Posts Tagged ‘Barney Dreyfuss’

“The Outlaw League”: a Review

October 3, 2019

Cover of “The Outlaw League”

Haven’t put up a book review in a while (actually haven’t put up much of anything for a while) so I thought it was time to change that. Here’s a look at The Outlaw League and the Battle that Forged Modern Baseball by Daniel R. Levitt.

Levitt, a SABR stalwart, takes a look at the 1914-1915 Federal League in his book. It’s a book more about the back story of the league and the workings of the other established leagues than it is about the actual playing of games. He gives us a quick, but incisive view of the men (and they were all men) who planned and created the Federal League. They were all rich and all interested in making money through baseball. He also tells us about the people, and here there is one woman (Helene Robison Britton of the Cardinals), who ran the established leagues and how they went about attacking the new league. Ballplayers take second place to the owners in the book, but there are sections on significant players like Joe Tinker and a quick look at Dave Fultz and the Players Fraternity, something like a modern union, that came out of the dust up between the Feds and Organized Baseball.

Levitt shows us the money disparity between the existing leagues and the new Federal League (the other team owners had a lot more money), and points out that many Organized Baseball teams (both the National and American Leagues) were in towns that were larger than the Federal League teams and thus had access to more fans. He concludes that the existing leagues eventually won the war with the Feds for these reasons and because the NL and AL owners, led primarily by Ban Johnson, Gerry Herrmann, and Barney Dreyfuss, were more adept at the use of the courts and contracts, had an already established structure that worked, and the already mentioned advantages of both more money and a larger fan base.

The book is certainly worth the read if you are interested in either the baseball of the era, or the workings of big business in the period just prior to World War I. It was published in 2012 and is available in paperback for $18.95. I got my copy at Barnes & Noble, but it is also available on line.

1908: Henry Clay Pulliam

September 20, 2018

Henry C. Pullliam

One of the more important, but most overlooked, results of the 1908 “Merkle Boner” was what happened off the field in its aftermath. It forever changed, and some argued shortened, the life of National League President Henry Clay Pulliam.

The future National League President was born in Kentucky in 1869, son of a tobacco farmer and named for one of the state’s most famous statesmen. He graduated from law school at the University of Virginia, became a journalist at the Louisville, Kentucky Commercial. Interested in politics, he ran successfully for the Kentucky state assembly and served a term. He came to the attention of Hall of Fame owner Barney Dreyfuss, who owned the Louisville Colonels of the American Association (a Major League at the time). Dreyfuss named him, first, team secretary (a position that would evolve into today’s General Manager), and later club President. While at Louisville, Pulliam signed future Hall of Famer Honus Wagner to his first major league contract.

When the National League contracted for the 1900 season, Dreyfuss and Pulliam moved their headquarters to Pittsburgh (Dreyfuss owned both Louisville and Pittsburgh under the “syndicate” rules of the day), taking with them Louisville’s primary players, including Wagner. It began the turn of the 20th Century Pirates dynasty that managed to get to the first World Series.

But by the first World Series, Pulliam was no longer with the team. He was well liked, considered knowledgeable about the sport, easy to get along with, and quite frankly a number of owners thought he could be easily manipulated. That got him elected to the presidency of the NL in 1902.

His first job was to end the “war” with the fledgling American League. Although Cincinnati owner Gerry Herrmann was primarily responsible for proposing the terms of the “National Agreement” that ended the war, and Dreyfuss was the first proponent of the World Series, Pulliam was instrumental in seeing both implemented. He got along with AL President Ban Johnson (almost no one else did) and was able to ease Johnson’s acceptance of the National Agreement. As NL President he, along with Johnson and Herrmann, was part of the trinity that ran Major League Baseball for the next several years.

But all this led him into conflict with two men of great importance to baseball: Andrew Freedman, owner of the Giants, and the Giants manager John McGraw. Both men argued that Pulliam’s decisions on disputed issues always favored the Pittsburgh position. After an initial unanimous election as NL President, Pulliam’s annual reelection was by a 7-1 margin with New York casting the no vote (later Cincinnati joined New York to make it 6-2). This continued even after Freedman left the Giants and John T. Brush took over as New York team owner.

