a batsman, lightening base runner, and clever outfielder.  The records of six years ago show Canella, in some 60 games hit .446 and stole 55 bases.  Havana’s best clubs went up against him and found him invincible while he turned the tide of the closest games with his own batting.

“Canella received no offers from the big American leagues, They took it for granted he was a light colored negro, and when his friends explained that he was an Indian the Americans laughed and said ‘There are no Indians in Cuba—the Spaniards killed them all 400 years ago.’

Armando Marsans

Armando Marsans

“So Canella kept right on playing in Cuba, and he seemed to improve each succeeding season.  At least he became so terrible that even the Havana and Almendares clubs sought excuses to avoid meeting him, and the weaker clubs would face him and get shut out every time.  Finally, some influential Cubans managed to make an American magnate understand that Canella was no Negro, and all was arranged for his tryout in the coming spring.  And then came the news that Canella’s arm was gone, and he could never pitch again.

“It seems that the Indians of Sibboney [sic] still practice the games of their forefathers, and of their favorite sports which is throwing the javelin,  Coming home for a visit, Canella saw the young men of the tribe practicing the spear throw.  Laughingly, he said ‘It is many years since I have done thix—let me try.’ And picking up a slender spear, he hurled it with all his might—and something went snap, crack, in his upper arm as he let go of the javelin.  The arm, so long accustomed to throwing the baseball, gave way when he tried to throw the spear, and never since has Canella been able to throw a ball from the pitching slab as far as the catcher.  It was a shame because Cinnamon Canella was the greatest pitcher, the finest batter, and the fastest base runner that I have ever gazed upon.”

“And Mr. Waddell made good”

16 Sep

William A. Phelon, like Hugh Fullerton, told many stories over the years that may or may not have been 100% truthful.  One of his favorite subjects was Rube Waddell, who was the subject of as many apocryphal stories as any player of his era.

Rube Waddell

                    Rube Waddell

In 1912, Phelon, then writing for The Cincinnati Times-Star, told a story that he claimed happened while Waddell was pitching for Chicago and Phelon was writing for The Chicago Daily News:

“When Rube Waddell was much younger than he is today—to be exact, back in the golden days of 1901–he was with the Chicago club, and he was just as original and interesting as at the present time.  In just two respects the Rube was very different then—he was a heavy batter (not exactly heavy, but waddle hit .237 in 334 at bats through 1902, and .129 in 732 at bats thereafter), and he was a fiend for work.  You couldn’t put him on the slab too often to suit him, and you could throw him very few shoots  that he couldn’t hit.”

[…]

“One pleasant summer afternoon, during the Rube’s short stay with the Chicago club, he was feeling unusually hilarious, and worked his head off to show up the opposition.  Never did the Rube have finer curves or better speed.  Zim, zipp, the ball hurtled through the ether, and the batsmen were helpless before his terrific delivery.  He held the hostiles to perhaps three hits, struck out ten men, and made a three-bagger on his own accord.  It was a great day for Rube and the crowd went wild about him.

“Next morning, while Jim Hart, the boss of the Chicago club, was in his downtown office, a delegation of bankers called upon him.  ‘We are all coming out this afternoon, Mr. Hart,’ said the spokesman of the crowd, ‘and we have bought up a whole front row of boxes.  There’s only one thing we are sorry for, however—we had all hoped to see Waddell pitch, and we thought he would be due to work today.  If we had known that he was going in yesterday, we’d have been there instead of this afternoon.”

Waddell in Chicago, 1901

        Waddell in Chicago, 1901

According to Phelon, Waddell was made aware that the bankers were disappointed he would not be pitching and said he’d “go in again” the next day.

“And Mr. Waddell made good.  He went back on the slab that afternoon and pitched a gorgeous game, winning in easy style, while the rapturous bankers whooped and bellowed in the boxes.

“About ten days later, Mr. Waddell walked into the office of the banker who had been the spokesman for the delegation.  He was cordially received and invited to sit down in the inner sanctum.  Mr. Waddell, roosting his hat upon the rosewood desk, lit a cigar, crossed his knees, and said, smilingly:

“‘Are you a believer in reciprocity?’

“’Why of course,’ said the banker.  ‘What about it?’

“’Well, Mr. Banker,  I did you a favor the other day, didn’t I?’

“’You certainly did.  I was extremely grateful to you Mr. Waddell.’

“’Then Mr. Banker, suppose you reciprocate.  Lend me $50.’

“And Rube got the fifty.  Did the banker ever get it back?  Does a Hyena fly?  Why ask such foolish questions.”

 

 

“He is a Model for the Young Ballplayer to Emulate”

21 Aug

March of 1916 was a bad month for “Prince Hal” Chase.

