Posts Tagged ‘Cole Younger’

A Baker’s Dozen Things You Should Know About the World of 1908

November 7, 2016

So the Cubs finally win one after 108 years of failure. Normally I use my “A Dozen Things You Should Know About…” format to feature a particular individual. This time I want to use the same format to give you a dozen things about the world of 1908 that may surprise you (or maybe not, depending on you).

1. Theodore Roosevelt was the incumbent 26th President of the US. Number 27, William Howard Taft, would be elected in November but not take office until 1909. The next President will be number 45.

The Duke

The Duke

2. In Hollywood D.W. Griffith would direct his first movie “The Adventures of Dollie.” He would later (1915) make “The Birth of a Nation” which is generally considered the first “blockbuster.” In Winterset, Iowa John Wayne had his first birthday, while James Stewart was born in Pennsylvania, and Humphrey Bogart turned nine on Christmas day.

3. Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Quanah Parker, Geronimo, Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Cole Younger were all still alive. Pat Garrett, the man who shot Billy the Kid, died in February.

Nellie Tayloe Ross

Nellie Tayloe Ross

4. Women were still a decade away from receiving the right to vote in federal elections although a handful of states did allow some female voting in state and local elections. In 1887 Susanna Salter was elected mayor of Argonia, Kansas and the town of Syracuse, Kansas chose an all female city council. But women were 17 years from Nellie Tayloe Ross becoming the first female governor of an American State (Wyoming).

Franz Ferdinand

Franz Ferdinand

5. Russia still had a Czar, Germany a Kaiser, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire still existed. Poland didn’t. Edward VII, Queen Victoria’s son, was still on the throne in Great Britain, and Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria, still had six years to live. His assassination in 1914 would set in motion the events leading to World War I.

6. Adolf Hitler was still an unknown postcard painter and paper hanger in Vienna. Erich Maria Remarque (author of All Quiet on the Western Front) was 10. George Patton was a junior at West Point. Dwight Eisenhower was a junior at Abilene High School.

7. Jim Crow was the law of the land in most places, including many outside the American South. The NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) was founded the next year.

8. The Model T from Ford Motor Company came out in October 1908. You had your choice of colors–black or black. Most people took black.

Nora Bayes

Nora Bayes

9. “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was published and first sung on a vaudeville stage by Nora Bayes. The words were written by her then husband (second of five) Jack Norwood.

10. Old Tom Morris, one of the first winners of the British Open golf tournament died, as did former US President Grover Cleveland and Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Karsakov.

11. Abe Attell, later infamous in the Black Sox scandal, was Featherweight Boxing Champion, Fred McLeod of Scotland won the US Open Golf tournament for the first and only time, James Braid won his fourth (of five) British Open golf tournament (the PGA doesn’t show up until 1916 and the Masters comes in the 1930s), Jim Thorpe who later became first President of the NFL was in his second year at Carlisle, and a horse named Stone Street won his only major race, the Kentucky Derby, in the slowest Derby time recorded.

12. US coins in circulation included the Indian head cent (the Lincoln penny would come in 1909), the Liberty head nickel (the Buffalo nickel started in 1913), the Barber dime (the Mercury dime began in 1916), and the Barber quarter (the Washington quarter began in 1932). A first class stamp was two cents.

13. And in baseball, Fred Merkle failed to touch second.

Fred Merkle (all pix for this post taken from Wikipedia's page on the individual)

Fred Merkle
(all pix for this post taken from Wikipedia’s page on the individual)

Now you should all go to YouTube and find a recording of the old British ditty “The World Turned Upside Down” to celebrate the Cubs victory.

“We Don’t Want Any”

January 27, 2012

Lefty Williams

In the movie “Eight Men Out” there is a wonderfully subtle scene between Swede Risberg (Don Harvey) and Lefty Williams (James Read). Risberg is pitching the fix to Williams when we hear the voice of Williams’ wife (Nancy Travis) ask who’s at the door. Williams responds it’s a salesman and the wife replies that Williams should tell him “we don’t want any.”  It’s subtle because Risberg is actually selling something: the fix. Mrs. Williams is, in a throw off manner, offering excellent advice.  Every time I see the movie I mutter to myself, “Listen to your wife, Lefty.” He never does.

Claude Williams was born in Southwest Missouri in 1893. There seems to be a general belief that the 1919 White Sox were split along geographical lines with the Southerners and the Northerners squaring off in some replay of the Civil War. Ain’t so. Only Joe Jackson was from the South. None of the others were from anywhere near the South except for Williams. He was from one of those border states that tore itself apart during the 1860s. Four of the counties in deep southwest Missouri were evacuated and turned into something like a free fire zone by the Federal Government during the Civil War. The idea was that anyone found in those counties was a bushwhacker and subject to immediate arrest and/or execution. After the war the returned citizens in those counties became some of the biggest supporters of anti-government rebels (and general thugs) like Cole Younger and Jesse James. Williams’ family, from Aurora, came from one of those counties. I don’t know how seriously they identified with the South, but I suspect it had an impact on their son.

Williams became one of the rarest of baseball commodities, a good left-handed pitcher. He played semipro ball in Springfield, Missouri, starred in the Appalachian League, and was picked up by Detroit in 1913. He wasn’t an instant success going 1-4 over two years and picking up a save. He had a good curve, but neither his control nor the curve were what the Tigers wanted. They sent him to Sacramento after one game in 1914. He spent the rest of the season there, then slid over to Salt Lake City for 1915. He pitched well enough in Salt Lake (33 wins and 294 strikeouts) to get the attention of the White Sox.

He debuted in Chicago in 1916 and was a lot better than he’d been at Detroit. With better control and a wicked curve he became a staple of the ChiSox staff. He was 30-15 over two seasons, pitched a lot of innings, but didn’t finish many games. In the 1917 World Series he pitched in one game (one inning). He gave up a run on two hits and struck out three.

In 1918, he joined Jackson, his roommate, and others doing Naval shipyard work in lieu of joining the military. I’ve hit this before in other posts, so I’m not going into detail about it here. He was back for 1919 and won 20 games for the first time (23). He was third in innings pitched, first in games pitched, and for the only time in a full season had an ERA+ over 100 (121). The Sox went to the World Series for the second time in three seasons. Williams started and lost three games. In 1920 he was off to a 22-14 start with a huge ERA and led the American League in home runs allowed when the Black Sox scandal broke. Along with the other players he was acquitted by a jury but banned by baseball.

Williams, as with the rest of the Black Sox, played outlaw ball. He continued playing through 1927. He moved to California and opened a landscaping business and nursery. It was reasonably successful and provided both financial stability and a life away from the harsh glare of the scandal. He died in 1959.

There is a story in Asinof’s “Eight Men Out” that a gambler threatened Williams the night before game eight that the gambler would shoot Williams’ wife if Williams survived the first inning (it’s also in the movie). Asinof, years later, admitted he made up the story to catch plagiarism. I guess that’s so. The story always worried me, but you never know. In my book, Williams has been one of the more sympathetic figures in the Black Sox Scandal (at least as far as any of these jerks can be sympathetic). He seems to have agreed to throw the World Series, gotten a little cold feet, overrode them and decided that the money was good, eventually overriding his conscience. I have to admit that I’ve done that too (overrode my conscience, not thrown the Series). Still, Lefty, you shoulda listened to your wife.