On Saturday, September 27, 1924, with the New York Giants locked in a battle for the National League pennant with the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Giants were set to meet the seventh-place Philadelphia Phillies at the Polo Grounds in a critical end-of-season game. Phillies shortstop Heinie Sand was standing on the field during batting practice when he was approached by the Giants’ utility outfielder, Jimmy O’Connell. Sand and O’Connell were old pals from their time playing together in the Pacific Coast League.1
O’Connell, at the instigation of Giants coach Cozy Dolan, offered Sand $500 if he would be willing to avoid “bearing down hard” in the game.2 Sand replied “Nothing doing” to the offer.3 Later that evening he informed his manager, Art Fletcher, about the bribe attempt.4 Fletcher informed management, and after the incident was investigated by Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, O’Connell and Dolan were banished from baseball for life.
Thus, Heinie Sand had written his name into baseball history. Yet he did have a fairly significant career otherwise, starting at short for the Phillies from 1923 through 1928 and continuing his career in the minors through 1934.
John Henry “Heinie” Sand was born in San Francisco on July 3, 1897, to Joseph Charles Sand Sr. and the former Lena Mary Fritschi. Joseph was the son of German immigrants, and Lena was of Swiss heritage. Joseph was a plumber who started one of the “oldest firms of plumbing contractors”5 in San Francisco. Young “Heinie” worked in his father’s business until his professional baseball career took off. A brother, Joseph Jr., was added to the family in 1899.6 Eventually Joseph Jr. also joined the family plumbing company7
“Heinie” went by his middle name, Henry, and, in all likelihood, acquired his nickname because of that and his German heritage. He began his baseball career playing for local San Francisco teams such as the M.J.B. Coffey Company and Twin Peaks of Frisco.8 The 5-foot-8, 160-pound infielder attracted the attention of longtime Portland Beavers player/manager Walter “Judge” McCredie. McCredie convinced Sand to turn professional, and he briefly joined the Beavers9 before being inducted into military service during World War 110 McCredie became the manager of the Salt Lake City Bees in 1918 and Sand joined him there after his military service ended.11
In 1919 Sand spent time with Salt Lake City and Seattle in the Pacific Coast League; he then played third base for 91 games with the Bloomington Bloomers, champions of the Three-I League. A future Phillies teammate, catcher Butch Henline, was also a member of that club. In 1920 it was back to Salt Lake City, where Sand struggled, hitting just .216 in part-time duty as a third baseman. Adding injury to insult, Sand ended up in the hospital in September when his nose was broken as he got too close to a teammate’s back-swinging throwing arm during practice.
Sand’s breakout year corresponded with his shift to shortstop in 1921. Back at Salt Lake City, he hit a solid .320 with 17 home runs in 180 games. On July 3 he celebrated his 24th birthday by going seven-for-nine in a doubleheader, including two home runs.12 The very next day, he created his own July 4th fireworks by turning an unassisted triple play.13 Suddenly, Heinie Sand was being touted as a future major leaguer.
One of Sand’s teammates in 1921 was 40-year-old Gavvy Cravath, former slugging outfielder of the Philadelphia Phillies. Sand and Cravath shared a love of fishing and hunting. In the fall of 1921, the two traveled to Mexico on a hunting and fishing expedition. By Sand’s own account he bagged “eight or nine deer, six mountain goats, and a quantity of fish.”14 Sand was proud enough of this feat to include it in a biography he provided to Baseball Magazine writer C. Ford Sawyer.
The major-league call did not come for Sand in 1922 as many expected. Hot Stove rumors over the winter reported him being sold to the San Francisco Seals,15 but those rumors proved false, and Sand was back at shortstop for the Bees in the spring. That season he played in an astounding 191 games for the Bees, all of them at shortstop, and hit .267 with 21 home runs and 46 doubles. That winter the majors did come calling. President William F. Baker of the Phillies sent four players and $10,000 to Salt Lake to acquire Sand.16
By then age 25, Sand was immediately installed as the Phillies’ starting shortstop. The great expense president Baker had incurred to acquire Sand created high expectations for the rookie. Those expectations seemed to rattle him. He made 15 errors in his first 10 games of the season, including four in front of the home crowd at Baker Bowl on April 26 in a 14-4 shellacking by the Brooklyn Robins. By June, Sand’s batting average had fallen to .190 and he was benched for several weeks. Phillies manager Fletcher, a former shortstop himself, said that Sand had completely lost his nerve and had become so rattled about not living up to expectations that the only thing to do was to let him ride the bench for a while.17
Fletcher returned Sand to the lineup on July 5, and he promptly made an error that the Philadelphia Inquirer reported cost the Phillies a chance to tie a game they eventually lost, 16-12, in a shootout with the St. Louis Cardinals.18 However, Sand seemed to respond to Fletcher’s patient handling, and his play improved from that point to the end of the season.19 He finished the season hitting .228, and his fielding improved enough to at least be close to the league average, although he did lead the league in errors for a shortstop with 49.
