Herman Long (LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)

Herman Long

This article was written by Dixie Tourangeau

Herman Long (LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)If there had been a draft in the baseball world of 1890, a Chicago-born shortstop likely would have been the number one selection by any of the 24 teams of the three major leagues operating that season. In his prime of the 1890s, and even before, as he made his way toward national stardom, the every-other-day mention of his exploits usually included some noteworthy feat that had amazed ballgame spectators. During his career he was charged with almost 1,100 errors, the most by any player ever, but that didn’t seem to bother most onlookers, especially his own team’s fans. As for his bat, it wasn’t mentioned as frequently, but it was potent. In his first National League game, the phenom clouted two home runs, and when the decade was complete, he had slugged his way to the highest mark.

Herman C. Long was born in the Windy City on April 3, 1866, almost exactly a year after the Lincoln assassination.1 He was the first child born into the German immigrant family of railroad laborer John (aka Johan Lange) and Fredericka Long. The father was from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany, a northern state on the Baltic Sea, and the mother from Prussia, according to the 1880 census. Both had come to America in 1863 and married in 1864. Through the years, census takers badly scribbled the simple last name a few times, it was transcribed as “Song” in 1900. There were at least six sons, Herman, followed by John, Henry, Fritz, George, and Charlie. Trying to track them is frustrating because of the common name and because Herman left home before age 20 to play ball so he is never listed in any Chicago city directory to help match addresses with any of the two dozen John Longs. His family’s suspected address for more than 30 years was 497 West 16th Street, now near the corner of Canal Street. In the 1900 census the mother is listed as having had 10 children, but only five were then alive. At least four other children apparently died before the 1900 census as did son Henry in July 1896. He was a pitcher for Hagerstown (Maryland) and was fatally injured when he slipped while boarding a train.

Chicago newspapers carried almost no detailed information about the city’s neighborhood leagues in the mid-1880s, so whatever reputation Long made for himself is unsubstantiated. There were city semipro teams starting in 1880 when Thomas Edward Barrett organized a league (president for 14 years and Cook County sheriff by 1902). Barrett’s team was the Whitings and Long was on it before 1886. Other papers reported that he was also on the Diamonds roster. Whatever Long’s accomplishments were, they got him invited 600 miles southwest to Arkansas City, Kansas, for the 1887 season. Arkansas City is directly south of Wichita, and four miles from the Oklahoma border at the junction of the Arkansas and Walnut Rivers. “Canal City” grew quickly in the 1880s because of its rail line and residents dreamt of it becoming a thriving metropolis and having a good ball team could enhance that fantasy. Club owners imported several players, including Long, to play in the four-team Kansas State League.

The Arkansas City Daily Republican-Traveler reported on May 14 that games would begin the following week and that its Chicago players would arrive the next night. The first two contests were against nearby Wellington, with Herman playing shortstop and then pitching in 7-6 and 4-1 wins. Long was proclaimed “a dandy” at short by the newspaper and “the best man in the box in Kansas” after his four-hitter in which he had three hits and scored.2 He enjoyed notoriety right away with his fielding abilities as he played several positions. Small leagues often broke apart when one or more members folded or joined better circuits. Arkansas City was good but its financial foundation was shaky. In early August (after 40 games), Long was sold to Emporia (100 miles northeast), which had been in the same circuit but was moving up a notch to the eight-team Western League because St. Joseph, Missouri, dropped out. In his final game for AC, pitcher Long lost to Emporia, 6-5. His Emporia stint started on August 14, when he played center field, batted leadoff, and went 3-for-5 and scored as Emporia lost to Hastings, Nebraska, 8-6. Emporia (6-12) was a bit outclassed in its new environs and disbanded on September 9, after beating Kansas City 11-5 and 14-7. Long was 1-for-5, scoring three runs as the center fielder and then pitching the final Emporia win, going 3-for-6, (single, double, triple) scored thrice again while batting leadoff at the Kelso Park finale. During his entire Emporia employment, the Evening News printed glowing descriptions of Long’s fielding and claimed that he was destined for a higher league.

On Monday, October 17, the name “Long” was in the Chicago Tribune box score for the last-place Diamonds in Chicago’s eight-team City League, which played Sunday games. That Long pitched and caught in a 25-6 rout of the Stars, smacking two doubles and whiffing five.

When the 1888 baseball season opened, Herman was home in Chicago with the Maroons of the eight-club Western Association. Sam Morton was league president and owned the Chicago entry. In an April 16 exhibition, the Maroons beat Adrian “Cap” Anson’s White Stockings, 6-5 in 12 innings. Long dazzled the crowd with his plays at shortstop and scored but was hitless batting cleanup. Morton claimed Herman was “the best ballplayer Chicago ever produced.”3

Long’s multiple talents were soon enjoyed by a wider group of fans. He played all outfield positions, pitched a bit, and saw an occasional game at shortstop. Long’s foot speed and basepath daring almost demanded that he be the leadoff batter. His best game as a Maroon was against St. Paul on Decoration Day (game two); he was 4-for-6, stole four bases, and scored thrice while batting second and playing left field in a 12-3 victory. The St. Paul Globe wrote after the game, “Sam Morton holds Long’s release at a high figure but the chances are that he will soon pose in a league nine as a several-thousand-dollar beauty.”4 By then fans in each Association city expected to see Long perform some astounding feat, and only a few times were they disappointed.

