Stay Home With SABR: Dispatches from the Boston Chapter

Editor’s note: During our Stay Home With SABR initiative, enjoy these light-hearted Dispatches From the Mudville Bureau by Joanne Hulbert of SABR’s Boston Chapter to stay engaged with baseball until the games return. Check out what’s new and keep up with all the news in the Boston Chapter on Facebook at BostonSABR or on Instagram at @sabrboston.

Fenway Park

To view earlier entries from this series, click on a link below:

 


SEPTEMBER 25, 2020 — This dispatch is a little late this week due to a local historical disaster in Holliston, Mass., of another kind. The large, precariously balanced boulder that was once visited by George Washington in 1789 and had attempted to push the rock off its precariously tilted angle, suddenly slipped off its base, and is now at a most unimpressive location on the ground. Ah! Holliston’s most iconic landmark! As I am the Town Historian (which requires me to comment on such events) I spent all day Wednesday fielding inquiries, comments and remarks about the tragedy to various outlets from Boston to London, and now that the historic disaster is now settled a kilter in our minds (you can Google it), I can return to baseball, and report on another local, historic event that occurred along the very same road that still passes from Cambridge to Holliston to Douglas and beyond, that Washington traveled in November, 1789. At least George did not encounter a collision – but someone else did in 1946.

More than 10,000 people were expected to swarm into Douglas, Massachusetts on August 27, 1946 for a major league game to be played in their town that week. The local ball field had been manicured to big league specifications and fitted with a permanent grandstand and all the portable bleachers that could be found anywhere in central Massachusetts. Douglas, that delightful old town was celebrating its 200th anniversary and was also a Welcome Home for war veterans, for a town that sent 375 of its men and women to the war effort and had received 14 gold stars. The day before there was the grand parade, air show, clambake and  historical exhibit, but on this day, the Red Sox and Cleveland Indians were coming to Douglas to play on their baseball field. The entire community was anxiously watching the weather, for if it rained, the town’s anniversary party would be considered over and done, as there was no way to postpone the ball game that would mark the culmination of a week of festivities.

The town of Douglas was proud of its baseball heritage. Famed names had appeared on its ball field. Players of enduring fame – Louis Soxalexis, Jack Chesbro, Clark Griffith, Billy Hamilton, Harry Harper, Jack Barry, Ernie Shore, Bullet Joe Black and no doubt any inhabitant of Douglas could conjure up a few more names. Lefty Grove at the top of his game pitched a game for Douglas against Worcester for an honorarium of $300 plus $10 per strikeout, and struck out 18 Worcester batters. Bump Hadley pitched there. Hank Greenberg, believe it our not, started there. So did Wes Ferrell, Bill Summers, and Tom Dunn started umpiring there. Douglas was looking forward to a great day for baseball and for the town – “Weatherman! Stand your distance!” so said everyone in Douglas.

 

TED WILLIAMS ESCAPES INJURY IN HEAD-ON CRASH AT HOLLISTON

“Holliston, Aug. 27, 1946. – (AP) – Slugger Ted Williams, the powerhouse of the Boston Red Sox’ pennant drive, escaped with nothing more serious than a slightly strained leg today when his 1946 model automobile crashed head-on with another car today on a rain-drenched highway.

Was Driving to Douglas

Major league baseball’s top homerun hitter was driving his wife, Doris, and State Trooper and Mrs. John Blake to an exhibition game with the Cleveland Indians which was to be a feature of the 200th anniversay celebration of the nearby town of Douglas. The game later was rained out.

Blake suffered a cut on the head and both Mrs. Williams and Mrs. Blake were shaken up. Williams’s car collided with an automobile driven by George Doncaster of Holliston with his wife as passenger. The Doncasters also were shaken up but like the occupants of the Williams automobile, responded to the treatements of Red Sox Trainer Win Green.

Williams’s machine, Police Chief Lewis T. Holbrook said, was running ahead of a bus carrying both the Boston and Cleveland players. At East Holliston, Holbrook explained, Doncaster turned left to enter a filling station and the automobiles met head-on. Both automobiles had to be towed away. Williams’s car, driven less than 500 miles, had a crushed front bumper and smashed radiator.

“I’m all right,” Willliams said afterward, worrying more about where he could get a new car if this one couldn’t be fully repaired.” Williams was confident he would be able to take over his left field berth against the Detroit Tigers in Boston tomorrow. Club officials said the Sox would keep their postponed Douglas engagement by playing the Washington Senators there September 26.” — Springfield Republican, pg. 11, August 28, 1946.

 

Boston Herald, August 28, 1946

Boston Herald, August 28, 1946

 

TOWN GIVES TED WILLIAMS CAR FOR ONE SMASHED UP IN WRECK
None Injured in Holliston Crash

The luck of the Red Sox in 1946 held yesterday when their star slugger, the leading home run hitter of both leagues, and the idol of fandom, Ted Williams, escaped injury in a motor accident in East Holliston, although his new car was badly damaged.

The lanky outfielder’s immediate concern was whether his shiny sedan could be repaired. He was spared further worry a few hours later when the townseople of East Douglas last night made the surprise announcement that they were giving both Williams and Joe Cronin, the Sox manager, new cars.

His companion, contrary to early reports, was not Rudy York, but a friend, Cpl. John Blake of the state police. Blake was cut on head and Mrs. Doris Williams, wife of Ted, was shaken up. Mrs. Blake, also in the car, was not hurt.

The Williams car was ahead of two buses containing Red Sox and Cleveland players. The party was on the way to East Douglas, where the two teams were to have played an exhibition game.

As the Williams car was travelling south on Washington street, another, driven by George H. Doncaster of Cottage Drive, Holliston, approached from the opposite direction. The cars met, head on. Doncaster and his wife were shaken up and were  treated by Win Green, the Red Sox trainer.

 

LEG SLIGHTLY STRAINED

“Green later said that a thorough examination of the Sox powerhouse revealed nothing more serious than a slightly strained leg that would not have prevented him from playing in yesterday’s exhibition contest if it had not been rained out. There was no suggestion that Ted might be unable to troll in left field today when the Sox take on the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park. “I’m all right,” he said. “The only thing I’m  worrying about is where I can get a new car if this one can’t be fully repaired.” — Boston Herald, August 28, 1946:1, 21.

 

NEVER HEARD OF HIM!

“Holliston, Mass., Aug. 28. – (AP). – Ted Williams may be the idol of hundreds of thousands of baseball fans, but George S. Doncaster, 58 years old, never heard of him until their automobiles collided here yesterday.

“Gee, Dad, that was Ted williams in the other car,” said Doncaster’s 18 year-old daughter, Shirley, when she learned the Red Sox outfielder’s identity.

Doncaster nodded, informed but apparently unimpressed.

“Dad didn’t know who Ted Williams was,” Shirley explained. “He never heard of him.”

“Gee,” she added,  “it really is something to be bumped into by someone like Ted Williams, but it wasn’t so good for our car.” – Seattle Daily Times, pg. 15, August 28, 1946.

 

AUTO INJURIES KEEP BLAKE FROM DUTY

“Cpl. John C. Blake, of the Salisbury Beach state police barracks, is expected to be off duty for several more days because of injuries received in a recent motor vehicle accident in Holliston. Patrolman Carl Larson is in charge in his absence. Cpl. Blake received injuries to his right hand and a bad head cut in the accident. Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox slugger driver of the car, escaped injury.” — Newburyport Daily News and Herald, August 30, 1946:1.

 

“George Doncaster was a man alone in Holliston, Mass. He doesn’t want a ticket to the World Series and doesn’t want to hear the name of Ted Williams mentioned. Mr. Doncaster was living peacefully until his car was in collision with one driven by the home-run slugger. Since then he’s been kidded constantly “just because I didn’t know the man.” He was doubly irked when Williams was promised a new car after the crash in which the Doncaster  machine was wrecked.” — Omaha World Herald, pg. 13, September 11, 1946.

 

East Holliston, at the corner of Washington and Concord Streets

Of course, word got out quickly what was happening in East Holliston, at the corner of Washington and Concord Streets (seen above). Walter’s Dairy, the local restaurant, had a front seat view of the incident and calls were made to the Framingham and Milford newspapers – as well as a call to Chief of Police Lewis T. Holbrook, who promptly arrived on the scene. As is usual at such an event, the entire story was obtained from the excited witnesses and bystanders. At least six different stories were obtained by the reporter, and the final story was obtained from Chief Holbrook. The Milford Daily News reporter did mention that Ted would get a new car, that he and Bobby Doerr would get shotguns, and the Red Sox and Cleveland Indians, who did proceed on to Douglas despite the bad weather, would receive jackets. Umpire Bill Summers and Cleveland manager Lou Boudreau both received washing machines. Tickets held by fans for the game could be refunded, or saved for a future game – which would be played later in September.

The news reporter did not reveal what was told by Alex Rossini, who had run out from Walter’s Dairy to see what was happening. He had offered Williams and  Blake and their wives coffee and doughnuts while they waited for the accident scene to be cleared. Apparently Mrs. Williams did not like the coffee, (good thing there was no Yelp back then) and also it was not reported in the newspapers that when Chief Holbrook arrived, he was unceremoniously relieved of duty by Cpl. Blake who said he would be taking over the accident investigation. All this, passed down as local history that did not get recorded in print for posterity. The news report also did not  mention that when Alex Rossini approached the scene with his camera, the film was also unceremoniously removed from the camera by Cpl. Blake.  Therefore,there are  no photos for posterity, other than the photo of the car with the sadly crumpled hood and grill. Perhaps, if there had been traffic lights at at the corner in 1946, Ted’s car might have survived the trip intact.

 

YANKS SHADE RED SOX, 8-7 AT EAST DOUGLAS

“East Douglas, September 26, 1946. – Nearly 12,000 baseball fans gathered in this picturesque little Blackstone Valley town today to watch the New York Yankees edge the champion Red Sox 8-7, in an exhibition game which climaxed Douglas’ 200th anniversary celebration.

“Steve Souchock’s three-run homer off lefthander Clem Dreisewerd in the sixth inning, decided a free-hitting battle which was staged in a carnival setting and which found the big leaguers enjoying themselves almost as much as the admiring townsfolk. This was a half-holiday in East Douglas. Stores and mills were closed, school was out and everybody went to the ball game. Most went in hopes of seeing baseball’s big wallopers, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio hit a home run.

“Neither Williams nor Joe DiMaggio could belt the ball out of the park for the cheering fans, but this pair combined for the day’s feature play in the third inning. Then Ted lined a terrific drive into right, it appeared a certain three-run homer, but just as the ball was about to settle among the spectators, the far-running Joe DiMaggio hauled it down with a leaping glove-hand catch right in front of the stands.”

 

PLAYERS RECEIVE MANY PRESENTS

“Each of the visiting Boston and New York players was presented a jacket. Williams and Bobby Doerr of the Red Sox and Joe DiMaggio and Joe Gordon of the Yankees received automatic shot guns. Umpire Bill Summers, who hails from nearby Upton, was given an electric washing machine. And Joe Cronin, Boston manager, was officially presented the new sedan automobile which East Douglas fans gave him. After the game Win Shuster, the game sponsor, gave the visiting leaguers suiting for clothes.” — Boston Herald, September 27, 1946:36.

 

Soldiers Field, Douglas, Massachusetts, September 2020

Soldiers Field, Douglas, Massachusetts, September 2020

 

WILLIAMS PROVES CHARMER AT “MIKE’

“Say! Why didn’t you tell us that Ted Williams, no matter what his baseball ability might be at this stage of the season, is a regular charmer as a broadcaster?

FEMININE FAN LIKES WAY TED BROADCASTS

“This is what several fans tossed at us late yesterday afternoon, after they had heard Timber Ted do his stuff on WHDH from the East Douglas exhibition game between the Sox and the Yanks.

“Why, I’d become a little prejudiced against Ted for various reasons,” admitted one female fan. “But I was delightfully surprised by the way he did his broadcasting when he took over for a couple of innings down there in East Douglas. He seemed entirely at home, not a mite nervous, had a good, lively vocabulary and you could understand every word he said, which he pronounced smoothly and well, too, The last part’s diction, isn’t it?

“Don’t know what the top broadcasters get for money, but I suppose the star ball player gets more money. However, I’d say, off hand like, that Williams today proved to me that he can broadcast for a living if he need to take to the air to keep the wolf away from the door.

“I don’t know how or what he writes, but it would be all right with me if he goes on the air after the world series games in St. Louis or Brooklyn and tells his ideas of what happened.”

“Then a savvy fan called and said Ted almost told too much in his broadcasting.

“Why he even said what signal Manager Joe Cronin gave at third base!” he exclaimed in semi-horror.

“He’s telling what the pitch was before the umpire gave his decision as to ball or strike. He said it as a screw ball, a sinker, a slider or a curve, and I admit I got quite a kick out of it when he turned to Bump Hadley, the broadcaster, and said, ‘Hey Bump, this is fun and you tell me you get paid for it.” — Burt Whitman, Boston Herald, September 27, 1946:36.

 

WILLIAMS DAMAGE SUIT SETTLED OUT OF COURT

“Boston Mass., (INS) – Boston Red Sox Slugger Ted Williams Monday settled out of court a 16-thousand-dollar damage suit filed against him as a result of an automobile crash in 1946.

“The action was brought by George S. Doncaster, his wife, Ina, and their daughter, Shirley, for injuries suffered in the crash which occurred as Williams was driving to take part in an exhibition game. Amount of the settlement was not disclosed.” — Omaha World Herald, pg. 16, October 3, 1950.

 

Gloucester Day at Fenway Park: “September 25, 1920: The final game of the series with the Philadelphia Athletics was “Gloucester Day,” and the fans from the North Shore will turn out to honor Stuffy McInnis of the Red Sox and Ralph Foster “Cy” Perkins of the Athletics, who hail from Gloucester.” — Boston Daily Globe, September 25, 1920:4.

Not So Random Baseball Item: “Pellagrini May Have Made Last Appearance in Boston Woolens.” — Boston, September 25, 1946. – It was Johnny Pellagrini Day here at Fenway park yesterday afternoon, but strange as it may seem, it was perhaps one of the oddest “Days” ever accorded a player in the annals of major league baseball.

“Strange because Johnny has seen very little service with the World Series bound Red Sox. And still stranger because it’s hardly a secret that “Roxbury Johnny” will be wearing the woolens of either the Washington Senators or the New York Giants . . . . or it could be some other major league entry . . .  before another baseball season rolls around.” —Lin Raymond, Boston Herald, September 25, 1946:7.

 

Happy birthdays:

  • Lars Anderson, born September 25, 1987, first baseman, left fielder, 2010-12
  • Rocco Baldelli, born September 1981, Woonsocket RI, centerfielder, 2009
  • Joel Pineiro, born 1978, pitcher, 2007
  • Reggie Jefferson, born 1968, DH, first baseman, leftfielder, 1995-99
  • Eric Hetzel, born 1963, pitcher, 1989-90
  • Greg Mulleavy, born 1905, shortstop, 1933
  • Hoge Workman, born 1899, pitcher, 11 games, 1924
  • Ed Chaplin, born 1893, catcher, pinch hitter, 1902-22
  • Matt Zieser, born 1888, pitcher, 2 games, 1914

Reporting from the Boston Chapter, where finally the Red Sox won a game against the Yankees, a heartening thing for sure, but bad news came from Fenway Park. Gordon Edes, Team Historian has been laid off, sent out to join many of us in the unemployed line, and we do hope he will eventually get back to his job one day, sooner we hope, than later.

— Joanne Hulbert


SEPTEMBER 18, 2020 — Another baseball player from the September 4 Dispatch deserves a closer look. The story about Lew Brown goes far beyond the report of an alleged theft, and he should be remembered for much more than a missing watch and chain.

CHARGED WITH ROBBERY

“Lewis Brown, a well-known base ball player, was arrested yesterday by Patrolmen Fernald and Bench of the Fifth Police, charged with robbing Max Nolte of a gold watch and chain, valued at $125, on the night of the 9th inst. Nolte is the janitor of Turn Hall, and on the night in question the bar-tenders were holding a ball at that place. It is alleged that a slight disturbance took place, during which Nolte was hustled about very lively, and falling into Brown’s hands came out of the melee minus his watch, which he charges Brown with taking. The accused party was searched, but the property was not found, the claim being then made that he passed the watch along to an accomplice. The next day Nolte received a letter asking him to meet a certain unnamed party at Mrs. Mealey’s saloon at the North End, with $50 and for that sum he could have his watch. He kept the appointment, but Mrs. Mealey was advised of what was going on and made a fuss about it so that the restitution did not take place. Mr. Nolte was prepared to pay the $50, thinking he probably could not get his watch any cheaper. He was followed from the saloon by another man, who offered to have the watch restored for $25. The offer was accepted and for that sum the property was sent to the owner. This last broker will now be looked after in connection with the case. Brown obtained bail very soon after being arrested, and stoutly denies the allegation against him.” — Boston Journal, December 1884:3.

 

Lewis Brown (Boston Daily Globe, January 19, 1889:1.)
Boston Daily Globe
, January 19, 1889:1.

 

Lewis J. Brown, born Leominster MA, Feb. 1, 1858. Died Jan. 15, 1889. Catcher, first baseman. Boston 1876-77, (National League), 1883 (Union Association) ; Providence 1878-79, 1881: Chicago 1879; Detroit 1881; Louisville 1883, (American Association)

Who was Lewis J. Brown? Lew certainly got around. One of his claims to fame during his lifetime was his “discovery” of left fielder “Tip” O’Neil. It happened this way, as told by Boston Globe writer Charlie Foley, a veteran baseballist himself:

“In the month of April, 1880, Harry Wright suspected that Lew Brown, who was catcher of the Bostons at the time, was holding too many séances with his old spiritualistic friend, John Barleycorn, so Harry immediately suspended Lew for the remainder of the season. I was playing with the Bostons at the time, and I endeavored to get Lew back in the club again by telling Harry Wright that Lew had been led astray. Harry remained obdurate, and told me that if Lew had been led astray it must have been before the war. Shortly after Lew’s suspension, he went to Canada to catch for O’Neil, who was at that time pitching for the Woodstock [Ontario] club. No man had ever been found to catch O’Neil until “The Horse” (Brown) made his appearance; and the ease with which Lew handled “the cannon ball pitcher,” as O’Neil was called, fairly electrified the natives. Woodstock won the championship of Canada, and the town was not big enough to hold Brown and O’Neil. They were dined, wined and toasted and the mayor of Woodstock thought seriously of making “The Horse” chief of police; but as Lew had sworn allegiance to the United States “the graft didn’t come off,” as Brownie puts it. In 1881 Lew went to Detroit and brought O’Neil with him as change pitcher. Brown’s arm was lame and as nobody else could hold O’Neil, Bancroft reluctantly let him go.” — Charles J. Foley, Boston Daily Globe, October 17, 1887:8.

 

MAY LOSE HIS LEG
Lew Brown, the Old Ball Player, Seriously Injured

“Lew Brown, the ball player who was a well known member of the Boston nine some years ago, is now at the City Hospital in this city suffering from a fractured knee pan, received while wrestling with a friend a week ago last Thursday at a sporting resort on Lagrange street. Brown threw his man and in doing so came down on a stone cuspidor, receiving what proved to be a bad fracture of the knee pan. For the last two days he has been delirious, and the physicians say that the leg will have to be amputated at the knee. Brown weighs over 200 pounds, and is one of the best known of all the retired ball players. He was a member of the Lowells, Boston, Providences, Chicagos, Detroits, Boston Unions and several minor clubs.” — Boston Daily Globe, Jan. 12, 1889:5.

 

DEATH OF LEWIS J. BROWN
One of the Best Known Players in His Day Has His Last Inning

“Lewis J. Brown, one of the best known of the professional base ball players which this city has produced, breathed his last at the city hospital yesterday morning, his death being caused by pneumonia, superinduced by the fracture that he received recently of his knee pan.

“Brown first attracted notice as a ball player as a member of the Stars of this city, who used to play on the Common some 15 years ago. Morrill was a member of the same club, as was also Charley Foley. In 1875 Brown was engaged to catch for the Lowell club and his heavy batting and strong work behind the bat brought him to the attention of the Boston management, who secured him for the next season. He was a member of the Boston nine for 2 seasons, and then went to Providence. He afterward filled engagements at Detroit and Chicago. He did little regular work between 1878 and 1884, when he played with the Boston Unions, catching for “Dupee” Shaw. He caught in his games without gloves or mask, and was absolutely fearless in his handling of the ball. At the bat he was a dangerous man for pitchers to trifle with. Many a twirler can testify to the way that he has been pounded by Lew Brown.” — Boston Herald, January 17, 1889:8.

 

LEW BROWN’S LAST SLEEP
Funeral of the Once Famous Catcher
Old-time Associates Gather ‘Round the Bier
Tim Murnane’s Reminiscences of the Dead Player’s Palmy Days

“Lew Brown is at peace with the world. He was taken to his narrow resting place in Forest Hills cemetery yesterday. “Lew” was famous wherever the national game was known, and for several years was unequalled in his style and knowledge of the catcher’s position. The funeral was held from 22 Lagrange street. The pall bearers, with one exception, were associates of Brown in the past: Harry Schafer, Joe Hornung, John Manning, Lon Knight, Mike Slattery, Tommy Bond and the writer [Murnane].

“The services were brief but impressive. John L. Sullivan sent a magnificent floral offering, the “Gates Ajar.” He was an old friend of Brown. The only relative of the dead man present was his widowed mother.

“ ‘Lew’ Brown was scarcely 30 years of age. For 5 years one of the leading ball players of the league, a catcher who could play behind the bat in every game, he was never known to have an argument with a fellow player. Brown was as stiff as an oak tree and as supple as the willow, and yet he weighed over 200 pounds. With all his strength he was of timid disposition. I remember an occurrence in the fall of ’84. The Boston Unions were playing a Sunday game in Kansas City. There was a tremendous crowd present, and among the rest were several cowboys. A dispute delayed the game and the cowboys became a little anxious.

“Bang! Bang! Went a revolver in one corner of the field — the cowboys’ salute. Brown got nervous, turned pale, came to me and said:

“Say, for goodness’ sake give them anything they want —

”Bang! Bang!

“Or we will all be shot before we get through.”

“I saw that he was in dead earnest, and went on with the game without delay. And yet this same Brown once offered to catch a cannon ball. It was at the Boylston Museum, nearly 10 years ago. In one part of the performance they brought a cannon on the stage and shot a ball from it that some one caught. Brown went to the management and offered to catch the same ball fired at any speed the cannon would stand, for $2500, and I really believe he would have attempted it. I have seen him handle pitching that most any man of the present day would need a net to stop.

“He has played very little since 1884, but now and then could be seen in some of the open lots along Columbus avenue, enjoying a game with the boys. He delighted in pitching to them, having an idea they could not pick out a good ball. The last game I ever saw him play was in one of those amateur contests, near Columbus avenue during one of the hottest days of last summer.

“In my experience of over 18 years of base ball, I never saw a ball batted as far as I saw Brown hit one in ’78 in Cleveland. Berkalaw was pitching, and the game was very close. When Brown came to the bat he caught a slow curve on the end of his stick, drove it high in the air, and out over the tall trees in left field. He was at third base before the ball went out of sight almost a block beyond the left field fence. The last professional game Brown ever caught was on the St. Louis Union Grounds, Oct. 17, ’84, and I don’t believe he ever caught a better one. Dupee Shaw was pitching, and the Boston Unions were determined to win if possible. It was the last game that the Union Association would play as an organization. St. Louis had such players as Dunlap, Joe Quinn, Charley Sweeney, Orator Shafer, Seery and Henry Boyle in their ranks, and was one of the strongest clubs in the country. Shaw pitched a great game, and Brown nailed every man that started for second. At the close of the game the score stood 5 to 0 in favor of the Boston boys.

“Brown was up to all the fine points of play, and yet made little show. While a member of the Unions he would try to instruct such players as Slattery, Crane and Hackett, and would get worried when they would not pay him proper attention. He always spoke in praise of Manager Harry Wright, and said that he had taught him many good points in the game. Brown was instrumental in bringing to the front Tip O’Neill, the leading batsman of the American Association, whom he found in the wilds of Canada. He was the person who first discovered that Dupee Shaw was a pitcher, and prevailed upon him to practice for the box. He delighted in being known by the nom de plume of the “Hoss.”

“Nothing ever seemed to dampen his boyish spirits. But good fellows must go, and Lew Brown has followed Al McKinnon and “Chub” Sullivan, all members of the famous Stars of Boston in 1873-4, and all great league players. John Morrill is the only one of that crowd of brilliant ball players that remains on the field, while Charlie Foley, Brown’s old partner, is ill at his home in this city” — T.H. Murnane, Boston Daily Globe, January 19, 1889:1.

“Lew Brown dead and buried! How strange it seems. Lew Brown was scarcely 30 years of age,” says an esteemed contemporary. The writer and Brown joined the Lowell club in 1875. The writer was then 19 years of age; Lew Brown was 18.” – Charles J. Foley, Boston, January 19, 1889 (printed in Boston Herald on January 21, 1889)

A “knee pan” is better known as a patella. The extent of his injury is not clear, and a patella fracture, although painful, is today not a serious injury, and rarely requires surgery. Unless the injury was an open fracture — seems rather unlikely — how did it advance to a threatened amputation and pneumonia? Compartment syndrome? Wound site infection? The possibilities are several, but today’s routine medical advances would have saved many back at that time, just as modern fire safety regulations would have saved so many at the Iroquois Theater and the Cocoanut Grove fires.

Bob Lemoine has written a wonderful biography on Lew Brown for SABR’s BioProject. I encourage everyone to look it up!

I wonder about a couple of things. The Baseball Encyclopedia and Total Baseball both list Lew Brown’s nickname as “Blower” while apparently he was delighted in being called “Hoss.” Was Lew “Hoss” Brown sometimes referred to as “Blower?”

Lew Brown (Blower), formerly of the Bostons, is playing ball in Canada. Lew says it was not he whom Sullivan so soundly threshed in a Boston saloon several weeks ago, and Lew ought to know. — Cincinnati Commercial, May 29, 1882:7.

Lew “Hoss” Brown was not THE “Blower” Brown. The original “Blower” Brown was a popular British pedestrian who had won the long-distance English championship twice. He died March 9, 1884 in London. He came to American at the height of his popularity and engaged in the international race for the O’Leary belt — a race that he lost. He was not in the best condition for that race, and he did nothing to add to his reputation as a pedestrian on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Sometimes, when one bears a certain surname — such as Brown — nicknames are “inherited” by others with the same name. Such would be the case with Lew and “Blower” Brown of pedestrian fame. Although Lew preferred “Hoss” the attempt to stick him with “Blower” just did not stick with him.

Lew Brown was credited with finding James Edward “Tip” O’Neil while playing baseball in Canada. Here in Boston we know well another “Tip” O’Neill — U. S. Representative from Massachusetts from 1953 to 1987, and was the 47th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1977 to 1987. During his childhood, O’Neill was given the nickname “Tip” from the Canadian baseball player “Tip” O’Neill who died three years after Boston’s “Tip” was born. A nickname from the world of baseball was bequeathed to another man who made his nickname of “Tip” more famous than the original bearer.  — “Obituary: Thomas P. O’Neill.” The Independent, London, Ontario, January 7, 1994:14.

Happy birthdays:

  • Brent Lillibridge, born 1983, outfielder, second base, shortstop, Red Sox 2012
  • Billy Traber, born 1979, pitcher, Red Sox 2009
  • Randy Williams, born 1975, pitcher, 2011
  • Sam Bowen, born 1952, outfielder, Red Sox, 1977-78, 1980
  • Ken Brett, born 1948, pitcher, Red Sox 1967, 1969-71
  • Jerry Mallett, born 1935, center fielder, Red Sox, 1959, 4 games

Random Baseball Item #1: “September 17, 1920 — FOOD FOR THE TIGER — About 4000 passed through the gate. The Red Sox will make their farewell appearance for the season in Detroit tomorrow. Judging by the way in which Tiger rookies have been performing lately the club scouts will be decorated with honor medals. All five of today’s jungle flingers were recruits.” — Boston Daily Globe, September 18, 1920:4.

Random Baseball Item #2: “It is estimated that at least 25,000 of the 30,000 fans who saw the Yankees play in Chicago yesterday started for the gate after “Babe Ruth sent a fly to Felsch in the eighth inning.” Wonder just how much of the Yankees’ tremendous gate” this year has been accounted for by the presence of Boston’s own George?” — “Sportsman,” Live Tips and Topics, Boston Evening Globe, September 18, 1920:7.