Over the winter, Fletcher expressed faith that his young shortstop would prove to be a mainstay for the Phillies.20 Fletcher’s prophecy came true. Over the next five years, Sand’s play continued to improve, and he was seldom out of the lineup, averaging 143 games played a year.
In his second season, 1924, Sand established himself as a major-league ballplayer. He improved at the plate, as his batting average climbed to .245; in the field, he reduced his errors to 34 and led all National League shortstops in fielding percentage at .959. Sand had the first four-hit game of his career on June 17 in a 6-5 Phillies loss to the Cubs at Baker Bowl. His batting average was over .300 as late as July 4, though it tailed off badly as the season wore on.
The bribe attempt came at the end of that 1924 season and, being just five years removed from the famous Black Sox Scandal of 1919, generated sensational headlines across the country. Suddenly, the obscure shortstop on a second-division ballclub was a well-known name. Judge Landis held hearings in New York City to investigate the matter on September 30 and October 6-7 as the Giants were taking on the Washington Senators in the World Series. O’Connell pointed the finger at coach Cozy Dolan as the man who put him up to the bribe, but he also implicated Giant stars and future Hall of Famers Frankie Frisch, George “High Pockets” Kelly, and Ross Youngs. American League President Ban Johnson called for the World Series to be canceled because of the scandal. Landis ruled that the Series would go on, that O’Connell and Dolan were banned from baseball for life, and that there was no evidence to link Frisch, Kelly, and Youngs to the plot.21 The Giants lost the Series, four games to three, to Walter Johnson and the Washington Senators.
In his report on the investigation, Landis pointedly commended Heinie Sand for his actions in reporting the bribe attempt. Some fans, however, were unimpressed. According to Lowell Blaisdell in Mystery and Tragedy: The O’Connell-Dolan Scandal, Sand was regularly booed as a “squealer.”22 Blaisdell speculated that the incident and the resultant booing may have influenced Sand’s play on the field, but Sand’s continued improvement over the next two years would seem to argue against that.
For his part, Sand had this to say about the incident. “It hurts me to think that my old pal, Jimmy O’Connell, with whom I played on the Coast for several years, should suffer in this case, but when a friend of mine turns out to be crooked I have just to forget that he is a friend. I did not want to be mixed up in this affair one way or the other, but I was afraid that maybe I would slip up in the game against the Giants, and that O’Connell and his friends would say that I threw the game.”23
On April 26, 1925, Sand made his first appearance in New York since the bribery incident. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that in his first at-bat he was booed by a minority of the fans, but the “hoots quickly were drowned out in a roar of applause.”24 Sand, apparently unaffected by the booing, promptly doubled to right field.
During the 1925 season, Sand batted .278 with 30 doubles. Errors remained an issue, though, as he committed a league-high 60 miscues. His 1926 season was almost a mirror image of 1925. Sand hit .272 with another 30 doubles and committed 55 errors. He had a memorable game on April 26 when he went four-for-six with three doubles as the Phillies beat the Giants in 11 innings at Baker Bowl, 6-5. Sand singled in the 11th and was on base when Russ Wrightstone lofted a sacrifice fly to score pitcher Clarence Mitchell with the winning run.
Sand had his best offensive season in 1927. He hit a career-high .299 while splitting time between shortstop and third base. New Phillies manager Stuffy McInnis used veteran Jimmy Cooney, acquired in a June trade with the Chicago Cubs, at shortstop for about half the Phillies’ games. Sand was at third base on September 25 when he had the finest offensive game of his career, going four-for-five with a home run and an RBI as the Phillies beat the Reds at Redland Field in Cincinnati, 8-3.