According to The International News Service, Chase, who spent the winter in San Jose, California playing for the Maxwells—a team sponsored by the automobile company–was “the last of the stars” of the defunct Federal League who had still not signed with a professional team.

Hal Chase

                          Hal Chase

It got worse when he was arrested for failure to pay alimony and support to his ex-wife Nellie and their son Hal Jr.

He was released on $2000 bond, and it is unclear whether the case was ever fully adjudicated. After his release, Chase continued playing with the Maxwells and working out with Harry Wolverton‘s San Francisco Seals while rumors of who he would play for during the regular season were advanced on a daily basis.

The strongest rumors were that Chase would go to the New York Giants in a deal which would include Fred Merkle, who would be displaced at first base, going to the Chicago White Sox, the team Chase jumped to join the Federal League.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said the deal was eventually foiled by Pirates Manager Jimmy “Nixey” Callahan, who “refuse(d) to waive.”

At the same time the papers in Cincinnati said Chase would be joining the Reds while West Coast papers said he might stay in California and join the Seals.

The Cincinnati Enquirer said Reds’ Manager Charles “Buck” Herzog “vigorously denied,” that Chase would join his club and said he would stick with Frederick “Fritz” Mollwitz at first base.

Buck Herzog

                     Buck Herzog

Herzog was even more forceful in his denial in The Cincinnati Times-Star:

“I wouldn’t have Chase at the camp.  Mollwitz is a very much better player, and he won’t jump when he is most needed.”

An even stronger indictment of Chase came from Detroit Tigers Manager Hugh Jennings, who told The Detroit News:

“As a player, there is nobody who can touch Chase for holding down first base.”

Jennings went on to note Chase’s intelligence, speed, and “superb” fielding:

“Yet for all his ability I would not have him on my club, and I do not believe any other major league manager will take a chance on him.  He will not heed training rules and has a demoralizing influence on the younger players.”

Tiger Manager Hugh Jennings

Tiger Manager Hugh Jennings

Jennings said while Chase managed the New York Highlanders in 1910 and ’11, led his team “astray,” instead of “trying to keep his players straight.”

Perhaps most damaging, Jennings said Chase was a source of dissent on the clubs he played for:

“One of his favorite stunts is to go around telling on man what another is supposed to have said about him, with the result that in a very short time he has the fellows pulling in all directions  instead of working together.  He is apt to take a dislike to the manager and work against him with the players until the whole squad is sore and will not give the sort of work that it is paid for.”

Jennings, whose team finished second in 1915 with George Burns at first base, said:

“The Tigers would win the pennant beyond question with a player of Hal’s ability on first this season, but I wouldn’t risk introducing a man who had such a bad disposition.  I believe that we can accomplish better results by having harmony on the squad, even if we have to get along with a first baseman with less talent.”

Despite the negative press, and over the objection of Herzog, the Reds purchased Chase’s contract from the defunct Buffalo Blues on April 6.

The New York Times lauded the move and defended Chase against his detractors.  The paper said “His failure with the New York Americans was due to petty controversies and rebellion against the club’s discipline,” and “(W)hen he is at his best there is not a player in the major leagues who is more spectacular than ‘Prince Hal.’”

Chase initially balked at reporting to Cincinnati, telling The San Francisco Chronicle “I haven’t made up my mind…it is possible that I would prefer to remain in California, even if there is no chance to play ball.”

Six days later, while his new team opened the season, Chase was on a train to Cincinnati.  The Associated Press said he agreed to join the Reds after receiving “word from Cincinnati that his entire contract with the Federal League, which calls for a salary of $8,000 a year, has been taken over,” by the Reds.

When Chase arrived in Cincinnati on April 15, the Reds had won three straight after losing their opener, and Mollwitz had played well at first base with five hits in 13 at-bats and just one error.

According to Frederick Bushnell “Jack” Ryder–college football star and Ohio State football coach turned sportswriter–of The Enquirer, Herzog had no intention of putting Chase in the game April 16:

“Herzog had little thought of playing him, as Fritz Mollwitz was putting up a bang-up game and hitting better than any member of the club,” until “Mollwitz made a bad mental mistake in the third inning.”

After Umpire Hank O’Day called a strike on Mollwitz, “the youngster allowed his tongue to slip,” and was ejected.

Fritz Mollwitz

                 Fritz Mollwitz

Chase came to bat with an 0-2 count and doubled off of Pirates pitcher Frank Miller, stole third, and after catcher Tommy Clark walked “(Chase) caused an upheaval in the stands by scoring on (a) double steal with Clark.”

Chase also wowed the crowd in the ninth.  After making “a nice stop” on Max Carey’s hard ground ball over first base and with pitcher Fred Toney unable to cover first in time, Chase dove “headforemost to first base to make a putout on the fleet Carey.”