 

Reporting from the Mudville Bureau of the Boston Chapter, where the Boston Sunday Globe, September 14, 2020 column and email/blog “108 Stitches” reported:

“The Red Sox salvaged a split in the four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays with their 6-3 win Sunday afternoon.” Also: “Alex Verdugo has made an impact on offense and defense in his first year with the Red Sox.” (divert your regret and sadness about Mookie and cast your eyes toward the future), and “Tanner Houck was looking ahead to his major league debut on the mound for the Red Sox …” On Tuesday, September 15, he did good.

— Joanne Hulbert

 


SEPTEMBER 11, 2020 — Last week, the report about Charlie Dexter was not brought to its final conclusion. In case you missed it, here’s the story in review :

KNIFE USED
Dexter, the Old Boston Player, Arrested
First Baseman Bateman of Milwaukee May Die
Result of Quarrel Over Payment of a Cab Bill

“Des Moines, Iowa, October 2, 1905. – Charles Dexter, catcher for the Des Moines Western league ball team, this evening stabbed first baseman H. Q. Bateman of the Milwaukee American association team. Bateman’s condition is serious and he is not expected to live until morning.

“The men quarreled over the payment of a cab bill, and Dexter drew a long knife. He slashed Bateman across the breast, the blade cutting into the lung. Bateman was taken to Mercy hospital, where he now lies. Dr. Rood made a statement shortly after the stabbing in which he said Bateman’s recovery was doubtful. Dexter was arrested.

“Charlie Dexter was born in Evansville, Indiana, about 30 years ago. He began his baseball career at an early age, becoming a member of the Cooks, Evansville’s famous semiprofessional team, in 1889. He continued with this club until 1894, with the exception of occasional games which he played as a member of the team at Cannellton, Indiana. In 1894 Dexter attended the University of the South, at Sewanee, Tennessee, and was the crack catcher of its team. It was here that Dexter began to attract attention as a catcher. When the college term ended in June of that year he went to Clarkesville, Tennessee where he filled out the season with the club of that place. In 1895 Dexter was with the Evansville team of the Southern league. He played on the Baltimore National league team when he was 16 years old, and next went with Louisville, with whom he remained until the end of the season of 1899. In 1900 he participated in 35 games with the Chicagos, most of which he played behind the bat.

“In 1902 Dexter signed with the Boston nationals. Afterwards he undertook the management of the Louisvilles of the American association, from which team he was released July 5 of this year. He then managed the St. Joseph Westerns until the latter part of the season when he joined Des Moines as catcher.

“Dexter was married August 23, 1904, to Miss Mary Olson, a Boston young woman. Dexter and Frank Hauseman, another well-known ball player had a narrow escape at the time of the Iroquois theatre fire in Chicago, December 30, 1903, and through their efforts a number of persons were saved from death.” —Boston Daily Globe, October 3, 1905:9.

“Dexter has many good qualities and bad ones as baseball is looked upon today; his temper was of the hair-trigger variety and he was always ready to explode.

Even that advocate of strenuosity, John J. McGraw, fell before Dexter in an exchange of biting sarcasm. It happened that McGraw, who was sizing up Dexter with an idea of buying him for his own club, was handing a player one of his famous “roasts” when Dexter happened along and took a hand. The result was that he did not get a contract.” — Detroit Times, March 5, 1913:1.

 

What happened to Charlie Dexter? Did he stand trial? End up in prison? Beat the rap? His baseball stats reveal that his major league career ended in Boston in 1903. He continued to play ball in the minor leagues and that was where we find him in Milwaukee on that fateful day, October 2, 1905.

 

Charlie Dexter (Boston Daily Globe, October 3, 1905:9.)

Boston Daily Globe, October 3, 1905:9.

 

“By October 6, the whole incident was settled. Upon the sworn statement by Harry Q. Bateman, the Milwaukee first baseman, he refused to press charges, and Charlie was released from jail that morning.  As for Bateman he expected to be released from the hospital the next day. According to the “cursory investigation by the officers, there was the belief that there was not sufficient ground to warrant an indictment against Dexter. The grand jury had not commenced the investigation of the case and was not inclined to proceed unless something stronger in the way of evidence presented itself.”

“Stories of the quarrel that resulted in the cutting of Bateman, showed that there was “very little fight and that none of the men who were in the group when the affray was on, were aware that a stabbing had taken place.”

“Bateman had walked to Dr. Rood’s office unassisted. His wound was later believed to be “little more than a scratch instead of a deep wound, as was first reported. All the ball players in the party since the affair were inclined to believe that there was nothing in the fight and stated positively that “Dexter and Bateman were on the best of terms and that their little quarrel had done nothing to mar their friendship.”

“Those nearest to the scene described Dexter as holding a small penknife in his hand when he was talking in a loud tone with his companions, and instead of intending to stab his friend he struck with his hand and, in the action, his knife was thrust through the clothing of the “luckless” Bateman, who just happened to be nearest to Dexter.

“The grand jurors had in essence, determined that there must be stronger evidence than what was know so far in order to prove a case against Dexter, because if it is shown that the affair “was only a mere quarrel among the baseball players who were not responsible for their actions, there was nothing to base an indictment on.

“Charlie Dexter was  also portrayed as a heroic figure – as “one of the foremost heroes of the Iroquois theater fire in Chicago, and his fame for his daring and cool-headed work at that time is almost as great as his fame as a  baseball player.” At the time the fire broke out, Dexter was in the theater with Frank Houseman, another baseball player. The two men leaped to a closed exit while a crowd of women and children rushed toward them. Dexter and Houseman beat back the men and gathered all the women and children directly in front of the iron door. Then they put their shoulders against the door and burst it open by sheer physical strength. It was estimated at the time that Dexter and Houseman saved between 200 and 300 lives.” — Alta (Iowa) Advertiser, October 13, 1905:6.

 

The Iroquois Theatre fire of December 30, 1903 was the deadliest theater and single-building fire in United States history resulting in at least 602 deaths. There was only one entrance to the theater, and no separate stairways and exits for each balcony. There were no sprinklers, no alarms, no telephones nor water connections. Theater manager Davis was arrested in January 1904 and charged with criminal neglect, but was acquitted. Improvements in fire prevention and safety were a result of the Iroquois Theater fire. Several books have been written about the disaster, and the story reminds us of another fire disaster well-known in Boston — the Cocoanut Grove fire of November 28, 1942, when 492 persons were killed in the deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history due to some of the same fire safety oversights as were seen in the Chicago fire decades before.

 

“Little more than a scratch?”

“Quate Bateman, the baseball player who was stabbed by Charlie Dexter at Des Moines, Ia., last fall, is slowly recovering from the wound at his home in Melissa, Texas. Bateman played fast ball with the Milwaukee Club last season, and was sold to the Cleveland Americans. Bateman writes to a friend in Milwaukee that he is still very weak, and may not be able to play until late in the summer.” — Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, January 10, 1906:6.

 

LOST SENSE OF DIRECTION
Charlie Dexter Describes the Effect of Being Hit by Ball

“Judging from the recent experience of two ball players, a rap on the head by a swiftly pitched ball temporarily confuses the sense of direction, says the New York Sun.

“Joe Yeager of Detroit was hit on the head by a pitched ball the other day and when he got to his feet started for third base. The same idea got into the head of Charlie Dexter of the Boston Nationals last week after he had been knocked down by a speedy ball delivered by Jack Cronin of the New Yorks. Cronin was in good form that day and one of his fast ones caught Dexter on the cheek bone, just back of the left eye. Dexter yesterday described his sensations as follows:

 “I have been hit glancing blows by a pitched ball which for the moment hurt more than the wallop Cronin gave me; but this was the first time I was ever knocked out. My head felt as if it was broken in pieces and there was a crushing sensation that was the worst thing about it. I was out about 20 seconds, and when I came to I asked Tim Hurst how I went down. ‘You didn’t fall backwards or forwards,’ said Tim, ‘but went straight down like a man going down a well. One leg was in the air.’

“The first thing I was conscious of when I came to was Hurst opening my eye and looking into it. And when I started to play, such a headache! Then I realized that I must take my base, and I ran down to third base. I finally got my bearings and my position at first base.

“When Mathewson was pitching in a later game I lost track of his curve balls completely. I could see the straight ones, but the curves faded from my sight. I wasn’t right for several days. If I had to go more than 10 feet for a fly ball I felt as if I was going to lose it, and it was more luck than anything else that I managed to get hold of the ball.” – Boston Daily Globe, August 31, 1903:4.

Today, the effects of concussion are well-known, that hits to the head can have serious, long-term consequences. Research currently being conducted at Boston University’s CTE Center is playing a major role in expanding the knowledge and understanding of mild traumatic brain injury and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Although much of the focus is on football players, other sports are also studied.  Charlie Dexter played in an era without helmets, and a time when concussion was misunderstood and not taken seriously.

 

DEXTER PAID FINE OF TEN
Second Baseman of Boston Nationals Went Too Far in Punishing His Traducer, the Court Thought

Charles Dexter, second baseman of the Boston National league baseball club, was fined $10 in the municipal court yesterday on a charge of having assaulted Frank Meehan, a motorman on the Boston elevated railway, at Hotel Langham Tuesday. The trouble started out of a discussion concerning the Pittsburg-Boston series. Dexter and pitcher Malarkey were standing in the hotel office talking about the game played that day, when Meehan came in. There was evidence to the effect that Meehan wanted to bet on the Pittsburgs, and Dexter said that Meehan spoke slightingly and in abusive terms of the Boston players. Dexter reproved him for talking the way he did, as he said that the Boston players were his personal friends, although they were in a rival league, and he didn’t purpose (sic) to stand for hearing them abused in their absence.

“Meehan was said to have insisted that the Boston players were no good, and dared Dexter and Malarkey to bet on the Bostons. They offered to bet him $150 on the Bostons and Meehan took them up. Each of the ball players put up $75 and called on Meehan to make good, but all he could show was $90, and some hard words followed. Dexter and Malarkey, William A. Johnson, the night clerk, and other witnesses swore that Meehan called Dexter all the vile names he could turn a prolific tongue to, and wound up a torrent of abusive words by making a punch at Dexter which knocked off his hat. Then Dexter sailed into him, and he said that he didn’t know where he hit Meehan, but that he punched him anywhere he could. The fight ended in the street, when patrolman John Lane of Division 5 grabbed Dexter and arrested him on a charge of assault. Meehan had three cuts in his forehead and had to be taken to the city hospital, where two of the wounds were so serious as to require stitches.

“In announcing his decision Judge Wentworth said that Meehan’s vile talk toward Dexter was provocative of assault, but that Dexter had gone too far in inflicting punishment on his traducer, and he made the sentence a fine of $10.” — Boston Daily Globe, October 9, 1903:5.

Charlie Dexter“Charlie Dexter, who virtually has been read out of professional baseball because of a brawl with a teammate last season, is in Chicago endeavoring to organize a semi-professional ball team. Dexter is looking for suitable grounds, and then will form a team. Dexter is still on the reserve list of the Des Moines team, but it is said that the Iowa team does not want him for next season. So far as is known, no professional club has attempted to buy his release.” — Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, January 27, 1906:6.

Charles Dana Dexter of Evansville, Indiana is the only Charles Dexter recorded in The Baseball Encyclopedia and in Total Baseball, but he was not the only professional baseball player known by that name. Oscar Schoneberger of Mount Holly and Cincinnati, Ohio, when he accepted his first baseball engagement, figured he would disguise his name in case he failed and returned home in disgrace. He had been ridiculed by his friends and neighbors in Mount Holly about his pursuit of baseball fame and had left his home in the heat of anger.  The name Charles Dexter stuck with him even when he enjoyed a modicum of success, but it was too late to take back the name given him at birth. His choice of Charlie Dexter occasionally did cause some confusion, especially when both players were involved with minor league baseball teams. Ohio’s Charlie appeared with clubs in the southern circuit from Savannah to New Orleans, while Iowa’s Charlie stayed close to home. Never the twain did meet.

 

DEXTER OF DES MOINES
Club People to Get Word About Him From Minneapolis Tonight.

“It is Charley Dexter of Des Moines and not Dexter of New Orleans the Sandcrab owners are after. However, the Dexter described in The News of yesterday is the man being sought for all that – The News baseball man wrote of him from long personal acquaintance. Charles Devon (sic) Dexter, to give him his full name, is playing with Des Moines, in the Western League the team owned by Mike Cantillon of Minneapolis and Joe of Washington.” — Galveston Daily News, June 3, 1909:4.

“Cincinnati’s Charlie Dexter was a popular man around the city. A bit of a social gadfly, he proposed starting a dance party on New Years to gain funds for a baseball social club for the Cincinnati players who spent winters in the Queen City as well as for those who played elsewhere during the baseball season. The Ohio Charlie Dexter is elusive when one searches the minor league rosters, but he was a versatile player at first base, second, and at shortstop with the New Orleans Pelican club of the Southern league in 1908 and 1909, a team that also did not rate much recognition in the broader baseball world of the time.

 

“DEXTER, THE DARING” ON PATHS
He Scares Casey Into Dropping Ball, Saving Pels From Shutout

“Charlie Dexter’s daring base-running Sunday got him into trouble once and spoiled a good chance of scoring, but the second time he got away with it, and two runs was the result. They were all the Pels made, and they wouldn’t have been made but for Dexter’s foxiness on the paths.

“In the seventh Dex got the Pels’ first hit, a Texas Leaguer to left. Demont followed with a double, which put Dex on third. After Dundon flied out Matthews hit to Hart and Dexter made a premature dash for the plate. Hart then put the ball in play on the base line to get Dexter, and it looked like a cinch he would be run down. Finally after several players had handled the ball, Dexter made a rush for the plate, and Casey, who was in his path, fell just as the ball and Dexter got to him at the same time. The ball rolled to the grandstand, and both Dex and Demont scored.

“Dexter had to trample over Casey to get by him, but it was after the ball had gone by.” — New Orleans Item, April 26, 1909:8.

 

Charlie Dexter (Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, November 5, 1909:1.)

Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, November 5, 1909:1.

 

ACCIDENTAL SHOT RESULTS IN DEATH OF CHARLIE DEXTER
Was First Baseman of the New Orleans Southern League Club and Prominent in This City

“While hunting on his father’s farm near Mount Holly, Ohio on November 4, 1909, Oscar Schoneberger, known to the baseball public as Charles Dexter, accidentally shot himself through the right lung and died three hours later at the old home that he left years ago to pursue the profession on the diamond. Just how the accident occurred will never be accurately known, but the meager details that were whispered by the dying ballplayer indicated that the gun had been discharged into his body as he was creeping around a cornfield, the gun becoming entangled in a stalk of corn and throwing Dexter to the earth. However, this information was so meager that the attending physicians were undecided as to whether Dexter really meant that this was the way it happened.

“About the time hunting season opened, he was in the habit of coming home to Mount Holly to spend a few weeks “doing the Nimrod act” – that is, becoming a hunter for a change.  After helping his father around the farm, he told his father he was not going far and would return in half an hour as he just wanted to try out his new gun. When he did not return as planned, his father searched for him and found his son unconscious in the cornfield.

“Oscar Schoneberger, known in baseball circles as Charlie Dexter, began his baseball career in Cincinnati playing on local amateur teams. From there, he went to the South Atlantic league and had reportedly been drafted by the Chicago Cubs, but instead, became a popular player with the New Orleans Pelicans. Eulogized as one of the best players in the Southern league, he was remembered as one of the best liked of all the ballplayers who chose Cincinnati as home during the winter months.” — Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, November 5, 1909:1.

 

CHARLIE DEXTER, GREAT ALL-AROUND BALL PLAYER, WITH A BAD TEMPER, DIDN’T LAST LONG, BUT A STAR WHILE HE LASTED

“Charles D. Dexter was one of the bright baseball stars who, for some reason known to himself and not to the public, did not last long. He flashed across the major league firmament from 1896 to 1904 and left the game when at his best.  During the time he played he starred as catcher and outfielder. Fred Clarke “discovered” Charlie in Louisville, a Colonel until 1900. His best season there was 1898 when he batted .311.  When the Pittsburgh and Louisville clubs were consolidated, Dexter was not included. Instead, he was with Chicago from 1900 – 1902. He finished his major league career in Boston. After baseball, Charlie Dexter returned to Des Moines,  became a successful business man as manager of the men’s department of a big clothing store.” — Detroit Times, March 5, 1913:6.

 

CHARLES D. DEXTER, ONCE LOCAL NEWSPAPER MAN, FATALLY SHOOTS SELF IN IOWA

“With but seven cents in his pockets, Charles D. Dexter, Jr., about 60, one-time Evansville newspaper man and big league baseball player, shot and killed himself recently in his room at a Cedar Rapids, Iowa hotel, according to special dispatches to the Courier last night from Cedar Rapids. Dexter, who was born and reared in Evansville, was identified by Des Moines police after they had received a picture of the suicide victim. He had registered as C.D. Denny of St. Louis and had been at the hotel for four days.

“Dexter formerly was the proprietor of a well known Des Moines restaurant and had been connected with a clothing store and the coal business in Des Moines. Although absent from the city since his young manhood, Dexter kept up contacts with friends here until a short time before his death. Dexter served as a reporter for the old Evansville Tribune. His ability on the baseball field landed him a berth on the Evansville team when it was a member of the old Southern league in 1895.

“Dexter was the son of the late Charles Dexter, Sr., engineer on the well known river steamer John S. Hopkins, and was a grandson of Captain Henry Dexter, river captain and pilot in whose memory a bronze tablet stands at the foot of Main street. Previous to taking is life, Dexter had spend two months visiting his sister in St. Louis. His body was buried Friday in Des Moines.” — Evansville (Indiana) Courier and Press, June 19, 1934:2.

Happy birthdays:

  • Andrew Cashner born 1986, pitcher, Red Sox 2019
  • Jacoby Ellsbury, born 1983, center fielder, 2007-2013
  • Ellis Burks, born 1964, outfielder, 1987-1992, 2004
  • Jeff Newman, born 1948, catcher, first baseman, 1983-84
  • Marlan Coughtry, born 1934, infielder, pinch hitter, 1960
  • Randy Heflin, born 1918, pitcher, 1945-46
  • George Loep, born 1901, outfielder, 1928
  • Oscar Ray Grimes, born 1893, first baseman, one game with Red Sox, Sept. 24, 1920: 4 AB, R 1, BH 1, BB 1 TB 1, PO 13, A 0.

Sportlight: Ray Grimes and Roy “Bummer” Grimes (second baseman and pinch hitter, 26 games with the New York Giants in 1920) were both born on September 11, 1893 — they were twin brothers. Both debuted in 1920. After his one game with the Red Sox, Ray went on to play four years with the Cubs and one year with the Phillies, and retired from major league baseball after the 1926 season. Ray’s son,  Oscar Ray Grimes Jr., born in 1915, played for Cleveland from 1938 to 1942, and for the Yankees from 1943 to 1946.

Random Baseball Item: “Hugh Bradley of Worcester, formerly of the Red Sox, who has been playing first base for the New Orleans Club of the Southern Association, plans to retire from baseball after 14 years of consecutive service and enter the movies as a salesman. I understand he has signed a two-year contract with the Pathe Film exchange as southern salesman with headquarters at New Orleans. One of his achievements while with the Red Sox was a home run over the left field fence at the old Huntington avenue grounds.” —Bob Dunbar, Boston Herald, September 11, 1920:9.

Another Random Baseball Item: “I am under the impression that Hugh Duffy, when he was with the Chicago club in 1889, made a record of 13 consecutive hits in 13 times at bat, but the Record Book does not supply that information. We would suggest to our friend, John Foster, that the record of the greatest number of consecutive hits made by any individual would be an interesting feature in batting records.” – “Sportsman,” Live Tips and Topics, Boston Daily Globe, September 11, 1920:4.

Reporting from the Mudville Bureau of the Boston Chapter, where the Boston Sunday Globe, September 6, 2020 advises: “You can, and should, hate the Betts trade. But Sox fans are clearly warming up to Alex Verdugo. Verdugo had an .875 OPS through his first 38 games, but it’s much more than that. He plays with passion, and after a few fundamental flubs early in the season has become an excellent outfielder. His 7 outfield assists lead the majors. There are 23 teams who don’t have that many. Verdugo also runs out every ground ball regardless of the score and seems genuinely happy to be playing for the Red Sox. There’s a lot to like.”

— Joanne Hulbert

 


SEPTEMBER 4, 2020 — The Red Sox will have to wait until next year …

There are two subjects found in newspapers that still draw the attention of readers: sports, and crime. Nothing like reading about yesterday’s game, finding out the score and also peeking at stories of high crimes and misdemeanors — the dastardly deeds of the dark, criminal world. Who could resist reading about the criminal element in all the salacious, heart-rending details of darkness and evil! And sometimes, the two popular sections of the newspaper collided, or melted, together. What could be better than a baseball player tangled up with the law! The curious eyes of the sports fans could hardly keep their eyes off gossip that revealed the darker side of their sports heroes. Sometimes, the fact that the criminal is, or was a baseball player, seemed more important than the person, the victim or the crime allegedly committed, even when the connection was distant and marginal.

Of course, there were the countless stories of Sunday games thwarted by police raids. For example:

POLICE BROKE UP GAME
Cambridge Men Who Went to East Lexington to Play Baseball
Arrested After Chase

“Lexington, May 29 — Sunday baseball players got another shakeup this afternoon when patrolmen Irwin and Palmer, assisted by special officers Finn, McDonald and Johnson, descended upon a crowd engaged in a game in the meadow back of the Alderman estate on Massachusetts av., near Pleasant st., East Lexington.

“The men gave the officers a lively chase but the entire company of 11 were arrested. All claimed residence in Cambridge and were bailed. They will appear in court in Concord Tuesday on the charge of trespass and playing ball on the Lord’s day.” — Boston Daily Globe, May 30, 1904:3.

(Well, thank heavens they were men from Cambridge. Certainly the fine young men of Lexington would never resort to such behavior. The very idea!)

 

CHARGED WITH ROBBERY

“Lewis Brown, a well-known base ball player, was arrested yesterday by Patrolmen Fernald and Bench of the Fifth Police, charged with robbing Max Nolte of a gold watch and chain, valued at $125, on the night of the 9th inst. Nolte is the janitor of Turn Hall, and on the night in question the bar-tenders were holding a ball at that place. It is alleged that a slight disturbance took place, during which Nolte was hustled about very lively, and falling into Brown’s hands came out of the melee minus his watch, which he charges Brown with taking. The accused party was searched, but the property was not found, the claim being then made that he passed the watch along to an accomplice.

“The next day Nolte received a letter asking him to meet a certain unnamed party at Mrs. Mealey’s saloon at the North End, with $50 and for that sum he could have his watch. He kept the appointment, but Mrs. Mealey was advised of what was going on and made a fuss about it so that the restitution did not take place. Mr. Nolte was prepared to pay the $50, thinking he probably could not get his watch any cheaper. He was followed from the saloon by another man, who offered to have the watch restored for $25. The offer was accepted and for that sum the property was sent to the owner. This last broker will now be looked after in connection with the case. Brown obtained bail very soon after being arrested, and stoutly denies the allegation against him.” — Boston Journal, December 1884:3.

 

BALL PLAYER ARRESTED

“New Haven, Conn., March 25. – Henry Decker of Philadelphia, catcher of the New Haven ball nine, was arrested at the Tremont House at 1 o’clock this morning charged with grand larceny and forgery. He was arrested on a dispatch from Chief Detective Wood of the Philadelphia bureau. Decker claims the arrest was caused by disgruntled parties who were interested in a patent turn-stile of his invention.” — Worcester Daily Spy, March 26, 1891:3.

 

BALL PLAYER ARRESTED

“Waltham, Feb. 16. – Cornelius C. Dole, well known as a base ball player, was arrested here this morning by Inspector McKenna, on a charge of passing forged checks. It is claimed that he signed the names of prominent Waltham people to the checks, and sent a boy into stores or offices with the check to request the proprietor to cash it. As the name on the check was generally that of a well known person, the request was usually granted.” — Worcester Daily Spy, February 17, 1897:8.

 

OLD BALL PLAYER ARRESTED

“Officers Augusta and Crowley of the liquor squad arrested Fred Shaw, 35 years old, on Main Street, Charlestown, yesterday afternoon on the charge of being concerned in a policy lottery.

“Shaw is better known by the name of “Dupee” Shaw, and was at one time a well known ball pitcher. He was connected at various times with the Boston and Detroit teams and also the Providence team of the New England League. He was a left-handed pitcher, and made a phenomenal record at one time. He was immediately bailed out after his arrest, and will appear in Charlestown District Court this morning.” — Boston Journal, March 23, 1897:3.

Old baseball player? So what was significant here? The criminal charge? Or that he used to be a baseball player? ‘Connected with the Boston and Detroit teams’? You can look him up. Dupee Shaw played for Detroit in 1883-84, and also for the Boston team of the Union Association in 1884, and for Providence in 1885. He played three years with Washington 1886-88. Born in Charlestown, MA in 1859, he died 1938 at Wakefield, MA.

 

BASE BALL PLAYER ARRESTED

“St. Clairsville, Ohio, Dec. 14. –  Jack Easton, a base ball player, has been arrested at Martin’s Ferry, Ohio on the charge of murdering a man named Pitcher at Nassau, Rensselaer County, N.Y. last September. A reward of $250 was offered by the State of New York for his arrest. He played with a minor league in New York in the summer, but lately has been a mill hand in this county.” — Boston Journal, December 14, 1897:4.

 

JACK EASTON GOES FREE
Baseball Player Had Been Arrested, Charged With Murder

“Martins Ferry, Ohio. – Jack Easton, the ball player, arrested on Sunday charged with murdering George Pitcher in Nassau, N.Y., last September, was discharged today. The books of the Aetna Standard mills show that Easton worked there all of the week the murder occurred.” — Boston Daily Globe, December 16, 1897:5.

The victim’s name was Pitcher – how ironic.

 

CHARGED WITH BURGLARY
Ball Player John J. McCormick Says, However, He Has an Alibi

“Norway, Maine, July 24, 1899. – John J. McCormick, quite widely known in this vicinity as a baseball player, was arrested in the shoe factory today by state detective Wormell on the charge of being connected in the sensational burglary of Ezra Stevens’ store at Bryants Pond, July 5.

“He is a relative of Freemont H. Tanlin of Woodstock, who was recently arrested in Portland with 19 watches on his person and who admitted his guilt. McCormick said he was not connected with the affair and will try to prove an alibi at his trial tomorrow.” — Boston Daily Globe, July 25, 1899:3.

 

ROGER CONNOR ARRESTED
Veteran Baseball Player Hit John Hardesty at New London
Latter Had Accidentally Tripped Him

“New London, Conn., June 4, 1903. – John Hardesty, first baseman of the New London team, accidentally tripped Roger Connor, manager of the Springfield team, in today’s game. Two hours later Connor struck Hardesty hitting him a hard blow. Hardesty had Connor arrested. The latter secured bail.” — Boston Daily Globe, June 5, 1903:11.

 

NOW OLD AND FRIENDLESS
William Randall, Once a Well-known New York Baseball Player, Arrested Today for Vagrancy

“New York, May 22, 1905. – William Randall, who used to be a very well-known baseball player, but who is now 65 years old and friendless, was arrested on a charge of vagrancy early today at Witherd and Graham avs. Brooklyn. He is ill and had no place to go. He will probably be committed to some institution today unless old friends come forward and save him. Randall was once a member of the New York team and also played with the Washington and San Francisco teams.” — Boston Daily Globe, May 22, 1905:18.

 

Sometimes, it wasn’t the player that got in trouble, but the baseball itself was the cause of the crime.

 

HAULED TO COURT FOR THEFT OF BOYS’ BASEBALL

“Worcester, May 21, 1907 – A most unique case was aired before Judge William E. Fowler in Westboro today, the principal witnesses being pretty schoolmarms who charged the defendant, Neils P. Rasmussen, of 26 Grove street, with the heinous crime of stealing a baseball, and a cheap baseball at that.

“Misses Ella M. Fay, and Alice G. Gilmore were the teachers who testified that a ball with which children in their schools were playing on May 17, bounded over the fence, and was caught and kept by Rasmussen. They further said that other balls had previously been stolen from the children.

“Rasmussen informed the court that he had telegraphed to a Boston lawyer to defend him, and he refused to take the stand until his lawyer arrived. After much questioning on the part of the judge without any response from Rasmussen, his case was continued to Wednesday to await the arrival of the Hub lawyer.” — Boston Journal, May 22, 1907:9.

 

KNIFE USED
Dexter, the Old Boston Player, Arrested
First Baseman Bateman of Milwaukee May Die
Result of Quarrel Over Payment of a Cab Bill

“Des Moines, Iowa, October 2, 1905. – Charles Dexter, catcher for the Des Moines Western league ball team, this evening stabbed first baseman H. Q. Bateman of the Milwaukee American association team. Bateman’s condition is serious and he is not expected to live until morning.