With both teams hovering around the .500 mark, the Maroons dealt Long and third baseman Fred Lange to Kansas City Blues (Western Association) on July 10. The Tribune explained, “Now that Long, believed by many to be the star fielder of the country, has been sold, (White Stockings) President Albert Spalding and Captain Anson give it out that they wanted him. Owner Morton replied, ‘The man who pays the money gets the plum.’”5 In his final appearance for the Maroons, left fielder Long recorded no stat, a 0-for-all in a 9-6 win at Omaha (managed by Frank G. Selee). In his first game for the Blues on July 12 as leadoff batter and right fielder, Long singled, doubled, and scored as Charlie Nichols pitched his first game for Kansas City, a 4-1 win over first-place St. Paul. Nichols was obtained by Blues player-manager Jim Manning after his Southern Association Memphis club folded on June 30. Long would later play behind Kid Nichols for a dozen NL campaigns.

For another two weeks the Blues lingered around .500. On July 31 Manning switched Long to shortstop for the duration of the season. In a 12-inning gem at Exposition Park, Long had four hits, scored twice, batted home the winner, swiped four bases, and dazzled fans by preventing Milwaukee from scoring in the 10th with a great play. Hurler Park Swartzel won the 3-1 nailbiter. Then Long went 4-for-35 with 11 errors over the next eight games. In late August the Blues finally surged behind Nichols’ pitching. From September 1 they were 31-3 but missed the Association pennant by .002 to Des Moines (which played five fewer games and beat them twice in the final week) because the rules said the best percentage took the flag. It was a wild finish as Kansas City owners paid Morton’s Maroons $500 to play four October games in Kansas City instead of Chicago as scheduled. The Blues swept.

In 1889 Long (.275, 137 runs) went with the American Association Kansas City Cowboys under Bill Watkins and finished seventh. Billy Hamilton (.301, 144 runs) was his most talented teammate. Long opened the season in Louisville’s Eclipse Park and in his first Association game had two hits, scored three runs, stole two bases, had six assists, whiffed twice, and made an error in a 7-4 win. In the four-game sweep for KC, Long was 4-for-13, scored seven runs, made 21 assists, had six steals, had four walks, made three errors, and homered off Thomas “Toad” Ramsey in a 14-9 win. The Louisville Courier-Journal needed no more evidence and claimed at the end of the series, “Long is the finest shortstop in the American Association.”6 In another week Long managed a five-hit, four-run game and then a four-hit, two-score performance. In a stretch of 15 games he made 25 hits and scored 28 runs. Near the end of the campaign, he scored in 12 straight contests. Rookie Long was charged with 128 errors that season but his play was still considered on a higher plateau. He was error-free in 57 games and in another 52 had only one miscue of the 136 games he played. The Baltimore Sun said after a twin-bill split on August 1, “In the second game … the general excellence of the field work of shortstop Long was noticeable. Even Long’s two errors were brilliant. He stopped three or four safe hits, which robbed Baltimore of bases.”7 He topped AA shortstops with 335 putouts.

Before the 1890 season began, the baseball world was thrown into chaos by the establishment of the Players’ (Brotherhood) League, a defiant move by a number of players to get better pay and not be tied to one team for however long any owner saw fit. Three eight-team leagues now needed talent and the searches began when the 1889 season closed as teams felt they could not be left out of the hunt. Several Boston players jumped to the PL and club President Arthur Soden hired Selee (of Western Association champ Omaha) to manage whatever revamped version of the Beaneaters he could assemble. Selee’s pickups included Kid Nichols (Omaha), Bobby Lowe (WA Milwaukee), AA batting champ Tom Tucker (Baltimore), and Long. Kansas City stars Long and Hamilton were “wanted” players and both needed to first get officially released, but the price was high. To avoid a nasty contract rights squabble within the NL, the league’s Committee on Players chose to have Boston and Philadelphia reps (both teams claimed Long and Hamilton) draw slips from a hat. Philly got Hamilton and Boston acquired the rights to Long and veteran first baseman Daniel Stearns. Quickly on January 4, Selee went to Chicago and happily got Herman’s signature, while Stearns was never signed and stayed with Kansas City. A few days later Cowboys President John W. Speas told the press that Long’s release was bought for $6,500 by Boston.8 (Because of a prolonged illness, Speas, the Kansas City Distilling Co.-Monarch Vinegar magnate, took his own life with pistol and poison on June 3, 1909, only three months before Long passed.)

