Posts Tagged ‘Hal Chase’

Belly Up: the 1915 Federal League

April 2, 2015
The second place Maroons

The second place Maroons

The 1915 season was the final of two for the Federal League. By the beginning of the season it was already in trouble. In 1914 the team in Indianapolis won the pennant. Their reward? They were moved to Newark for the 1915 season. It’s never a good sign when your league champion ends up moving, especially if it’s a move forced by lack of attendance (as was the case here).

The Feds began their season on 10 April 1915, four days before either the National or the American League. The team in Newark, with much the same lineup (they’d lost Benny Kauff, the league’s best player, but most of the rest of the team was intact) as in 1914 was a favorite to win the pennant. They finished sixth. As noted in the post below on the Whales, the Chicago team won the pennant by a half game over the St. Louis Maroons. The Pittsburgh Rebels and the Kansas City Packers rounded out the first division and Newark was the last team to record a winning record (80-72). The rest of the league consisted of (in order of finish) the Buffalo Blues, the Brooklyn Tip-Tops, and the tail-end Baltimore Terrapins (47-107).

The league leader in hitting was Kauff. He absolutely dominated the Feds winning the batting title, slugging and on base titles (and obviously led the league in OPS), stolen bases, and WAR (BBREF version) at 6.8. The home run title went to Buffalo’s Hal Chase (yes, that Hal Chase) with 17, while the Whales’ Dutch Zwilling won the RBI crown. Babe Borton led the Feds in runs scored and Steve Evans led the league in doubles.

In pitching, Maroons ace Dave Davenport took the WAR crown (8.4) but finished third in wins, fifth in ERA, second in WHIP, and led the league in strikeouts (229 to 160 for second place) and shutouts (10). Whales ace George McConnell led the Feds in wins with 25 while Newark’s Earl Moseley won the ERA title (1.91). Jack Quinn of Baltimore put up the most losses (22), as befits a player from a last place team.

The league folded at the end of the season. By now it’s probably most famous for giving Chicago Wrigley Field, or for causing the lawsuit that led eventually to baseball’s antitrust exemption. But the Feds had a few other things going for them. First it brought Major League play to Kansas City, Buffalo, Newark, Indianapolis, and Baltimore. All had produced Major League teams in the 19th Century, but hadn’t had a big league team in years. It gave fans a chance to see Major League games in places and in venues that were new. Second, it provided a final shot for a number of fading stars like Mordecai Brown and Eddie Plank. Third, it introduced a number of very good players to fans. Kauff was number one. He tore up the Federal League, then had a solid, and totally unspectacular, career after 1915. Eventually he was one of the players banned by Judge Landis for associating with known gamblers. Edd Roush, a discarded American Leaguer, did well enough to get another chance. He latched on with Cincinnati, won a World Series (1919), a couple of batting titles (1917 and 1919), and eventually made the Hall of Fame; as did his teammate Bill McKechnie. McKechnie made the Hall as a manager, winning the World Series in 1925 and again in 1940. He got his first taste of managing as a mid-season replacement at Newark. Everything considered, all those things make for a fairly interesting legacy. Certainly they aren’t the worst legacy a league can leave.

 

Hot Stove League 1912 (AL)

January 5, 2012

Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper about 1912

Today we baseball junkies get our November-February fix by engaging in what’s called “The Hot Stove League”. It was no different 100 years ago. Here’s a few things the 1912 American League fan had to be discussing in January 100 years ago.

Could the Athletics repeat? The Philadelphia Athletics were two-time defending champions. Could they make it three in a row? No one ever had in the American League. We know the answer is “no.” Chief Bender had a down year, rookies Herb Pennock and Stan Coveleski (future Hall of Famers) didn’t do much (Coveleski only pitched 21 innings).

If not, who could take them? Boston had finished fifth in 1911, but  Jake Stahl took over as manager (and had a good year at first base), the outfield of Harry Hooper, Tris Speaker, and Duffy Lewis became arguably the finest Deadball Era outfield, third baseman Larry Gardner had a good season (better than Hooper’s), and Smokey Joe Wood won 30 games.