“The men quarreled over the payment of a cab bill, and Dexter drew a long knife. He slashed Bateman across the breast, the blade cutting into the lung. Bateman was taken to Mercy hospital, where he now lies. Dr. Rood made a statement shortly after the stabbing in which he said Bateman’s recovery was doubtful. Dexter was arrested.

“Charlie Dexter was born in Evansville, Indiana, about 30 years ago. He began his baseball career at an early age, becoming a member of the Cooks, Evansville’s famous semiprofessional team, in 1880. He continued with this club until 1894, with the exception of occasional games which he played as a member of the team at Cannellton, Indiana. In 1894 Dexter attended the University of the South, at Sewanee, Tennessee, and was the crack catcher of its team. It was here that Dexter began to attract attention as a catcher. When the college term ended in June of that year he went to Clarkesville, Tennessee where he filled out the season with the club of that place. In 1895 Dexter was with the Evansville team of the Southern league. He played on the Baltimore National league team when he was 16 years old, and next went with Louisville, with whom he remained until the end of the season of 1899. In 1900 he participated in 35 games with the Chicagos, most of which he played behind the bat.

“In 1902 Dexter signed with the Boston nationals. Afterwards he undertook the management of the Louisvilles of the American association, from which team he was released July 5 of this year. He then managed the St. Joseph Westerns until the latter part of the season when he joined Des Moines as catcher. Dexter was married August 23, 1904, to Miss Mary Olson, a Boston young woman.

“Dexter and Frank Hauseman, another well-known ball player had a narrow escape at the time of the Iroquois theatre fire in Chicago, December 30, 1903, and through their efforts a number of persons were saved from death.” — Boston Daily Globe, October 3, 1905:9.

So, not for nothing, what about Bateman?

Stay tuned, and next week, read what happened to Charlie Dexter after the arrest. Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. The SABR BioProject has not yet included a biography of Charlie Dexter. Just sayin’ …

HE GAVE WRONG ADDRESS
“NO FINGER” DUFFY DOES NOT LIVE AT 30 EAST BROOKLINE ST.

“A.J. Pratt of 30 East Brookline st., South End, denies that William Duffy, better known as “No Finger” Duffy, an old-time baseball player, arrested Thursday for violating his probation, lives at the above-quoted address, as stated in the Evening Globe of June 24. At the time of his arrest Duffy gave his address as 30 East Brookline st, but Mr. Pratt declares that the man does not live there and never has lived there.” — Boston Evening Globe, June 26, 1915:9.

 

Occasionally the crimes, antics and embarrassing news about the rich and famous major league players were emblazoned upon the newspaper pages.

HAL CHASE, BASEBALL STAR, ARRESTED

“San Jose, Calif., March 4, 1916. – Hal Chase, the baseball player, was arrested here today on a charge of failure to provide for his minor child. The warrant was sworn to by Mrs. Nellie Chase, the first baseman’s former wife.

“Chase was released on $2000 bail and will appear for arraignment next week. At the time of the divorce in New York, it is said, he agreed to pay $50 a month alimony for the support of Mrs. Chase and her child.” — Boston Sunday Globe, March 5, 1916:35.

 

EX-EMPLOYEES TESTIFY KAUFF STOLE AN AUTO

“New York, May 10, 1921. – James Shields, formerly an employee of Benny Kauff, suspended outfielder of the New York Giants, today testified at the latter’s trial on a charge of larceny, that Kauff stole an automobile from James F. Brennan on December 8, 1919. In that year Kauff and Jess Barnes, a Giant pitcher, were engaged in the automobile accessory business.

“According to Shields’ story he, Kauff and another man arranged to go out and look for machines. When the trio saw Brennan’s car, Shields swore that he and the third man waited some distance away while Kauff unlocked the machine with a screw driver. Kauff later drew up with the automobile, the witness said, and the three drove to a garage, where the number plate was removed.

“James F. Whelan, another employee in the accessory shop, the next witness, testified to the details surrounding the alleged theft of the car. He said the theft was arranged at a dinner, after Kauff had said that he had a prospective customer for a car of a certain make. The machine was taken, and after the tires were changed the motor number removed and the body repainted, they sold it for $1800, he said. The trio shared equally in the division of the proceeds, the witness declared.

“The detective, who recovered the car and later arrested Kauff, said that the ball player claimed to have bought the car, and at the time of his arrest displayed a bill of sale.” — Boston Daily Globe, May 11, 1921:10.

Innocent or guilty? Read more about Benny Kauff, including the outcome of the trial, in David Jones’ article about Kauff at the SABR BioProject.

 

And sometimes the game itself was the suspect or the plaintiff:

WIN FINAL GAME OF SERIES 8 to 4 IN WEIRD EXHIBITION OF NATIONAL PASTIME

“Somebody, or a collection of somebodies, the latter being the Brooklyn Dodgers, simply had to accept what for lack of anything better to term it, has been nominated as a ragtime assortment of baseball crime, the place being Fenway Park, the Braves the parties on the short end of the outcome, and the score 8 to 4.” — Ed M’Grath, Boston Post, April 22, 1915:15.

 

SUNDAY BASEBALL WINS COURT FIGHT
Rocky Point Cleanup to Satisfy Opposition
Gov. Beeckman Promises to Put Lid on Liquor and Gamblers

“Providence, June 30, 1917. – An agreement to “clean up” Rocky Point shore resort in exchange for the privilege of holding baseball games there on Sunday was reached today. An unconditional agreement discontinuing the suit against the Police Commission was signed by attorneys representing the Warwick Welfare League and the town.

“Gov. Beeckman today agreed with the league that gambling, illegal liquor selling and games of chance at Rocky Point shall be stopped if Sunday baseball is not further disturbed. The suit was formally abandoned this morning. At Rocky Point tomorrow Providence plays Newark.” — Boston Sunday Globe, July 1, 1915:15.

 

Happy Birthdays:

  • Sun-Woo Kim, born 1977, pitcher, with the Red Sox 2001, 2002
  • Bobby Guindon, born 1943, pinch hitter, first base, left fielder with the Red Sox 1964
  • Ken Harrelson, born 1941, first baseman, right fielder, with the Red Sox 1967-69
  • Fred Walters, born 1912, catcher, with the Red Sox 1945
  • Tillie Walker, born 1887, outfielder, with the Red Sox 1916-17

 

Sportlight: Fred Walters, who played 40 games, 93 at bats, for the Red Sox in 1945:

“Pleasantville, N.J., March 22, 1945 — After watching the Red Sox here training for a week it becomes obvious that they’re not going to be so strong as a year ago when they were in the pennant contention most of the season in the closest race the American League has enjoyed in its history.

“It’s too much to expect that newcomers such as Jim Wilson, Fred Walters, Ben Steiner and either Nick Polly or Jack Tobin are going to make up for the loss of Tex Hughson, Hal Wagner, Bobby Doerr and Jim Tabor.

“Walters is a hard working catcher with refreshing enthusiasm and admiring industry. But Wagner was batting well over .300 when he left the Sox last year and giving Manager Joe Cronin the best receiving he has experienced in his 10 years as manager of the Hose.” — Boston Herald, March 23, 1945:32.

Find Bill Nowlin’s article about Fred Walters at theBioProject.

 

Random Baseball Item: GEN. “IKE” HIT .355 IN KANSAS LEAGUE

“New York, June 26, 1945. – Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s secret is out. The genial general revealed at the Polo Grounds a week ago that he played professional baseball more than 30 years ago, but refused to divulge any further information except that he played in the “Kansas State League” under the name of “Wilson.”

“A check showed that A.D. Wilson played nine games for Junction City in the Central Kansas Class D League, a year before General Ike entered West Point, and batted a cool .355 while fielding flawlessly in the outfield.” — Boston Herald, June 27, 1945:32.

 

Random Baseball Cartoon

Boston Globe, October 12, 1912 

Boston Daily Globe, October 12, 1912:1.

 

Another Random, Out of This World, Baseball Item: ONE MAN WHOLE NINE

“Chicago, November 28, 1911. – According to Prof. F. R. Moulton of the University of Chicago, one man is all that would be required to play a baseball game on Phobus – one of the two moons of Mars – provided the man could live in a place without atmosphere. Prof. Moulton described the manner of play in addressing a church society last night on the “Earth Like Planets.”

 “Our one-man team would first take the position of pitcher,” he said, “and throw the ball horizontally. The ball would go all the way around the moon. He would then have time to get a bat and strike at it. If he missed it he could take his three strikes, then put on his mask, gloves and chest protector and catch himself out when the ball came around the fourth time.

 “In case he hit the ball and it bounded he could play the part of an infielder by picking the ball up as it came bounding around the moon. He then could throw to first and catch himself out on the base as the ball came around again. If he hit a fly in place of a grounder he might draw on his glove and, playing the part of centre fielder, catch himself out.

 “A strong batter might make a home run. This would mean that he struck the ball so hard that it went beyond the attraction of the moon and struck on the planet Mars. It would be what we call ‘over the fence.’” — Boston Herald, November 29, 1911:5.

 

Reporting from the Mudville Bureau of the Boston Chapter, where in Boston the heart-warming news is announced that Rafael Devers doubled on Friday to join Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr and Carl Yastrzemski as the only Sox players with 100 before their 24th birthday. I will celebrate that bit of baseball news in order to get me through the next week.

— Joanne Hulbert

 


AUGUST 28, 2020 — The August 23, 2020 edition of the Boston Globe expresses the emotions of the Boston fandom. The Trade Deadline is August 31 – “Like Everything else, this deadline will be different.” Or, another way to look to the future: “Rotation rebuild begins for Sox.” And certainly – “In need of a do-over.” We put our hope for the future in Fernando Tatis Jr. Could he be the Real Goods like Cliff Brady? (More about Cliff later …)

Carl Mays“It will take more than the American league directors to whitewash Carl Mays so that he will look spick and span to the Boston baseball public, even if they work on the job overtime.” — Boston Post, August 13, 1919:16.

The October 26, 1919 edition of the Boston Sunday Post reported: “By quitting his club in mid-season and literally forcing the Red Sox management to trade him to some other club when he could better himself financially, Mays has pulled down some of the bulwarks of the great national game and made a breach that a score of other malcontents can storm.”

One hundred years ago, baseball experienced a great tragedy in the death of Cleveland shortstop Ray Chapman. Struck by a pitched ball from Yankee pitcher Carl Mays, on August 16, 1920, Mays had left the Red Sox during the 1919 season and there was still lingering animosity in Boston.

With those lingering tensions, how would the Boston fans treat Carl Mays when he appeared in Boston on September 3, 1920, his first game back in Boston since the Chapman tragedy?

APPLAUSE FOR MAYS JARS SOME RED SOX PLAYERS

“Some of the Boston players felt hurt that the fans should have welcomed Mays back in any such manner. They felt that the public should remember that Mays had jumped the Boston team last year, and still been “on” him on that account. One player even went to far as to say the fans wanted to see Mays win, and that he hoped they were pleased when he did.

“This angle, however, is not exactly the right one, for the players to take. Ball fans forget quickly. Baseball is first with them and team and player troubles come second. Even when not in sympathy with a player they quickly forget this point of view when the player makes good and furnishes his full part of sport excitement.

“The applause yesterday for Mays did not mean that he was being upheld for his attitude toward the Bostons a year ago. It was the only sort of demonstration the crowd could take to show that it believed that Ray Chapman died because he was hit accidentally, not intentionally, by the underhand pitcher. Today when there will be a much larger crowd at Fenway both sides of the demonstration may be noisier, but the great majority of the members of the baseball public are not much more interested in the games than in Mays’ early or late ability to get back to his work, and after an awful experience on the Polo Grounds.

“The fans aren’t making a hero out of Mays by any means. Their attitude simply is “On with the Dance.” — Boston Evening Globe, September 4, 1920:7.

ORDEAL FOR MAYS ABSENT

“There was no strike of Red Sox players yesterday afternoon when, late in the game, Miller Huggins sent Carl Mays out to the pitcher’s box to relieve Jack Quinn, against whom the Red Sox had tied the game in a 3 to 3 score. From the Boston bench there was hardly a murmur when Mays took up the pitching burden. Wally Schang simply came to the plate and the game went along. [Mays pitched the eighth and ninth innings.]

“Thus, with no ado, was eliminated any chance that American League ball players will so resent the return of Mays to his regular work that they will refuse to play against him. The whole affair has turned out just as it has been figured all along. Mays didn’t get a warm welcome from his former teammates – not so any one would notice it – but there was no outward act of resentment.

“Miller Huggins acted wisely, too, in sending Mays in when he did. Quinn was being hit, and Mays wanted to pitch. He probably will work through an entire game this afternoon, but if he were going to go through any ordeal he wanted to have it over. But there was no ordeal – a little “booing,” and then much more spontaneous handclapping and cheers.” — Boston Evening Globe, September 4, 1920:7.

SCHANG DOES NOT FEAR MAYS’ UNDERHAND BALL

“Wally Schang, the first Boston batter to face Mays yesterday, was Carl’s roommate for a long time when the New York pitcher was with the Red Sox. Wally, when asked how he felt when he stepped to the plate, smiled a little and said he guessed he was not worried very much.

“I don’t mind that underhand ball,” said Wally, “for that is in fine control, but I know from experience that when Mays pitches overhand the ball is likely to go most any place. There is always a lot on the ball, but the direction of its flight is mighty uncertain.”

“Schang has caught Mays enough to know as much about his pitching as anybody. Mays also threw up an overhand ball, too, with Schang at the plate.

“When Bill Gleason was here with the White Sox he told about what happened when his club went up against Mays in New York. In that game the champions hit Mays hard. Bill’s players were just a little “tender” before they went to bat, but Gleason called them together and told them not to worry. “Just go in there and hit,” he said. “You know one thing’s certain; Mays isn’t going to hit anybody.” Ibid.

MAYS LIBERALLY APPLAUDED

“It was known that Carl Mays was to work in one of the games, and it was feared that there might be some hostile demonstration against him. There was plenty of booing, but it was generally drowned out by applause. This did no harm, but it would have been better if neither manifestation had been resorted to. There seemed to be considerable partisanship, some of the Mays partisans going so far as to applaud Mays when he accidentally hit third baseman Oscar Vitt with a pitched ball.

“Take it all in all the big crowd was good natured and well behaved as Boston crowds invariably are.” — Boston Sunday Globe, September 5, 1920:193.

“New York baseball writers are now proclaiming Boston a “fair and square” baseball city, and all because no bottles were thrown at Carl Mays when he was in town.” — Boston Daily Globe, September 9, 1920:6.

Random Baseball Cartoon:

Boston Daily Globe, August 17, 1920.

Boston Daily Globe, August 17, 1920.

FANS APPLAUD BRADY: “Brady played his first game for the Red Sox at Fenway Park, and the fans wondered how he put so much power into his blows, after getting a peek at his stature [5’5.5”, 140 lbs]. Rabbit Maranville [5’5”, 155 lbs] is a big gent compared to youthful Cliff, but the kid sure packs a wallop.” — Boston Herald, August 17, 1920:8.

“Duffy has decided to send infielder Cliff Brady to the Jersey City International League club. The “Skeeters” Manager, Patsy Donovan, has been after Brady for a long time. Brady has been fielding splendidly, but needs developing as a hitter.” — Boston Daily Globe, April 8, 1921:17.

Cliff Brady never made it back to a major league team.

“Former Sox first-round pick Henry Owens was with the Sugar Land Lightning Sloths but allowed nine runs over 3-2/3 innings and wasn’t deemed Sloth material.” — Peter Abraham, Boston Sunday Globe, August 23, 2020:C7.

Happy Birthdays:

  • Shane Andrews, born 1971, infielder, with Boston 2002
  • Darren Lewis, born 1967, centerfielder, with Boston 1998-2001
  • Mike Torrez, born 1946, pitcher, with Boston 1978-1992
  • Tom Satriano, born 1940, catcher, infielder, with Boston 1969-70
  • Braggo Roth, born 1892, rightfielder, third baseman, with Boston 1919
  • Ben Beville, born 1877, pitcher (2g), first baseman (1g), with Boston 1901

Braggo RothSportlight (forgive me, Grantland Rice) On Braggo Roth: Robert “Braggo” Roth appeared in 63 games with the Red Sox in 1919 — either it was not enough time to get to know him — or it was possible more than enough. His major league career from 1914, when he debuted with the Chicago White Sox, to the end of his career with the Yankees in 1921, does not give a complete portrait of this Chicago native. A complete biography of Braggo Roth can be found on SABR’s BioBroject, authored by Dan Holmes who does give us a portrait of the man who attracted such adjectives as “insufferable” and “exasperating.” He was traded from the Philadelphia Athletics to Boston in 1919. The Red Sox bid against the Yankees for Roth, a player they hoped would fill their need for a right-handed hitter. But Roth came with baggage. He was traded to Washington in 1920 and reports there mentioned that “Old Fox” Griffith faced the managerial test of his career in his ability to handle men. Roth, the hard-hitting outfielder, and known to players as “Braggo,” was now Griffith’s problem. Roth had been with three clubs previous to arriving in Washington, and although Roth was considered a fine player, previous managers had remarked he was difficult to manage. The Boston sportswriters never referred to him as “Braggo.” In Boston he was always called “Bob.”

Definition of “Braggo”: “The braggo is a blank cartridge. He makes a loud report, but no impression. His talk is like an inner tube. There’s nothing in it but air, and the more he blows, the more it stretches. The braggo picks on an easy and simple subject to gaff about. Being muscle-bound in the cupola, he chooses himself. For which we have to mark up one point in the wooden Indian’s favor. The braggo’s talk like a boomerang is thrown out to strike nobody but himself. The same as complimenting a mirror – he doesn’t go any further than I in the first person. Thereby giving an easy answer to why does a cork float. One wonders how the braggo goes through life without mentally breaking an arm by slapping himself on the back. It must be great to carry your own audience and be a hit with yourself! “Squoinkx!” said the peacock!” – Fitchburg Daily Sentinel, March 12, 1919:4.

Being a connoisseur of baseball nicknames, I lament that Robert “Bob” Roth was not called “Braggo” by the sportswriters of Boston. Apparently it had been a most appropriate nickname. But there was another character called “Braggo” in a story that hit the newspapers much to the delight of readers of the Globe, Herald and the Journal on May 14, 1917. I found the choice among the three articles difficult to make, as they each offered a unique twist to the story. Here’s the report from the Boston Daily Globe:

MONKEY MAKES MUSS IN CANAL-ST STORE
Escapes From Cage and Plays Ball With Eggs
Requires Several Hours Before He Is Captured

“Braggo a 3-year-old white-faced monkey, escaped from his cage in the store of the United Supply Company, 6 Canal street, yesterday morning, shortly after 11 o’clock, and it was almost five hours before he was captured. In the cage was a lemur that refused to escape. After making faces at dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits and other creatures in apartments near his, Braggo got right down to business with the “eats.”

“The first seen of Braggo from outside the store was when be began sampling a basket full of eggs in the Merrimac street side of the store. Braggo sampled several, breaking the shells, sucking them and dropping the debris on the floor.

“Having apparently filled up, he began to play baseball and threw a couple of dozen high-priced eggs around the store promptly making a terrible mess.

“Ten minutes after his escape a huge crowd gathered at the windows and enjoyed the fun. With the deftness which an expert juggler would envy, Braggo would pick up an egg in one paw, toss it into the air and catch it with another paw. In the process the egg would sometimes break, and the monkey would “down the contents.”

“Patrolman Malcolm. D. Blue telephoned to H.H. Putnam in Melrose that he ought to come right to the store. By this time those who were on the outside looking in noticed that Braggo was “looking over” some of the smaller live stock on the premises.

“Braggo showed the crowd how playful he was with small chickens, for he teased them, put his paw on them, but never hurt one.

“Before Braggo was finally caught and put back into his cage he loosened a sign in some manner and used it for a swing, hanging by his teeth, a leg and tail by turns.

“Before Manager Kimball finally caught Braggo he got into the cashier’s office and nearly upset a bottle of ink [the Boston Journal reported he drank the ink and ate thousands of dollars in “I.O.U’s”]. Mr. Kimball said the monkey was formerly owned by W.E. Hobbs, son-in-law of Ex-Governor Foss, who gave him away because of his mischievous tricks.” — Boston Daily Globe, May 14, 1917:14.

Reporting from the Mudville Bureau of the Boston Chapter, where Don Orsillo wrote in the Sunday Globe: “I saw Nomar when he was coming up and Dustin, and I was in Boston when Mookie Betts first came up. I thought at the time they were all going to be special players, and they were. But Fernando is something different.”

Ah! Cue the music! ABBA’s “Fernando” is ready-made for the Fenway faithful. I’ll start rehearsing now.

— Joanne Hulbert


AUGUST 21, 2020 — Although last week Red Sox fans were thinking it was all ‘rahtha’ worrisome,” we can now move on to “the baseball season in Boston is WICKED bad!” Nuf Ced McGreevy is turning in his grave.

The French National Baseball team represents the French Federation of Baseball and Softball in international competitions such as the World Baseball Classic, the European Baseball Championship, and the World Cup of Baseball. They are currently ranked 24th in the world.

The history of the French team began in 1929 with their first official game against Spain in Barcelona with a 10-6 victory. The team made its debut in competition in 1955 when it played in the finals of the second European Baseball Championship, finishing fifth out of five teams.

The French team has qualified for the World Cup finals three times, the first time in 1994.  In order to qualify for the finals a playoff game was played against South Africa. France lost seven games during the competition and finished in 16th place out of 16 teams. In 2001, as well as 2003, Les Bleus (the nickname of the team) made their way into the World Cup finals. In 2001 they finished in 15th place, tied for last with the Philippines. They finished in 15th place in 2003, out of 15 teams. After three trips to the World Cup and 21 games, the French team has yet to record a win.

BASEBALL IN WAR ZONE

“Reports come from Paris that baseball flourished behind the trenches right up to the first fall of snow and that in Paris they still are playing the game. Americans, Cubans and Canadians in the French capital organized a three-team league last summer and played a regular schedule of games before good crowds. When spring opens, baseball may have developed into the “national game” of France.” — Boston Journal, February 10, 1916:8.

SOLDIERS DROP BATS IN PARIS AND GO TO THE FRONT

“Paris, August 10, 1918 – War doesn’t stop baseball in this area, but in spite of the large number of topnotch players rushing to the firing line almost every day the good old American game thrives as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. Just as soon as units are ordered to lay down their bats and are marched off to the more serious game, new players are thrown in and fresh nines formed to keep the Paris Association Baseball League running on schedule. As a soldier remarked one day when it looked as if the league were to be shot to pieces by the sudden shifting of men: “We should worry! You can’t kill baseball unless you kill all the Americans over here.” – Boston Herald, August 11, 1918:11.

 

Boston American, June 30, 1917.

Boston American, June 30, 1917.

 

“During a lull in one of the “quiet sectors” of France – spots where the opposing troops only go through the motions of warfare and give each other due notice when they are going to drop any shells, a ball game was started by American soldiers, and was watched with much interest by the Germans in the hostile trenches. In the seventh inning a German megaphoned across the open space, “Better go under cover now – a general is coming, and we must shoot something!” And the doughboys, as though trained in a regular chorus, shouted back: “All right – shoot the umpire!” — The Sporting News, November 14, 1918:4.

 

Christy Mathewson, returning from France after the Great War to End All Wars, reported the grim news:

“Baseball is Brutal to Frenchmen.” The game just didn’t catch on with the Poilu soldiers.  “The French never will take up baseball in a hundred years,” said Matty. “A Poilu would rather catch a hand grenade than a hot liner, and he far rather would try to stop a German 77 than get in front of a hard-hit grounder. No, baseball is not a Frenchman’s game; I am convinced of that. They say it is too rough, and call it brutal. They want some things more gentle, such as football or dueling.”

“Mathewson did grant the French that they could run the bases very well, and that some did gamely try to play the game under American tutelage but made no progress. “They are terrible in their infield work,” he said, “as the grounders hop by them before they know it. They have shown some aptitude at base-running, but you have to put them on the bases in order to give them a chance to run. They can’t bat very good.”

“Most disheartening of all, Matty said, “But the catching is what they are most afraid of. There is something terrible to them about the man who puts a mask on and straps a chest protector around him. I don’t think you could find the makings of a catcher in all France. Whenever you could get a fellow who was game enough to put on a mask he would want a wire entanglement between himself and the batsman and a handy dugout to take refuge in. Where we did get some Frenchmen to play a few innings, we always had to supply them with a catcher. They are wonderful fighters, those Poilus; fighting is their game rather than baseball.”

“Mathewson went on to describe how two American doughboys blocked traffic in a French town with a game of catch. “They were tossing the ball back and forth, and there was a lot of room for people to get by, but nobody tried to get past. Everyone that was going in one direction paused behind one player and those going in the opposite direction lined up behind the other. Finally somebody had to tell them to quit so that the town could go about its business.” — Boston Post, February 18, 1919:15.

 

Mathewson described how the Poilu, when passing American soldiers who were playing, would make a wide detour to a safety zone to get out of range of the pitcher for fear of being hit by the ball. “Shades of Napoleon. And after what they passed through at Verdun, the Marne and 100 other places!”  — Boston Herald, February 20, 1919:16.

Sacre Bleu!

 

Boston Herald, February 20, 1919:16.

Boston Herald, February 20, 1919:16.

 

“The Stars and Stripes newspaper of the American expeditionary forces in France optimistically predicted that after the war, international athletic competition of all kinds would turn the brothers in arms to brothers in sport. “Baseball will be played in every corner of France and Italy. It is the favorite outdoor sport of the American Expeditionary Force. The French are always interested spectators, and the small boys of France have taken up the game to the extent of shagging the ball for the catchers and tossing the sphere about whenever they could get hold of it.” — Boston Evening Globe, April 22, 1918:5.

 

“The Americans credited themselves with promoting boxing, baseball and field sports throughout France, Italy and England, but there was no hint of reciprocity for cricket or other local  sports. Ah, just think of the profits to be made by companies like Spalding as they flood Europe with baseballs, bats, and other sports paraphernalia! The war was not yet over and already promoters dreamed of profits!

“The Poilus behind the lines in 1918 “undoubtedly will be introduced to the game, and adoption by France of baseball is not improbable.” Ibid.

“And yet this war, despite the fact that it has suspended, so to speak, the national game, will be the means of revivifying it in a most glorious manner. The French  government will instill baseball as the national sport of France  and if France takes up baseball England will not be a bit behind. The Canadian and of course the American soldiers will be great, wonderful missionaries introducing baseball to both England and France. England has had it but she will never get over the inoculation of this war nor will France. And naturally it will be brought to Siberia, Russia, Italy and the other countries of the world by the American soldiers. For it is an old saying that baseball follows the flag. — Boston Post, August 28, 1918:10.

 

Random Baseball Cartoon:

Boston Post, January 10, 1919:19.

Boston Post, January 10, 1919:19.

 

SENT 102,378 BASEBALLS TO FRANCE THIS MONTH

“Chicago, January 24, 1919. – Approximately $600,000 worth of sporting supplies has gone to the soldiers in France during January, according to a statement today by T.W.D. Turner, overseas purchasing agent for the Y.M.C.A. In December he sent supplies valued at $419,354 and on November slightly more than $173,000 worth of sporting goods. Thirty-six kinds of articles are included in the supply list, ranging from the push ball to 102,378 baseballs.” — Boston Evening Globe, January 24, 1919:10.

TRYING TO GIVE FRENCH SOME BASEBALL TERMS

“New York, June 18, 1918. – “There is a united effort being made to render baseball terms into racy French,” writes Dr. Horatio S. Krans director of the Columbia Service Bureau of the American University Union in Paris, who sets down these results of the effort:

  • First Base: – Premier sac.
  • Second Base – Deuxieme sac.
  • Third Base – Troisieme sac
  • Home Plate – Foyer
  • Foul – Poulet
  • Umpire – Arbitre.
  • Fly – Mouche.
  • Stealing a Base – Voler le sac.
  • To slide Home – Glisser au foyer.

Boston Evening Globe, June 18, 1918:7.

Racy French slang? Well, Poulet is a French slang term for prostitute. That’s racy enough. And mouche is a slang term … for something I cannot, in good conscience nor taste, print the translation. Therefore, find it out via your own research.

And ‘Poilu?’ The word is an informal term of endearment for a French World War I infantryman, meaning, literally, ‘hairy one.’ The word carries the sense of the infantryman’s typically rustic, agricultural background. Beards and bushy moustaches often adorned their countenances. And the typical Poilu loved his ‘pinard’ – his ration of cheap wine.

