Tag Archives: William Jennings Bryan

Lost Pictures–Frank Chance by Oscar Cesare

12 May

chancecesare

Frank Chance, as seen through the eyes of Oscar Cesare, cartoonist for The New York Evening Post; the sketch appeared along with a 1911 feature article by Homer Croy of the International Press Bureau:

“Frank Chance is the “Peerless Leader” to all America with W.J.B. (William Jennings Bryan) just coming in sight around the bend.  W.J. may be the last syllable when it comes to a crown of thorns, but what does  he know about first base?  When it gets down to real peerlessness, Chance of Cook County has got the Lincoln leader lashed so tightly to the mast that he can’t move an eyebrow.”

Croy noted Chance’s fear of the “hoodoo:”

“He is one of the most superstitious men in baseball, but having 13 for his lucky number.  When on a Pullman it would take a straightjacket and a new cable to make him sleep anywhere except in lower 13;  if the club gets a car with only twelve berths he writes 13 on the door and doubles up in the stateroom.  He refuses to change his shirt as long as the Cubs are winning; he’s very firm about this and cannot be won over with either pleading or powder.”

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“A little thing like a Presidential Campaign…is Ridiculous to Contemplate”

3 Oct

Frederick R. Toombs wrote and edited books about hockey, wrestling, and the origins of “court games, and was also a novelist and spent the first decade of the 20th Century writing syndicated articles about sports and politics.

Less than a month before the 1908 presidential election, he wrote:

“When a wave of baseball frenzy sweeps over the United States, the most momentous affairs of life and state speedily are thrusted aside.  Nothing must stand in the way of the American citizen who hungers to hear the resounding crack of a home run hit.  A little thing like a presidential campaign in this greatest of all baseball years is ridiculous to contemplate.  Many a big league game in this record breaking year has been attended by upward of 35,000 people.  Who ever heard of a presidential candidate drawing such an audience?”

Toombs noted that on the day John W. Kern was selected as the Democratic nominee; the same day his running mate, William Jennings Bryan “delivered a much-heralded speech on trusts,” the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates,and New York Giants were locked in a three-team battle for the National League pennant:

“The big dailies spread the baseball story across the front page, and Mr. Kern and Mr. Bryan were pushed back among the advertisements.  Mr. (William Howard) Taft and Mr. (James S.) Sherman have suffered in much the same way.  Their lengthy communications in the public are frequently shoved back in juxtaposition to the ‘Help Wanted’ column, and in the choice spots of the papers appear stories relating (to every aspect of the baseball season.”

William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft

As for the election, he said:

“In fact, whoever is elected to the presidency the defeated man will be fully justified in laying his downfall to the nerve racking races in the National and American Leagues.

William Jennings Bryan in baseball uniform 1884.

William Jennings Bryan in baseball uniform 1884.

“A season like that now drawing to a close has never occurred before.  The National League (three-team) race…and the American, with Detroit, Cleveland St. Louis and Chicago hacking at each other’s throat (Detroit won the pennant—Cleveland finished ½ game back, Chicago 1 ½, and St. Louis 6 ½) have carried the game to heights of popularity hitherto undreamed of.  The New York National team, for instance, will close the season with almost $500,000 in profits.”

1908 Detroit Tigers

1908 Detroit Tigers

Baseball, said Toombs, had become more than the nation’s most popular sport:

“When the Duke of Wellington (Arthur Wellesley) said, ‘The Battle of Waterloo was won on the fields of Eton,’ he conveyed an authoritative opinion of the tremendous influence which may be exerted on a nation, a hemisphere, or a world by a form of sport, a mere pastime.  Inferentially one may well say, that according to ‘The Iron Duke’,’ had it not been for the strength giving qualities of cricket, Napoleon would have won at Waterloo and become, without question the arbitrary dictator of all Europe. Baseball in America holds the position that cricket has in England, and the influence of the game on the American people is of even greater importance and significance than ever known of cricket in England…Not only is baseball the national game; it is the national craze.  It is the only and original, pure and undefiled, blown in the bottle brand of Dementia Americana.”

Toombs concluded:

“Campaign managers may fume and fret, but baseball is a necessity; politics is a luxury.”