Nationally known for his uncanny fielding prowess, Herman debuted on Patriots Day (April 19) at the South End Grounds by launching two home runs in a 15-9 victory over Brooklyn, the eventual NL champion. Parisian Bob Caruthers and William “Adonis” Terry were the victims in the comeback win for John Clarkson. Not to disappoint defensively, Long had seven assists. Even more fans got to know Long on May 31, 1890, when that day’s New York Clipper issue profiled his career previous to Boston.9 When Boston first visited Chicago for a July Fourth doubleheader, Long’s neighborhood admirers presented him with a solid ice pitcher and gold-lined mug during the morning game. Herman’s triple/RBI/run ignited the rally to a 12-2 win but in the afternoon his two errors cost the 6-5 loss. The Beaneaters finished 76-57, fifth behind Brooklyn, and leadoff man Long hit .251/8 HR in only 101 games (injuries). He scored in 12 of his first 14 games, had two 10-game hit streaks before a lame back shelved him in late August when Boston was only three games out of first. Though still hurting, he was 4-for-30 in the season’s final games, which dropped his average to .251. His 95 runs were second-most on the squad. An average-sized player at 5-feet-8, 160 pounds, Long was the only true lefty swinger on the Bostons during his first few seasons.

Economics closed down the PL and when the contract dust cleared for 1891, the Bostons fielded a solid contender. Ex-Beaneater, now also an ex-PL Boston Red, Billy Nash, was back at third base and imported slugging vet Harry Stovey, led the NL in HRs and triples. But it was Long, who missed only one game and topped his team in average, runs, walks, and steals (.282; 129, second in NL; 80; 60) and only Stovey had more extra-base hits. The Beaneaters took their first 1890s flag by 3½ games over Chicago’s White Stockings despite losing the season series to them 7-13. The Sporting News used the same 1890 Clipper text and image of Long in explaining his career path in its July 18, 1891, issue.10

Continued success followed the Beaneaters and Long in 1892-93 as they won both pennants. He hit .280 and .288 while scoring 115 and 149 (tops) runs. It was in June-July 1892 that Long made 12 of his 19 career appearances in the pasture, as the unique split-season ended part one and began part two. A contract problem arose in March 1893, according to the New York Sun. On March 10, Long declared he would not play for Boston that season because his salary was cut (fewer games than 1892), saying, “The terms are out of all proportions to the work expected of me.”11 But a deal was apparently ironed out as Long opened the South End Grounds season by homering on the first pitch by Cannonball Ed Crane of the Giants. He also scored the final run in the 8-6 win, adding a third run, seven assists, and a steal. Most players’ averages spiked in 1894 (second season of pitching distance at 60 feet 6 inches) and Long was in that group. For the next four campaigns he averaged .326/8 HRs/110 runs/30 steals but the Baltimore Orioles won three straight flags before Boston regained the title in 1897. The original “Flying Dutchman” enjoyed a memorable doubleheader on May 30, 1894. While cheering on his Keystone buddy, Bobby Lowe, who lofted four homers into the left-field bleachers in that day’s second game at the Congress Street Grounds, Long (5-for-8) got into the record book as well by scoring nine runs of the combined 30 Boston tallied. He could not use Lowe’s coattails as Bobby was leadoff man and Long batted second. In 125 years since, only Mel Almada (Washington, July 25, 1937, 6-for-9) scored nine times in a twin bill.

In July 1895, smack in the middle of the Beaneaters’ 1890s swoon, two events involved Long. On July 17 he married Annie L. Hillock of Chicago (died March 1930) in their hometown. On that day comments by manager Selee were made known in the national press exposing trouble in the Hub family. “If I had anything to say about it (why didn’t he?), I would put three players on the bench tomorrow. They are Hugh Duffy, Charlie Ganzel and Long. Whenever Ganzel is catching, Duffy is criticising his work and trying to hurt his standing with the club. Ganzel does the same to Duffy. Long has not spoken to Nash in some time. … All of the men play good ball individually but they don’t work together.”12 Boston left in first place for a 26-game road trip (10-15, with one tie). The trip included four games in Cincinnati, where they lost three to the Reds, including a doubleheader on July 17, 12-1 and 6-1. Herman and bride Annie then waited for his club to arrive in Chicago for the next series. With Long back leading off, Boston scored one run again in a third consecutive game, the lowest output all season. This was a 2-1 loss to Clark Griffith.

Long displayed his amazing fielding abilities on September 24, 1897, in Baltimore. The difference in the season proved to be the last dozen games, Boston 8-4, Orioles 5-7. But Baltimore still had a chance on that afternoon, down 6-2 with the bases loaded in the eighth inning. Long leapt into the sky to grab a line drive by Jake Stenzel (.353), choking off that rally. To the chagrin of Orioles fans his performance was not complete. In the ninth the plucky Orioles scored twice and with two more men on base Long once again made a fantastic grab of a certain base hit by NL top batter Willie Keeler (.424),13 a liner that Long caught, then flipped to Lowe at second, doubling off the runner to end the game, 6-4.

