The “Split Century”

This article was written by Art Ahrens

This article was published in the 1973 Baseball Research Journal


The days of the classic umpire-ballplayer feuds are long gone and in all probability, will never return.  The present generation of fans does not realize what it has missed, having never witnessed the likes of such umpire baiters as Cap Anson, John McGraw, Joe Medwick and others of their type.  Only Leo Durocher, who himself has mellowed with age, stands as the sole reminder of times that once were.

Although not primarily remembered as such, another notorious umpire baiter in his own way was Henry “Heinie” Zimmerman, renowned Chicago Cub infielder of some sixty years ago.

As the National League season of 1913 opened, the great Zim was at the peak of his career, having batted .372 the year before to win most of the batting honors.  He was to enjoy another highly successful season in 1913, but this time his umpire problems rather than his batting totals were to reach their all-time high.

Heinie went along smoothly until May 19, when umpire Charles Rigler ejected him in the fourth inning during a game at Philadelphia.   After that incident, all was calm until Friday, June 6, when he was given the heave-ho in the fourth inning for cursing arbitrator William Byron during a Cubs-Braves contest in Chicago.  Remaining quiet for exactly one week, Zimmerman then became baseball’s answer to a nihilist.   In what must be a record of some sort, Heinie earned the “distinction” of getting tossed out of three home games in a five-day period – June 13, 15, and 17.   Here is the grim chronicle of Zimmerman’s epic verbal bouts with the men in black:

June 13— In what is an apparent force of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jake Daubert at third base, Daubert is ruled safe by umpire Malcolm Eason, after which, according to Chicago Tribune writer. Sam Weller, “Heinie roared, being ordered out of the game quick as one could wink.”

June 15— Upon being called out when attempting to slide into home plate during the seventh inning of the Cub-Dodger game, Heinie curses plate umpire William Brennan, and is promptly put out of the game.

June 17— In the third inning of the Cub- Phillie contest, Zimmerman, perched on third base and hoping to score, is banished for hollering at Bill Kiem after the latter calls Roger Bresnahan out on strikes.

By this time it appeared as if Zimmerman were on the verge of getting chased off the diamond every time he appeared thereon.    At last, the following letter of desperation appeared in the Chicago Tribune of June 19, 1913:

To the Sporting Editor of the Tribune:

I’m Irish and I haven’t much use for the Dutch, but there’s one Dutchman I think a whole lot of and that’s Heinie Zimmerman.  I think so much of him that I love to see him fight the other fellows.  And, ah, there’s the rub. Darn him, he doesn’t play regular. He gets canned too often for fighting the “umps”.     It ain’t fair for those who pay their money to see Zim swat the pill and it also ain’t fair to the rest of the bunch.

Now to come down to brass tacks: Here’s a $100 bill split in two.   Go give half to Heinie and if he stays in the game for two weeks – that is, if he doesn’t get canned by an ump in that period of time, pass him the other half and a piece of sticking plaster to stick `em together.

Seriously, I want Zim to quit kicking. Two weeks of living with umps will do everybody a lot of good, Zim most of all.

Please put a mask on my name, and sign:

  1. “SPLIT” CENTURY

The Tribune sports staff did as instructed, giving half of the bill to Heinie and the other half to umpire

Bill Klem, the ballfield judge responsible for Zim’s June 17th ejection.  Upon hearing of the stipulations attached, Heinie boasted, “Say, just hand me that one-half and watch me get the other.  I’m through fussing with the umpires anyway.  It don’t get you anything.  I don’t intend to be put out of the game again this year.  From now on you’ll see me as a model guy on the ball field.”  Finally, he added, “That $100 is just as good as mine.”

But on June 20 Ring Lardner, then a sportswriter for the Tribune, brought up a thought-provoking question, as he asked, “But suppose that Zim is canned before the expiration of two weeks.  Will Mr. Century get his half back?”  That very day Heinie was fined $200 — no, not for breaking his truce with the umps — but for engaging in “backtalk” to his fiery manager, Johnny Evers.  “If he had said to Chance what he said to me, “Evers told Ring Lardner, ” he would not play all season long.”

“You’re right, John,”   Lardner replied.   “And we would have all been asked to chip in for a floral tribute.” (It was an open secret in Chicago that Zimmerman and his former manager, Frank Chance, had not gotten along very well.)  Lardner also commented that “Heinie would probably hit 1.075 if he played every other day and quarreled the rest of the time.”

By June 22, the “Split Century” had become the number one conversation piece of every baseball fan in Chicago, while the city’s gamblers, many of whom operated on the west side in the vicinity of the Cubs’ ballpark, were already laying 3-2 odds that Zim would win.  One fan at the West Side Grounds gave Heinie one-half of a dollar bill under the same conditions that “Split Century” had given him the half a hundred.

But the ordeal was no easy task for the Cub third baseman to endure.  At the June 24 game in St. Louis Heinie began to exchange harsh words with umpire Hank O’Day; fortunately he held his tongue not a moment too soon and remained in the game.

The following morning, after the Cubs had pulled into Cincinnati, Zimmerman received a visit at the team’s hotel from his former Cub teammates, Joe Tinker and Mordecai Brown, both of whom had been traded to the Reds during the winter of 1912-13.  Tinker and Brown had heard of the “Split-Century” affair but, thinking it to be some sort of hoax, demanded to see the bill for themselves.  Upon Zim’s producing the half, Tinker, still believing the whole thing was a joke, grabbed it from Heinie’s hand and tore it in two.  Zimmerman wrenched the precious certificate away before the Red shortstop could perpetrate further damage upon it, but, as the Tribune correspondent noted, “now instead of one-half he has two quarters of a yellowback.”

So, with a taped-up half of a gold certificate in his back pocket, Heinie sweated through the remainder of his

“good behavior” probation.  By July 2, 1913 he had lasted one week and six days without being exiled from a game.  If he could play one more game without “getting the ax” the reward would be his.  That afternoon, in a game with Pittsburgh at Chicago’s West Side Park, the grandstand held its’ breath as Heinie began to yell at umpire Ernest Quigley after the latter had ruled him out when he attempted to steal home.  However, remembering the money, he managed to hold his temper and kept it in check for the rest of the game.   The miracle had been completed — Henry Zimmerman had played two full weeks without having to take an early shower.

Bill Klein awarded him the other half of the “Split Century” while the fan who had given Kim half of a one dollar bill came forward with the remaining portion, thus giving the great Heinie a total of $101 for his good conduct.

Said the boisterously jubilant infielder after the game, “I knew I could win that money after the first day. . . . I’m not going to say anything to an umpire that will give him cause to put me out of a game.  I’m through bothering those guys.   It doesn’t get you anything.” He then added, however, “Just the same I think I was safe at the plate and couldn’t help telling the umpire so,” an indication that he would soon be back in his old form — which he was.    –

Al Schacht, famous as a baseball clown, also had a few rare moments on the mound.  The 142-pound right-hander, pitching for Washington on April 19, 1920, shut out the Athletics 7-0.  He pitched parts of three years in the majors, winning 14 and losing 10.

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