The Cubs beat the Tigers four games to one in the World Series; Taft beat Bryan by more than a million votes on November 3.

1908 Chicago Cubs

1908 Chicago Cubs

Note:   The phrase “Dementia Americana” had entered the lexicon one year earlier during the trial of Harry Kendall Thaw, who in 1906 killed a man who was having an affair with his wife.  His defense attorney, Delphin Michael Delmas, said Thaw suffered from “Dementia Americana—the sort that makes Americans defend the sacredness of their homes and their wives and children. “ The 1907 trial–the first “trial of the Century”of the 20th Century–resulted in a hung jury. Thaw was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1908.

 

Congress Plays Ball

11 Mar

On July 16, 1909, the United States Congress took over Washington’s American League Park.  More than 1000 Washingtonians paid 75 cents to watch Democrats and Republicans in, what The Washington Post called an “affair (that) was advertised as a ball game.”

The Washington Herald said:

 “Hurrah for the Democratic party!

”No joking—the faithful followers of Jefferson, or whoever it was that gave (William Jennings) Bryan’s friends their principles, certainly did do things to the tried and true lieutenants of Speaker (Joseph Gurney) Cannon at the National Park yesterday afternoon, when two baseball teams composed of members of the House of Representatives fought it out for seven innings in some of the hottest rays Old Sol has dealt out to Washington this summer.”

[…]

“Republicans and Democrats alike were free traders, so far as errors and two or three base hits were concerned.”

The game ended after seven innings, the Democrats winning 26-16.

The Democrats

The Democrats

The Associated Press (AP) said:

“More varieties of baseball were played in that game than ever crowded into seven innings before and strange as it may seem not all of the varieties were bad.  The Democrats put up a rattling good game in the field—sometimes.”

The Box Score

The Box Score

The AP said one of the highlights of the game was the collision between Republican catcher James F. Burke (PA) and pitcher Joseph H. Gaines (WV) in front of home plate on a pop up, “While (Burke) and the pitcher were doing the ‘Alphonse and Gaston,’ three Democrats with a warped idea of chivalrous courtesy raced home.”

The Republicans

The Republicans

The Washington Times was more critical of the abilities of the lawmakers, singling out several:

“Before going further it is necessary to state that for the Democrats the man who attracted the most unfavorable notice was Handsome (James Thomas) Heflin of Alabama, who, with the help of a collie dog, covered left field for his party in a lamentable, sad and sorrowful style.  Heflin is tall and stout, and not to say sebaceous, and he and the dog went on the principle that they could catch every fly and stop every grounder by simply staring the ball out of countenance.  Heflin played the position like a merycotherium.  He probably does not know what that mean, but a glance at the dictionary reveals it to be an animal like a rhinoceros, ruminant, contemplative and far from agile.”

Nick Longworth (OH), who was dressed in a golfing suit, and hit at the ball as if he thought it had been teed for him (he struck out twice) is suffering this afternoon from a wrenched erector spinae muscle, caused by continually looking up and seeing flies, which he had misjudged go sailing over his head in center field.”

congressman Longworth at the plate.

Congressman Longworth at the plate, Congressman Kinkead is the catcher

The Times said, in general:

“Most of the players in trying to catch the ball held up their hand as if they expected someone to place in them very gently a salary check or a piece of pie.  On grounders they all had holes in their legs and could not stop a thing.”

Despite the overall criticism, the paper did mention three players on each team for being, at least, passable on the field.

Among the three Republicans was former big league pitcher, turned Pennsylvania Congressman, John Tener who played shortstop and had two hits and made just one of his team’s nine errors.  The other two Republican standouts were Albert F. Dawson of Iowa and Leonard Paul Howland of Ohio.

The three ”best fielders” among the  Democrats were Eugene F. Kinkead and William Hughes  of New Jersey and William Oldfield of Arkansas.

Congressman Hushes at the plate.

Congressman Hughes at the plate.

The game raised $320.55 to for the Washington Playgrounds Association “for the benefit of the children of Washington.”

The nation’s biggest baseball fan, President William Howard Taft skipped the game to play golf with Vice President James S. Sherman.