 Was Walter Johnson a fluke? After three so-so seasons, Johnson put together two 20 win seasons in 1910 and 1911. Fans had to wonder if he could continue. Short answer? Yes.

After hitting .400 in 1911, could Ty Cobb do it again? Again the answer turned out to be yes.

After hitting .400 in 1911 and losing the batting title to Cobb, could new guy Joe Jackson hit .400 in 1912 and win the batting title? Jackson slipped to .395, but led the AL in triples.

Would the team in New York, which had finished second in 1910 and slipped back to sixth in 1911 under now ousted manager Hal Chase recover or continue to slide. They dropped all the way to last place in 1912 with Chase still at first and sulking (among other things). He did lead the team in RBIs with 58.

And finally would Chicago pitcher Ed Walsh’s arm fall off? Walsh led the AL in games pitched in 1907, 1908, 1910, and 1911. Could he do it again? He could. He pitched in 62 games, starting 41, completing 32, and pitching 393 innings (read that last number closely).  Apparently the arm stayed attached, but the toll finally got to him. He developed a sore arm in 1913 and his career was effectively over.

Part of the joy of baseball is actually the offseason. The speculation, the anticipation, the questioning all make for a lot of fun. I love it, I hope you love it, and I’m sure fans 100 years ago loved it too.

Charlie the Hustler

October 13, 2010

Rose

In posts on Joe Jackson and Hal Chase I mentioned Pete Rose in passing. I was asked what I thought of Rose. Being dumb enough to walk into an ongoing fight, here goes.

Let me start with an important caveat. I never watched either Jackson or Chase play (Even I’m not that old!). I did see Rose play. I also saw his teams perform. That’s something, again, I can’t say about either Jackson’s White Sox or the various teams Chase graced (Graced? Did I actually type “graced”?). That means I can’t look at Rose as dispassionately as I do the other two. I have memories of him that are real and not simply still shots or grainy newsreels. For me Rose is in color and the other two in black and white. I have distinct opinions about the Big Red Machine (it’s been overrated because its pitching wasn’t very good) and Rose’s postion on it (he was at best the 3rd finest player on the team after Bench and Morgan and depending on the year behind Perez and/or Foster).  I’m saying this so you know that I come to Rose with a bias I don’t have toward the other two.

Having got that off my chest, Rose is a first rate slug. Baseball has a lot of rules, some in a thick book, others posted on the clubhouse wall. No gambling is one of those. It goes back to the 1920’s and the Black Sox scare. I’m not a huge fan of Judge Landis and his  views of race, but he got the gambling one right. Simply no gambling on baseball in any way, shape, or form. It may be brutal and arbitrary, but it cuts out nuiances that make lawyers necessary. As far as I know, Pete Rose can read, so I want no excuses from him to the effect that “Well, geez guys, I didn’t know that.” Rose got himself banned for gambling and he now admits it. To me that’s case closed and I don’t want to hear about “Poor ole Charlie Hustle.”

Dante told us there were various levels of hell. I think there are also various degrees of bending the rules in baseball. I’ve noticed a number of people arguing that cheating is so  common to the game that Rose breaking the gambling rules is no big deal. Well, yes it is. There’s a wide gulf between Derek Jeter’s phantom hit by pitch (“Oh,agony, Oh pain, Oh I”m dying.”) and Chick Gandil trying to lose the 1919 World Series on purpose. To compare them is just plain silly. And Rose fits somewhere in between them

In some ways that’s my great problem with Rose, the “somewhere in between” part. As far as I can tell (and as I’ve said before, the trials and tribulations of Pete Rose aren’t my specialty) Rose is supposed to have bet on his team to win while he was a manager. Nothing in that impunes his character as a player. If he was betting on games as a player, then there’s a different problem, but I don’t feel I need to address that unless it’s true. It’s his character as a manager that’s in question. And again I find myself somewhat ambivalent about Rose here. Betting on your team to win is still gambling, but in a sense isn’t that what he’s supposed to do? Doesn’t he want to have his team win and placing a bet on them to do so shows a certain confidence in the team (and, yes, I understand the dilemma caused by not betting on a particular game) (more…)

Why 1910 Matters

October 11, 2010

Since April I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time running all over the 1910 baseball season. Part of that is simply because it was 100 years ago and a centennial is worth remembering. It’s also because the season is interesting in itself. But primarily I’ve been focusing on the 1910 season because it is a watershed season for Major League Baseball. There are a lot of reasons why. Here are some in no particular order.