Another new manager, Burt Shotton, took over the Phillies in 1928 and returned Sand to full-time play at shortstop. Nothing Shotton did helped much, however, as the Phillies fell to the worst record since their inaugural season in 188325 with a record of 43-109. Sand was not immune to the poor play of most of the Phillies’ team. His batting average fell to a career low of .211 and he had lost a step in the field. At the end of the season, the Phillies identified shortstop as one area in need of improvement. In December they traded Sand, along with $10,000, to the St. Louis Cardinals for shortstop Tommy Thevenow. The Cardinals assigned Sand to their Rochester affiliate in the International League; his major-league career had ended.
After one season in Rochester, Sand signed with the International League’s Baltimore Orioles, where he spent the next four years. In 1934, at age 36, Sand wrapped up his professional career closer to home as a utility infielder with the Mission Reds of the Pacific Coast League.
After retiring from baseball, Sand returned to his hometown of San Francisco to work in the family plumbing business. He had married Salt Lake City native Leona Cushing on January 5, 1923.26 The couple had no children. Sand died on November 3, 1958, of respiratory failure. His remains were cremated.
Heinie Sand did not have an especially distinguished major-league career, but he did hold down the premier defensive position on the field as a starter for six consecutive seasons. He still ranks fifth all-time in games played for Phillies shortstops. He is one of a very few players who played in more than 120 games and had 400-plus at-bats in every major-league season he played. Most importantly for posterity, Sand rejected and then reported an attempted bribe at a time when the integrity of professional baseball, still reeling from the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, was very much an open question.
This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and Mike Eisenbath and fact-checked by Larry DeFillipo.
1 Heinie Sand, “Sand Sad at Ruin of O’Connell, But He Had to ‘Come Clean,’” Hall of Fame File.
2 Lowell Blaisdell, “Mystery and Tragedy: The O’Connell-Dolan Scandal,” 1982 SABR Baseball Research Journal, accessed on January 24, 2022.
3 “Bribery Scandal on Eve of World Series,” St. Joseph News-Press, October 2, 1924: 2.
5 Dave Beardsley, “Sand, Who Told of Bribe Offer, Dies,” San Francisco Examiner, November 4, 1958: 25.
6 1920 United States Census.
7 1930 United States Census
8 John Henry Sand File in the National Baseball Hall of Fame library.
9 “Twin Peaks Win Pennant,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 14, 1917: 5.
10 Obituary, In the John Henry Sand File in the National Baseball Hall of Fame library.
11 “Who’s Who” In the John Henry Sand file in the National Baseball Hall of Fame library.
12 “Oh, Genevieve, Sich a Schmear, Sich a Schmear, Genevieve,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 4, 1921: 6.
13 Steve Moloney, “Heinie Sand Celebrates in Great Style,” Salt Lake Telegram, July 5, 1921: 6.
14 “Baseball Magazine Sketches,” in the John Henry Sand File in the National Baseball Hall of Fame library.
15 “Heinie Sand Reported Sold to Seals,” Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah), November 9, 1921: 15.
16 Gordon Mackay, “Duffy Lewis Admits Phils Gave $40,000 to Get Heinie Sand,” Philadelphia Inquirer, December 15, 1922, 22. The players were Roy Leslie, John Peters, John Singleton, and Jimmy Smith. None of these players ever played in the major leagues again, but Leslie, Peters, and Singleton all had good careers at Salt Lake. Smith retired rather than report to Salt Lake. Salt Lake player/manager Duffy Lewis figured the players’ value was $30,000 and suggested that $10,000 in cash was included in the deal.
17 “Rapp Released when Fletcher Shakes ‘Em,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 6, 1923: 18.
18 “Sands Error in Ninth Keeps Fletchermen from Possible Tie,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 6, 1923: 18.
19 Joe Vila, “Fletcher as Manager Praised by His Old Boss,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 27, 1923: 10.
20 “Fletcher Still Has Confidence in John Sand,” In the John Henry Sand File in the National Baseball Hall of Fame library.
24 “Jack Dempsey and 35,000 Other Fans See Phillies Drop Contest to Giants,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 27, 1925: 18.
25 The 1883 Philadelphia Quakers had a record of 17-81.
26 “Baseball Magazine Sketches.”