Opening Day—1901

26 Mar

The Chicago White Sox opened the American League’s inaugural season as a major league on April 24, 1901, against the Cleveland Blues.  The three additional league games scheduled for the 24th were postponed on account of rain.

The Sox won the then-minor league American League championship the season before.

1900alchamps

 

Comiskey relinquished managerial duties in 1901 to Clark Griffith, the pitcher jumped from the cross-town National League Orphans for a reported $4,000; a $1,500 salary increase.

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

The opener at Thirty-Ninth and Wentworth included a parade, several bands, and speeches from many dignitaries—The Chicago Tribune said every member of Chicago’s City Council was on hand, but Mayor Carter Harrison, who had promised Comiskey he would appear to speak and throw out the first ball, “was kidnapped by William J. Bryan, who slipped into town unperceived. ‘Commy’s’ plans for having the Chief Executive start the opening game were shattered.”

The Tribune said American League President Ban Johnson also missed the game; he had traveled from league headquarters to attend the opener in Philadelphia “and it’s a 1,000 to 1 shot he was sorry when he found Comiskey was the only magnate who had squared himself with the weather man.”

Other than the absence of the mayor and the league president, the paper said the first game of the upstart league was a success:

 “Under the fairest skies the weather clerk could select from his varied stock of April goods; with a championship pennant floating high above them from the proudest pine of all Michigan forests; with 9,000 fans to cheer them from a pent-up enthusiasm that burst forth at every possible opportunity, the White Stockings open the American League baseball season on the South Side Grounds yesterday with a clean-cut victory over the aggregation from Cleveland.”

The Chicago Inter Ocean, which reported the attendance at 10,073 said:

“As a grand opening it was an unqualified success, something which Charles Comiskey can look back upon in after years with all the serene satisfaction of a baby who has just swallowed a tin Indian.  As a ball game it was a hideous nightmare, a cold and icy vision of the darksome night, a living horror, let loose to stalk adown a diamond field, hooting hoarsely…With pomp and ceremonial, with braying of bands and braying of fans, with an enormous audience gathered in the frapped stands, the American League season of 1901 was duly opened in Chicago, and the real champions, Comiskey’s White Stockings, began their campaign by giving the Clevelands all that was coming to them.  The afternoon was cold; the stands were Greenland, and the bleachers bore nets of icicles.  Yet 10,000 cranks and crankesses, keen devotees of the game.”

The Chicago Daily News said more than 14,000 fans were at the game:

“Promptly at 3:30 the two clubs lined up at the plate and, preceded by a “Rough Rider” band, marched to the flagpole at the south end of the field, where the championship banner was unfurled to the strains of ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’”

Cartoon of "pennant" being hoisted from The Chicago Tribune.

Cartoon of “pennant” being hoisted from The Chicago Tribune.

The Associated Press said the attendance was 8,000.

The Tribune said the crowd was enthusiastic despite the weather:

“There were cheers for everybody, from (William Ellsworth “Dummy’) Hoy, who couldn’t hear them, to (starting pitcher Roy) Patterson, the hero of many a hard-earned victory last year…there were flowers for (Dave) Brain, the youngest of the White Soxs [sic]…And at the end there was so much surplus exuberance that the bleacherites indulged in a merry cushion fight all through the concluding inning by way of celebration.”

Chicago scored two in the first and five in the second off Cleveland starter Bill Hoffer and cruised to an 8 to 2 victory behind Patterson.

The Inter Ocean said the most “ludicrous” play of the otherwise “uneventful” game took place in the sixth inning when Hoy attempted to steal third:

“(Catcher Bob) Wood threw wild, and (Bill) Bradley scooped up the ball way off from the cushion.  As Bradley, with no thought of the runner, turned to return the ball to the pitcher, Hoy, losing his balance as he ran, slid clear over third , out into the field and right into Bradley, his knee striking the ball clasped in Bradley’s hand.  It was possibly the first case on record of a man’s forcing a put-out on himself, and the crowd marveled greatly, perceiving that the science of the game had much advanced, and that there were new freckles every day.”

While the Chicago Orphans were losing their opening game in Cincinnati, The Tribune said the team’s president, James A. Hart, “was present and witnessed the game from a box at the south end of the grandstand.  He chatted with President Comiskey for some time and seemed to like the work of the players, but he did not voice his sentiments.”