Even Long’s tremendous reputation paled in the face of such clutch efforts. The teams split the next two games (Long was 9-for-14 in the three games) and Boston won the flag by two games after the Giants took two from the depressed Birds to end the season. In 1897’s final Temple Cup matchup, Long hit .318 but his rival Baltimore shortstop Hughie Jennings hit .391 and the victorious Orioles averaged 10 runs in the final four games of the best-of-seven set (4-1). Boston finished out the 1890s decade and the nineteenth century by repeating as champs in 1898 but lost out to Brooklyn in 1899 and 1900. Long’s bat plunged to .264/8 HR/88 RBIs/90 runs, over the three-year span, but his 12 circuit clouts in 1900 topped the NL.

Of all Selee’s 1890s’ selections, Herman lasted the longest, even longer than Selee himself and Lowe, who both left Boston after 1901. By then Long had a lame arm and a battered body from 12 NL seasons, hitting just .231 and .213 in 1902-03. Despite three injury-ridden years, he played 91 percent of Boston’s 1890s games. Long’s final series as a Beaneater and in the NL was a five-game set with the Giants in October 1902. Boston won the first four but Long was 0-for-16 with 24 assists and two errors. In the season finale, Giant Ironman Joe McGinnity won, 5-1, but loser Long had a single and five more assists. Completely out of character, Long and new manager Albert Buckenberger “showed up” second baseman Gene DeMontreville by yanking him from the game after his two errors in the meaningless game allowed New York to score three times. In a sour ending, the South End Grounds crowd heckled their longtime hero in his last appearance in Boston garb.

Long hit his final two career home runs that season, May 23 and June 3, both off Cardinal Ed Murphy, who led the NL by tossing seven gopher balls. But Murphy won both games, home and away, 10-6 and 11-9. Long’s favorite long-ball targets over the decade were Jack Powell and Cy Young (four each). Cy split the four games while Powell lost three. Rookie Bert Abbey gave up Long’s last three homers in 1892. Abbey (5-18, seven gopher balls) won two of those games. Long blasted three in a month off New York Giant Bill Carrick in 1900, two on consecutive September days, one being in the year’s wildest game, a 14-14, 11-inning draw. On May 9, 1896, at Louisville, Long hit for the cycle off 264-win hometown legend Gus Weyhing, in a 17-5 victory (four runs, three RBIs).

Defensively, Long’s best stat game was May 6, 1892, in Porkopolis. In the 14-inning, 0-0 epic duel between John Clarkson (8-6) and Cincinnati’s Elton “Icebox” Chamberlain (19-23), Herman had five putouts, 14 assists and only one miscue. Those numbers were not equaled in the nineteenth century and only Tommy Corcoran managed 14 assists (two errors) in a nine-inning game in August 1903. In April 1982 Angels shortstop Rick Burleson made 15, but in 20 innings, three coming after frame 14. Neither had as many total chances. Showing some special longevity, by percentage Long was the best fielding shortstop in the NL in both 1901 and 1902, .946 each campaign. From 1889 through 1903, Long had 14 four-error games and one awful fiver, September 14, 1899 vs. St. Louis at the South End Grounds, in an 11-1 loss.

Only three weeks after the 1902 season ended, AL boss Ban Johnson raided the NL rosters and announced on October 26 the signing of 19 players including Long. Boston was shocked that Herman had decided to pack his bags and go to New York to the new Highlanders team (basically moved/stolen from Baltimore). He lasted until June, hitting .188 in 22 games. His arm was lame and he could not perform his shortstop duties in his accustomed manner. The Detroit Tigers picked him up, and manager Ed Barrow placed him at second base and made him captain. Long’s fielding was inconsistent and he hit only .222 in 69 games. Detroit finished the season in pennant-winning Boston and New York. In his final Boston appearance (at the Huntington Avenue Grounds, across the multi-railroad tracks from the South End Grounds), second baseman Long was 4-for-6 off 20-7 Tom Hughes, a fellow Chicagoan, in a 6-6, 11-inning tie. He thrilled the crowd with five assists. Herman must have glanced over the track barrier once or twice, remembering when he was king for a decade only 500 feet away. Ending his only AL year at New York’s Hilltop Park, where he started that April, Long was 0-for-6 in a win and then got three straight hits in two other games, the last being a pinch-hit single (run) in his (almost) final major-league at-bat in the ninth inning off rookie reliever Merle “Doc” Adkins, who was also playing his final major-league game. New York won 10-4, ending the season.

In 1904 Long was hired to play for and manage the American Association Toledo Mud Hens, which he did until June 24, when he (.242) resigned with the club in last place. The NL Phillies, managed by old teammate Hugh Duffy, offered him a contract that proved to be for one day, July 13. He went 1-for-4 off Patsy Flaherty (19-9) in the 11-0 trouncing at Exposition Park along the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh. He played second base and had four assists and an error in the worst shutout loss of the season for Duffy’s last-place men. The Pittsburgh Press observed, “Long’s whip is in poor shape.”14 That was his major-league finale.