1. The appointment of Hal Chase as manager of the Highlanders (Yankees) is not, for managerial purposes, all that important. What is important is the ability of the owners and the National Commission (which ran baseball before Judge Landis) to look the other way when it came to gambling in the big leagues. Failure to crack down on this sort of activity meant that it was going to get worse and that eventually something like the Black Sox scandal was bound to occur. The players likely to participate in this kind of thing now had proof that not only were the powers that be not going to do anything about gambling,  but might actually reward a player if the situation was right. I don’t want to compare it directly with the steroid situation of the 1990s, but it does seem that Malamud was right, we really don’t learn from our mistakes (The book “The Natural”–not the movie–has this as one of its central themes.).

2. During the 19th Century the National Association, the Union Association, the American Association, and the Player’s League had all existed, as had the National League. By 1892 they were all gone. Only the American Association survived 10 seasons, and by the tenth was on life support. By contrast the American League, founded in 1901, was now ten years old and flourishing. The 1910 season marked a decade of success both as a business and on the field. Frankly, baseball had not had this kind of stability in its history. Ban Johnson had managed to create a new Major League and made it work. By 1910 there was no question the AL was here to stay and that the National League finally had a partner co-equal to it. 

3. The Athletics had created the first successful AL dynasty. From league founding in 1901 through 1910, four teams won all the AL pennants: Chicago (1901, 1906), Philadelphia (1902, 1905, 1910), Boston (1903-1904), and Detroit (1907-1909). None of the pre-1910 teams created a dynasty. OK, Detroit won three years in a row, but was defeated in all three World Series matchups, which is kinda hard to call a dynasty. Let’s be honest, dynasties work, especially if they happen to be your team. Baseball seems to do best in attendance and popularity when there is a dynasty. They give fans both a hero and a villain (depending on whether you like the team or not) and 3500 years of drama tell us that nothing  in entertainment sells like heroes and villains. On top of that, it was easy to like the A’s. Connie Mack was a nice enough human being (except when it came to paying his players–a common problem in the era). You hear very few negative comments about Eddie Collins, Frank Baker, or Stuffy McInnis. And in the case of  Chief Bender, he was a sympathetic figure to many fans because of all the racial riding he took (he was an American Indian). All those things went together to help boost attendance and cash.

4. The Cubs dynasty had come to an end. If one dynasty was born in 1910, another died. The “Tinker to Evers to Chance” Cubs had their last fling in 1910. Between 1906 and 1910 the Cubs dominated the NL. They won four of five pennants (losing in 1909 to Pittsburgh) and two World Series’ (1907-8). But 1910 was the end. In the Cubs Postmortem post I detailed what went wrong, so I don’t intend to do it again. But the loss of the Cubs dynasty is signficant because it allowed for a more wide open NL. If having a dynasty is good for baseball, having two isn’t. One league has to remain open for fans to believe their team has a chance to win. With the death of the Cubs dynasty hope could rise for other teams in the NL, notably John McGraw’s New York team, but also in the next ten years Boston, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Cincinnati would also win pennants (as would the Cubs in 1918). The end of the Cubs dynasty also ushered in the beginning of the Cubs mystique as the “loveable losers.” With only sporadic exception, the Cubs have been non-factors in the NL since.  After four pennants in five seasons, the Cubs have won the NL title exactly six times (1918, 1929, 1932, 1935. 1938, 1945). They are now a synonym for “loser”, a tradition that began with the end of the 1910 season.

