Tag Archives: Wisconsin State League

“He is a Disorganizer”

13 May

Piggy Ward’s 1891 season provides both a glimpse of the life of the itinerant 19th Century ballplayer and his tendency to be his own worst enemy.

He started the year out West, playing for John McCloskey’s Sacramento Senators in the California League. Along with a teammate named Jack Huston—who had been on clubs with Ward in Galveston, Texas and Spokane, Washington in 1890—he skipped town on May 28. Both players had joined the Sacramento club in the first place despite being on the reserve list of Spokane.

According to The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Ward was hitting a league-leading .361, had 24 stolen bases and had scored 41 runs in 36 California League games before he jumped.

The Sacramento Record-Union said of his departure:

“Ward was, in one sense, a valuable man in the team. He was only ordinary as a fielder, or center-bag-guarder, but he exercised the best judgment. He is a good bunter, and his success in base running lies on the fact that he always knows when to take advantage of a chance. But, on the other hand, he is a disorganizer, and caused many a rupture in the Sacramento team.”

Both players left California headed to meet their new club, the Spokane Bunchgrassers of the Pacific Northwest League, owing the Sacramento team’s management money—Ward $141, and Huston “$121, besides a $15 suit of clothes”—and both were arrested when they arrived.

The Record-Union said, John Barnes, the Spokane manager, squared the debt for the two jumpers, who were in the lineup for Spokane the next day—Ward had four hits (and committed two errors) and Huston pitched the final two innings in a 12 to 3 victory over Seattle.

wardhustonbarnes

Ward, standing far right, Huston, standing second from left, and Barnes, seated center, with the 1890 Spokane club

Huston, apparently, felt some loyalty towards his new club, and remained with them for the remainder of the season, while Ward was heading east days later to join the Minneapolis Millers of the Western Association.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune said after Ward went 1 for 2 with a walk, stolen base, and two runs—and played error free ball in right field—in his debut:

“(T)he California phenomenon…is a good batter, coacher, and base runner. The general consensus of opinion was that he’ll do.”

Ward hit .357 in 54 games, which caused the injury-decimated, National League cellar dwelling Pittsburgh Pirates to purchase his contract.

The Pittsburgh Post noted his tendency to jump teams, but said the “rumpus” over his California to Spokane jump had been “amicably settled,” and of the jump to Minneapolis:

“This wrong-doing was also amicably settled.”

Ward was acquired on August 12 but chose to visit his home in Altoona before reporting to the Pirates and apparently did not bother to let the team know. On August 22, The Pittsburgh Press said team president J. Palmer O’Neil “is using the telegraph wires freely today trying to trace the player.” Ward finally arrived the following day; The Press said he reported with a sore back and because “all the men are now playing good ball, Manager (Bill) McGunnigle will not put him in until he is in perfect condition.”

As a result, he appeared in just six games, hit .333 in 18 at bats and made one error in six total chances in the outfield before being released on September 7.

After being let go by Pittsburgh, he headed back to Spokane, but on his way, The Saint Paul Globe said, “The fat all-around ball player seen in a Minneapolis uniform this season,” played briefly with the Oconto club in the Wisconsin State League. The Oshkosh Northwestern reported on September 10 that Ward had signed with Oconto, and he played the following day—Oconto lost 9 to 5 to Oshkosh.

Ward arrived back in Spokane in mid-September and rejoined Huston and the Bunchgrassers. When he returned, The Post-Intelligencer complained that “Ward will receive a salary that will run far above the limit in this league.”

He finished the season with the club—and hit .412 in 12 games –but wore out his welcome. Spokane was struggling to hold onto first place in the closing days of the season—they would lose the pennant the Portland Gladiators by one game—and Ward seemed to succumb to the pressure. The Spokane Review said, during a frustrating 12 to 8 loss that Ward punched Portland’s John Darrah in the stomach as Darrah rounded first in the fifth inning.

He was fined $25 and thrown out of the game. The Spokane Review said:

“If Ward used the vile language during the game attributed to him, he certainly should be disciplined by Manager (John) Barnes. In addition to punching Darrah he also hit (Milt) Whitehead in the stomach with his fist when the latter touched him out in the fifth.”

Ward ended his 1891 season where it began, playing for John McCloskey in Sacramento. The San Francisco Call said he “came jumping back again in a penitent mood.”  The Record-Union said, “cranks were greatly surprised to see Ward playing in the center garden,” when he took the field for his first game back on October 18. The San Francisco Call said he left the team a month later, a week before the close of the season, because of an unknown illness.

More of Ward’s story tomorrow.

“The Man who Ate Himself out of the American League”

20 Nov

Frank Frederick Schneiberg was born in Milwaukee in 1882 (Baseball Reference lists his year of birth as 1880, but all available documents say 1882).

He began playing baseball for amateur teams in the Milwaukee city league, and after playing for the Pabst Brewery team in 1903 signed with the Springfield Hustlers in the Three-I League.  No records survive, but according to The Milwaukee Journal Schneiberg “won 19 out of 21 starts.”  He played with the Freeport Pretzels in the Wisconsin State League in 1905 and according to the Journal “won 12 straight.”