In all, he played 98 games at first base, 25 in the outfield, and 16 at second base, he also hit a league-leading and career-high .329.

While the Reds struggled, Chase was wildly popular in Cincinnati.  The Enquirer’s Ryder was possibly his biggest fan—the writer raved about Chase’s performance in the outfield, his adjustment to playing second base, and his consistent bat.

While Chase thrived, Herzog, who had a contentious relationship with Reds’ owner August Herrmann, exacerbated by the signing of Chase against his wishes, began to unravel as the season progressed.  On May 30, he was hit in the head and knocked unconscious, by a throw from catcher Ivey Wingo during pregame warm-ups.  While he recovered physically, he became increasingly frustrated by the club’s performance.  On July 5—with a 29-40 record– he announced that he would retire at the end of the season when his contract expired.  He told The Times-Star:

“It would be a great blow to my pride to continue as a player, after being a manager for three years.”

The following day it was reported that the Chicago Cubs and New York Giants were interested in acquiring Herzog.  Within a week, it was reported that Herzog was heading to New York in a trade that would bring Christy Mathewson to Cincinnati to manage.  The negotiations continued over several days but floundered.  The Cubs reentered the picture—Owner Charles Weeghman told The Chicago Daily News “I brought the bankroll along…and I’ll get Herzog so quick I’ll make (the Reds) eyes pop.”  He later told the paper he offered “$25,000 and an outfielder” for Herzog.

At the same time The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said the Dodgers were after Herzog, and The Pittsburgh Post said the Pirates were in pursuit as well.

The pressure got to Herzog who held himself out of the lineup of July 17, The Enquirer said:

“The managerial situation is worrying Herzie, who had expected by this time to be cavorting at the third corner for the giddy Giants.  With the deal held off for various reasons, the Red leader is naturally a bit anxious.”

Herzog’s destination was unclear, but it was clear he would be gone.  With Mathewson seeming to be out of the picture, rumors persisted—fueled by Ryder of The Enquirer and William A. Phelon in The Times-Star—that Chase would be the new manager.

On July 20, Ivey Wingo managed the team to a doubleheader split with the Philadelphia Phillies, and the papers reported on Herzog’s successor:

The Enquirer ran Chase’s picture under the headline “Reds’ New Manager,” although they hedged in another headline which said he would “probably” be named.

The Times-Star said “Hermann has decided to allow Hal Chase to manage the team for the remainder of the season, and for this reason he does not want Mathewson.”

They were both wrong.

Within hours of the papers hitting the streets, a trade involving three future Hall of Famers was agreed to.  Herzog, along with catcher Wade “Red” Killefer went to New York for Mathewson, Edd Roush, and Bill McKechnie.  Mathewson was immediately named manager.

Cartoon accompanying the announcement of Mathewson's appointment.

          Cartoon which accompanied the announcement of Mathewson’s appointment.

Ryder said in The Enquirer that “Chase was greeted with a great round of applause” when he stepped to the plate for the first time on July 20:

“The fans at that time did not know of President Herrmann’s change of mind with regard to Matty, and they thought Chase was the new leader of the team.  The universal and hearty applause showed how popular the star third-sacker has become in this town.”

The Chase story is well-known; two years later Mathewson would suspend him, charge him with “indifferent playing.”  With Mathewson in Europe when the charges were heard by National League President John Heydler that winter, three Reds teammates, and Giants Manager Pol Perritt testified Chase had thrown games.

But in October of 1916 Chase appeared to have repaired his reputation, and his difficult March appeared to be far behind him.  In a season wrap-up, The Enquirer–there was no byline on the article, but it was likely the work of Ryder–published a glowing profile of the National League’s leading hitter and the man who nearly became the Reds’ manager:

“What has become of all the talk about Chase being a bad actor, a disorganizer, a former of cliques and a knocker of managers?  All gone to the discard.  Chase has not only played brilliant ball for the reds all season, but he has been loyal to the club and the managers.  He worked hard for Herzog and equally hard for Matty.  He has been a wonderful fellow on the club.  Chase is modest and does not seek notoriety or approbation…He played game after game in midseason when he was so badly crippled with a Charley horse that he could scarcely walk.  When Manager Herzog wanted to make an outfielder out of him he went to the garden and played sensational ball…Later in the season he filled in for several games at second base, a difficult position for a left-hand thrower, but he put up great ball there.  He is a natural ballplayer of the highest class, and with it all a perfect gentleman, both on and off the field.”

The profile concluded with this assessment of the man who would become synonymous with the baseball’s greatest sins:

“Chase has been a great man for the Reds, and there is many a manager of today who wishes that he had got in ahead of the Cincinnati club in signing him.  He is the smartest ballplayer and the quickest thinker in the National League today.  He is a model for the young ballplayer to emulate, because he is a real artist in his profession.”