Tag Archives: William Smith

“The Deterioration in the Morale of the Players”

10 Jun

The Chicago Tribune had had enough:

“The deterioration in the morale of the players has been followed by deterioration in that of the spectators.  The latter relish the obscene profanity and the slugging exploits of the hulking brutes of the baseball field.”

The Tribune provided an “account of the more disgraceful of the many rows witnessed by spectators of baseball games,” during the just-ended 1899 season:

“May 2—Row at Pittsburgh—St. Louis game.  (Frank) Bowerman was put out of the game.  (Jack) O’Connor was taken off the field by the police, and the crowd chased umpires (Tom) Burns and (William) Smith.

May 19—Umpire Burns put (Giants’ William “Kid”) Gleason out of the game at St. Louis.  Gleason’s protest was so strong Burns forfeited the game to St. Louis.

June 1—Row on the grounds at Washington.

June 16—After a long wrangle and continued rowing on the field at New York.  Umpire Burns forfeited the game to Brooklyn.

June 16—(Fred) Clarke and (Clarence “Cupid”) Childs fight on the field in Louisville.

June 27—Rowdy action of players caused the crowd at the Pittsburgh game to mob umpire (James “Chippy”) McGarr.

July 18—(Tommy) Corcoran slugged (John) McGraw at Baltimore after being first attacked, and his action started a riot.

July 26—(Emerson “Pink”) Hawley, (Fred) Tenney, and (Hugh) Duffy engaged in a game of fisticuffs at Cincinnati.

Aug 16—(Oliver “Patsy”) Tebeau, McGraw and (George “Candy”) LaChance fought at Baltimore

Aug 18—Riot at Baltimore game started by (Tim) Donahue throwing a handful of dirt at (Steve) Brodie’s face.

Sept 1—Childs and Aleck Smith fight on the field in Louisville.

Sept 7—Riots at St. Louis and Brooklyn.

Sept 15—Clarke taken off Philadelphia grounds by police.

Sept 16—Chicago players jerked (Ed) Swartwood around the diamond because he called the game in the eighth inning on account of darkness.

Oct 9—(George “Win”) Mercer assaulted (Al) Mannassau at Washington.

Oct 14—(Jimmy) Scheckard assaulted umpire (John) Hunt, refused to retire, and Hunt forfeited the game to Brooklyn.”

Cupid Childs, repeat offender

Cupid Childs, repeat offender

Al Mannassau, assaulted by Win Mercer in Washington

Al Mannassau, assaulted by Win Mercer in Washington

In addition to the fans, The Tribune blamed team owners:

 “For the multifarious minor acts of blackguardism and rowdyism of which the hired men of the club owners were guilty there is no room.  It is sufficient to say that they, like the graver offenses mentioned above, did not wound the feelings or jar on the nerves of the proprietors of these baseball roughs.  Those proprietors seem to have come to the conclusion that audiences like these ruffianly interludes.”

Like hundreds of predictions before and thousands more to come over the years, The Tribune saw dire consequences for baseball given the current state of the game:

“There was a time when Chicagoans went to see the games of the Chicago club because they had a feeling of proprietorship in that organization.  That day is over.  Men do not go to see games out of local pride, nor do they go to see fine playing.  They go to listen to the language of the slums and to witness the horseplay and brutalities of the players or performers.  When these have lost their attractions professional baseball will disappear. “

Southern Association Pennant Race Scandal

15 Oct

The Memphis Egyptians collapsed in the final three weeks of the 1907 Southern Association race.  After leading the league from the beginning of the season, poor play in the last weeks led to them being overtaken by the Atlanta Crackers.

Vague rumors circulated that Memphis might have thrown the race—but became a full blown scandal on June 2 of 1908 when the rumors became formal allegations.

Former Memphis pitcher Otis Stocksdale, who had been released following the ’07 season and signed with the Mobile Sea Gulls, said Memphis manager Charlie Babb:

“Threw the pennant…to the Atlanta club, and did so deliberately and for business reasons.”

Stocksdale alleged that he had been forced to pitch while he was sick and that players were instructed by the manager “Not to win games.”  Stocksdale charged that Babb, who also played 3rd base, had deliberately misplayed balls during games in Nashville.

If there was any doubt, Stocksdale doubled down on his charges later the same day, telling reporters:

“Every word of this charge is true, and, what is more, I am going to prove the correctness of what I say and by affidavit…I am not going to stop, now that I have started, until this thing is given to the public and Babb gets the punishment he deserves.  The thing was done in order to make a closer race for the flag and get the money in the gates.

“Charley (sic) Babb has no right to be a manager in this league.”

Stocksdale also claimed that two additional players Richard James and Robert “Nick” Carter could, and would corroborate the charges.

Babb denied the allegations.  Atlanta Manager William Smith said, “The league will have to blacklist either Babb or Stocksdale, and I don’t think it will be Babb.”

Atlanta Mayor Walthall Joyner asked Southern Association President William Marmaduke Kavanaugh for an immediate investigation.

A hearing was scheduled for the following week in Memphis.  Stocksdale promised to make his case.

He didn’t.

According to The Sporting Life:

“He had no witnesses.  He had no affidavits.  He merely entered formal denial of the published statements.”

Stocksdale blamed reporters for misquoting him.

The Memphis club presented their case which included live testimony and dozens of statements refuting the charges, including one from Nick Carter, who Stocksdale had said would affirm his allegations.

Stocksdale was suspended indefinitely for, as The Sporting Life said, “Besmirching Baseball’s Fair Fame.”

Otis Stocksdale, the accuser

It was speculated that 36-year-old Stocksdale’s career was over, and that even if he did manage to play again that he would be blackballed from the Southern Association; however, when the suspension was lifted before the 1909 season after a petition drive that collected more than 1000 signatures in each Southern Association city, Stocksdale returned to the Sea Gulls and stayed in the league through the 1910 season.

Stocksdale finished his career as a player-manager with the Lynchburg Shoemakers in the Virginia League in 1912.

Babb remained as manager of Memphis until 1910 and continued managing in the minor leagues until 1913.

Charlie Babb, the accused

An interesting Postscript involving Atlanta Manager William Smith who vigorously defended Babb and insisted Stocksdale’s allegations were false.  After leading the Crackers to another league title in 1909 Smith was fired.  The deposed manager claimed the reason for his firing was his refusal to rein his team in the final weeks in order to increase gate receipts.  Smith’s complaint was dismissed by the league.