Long’s baseball salvation came on November 18 when he signed to manage and play for the 1905 Des Moines Underwriters in the six-team Western League. Midwest minor-league magnates “Pongo” Joe and Mike Cantillon were responsible for the perfect match as Long joyfully schooled his players each morning on the game’s finer points and stayed healthy for most of the season (.307). In a lengthy piece on April 30 the Des Moines Register printed “Grosspapa” Long’s philosophy: “In baseball there is 65 percent luck and 35 percent noodle work. Almost anyone can catch a ball and field it. Hitting is largely a developed gift, but the good ballplayer is the man who combines head work with all these and unless a man uses his head he will never make a first class ballplayer.”15 Des Moines edged the Denver Grizzlies by four games for the title. Denver was managed by Herman’s longtime NL friend Big Bill Everitt. Long’s best pupils were Claude Rossman (.357 tops), George Hogriever (122 runs, most), Albert “Lefty” Leifield (26-9, best), and Pete Manske (357 innings, most).. On September 28 the game was stopped by umpire Bob Caruthers (first home-run victim) and Long was presented with a diamond set ring on behalf of the players who acknowledged the credit he deserved for their capturing the pennant. The ring was engraved, “To Herman Long from His Friends in Des Moines, 1905.”16 Herman thought he had a chance at the Boston managerial job for 1906 and even visited the Hub as the 1905 season concluded. But it was not to be; old teammate Fred Tenney continued as manager.

There were levels of closure to Long’s career in 1906, which started with the shocking April duo disasters of the San Francisco Earthquake shaking the headlines with Italy’s deadly Mount Vesuvius eruption. He captained Ed Barrow’s (last-place) Eastern League Toronto Maple Leafs for about 30 games (.247). By June 2 he was off to join Bill “Pa” Rourke’s Omaha club in the Western League, where he played second base and hit .213 in 69 games. In his first game, on June 4, he (age 40 and captain) had a hit and four assists in a 2-1, 11-inning loss to Lincoln, Nebraska, at Omaha’s Vinton Street Park. His final games occurred as summer faded to autumn on September 21-22. In another 2-1 loss to Lincoln, Long played shortstop and made four putouts, eight assists, and a double play (one error, 0-for-3) in the 65-minute game. Next day in a split doubleheader, he was 3-for-8, scored, had six assists and an error in each game at Lincoln. He didn’t play in the final games (4-7) and Omaha sank to third place from second, finishing a game below .500. Long’s baseball career ended in Lincoln. On October 2 Arthur Soden sold his (last-place) Boston NL team to Tenney, Roy Thomas, and a Philadelphia businessman. Everything familiar to Herman Long in 1890s baseball was then gone.

Long didn’t have much good fortune after his Boston playing days ended. He and partner Frank A. Sanderson bought the Hawthorne Hotel saloon on Avery Street just off the Boston Common in December 1902 and within two years it was in bankruptcy. His wife, Annie (and daughter Harriett), loved her Chicago roots and refused to move to Denver with him for his final care. That estranged the couple. Long was never a muscular specimen and nearly 20 years of ultra-aggressive ballplaying took its toll. His health began to fade badly in 1907-08 but that didn’t prevent him playing shortstop in an exhibition game in Chicago in April 1907 and a benefit in July 1908 for ChiTown billiard wizard Jake Schaefer (died 1910 in Denver). By 1909 Long was diagnosed with “consumption,” the unstoppable white plague killer of the era. At the time Denver’s clean, thin air was looked upon as a healthy option for those afflicted. His illustrious Boston manager Frank Selee went to the (Frederick W.) Oakes Home for Consumptives in spring 1909 and on July 5 he died there. Long was present to bid his friend and mentor a peaceful eternal rest and the newspapers reported that Long tearfully told Selee, “I’ll soon be with you, Frank.” Long entered the marvelous Oakes facility, a sprawling million-dollar complex on West 32nd Avenue between Eliot and Clay Streets, which was run mainly by an endowment and generous donations, got the same room Selee had and died there on September 16.17 He is buried in Forest Park’s Concordia Cemetery (Chicago) with most of his family.

Various obituaries said that Long had a “love of drink and misdirected generosity” and that he met death “friendless and penniless.”18 One thought was exaggerated and the other just false. Though he did lack any personal finances, his Oakes Home treatment was free. The next morning the Denver Republican remarked, “Since coming to Denver, Long has been cared for by the players of the baseball leagues of the country. When it was known he was not “flush” with money, the players sent funds to Bill Everitt and city clerk Burton F. Davis (treasurer/tobacconist), making the last days of Long full of rest and peace.” Long’s most important and best friend was the Mile High City’s Everitt, the old Chicago infielder, who amassed a nice fortune from the Colorado Wrecking and Building Co. he owned. Everitt visited Long all through the fatal illness, making sure he was comfortable; they took walks when Herman was strong enough. Sporting Life made note of Big Bill’s charitable efforts in its September 5, 1914, issue: “Everitt went to the front and stood good for all the expenses of shipping the short fielder to his native soil (Chicago).” He accompanied the casket personally via train.