5 The AL became the dominant league. I said earlier that the reasons 1910 mattered were in no particular order, but this one is last on purpose because it’s the most important. Between 1903 and 1909 there were six World Series matchups. The NL won four (1905, 1907-09) and the AL only two (1903, 1906). By 1910, the AL hadn’t beaten the NL in four years. All that changed in 1910. Take a look at the next ten years, actually 11 because I’m going to ignore the 1919 “fixed” Series. Between 1910 and 1920 inclusive the NL wins one untainted World Series, 1914. And it took a team known as the “Miracle Braves” to do that.  The AL won everything else: Philadelphia in 1910-11, 1913; Boston in 1912, 1915-16, 1918; Chicago in 1917; and Cleveland in 1920. And that kind of dominance continues in some measure all the way to 2010. Here’s the World Series wins by league by decade since 1910 (going from the zero year to the nine year to determine a decade, thus 1920-29, 1940-49, etc.) 1910-19: AL-8, NL-2 (including 1919), 1920-29: AL-6, NL-4, 1930-9: AL-7, NL-3; 1940-9: AL-6, NL-4, 1950-9: AL-6, NL-4, 1960-9: AL-4, NL-6, 1970-9: AL-6, NL-4; 1980-9: AL-5, NL 5, 1990-9: AL-6, NL-3 (and no series in 1994): 2000-9: AL-6, NL-4. In each decade except the 1960s, when the NL actually wins more World Series championships and  1980s when the each win five, the American League has won the more often. I think this is much more significant than the results of the All Star game which saw the NL have along period of dominance in the 1960s and 1970s. I’m not really impressed with winning an exhibition game. So the American League has been the superior league in most of the last 100 years, and that began in 1910.

I’ve enjoyed going over the 1910 season. I learned a lot, some significant, some trivial. I’ve begun to celebrate the players of the era more by having done this, and I consider that a good thing. Hope you enjoyed it.

1910: The Absolute Worst Managerial Choice Ever Made

September 20, 2010

Hal Chase

That’s a strong statement in the title, isn’t it? Sounds extreme, right? The absolute worst choice ever made, really? Actually, it’s not even close. On this date one hundred years ago the New York Highlanders (now the Yankees) fired manager George Stallings and installed Hal Chase as the new field general. No one’s ever done a worse job of picking a manager. 

It’s not like Chase was a bad choice. Chase was a disastrous choice. You want your manager to do a lot of things, and one of the most important is to make decisions that will enhance your team’s opportunity to win. Chase often made decisions that enhanced the Highlanders’ opportunity to lose. And he did them on purpose. You see, Chase was a crook. There’s no way to sugarcoat that. Chase probably holds the record for most games “fixed” in Major League history and the powers that be in New York just handed him the reigns to the team. Incredible. You want to bet on the Highlanders to lose? Well, just flip Chase a few bills and the pitching rotation will change. A few more bills, and the starting left fielder hitting .350 will suddenly be on the bench. Give him enough money and Chase will throw the game himself if necessary. 

Now I’ve heard defenses of Chase that basically say he was underpaid and was simply trying to make ends meet. Hey, Hal, so am I and I promise that if I could ever get to the Major Leagues, I wouldn’t throw a game. My son can testify that when our  little league team was eliminated from the pennant race, I didn’t start letting just anybody pitch. Even at that level you don’t throw games. I am the first to say I understand and sympathize with the salary plight of players in the Deadball Era. What the owners did to them economically was awful, but it doesn’t absolve them from knowing what’s right and what isn’t. I supposed somewhere in Chase’s warped mind there was a justification for “laying down” on the team. Tell, it to the fans, Hal. They put out good money see a real ballgame, not a fixed affair. And most of those fans made less money than Chase. 

You can, if you want, compare Chase to Pete Rose. I don’t consider them at all comparable. Rose was a manager with a gambling problem. Chase was a manager with a total lack of moral compass. I’m no expert on the Rose situation, but as I understand it Rose’s great sin was to bet on his team to win. That’s a lot different from the manager at New York putting down money on his team to lose. I don’t mean to imply that Rose was right in his gambling, but it’s not the same as Chase’s fixing games.I don’t like Rose, but I despise Chase. I’m not sure if I believe in a kind, loving, benevolent God who cares about all of us all the time, but I spent enough time in combat in Viet Nam to know that I certainly believe in a Devil and his hell. As far as I’m concerned, both men can visit him for all time and eternity. 