MORE FRENCH BASEBALL TERMS

  • Catcher – Attrapeur
  • Pitcher – Lanceur
  • Shortstop – Bloquer
  • Left field – Champ de gauche
  • Center field – Champ du centre
  • Right field – Champ de droite

— “Code Simplifie du Baseball,” reprinted in Boston Post, November 11, 1918:7.

“Comment dites-vous en francais,  ‘slide, Kelly, slide?’”

 

In September 2013, France named former MLB pitcher Eric Gagne new head coach. In 2016 Kieran Mattison replaced Eric Gagne as French National Team Manager.

The French Federation of Baseball and Softball shocked the European baseball community when they announced former San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy would take over as manager of the national team. The announcement came late in 2019 and confirmed rumors that the future Hall of Fame skipper would lead the team in the 2020 World Baseball Classic Qualifier. Due to the worldwide Coronavirus outbreak in March 2020 the WBC qualifiers have been postposed to late 2020/early 2021.

Random Baseball Item: “A doubleheader will be played this afternoon at Fenway Park between the Red Sox and the Indians and another Monday afternoon. A big crowd undoubtedly will turn out today to show its sympathy with the Cleveland players because of the loss of their great shortstop Ray Chapman, whose funeral took place in Cleveland yesterday, and which was attended by members of the club. The scheduled game in Boston being postponed.” — Boston Daily Globe, August 21, 1920:4.

Not as Random a Baseball Item: “Owner Frazee of the Red Sox said last night that he had planned to take his Red Sox to France if the team had won the American league pennant this year, and there play the world series all over again with the National league champions for the benefit and enjoyment of the Sammies. Just the anticipation of that one thing – the chance to see their dearly beloved baseball again – would have made the continuance of big league ball on the present scale a worthwhile, and justifiable action on the part of official Washington.” — Boston Herald, July 20, 1918:4.

Random Boston Item: “Boston people do not begin to appreciate the magnificent highways for motor travel that exist in Eastern Massachusetts,” says Fred H. Silliman of Chestnut Hill. By taking a circular course or a series of figure eights it is possible to travel for from 80 to 100 miles around Boston through delightful suburban country without even making the same trip a second time. In most big cities there are one or two good drives and that is all there is to it, but in Boston it is simply an endless chain of the most charming trips I have ever seen anywhere.” — Boston Post, August 28, 1918:10.

Happy Birthdays:

  • Christian Vazquez, born August 21, 1990, catcher, 2014-2020
  • J.D. Martinez, born August 21, 1987, outfielder, DH, 2018-2020
  • Ramon Vazquez, born August 21, 1976, infielder, shortstop, 2005
  • Tuffy Rhodes, born August 21, 1968, outfielder, 1995
  • John Henry Johnson, born August 12, 1956, pitcher, 1983-84

THE TWO SIDES OF WAR

All wars are planned by older men
In council rooms apart,
Who call for greater armament
And map the battle chart.
But out along the shattered fields
Where golden dreams turned gray
How very young their faces were
Where all the dead men lay.
Portly and solemn, in their pride
The elders cast their vote
For this or that, or something else,
That sounds the warlike note.
But where their sightless eyes stare out
Beyond life’s vanished joys,
I’ve noticed nearly all the dead
Were hardly more than boys.

— Grantland Rice, The Sporting News, July 4, 1970.

Reporting from the Mudville Bureau of the Boston Chapter, just a few words because Boston fans are otherwise speechless: “What’s the matter with the Red Sox?”

— Joanne Hulbert


AUGUST 14, 2020 — “We are still parching under the fierce Heats of Dog days. It is agreed, by most People, that so long and so intense a Heat has scarcely been known.” — John Adams to Abigail Adams, August 14, 1777.

Women of Boston held a rousing pro-suffrage rally at Fenway Park on August 10, 1915, and at the rally Margaret Daly commented, “This is baseball day, and at a baseball game a woman’s place is watching the game, while the men play it.”

And yet, all along, women had not been listening. They played ball games just as men always had. Girls formed teams, played other girls, and heaven forbid! They sometimes even played with the boys and many were very capable of keeping up with them. There were the famous Bloomer Girls that traveled all across America, giving spectators a peak at women dressed in less than the required clothing of the era – ah! Those bloomers – one of the first fashion changes allowing women more freedom to move! And they did move, from first base, to second base, to third, unencumbered by billowing skirts and confining corsets! Teams were formed in schools, colleges, at factories that employed large numbers of young women who had just as much need as young men to find recreational diversion away from the grinding work they did five and even six days a week, leaving just a little time after work, or, to play a secret game on Sunday – just as the boys were doing. Dear Margaret Foley – a woman’s place was not always in the grandstand.

 

Newark Woman Suffrage team at Fenway Park (Boston Sunday Post, July 11, 1915:41.)

Newark Woman Suffrage team at Fenway Park
Boston Sunday Post, July 11, 1915:41.

 

“I’ve been a tom-boy all my life and that’s as much of a reason as any for my playing with the men’s teams today.” Elizabeth Murphy – Lizzie to many, “Spike” to some, played baseball with the boys and men of Warren R.I., and she earned fame as “the greatest woman baseball player in America.”

Elizabeth Murphy of Warren, R.I., does get out and play baseball with the men. She asks no favors and has earned a place on the Warren Athletic Club team by her ability.  “They came to make fun of me, she once said, “but I showed them that I can play baseball just as good as any man.”

Born in Warren, Rhode Island (although some say she was actually born in Canada) on April 13, 1894, she was playing baseball professionally at age 17 and demanded from the beginning of her career to be paid – and paid well. She signed with the Providence Independents and then moved on to Ed Carr’s Traveling All-Stars, a semi-professional team in Boston. She eventually joined up with the more lucrative Bloomer Girls and remained with them for 30 years. She was known for her pitching as well as her hitting ability, appearing in up to 100 games annually. Having a keen eye for self-promotion, she billed herself the “Queen of Baseball.”

“Am I shy on speed pitching?” I just dote on speed. The faster they come the harder they go back.” – Boston Sunday Post, July 11, 1915:41.

Lizzie was often presented as a novelty, a celebrity who could attract a crowd, and perhaps some spectators were waiting for her to fail and prove her unworthiness, but she rarely came close to satisfying that part of the crowd.  A lady playing baseball? And she also played ice hockey and football with the same out-sized ability? Now that is what attracted crowds to ball parks around Rhode Island and even on the big stage, on the mound at Fenway Park.

 

Lizzie Murphy (Boston Daily Globe, August 15, 1922:7.)

Boston Daily Globe, August 15, 1922:7.

 

Lizzie Murphy (Boston Sunday Post, July 11, 1915:39.)

Boston Sunday Post, July 11, 1915:39.

 

They trained vigorously, the story about them reported, the women – “a number of young girls and matrons of the City Point neighborhood of South Boston. They had been playing indoor baseball all spring at the D Street gymnasium, and they were looking forward to favorable weather in order to bring their game outside. They practiced throwing, catching and developing “a good eye” while wielding the bat, and they were credited with decent long drives and encouraged each other to  play a game worthy of praise not only from women, but from men as well. Mrs. Myra Downs and Mrs. Felton shared the second base position, one a nurse, was famous for her remarkable putouts. Third base was owned by Mrs. Stuper, from the D Street bakery, Ellen Macdonald presided over the pitcher’s mound, and relied on Anna Green, Alice Gorman and Mrs. Shallow as her batterymates. Josephine Quinn as shortstop, known for speed and agility, along with outfielders Mrs. Berlo, Mrs. Jukes, and Mrs. Shallow.

… Could it be – Quinn to Downs to Jules? Or Stuper to Shallow for a forced rundown between third and home? But I digress.

 

City Point Women’s Baseball Team Boston Sunday Post, April 26, 1908:21.

City Point Women’s Baseball Team
Boston Sunday Post, April 26, 1908:21.

 

It is somewhat remarkable fact that every great reform, every notable uplifting of the human race suffers in its period of gestation by reason of what appears to be the idiocy, the foolhardiness of its early promoters. Very few of you are old enough to remember Mrs. Bloomer and the bloomer costume. The bloomer costume per se was absurd, but the idea promulgated by the respected lady who first suggested it was born of thought, itself born of experience that tight lacing was injurious, that heavy skirts were unhealthful. The costume which she selected, a tunic and a pair of trousers, as we look at it would transform our angels into guys, and our mothers, our wives, our sweethearts, into scarecrows. Quite so. There is no question about that, but following hard upon the heels of the swath of ridicule cut by every comic paper from one end of the world to the other, came a reaction which suggested gymnasia in our schools; thick soles for comfortable walking boots; patent corsets which, while they displayed, relieved the form, and a series of dressmaking innovations, every one of which tended toward relieving the women from the restrictions, the crampings, the bindings which were fast undermining the stamina of American girls in particular and the women of the world in general. – Boston Sunday Globe, April 22 1894:20.

Random Baseball Item: “DECLARES BASEBALL DEPENDS ON WOMEN / Mrs. Frank L. Chance Believes Fair Sex in Bleachers Will Prevent Deterioration of Sport”

“Chicago, April 12, 1909. – At the opening of the baseball season Mrs. Frank L. Chance, wife of the world’s champions’ leader, is out in an interview declaring that it is upon women – not the flighty, volatile kind, but he steady, home variety – that the future of the national game depends. To prevent the game from becoming a rowdy pastime, one only for bleachers full of men to watch, she believes that more women should occupy seats in the grandstand. If more women would forsake bridge whist and pink tea, sofa cushions and kimonos and turn out to watch the cleanest sport in the world there would be more robustness and fair-mindedness among our sex.” Mrs. Chance said. “If women would only come out and expand their lungs to the fresh air by ‘rooting’ for the ‘home team’ there would be less work for the doctors.” — Boston Post, April 13, 1909:9.

Another More or Less Random Item: Who was this woman of fashionable fame? Amelia Jenks Bloomer, the famous namesake of the bloomer costume, was in very many respects a most remarkable woman. Born in Homer N.Y., May 27, 1818, she married Dexter Bloomer, a young lawyer, and they resided at Seneca Falls, N.Y. It was inevitable, perhaps, that she was involved with the early days of the Suffrage movement.  She was an early advocate of the enfranchisement of women and secured a great following from the outset with her publication in 1853 of The Lily, that devoted its pages to the advocacy of the cause of women and temperance. She became a lecturer on woman suffrage and temperance and promoted “rational dress for women.” The bloomer style was actually first worn by Elizabeth Smith Miller. Amelia Bloomer’s name became synonymous with the new fashion because of her greater reputation, although she never claimed to have originated it.” — Boston Daily Globe, December 31, 1894:29.

Happy Birthdays:

  • Dylan Covey, born August 14, 1991, pitcher, 2020
  • Clay Buchholz, born August 14, 1984, pitcher, 2007-2016
  • Angel Santos, born August 14, 1979, infielder, 2001
  • Mark Loretta, born August 14, 1971, infielder, 2006
  • Bill Clowers, born August 14, 1898, pitcher, 2 games in 1926

Reporting from the Mudville Bureau of the  Boston Chapter, where it has been as hot this week as if John Adams himself reported the weather conditions, although the current losing streak by the Red Sox is rahtha’ worrisome,  we will continue to bend our ears toward Joe Castiglione and hope for the best.

— Joanne Hulbert

 


AUGUST 7, 2020 — Now we are deep within the summer doldrums not only because of the weather here in Boston but also baseball doldrums as we ruminate about whether to continue the “season,” or whether we chalk it to “nice try” and wait until next year?

“The Giants are certainly furthering woman suffrage this year. They were featured in baseball’s first suffrage day, May 20, at the Polo Grounds, and early in July they had another suffrage game pulled on them in Philadelphia. And now the Pittsburg suffragists have announced a baseball day for the “cause” at Forbes Field on September 16; on that day the Giants play a double-header there.” — Bob Dunbar’s Sporting Comment, Boston Journal, August 14, 1915:10.

The suffragists were intensifying their efforts to change the minds – of men, since they would be voting in the state legislatures – and in 1915, American women took their cause to the ball parks. The New York Giants may have felt they were confronting Votes for Women at every turn, but they were not alone. In Boston, Fenway Park was the scene of a Suffrage Day rally on August 10, 1915, a day that saw a doubleheader with the St Louis Browns, with a triple play in the first game, and Babe Ruth on the mound in the second. The women were there for game one – the Red Sox lost – rather appropriate, since the women’s cause was voted down in the state legislature the following November.

 

Boston Post, August 11, 1915:11.

— Boston Post, August 11, 1915:11.

 

“The grandstand Fenway Park was festooned with yellow and black banners and bunting, and suffragists filled Section A of the grandstand – there would have been more, but weather was unsettled. The rally had been postponed from August 4 due to the same reason – but the “freaks of nature and fear of rain” may have caused some empty seats, but 400 women risked that threat and the game was on. Reports stated if there was not quantity, there was certainly quality. President Joseph Lannin welcomed the ladies, and he was thanked for his hospitality. Margaret Foley stirred up the crowd with a megaphone and declared there would not be any suffrage speeches. Although her words to the crowd are cringe-worthy today, she said: “This is baseball day, and at a baseball game a woman’s place is watching the game, while the men play it. The women of Massachusetts wish to show that they are in hearty sympathy with every clean sport in which men engage, and they do not hesitate to indorse the cleanest sport ever played by anybody – America’s great national game of baseball.” — Boston Post, August 11, 1915:11.

The women were very generous. They awarded $5 cash prizes to Del Gainer in the first game and Duffy Lewis won the suffrage gold coin for being the last of the home team to score, and he won another for the day’s highest batting average.

 

Boston Post, August 11, 1915:11.

Boston Post, August 11, 1915:11.

 

There was a movement in Massachusetts for the anti-cause, and their colors weren’t yellow and black – they were rose, black and white. Among their mottoes: “Woman’s Right is the right of freedom from political duties,” and “Measure the menace – Do you want women on juries?” — Boston Daily Globe, August 13, 1915:4.

 

Anti-suffrage banner displayed at Fenway Park, Boston Braves vs Philadelphia Athletics, World Series, 1914. (BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY)Anti-suffrage banner displayed at Fenway Park, Boston Braves vs Philadelphia Athletics, World Series, 1914. (BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY)

 

POPULAR SONGS OF SUFFRAGE (AND BASEBALL)
A WOMAN’S PLACE IS ALWAYS IN THE GRANDSTAND

Bedelia Bixby was a maid of athaletic fame,
She couldn’t help but be the goods in any sort of game;
Her sisters on the courts she’d trim, and also on the links,
And stick her uncles, old and young, for bon-bons, gloves and drinks;
And when the Boston Bloomer Girls were showing in her town
She’d take the local firing line and mow their batters down;
Until one day her proud mama came out and saw her hurl,
And straightway then these words she said unto her darling girl:

(Chorus)

A woman’s place is always in the grandstand,
She has no business out upon the field;
She oughter sit and holler by the bandstand,
And to the men them athaletics yield.
I didn’t raise my girl to be an Alexander,
Or shoot that bean ball at some lady’s ear;
I’ll admit you look quite natty, but you’re not another Matty,
So come right home and wash them dishes, dear.

Bedelia Bixby heard them words and flung her glove away;
She practiced some on the Q.T., although she could not play;
And when she seen just how it stood where women were the goats,
She went right out and worked for fair for women’s rights and votes.
And when the sisters of her town re’lized their fondest dream,
They ‘lected sweet Bedelia for the captain of their team;
And as they handed her the job at quite some thousand per,
She had to giggle at them words her ma once said to her:

(Chorus)

— Ralph E. McMillin
Boston Journal, August 7, 1915:9.

 

Random Historical Note: “Clarence Parker, who played the outfield for the St Louis Browns yesterday is a Somerville product and makes the second Greater Boston athlete with Branch Rickey’s club, as Jack Leary, the old Waltham High all-round athlete, is still very much on that club. Parker at one time was a member of the Somerville nine of the Greater Boston League, and it was while he was playing for the Albright College nine that Rickey picked him up.” — Boston Globe, August 11, 1915:7.

Another Random Historical Note: “BASEBALL GAME ENDS IN A RIOT: South Boston Policeman Loses Badge and Cap Before It Is Over” — An officer from Station 9 lost his badge and hat and hundreds of spectators engaged in a free for all fight, when a baseball game between teams of the Andrew A.A. of South Boston and the U.S.S. Savannah ended in a riot in the seventh inning at Columbus Park yesterday afternoon. Hostilities started after a decision of the umpire had been questioned by the home team, and while the navy team was leading by a score of 3-0. A riot call was sent in and a patrol wagon and ambulance responded. The officer, who was in plain clothes, was rescued and taken to the locker building and several patrolmen hastily dispersed the crowd. No arrests were made.” — Boston Herald, June 7, 1920:16.

Happy Birthdays:

  • Ryan Lavarnway, born 1987, catcher and first baseman 2011-2014.
  • Josh Smith, born 1987, pitcher, 2019
  • Edgar Renteria, born 1976, shortstop, 2005
  • Kerry Lacy, born 1972, pitcher, 1996-97
  • Greg Pirkl, born 1970, first baseman, pinch hitter and designated hitter, 1996
  • Rich Croushore, born 1970, pitcher, 2000
  • John Trautwein, born 1962, pitcher, 1988
  • Ted Wingfield, born 1899, pitcher, 1924-27
  • Chet Nourse, born 1887 Ipswich MA, pitcher, three games in 1909

Baseball statistics and records commemorate a wide range of great moments in baseball history. There is a great baseball story about Ryan Lavarnway and a certain Red Sox pitcher. What is it?

Reporting from the Mudville Bureau of the Boston Chapter, the dog days of summer are threatening us with Covid numbers sneaking upward, and we are diligently wearing masks – and fretting over schools, social distancing – but the Red Sox won 5-0 last evening in Tampa Bay – stopping the four-game losing streak – therefore, not all is ominous. But should we start complaining like we often did at this time of the season: “What’s the matter with the Red Sox?”

— Joanne Hulbert

 

 


JULY 31, 2020 — The baseball season has begun in a form not ever seen before — but here in Boston the reassuring voice of Joe Castiglione gave the situation a feeling of familiarity — and the score 13-2 was more than worth it. So here we go on a 60-game odyssey.

DeWolf Hopper, who made his fame reciting Baseball players have a long tradition with the theater stage, vaudeville and eventually, Hollywood when film took over as a major entertainment medium. Since Mike King Kelly graced the vaudeville stage, and many baseball players used entertainment as an occupation during the offseason, the love for baseball was returned by actors. Many embraced baseball as their favorite diversion. DeWolf Hopper made his fortune reciting “Casey at the Bat” and Blossom Seeley, singer, dancer and actress, found love and marriage with Rube Marquard. Actors, actresses and vaudevillians came together to form teams and extended their fame with a ball and a bat as they stepped up to the plate on a different stage and starred in new performances.

 

BOSTON OPERA BALL TEAM WINS VICTORY
Defeats New York Rivals 16 to 3 While Chorus Girls Cheer
Mayor Sees Game

“The Boston Opera House baseball team defeated the Metropolitan Opera team of New York at the National League grounds yesterday afternoon by a score of 16 to 3. This was Boston’s first introduction to opera baseball, and it differed from other amateur games only in the make-up of its audience. This was composed almost entirely of persons connected with operatic or theatrical organizations, but just the same, they were rooters.

“A large delegation came on from New York to cheer their team to victory, and notwithstanding the team’s poor showing the members of the delegation continued faithful to the end. Every theatrical organization in Boston was represented in the grandstand. In fact, this was probably the only baseball game ever played in Boston where such a large number of chorus girls and principals were gathered together.

“Mayor John F. Fitzgerald pitched the first ball and also delivered a short speech, in which he expressed the hope that the best team would win. For a short time after its commencement the game was umpired by Street Commissioner James Gallivan.

“An amusing incident happened during the sixth inning when Capt. Shaw of the Boston team stole to second while the members of the New York team over at third were arguing as to whether Lyons, the second baseman of the home team, had gained that base safely.” — Boston Journal, June 22, 1910:14.

 

Next time you are stuck in traffic on Gallivan Boulevard, reflect upon this: James A. Gallivan, sixteen years a Boston Congressman, foe of Prohibition, author of A History of the Emblem of the Codfish in the Hall of the House of Representatives, and Boston Street Commissioner. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1914 to 1928 and was succeeded after his death by John W. McCormack who became the 45th Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives. He ran for Mayor of Boston in 1917 and was defeated by James Michael Curley.

The street formerly known as the “Southern Artery — the direct highway to the South Shore,” was renamed in honor of Gallivan in 1930, two years after his death. Boston’s Street Commission ordered the name change, Mayor Curley approved the decision and at the official signing, he handed over the pen to Edward L. Logan, a life-long friend of Gallivan and one of the most vigorous advocates of the plan to re-name the artery. Jimmy Gallivan got a street named for him — Edward L. Logan got an airport.

And lest we overlook the other notable dignitary at the ball game, John F. Fitzgerald — “Honey Fitz” — no stranger to baseball games in Boston as he was a Royal Rooter. Elected Mayor of Boston, first time in 1906 and again on February 7, 1910 he is honored with the John F. Fitzgerald Expressway. Despite his long political career, he will always be overshadowed by his grandson, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 36th President of the United States, who has had many streets, buildings, historical sites, an airport — and the Kennedy Space Center — dedicated to him. Honey Fitz certainly would have been proud and impressed.

 

CHORUS GIRLS START SUNDAY BALL GAME IN HOWARD STREET

Eight Dainty Ankles Hastily Disappear When Policeman Shows Up

“If Miss Trixie LaBrecque desires to regain possession of the baseball presented to her by a member of the New York Giants while she was playing in a Brooklyn burlesque theater she can get it by calling at the Joy street station.

“But from what meager information the police reporter was able to glean yesterday afternoon from Patrolman Mantell, Trixie has no more intention of reclaiming that baseball than she has of returning to her former position of biscuit shooting in the Café des Enfants in dear old “Noo Yoik.”

“For all Trixie cares Capt. Peabody can keep the old ball until it grows feathers. And furthermore, she knows a certain ball player who will readily find another one for her, for what is a baseball compared to languishing in jail where they have no sugar in the coffee and no butter on the bread.

Always Starts Something

Trixie LaBrecque is the chorus girl who always starts something when she comes to Boston. Yesterday, after she had been in the city one hour and thirty minutes, she stepped jauntily from her Somerset street hotel onto Howard Street with three companions, a bat and a baseball.

Make no mistake about the bat. It was only an ordinary “Texas Leaguer.” Trixie and her companions were all dressed nattily in low necked middy blouses, hobble skirts, silk stockings and black pumps.

Trixie brushed back her hair, moistened her hands in the approved fashion originated by the first wielder of a pick and shovel, tossed the ball in the air and swung the bat.

“Crack.” The ball went flying up Somerset street, almost to the corner of Allston, where one of the other three chorus girls caught it on the bounce. She tossed it back to Trixie and the batting practise was on. Boston was having its first exhibition of Sunday baseball and, in less than five minutes, a crowd of two hundred rooters of both sexes crowded the sidewalks and doorsteps shouting in unrestrained approval.

The three girls all had professional ball gloves and fielded the ball in approved fashion. The flutter of garments, the crack of the bat, the exclamations that passed back and forth awoke the West End to one of the most enjoyable half hours in months.

Eight Dainty Ankles

And then came Patrolman Mantell. He rounded the corner in leisurely fashion and imagined for an instant he had wandered into a street fight. Then he looked again and what he saw, while interesting, was but little.

He saw eight dainty ankles, eight little shoes, four little hobble skirts on four fleeing girls. Then the front door of the hotel shut with a bang and all that remained on Somerset street was a crowd of grinning bystanders — and a baseball.

The baseball, dropped at the corner of Allston and Somerset streets by one of the girls, rolled leisurely down the entire length of the street and was captured without a struggle by Patrolman Mantell. This damning evidence was turned in at the station house and if Trixie calls for it, she will be arrested on seven or eight different kinds of alleged violated, desecrated, broken and shattered blue laws concerning sinful ways of spending the Sabbath. Trixie LaBrecque! Keep away from the Joy street station! — Boston Journal, May 6, 1912:11.

 

Boston Post, April 11, 1916:21.

Boston Post, April 11, 1916:21.

 

Random Baseball Item: “MARANVILLE WILL SHOW WITH GRIFFITH.” “Rabbit” Maranville, one of the best shortstops ever developed in this part of the country, and the youth who, by his all-round playing and heavy stick work, proved a tower of strength to the Boston Braves, is to go on the vaudeville stage. Maranville will make his theatrical debut at the National Theatre next week with Tom Griffith, the star outfielder of the Boston team. Griffith possesses an excellent tenor voice, and the way the two ball players harmonize makes them one of the most popular baseball vaudeville teams that has ever made an appearance on the stage. From the National, it is expected the player-singers will make a tour of the New England circuit. All the music and songs used in the performance of the ball players, will be written by Griffith, who has long been known as a music writer of repute. Boston fans are getting ready to give the players a sendoff when they appear on the stage of the National next week. — Boston Post, October 28, 1913:11.

Another Random Baseball Item: “TO SEVER TIES WITH WOMAN BASEBALL FAN” — Proceedings for the annulment of his marriage to Edna Leader, one of the best known woman baseball fans in Boston, and a former cabaret singer of this city, have been instituted in the Suffolk court by Luke W. Condry of Dorchester, who declares that her first husband had not obtained a divorce from her at the time he (Condry) married her. Condry also alleges that her former husband sought to have his marriage annulled on the ground that he was intoxicated at the time he married her and didn’t know what he was doing. Her husband claims that she was first married to John Daniel Smysener, Jr., of South Orange, N.J., (Smysener-Smysner-Smyser, take your pick) in August, 1906 under the name of Edna Anna Leader. Smysener, according to Condry, filed a libel for annulment six days after the marriage was performed. Condry claims that Smysener did not get a divorce from her until February of this year. His own marriage to Edna Leader, according to Condry, took place on May 15, 1909 in this city. He says they lived together for one year. — Boston Journal, November 21, 1913:12.

The Boston Herald reported that Edna, cabaret singer and vaudeville artist had appeared at Paragon Park last summer, and was now singing in a church in New York. Condry said he had married her “in form of law, but not legal effect,” at Boston on May 15, 1909, and that Edna had not received an annulment until February 11, 1913, that she had married Luke without right while that petition was pending. — Boston Herald, November 212, 1913:9.

The good news — for all involved — Luke Condry of Dorchester, a travelling salesman, secured a decree nullifying his marriage to Edna Leader, cabaret dancer at Paragon Park, Nantasket and choir singer in New York City, from Judge Raymond on June 6, 1914. Case closed, and it shall be assumed everyone went on with their lives.

George Rollins Update: “I have been convicted, but I am innocent,” said George Rollins when the verdict was read on June 8, 1918. Amid allegations of defense attorney incompetence and the over-reliance on the testimony of a 13 year old boy, Rollins was removed from court and transferred to the Charlestown Jail, and his brother Charles awaited his trial at the Charles street jail. And yet while George, convicted of first degree murder now faced execution, this was not the end of his story.

Happy Birthday on July 31 to:

  • Gabe Kapler, born 1975, outfielder with the Red Sox 2003 to 2006.
  • Scott Bankhead, born 1953, pitcher, with the Red Sox 1993-94.
  • Billy Hitchcock, born 1916, infielder, with the Red Sox 1948-49.
  • Joe Mulligan, born 1913 in Weymouth MA, pitcher, with the Red Sox 1934.
  • Bill Fleming, born 1913, pitcher, with the Red Sox 1940-41.
  • Gordon McNaughton, born 1910, pitcher, with the Red Sox 1932.

Reporting from the Mudville Bureau of the Boston Chapter, where Opening Day included singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”solo performances from throughout Red Sox Nation, where Game One was a blowout, and subsequent games brought us back to reality, we will settle in for a shortened season and enjoy what we have left. It is much to early to bring out that old lament: “What’s the matter with the Red Sox?”even if it is July. Relax.

— Joanne Hulbert

 

 


JULY 24, 2020 — SABR has announced the formation of a new area of inquiry into baseball history — the Century Research Committee to “provide a research hub for SABR research and activities to memorialize the anniversaries of important milestones in baseball history.” The Committee will primarily focus on 100th anniversary events and will encompass other significant anniversaries, such as 25th, 50th, 75th, as well.

This week, SABR members would have been heading back home from SABR 50 in Baltimore, filled with inspiration and with a long to-do list to sustain us until next year. But this year, we are left to our own sort of fieldwork, and have struck out on our own to find baseball wherever can find it.

Soon there will be games to see remotely — I choose to listen on the radio as even canned crowd sounds may soften the blow of not being there in person. In the spirit of and to celebrate the new Century Research Committee, let’s look back one hundred years and see what was happening.