Confusingly, a few newspaper datelines and wording have Long passing on September 16, while others say the 17th. The major daily Denver press agree on the 16th and that date appears to be correct. Ironically his biggest 1890s shortstop rival, Jennings, is shown dancing in many of those same papers because he is cajoling his Detroit Tigers to their third straight pennant as the season winds down. Rossman is with the Tigers while Leifield and Long’s old Boston mate Vic Willis are with eventual World Series winner Pittsburgh.

Long’s fielding abilities were a sensation from his first game in Arkansas City. Because he died young, most fans forgot about his spectacular diamond entertainment for a decade-plus. But Long has had some very important supporters, and they pop up time and time again during the early twentieth century. His name is always linked with Jennings of the 1890s Baltimores. They were the spitfire rivals, Jennings having a better batting average and smoother fielding technique, but Long is always seen as the more exciting player, covering more ground than any human should be able to and making plays that constantly astounded patrons. Both were game-day masters of encouraging teammates and ragging the opposition. At shortstop, Long was obsessed with getting to the moving white sphere no matter the consequences. To him, errors were out chances gone awry and seemingly most fans were oblivious as well to any negative impact. Few scolded him for his near-1,100 miscues. Jennings is in the Hall of Fame, while Long is not nearly mentioned as often as he should be for that honor. Some heralded shortstops like Jack Glasscock and Tommy Corcoran simply could not ever do what Long did weekly and Herman certainly was no slouch at the plate.

Hidden in the stats of the 1890s is the fact that Long hit the most home runs in the NL from 1890 to 1900. Slugger Ed Delahanty and willow wizard Hugh Duffy played in other leagues for a year or two while Long’s NL career spanned those 11 seasons perfectly. Even if future Hall members Delahanty’s (81 HR’s, .351) and Duffy’s (85, .330) complete totals were counted, Long is second (83). For the decade (1890-1899), he hit .293 and averaged 40 extra-base hits each season. In addition, Long posted hitting streaks of 23 games in 1895 and 26 games in June-July 1897. He had hit in 13 games previously and Emerson “Pink” Hawley of Pittsburgh prevented his having a 40-game streak (1897). In 1893 he scored in 20 consecutive contests. In the field Long’s only real rival was Jennings but Hughie played only seven near-full seasons of the 11. Each shortstop averaged a shade under seven chances per game and Jennings’s career shortstop fielding mark was .922, Long’s .906.

After Long’s death several sportswriters’ remembrances shed light on how he played. The Omaha Daily Bee noted, “In his day Long was regarded as the king of shortstops. Long’s greatest virtue was resourcefulness. As a heady, tricky player, he had few equals in his day. He was always ready with some surprise to spring in an emergency. Long was never rugged physically. … He was one of those who elevated and magnified the greatness of baseball.”19 The Buffalo Evening News wrote, “Long was a peerless shortstop and ranked among the very best at that position, past or present. All points considered, he never had a superior. He not only was reliable, but made more than his share of brilliant stops and throws.”20 In January 1926, Jennings in his national column, Rounding Third, noted, “Long was a crack shortstop and one of the most sensational fielders of all time. He executed impossible plays.”21 In spring training 1924, Connie Mack was asked about shortstops and chose Jennings and Long (who broke Connie’s ankle on a slide home in June 1893) as the best he saw. “(Long) was a phenom. He was a tremendously hard hitter and he played deeper short field better than anyone. Herman had a great arm and could play deep, cut off many a hit and beat the batter to first base because he had a whip of steel.”22

Part of the Kansas City Times remembrance of Herman was, “Long was the father of a play which for years has been standard in every baseball league. With a man on first it was customary for the second baseman to cover second if the batter was righthanded.”23 It went on to describe that Herman changed that because he started to cover second base himself instead of Lowe. It faked out basestealers several times and onlookers were also astonished when he first did it.

John Henry Gruber, dean of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sportswriters, who started his career in the 1880s and was official Pirates scorer for decades, penned a syndicated column in February 1914, “Players of Other Days, Herman C. Long.” He wrote, “One of the most brilliant infielders the game ever produced was Herman C. Long, intelligent, quick-witted and speedy. His home position was at short, and his work at that station will bear comparison with that of the best in history.”24 An admiring biography followed.