Behind Griffith and his 24-7 record, the Sox won the league’s first pennant with an 83-53 record. Opening Day pitcher Roy Patterson was 20-15.  Cleveland finished seventh with a 54-82 record; Hoffer was 3-8 in 16 games when he was released in July, ending his major league career.

1901 Chicago White Sox

1901 Chicago White Sox

Comiskey and Hart were both members of their respective league’s “peace committee” at the January 1903 meeting in Cincinnati that led to the forging of the first National Agreement.

 

Irwin Howe

3 Feb

irwinhowebb

 

Irwin M. Howe founded Howe News Service in Chicago in 1910, published an annual record book and served as the primary statistician for several minor leagues, including the Western and the Three-I leagues.

After the 1911 season American League Secretary Robert McRoy, who was responsible for compiling statistics, left the league office to become an executive with the Boston Red Sox.  President Ban Johnson named Howe the league’s statistician; he served in that capacity until his death in 1934.

Irwin Howe

Irwin Howe

Howe leveraged his position with the American League.  He became the official statistician of several more leagues, including the American Association and the Federal League, wrote a nationally syndicated column called “Pennant Winning Plays,” became editor of the annual “Wilson Baseball Record and Rule Book,” and published an instructional pamphlet for kids.

The ad from 1914 pictured above is for Howe’s 48-page “Pitching Course,” which he called “A correspondence school for baseball.” The pamphlets sold for one dollar, but were also offered by many small newspapers across the country for free to children who signed up subscribers (the pictured ad is from The Commoner, the Lincoln, Nebraska newspaper published by William Jennings Bryan).

Boys Learn Scientific Baseball Free

Ed Walsh of the Chicago White Sox will teach you the detail of his Spit Ball

Joe Wood of the Boston World Champions (1912) will teach you his great secret of breaking over his world famous Smoke Ball

Walter Johnson of the Washingtonians will teach you how to acquire and maintain speed

“Nap” Rucker of the Brooklyns will teach you the mastery of his famous knuckler

Christy Mathewson of the N.Y. Giants will explain fully his Fadeawy Ball

These lessons are so plain, practical and so profusely illustrated, that by following the instructions given, you can not only develop pitching ability…You will also learn to Increase Your Batting Average and more effectively Hit Any Pitcher.  Every lesson edited by Irwin M. Howe, the official statistician of the American League, the new Federal League and there organizations and an Eminent Authority on Baseball.

The pamphlet also included a lesson from Guy Harris “Doc” White of the Chicago White Sox “which deals in part with proper methods of training and living.”

Howe claimed his one dollar pamphlet was “Well worth $100 to any man or boy whether or not he ever expects to become a big ball player.”

Howe's pamphlet

Howe’s pamphlet

Perhaps Howe’s most famous contribution to baseball was certifying Ty Cobb as a .400 hitter in 1922.

On a rainy day in New York (years later in his book “Baseball as I Have Known It,” Fred Lieb said the game took place in August—contemporary newspaper accounts say it was May 15), Cobb beat out a ground ball hit to Yankee shortstop Everett Scott.  John Kieran of The New York Tribune (he was later a columnist with The New York Times) was the official scorer.  He charged Scott with an error.

Fred Lieb of The New York Telegram, who was compiling The Associated Press (AP) box score for the game, credited Cobb with a hit.  Lieb said “Considering the soggy field and Cobb’s speed, I gave it a hit.”

Fred Lieb

Fred Lieb

Howe’s habit was to rely upon The AP box score that appeared in the Chicago newspapers while awaiting the arrival of the “official” box score by mail.

When compiling the final averages at the end of the season Howe chose to accept Lieb’s scoring of the game rather than Kieran’s, and released a statement with the season’s final statistics:

 “I noted that the averages reached from my official scoring sheets had Cobb hitting .3995 (actually .3992).  With the unofficial averages giving him .401, I felt how can we deprive this great player of a third .400 average over a fractional point.”