January 6, 1920: M.T. “Nuf-Ced” McGreevey, for years a loyal follower and Boston baseball fan feels Boston is the loser and New York the gainer in the deal by which Battering Babe Ruth becomes the property of the Yankees. “Ruth is a very big asset. I am heartily sorry to see him get away from the Hub. The Babe and I have been pals for years. I think every real Boston fan will regret his departing.” — Boston Post, January 6, 1920:15.

How angry with Harry Frazee were the fans when the Babe was sent to New York? On July 23, 1920 the Boston Post published its opinion — “Frazee Now Leads the “Bone League”:

“When in the future someone writes a history of baseball and devotes a chapter to ‘famous bones,’ it is doubtful if either the name of Fred Merkle or Heinie Zimmerman will head the list. The honor of leading the “bone league” will undoubtedly not go to a player but to an owner of a club. That owner will be Harry Frazee, the Boston American magnate.

REGULAR HABIT WITH FENWAY MOGUL

“Frazee has constantly pulled bones since he has been at the head of the Red Sox and they have made him unpopular with the fans and patrons of the game. But his greatest bone of all was the selling Babe Ruth, for when he disposed of this great figure in baseball he not only disgusted thousands of Boston fans but he made a big financial blunder as well. It was a bone that has cost him more than the $130,000 he is said to have got for the Babe and is still bound to cost him more. In response to a telegram sent to some of the sporting editors of the New York papers as to how much Babe Ruth has been worth to the New York Yankees so far this season, here are two replies:

BY DANIEL, NEW YORK SUN AND HERALD

“The payment of $130,000 for Babe Ruth by the owners of the New York club has turned out the most profitable investment for any one season yet made in baseball. It remains to be seen whether the investment will bring benefits as lasting as those which came to Chicago with the purchase of Eddie Collins or the acquisition of Tris Speaker by the Cleveland club. Ruth has lifted the Yankees from the position of an also-ran to a pennant contender. When the season is done he will have more than paid for himself, has – and then some.”

BY W.O. M’GEEHAN, NEW YORK TRIBUNE

“There is no way to compute Ruth’s financial worth to the Yankees, but it is reasonable to believe that business has been more than doubled over the best previous season at home and abroad, and the main answer to this is the big Babe. To the club he has been an incalculable benefit by precept and example. Ruth is the bulwark of the Yankee attack as he is the backbone of the outer defense. He is one of the most finished ball plays of 20 years and doubtless the greatest individual asset, from every standpoint, the game has ever known.” – Boston Post, July 23, 1920:8.

 

How did the loss of Babe Ruth affect the Red Sox bottom line? In an article published in the Boston Sunday Post on July 25, 1918 titled “Now and Then,” the threat of a boycott by fans was raised. Many fans had expressed dismay and vowed they would not support the team, and Frazee was blamed for the way he had disposed of star players and for any number of things that an owner should not allow to happen. Attendance figures for 1920 were compared to the same time span in 1916. In 1920, attendance from July 3 to July 24 totaled 79,000. During the same time period in 1916, attendance was 134,685, proof to many that the loss of the Babe was the reason. Blame – or scapegoat?

 

Boston Globe cartoon, July 25, 1920

— Boston Sunday Globe, July 25, 1920.

 

“The White Sox made it 3 out of 4 by defeating the Red Sox yesterday, in the final game of the series, 7 to 4. It was Happy Felsch’s day all the way. Harry Hooper hit a home run over the right field bleachers with no runner on base. But Felsch hit the first ball pitched to him in the seventh inning sending it sailing high over the scoreboard and out onto the roof of a garage on Lansdowne Street. The game was started under threatening weather conditions, and was twice interrupted by showers. The grounds were in bad condition, and the threatening weather kept the crowd down, but the 7000 fans who took a chance saw some good playing.” — Boston Sunday Globe, July 25, 1920.

… so Felsch’s homer landed down on Lansdowne Street … onto the roof of a parking garage … Deja vu all over again.

 

Random Baseball Item: On July 24, 1920, Babe Ruth hit his 34th home run in a game against Cleveland at the Polo Grounds, a game that New York lost, score 4-2. But it was an error by Babe, substituting for Wally Pipp at first base, that greased the ways for the Yanks. It put Ray Chapman on the bag and George Mogridge hit Joe Wood amidships with the ball, making two on base when Larry Gardner” hoisted the fatal pellet that threw a dash of poison into the home brew of joy that the Colonels Ruppert and Huston had been quaffing since the previous day.

“While there were 40,000 customers within the walls when the game started, it was estimated that there were at least that many turned away after the gates had been closed. They could not park another customer in the place. All records for attendance were broken.” – Boston Sunday Post, July 25, 1920:51.

Random Baseball Item #2: Times certainly have changed, when whole baseball teams fly across country to play a game. Only recently the McCook Field nine flew from Dayton, Ohio to Indianapolis to play a game with another aviation service team, won it and departed the same way they came. The flight was made in a Martin bomber and there were in the party 10 ball players and two others. Not all ball teams would take this means of transportation at this time, but some day in the future – who knows? — Boston Daily Globe, July 26, 1920:4.

Another Random Baseball/Aviation Note: Concord, N.H. — While the weekly baseball game in the State Prison League was being played in the yard of that institution this afternoon, Lieut. Robert Fogg, resident aviator, made a special flight over the prison and thus gave some of the long-term inmates their first view of an airplane. — Boston Sunday Globe, July 25, 1920:164.

Harvard Eddie: Edward L. Grant Post, named after Capt. Edward L. Grant, the “Harvard Eddie” of baseball fame, a native of Franklin, who lost his life in the Argonne Forest with the “Lost Battalion” enjoys the distinction of having what State Organizer George W. Wilson of the American Legion calls “the most elaborate, convenient and comfortable headquarters in the State.” — Boston Sunday Globe, July 25, 1920:165.

As mentioned last week, War Fever: Boston, Baseball, and America in the Shadow of the Great War, by Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith, told the story of the “Lost Battalion.” Here’s one more reason to read this marvelous history of Boston, baseball, the BSO, and the “Lost Battalion.”

Last week we left the Rollins brothers looking for alibis. The lawyer representing George Rollins declared he had an iron-clad alibi with reputable witnesses, as he spent the evening of the murder with a friend at an Uphams Corner restaurant and at a party. His friends could confirm his whereabouts that night. George was placed in a police lineup and viewed by several witnesses from the scene of the crime. Leo McCarthy, the store messenger boy was sure Rollins was the man who killed Mr. Hall; the other witnesses were unable to confirm that was the man they saw running out of the store after the shooting. Therefore, brother Charles, who was accused of being the accomplice, was guilty by association – no need to investigate deeper into his involvement. – Boston Post, March 9, 1917:1.

Happy Birthdays:

  • Joe Oliver, born 1965, catcher, 5 games with the Red Sox in 2001.
  • Al Flair, born 1916, first baseman, 10 games with the Red Sox in 1941.
  • Bob Adams, born 1901, pitcher, 2 games, 5.2 innings, with the Red Sox in 1925.

Reporting from the Mudville Bureau of the Boston Chapter, awaiting baseball in some form, and getting in shape to listen to the July 24 game on WEEI (93.7FM), Red Sox vs the Orioles at 7:30 PM. The new technology called radio made its debut in the summer of 1920, and was soon found to be an excellent medium to broadcast baseball games. It still is, especially when Joe Castiglione is on the air. It’ll just seem like those old times all over again.

— Joanne Hulbert

 

 


JULY 17, 2020 — Self-distancing and quarantine measures are slowly being eased as more businesses are carefully opened. Masks sporting sports teams are proliferating and being fashionably coordinated with baseball caps, and it feels like nothing such as what we are experiencing had ever happened before – until a look at what was happening in 1918 with the war effort and the effect it had on sports and other entertainment. On July 12, 1918, Secretary of War Newton D. Baker announced that the game of baseball was a non-essential activity, and that players must either “work or fight.” The reality of war was visited upon all the professional teams, and the impact on the Boston Braves would be significant.

The first blow came when the 1918 schedule was decreased from 154 games to 140. Several Red Sox players had already left to go fight – Jack Barry and Duffy Lewis were already gone. The Boston Braves were a case study of the effect of the war effort, for if the eligible players – those not married or had other exemptions – were to leave, the team would be left with just three players – Charlie Herzog, Ed Konetchy and Tom Hughes – two infielders and a pitcher. There seemed to be nothing left for George Stallings to do than close the gates to Braves Field until the war was won. As we endure the severe alterations to the 2020 baseball season, we can have empathy for what our ancestors dealt with, even though the influenza pandemic was yet to add to their misery.

Boston Post, July 22, 1918:13.

Boston Post, July 22, 1918:13.

 

The team owners hoped to drag out the issue until the natural end of the season solved the issue, but if that did not happen, owners were hopeful they could find enough players who were beyond the scope of the “work or flight” rule. If baseball could not continue the only thing to do was to accept it gracefully as it befits any man, fan or baseball player with patriotism in their hearts who realized this would be the best for the country. Baseball was a business, but also it was a sentimental vocation, and many felt keeping the game going could also be better for the morale of the country.

In concluding his ruling that baseball was non-essential, Secretary Baker added a suggestion that would cause the lights on Broadway to blink:

“I am, therefore, of the opinion that the regulation in question should not be changed, but rather that the scope of its provisions should be so enlarged as to include other classes of persons whose professional occupation is solely that of entertaining. Our people will be resourceful enough to find other means of recreation and relaxation if here be not enough persons beyond the useful military or industrial age to perform such functions, and they will be wise and patriotic enough not to neglect the recreation necessary to maintain their efficiency morely because they are called upon, in the obvious public interest, to sacrifice a favorite form of amusement.” – Boston Post, July 20, 1918:11.

— Boston Post, July 22, 1918:13.

— Boston Post, July 22, 1918:13.

 

There would be no exception for baseball players: they must either find “essential employment” by September 1, or enlist, “The end of the baseball season marks the end of many careers. We probably have watched for the last time such great players as Cobb, Speaker, Daubert, Johnson, Zimmerman, Collins, Cicotte, etc., for, when baseball is revived again after the war, most of the present stars will be missing. A year or two, and maybe more, of idleness will render all of the old stars – the stars of today – unfit for further greatness on the diamond. Military life or essential occupations will develop new muscles at the expense of the old ball playing ones, and so aid in keeping out those who are now passing out. Cobb has announced that he will never play again. So have Daubert, Carey, Merkle, Cravath, Coombs and others. Future baseball will shine with new faces and new heroes. Of course some of the younger stars will continue to shine, such as Sisler, Ruth, Hollocher, Cooper, Southworth, Thormahlen, Jones and others.” – Robert L. Ripley, Boston Globe, September 1, 1918:8.

 

Let us be more optimistic today about the recovery and return of baseball than they were in 1918.

Boston Globe, September 1, 1918:8.

Boston Globe, September 1, 1918:8.

 

BASEBALL ABROAD: Throwing of grenades in baseball fashion has so impressed French generals that they have decided to introduce our national game into their army. No one of wildest imagination ever dreamed of baseball becoming a war game, least of all that it would be adopted by foreigners because of its effectiveness in fighting, and yet this is just what has happened. It has been found that it not only provides just the right kind of exercise for fighting men, but it has been adjudged the best kind of a war sport because it develops precision, promotes quickness of the eye, is excellent for judging distances and aids in map study in locating in the mind of the soldier the objective sought by an advance.— Boston Sunday Post, September 29, 1918:22.

EASIER TO GET ACTORS: The finding by Secretary Baker on the appeal from the local and district boards in Washington, in connection with the “Work or fight” regulation, was a big surprise to the baseball moguls, most of whom believed that players with deferred classification would be regarded in the same light as theatrical performers and moving picture actors. President Frazee of the Red Sox, who is also engaged in the theatrical business, says the new regulations would not hit this business as hard as it has baseball, for plenty of men of more than 31 years of age could be secured to play the parts of performers supposed to be between 21 and 31. – Boston Evening Globe, July 20, 1918:5.

Boston Chapter member Herb Crehan has been the “baseball minister” at the Eliot Church in South Natick for many years, and he occupies the pulpit one Sunday every July. This year, the service is available via Youtube. I had the chance to attend last year and it was really a lot of fun, and Herb was a very capable “preacher of the baseball gospel.” We can all “attend” this year. You can access the service on YouTube.

Random Historical Note, Continued: Last week, we left George Rollins gazing at his inside the prison-yard home run, but his story does not end there, nor did it begin there. How did he end up at the Charles Street jail, facing the possibility of execution in the electric chair for the killing of a Dorchester store clerk?

On the night of February 21, 1917, two gunmen entered the A&P Tea Company on Washington Street intent on robbery. The store manager was shot and killed. The police rounded up the usual suspects including anyone living in the area that had a history of serving time in prison – and a few others for good measure. The only witness in the store was the 12 year old messenger boy, who eagerly offered that the suspects looked like the Rollins brothers, 21 year old George and 19 year-old Charles, and since one of them had prison time in their past, they seemed likely suspects. In a police lineup, the messenger boy was sure George was the gunman, but other witnesses outside the store could not confirm it. What George and Charles needed were alibis. Stay tuned for the next installment of the Tea Store killers.

Another Random Baseball Note: “BASEBALL TEAM MADE TRIP IN AIRPLANES” – For the first time in American baseball history, a team covered its schedule in airplanes. Traveling in nine airships, 18 men of the Brooks Field team, at San Antonio, Texas 100 miles away, recently flew to Corpus Christi in 2 hours and 30 minutes without a mishap, and arrived in fine shape for the game. – Boston Globe, July 18, 1918:21.

More Summer Reading: War Fever – Boston, Baseball, and America in the Shadow of the Great War by Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith is a great summer read, and as well, interesting Boston history. The cover has a fine photo of Fenway Park but that’s not all. The book chronicles the events in Boston during 1918, about the lives of three persons – Karl Muck of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Charles Whittlesey of the Lost Battalion and, of course, Babe Ruth. We all know about Babe Ruth and then some, and the stories of the other two are also highly remarkable. There was much more going on in Boston in 1918 other than the World Series – read all about it.

Happy Birthdays:

  • Deron Johnson, b. July 17, 1938, infielder, left fielder, with the Red Sox 1974-76.
  • Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau, b. July 17, 1917, shortstop, 1951-2, manager 1952-54.
  • Ed Connolly, b. July 17, 1908, catcher, Red Sox 1929-32.
  • Hank Patterson, b. July 17, 1907, catcher, Red Sox 1932: 1 G, 1 PA, 1 AB., on 9-5-32.
  • Les Wilson, b. July 17, 1885, out fielder, pinch hitter, Red Sox 1911, 5 G, 11 PA, 7 AB.

Reporting from the Mudville Bureau of the Boston Chapter where there is still hope for some sort of baseball season. I intend to listen to games on the radio, because I hope the broadcasts will contain crowd notice in the background. At least that would allow me to imagine that although a crowd does not exist in reality, at least it’ll sound right.

— Joanne Hulbert

 

 


JULY 10, 2020 — the Boston Red Sox are at their second “Spring Training – at a time when we should have been hearing about the All-Star Game. Instead, we await some kind of baseball season be it one like the average school child is experiencing, or, some other alternative. July is a time when baseball was in full swing from the time the game was organized as a team sport, and every July there was much to report about the progress of the season.

On July 10, 1850, there were fleeting reports of ball games played at Fourth of July celebrations, although reporting was vague. Most accounts included reports of guns blazing and bands playing. Field sports were mentioned, but more newspaper columns were devoted to such dire topics as whether children ought to be allowed to dance. Oh! Such wicked exertions preying upon young minds!

Luckily, by 1860, concerns about dancing were somewhat alleviated, and base ball appeared in newspapers columns recording games played, clubs organized, and physical exertion now an acceptable activity.

 

A CHALLENGE

At a meeting of the GRANITE BASE BALL CLUB, of Lynn, held this evening, it was unanimously voted to challenge the OUTALANCHET BASE BALL CLUB to play a match game according to the Rules of the Massachusetts Association of Base Ball Players, within thirty days from date. – Boston Herald, July 14, 1860:2.

 

July 10, 1870 – there was no baseball played around Boston – except for any unlawful event held beyond the eyes of the law – because July 10, 1870 was a Sunday. Newspapers reported that people spent time sailing in the harbor and walking on the Common. The Boston Ice Company advertized their product at 50 cents for 100 pounds and six dollars per ton. Boston’s population in 1870 was 220,750. Boston’s “faithful guardians of the night and day” will begin their vacations on August 1, old officers getting two weeks and new ones half that time. And Miss M. has retired from the stage.

July 10, 1880 – “Beaten at Last! The Worcesters Apply the Whitewash to the Bostons.” The twenty-first game on the Boston grounds that season was played between the home nine and Worcester in the presence of a small number of people who witnessed a fine exhibition of baseball playing. Feature of the game was a most remarkable seventh inning ever played on the grounds as only four balls were pitched to decide it. Final score – Worcester 3, Boston 0.

July 10, 1888 – In the 21st century, Red Sox fans were often creatively expressed their disrespect for rival players and none received more than A-Rod. Today’s fans did not invent the fine art of hurling vitriol or ridicule, for nineteenth century fans had already refined the art of shouts, chants, songs and poetry, and they saved their best renditions for Adrian Anson. Although there was a growing rivalry with New York over baseball and other unimaginable slights, Boston fans also looked forward to the arrival of the Chicagos and their first baseman. No need for rehearsals, the cranks were always ready.

July 10, 1880 – The Chicagos were back in Boston. Lack of base hitting, some outrageous errors, a few bad decisions and plenty of Chicago luck was all that was needed for a Boston loss. Score: 6 to 1. Chicago’s first baseman, Cap Anson, was rather disappointed in the outcome of the series, as he was feeling bad about not winning all three games played and had to settle for one win only. “Very modest, indeed,” commented the reporter.

When Anson started out as a professional with the Forest City club he was a big country lout. He was then described by the Philadelphia Times, as a “kicker” and he developed a reputation for many baby-ish pranks on and off the field. From these the Chicago first baseman received the nickname “Baby,” which stuck to him ever since. He hated that nickname but could not afford to say so. …..Mr. Anson humorously referred to the nickname of “Baby,” so common in Boston, and said he didn’t think any the worse of Boston people for that, and he was not at all thin-skinned, “but I can tell you,” he said, “that the more I am called “Baby” the closer I think my game is being watched, and the harder I strive to win from you.”

July 10, 1900 – At St. Louis, the Bostons faced defeat at the hands of Bertie Jones, a tall, slender striping from Colorado who added another shout-out game to his record. No one Boston player reached third base, and only two got as far as second. There was something to cheer about. The crowd cheered for three long minutes after a sensational play by

Hermon Long who caught a ball hit by Lou Criger. Long rushed over and stuck out his left hand just in time to stop the ball, while on a full run with his head but a foot or two off the ground. He shifted the ball from his left hand to his right, and accurately passed it to Fred Tenney before Criger could touch the base. It was seen as a play far out of the ordinary for the times. Despite spectacular plays it was all for naught. Score: St. Louis 3, Boston 0.

With Baby Anson it was always something. In an August 31, 1893 game in Boston it was just like old times to see “Baby” Anson at his usual old kicking game. Hugh Duffy stepped up to the bat with a big pine bat marked “1492,” and when Hugh pointed the bat in Anson’s general direction on first base, he protested to Umpire Jack Flynn, at one time a Chicago pitcher, who would not give in to his protest, The Baby asked for a new umpire, and took a seat on the Boston bench while Flynn walked around the home plate with a borrowed gold watch and chain. The Boston owners saw the Baby’s tantrum continue and asked that the game go on in order not to disappoint the fans. Anson based his objection to the pine bat on Rule 13: “The bat must be made wholly of hard wood, except the handle.” During the game Duffy was presented with a bouquet of flowers by his friends on the center field bleachers, and “Baby” found a large cabbage flower when he approached home plate. Bosotn 7, Chicago 0.

July 10, 1910 was a Sunday, therefore, no baseball games in Boston. There were other issues to contend with. The headline in the Boston Journal: “White Plague Test Declined by Fitz. Mayor Not Afraid, But Feels It Would Be Invasion of Others’ Rights.” Mayor Fitzgerald made it clear that he had no intention of submitting himself to an examination for tuberculosis as an example to city employees as was suggested by Edward F. McSweeney, chairman of the trustees of the Consumptive Hospital. The Mayor denied that he was afraid he wouldn’t pass the test, but because he believed the effect of such action would amount to an invasion of the rights of those individuals who might not desire such an examination, but would feel compelled to submit to it.

“I played five fast innings of baseball and knocked out a home run within two weeks,” said the mayor last night, “and I’m satisfied I’m all right; but instead of following Mr. McSweeney’s suggestion I shall refer the matter to the Board of Health and to the Chamber of Commersce committee, and when I have their replies, I shall give the matter further consideration. The Mayor also offered: “Another side of the question is the immense expense involved and whether such expense would be justified by the probable results.

Boston Globe, September 5, 1917

Boston Globe, July 5, 1917

 

Baseball as He Found It

July 10, 1920 – Yesterday Manager Ed Barrow of the Red Sox cut open an American League baseball and found a rubber center as large as a golf ball. The winding was done with cotton instead of woolen yarn. Formerly the inner rubber ball was solid but this one has a cork center and is three times the size of the former inner ball. Ed is now inclined to think that the ball has a whole lot to do with the big amount of hitting in the league. Incidentally, the covers of the ball this year will stand little wear. The Sox used nearly 100 dozen of them to date, and before the end of the season the bill for baseballs is likely to be very close to $2500. – the Boston Globe, Saturday, July 10, 1920:7.

Random Baseball Note: “CAPITAL PRISONER GETS HOME-RUN HIT. George Rollins Captains Nine at Charles Street Jail.” Although awaiting sentence in connection with the murder of the Dorcehster grocery store manager, George Rollins captained a baseball team in a game among the inmates of the Charles Streeet jail yesterday and batted out the longest hit of the prisoners’ baseball season. The ball landed far in the outfield of the jail yard, nearly hitting John J. McDonald, who was watching the contest from an easy chair still convalescent from being shot in the spine in Roxbury by a policeman. The hit was good for a home run, but Rollins, dazzled by the sun, thought the fielder had caught the ball on the bound and consequently advanced no further than first base. He made this hit off Ray Sanunders, captain of the other team, who, although he has only one arm, the left one, and has only four fingers remaining, pitched a good game. Rollins’s team won by the score of 4 to 3. – Boston Herald, July 19, 1920:9.

Happy Birthday to Jalen Beeks, born July 10, 1993, left handed pitcher, just arrived at Fenway Park in time for the pandemic. Sixty feet six inches should provide enough social distancing unless an irate batter charges the mound.

Happy birthday to Hall of Famer Andre Dawson, born July 10, 1954, and lest the youngest among us have forgotten, Dawson was with the Red Sox in 1993 and 1994.

Happy birthday to George Dickey, born July 10, 1915, younger brother of HOF Bill Dickey, a catcher and pinch hitter with the Boston Red Sox in 1935 and 1936.

And happy birthday to John Michaels, who we all may have forgotten, born July 10, 1907, left-handed pitcher in 1932 with the Boston Red Sox, one win, six losses. One year, one win, that was all.

Reporting from the Mudville Bureau of the Boston Chapter, where the weather is getting even warmer over the past couple of days, and wear your mask! We hear that Eduardo Rodriguez tested positive for the Covid virus – get well soon, Eduardo!

— Joanne Hulbert

 

 


JULY 3, 2020 — Social distancing and the wearing of masks continues. The Boston Chapter has adjusted to the new way of existing. Numbers are decreasing here in the ER, but the threat still looms and is worse in other parts of the country. At work, we have several travel nurses from Texas, Alabama and Arizona — perhaps their experience in Massachusetts is boot camp for them, as they will likely return to the hot spots later this summer. One of the nurses from Texas is a Red Sox fan — he also respects the Rangers — but one of his first tourist trips to Boston included a walk around Fenway Park and a stop at Twins for a standard issue — blue with red B — Red Sox ballcap. The sacred ground of our green cathedral attracts baseball fans from all over the world. He laments that he may not get to a game while here.

Fenway Park’s draw reminds me of an Opening Day several years ago, as I was waiting in line to enter the Park, I struck up a conversation with a young man from Germany. He had been an exchange student in the Boston area decades ago, and had been inoculated with the Red Sox fever and never recovered. Each year, he makes the trip back to Boston to receive his annual “Saulkx” vaccine. I hope he is faring well this year, and can wait until next year.

Babe Ruth with the Boston Red sox, circa 1917 (LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)

The Boston Globe reported on July 3, 1918 a bit of ominous news from Washington D. C., where the day before the Red Sox faced pitcher Harry Harper in a 3 to 0 shutout. He struck out Ruth twice in succession. “Ruth Nursing Sore Hand, Fails to Drive in Any Runs” whispered the headline.

Harry Hooper — keep your Harrys straight — was the only Red Sox player to make it to third base, three others reached second. Sox pitcher Joe Bush was not up to his usual level. Heinie Wagner, Boston’s second baseman, one of only three games he appeared in during 1918, and had not been in the lineup since 1916, would soon prove once again a player ready to the rescue.

So what was up? Why the concern for Babe Ruth not hitting that day? Reports floated around that the Babe had injured his hand in Philadelphia by sliding to a base and that it had been bothering him ever since. Perhaps, it was speculated, that was why he couldn’t get a good grip on the bat that day in Washington. Or, was there more to it?

More headlines now screamed from the Boston Post on July 4, 1918:

BABE RUTH QUITS RED SOX TEAM
Says He Will Enter Bethlehem Steel Plant

FRAZEE WILL FIGHT TO HOLD PITCHER
Boston Owner Vows He Will Stop Contract Breaking

Sportswriter Paul Shannon delivered the news on July 3 that Babe Ruth had quit the team and had shuffled off to Baltimore. Frazee vowed he would take the case to the federal courts if need be, and bring a civil damage lawsuit against Bethlehem Steel if they attempted to sign Ruth, and vowed he would take every cent he had invested in baseball to bring Ruth to his senses and put a stop to those who contemplated jumping a contract!

Ruth’s teammates were not sympathetic, and accused the star player of an inflated head caused by too much advertising and his effectiveness was impaired by altogether too much babying. The Babe had been given permission to travel to Baltimore on the day off at Washington but did not return as expected. Manager Barrow , though very displeased that he was non est, kept his mouth shut for now.

Apparently what had happened at that Washington game on July 3, after the Babe struck out the second time and returned to the bench in a fit of temper, Barrow criticized him for hitting at bad balls. Angry words were exchanged and Ruth left the game. Jack Stansbury took his place in center field. The excuse was made that the Babe was suffering from an upset stomach, and the star player went to Baltimore.

He was found there in Baltimore right back of the bar at his own café there by he who was sent to track him down. Ruth was sore, sore with Barrow because he felt that he was being badly treated. Perhaps coaxing, and perhaps a little boost in salary might cause the sensation of Boston’s season to decide that he should not spoil his wonderful home run record — Frazee, Barrow and all the fans in Boston were hoping.

The Babe announced he was determined to play in the industrial league for the Chester plant of Bethlehem Steel. He told Paul Shannon, “Just say I don’t know what I’ll do. The whole fuss was started over a play on the field. I hit at the first ball, and he said something about it being a bum play. Then we had some words, and I thought he called me a bum and I threatened to punch him. He told me that would cost me $500, and then I made a few more remarks and left the club.” — Boston Post, July 4, 1918:13.

Babe made it clear he would not pay the $500 fine and he said he was not the greenhorn he once was and knew he was quite the attraction worth a significant amount of money to Frazee.

So, what happened? We know the Babe returned to the Red Sox. His return was swift, and could be measured in hours instead of days. Frazee did not need to file an injunction, nor did he have to drag him back to the team in chains. On July 4, the Babe agreed to return to the Red Sox and rejoined the team at Philadelphia in an afternoon game on July 4, in left field, where he struck out twice. He made a big hit with the bleacher crowd in the 30-cent section greeting him with language that the reporter deemed unprintable and that the Babe ignored.

How do you convince your star player to return after a blowout with the manager? Straight up threats and coercion were of little use. Both sides were dominated by inflated egos. Harry Frazee sent veteran second baseman Heinie Wagner to Baltimore to speak with Ruth and lay out for him the possible consequences of his abrupt departure from the team. Whatever Wagner did, the mission was accomplished and the Babe returned with Wagner and was ready to play in the afternoon game of the doubleheader on July 4 at Philadelphia. Between the games, there was another flare-up between Ruth and Barrow when an apology was demanded from the Babe, and he again threatened to leave. Somehow, cooler heads prevailed and the rest is a part of history. Babe Ruth set out to improve his home run record, he went on to complete the season with the Red Sox much to the relief of Frazee, Barrow and fans, and he played a dominant role helping Boston win the World Series in 1918. Ed Barrow had to believe that the Babe was too important an asset to keep on the bench or lose to Bethlehem Steel. Although Ruth had been a pitcher during his early years, he found that playing a position other than on the mound gave him more opportunity for at bats to improve his home run record which stood at 11 on July 4.