Eleven years later, up popped William Blythe Hanna’s accolades for Long on December 11, 1925, in the New York Herald Tribune. For seemingly no particular reason, Hanna, the longtime baseball and football expert of the New York sports pages, decided Long deserved a remembrance column. “Gleaned in the Field of Sport” was the venue. Hanna was blunt, “Herman Long was the best shortstop I ever saw. Glenn Wright of the Pirates, nor anyone else covered the ground Long did. … Long, the ‘Dutchman’ as he was called, was the best shortstop and the most fiery. He was as sensational in his day as Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb. He was a player with a tremendous personal following, with the magnetism of King Kelly and commonplace in nothing. His vicious throwing and his fondness for first-ball hitting were two of his chief characteristics. As leadoff man he was one of the best because he was a good hitter or a good waiter as occurrences justified. He wasn’t graceful, but he was the last word in energy.”25 James H. “Jimmy” Manning, the veteran player-manager of the Kansas City Blues in 1888, told of putting Long at short when his own arm went lame. Only exaggerating a bit, Manning recalled that after a short time he could not take his job back and he found that he didn’t need a third baseman or second baseman because of what Long was doing.26

Most biased of all, and properly so, was Hall of Fame 300-game winner Charles Augustus “Kid” Nichols, an adversary in the minors and a Beaneaters teammate icon for a decade. It was believed that no one in baseball knew the original Flying Dutchman as well as Kid. As rookies in 1890, Nichols’ first two career shutouts were each 1-0 nailbiters. Long scored both runs as well as tallying in four of Kid’s five other shutouts that year. Nichols recalled, “No man fought harder to win games than Long, but with all of his aggressiveness he never quarreled with the players or umpires. A great many writers have compared him with Jennings as the stars at the midfield position, but I have always given the honors to Long. Jennings was more graceful and probably had more finish, but even with his noise he lacked Herman’s ginger. Herman didn’t worry about errors, he tore in after everything. He had a wonderful arm and it took a mighty speedy runner to beat out an infield hit when he handled the ball. Then, he was one of the most timely hitters in the business.”27

Perhaps the most poignant comments came from a very unlikely source, Montana’s Butte Miner. On September 21, four days after Long’s passing, a lengthy nonbyline story appeared that was not copied from another news outlet. In part it said, “The death of Long removes one of the most notable figures that the national game ever produced. Long was one of the brainiest ball players, a pioneer of the class regarded as the greatest exponents of inside baseball – the men who think quickly. Frank Selee, perhaps the finest judge of players who ever lived, always regarded him as among the greatest ball players of all time. In the game he was the essence of ginger and off the field he was a gentleman. ‘There might have been shortstops who fielded higher averages, but it is doubtful whether the game has ever known a short-fielder of greater all around value to his team,’ long-time Michigan sportswriter Emerson W. Dickerson is quoted, ‘and in this I do not except Hans Wagner. There was a reckless disregard of possible errors in Long’s play which is sadly lacking in present-day players. In a season the Dutchman reached perhaps 50 balls which ordinary shortstops do not try for.’ A testimonial benefit was given (for Long) about two years ago, when he broke down under the long strain of many years of play, a sufficient amount to make his remaining days comfortable. Yes, Herman Long of German descent and who spoke it fluently, was called the Dutchman way before John Honus Wagner arrived in 1897.”28

 

In January 1911 Fred Tenney, a manager in Boston and New York and Long’s old target at first base, wrote several articles for the New York Times on various baseball topics. One was about “Famous Shortstops” he knew. In part and with a possible bias, he wrote, “Long was far and away the best man from 1890 to 1894. He was the most marvelous ground coverer ever developed at that time. He seemed to know where a batter would hit the ball and always moved to that point. He made more spectacular plays than any man before or since. He was remarkably strong in handling thrown balls, and touching base runners and (on offense) was a wonderful base runner and run getter.”29

Finally, an iconic adversary and keen analyst of decades worth of baseball players had this to say, from the grave. About a week after his death in 1934 the Pittsburgh Press ran an interview that had been done about three weeks before with this baseball legend. The byline read “Daniel” and his question was simply who were the best double-play combo – Tinker and Evers? “Hell no,” came the gruff reply. “The greatest pair for making two out were Dutch Long and Bobby Lowe of the Boston Nationals. They were remarkable infielders and they played alongside each other for so many years that knew by instinct and habit what each would do in a given situation,” observed John Joseph McGraw.30

In his 1994 classic The Beer and Whisky League, author David Nemec’s peerless in-depth research illuminated a huge injustice to Long: “His play brought him more votes than all but seven other nineteenth-century players when the Hall of Fame conducted an initial poll in 1936. Long is the only finisher among the top 12 (now 14) in the first Old Timers’ ballot who is not enshrined.”31