Always considered “high-strung” Pulliam began suffering health problems by 1906. Some sources indicate he was on the verge of a “nervous breakdown” from the strain of his job. Then came the Merkle Boner (see the post just below this one) and he was thrust into the center of a raging fight between the Giants and almost everyone else. By 1908 John T. Brush had taken control of the Giants and he was furious with both umpire Hank O’Day, who’d ruled the Merkle game a tie, and Pulliam for upholding the decision. For the next year Brush relentlessly hounded Pulliam calling him a cheat in the pay of the Cubs and other things that are not acceptable for a family oriented site like this.

John T. Brush

All of that got to Pulliam and he suffered something like a breakdown in late 1908. He took a leave of absence and didn’t return to NL headquarters until after the 1909 season began. Apparently unable to withstand the pressures of his job, he went to his apartment and shot himself on 28 July 1909. He died the next day still in his apartment. He is buried in Kentucky. John Heydler, his assistant took over the job as NL President.

Pulliam is in many ways a tragic figure. He was good at his job, apparently honest and well liked. But he was unable to withstand the constant strain of the position. It’s much too much to say that Brush and the Giants killed him, but their constant abuse certainly helped lead to the depression that ultimately led to his demise.

Pulliam’s final resting place (from Find a Grave)

 

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1933

November 1, 2016

We come now to the penultimate (don’t you just love $50 words like penultimate?) class of the My Little Hall of Fame project. This time a broad selection of people, including one of the more obvious choices possible.

Barney Dreyfuss

Barney Dreyfuss

Longtime National League owner Barney Dreyfuss entered baseball in the 1890s. He served as President and owner of the Louisville Colonels and later the Pittsburgh Pirates. During his tenure his Pirates team won six pennants, two prior to the creation of the World Series, then won the World Series twice. He was instrumental in bringing to a close the “Baseball War” of 1901-1903 between the National League and the American League and is the man who first proposed a “World’s Series” between the two Major League pennant winners. His team participated in the first one.

Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson, the “Big Train,” pitched for the Washington American League team from the early 20th Century through 1927. Over his career he amassed more than 400 wins, became the first pitcher to record 3000 strikeouts, and led the league in wins six times, in strikeouts 12 times, in ERA five times, and helped his team win the 1924 World Series. He is the only player to win both a Chalmers Award and a League Award.

Jose Mendez

Jose Mendez

One of the greatest Negro League pitchers, Jose Mendez came from Cuba to star for the Kansas City Monarchs in the 1920s. He led them to a Negro World Series championship in 1924 before retiring after the 1926 season.

Zack Wheat

Zack Wheat

Star outfielder for Brooklyn in the National League he led his team to World Series appearances in both 1916 and 1920. He won the 1918 batting title and in the pennant winning season of 1916 led the league in extra base hits. He also led the National League in fielding twice.

And the commentary:

1. Dreyfuss was an easy choice as a contributor. He was an early advocate of the World Series, of gaining a “peace” between the warring American and National Leagues, and of contracting the National League to eight teams from the unwieldy 12 team league that existed most of the 1890s. Unfortunately, he was also an early advocate of syndicate baseball. I’m surprised it took quite so long for Cooperstown to come calling.

2. You knew Johnson was getting in, right? The only question was his win total. I noted a couple of differences in the final number, so left it at “more than 400 wins.”

3. Mendez is one of the truly outstanding pitchers of the early Negro Leagues. I suppose I might have put in another (although George Stovey did make it several classes ago), but his work with the Monarchs, a premier team in the 1920s, made him an easier choice.

4. Wheat has the kind of numbers that impressed 1930s writers. There are lots of hits, a high average, and he’s a good outfielder. One thing I noticed is that there’s praise for his later work (the years in the 1920s) that talks about him getting better with age. Of course we know that he covers that transition from the “Deadball” era to the “Lively ball” era so much of that later work is influenced by the change in eras. I don’t see anything that leads me to believe that the writers of the era paid attention to that.

5. Here’s the list of everyday players eligible for the final ballot in this project: George Burns, Cupid Childs, Ty Cobb, Jake Daubert, Jack Fornier, Larry Gardner, Heinie Groh, Baby Doll Jacobson, Tommy Leach, Herman Long, Bobby Lowe, Tommy McCarthy, Stuffy McInnis, Clyde Milan, Wildfire Schulte, Cy Seymour, Tris Speaker, Roy Thomas, Mike Tiernan, George Van Haltren, Ross Youngs (a total of 21 with 20 a maximum).

6. Now the same list for pitchers: Babe Adams, Chief Bender, Jack Chesbro, Wilbur Cooper, Stan Coveleski, Sam Leever, Rube Marquard, Tony Mullane, Deacon Phillippe, Urban Shocker, Jesse Tannehill, Doc White (a total of 12 with 10 a maximum).