Frank Schneiberg

He won 22 games the following season with the La Crosse Pinks, which earned him a shot with the Detroit Tigers.

It didn’t go well.

Schneiberg was released to the Milwaukee Brewers before the beginning of the season.

The Associated Press said:

“He has the earmarks of a great pitcher…speed, curves, control and a pretty good collection of baseball brains…but Schneiberg was lazy…He wasn’t eager to pitch.”

The story quoted Tigers manager Hugh Jennings:

“He knows how (to pitch) but he won’t exert himself, I don’t want anybody who will not hustle.”

The Toledo News-Bee blamed his release on something else:

“He is known all over the country as the man who ate himself out of the American League.”

It is unknown whether either or both versions of his time with the Tigers is accurate, in either case, Detroit did try to claim that Schneiberg was still their property later that season when he was pitching well for the Brewers.  The claim was denied and he remained in Milwaukee.

Schneiberg pitched for the Brewers for three seasons compiling a 40-48 record.

While a fan favorite in Milwaukee, Schneiberg appears not to have been popular in at least one other American Association city.  The Toledo News-Bee accused him of being a head hunter in 1908:

“Schneiberg has the reputation of threatening to ‘bean’ batters.”

The following season The News-Bee claimed the Brewers were trying to trade the pitcher and said the team was:

“(V)ery anxious to trade the German, who does not work with any spirit, but the player is not highly regarded around the circuit.”

Regardless of the opinion in Toledo, The Brooklyn Superbas thought highly enough of Schneiberg to draft him from the Brewers at the end of the 1909 season.

He appeared in his only Major League game. On June 8, 1910, with Brooklyn trailing the Cincinnati Reds 4-0, Schneiberg relieved Nap Rucker in the top of seventh inning.  He walked four, gave up five hits and allowed 7 runs (Baseball Reference shows Schneiberg giving up eight runs, with seven earned—the box score from the game shows 7 total).

Schneiberg was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh.  Within days, he was traded to the Des Moines Boosters in the Western League.

He retired after the 1910 season, but in February of 1913 signed with the Memphis Chickasaws of the Southern Association.  He appeared in two games and was released, and in June signed with the Springfield Watchmakers in the Three-I League.  It’s unclear whether he appeared in any games with Springfield.

Frank Schneiberg 1932

Schneiberg retired to Milwaukee after the 1913 season, he became an asbestos worker and an official in the Asbestos Workers Union.  He passed away in Milwaukee in 1948.

A Few Veteran’s Day Remembrances

9 Nov

Lester Wirkkala

PFC Lester Rudolph Wirkkala, pitcher for seven seasons in the Northern League, Nebraska State League, Ohio State League and American Association; killed in action near Gravelotte, France, September 7, 1944.

Roman Wantuck

PFC Roman Wantuck, 34-13 record in two seasons with the Sheboygan Indians in the Wisconsin State League; killed in action on Biak Island, New Guinea, June 16, 1944.

James Whitfield

Staff Sergeant James J. Whitfield, outfielder for the Albany Cardinals in the Georgia-Florida League in 1941; killed in action Angaur, Palau, September 22, 1944.

 

Support Homes For Our Troops.

 

Ty Lober

27 Sep

Elmer “Ty” Lober was a long-time minor league player, manager in the Wisconsin State League, served in the Army in WWI and was a central figure in a scandal that briefly rocked the Pacific Coast League in 1914.

In September of 1914 police in Portland, Oregon announced the arrest of four men, and issued a warrant for a fifth.  The men were charged with “Wholesale traffic in school girls between the age of 14 and 16.”

Two of the men arrested were Portland outfielder Lober and third baseman Bobby Davis.  Also arrested were a local jeweler and an actor named Bert Roach (Roach would go on to appear in more than 300 films).  The warrant was issued for Mission Wolves and former Major League pitcher Frank Arellanes.

Early reports indicated that the players had confessed and that there would be several more arrests.  But the “open and shut case” described by West Coast newspapers seemed to quickly fall apart, and concerns about wide spread human trafficking among Pacific Coast League players quickly faded.

Just three weeks after the arrests the grand jury came back with indictments for only two of those arrested; Davis and Arellanes.  The cases against these two quickly fell apart also and all three players were in uniform at the beginning of 1915, Lober and Davis with Portland and Arellanes with Denver in the Western League.

Lober went on to play with Lincoln in the Western League before entering the service in 1918.  He spent 1920 with an independent team in Zanesville, Ohio and was signed to play with the Milwaukee Brewers in the American Association in 1921.  He finished his career with the Little Rock Travelers of the Southern Association in 1925 (he’s misidentified as “Lobar” on Baseball Reference).

Elmer “Ty” Lober

Lober managed and occasionally played for Two Rivers in the Wisconsin State League into the early 30s

He passed away on November 6, 1946 in Two Rivers.