Boston Globe cartoon, July 4, 1918 (NEWSPAPERS.COM)

Sportswriters, fans and team owners and managers were equally fascinated by Babe Ruth’s pursuit of the home run record. He was five homeruns shy of the American league record, made by Socks Seybold in 1902. Ruth had appeared in 44 games up to this point and if he stuck with the team he could easily break the single season record of 24 set by Philadelphia outfielder Clifford Carlton Gavvy “Cactus” Cravath in 1915. It was noted that in almost every instance a player who led his league in home runs made most of them in his home ball park. Such was not the case with Ruth so far in 1918. He did all of his home runs in New York, Washington, Detroit, Cleveland and St. Louis. He had not hit one in Boston, Chicago, nor Philadelphia. His record to date included three in New York, three in Washington , three in Detroit, one in Cleveland and one in St. Louis, where in 1916 he held the record for the longest hit ever made, sending the ball over the right field fence and all the way to Grand Avenue. He also held the record at Fenway Park driving the ball farther than any player had in the six years of the park’s short history. Everyone was obsessed with Babe Ruth and his home run record, an obsession that captivated fans during a time of war and the impending influenza epidemic that would eventually divert everyone’s attention in another direction.

Boston Globe cartoon, July 4, 1918 (NEWSPAPERS.COM)

Perhaps we can give credit to Ed Barrow for figuring this out, but we can also give credit to Charles “Heinie” Wagner for his successful negotiating skills in rescuing a key element of the Red Sox team. There were many factors that led the Red Sox to the World Series in 1918, but history might have turned out differently if not for a certain player stepping up to the proverbial plate.

Thank you for the history:

  • Boston Globe, July 3, 1918:4.
  • Boston Post, July 4, 1918:1.
  • Philadelphia Public Ledger, July 5, 1918:14.
  • Boston Sunday Post, July 7, 1918:28.
  • Three sketches — Ruth is Back! Boston Post, July 13, 1918.

Random Historical Note: Catcher Walter Tragesser of the Braves has enlisted in the Naval Reserves and will leave tomorrow, with Kelly, Powell and Rehg, for Newport. Tragesser failed to pass the physical examination for entrance in the Army because of a crooked finger on his right hand. — Boston Globe, July 4, 1918:4.

Random Historical Note 2: To the majority of Britons the Fourth of July has meant no more than October 1, Trafalgar Day does to Americans. In British history the American Revolution is merely an incident in which George III and George Washington figure more or less prominently. Up to two years ago the biggest celebration of the Fourth of July in England was held at the American embassy, where the stars and stripes were displayed and ice cream and lemonade were served to Americans who came to shake the ambassador’s hand. Today George V is “warming up” daily in the court yard of Buckingham Palace, American Red Cross women have been working overtime making baseball uniforms, and British orators are delving into American history. The YMCA huts are being decorated with bunting, while British stores are doing a rushing business in flags. Theatrical folks and song writers have been preparing special bills and even some Britons have had the hardihood to tackle “The Star Spangled Banner.” July 4, 1918 promises to be a big day in British history. there are more Americans in Briton today than even during the rosy pre-war times when the land was invaded by tourists. Thousands of American boys are in camp. All of them will not see the King pitch the first ball at the Army-Navy game here, but wherever they are they are going to have the opportunity to celebrate Independence Day as nearly as possible as they would do if they were at home. By his example the King has let his subjects know that he wanted the Americans in the British Isles to feel at home on Independence Day, and when Britons lay themselves out to be hospitable their guests are in for a royal time. Some 20,000 are expected to cheer when the King passes out the ball. Canadians and Australians who are pals with the Americans will go in with the English in helping the Yanks celebrate. There will be no time for homesickness this Independence Day. — Boston Post, July 4, 1918:6.

Happy birthday to:

  • Danny Heep, born July 3, 1957, outfielder, pinch hitter, first baseman with Boston Red Sox in 1989-90.
  • Frank Tanana, born 1953, pitcher with the Red Sox in 1981.
  • Buddy Rosar, born 1914, a Red Sox catcher in 1950-51.

And lest we forget, Nig Cuppy (born George Joseph Koppe, in 1869), pitcher and outfielder for the Boston Nationals in 1900, and joined the Boston Americans in 1901:

Cuppy said he was glad to be back to a Boston team. He thinks he was treated badly by [Boston Nationals] manager Selee last season.

“I will have a catcher in Criger this year,” said Cuppy, “who will not keep telling Selee that I have crossed him in signs every time he has a passed ball.”

This was a knock at Bill Clarke. Cuppy says he will amend his style and pitch without the long-time waits. Cuppy claims to be in first-class shape, but will not be worked until the weather is good and warm. — Boston Globe, April 3, 1901:8.

And on July 4, happy birthday to Brendan Donnelly, born 1971, a pitcher for the Red Sox in 2007.

Reporting from the Mudville Bureau of the Boston Chapter, where the weather was once warm for a couple of days, but this week there’s cool, cloudy, torrential rain “showers,” with occasional wicked thunder and lightning, and the prospect of improvement not likely. Heck, we are still supposed to practice six feet (and maybe add six inches too) of distancing, self-quarantine and we’re wearing masks that would mess up a facial tan anyway.

— Joanne Hulbert

 

 

Wicked Smaht t-shirt (JOANNE HULBERT)


JUNE 26, 2020 — Wicked! The word first appears in the English language in the 13th century, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary along with pitcher and crank. Each word would eventually be given new meanings in the extensive baseball lexicon.

The first appearance of wicked baseball can be found in an 1868 guide in a story about Charley Mills, a catcher who eventually played for the New York Mutuals in 1871-72: “When sure of his man on the bases, Charley throws a wicked ball.” — “Notable Collection of Baseball Data,” Anaconda (Montana) Standard, July 31, 1921:8.

The “wicked” ball was not evil, as the standard definition defines the word as something vile, or demonic. Instead, “wicked” in baseball terms, came to define something wonderful. Just as “pitcher” and “crank” acquired new definitions, the baseball dictionary is filled with adoptions, as anyone who opens The Dickson Baseball Dictionary can read. Some words faded away, others have stuck around.

Wicked is one of those words, and it stuck around Boston longer than other places and was widely used to describe all manner of glorious feats and exceptional prowess.

 

“Herman Long is the one man who will be most pleased to have Tucker again at first, for Tom has saved him many an error by picking Herman’s wicked throws out of the dirt, and from in front of the runner.” — Boston Daily Advertiser, November 19, 1895:8.

“Pat M’Cauley has made 78 assists this season. A wise chap suggests that Mac has had more chances to throw out runners because more have reached the bases off the [Worcester] Riddles than any other club. This is wicked.” — Worcester Daily Spy, July 21, 1903:3.

Hooper made a wicked three-base hit over the right fielder’s head in the third inning, scoring Sam Jones, who had walked.” — Boston Herald, July 21, 1918:12.

“Earl Wilson was still wild but wicked.” — Curt Gowdy, Boston Record American, July 8, 1962:75.

But can [Tony Conigliaro] also pitch? He hasn’t tried since he played American Legion ball in 1962,” Sal [Conigliaro] said. “I honestly don’t know if he’s got the goods, but when he pitched for St. Mary’s High in Lynn he had a wicked fast ball, a wicked curve and a wicked slider. He’d befuddle the batters with his curve ball. He pitched no-hitters and one-hitters and he pitched against kids like Danny Murphy and his team won the Catholic conference.” — Tim Horgan, ”Tony Needs A Miracle, Says Dad” – Boston Herald, April 14, 1968:8.

 

“Wicked” started out as many baseball words had as slang, but then eventually gained some modicum of acceptance and was embraced by many, such as fans – previously known as cranks – in Boston. Early baseball writing and reporting enjoyed a literary civil war, with the anti-slang faction battling the purveyors of colloquial wickedness. There were many battlefronts.

HARVARD TIES THE CAN TO SLANG

Horrors! In 1915, when faculty at this prestigious university found their students describing their exploits in baseball terms not found in the OED, they swung in to action – they attempted to ban baseball slang. They soon found it would have been easier to ban baseball, for they soon found that the national game was resplendent with picturesque and romantic words that inspired writers and readers alike. The battle was on.

“For the game of baseball; resplendent as are its virtues and powerful as are its charms, is, after all, justified chiefly by the picturesque and romantic literature which it inspires. There are in existence sound citizens who attend baseball games as infrequently as they attend, say, husking bees or bull fights. But there is not one of them who cannot, if he will, take pleasure in the amazing verbal dexterity of the men who for months find daily new and entertaining variants for “Mr. Dusenbury hit the ball into left field.

“Recently there came to the shores of this country an English journalist, Cecil Chesterton, who never had seen – and never has seen, up to the time of writing – a game of baseball. Yet Mr. Chesterton found in the sporting pages of American metropolitan newspapers a strange and subtle delight. Avidly he read, without the slightest idea of its significance, such baseball news as was published during his stay in the United States. To repeat to him such a phrase as “the southpaw bunted the spheroid” was to earn his gratitude. For he, like every connoisseur of words, appreciated what is really the poetry of the baseball game – which is totally different from its mere history.” – Boston Herald, May 9, 1915:22.

The faculty naysayers lost the battle, and the purveyors of baseball poetical slang won the war. There were other battle fronts, and William Randolph Hearst, who attended Harvard and should have known better than to take this battle on in 1901, was reported to have given out the mandate that the San Francisco Examiner pages must in the future be free from slang. The story goes that the baseball reporter turned pale when he read the notice.

“A baseball story without slang? It can’t be done,” he cried. But he set out to adhere to the command, made a stop at the nearest café and “imbibed copious draughts of the fluid which gives men power to do impossible things” and then set out for the ball park. He returned with his copy, handed it to the city editor who read something like this: “Mr. Nordyke was the first man to approach the thing which is known as the home plate. He held a wooden stick in his hand with which he desired to strike a ball which was thrown toward him by a member of the opposing side, called the pitcher. He did not attempt to strike the first ball, because as it neared him it turned to the right. This is called a curve. He tried to strike the ball the next time it was thrown, but missed it. The third time it was thrown he struck it a forcible blow, causing it to soar though the air for a great distance, but one of the men from the other side caught it with is hands.”

“Sanctified blue blazes! What’s this?” asked the city editor.

The baseball reporter pointed to the notice regarding slang. “I am the only man who ever did a baseball story without it,” he said triumphantly, “but I can’t keep it up long.” His feet slid from under him and he fell exhausted to the floor.

Henceforth the sporting department of the Examiner will be permitted to use slang with discretion.

– Springfield (MA) Republican, November 17, 1901:17.

The early defenders of baseball slang bequeathed to us a great gift. They saved a national pastime treasure. And contributed countless words to the American lexicon. Baseball slang is not as noticeable today since much of that slang has become acceptable even by readers of the OED. Writers never lost their edge when it came to describing a baseball game, and we can take a few lessons from the old pros, reminisce, and debate why they don’t write them now like they used to.

DEACON BARROWS

The following breezy writeup of Barton’s game at Derby Line a week ago Saturday appeared in the Stanstead (Vermont) Journal.

“Again last Saturday the Frontier Baseball Team saw its shadow and returned to it former hibernation. Barton performed the operation without administering an anesthetic, consequently there as some noise from the patient, notwithstanding the well-known skill of the surgeon. Evidently the locals left their four leafed clovers and horse-shoes at home, for luck was absent, the visitors alone having it. That is the history of the game; someone must lose if another wins. We are not going to waste time, paper and ink explaining how it was done, but must say that Barton played a great fielding game, for example we drove a pretty one over the third garden, apparently safe by yards and furlongs, but Barton’s giraffe, Dana, who has an arm and a paw that reminds us of a scoop net on a ten-foot bamboo, and said appliance is always in the way when a likely and truly possible ball comes within a hundred feet, in the case we are talking about, said hand performed its function beautifully, but not for us. Deacon Barrows worked his sunny haw! haw! to our confusion. Uncle Gardyne played the first bag as if it contained one of mother’s best suet puddings, his foot was always in it, and his mitt was as sure as a yale lock. The visitors outfield was as far from a vision as the shingle of our childhood, which was one of life’s stern realities, it was like the cordion of Thermopyle, an impassable barrier. Mr. Webster who tossed the berries to the “Deacon” was the greatest sprinter on the team, but he couldn’t twirl with “Archie.” About our part of the game, well, Archie had 13 of those items that help in a pinch, but the score was 10 to 2, we paid only 20 cents on the dollar, score talks.”

Orleans (Barton, VT) County Monitor, June 28, 1911.

 

For readers in a slight state of confusion – a translation: “the shingle of our childhood: refers to shingle – a rough, gravel surface of a playing field that was certainly painful when landing upon it and the “cordion of Thermopyle” was a cordon of soldiers, a line of troops that cordoned off an area, impenetrable to the offense as it happened at the battle of Thermopylae. The use of classical references was a frequently used literary resource for early baseball writers.

Today, there’s little slang to be found compared to a century ago. Perhaps writers today would suffer the slings and arrows of copy editors and a host of ghosts from bygone Harvardian faculty. But it does not mean that we cannot celebrate the masterpieces of the past and imagine what it would be like if the slam-bang slang had persisted.

When the Omahas sailed into the Quincys and demonstrated to the Swamp Angels that they didn’t know the rudiments of base ball, the base ball writer of the Quincy Herald went down to his office and wrote this prose poem of the game:

“The glass-armed toy soldiers of this town were fed to the pigs yesterday by the cadaverous Indian grave-robbers from Omaha. The flabby one-lunged Rubens who represent the Gem City in the reckless rush for the baseball pennant had their shins toasted by the basilikeyed cattle drivers from the west. They stood around with gaping eyeballs like a hen on a hot nail, and suffered the grizzly yaps of Omaha to run the bases until their necks were long with thirst. Hickey had more errors than “Colin’s Financial School,” and led the rheumatic procession to the morgue. The Quincys were full of straw and scrap iron. They couldn’t hit a brick wagon with a pick-axe and ran bases like pall-bearers at a funeral. If three base-hits were growing on the back of every man’s neck they couldn’t reach ‘em with a feather duster. It looked as if the Amalgamated Union of South American Hoodoos was in session for work in the thirty-third degree. The geezers stood about and whistled for help, and were so weak they couldn’t lift a glass of beer if it had been all foam. Everything was yellow, rocky and whangbasted, like a stigtossed full of doodlegammon. The game was whiskered and frostbitten. The Omahogs were bad enough, but the Quincy Brown Sox had their fins sewed up until they couldn’t hold a crazy quilt unless it was tied around their necks.

Roast the scar-eyed crocodiles, anyhow.

Daily Nonpareil (Council Bluffs, Iowa), May 31, 1895, p. 4.

 

The Nonpareil reporter eloquently commented: “To be a base ball reporter on a newspaper nowadays needs no particular knowledge of the game. What is required is an unusual felicity at invective and an ability to misuse English so that the original meaning of the words will be obscured.

 

Boston Globe cartoon, September 20, 1916

Boston Daily Globe, September 20, 1916:7

 

The Last Word comes from Trenton, New Jersey: “As for ourselves, we are rather amused than incensed over the linguistic innovations of the creative geniuses who nowadays guide the destinies of the sporting page, and to our indignant friend of conservative habits we offer this comforting thought – that while the newspaper reports may seem mere verbal barbarisms, the game is still the same as in days of yore, and the best way to enjoy its stimulating thrills is to visit the grounds and see it played.” — Trenton Evening Times, May 23, 1909:6.

Happy birthday to Greg Blosser, born 1971, Red Sox left fielder and pinch hitter in 1993-94. Happy birthday to Mike Myers, Red Sox left-handed pitcher, born 1969. And happy birthday to Jim Henry, born 1916, Red Sox pitcher 1936-39. They all share a birthday with Derek Jeter, born 1974.

Random Historical Baseball Note #1: “Saturday, June 26, 1920 – YANKS BOMBARD RED SOX YET BABE HITS NO HOMER- Rip Collins, Texas Ranger, Lets Barrowmen Down with Lone Double by Eddie Foster – Tale is 14-0. . . . Every mother’s son of the Yanks made one or more runs today and one or more hits. The Boston outfielders, Hooper, Schang and Menosky, were all chasing hits. But the Sabbath means nothing but more chasing.” — Boston Herald, June 27, 1920:14.

Random Historical Baseball Note #2: “Last Saturday at Elmira the New York State Reformatory baseball team beat the Kennedy Valve Works team, 5 to 2. It was the box score that was distinctive, showing two-base hits by 26233, 26437, 26091. The Reformatory boys didn’t make any double plays, but it would have been highly impersonal to read ‘26030 to 26437 to 26045.’ ” — Franklin P. Adams, The Colyum, Boston Journal, September 8, 1916:6.

And One Last Random Note: “In spite of all efforts to wheedle them out of first place, it begins to look as if the Red Sox have brought their knitting …” — Salt Lake Telegram, pg. 38, September 24, 1916.

(Slang Quiz – can you identify the slang phrase, and, the definition?)

Reporting from the Mudville Bureau of the Boston Chapter, where we are seeing more relaxing of the quarantine rules, and we are still wearing masks, where the weather has now turned to that which is reminiscent of baseball games, hot dogs, a Sam Adams and a seat in the bleachers, the Boston Chapter is keeping baseball alive.

— Joanne Hulbert

 


JUNE 19, 2020 — There’s more to report about good balls, bad balls – beyond the bullet ball that was never heard from again after 1858. We can wax poetic nonetheless about a seemingly simple sphere.

The ball is the center and circumference of baseball. Around it is built the national pastime, and without it there would be no use for bats, grounds or diamonds. All these are at hand and can be reached by merely whittling the limb of a tree, placing stones or driving pegs for bases and selecting an open field. But it requires intelligence and skill to produce a ball. It is the artistic component part of the game, the others being furnished raw by Nature. The ball is the symbol of the grand old sport, and the idol all fans adore. It is the source of action of the game and never dies. (Springfield (MA) Republican, November 21, 1915:25.)

Balls were at first hand-made, from readily available materials. Many horsehides – often remnants from shoe and harness making – contributed to the cause, and yarn for winding could be had from any mother’s knitting basket, and a small stone would suffice for a center. As seen with the Massachusetts game the official requirements were sketchy and allowed art and creativity intervene.

RULES and REGULATIONS of the game of BASE BALL, adopted by the “Massachusetts Association of Base Ball Players,” held in Dedham, May 13, 1858.

1st. The ball must weigh not less than two, nor more than two and three-quarters ounces, avoirdupois. It must measure not less than six and a half, nor more than eight and a half inches in circumference, and must be covered with leather.

The Knickerbocker Club game rules in 1845 were remiss in addressing the construction of the ball – how very trusting they were of their membersip! Rule the 9th stated: “The ball must be pitched, not thrown, for the bat.

As history has told us, the first baseballs were of the “lemon-peel style” with the cover sewn with a sturdy string, bringing the four flaps together. There was a problem with that type of construction as players soon found out.

1908 baseball cover designWood County Reporter, Wisconsin Rapids, WI. November 26, 1908:7.

 

STORY OF THE BASEBALL COVER
Rhode Island Lad Said to Have Invented Modern Casing

Who invented the baseball cover? What genius was it who conceived the nation of inclosing a sphere in an envelope of so peculiar a cut as that which for years now has been a distinctive feature of the missile used in the great American game? In baseball in early days the leather was cut in four pieces, and the rough seams were like so many slits in the skin of an orange. Maybe nobody ever seriously wondered who was responsible for the change, but the Providence Journal claims to have discovered the man. He hit upon the idea when a schoolboy, he says, and his invention was taken up and adopted by the late Harry Wright and his brother George. Here is his story:

“I resided at Stoughton and was attending school at the time I invented the baseball cover in use to-day. My father was manufacturing boots at the time, and I had access to all the leather. I used to cover the balls we schoolboys used in playing the old ‘round-ball’ game. Of which the main features of excitement consisted in ‘tucking out’ by throwing the ball at or toward the batter while in transit from base to base, and he needed to be an athlete, contortionist and general invisibilist to dodge those balls that were thrown straight from the shoulder.

Old-time baseball cover

In covering the balls according to the old form, I found the corners would give out first, and quick at that that, and when we threw a ball at an opponent we couldn’t inflict a black and blue mark on him to emphasize the victory, for the wind would get into the ragged flaps of the broken corners and retard its flight.

Vintage baseball

“So one day in school, when the teacher was not looking and those were rare intervals, for he had several pairs of sharp eyes located in unexpected spots about his head, I took a piece of brown paper and inside of five minutes I devised the present form of cover to baseballs. Had I known its value, a fortune was mine, but still I have the rich reflection that it has afforded a pleasure to the work, for the game would be a tame affair without that desirable geometric form of cover.” — Springfield (MA) Republican, January 15, 1905: 12.

There have been several “inventors of the figure-eight baseball cover” and this was just one of the contenders for that title. There is no original U.S. Patent for the design – just as well, most of the romance about the baseball remains intact.

The U.S. Patent office lists 27,652 baseball related patents. I admit I quit after scanning through 250, and looked at the “Grand Slam Bean Bag Baseball” from 2018. Therefore, we shall be satisfied with believing the baseball as we know it, is not restricted by an original patent for the figure-eight covering, just as that schoolboy from Stoughton said, and he also remained anonymous.

Happy birthday to Tom McCarthy — right handed pitcher, with the Red Sox in 1985, and two years with the Chicago White Sox. Drafted by Boston in the 7th round of the 1979 MLB June Amateur Draft from Plymouth-Carver High School.

Random Historical Note (with thanks to Richard Hershberger for bringing us this bit of Boston history to our attention: “Messrs. William Sullivan and John G. Coffin have petitioned the Councils of Boston for the use of a piece of public ground, for two years, for the establishment of a Gymnastic School–a measure of doubtful propriety, we apprehend. If a boy wants to play; let him play but do not spoil the fun by dictating the modus operandi – a game of base ball, or foot ball, is worth a dozen gymnasiums, where the eye of surveillance is to check the flow of animal spirits.” (United States Gazette (Philadelphia) March 28, 1826)

Joanne Hulbert and Bill Nowlin, social distancing at Pawtucket's McCoy Stadium in June 2020

Reporting from the Mudville Bureau of the Boston Chapter, where we are seeing some relaxing of the quarantine rules, and we are still wearing masks – except when we are eating – which is the excuse why Bill Nowlin and I are not wearing masks at the Ballpark Dining at McCoy Stadium on Friday, June 12, 2020, home — at least for a little while longer – of the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox. We sat at shortstop, enjoyed food, great weather, would have been a great day for a ballgame, but was a chance to take us out to the ballpark despite no balls and bats in motion!

— Joanne Hulbert

 


JUNE 12, 2020 — The start of the summer season calls for a short list of summer reading recommendations. The books on baseball are too numerous to list, and I wouldn’t attempt such an arduous feat here. Here’s a few new books as well as some time-honored classics.

Emily Nemens' "The Cactus League: A Novel"Way back when, many baseball novels were written with young readers in mind, books that would encourage good deeds, good manners and good morality. The books were similar to many written with religious themes that encouraged good behavior. Fortunately, baseball books moved up to adult readers, and none too soon. Today, you can find baseball books that still promote good deeds and kind thoughts – but there are books that can also lead us down base paths less primrose.

For example, All the Stars Came Out That Night by Kevin King, published in 2006, did not always emphasize good deeds (but there are some), good manners (sometimes, not always) and not all was good morality (that was a relief). The story did provide a great escape. As it states on the back cover — “Babe vs Satch, contempt vs conscience.” And, thankfully, a book well written.

While in self-quarantine, a reader of baseball literature ought to reward themselves and indulge in something recently published. I recently picked up a copy of The Cactus League, by Emily Nemens. And horrors! A baseball book written by a woman who apparently knows something about the game and can hold her own on the pages! I hope she can otherwise convince anyone who had clung to the idea that women don’t know the game — an attitude that has hung around for a long time — that the attitude is three strikes and out.

Ancient Attitude: Woman’s sphere is the home; man’s sphere is the base ball. — (Pittsburgh Chronicle.) Boston Globe, April 19, 1887: 8.

Tyler Kepner's "K"Another book, K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches by Tyler Kepner is part memoir, part history of pitches, and neither overwhelms the other. I expected a good rendering of the knuckleball, but I learned more about the screwball. Worth the time spent on the book, worthwhile as a summer read — you get entertainment and education all in one.

I heard the review of The Wax Pack by Brad Balukjian recently on Only A Game and thought it might be something similar to what we do as SABR biographers but with an added layer of insight. The author used a pack of baseball cards from 1986 and set out to track down each of the players on those cards. There are many parallels with what we do when we track down players, living or dead as the author experienced. He wanted to get up close and personal with as many of the players as possible. Some were happy to meet with him, some declined. There’s also a trip to a factory that manufactures the cards.

Also, there are all the classics we are well aware of, and my final recommendation is to urge all readers to be sure they have read The Glory of Their Times, A False Spring, and to spend the rest of your self-quarantine time memorizing Casey at the Bat. Don’t lie, you have the time, and we who have read those books and know the poem by heart can tell if you are faking it.

Brad Balukjian's "The Wax Pack"Happy Birthday to Damon Buford, born June 12, 1970. He played for Boston, his fourth of five teams, in 1998 (86 games) and 1999 (91 games). Center fielder, BR, TR. Also he played in the Cape Cod League 1989-90 for Cotuit. Read about the league: The Last Best League: One Summer, One Season, One Dream by James M. Collins.

Happy birthday to Edgar Smith born June 12, 1862 and played for Providence in 1883 and 1885, a pitcher, first baseman and right fielder.

Random Baseball Literary Note: A Capital Tale of Baseball and School Life. A thrilling and wholesome story of schoolboy life is “Strike Three,” by William Heylinger, published by Appleton ($1.25). It is the fourth of Mr. Heylinger’s series of stories of “St Mary’s Academy,” and it deals particularly with baseball and the rivalry of two fine fellows for a scholarship which one of them needs in order to put him through school, and which the other does not, but is, at first, nonetheless anxious to obtain since his father has taxed him with devoting too much time to sports and too little time to his studies.

If anything, the story has rather too much baseball and is not a truly proportioned picture of schoolboy life, and yet for the same reason, it may not prove any the less appealing to the boy reader, to whom too much baseball is a rank impossibility, and a contradiction in terms. At all events, the story has much good, wholesome sentiment and manliness in it. It is illustrated in colors. — Springfield Republican, December 6, 1913: 21.

Another Random Baseball Note: “RESCUE BABY FROM FIRE BY 2-STORY CATCH – Heroic Brockton Baseball Player Clambers Into Burning House and Tosses Child to Fellow-Player Who Is Waiting Below.” — To the fact that Fred Carey and John Boshell, two young Brockton men, were excellent baseball players the infant child of Mr. and Mrs. Antonio Sutkas owes its life. The Sutkas family, who are Polanders, live in the upper portion of a house at 21 River street owned by Jeremiah Sullivan. In the lower story is a family of Syrians.

Carey was passing the house this afternoon when he saw smoke pouring from the upper story windows. He notified the inmates and the two families began a hurried exit. When their numerous progeny were gathered outside they counted noses and found that the youngest Sutkas was missing. Carey made his way to the upper story and in a smoke-filled room found the infant nearly suffocated. Leaning from the window he held the child clear of the building and tossed it lightly to Boshell, who was standing below. He caught the child carefully, amid the cheers of the crowd. While responding to the alarm a horse attached to Ladder 3 fell and was badly cut, the accident being due to the harness breaking. The house was considerably damaged. — Boston Journal, September 16, 1907: 4.

Lest we forget the notable persons in this heart-rending story, the baby’s name was Charles Sutkas. In 1930, Charles was still living in Brockton with his father and his occupation was night watchman in a movie theater. Neither Charles, Fred Carey nor John Boshell made it to the big leagues. Boshell, who was 15 at the time of his heroic exploit in 1907, was living in Brockton in 1930, divorced from Minnie, residing in a boarding house and working as a laborer for the city highway department. No information on Fred Carey was found.

Reporting from the Boston Chapter, the Mudville Bureau — where there is actually a modicum of joy left and a huge pile of back-logged books to read

— Joanne Hulbert

 


JUNE 5, 2020 — Time to take a trip in the way-back machine! Baseball fans would all like to think the game is always on the side of honesty, integrity and transparency, but recent events have reminded us that artful dodging of rules, sleight of hand, creativity such as the hidden baseball trick and suspicions of scandal have been part of the game since the beginning. The Black Sox Scandal, Bobby Thomson’s Shot Heard ‘Round the World, players accused of gambling on their own team, sign stealing, and a myriad of corners cut along the baselines. Some were rumors of skullduggery too difficult to confirm.