7. Finishing with the contributors: umpires-Bob Emslie, Tim Hurst; manager-George Stallings; owners-Charles Ebbets, August Herrmann; Negro Leagues-Pete Hill, Oliver Marcell, Dobie Moore, Spottswood Poles, Ben Taylor, Christobal Torriente; and 19th Century pioneer William R. Wheaton (a total of 12 with a maximum of 10).

8. Without giving anything away I think the Cobb and Speaker kids have a pretty good chance of making it.

 

 

The Peacemaker

June 5, 2015
August Hermann in 1905

August Hermann in 1905

I want to take the time to introduce you to one of the most important men ever involved in baseball. His name was August Hermann; he owned the Cincinnati Reds. He also brought together the warring sides in 1903 and produced the peace that allowed for the two Major Leagues to work together, to sanction a postseason set of games, and to work out their contract issues. Although Barney Dreyfuss invented the World Series, Hermann is the man who made it annual.

August Hermann was born in 1859 in Cincinnati. He worked a series of odd jobs eventually going into printing. He began the Hamilton County Law Bulletin which got him into politics. He served as court clerk, a member of the Cincinnati school board, and chairman of the city Water Commission. All that made him both well-known and reasonably wealthy. He was also a baseball fan.

In 1902 he joined three other men in purchasing the Reds. He got the job of actually running the team. And it’s here that he began to make his mark on the sport. The Reds were in a dispute with the American League about who owned the rights to future Hall of Fame outfielder Sam Crawford. It was one small problem in a host of difficulties that were tearing up the Major Leagues in 1902. The newly formed American League was putting teams in towns that were National League cities, they were raiding NL rosters for the best quality players, and they were scheduling games opposite NL games that cut into profits for the existing league.

Hermann decided all this was destroying the sport and, as importantly, the profits available from it. So he began his tenure as owner of the Reds by giving up all claim to Crawford. That got the attention of AL President Ban Johnson. He and Hermann knew each other from Johnson’s days as a Cincinnati sports reporter, but were only casual acquaintances. Nevertheless, Johnson determined that he might have an ally in the NL and began corresponding with Hermann. The two men met, talked over the issues pressing baseball, and Hermann then agreed to host a meeting between Johnson, some of his allies, and the NL leadership.

The result was the National Agreement of 10 January 1903. The agreement established a “National Commission” to govern the sport and work out the problems that were currently creating difficulties. Both league presidents were members, but a third member was needed to break any ties. Johnson nominated Hermann as both a member and the President of the Commission and he was elected easily. For the next several years August Hermann, as both the President and the tie breaker on the Commission, was one of the single most significant people in baseball. He held the position into 1920.

One of his first moves was to support Barney Dreyfuss, Pittsburgh owner, in establishing a postseason series of games to be called the World Series between the NL and the AL. His support was critical for renewing the Series after it wasn’t played in 1904. He is sometimes known as “the father of the World Series.” Although Dreyfuss should probably be given more credit than Hermann for inventing the Series, Hermann was instrumental in making sure it continued.

There’s a lot more on Hermann. But I want this to concentrate on his role in establishing peace between the leagues and supporting the creation of a postseason series. He is one of the most overlooked of all the early owners and should be, in my opinion, seriously considered for the Hall of Fame.

Leading Boston to Victory

May 8, 2010

Jimmy Collins in Boston Americans uniform

Way back in baseball’s Stone Age, the American League team in Boston (they didn’t become the Red Sox until later in the period), won the first World Series. They had a great pitcher in Cy Young. They also had a dominant third baseman named Jimmy Collins. Collins doubled as the manager and led his team to victory.

Collins began his career with the National League’s Boston team, the Beaneaters, in 1895. They loaned him to Louisville for the bulk of the season (long story). By 1896 he was back in Boston where he stayed for the remainder of the 19th Century.

With the dawn of the new century Ban Johnson moved his Western League east and formed the American League. Collins moved right along with him into the new league becoming the manager of the upstart AL franchise in Boston. Both Collins and the team did well. In 1901 he managed them to second place, in 1902 they were third. In 1903 they won the pennant. Pittsburgh won the National League pennant and owner Barney Dreyfuss challenged Boston to a nine game “World’s Series” to determine who had the better team. Boston won in eight games, although Collins didn’t have a particularly good series. In 1904 they won the AL pennant again, agreed to another World Series, and ran smack up against John McGraw and the New York Giants who simply refused to play the upstart team from an upstart league.