On top of it all, Chase wasn’t a particularly good manager. In the 14 games he managed in 1910, the Highlanders went 10-4 (maybe he hadn’t gotten enough cash out to the other players yet). After that the team went south fast. In 1911 they dropped to sixth with a 76-76 record. It cost him his managerial job. He stayed on at first for the Highlanders hitting well, fielding well, handing out cash well, and the team dropped to last in 1912. In 1913 he was traded to the White Sox. The Highlanders rose to seventh, the Sox dropped from fourth to fifth. He went to Buffalo of the Federal League in mid-1914.The team finished fourth. He stayed there in 1915 and the team dropped to fifth. Notice a pattern here?

He finished his career playing for Cincinnati from 1916-1918 and with the Giants for 1919, after which he is banned for life. Cincy actually got better after Chase’s arrival, but much of that is laid at the feet of new manager Christy Mathewson, who immediately clashed with Chase. As with New York manager Stallings earlier, Mathewson complained to ownership about Chase and “laying down” for games. Finally in 1918, Chase was suspended. I don’t believe in too many coincidences, so I’ll simply point out that the year after the Reds got rid of the cancer that was Hal Chase, they won the National League pennant, then won the World Series, although that was tainted by the “Black Sox” scandal. 

I know this isn’t one of my better written posts. It’s more of a polemic. But I admit that it’s difficult to be at all dispassionate about Chase. He’s a scoundrel, a thug, and a thief. I’m better for having gotten this off my chest, and we’re all better off Chase was banned.

1910: Highlanders Postmortem

September 13, 2010

For the first time since 1904, the New York Highlanders were significant contenders for the American League pennant. Ultimately they failed to win, finishing at 88-63, 14.5 games back in second place. They were the only team in either league to change managers during the season, going from George Stallings to Hal Chase. That occurred in late September 1910 and will be the subject of a later post.

The Highlanders (now the Yankees) hit well. They led the league in stolen bases and walks, were third in runs, fifth in hits (but made up for it in OBP with all those walks), and third in slugging. Shortstop Jack Knight was the only regular to hit .300, but first baseman Hal Chase, second baseman Frank La Porte, and outfielders Harry Wolter and Birdie Cree all hit above .260. Only third base man Jimmy Austin and catcher Ed Sweeney hit below .220. Chase led the team in RBIs, runs, and hits. More about him in the manager post.

The bench had six players participate in 20 or more games. One of them, backup outfielder Bert Daniels, led the team in stolen bases, hit .253, and was fourth on the team in walks. The other major  bench players hit below .250, with two hitting below .200 (and one below .150).

The Highlanders used only 10 pitchers all season, five of them starting 15 or more games. They did pretty well. Russ Ford was 26-6 with an ERA under two. Jack Quinn (who would pitch into his 40s and win a World Series as late as 1930) was 18-12, and 22-year-old lefty James “Hippo” Vaughn went 13-11 with a 1.83 ERA. Every pitcher had more strikeouts than walks, and all but one, Tom Hughes, had more innings pitched than hits.  At 7-9, Hughes was also the only major starter with a losing record.

For the Highlanders, the future looked bright. The pitching staff was good, the starting position players were good to adequate, depending on the position. What they lacked was a solid bench, but then so did everyone else. In 1911 they slipped back to fifth and finished at .500. What happened? Well, that manager change certainly didn’t help. Hal Chase wasn’t the best choice to lead a team, any team.

1910: End of July

July 28, 2010

Huntington Avenue Grounds, Home of the Red Sox

Normally this post would be my last for the month, but I have a particular post I want to run on the 30th, so I’m doing the end of July 1910 post a little early.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that he 1910 season was playing out as most seasons do. By the end of July half the teams were already playing out the string, while most of the rest were trying hard to maintain contact with the leaders. In each league, only a couple of teams were in position to actually take the pennant.

In the National League the Cubs were seven games up on the Giants and 7.5 ahead of Pittsburgh. The Cubs had gone 21-9 for the month, while the Giants were going 15-14 and the Pirates 19-10. Everyone else was falling back. The fourth place Reds were playing .500 ball (45-45) while Philadelphia, St. Louis, Brooklyn, and Boston filled out the second division. Last place Boston was 27.5 games out of first.