For example, there were allegations after the 1912 World Series in Boston that something wasn’t quite right about the base path from second to third, that the sand on the path was soft, causing a runner to slow down slightly while the home team knew how to avoid it. So, was baseball a game that inspired creative minds, or has the game quietly indulged in it from the very beginning?

In the beginning of so-called organized baseball, there were more than two major forms of baseball. In the 1850s there was the New York game, and in Boston, there was the Massachusetts game. Each had codified their own rules by then, and although there were major similarities, there were also some big differences. Although the game played today is mostly the New York game of old, a few rules from Boston, such as the high fly out and overhand pitching found their way into the game as played today.

As for the Massachusetts game of base ball, the rules were set at the Dedham Convention, in April of 1858. The first official game played by those new rules, was held on Boston Common, on May 31, 1858, a game between the Olympic Club of Boston and the Winthrop Club of Holliston, a “country club” with a reputation for, let us say, enthusiasm on the field and their expertise at hitting the ball “behind” — which was legal — but was a well-known specialty of that team. The report of that game in the Boston Herald of June 1, 1858, described an event that drew “between two to three thousand people, and for the better accommodation of the players, lines were drawn enclosing two or three acres of the parade ground.” Reports stated that the Olympic Club “for some cause or other did not play near as well as they have on several occasions, but they bore their defeat manfully, and glad to report, that the very best of feeling still existed between the two Clubs.” After 33 innings the final score was Winthrops 100, Olympics 27. Indeed.

“Instead of throwing to the baseman, to cut off a runner, as is now done, the ball was thrown directly at the runner himself; a moving object, however, is not so easy to hit and many misses were made as well as bull’s eyes. I remember Harry Forbush of the Olympics in a hard-fought game with a Holliston club, which was one of the best in the State, following up a base runner, but a little afraid to throw at him for fear of a miss, the man being ready to “duck at the flash,” so he feinted and the man dropped like lightning upon his stomach, whereupon Harry, who was now nearly over him, grinned with triumph and let him have it as tight as he could throw. The fellow squirmed a little, but nothing could be said. The close rivalry between the clubs no doubt put a little unnecessary ginger into Forbush’s arm; but that was the game.”

— James D’Wolf Lovett, “Old Boston Boys and The Games They Played,” 1906: 129.

 

As was the custom of the time, the two clubs adjourned to Bacon’s Saloon for dinner and camaraderie. The Winthrops remained in Boston until the next day, and returned home by train feeling victorious and triumphant. No comment was made about the obviously lopsided score that was reached so quickly in an afternoon game of just a few hours, from 2 PM to 5:40 PM. In 1860, a game played by the same rules in Worcester where the intended score of 100 tallies was expected in order to win the game was never reached in 6 days of play. So, what happened?

 

Boston Common baseball

Boston Common, date unknown, purported to be the only photo of a Massachusetts game of baseball. Beacon Street in the background, and a large group of spectators have gathered for the game.

 

The Olympic Club did not complain — at least not publicly. They did lament that three of their best players were not in the game which affected them significantly. It was not until 1905 that the probable cause of the lopsided score was revealed after most of the participants were dead or had let bygones be buried, too. The Boston Journal of February 27, 1905 reported “‘Tri-Mountain’ Tells More Interesting Facts of Early Baseball History in Boston” revealed what happened in that May 31, 1858 game on Boston Common. Sleight of hand, creative bending of the rules, and outright skullduggery! Rule Number One as set down by the Dedham Convention of 1858, stated “the ball must weigh not less than 2, nor more than 2-3/4 ounces avoirdupois. It must measure not less than 6-1/2 nor more than 8-1/2 inches in circumference, and must be covered with leather.”

But the rules did not specify what should be inside the ball. The Journal article finally revealed what transpired: “It was understood that balls for this game were to be made of rubber and yarn, but in the absence of this particular mention the visitors produced a ball of minimum weight made of yarn wound as loosely as possible over a bullet to secure the proper size, and insisted on using it. The bats provided by the home club were of little use with such a ball, but the guests had been equal to all contingencies and brought flat sticks, not for striking the ball to the foreground, but to touch it merely and direct it from its course to the rear. Heavy gloves had to be used with such a ball, for bare hands could not hold it and it would twist more fingers and do more injury than the ball of the national game. The immense company of spectators did not see the game that they were accustomed to, and many left the grounds disappointed, declaring it a fizzle. That the bullet ball was made for the occasion and for points was evident. Whenever this game was afterward mentioned in the presence of anyone who took part in it, there was a show of fingers as “relics” of that game.”

After the game the Olympics entertained their guests and escorted them to the depot the next day, but that was the last of the bullet ball, it was never heard of again.

Olympic club box score, May 31, 1858

Is there something about baseball that inspires such antics? Does baseball allow, encourage, or promote creative impulses? The Olympics showed great restraint — at least in public — by not immediately calling out the Winthrops. Ah, to have been a fly on the wall at Bacon’s Saloon on that night! And even today, allegations of unfair play are also not revealed immediately, but instead stew into a brew that bubbles over months, or as in the example of the Olympics and Winthrops, years later.

 

Random Historical Note: The Handkerchief Trick

John ClarksonA silk handkerchief, spotlessly white and neatly tucked in the breast pocket of his uniform, was as invariably a part of John Clarkson’s make-up when he went into the pitcher’s box as were his cap and shoes.

On a sultry afternoon when he was playing in Pittsburg a big, red-faced, slouchy-appearing batter came up to the plate. As Clarkson drew his immaculate handkerchief from his pocket and rubbed the moisture from his eyes the batter called out:

“What department store do you clerk in?”

Clarkson’s answer was his famous slow teaser, at which the batter made a futile lunge. Again the handkerchief was put in play and this time Clarkson wound an inshoot around the batter’s neck. The big batter was furious. He drew his moisture-laden sleeve across his eyes and squared off for the next one. Clarkson for the third time touched the handkerchief lightly to his eyes, tucked the dainty bit of silk back in his pocket and then shot a swift one into Zimmer’s hands.

“Three strikes!” the umpire howled.

“You might try the handkerchief plan,” remarked Clarkson soothingly, as the batter flung his stick toward the bench. “It’s ever so much better than your shirt sleeve for brightening up your batting eye.”

— St. Louis Republic, December 25, 1904: 3.

 

John Clarkson, pitcher: born 7/1/1861, Cambridge MA; died 2/4/1909, Belmont MA; Played 12 years, from 1882 at Worcester MA, 1884-1887 with Chicago, 1888-1892 with Boston, and Cleveland 1892-1894.

 

Happy birthday to Beany Jacobson, born June 5, 1881. He pitched two games with the Boston Red Sox in 1907. It is sincerely hoped that his nickname does not explain his short baseball career in Boston and elsewhere.

“…….with the exception of Jacobson, the new pitcher, every one of the Boston men showed up well. Jacobson lacked speed, had nothing but a slow, show-case curve that a freight train could bump, and only that Unglaub wisely removed him from the box after he had passed a man to second in the 10th inning, the game might never have gone to the length that it did.” — Paul H. Shannon, “Providence Beats Americans, 3-2.” Boston Post, June 14, 1907.

Jacobson fared no better in his second appearance on June 24, 1907 against the New York Highlanders.

 

Reporting from the Boston Chapter, the Mudville Bureau, where we await the return of baseball, in some form or another, in some place or another.

This is the Eleventh Dispatch since March 27. I started posting these stories with the intent of lasting until the time of the convention in Baltimore, but then, that was canceled. So, what to do? Continue until the end of July? Or continue on to some other unknown time. After all, a baseball game has no time limit. Perhaps 25 or 50 dispatches would be sufficient, but there is no end to the stories found while wandering around in newspapers and by chasing down hints pitched to me by readers. I started writing when quarantine and self-distancing went into effect, and I found diverting my attention away from what we are still dealing with daily in the ER where I work, has been a cathartic for me, and I appreciate all the readers who will allow me to continue indulging in this diversion.

— Joanne Hulbert

 


MAY 29, 2020 — I received my copy of Memories and Dreams, the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Summer 2020 magazine, which included an article, “Early Retirement: History of Retired Numbers Dates Back to ‘Lou Gehrig Day’ at Yankee Stadium.” The previous Mudville Dispatch of May 22 began the story of retired Red Sox numbers, particularly of 9–4–1–8, and due to some greatly appreciated feedback from several readers, I am able to expand the story, and add a note of intrigue for those baseball numerologists lurking in the shadows.

There is more to the story about 9–4–1–8 and Boston baseball history. Thanks to Bob Brady, our keeper of all the history for the Boston Braves, he has enlightened me to other connections to these digits. He forwarded to me a photo of the Braves displaying those same numbers to celebrate 1948, the year they went to the World Series against the Cleveland Indians.

1948 Boston Braves

THIS IS OUR YEAR, declares Manager Billy Southworth of the Braves as he points to the right combination of numbers on the backs of four of his champion warriors. Left to right, Tommy Holmes (1), Earl Torgeson (9), Jeff Heath (4) and Connie Ryan (8). Boston Herald, September 29, 1948: 19.

 

The year 1948 was glorious for the Boston Braves, despite losing the World Series to the Indians in six games. The Red Sox took their season right down to the wire, to a playoff game with the Indians, and if they had won it, there would have been a city World Series in Boston. Boston’s sports writers and ticket scalpers were salivating on Jersey Street. The photo showing the four players and their uniform numbers could not have predicted what would happen when the Red Sox in 1984 retired some of their numbers.

Numbers first appeared on Red Sox uniforms in 1931. Many players wore these numbers before they landed on the backs of the most famous among them. Number 9, the number forever Ted Williams’ numeral, was worn by John Smith and Charley Berry in 1931, Number 4 was first worn by Rabbit Warstler, number 1 by Bill Sweeney and then Urbane Pickering, and number 8, made permanently his by Yaz, was worn by Pat Creeden and then by Urbane Pickering — who seems to have enjoyed a change of pace — or was subject to the whim of the person doling out the numbers, as it wasn’t always the request of the player that placed it on their uniform. But as luck — or some other mysterious force — the first four numbers retired by the Red Sox were 9, 4, 1, and 8. And, there is something intriguing about that as well.

All their uniform numbers were retired in years that contained only any of those digits — 9, 4, 1, 8.

And still, there are the other numbers. Carlton Fisk’s number 27 came next, and I hoped to find something that might tie into this numbers game. I looked him up. Carlton Fisk was born on December 26, 1947. Heck, why couldn’t his mother have lasted just 5 more days?

Random Historical Notes

“The Braves management has not intimated at any time that Ryan would be traded. There has been so much talk, however, that the modest second sacker has been upset. He has not made any attempt to lease an apartment in Boston this summer because he didn’t want to run the risk of being stuck with a lease if he should be traded.” — Boston Herald, April 11, 1948: 100.

“Sain, Torgeson to Be At Jordan’s Saturday”: Johnny Sain and Earl Torgeson of the Braves will appear at an autograph party to be sponsored next Saturday morning by Jordan Marsh Company in connection with the appearance of “The Boston Braves” the 77-year informal history of the Tribe written by Harold Kaese. — Boston Herald, April 11, 1948: 100.

When Japanese soldiers in Pacific jungles wanted to draw position-revealing night fire from American soldiers during the second World War — long after Ruth had ended his baseball career — they shouted: “Babe Ruth eats mud.” It was the greatest insult they could think of. The Babe’s most noticeable quality was bigness. He set the big records in baseball. He hit the most home runs, got the biggest salary, struck out the most times, batted in the most runs, ate the biggest meals and had the biggest stomach-aches. — Boston Traveler, August 17, 1948: 46.

 

Red Sox Birthdays

  • May 29 none to report
  • May 30 – Manny Ramirez (1972)
  • May 31 – Andrew Bailey (1984), Jake Peavy (1981), Dave Roberts (1972), Jose Malave (1971), Tim Van Egmond (1969)

 

Thank you, to Bob Brady for his advice and sending me in the right direction on writing this Dispatch.

Thank you to Red Sox by the Numbers by Bill Nowlin and Matthew Silverman for the valuable information their book provided.

Reporting from the Boston Chapter, the Mudville Bureau — where there is pickup baseball and softball being played right now in hidden corners of the town, just like it was on Sundays one hundred years ago. The catchers are wearing masks

— Joanne Hulbert

 


MAY 22, 2020 — We are still here at the Boston Chapter, while the quarantine in Massachusetts is gently lifting, we continue to sport our face masks — many now displaying loyalties to our local sports teams — looks like the Red Sox vs Patriots are running even in the polls. It brought to mind another survey that was much more interesting back when Fenway Park was where we once spent our time. There are the numbers — those shown on the ubiquitous shirts we all have a drawer-full, waiting to return to Fenway Park on our backs again.

THE NUMBERS

The earliest year that numbers officially appeared on uniforms was 1907, and it only gradually became the rule more than the exception. Numbers on uniforms helped spectators identify the players. Now, we wear those numbers on our shirts, displaying our approval of the players, making a connection via a jersey, t-shirt or uniform replica. What else can those shirts and numbers tell us? Well, watching the crowd at Fenway Park provides a view. What shirts, which numbers stand out and stand the test of time?

 

Fenway Park, Opening Day 2014

Fenway Park – Opening Day, 2014 – Big Papi! You still have our backs!

 

There are players who stay in our memories long after they have left the team, or retired. Some numbers are taken up by other players after them. One of the best shirts I saw was on a fan who walked along the concourse before the game had started, wearing a shirt that featured the number 5, with Garciaparra emblazoned above. The wearer had carefully kept a running list of each of the shortstops who succeeded Nomar, and as each player moved on, he neatly crossed out the name and replaced it with the next player who came along — a record of the passage of players.

There are shirts with the number 9. Ted Williams will always be 9, as will other players be remembered by their retired number. And the number 42 will appear on all the uniforms of the players to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day.

As I gaze out at the gathering crowd, I notice the numbers. Ortiz’s 34 will stand the test of time. Many fans still wear 15 for Pedroia, 45 for Pedro. Of course, as new players come along, so do their shirts which get worn by fans, seemingly as a visual gauge of their rising popularity. An employee over at Twins told me that they do not automatically order up shirts when a new player arrives. They also wait to see who sticks around. He did say that you could order up a certain number of shirts bearing the name and number of a new arrival earlier than that – if you are willing to put up the money for the whole lot. A couple players, he said, have done that. Most players, by hard work and endurance manage to land a shirt with their name and number, and some, like Ted Williams and El Tiante will occupy their own hall of fame via textiles. I still have — and wear — a No. 10 Jose Iglesias shirt, I wonder if I possess the only one left in Boston. Likewise, I treasure a 1997 Garciaparra (5, old style), a Bronson Arroyo (61) and a Rocco Baldelli (5), a true rarity, that raises eyebrows whenever I wear it … “He played for the Sox? When?”

The adoption of numbers was not a smooth process. Some baseball magnates were slow to adopt the numbering system concerned that it might reduce the sale of score cards. Long after others finally identified their players with numbers Connie Mack made his Athletes play at Shibe Park without numbers, but the players looked half dressed when they took to the field without an identifying mark and spectators noticed. Players also noticed, as the number became indelibly printed not only on their backs, but also in the minds of fans. — Boston Herald, August 1, 1942: 11.

“Everyone has a number; watch out that someone doesn’t “get yours!” Oh, in many cases, the numbers are figurative, although numerologists claim figures affect our lives. Well, they certainly play a large part in several sports. Famous athletes, who have splashed the American sporting print with lasting color wore famous numerals. For instance, who will forget ‘77’ in association with Red Grange, the Galloping Ghost of the gridiron? And number 9 caused many a pitcher to shudder and shake like a jitterbug given a hotfoot. Ted Williams, of course carried that numeral on his uniform.” — Tap Goodenough, “Nos. Affect Many Sorts, Fans Also,” Boston American, May 9, 1953: 8.

 

Fenway Park, 2010: the return of Manny Ramirez

Fenway Park, June 20, 2010. Red Sox vs L.A. Dodgers: The Return of Manny Ramirez.

 

The Red Sox retired several uniform numbers. The original order reminded us of a significant date in Red Sox history:

9 – 4 – 1 – 8

The date so written was the day before the start of the World Series in 1918, the last World Series win for the Red Sox before 2004. At one time, the numbers were taken down in order to re-paint the area above the right field grandstand where they were placed and to add Fisk’s 27 in 2000, and the numbers were put in place in numerical order. Someone had not done their homework. But it was noticed, perhaps by a diehard Boston baseball historian, and the numbers were eventually returned to their rightful cryptic order in 2012. The task of working out the rest of the retired numbers — Pesky’s 6, Rice’s 14, Boggs’ 26 and Fisk’s 27, Martinez’s 45, and Ortiz’s 34 shall be left to the numerologists.

 

Fenway Park, 2008

Fenway Park, September 28, 2008.

Fenway Park retired numbers, 2012

Fenway Park, June 13, 2012.

Big crowd at Fenway Park, 1912 World Series

Big crowd at Fenway, 1912 World Series.

 

Today, Fenway Park when filled with fans is a sea of red, green and a smattering of dark blue. Such is the palette there on any game day. It wasn’t always like that, and it has been relatively recent that we see the crowd that way. Even in the 1960s and 1970s few fans are seen in photos wearing shirts or baseball caps. Early photos of Fenway park and all parks for that matter, back in the 19th and early 20th century did not benefit from color photography as most everyone was wearing black, grey or white with a sea of bowlers and straw hats on heads, with only an occasional break caused by a woman’s hat usually festooned with flowers and feathers and notorious for obscuring another fan’s view. No t-shirts, no ball caps there.

He’s got a glove and a toe plate, too;
And mebbe he needs that prayer;
Those lamps of his they sure pierce you through
An’ that part in his hair’s still there;
He’s got that way that you mebbe likes,
A uniform an’ the ball,
But outside of that an’ a set of spikes
He ain’t got nothin’ at all.
— R.E. McMillin, “Hickory Blossoms,” Boston Herald, April 18, 1913

 

Fenway Park: A study of red on a sea of green

“A serious study of Red on a Sea of Green”

 

Random Historical Note: “It was long after other colleges put numbers on the backs of their football players that Harvard teams adopted them. For years, few spectators at the stadium knew who was carrying the ball or catching forward passes for the crimson.” — Boston Herald, August 1, 1942: 11.

St. Louis, October 8, 1918: “A hero one day and a ham the next properly applies to baseball players. If the report is true that George Sisler, first sacker of the Browns, turned down a commission as second lieutenant with a salary of $1700 a year in the chemical warfare division because he had to buy his own uniform, he will be as popular with St. Louis fans as Spanish influenza.” Boston Herald and Journal, October 9, 1918.

— Joanne Hulbert

 


MAY 15, 2020 In deep-sea dredging many curious and unlooked-for things are brought to the surface, some of great value to the toiling scientist alone, others of interest to many; but by far the greater part of the “haul” is tossed back again into the depths, where, no doubt, it will rest undisturbed forever. — James D’Wolf Lovett, Old Boston Boys and the Games They Played. 1906: 1.

And so goes the digging into baseball history. James D’Wolf Lovett knew of what he spoke of. As a base ball player in Boston, he witnessed from within the rise of base ball that soon became baseball on his home field. Historians have been digging in those baseball fields ever since, searching for origin stories and recording the accomplishments of countless characters who made the game of baseball what it is today. Along the way, some of those characters and their histories are lost, or, are hiding just beneath the surface, ready to be dug up and disturbed.

O’Connor at the Bat — continued from last week

Eugene O'Connor, Boston Journal, June 17, 1912We left our hero, Eugene J. O’Connor Jr., at the courthouse, requesting a continuance of his case in order to secure a bill of particulars from Sergt. Hennessey. Nevertheless, the particulars were of no help for his defense and he was fined $25, but he hoped to reverse the decision if the case came up in Superior Court. He was undaunted, and in 1911, O’Connor’s baseball “season” began in earnest. His interest was advocating for Sunday baseball specifically for the league of boys’ baseball clubs in Boston. He had no interest in battling for the Braves nor the Red Sox, but intended to open up public parks. Baseball on Sunday, as played around the Boston neighborhoods was becoming less of a political issue, and police were gradually looking away instead of arresting mere children playing games. But that did not stop O’Connor from continuing his fight to eliminate once and for all, the official prohibition of baseball on Boston parks. A petition containing more than

25,000 signatures was presented to Governor Eugene Foss asking that the law be repealed state-wide and that O’Connor be given a license for an amateur game to be played on June 4. The request was not granted.


In 1912, O’Connor accelerated his baseball protests. On June 16, he organized two games on the Pilgrim Athletic Field in the Roxbury neighborhood with the intention to test the Sunday law, and the games were observed by policemen who frequently passed by the field but did not interrupt nor intervene. The reprieve would not be long-lasting. On Monday, October 21, 1912, a Boston Journal headline reported: “Hard-Hearted Policeman Arrests ‘Gene’ of Sunday Baseball Fame.” Perhaps what called attention to him this time was that he took his “game” to the Boston Common, right downtown, for all to see if they happened to be out strolling around the Common on Sunday afternoon. The very idea!

The report bears repeating because of the poetic way the writer described the scene: “Gene, with a bat in one hand and a rather stained baseball in the other, spent about 5 minutes on the Common yesterday afternoon. Two little urchins volunteered to join in the game, keeping one eye on the baseball and the other to the windward looking for cops. O’Connor, for good measure, had just cracked out a fly to deep center when he saw two youngsters tracking across the Common like a couple of jack rabbits across a prairie. Their little heads were bent back, and their arms and legs were flashing back and forth like piston rods “ . . . they were not tracking the fly ball, they had just seen a cop.

Officer Gallop (yes, that was apparently his name) did not gallop after the boys, but turned his attention to O’Connor who, it was described, was “in turn looking far away toward the horizon, where two little streaks of dust indicated where the two urchins has last been visible. Gallop tapped O’Connor on the shoulder and asked, “You aren’t playing ball, are you?”

The story continued, as alleged by the Boston Journal, suggested that O’Connor could have made a flippant comment, such as he was “teaching some barbed wire how to fence, or that he was going to the jeweler’s to buy a goldfish, but instead, he merely answered, “Yes,” and proceeded to pick up the ball, and banged it out across the Common. The first fungo had been a breach of the law, and the second constituted a pair of misdemeanors. Officer Gallop informed Eugene J. O’Connor, known famously as the Father of Sunday Baseball, that he was under arrest, took him to the stationhouse, and charged him with a violation of the Sunday law.

In court later that week, O’Connor reiterated his intent to overturn the Sunday law and wanted to take the issue to a jury of citizens, who he felt were strongly in favor of repealing the law, but he had been unable to get a trial in Superior Court. He said, “I want this test to go before a jury of American citizens who will decide whether it should be against the law for a workingman to get exercise on Sunday by playing ball decently and quietly. The law does not prosecute for playing cricket or golf, but when a man wants to play the really national game rather than a Scotch or an English game he is arrested.”

He was right. Baseball had been singled out as being raucous, prone to gambling and other sins while other games and activities were carried on unmolested by the long arm of the law. O’Connor’s civil disobedience, in the minds of many the best use thereof since Thoreau, would cause less serious consternation with those concerned with law and order. Gradually, cities and towns relaxed the Sunday laws locally, giving O’Connor less reason to foment protest demonstrations, and policemen found better ways to spend their time than arresting ball tossers in parks. In 1920, a law allowing amateur sports on Sunday was passed and signed into law by Governor Calvin Coolidge, and implementation was left to the local cities and towns. Not all cities and towns allowed it, some did not well into the 1930s. The Braves and Red Sox stood by while the culture wars played out, and in November 1928, the Sunday Law came up for a vote in the state legislature. Of course, throughout the year, there had been loud voices in opposition to the proposed law, but on November 6, 1928, the bill was passed by a large vote solidly in favor. Now, even the Braves and Red sox could play on Sundays. George H. Ruth, now a “prominent New York baseball man,” weighed in about the law when he visited Boston in November, 1928.

“I’ve played a lot of baseball in this state,” said the Babe, “and it did not surprise me in the least to see how the bill went over. Of course I was delighted to see that it went over with a bang, but it was no more than could be expected in this state. The people here are real sportsmen and when a thing like the Sunday sports bill was put up to a popular vote, there was no doubt that it would pass. Boston especially should benefit by the bill. Many fans who ordinarily do not get a chance to see the big league teams play will be out at the ball parks now. As for myself, I always like to play in Boston, and getting that extra day here in town suits me perfectly.”

— Boston Herald, November 17, 1928: 18

 

The bill had been passed without a word nor tip of the baseball cap to Eugene J. O’Connor. He had gone on with his life and left the work of the bill passage to the politicians of Massachusetts, with John H. Logue, an undertaker by trade and the state legislator who was crowned the “Father of the Sunday Baseball Law.” Logue did have a personal connection to baseball. As a young man he played baseball in the New England league and never lost interest in the sport. He was a close friend of Braves president Robert Quinn and of Rabbit Maranville.

But there was no Eugene J. O’Connor at home plate to toss out a ceremonial pitch on a Sunday afternoon. In 1920, O’Connor was living in a lodging house in Plymouth, working as a writer for the Textile Journal with a local woolen mill. In 1930 he was back living in Boston and working in the outdoor advertising field as a “letterer.” O’Connor’s family ties were also baseball-centric. He was the brother-in-law of Jack Dooley of Boston Winter League and Royal Rooter fame, and was the uncle of Lib Dooley, prominent longtime Red Sox fan.

In 1952, O’Connor was living in a boarding house in Jamaica Plain near the former site of his baseball fame, and just a few days before his 80th birthday, he fell from a third story window, and died shortly after at Boston City Hospital. News of his tragic death was published in the Boston newspapers that had once recounted his baseball exploits. Who wrote the final lines about his life is unknown. Therein it said, Eugene J. O’Connor, Jr., had served in the Spanish American War and the First World War. Also, he was the first sports editor of the Boston American, had played with the old Boston Brotherhood Club, the Boston Nationals, St. Louis Browns and in the Boston Club of the old United States League.

Sadly, you can look it up and he does not appear in any baseball reference source — unless he played under an assumed name, which seems highly unlikely, given his penchant for publicity. Also, he consistently listed himself as a non-veteran in each U.S. Census. Might it have been he who enhanced his image, or did someone else write the glowing remembrance as they thought it was? No one can tell, but we will not take away from him his brave work in defense of baseball for the masses of Boston, Mass., and their right to play ball on Sunday in Boston.

1917 Boston Globe quotes

— Boston Globe, February 4, 1917: 32.

 

Historical Note

Now the Harvard Crimson blasts the Blue Laws relative to sports on the Lord’s Day. The laws are Blue, and doubtless that’s enough for the Crimson. — Boston Journal, June 11, 1917: 11.

On May 15: Happy birthday to Josh Beckett, Alex Verdugo and Steve Yerkes — who played in the first game at Boston’s Fenway Park, on April 20, 1912, in which he had 5 hits, including 2 doubles. Alex Verdugo is still waiting for his first game with the Red Sox at Fenway.

Steve Yerkes

There is one law for any game;
For each, who knows his day of fame,
The dusk shall come to quench the flame.

For I remember well the day
That I first saw Steve Yerkes play
And hold a minor leaguer’s sway.

I saw the welcome that he got
For driving hits across the lot
Or blocking grounders that were hot.

I saw him shift without a skid,
I saw him make his daily bid
And thought “Well, here’s a likely kid.”

Time moved along, until at last
I saw him in the Red Sox cast,
Then sweeping upward in a blast.

I watched him then upon the job
Of beating Johnson, Collins, Cobb
And others of the Stellar Mob.

I saw him as he bounded through
The drifts of fame that seek the few
Who see World Series dreams come true.

I heard the cheering call once more
That I had heard gray years before,
As Steve whaled in the winning score.

I saw him in his glory when
He held his own — I turned — and then
I found he’d drifted back again.

The circle moves in endless flight —
First down — then up — and then Good Night —
A gray ghost fading from the fight.

There is one law for any game;
For each, who knows his day of fame.
The dusk shall come to quench the flame.

— Grantland Rice, The Sport Light
Boston Globe, June 14, 1916: 8

 


MAY 8, 2020 — For centuries, ever since the Arbella unloaded its human cargo of pious Puritans on to the peninsula that became Boston in 1630, Sundays in Boston were a day of rest enforced by law, and ancient laws proved difficult to repeal. Nearly three centuries would pass before that pesky blue law prohibiting baseball playing as well as other sports and seemingly innocuous activities on the Sabbath would be finally struck out on a high fly to oblivion. There were many who fought for repeal and just as many who resisted it.