Ban Johnson approved Howe’s decision.  Lieb, as president of the Baseball Writers Association of America’s (BBWAA) New York chapter was put in the uncomfortable position of attempting to repudiate his own scoring judgment.  He argued that the Kieran’s “official” score should be accepted, and said in a statement:

“Obviously, when there was a difference of opinion between the two scorers, the official and not the unofficial decision, should have been accepted.  There would be no further need for members of the Baseball Writers Association serving as official scorers if they were regulated to a secondary position.”

In a letter to Lieb, Ban Johnson said the “official” box score “was plainly in error in one other particular” besides the Cobb “hit” and “I requested a report of the official score of the game of May 15.  Mr. Howe had previously made a careful investigation of all facts surrounding the scoring.”  Johnson also chided Lieb asking “Are we to believe that you reversed your judgment at this late date?”

The 1923 “Wilson Record and Rule Book”–edited by Howe–contained an asterisk next to Cobb’s .401 average and noted that it was “not recognized” by the BBWAA—Howe was secretary of the association’s Chicago chapter.

The asterisk eventually disappeared, and Ty Cobb, thanks to Howe’s decision,  remains a .400 hitter for the 1922 season.

“William J. Bryan was a Ballplayer”

10 Jan

It’s fairly certain that claims of President Abraham Lincoln playing baseball were fabricated years after the fact, and the debate is ongoing over whether President Dwight Eisenhower appeared in a handful of games for the Junction City Soldiers in the Central Kansas League in 1911.

President Eisenhower at the 1957 American League opener in Washington--with Senator  Manager Chuch Dreesen and Baltimore Orioles Manager Paul Richards

President Eisenhower at the 1957 American League opener in Washington–with Senator Manager Chuck Dressen and Baltimore Orioles Manager Paul Richards

During William Jennings Bryan’s second of three campaigns for the presidency his prowess as an amateur player made the news.

Bryan received the Democratic nomination in 1900 t0 challenge President William McKinley who had defeated him in 1896.

In the weeks before the election an article, which first appeared in The St. Louis Republic, told of Bryan’s connection to the national pastime:

“That William J. Bryan was a ballplayer way back in the ‘80s when he commenced the practice of law in Jacksonville, Illinois, would probably have not been known, at least not authenticated, were it not for a telltale photograph.”

The picture was in the possession of a Denver businessman named John Springer, the nephew of former Illinois Congressman William McKendree Springer.  Springer said when Bryan became an attorney and moved to Jacksonville in 1883 he became part of a ballclub comprised of local attorneys from 1884 until he moved to Lincoln, Nebraska in 1887:

“The day the picture was taken, Mr. Springer recalls that the club of which Bryan was pitcher and himself catcher, had been victorious over a team made up of the best players among the town store clerks.  He also recalls that victory was pulled out of defeat in the ninth inning by Bryan’s home run hit.

“’I remember the incident perfectly,’ said Mr. Springer.  ‘The score was 18 to 20 against us, for we were not in the habit of playing 1 to 0 games in those days.  There were two men on bases when Bryan came to the bat.  Bryan was not the sturdy built man those days that he is now, but the way he swung his bat on the first ball pitched over the plate was a surprise to all the players, and the 500 or 600 spectators who viewed the game from a point of vantage along the first and third base lines, and the foul ground back f the catcher.  Bryan knocked the ball clear over the center fielder’s head, and into another lot in the distant back ground.  Around the bases he went driving two other men ahead of him and the game was won.  Bryan played with as much determination and enthusiasm as he has shown in his political career.  He was looked on as a good amateur pitcher in those days, and often after the game my swollen hands attested the speed he had.”

Springer said Bryan wore a beard in the 1880s because it gave him “a more elderly and dignified appearance…it can hardly be said that the picture resembles Mr. Bryan as he looks today, it is he, however, as he appeared in a baseball uniform along with the rest of us in 1884.”

William Jennings Bryan in baseball uniform 1884.

William Jennings Bryan in baseball uniform 1884.

Bryan’s connection with baseball failed to help him at the polls.  McKinley was reelected in November.

McKinley missed his own appointment with baseball immortality during his time in office.

Bryan was the Democratic nominee one more time, in 1908, and was defeated by William Howard Taft, who began the tradition of the president throwing out the first ball of the season.