At their SunTrust Park in Cobb County, Georgia, the Atlanta Braves pay tribute to players from their entire history dating to 1871 in Boston. Along the Monument Garden walkway there’s only one nineteenth-century player whose name/picture banner hangs from a 30-foot pillar among the many more modern Braves. It is Herman Long, who resides in the top 10 of many franchise categories; first in stolen bases (434), third in triples, fourth in runs and sacrifices, fifth in hits, sixth in RBIs, and eighth in games played. He was inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame in 2005.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted Ancestry.com, Harold Kaese’s The Boston Braves, an Informal History, Dave Nemec’s Major League Baseball Profiles 1871-1900 Vol. 1, David L. Porter’s Biographical Dictionary of American Sports: Baseball, Baseball Reference.com, Long’s player file from the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library, Baseball America’s Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, Sun Trust Park Memorial Garden (Atlanta Braves), and the following newspapers: Baltimore Sun, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Boston Evening Transcript, Buffalo Evening News, Butte (Montana) Miner, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Inter Ocean, Cincinnati Enquirer, Denver Post, Denver Republican, Des Moines Register, Detroit News, Emporia (Kansas) Evening News, Kansas City Star, Kansas City Times, Louisville Courier-Journal, New York Clipper, New York Herald Tribune, Omaha Daily Bee, Pittsburgh Press, Rocky Mountain News, and The Sporting News.

 

Notes

1 Throughout Long’s career and 50 years beyond his death, almost all references to his birth say April 3. Then in June 1964, his nephew Dr. Clyde Hillock Jacobs corresponded with Baseball Hall of Fame librarian Lee Allen. Jacobs filled out a questionnaire about Long and wrote that his birth was April 13, 1866. Whether a simple error in family memory, a typo or something else, since that paper was placed on file, researchers have used the April 13 date as gospel. Dr. Jacobs was born in 1912 and admitted not knowing very much about Herman or his life, which was his reason for contacting the Hall Library. His posted September 17 death date was also incorrect.

2 “7 to 6” and “How Our Boys Play Well,” Arkansas City (Kansas) Daily Republican Traveler, May 18 and 19, 1887: 5.

3 “Twelve Innings Played,” Chicago Tribune, April 17, 1888: 6.

4 “On the Diamond – Turn About Fair Play,” St. Paul Globe, May 31, 1888: 4.

5 “Western Association – Changes in Maroon Club,” Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1888: 3.

6 “Another Game Lost – Notes,” Louisville Courier-Journal, April 21, 1889: 5.

7 “Each Club Won a Game (Some Notable Points),” Baltimore Sun, August 2, 1889: 6

8 “Says Long Cost Boston Club $6,500,” Boston Globe, January 10, 1890: 5.

9 New York Clipper, May 31, 1890: Vol. 38, No. 12: 185.

10 The Sporting News, July 18, 1891: Vol. 12, No. 9: 1.

11 “Long Refuses to Play for Boston,” New York Sun, March 11, 189:, 4.

12 “Trouble in the Boston Team,” Chicago Tribune, July 18, 1895: 4.

13 Per Retrosheet. The Reach Guide and the Minor League Encyclopedia each have his average at .432.

14 “Shutout for the Phillies – Baseball Notes,” Pittsburgh Press, July 14, 1904: 12.

15 Tracy Garrett, “In the West with the Underwriters,” Des Moines Register, April 30, 1905: 23.

16 “Des Moines Takes Second of Series,” Des Moines Register, September 29, 1905: 7.

17 “Herman Long Is Out, Tuberculosis Tags Him,” Rocky Mountain News, September 17, 1909: 8.

18 “Herman Long Dead,” Sporting Life, September 25, 1909: 2.

19 “Judgments,” Omaha Sunday Bee, September 19, 1909: 30.

20 “Famous Shortstop Passes Away,” Buffalo Evening News, September 17, 1909: 60.

21 Hugh A. Jennings, “Rounding Third – Fielding with the Feet,” Des Moines Register, January 2, 1926: 9.

22 S.O. Grauley, “Connie Mack Picks Jennings and Long,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 9, 1924: 18.

23 “The End to Herman Long,” Kansas City Times, September 17, 1909: 4.

24 John H. Gruber, “Old Time Players – Herman Long,” The Sporting News, March 5, 1914: 4.

25 William Blythe Hanna, “Gleaned in Fields of Sport,” New York Herald Tribune, December 11, 1925: 27.

26 “Was a Great Ballplayer,” Kansas City Star, September 17, 1909: 13.

27 Tannehill A. Mark, “Get the Brush – Baseball Notes,” Boston Globe, June 3, 1903: 5.

28 “Herman Long Dead,” Butte Miner, September 21, 1909: 3.

29 Fred Tenney, “Famous Shortstops Tenney Has Known,” New York Times, January 22, 1911: 29.

30 Daniel [sic], “Double Play Kings? Long, Lowe Choice of McGraw,” Pittsburgh Press, March 4, 1934: 19. “Daniel” was the byline affected by Dan Daniel, a longtime New York sportswriter.

31 David Nemec, The Beer and Whisky League (New York: Lyons and Burford, 1994), 169.

Full Name

Herman C. Long

Born

April 13, 1866 at Chicago, IL (USA)

Died

September 17, 1909 at Denver, CO (USA)

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