Of course, there was base ball playing on Sundays. The games were played on fields remote from the eyes of the local constables with many games getting away with it while the local law looking the other way, and occasionally games were played in open defiance of the law. Arrests were made even if there was no organized game involved, just a ball tossing duo in a park would be enough to conjure up an arrest. Age was no limit, as child and adult were equally in danger.

Sunday baseball in Boston

Lynn, Massachusetts — It was the largest Police Court list of the season this morning, there being 39 cases. Of these, nine baseball players were summoned to the bar for playing ball on Sunday in North Saugus. Eight paid costs of $6.35 each and one at $5.03. There were 20 cases of drunkenness. — Boston Journal, April 23, 1888: 1.

And yet, who would rise up to defend baseball playing on Sunday? There were many — politicians, prominent citizens including a few Brahmins, the vast majority of boys in Massachusetts, even a few liberal-minded ministers were willing to step up to the plate. But laws are not easy to change, especially one entrenched so deeply in the bones and marrow of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Eventually time and fate would mercifully push forth a crusader, a martyr to the cause — or would he be something else?

 

O’CONNOR AT THE BAT

Eugene J. O’Connor was his name. Born in Boston on November 14, 1872, he took on the cause of Sunday baseball with an unusual amount of dedication. He was a journalist of some sort, had reportedly been a sportswriter for the Boston Journal and the Boston American, although his times there are sketchy as he had no by-line. He began his hands-on career in baseball and dominated the headlines in other Boston newspapers with his public display of baseball — simply batting a ball — at Foss Park in Jamaica Plain on Sunday, September 18, 1910. He had put the word out that a baseball game was to be played there that day, and more than 1,000 people were there to see a game — or more likely to see what would happen next. Capt. Joseph Harriman, the Boston police officer making the arrest on the spot, reported that O’Connor appeared in a baseball suit and began batting the ball around the field stating he intended to test the law. The complaint charged O’Connor with “indulging in a sport, game and play in violation of the Sunday law.” William R. Scharton, counsel for O’Connor, argued for a motion to dismiss the charge, that there was no means of meeting the complaint, and asked if playing with a bat and ball constituted one or all of these offences. The motion was denied.

The first witness was Captain Harriman. He described going to Foss Field on Sunday and encountered O’Connor who told him he was intending to play ball. Harriman warned O’Connor he would be violating the law, but O’Connor proceeded openly, defiantly batting the ball. Captain Harriman turned to Sergeant Hennessy — who accompanied him with a detail of men — and asked him, “Did you see a game of baseball Sunday?”

“No I saw no regular game,” Hennessy answered.

“Did you see one man bat a ball?”

“Yes.”

“All of the elements in the complaint have to be proved,” said Atty. Scharton, “and they have not been proved. All the government has shown is that O’Connor batted a ball. If your honor is going to say that the mere batting of a ball constitutes a baseball game you are putting yourself back to the Puritan days, and you will have to arrest every child that plays on Sunday in its back yard.

“This test case was prevented by the vigilance of Capt. Harriman and his officers. The test was to have been made and a game was to have been played. There were 18 men there to play a game, but Capt. Harriman prevented the test case by preventing a game before a game was played.”

Judge Perrins agreed that a match game had not been played.

“Are you going to slander the game of baseball by claiming that O’Connor played baseball?” asked Atty. Scharton. “He could be convicted for doing unnecessary work, but not for playing baseball.

“Captain Harriman knew that O’Connor was on private grounds. The fact that the police prevented the playing of a match game makes it impossible to prosecute this defendant. If the police had allowed the game to have been played, I would then have made a test case of it, and have appealed to a higher court and not taken the time of this court. There was no game, and no attempt therefore to violate the law. It is a technical question to decide, that is all. The question is, was there a game, and could the defendant take part in something that was not?”

 

Boston Globe cartoon, May 23, 1906

— Boston Daily Globe, May 23, 1906: 8.

 

Judge Perrins, after reviewing the evidence, said: “The statute is broad and there is no doubt in my mind there was a violation of the law, and a flagrant violation. The defendant was notified by the police that he could not play a game and he persisted in his intention. I think it was a flagrant violation of the law, and —”

Before Judge Perrins had time to pass sentence on the defendant, Atty. Scharton rose and requested a continuance of the case for sentence so that sureties to furnish the necessary bond could be presented. Judge Perrins granted the request. O’Connor had been released in bonds of $100 soon after his arrest on Sunday afternoon.

— Boston Herald, September 24, 1910: 3.

 

Historical Note

Wednesday, May 8, 1901: First home game at the Huntington Avenue Grounds, Boston Americans 12, Philadelphia Athletics 4. It was a game of “firsts” from first at bat, first hit, first out, the first everything that became the history of the Boston Americans, and ultimately the Boston Red Sox.

 

A Random Note From Baseball History

“A Fit Candidate” — Cabrera, the infielder purchased by Boston from New Britain, is not a Spanish-Cuban. He is a Guanache, a descendant of the ancient Berbers or Arabs who invaded the Canary Islands 3000 years ago, before the Romans came. With a pedigree like that Cabrera ought to be eligible to join the Eagles. — Boston Sunday Post, September 17, 1911: 19.

Well, that’s a relief …

Alfredo Cabrera appeared in one game, two at-bats for the St. Louis Cardinals on May 16, 1913. A cup of coffee. You can look it up.

And as Yogi Berra so eloquently said, “It ain’t over, til it’s over.” Stay tuned until next week for the continuing story of “O’Connor at the Bat.”

— Joanne Hulbert

 


May 1, 2020 — Baseball has been played on Elysian Field in Hoboken, on every cow pasture from Maine to California, all the sandlots in cities or town, on the Civil War battlefields once the smoke from cannon fire cleared. And there is one location that has seen baseball upon its hallowed ground ever since it had been cleared to accommodate cows, militia, city celebrations and gatherings. The land has witnessed the occupation of British troops, was the site of public hangings of pirates and traitors. One activity has endured all this time: baseball. And, indeed there’s still two ballfields upon this land even to this day, and they are still located right there at the corner of Boylston and Charles Street. The commentary on the map states that “a city election of 1869 was largely responsible for the maintenance of this field.”

 

HISTORICAL BOSTON COMMON
Donahue’s Magazine

A tour of the Common is a day’s outing in itself, there are so many points of interest in the “Centry Field” of the past. Never was there a wiser town order than that passed in 1640, reserving the Common as an open ground or field. In 1634, four years after the settlement of the town, it had been set apart for a “training field” and for the use of “cattell.” Who could foretell the myriad uses to which it would be put in the years to come? Here were assembled part of the forces that captured Louisburg, and on this spot were recruited the troops that scaled the heights of Abraham and took Quebec. It was the scene of stirring events in the American Revolution, being a fortified British camp during the siege.

What an array of notables could be marshaled within its borders if all who walked its ways could be brought together — colonial men of affairs; British officers; the French general, Lafayette, whose memory endures in the mall named in his honor; patriots like Gov. John Hancock, in his richly embroidered scarlet coat and ruffles of finest linen; and that other “outlaw,” Samuel Adams, styled by the ministry “the chief of the Revolution.” He was “sagacious,” as well as brave, we are told, and it is related of him that one day when he walked in the Common with John Adams he paused, opposite the Hancock mansion, to say, “I have done a very good thing for our cause in the course of the past week by enlisting the master of that house in it. He is well disposed and has great riches, and we can give him consequence to enjoy them.” Picture this statesman pacing along under the trees in this “red cloak, gray tie-wig and cocked hat!”

— Springfield (MA) Republican, August 21, 1907: 14.

At Fenway Park, the name John Hancock is emblazoned atop the electronic scoreboard, a rendition of his signature on the Declaration of Independence. I should think that if he were to see that, he would burst the buttons on “his richly embroidered scarlet coat and ruffles of finest linen.” And yet, John, keep your ego in check and bear in mind that Samuel Adams Boston Lager is served at every game.

Boston Common, 1930

Boston Common Tercentenary Committee, No. 9, Park Street, Boston, Mass. 1930
(Click image to enlarge)

 

AN INCIDENT OF PATRIOTS DAY

All are familiar with the story of the Boston boys of the revolutionary period whose coasting sport on the Common was interfered with by Sir William Howe’s soldiers. They went to headquarters and protested like little patriots, and their protest was effectual. Another incident happening on Boston Common yesterday was, but with a difference, a reminder of that bit of history which is so often repeated with pride. It was Patriots’ day, the anniversary of the Lexington and Concord fighting. A few boys, mere youngsters, coming, perhaps, from the North end or West end, where playing grounds are not sufficient, began a game of ball on the parade ground of the Common. It was their proper way of celebrating the bright holiday. The game was well begun, and the lads were enjoying it as lads do, suspecting no wrong. Suddenly, they espied making for them on a run from the direction of the Frog pond two pompous and ponderous policemen, uniformed as faultlessly as British soldiers and eager to do brave service for their native, or perhaps only their adopted, country. When this peril was discovered, the lads, all but the smallest, hastily gathered up the garments they had thrown off and decamped in lively style, as if conscious that a policeman is more dreadful than a soldier. One little fellow, delayed by some misfortune, was overtaken and captured. We believe he was not taken to the station, but he got a terrible warning. Oh, it was a fine sight for the spectators. The game was prevented, the grass was preserved; but the patriotic boys, what of them?

— Boston Herald, April 21, 1903: 6.

What crime had the boys committed? Oh, a very serious one indeed. They were not guilty of trampling the grass, nor playing upon a spot prohibited for such activity. The crime was not ballplaying on a holiday. Indeed in the past, boys had been arrested for doing just what they were doing, and had been hauled off and arrested, even at the tender age of 14 — or less. Apparently these boys were lucky to get away — most of them anyway. No, this was not the crime. What these brazen youths had done was to play a game of baseball — on Sunday.

— Joanne Hulbert

 


APRIL 24, 2020 — April is National Poetry Month, and it would be remiss of us if we overlooked that fact. Poetry plays a significant role in baseball history, literature and was an integral part of sports reporting in the nineteenth and the first few decades of the twentieth century. The great writers of baseball often included poetry in their newspaper columns. Grantland Rice, Ring Lardner, Hugh E. Keough, Damon Runyon, and Boston’s own Ralph McMillin are just a few of the prominent writers who used poetry to enhance their baseball reporting. Therefore, we honor their legacy, and celebrate April with an offering of baseball verse.

— Joanne Hulbert

 

Boston Herald, May 12, 1907

Boston Herald, May 12, 1907

 

HONORABLE SCARS

They were seated in the grandstand, three old soldiers bent and gray,
Watching New York play the Red Sox on a hot and stuffy day.
“Feels like rain,” said Comrade Davis. When my shoulder hurts like sin,
I can bet there’ll be a rainstorm and I mostly always win.
That old joint got smashed at Shiloh when it stopped a minie ball,
I can move the arm a little – but that’s all!”

“Guess you’re right about the rainstorm,” said the grizzled Veteran Brown;
“Both my feet feel like your shoulder when the rain gets coming down.
Both my feet got nicked at Shiloh, where your shoulder blade was drilled,
And a bullet plowed my temple – lucky thing I wasn’t killed.
And again, at old Antietam, this here ear was half blown off,
And the half that’s left feels shaky every time I sneeze or cough.”

Comrade Leeds looked on and listened in the cool and shady stand,
Then he showed three crooked fingers on a rather crooked hand,
“Take a flash at that,” he murmured, with a sort of pensive air,
”That’s the only mark I carry, but I’m proud to know it’s there.
I was never hurt in battle, though I knew War’s sighs and tears –
Them is baseball fingers, comrades, and they’ve been there fifty years!”

— William Kirk Boston American, pg. S5, July 2, 1911

 

MANHATTAN VS. SMOKY JOE

Of all sad words from tongue or pen
The saddest are “Wood pitched again”;
Sadder than any throbbing note
That old Doc Chopin ever wrote;
Aye, sadder in its somber skit
Than life’s worse message – “Please remit.”

Wood Pitched Again – tell me no more
The ultimate – the final score;
Waste no vain words in praise or blame,
Explaining which side copped the game;
Who blew the works – who had the stuff –
Wood Pitched – that’s bally well enough.

Wood pitched Again – O bitter phrase –
O blighting echo of the days;
Sadder than any New York cop,
Or “could you slip me five, old top?”
Aye, in each dreary Harlem flat
Sadder than “Baker at the bat.”

O Death, where is thy sting like this?
O Grave, where is thy serpent’s kiss?
O Baker, Bender, Coombs and Plank,
You look like money in the bank,
Compared to this last scratch of pen –
“Wood pitched again.”

Boston Traveler and Evening Herald, October 12, 1912

 

THE BOSTON OBSESSION

I asked the corner butcherman how much his sirloins were,
He stood awhile in sober thought and said, “I’ll tell you sir;
“If Rudolph works for Boston and Bender for the Macks,
I figure that the Braves will stop them Mackman in their tracks.”

I stopped a robust copper and inquired the time of day;
He drew his ticker from his coat and then I heard him say:
“The Giants have no pitchers, the Cardinals have blew –
I never figured Hank O’Day a manager, did you?”

I asked a tall conductor if his car went to Revere,
He stopped a moment by my seat and whispered in my ear:
“This Eddie Plank’s a tough one, but I’ve got it doped, at that,
That his crossfire’s made to order for the Rabbit’s battle bat.”

I asked a handsome waiter if he’d bring a bill-of-fare;
He pondered deep the while he ran his fingers through his hair;
“George Tyler worked on Sunday,” was all I heard him say,
“I think you’ll find that Curveless Bill is due to start today.”

I meet my fellow beings on the highways and the by –
I’d fain inquire about the war – I get the icy eye;
A thousand questions pass my lips, each breath a wasted word,
For all my fellow men can say is, “Stallings is a bird.”

— R.E. McMillin, The Sporting News, Sept. 17, 1914, pg. 4

 

CHARLES RIVER

Charles River, scene of so many thrilling episodes in 1776, flows past the back fence of the Braves’ new field. McKenery and Williams of the Cincinnati Reds were inspecting the historic stream with great interest the other day, according to Bill Phelon.

“So this is the place,” said Mr. McKenery, “where the British crossed over in boats for their attack on Bunker Hill, Lord Howe in the foremost boat! Isn’t it wonderful to think about?”

“Gee whiz,” quoth Mr. Williams, “but how I wish I could have been there!”

“On the heights of Bunker Hill, with Stark, and Prescott and Warren?” asked Mr. McKenery.

“Naw,” explained Mr. Williams, “along with General Howe, doing service for my country.”

“How so?” queried Mr. McKenery. “Would you have fought for the British?”

“Nix, nix,” grinned Mr. Williams. “But I could have rocked the boat.”

— The Sporting News, September 16, 1915, pg. 4

 

END OF A PERFECT DAY

Miami, Fla., March 12 – Somewhere in the Everglade stillness, the sun that’s a flaming red, like the stripes on the shirt of Sherwood, or Maurice Shannon’s head, is sinking alone in its glory, in its customary way, and your correspondent is singing, “The End of a Perfect Day.” For the pelicans’ bills are folded, with never a please remit, and Gowdy is back from the ocean and sure that he made a hit. The quail are asleep in the jungle, the fish are asleep in the deep, but Somers has white duck pants on and never a thought of sleep.

Your Braves have won you a pennant, they have battled with gory ire, and the halls of the league have echoed with the roar of their verbal fire, but never have you once discovered the bunch in its Sunday best, down here in the fairy flower land by the Biscayne winds caressed. Take it from me, you Hubbites, the chief to the newest rook, they have motored and sailed and golfed it, like a bunch from a fashion book. They have searched for the alligator in the marches behind the town, and, believe me, they looked like Brummells, from Stallings, the chieftain, down.

The damage is not yet counted, the toll of Miami hearts, but its seven to one for certain that a bundle of Cupid’s darts have started the Braves’ direction – there isn’t another chance, for who could resist the glimmer of Somers’ white duck pants?

And maybe it’s snowing in Boston, and maybe the winds are chill, and the ice is thick on the sidewalks from Hyde Park to Beacon Hill, but we at our hard-worked type mill are making the daily hay, and, believe me, kid, we are singing “The End of A Perfect Day.”

— R.E. McMillin, Boston American, March 13, 1916, pg. 9

 

SPRING PLANTING IN BOSTON

Some plant the gay and festive bean,
Some sink the luscious corn,
And some potatoes plant, I wean,
And labor e’er the morn.
But busier than all I know
The Boston farmers till their medders,
In hail and rain and cold and snow,
To raise a crop of double headers.

— R.E. McMillin, “The Luck and the Look of It,” Boston American, April 21, 1917

 

WISHES

How many hopeless wishes have sprung from hearts forlorn! The hungry little Irish boy asked but three grains of corn. Hale only wished another life to give his country dear. A horse that galloped faster was the wish of Paul Revere. Lord Byron wished to free old Greece, a noble wish at that, and Jason wished the Golden Fleece was hanging in his flat. Some of us wish for social fame, some wish for gems to wear, some wish they knew a poker game entirely on the square. Napoleon wished to rule the world, the lowland and the highland, but from his high horse he was hurled to brood upon the island. Lord Nelson wished to rule the wave when but a young lieutenant – and all the Boston rooters crave another Red Sox pennant!

— William F. Kirk, “Strolls Through Sportville,” Boston American, June 30, 1917

 


Fenway Park, 2016

APRIL 17, 2020 — There is one game on the American League baseball schedule that starts before noon and is always played at home. The Boston Red Sox have held the Patriots’ Day tradition for more years than most fans remember. Why Boston has had this tradition began long before there was such a thing as professional baseball, and the tradition has endured long after the reasons became hidden in ancient baseball history. On April 11, 1894, Massachusetts Governor Frederick T. Greenidge issued a proclamation making April 19 a legal holiday. He said:

“This is a day rich with historical and significant events which are precious in the eyes of patriots. It may well be called “Patriots day.” On this day, in 1775, at Lexington and Concord, was begun the great War of the Revolution; on this day, in 1783, just eight years after, the cessation of the war and the triumph of independence was formally proclaimed; and on this day, in 1861, the first [Massachusetts] blood was shed in the War for the Union [at Baltimore].

This day is grand with the memoirs of a mighty struggle which in one instance brought liberty and in the other brought union to the country. It is fitting, therefore, that the day should be celebrated as the anniversary of the birth of liberty and union.

Let the day be dedicated, then, to solemn, religious and patriotic services, which may adequately express our deep sense of the trials and tribulations of the patriots of the earlier and of the latter day, and also, especially our gratitude to Almighty God, who crowned the heroic struggle of the founders and preservers of our country with victory and peace.”

There was one thing Governor Greenidge did not mention in his proclamation, for he was replacing a holiday that had become obsolete in Massachusetts — Fast Day — and by 1894 had begun to be called “Farce Day.” For time immemorial, the first Tuesday of April, known as Fast Day, had rewarded citizens with a day off from work and was ostensibly meant for the citizens to continue the high-minded pursuits outlined in the governor’s proclamation. That certainly had been the original intent of Fast Day — a day annually proclaimed by a long line of Massachusetts governors as a day for “fasting, humiliation and prayer.”

And for a long time, these three orders were adhered to, until somewhere near the middle of the nineteenth century, something changed. No longer were the people interested in attending a church service on a Thursday in order to hear religious messages often mixed with political views coming from the church pulpits of Massachusetts, certainly not on an early spring day when the weather just might become warmer, sunnier and outdoor activities might entice people to the beaches, fields, parks and other venues of recreation, and at about this time, baseball was becoming a popular sport for players and spectators. Indeed, baseball had ties to Fast Day even earlier, as Henry David Thoreau mentioned that on Fast Day, base ball was played in his youth, as a welcome out-of-doors activity. And so baseball replaced the “fasting, humiliation and prayer” of the official proclamation, and all souls emerging from the darkness and cold of winter emerged on to the base ball playing fields, wherever they may be.

Massachusetts is to get rid of Fast day at last. Some other formal means of proclaiming the baseball season must be found.New York Sun, 1894.

And so it was done. Baseball was ready and able to dominate the new holiday on April 19, 1895 and here in Boston, it has remained inextricably tied to the day. Since Boston had two teams, the American and National league teams alternated years, and for decades to come, there was a morning game and an afternoon game, spreading out the baseball offerings to accommodate cranks who expected baseball on the holiday. Occasionally weather, or if the day fell on a Sunday, disappointed those eager for the traditional way that the holiday had been celebrated. Soon another athletic event joined in. The Boston Marathon ‘s debut in 1897 did not upset the day, but instead, added to the general acceptance that April 19 was a day for athletics and other outdoor activities, not for political nor religious events.

Boston Post cartoon, April 9, 1912

Boston Post cartoon, April 9, 1912

 

The Boston Americans and the Beaneaters worked out an arrangement agreeable to both teams, alternating years on April 19, initially with an “extended” double-header, a game in the morning and a game later in the afternoon. In 1902, the Boston Americans played their doubleheader, morning and afternoon, while the Beaneaters played one game in the afternoon — three games in one day! Would that be enough baseball for Bostonians? Actually, it wasn’t. In 1903, the Boston Americans hosted the Philadelphia Athletics in morning and afternoon games, and the Beaneaters hosted the Phillies for their morning and afternoon games. Four major-league games on one day in one city! Was that enough even for a Boston baseball crank?

Boston Herald cartoon, April 20, 1903

Boston Herald cartoon, April 20, 1903

 

The tradition hung on with little change until the Braves left Boston, and the Red Sox seemed to be off-kilter until they again found their Patriots Day bearings in 1960. The team’s record on Patriots Day through 2019 is 70-53. Ever since, the Red Sox have played the Patriots Day game starting at 11:05 AM, whichever day is now designated on the calendar, and the Boston Marathon passes by in Kenmore Square while the game is on. Those lucky to be sitting in the left field upper deck can watch the game and catch a glimpse of the marathon runners heading for Boylston Street. Fans in Boston have never had it so good, so good, so good. Well, except for 1903.

In other news:

There are 53 baseball players born on April 19. From Nat Hicks in 1845 to Bryan Garcia in 1995. Check out Baseball-Reference.com for the complete list. Most notably for Boston are Rick Miller and Jackie Bradley Jr.

For more on baseball and Patriots Day, check out Bill Nowlin’s chapter “Patriots Day Games” in his book Red Sox Threads.

Boston Chapter members are keeping busy on several fronts:

Bill Nowlin continues adding biographies of Red Sox players to the SABR BioProject:

Check out what’s new and keep up with all the news at Boston Chapter on Facebook: BostonSABR. Also, follow us on Instagram at @sabrboston.

Thank you to Bill Nowlin for his statistical assistance.

— Joanne Hulbert

 


Braves Field

APRIL 2, 2020 — Today would have been Opening Day at Fenway Park. The temperature outside is 45 degrees, windy, cloudy skies with rain now falling where the festivities were scheduled to start at 2:05 PM. How fitting. History has other plans for us.

Back in Boston, the 1916 season opened with big wins in the initial games for the Red Sox and the Braves. At Braves Field, to inaugurate the first full season of their new ballpark, new Braves president Percy D. Haughton announced a novel way to celebrate Opening Day. Haughton ordered six “mammoth” gas balloons that would be released just before the start of the game. These balloons “will be caught by the breezes to be swept upward and onward — in which direction or just how far no one knows. But the balloons are gauged to go different distances. The finders of the balloons will, upon presentation of the orders attached to each receive a much coveted treasure of tickets — 25 for the upcoming season — at Braves Field.”

The balloons would be variable in power in order that they would drop so that no one section at Braves Field would be able to hoard all the tickets. One of the balloons, for example, would carry the envelope so attached only about three miles before the gas ran out, thus dropping it into the hands of a lucky fan, who would chase the balloon to its landing site and its reward. Other balloons were predicted to travel much farther, the expected distance not expected to be more than 20 miles.

So how did it go? The balloons were set loose and after floating just beyond the reach of all the fans within Braves Field, when they floated above the shelter of the stands the breeze carried them off and up. And finally they disappeared “in the general direction of Liverpool, England.” A bystander out by Boston Harbor reported that a hundred tugboat captains set out full speed ahead as soon as the tri-colored balloons appeared overhead. Two days later, the Boston Herald followed up with the news that none of the free pass balloons had yet been heard from. Either that or they were filled, some speculated, with some kind of non-descend-able gas.

A few Opening Days have been postponed for reasons mainly having to do with the weather. On April 11, 1917 at Braves Field, the Boston Herald reported “all the snow was removed from Braves Field at 6 o’clock last night. Today the stands will be cleared and the field dried and ironed with gasoline and rollers. There seems little likelihood that the opening will be postponed again. It will come off tomorrow at 3:30, with all the frills originally planned for today, unless there is another blizzard.”

— Joanne Hulbert
jhulbert49@gmail.com

 


Boston Herald, July 24, 1919

MARCH 31, 2020 — During trying times in American history, baseball has come to the rescue, providing a welcome diversion, giving solace to the masses confronting enemies human and microscopic. Today is no exception. As I stare at my Opening Day ticket, wondering if or when it will ever pass through the turnstile at Fenway Park, I recall that baseball hit snags in 1918 as well, and wars have curtailed it or affected its impact on our lives. News from SABR Chapters and meeting recaps may be decreased, so, in the spirit of heralding to members that baseball will endure and will not be defeated by a microscopic interference, we must carry on, we can still celebrate baseball despite the empty ball parks, and quarantined fans. We cannot say that it has “never been quite like this before.” But we can say that we can turn to baseball and find that modicum of solace.

I take on the task of offering the first Dispatch from the Boston Chapter, from the Mudville Bureau — where there is still some joy here. I will attempt to keep up with the task, between working ER shifts and Town Forest maintenance walks — something I can still do as the wilderness allows for adequate distancing. I hope to inspire others from the Boston Chapter — from the Newtonville Bureau, from the Cambridge Bureau, from the Mission Hill Bureau, from the Natick Bureau, from the Worcester Bureau, or from all points on land or at sea, to consider contributing a Dispatch to add to the Regional Chapter News on This Week in SABR.

So here goes: One of my favorite pastimes is surfing newspaper archive sites, adding a random term to baseball in the keywords section. Invariably, I end up finding some interesting history. I did so recently adding “influenza” with baseball for the years 1918-1919, and came up with a not so surprising number of hits in Massachusetts papers. Now, Boston, having won the World Series in 1918, was riding high going into the 1919 season. But a few things had changed. The song “Tessie” had faded in popularity and would not be resurrected until July 2004 — hmmmm, go figure. Babe Ruth was becoming increasingly disgruntled and his behavior difficult to control. Harry Frazee was still wedded to the Red Sox, for better or worse. Could all of these — excuses — contributed to the formation of ”The Curse?” After 1918, and for 86 years forward, the annual cry that was often repeated in July in Boston was, “What’s the matter with the Red Sox?” Could that mournful lament actually have begun way back in 1919? And might have an accursed microscopic culprit contributed to 86 years of Red Sox history? Enquiring minds might want to know, or, at least entertain the fantastical, wicked possibility.

STARS SLOWED UP BY INFLUENZA

Influenza, that horrific plague which swept over the country last fall and winter, is more to blame for the lowly showing of the Red Sox than any other one factor. This is no silly alibi. For here are the facts: Sam Jones, Harry Hooper, Del Gainer and presumably Joe Bush had influenza between seasons. The first three were handicapped considerably during the bigger part of the first half of the season. Jones is one of the best pitchers in the whole big show. But that unspeakable “flu” put him back and only now is he getting over the wicked after-effects.

Harry Hooper’s early season work was a disappointment, and a keen one. But he has conquered and chased away the “flu” slowness and tired feeling and is himself again. Just recall the way he played the outfield for the champions the weeks before the team went into the West! It was up to his best standards of other years; and that means it could not be improved upon.

Joe Bush’s bad arm cost the Red Sox at least a dozen games, for that is a fair estimate of the difference between an ordinary pitcher and the kind Bullet Joe is when right. The baseball world had every reason to believe that Joe would be right this year. There were a lot of mild influenza cases during the winter. But they passed on and left behind trouble. It is a good bet that Joe’s trouble started with the “flu.”

— Bert Whitman, “Influenza Among Red Sox Stars Chief Reason for Champions’ Failure,” Boston Herald, July 24, 1919: 8.

Whatever the cause, whatever the reason, the Red Sox posted a losing 66-71 record in 1919. Jones may have been one of the best pitchers, but finished the season 12-20 with a 3.75 ERA. Bush only threw seven innings in 1919. Hooper played in 128 games, batting .267 — perhaps fully recovered, the future Hall of Famer hit .312 in 1920. Gainer had been on the 1915 and 1916 world championship teams, but enlisted and spent 1918 in the Navy. In 1919, he got into 47 games while batting .237.

— Joanne Hulbert
jhulbert49@gmail.com

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