In the American League, the Athletics were in first place by six games over Boston and seven over New York. For July Philadelphia went 22-9. Defending champion Detroit was 9.5 games out in fourth place and the last team with a winning record. Cleveland, despite a great year from Nap LaJoie, had a losing record in fifth place followed by Washington, Chicago, and the hapless Browns who were in last place 33 games back.

The big story of the year continued to be in New York where the Highlanders (Yankees) are still in contention, although they had a bad July (17-16). Coming off a bad 1909, they were showing signs of making a run for first. Of course the continuing conflict between manager George Stallings and first baseman Hal Chase was not helping team morale (Stallings alleged that Chase wasn’t always playing to win. Stallings was right.).

1910: End of June

June 30, 2010

Hilltop Park, home of the Highlanders in 1910

By the end of June 1910, the season was beginning to take definite form in both leagues. There were few surprises, although the American League had a big one. Here’s a look at the way Major League Baseball stood at the end of June 1910.

The National League was running true to pre-season expectations. The Chicago Cubs were in first place with a record of 38-21. They were 1.5 games up on the New York Giants, with the defending champion Pittsburgh Pirates another4.5 games back. Cincinnati rounded out the first division 8.5 games back with a .500 record (30-30 with one tie on the books). The Phillies, Cardinals, and Brooklyn Superbas were bunched closed behind the Reds in position to step into the first division. The Doves of Boston were already mired deep in last place 18 games out of first with a record of 22-41 (with a tie). Honus Wagner was on track for another batting title, but Philadelphia outfielder Sherry Magee was having a monster year and already ahead in the RBI department.

The big surprise was in the American League. Philadelphia was a game ahead at the end of June, but second place belonged to the New York Highlanders (now Yankees). The Highlanders finished fifth in 1909 and were not favorites for a pennant in 1910. But manager George Stallings (of 1914 Miracle Braves fame) had them in contention. They led the AL in stolen bases and Russ Ford was striking out a lot of batters. Unfortunately for the Highlanders, manager Stallings was already having problems with first baseman Hal Chase, who seemed not to be trying very hard to win games on occasion. It was to be a career long problem for Chase’s managers.

It helped the Highlanders, that the Athletics had a terrible June. The A’s went 12-12 for the month (unfortunately the Highlanders only went 13-11 for the month), their worst month of the season. Chief Bender was doing alright on the mound, but ace Eddie Plank was off his game. Jack Coombs was doing OK, but nothing special (his time was to come later in the season).

Both the Tigers defending AL champs) and Red Sox were in range of first (3 and 6 games out), but had yet to make a charge. The second division teams, Cleveland, Chicago, Washington, and St. Louis, were falling back, although Senators pitcher Walter Johnson was having a decent first half.

So except for the Highlanders, the season was playing out about as expected. There were three months left (plus a handful of October games) to sort out the winners, but other than the AL’s New York team, there were no surprises. Of course, it was only half a season and a lot of things could change.

In July there will be a couple of major developments that will be dealt with on the appropriate date.

Opening Day, 1910: New York (AL)

April 18, 2010

 

Hal Chase

Considering what the American League team in New York has meant to the AL since 1920, it’s a little surprising to note that the Highlanders (they were to become the Yankees in the next decade) were not a significant factor in the league. They were formed in 1903 when the Baltimore franchise relocated to New York. They finished in the first division in ’03 and second in the league in ’04 (1.5 games out), then slid back in 1905, made second again in 1906, then fell back, finishing last in 1908. By 1909 they were back to fifth.

It was a team in some turmoil. Manager George Stallings (the “Miracle Man” of 1914) had a fairly solid infield, but there were problems in the rest of the positions. Hal Chase, Frank La Porte, Jack Knight, and Jimmy Austin held down the infield from first over to third in 1909 and all were back for 1910. but the infield bench was different. Gone was Kid Elberfeld. Earle Gardner, Roxy Roach, and Eddie Foster now handled the backup duties for the team.