In 1905 Boston fell back to fourth and was last in 1906. Collins hurt his knee and played only 37 games in ’06. It was his last year as manager. After 41 games in Boston in 1907 he went to Philadelphia in a trade for fellow third baseman Jack Knight. Collins went on to have one last good year, then in 1908 he hit only .217 in 115 games. The next season Frank (Home Run) Baker replaced him at third. Collins died in 1943 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1945.

I look over his numbers and sometimes I wonder why Collins is so well regarded. As I looked at him more, I began to realize the dearth of talent at third base and realized he’s a good candidate for best third sacker of the era. Now that sounds like a backhanded compliment, “Well, there just wasn’t anybody better outta all these bums, so why not him?” And in some ways it is. Actually, third base has produced fewer great players than any other position. Most of the good hitters didn’t play defense particularly well. Most of the good glove men didn’t hit all that well.

Collins is one of the few third basemen who did both well. As a defensive player he was considered  the premier glove man of his day. In an era where the bunt was a major weapon, he was famous for being hard to bunt against. His range was excellent, holding four of the best seasonal averages ever. In the opening years of the American League he is clearly its best defensive third baseman.

He hit pretty well also. Five seasons he hit over .300. In 1898 he won a home run title with 15, his only year in double figure home runs. He had 175 hits five times, tallied 100 runs four years, and had 100 RBIs twice. All are good numbers for the era. In the twelve years he played 100 games, he averaged 156 hits, 83 runs, 28 doubles, and 77 RBIs. Again, not bad for the Deadball Era(Ya know, when I do spell check they suggest deadball should be meatball. I wonder why.). His 15 home runs in 1898 are 23% of his total and I’ve no clue why the sudden power surge. His next highest total was a rookie year seven. In his last three seasons he hit exactly one.

Jimmy Collins is one of those players whose numbers don’t jump off the page at you, but who consistently impresses if you pay attention to when he took the field. He played a pivotal role for two very good teams at the turn of the 20th Century, leading one of them to the first ever World Series title. All in all he is probably the American League’s finest third baseman in its formative years. He’s one of the reasons the league gained instant credibility and became a true rival to the National League.

The Chronicle-Telegraph Games

December 23, 2009

Chronicle-Telegraph Cup

In 1900 the National League contracted from 12 teams to eight. Baltimore, Louisville, Cleveland, Washington all ceased to exist. The players were shipped to other teams. In the case of Baltimore and Lousville the locations were already decided. Both teams were part of a syndicate that ran them and another team. Baltimore was owned by the Brooklyn team and Louisville by the team in Pittsburgh. This syndicate baseball was both common and legal in the era. The Brooklyn team had been most successful in using it because they had looted the Baltimore team earlier and won the National League pennant in 1899.

They repeated in 1900 winning the championship by 4.5 games over Pittsburgh. The Pirates owner, Barney Dreyfuss, argued that his team was actually better and only lost because he hadn’t been able to join the Louisville players with the Pittsburgh players earlier in the season.  He argued that the Pirates and the Superbas (they weren’t yet called the Dodgers) ought to meet in a five game series to settle the issue. Superbas manager Ned Hanlon accepted the challenge. The Pittsburgh Chronicle-Telegraph, a major newspaper, agreed to sponsor the series and offered a cup as a trophy to the victor. (What is it with Pittsburgh and gaudy trophy cups?)

Beginning 15 October the Chronicle-Telegraph series was held. All games were played in Pittsbugh. The Superbas won game one 5-2 behind Joe McGinnity’s five hitter.  Frank Kitson picked up the win for Brooklyn 4-2 in game two. In the game Pittsburgh committed 6 errors. The Pirates crushed Harry Howell and the Superbas 10-0 in game 3 behind future World Series star Deacon Phillippe. With McGinnity back on the mound for game 4, Brooklyn rode to victory 6-1 and finished the series and claim the cup.

The Superbas roster included the following future Hall of Famers: pitcher Joe McGinnity, infielder Hughie Jennings, outfielders Willie Keeler and Joe Kelley, and manager Ned Hanlon.

The Pirates roster included the following future Hall of Famers: pitchers Jack Chesbro and Rube Waddell (losing pitcher in game 1 of the series), and outfielders Honus Wagner (not yet the shortstop) and Fred Clarke who doubled as manager.

The Chronicle-Telegraph cup is currently on display at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.