The 1909 outfield was gone. Willie Keeler, Ray Demmitt, and Clyde Engle were replaced by Harry Wolter, Charlie Hemphill, and Birdie Cree. In 1909 Cree had been the fourth outfielder, but the others were new. Bert Daniels was now the outfielder sitting on the bench.

Ed Sweeney, the ’09 backup catcher, moved to the starting role in 1910 with Fred Mitchell the backup. Former starter Red Kleinow developed a sore arm and was traded after getting into only six games. Neither catcher would manage to hit .220.

The pitching underwent something of a makeover. Joe Lake, Jack Warhop, Lew Brockett, Jack Quinn, Joe Doyle, Tom Hughes, and Rube Manning had done the bulk of the starting for the Highlanders in 1909. Quinn, Warhop, and Hughes were back. Manning was now a bullpen man and Doyle lasted exactly three games before a trade. In their place were Russ Ford and Jim “Hippo” Vaughn.

Well, it wasn’t a bad team, in fact it would show significant rise in 1910. But it had one serious flaw. By 1910 manager Stallings was already voicing concerns about the reliability of first baseman Chase. There were allegations that Chase was taking money to lose games, that he was spreading gambling money to other players in return for shoddy play in critical games. There were allegations that he was playing just well enough to look reasonably good in losing efforts. There was no proof, and certainly nowhere for Stallings to go with his complaints but to the ownership who had an interest in protecting Chase who was a definite fan favorite (Judge Landis was 10 years in the future).  All this made for major clubhouse problems. It would take until 1919-1920 to garner the evidence to ban Chase. Until then he would be a cancer on the club, and any club for which he played.

Next: Cleveland

Hooray for Hollywood

February 1, 2010

Baseball and Hollywood have been very good to each other.  Baseball has given Hollywood some wonderful plot lines (and a few really awful ones too). Hollywood has showcased the game in a number of very good movies (and, again, some really awful ones). Real players have graced the silver screen on a number of occasions.  I got curious about finding out if you could field a real team from the players who have been in the movies. It turns out you can.

A couple of caveats. First, I looked for silent films first. Couldn’t find a player at every position, so I decided to stop at 1945. That made it pretty easy. Second, I wanted to player to be in a real movie, not some newsreel type short on last season’s best plays or some such thing. Also no TV and no commercials for razor blades or Mr. Coffee or any other product. Here’s what I found (there are more, but these will do for now).

1b-Hal Chase has two credits, one in 1911, the other in 1914. He plays a ballplayer in both. What, not a gambler?

2b-Nap LaJoie has one credit for a one reeler in 1903, the oldest one I could find.

ss-Honus Wagner has 2 credits, one in 1919 and the other in 1922. The 1919 flick costars Shemp and Moe Howard before they joined with Larry Fine to become the 3 Stooges. Obviously the best acted flick in the lot.

3b-Frank “Home Run” Baker has 2 credits, one in 1913 and the other in 1914.

of-Ty Cobb has 2 credits in 1917 and one in 1921. Later in the 1930’s through 1950’s he does a series of cameos on both the big screen and on TV.

of-Babe Ruth has 10 credits between 1920 and 1942. In most he plays someone named Babe Ruth, but in a 1922 movie called “Babe Comes Home” he plays a ballplayer named Babe Dugan. He is, movie-wise, most famous for playing himself in “Pride of the Yankees.”

of-Mike Donlin was the most successful of the ballplayers in Hollywood. Between 1917 and 1935 Donlin racked up 61 roles, mostly uncredited, in a lot of silent flicks and a few talkies. His most notable film was Keaton’s “The General” in which he played a Union officer.

c-Bill Dickey was in 2 flicks in the 1940s, the most famous being “Pride of the Yankees.”

p-Christy Mathewson has two credits in 1914 and 1915, neither for movies I’ve ever heard of.

 manager-John J. McGraw did two movies, one in 1914, the other in 1919. The 1914 flick was called “Detective Swift” with McGraw in the title role and included a Mrs. Hans Lobert, apparently the wife of the ballplayer.

The are surely others, but it’s not a bad list. Anybody with others to add, feel free.