Posts Tagged ‘Hank O’Day’

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)

 

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1908: Merkle

September 18, 2018

Fred Merkle in 1908

You knew when you read that I would be taking some time to talk about the 1908 season that it would eventually come down to Fred Merkle, didn’t you? The “Merkle Boner” is among the most famous of all baseball plays, probably the single most famous Deadball Era play. So without hesitation, let’s get on with it.

At the end of the day on 22 September 1908, the New York Giants and Chicago Cubs were in a virtual tie atop the National League. The Giants were percentage points ahead (.635 to .629) by virtue of having played seven fewer games. They were three up in the loss column, but the Cubs had eight games to play while they had 15 more. The next game for both would be an afternoon game at the Polo Grounds the next day.

Fred Tenney

The Giants’ regular first baseman Fred Tenney was having back trouble and was forced to sit the 23 September game. In his place John McGraw inserted Fred Merkle. Our man Merkle came up in 1907, played a little, was again on the team in 1908. He had not started a game all season and at that point had all of 41 at bats for the year. He was, considered an excellent fielder, an acceptable hitter, and a player worth having. He was also 19 years of age.

The Cubs sent Jack Pfiester to the mound and the Giants replied with ace Christy Mathewson. Pfiester would finish the season at 17-6, while Mathewson would go 37-11. The first four innings were scoreless. In the top of the fifth, Chicago shortstop Joe Tinker, who had a habit of hitting Mathewson well, stroked his fifth home run of the season (he ended up with six). The Giants struck back in the bottom of the sixth when a Mike Donlin single scored Buck Herzog with the tying run. The score remained 1-1 through the top of the ninth. By that point Merkle was 0-2 with a walk.

With one out Art Devlin singled, but was erased on a Moose McCormick grounder. Now with two outs, Merkle sliced a single that put McCormick on third and himself on first. Up came Al Bridwell who drove a pitch into center field scoring McCormick and giving the Giants a one game lead in the NL.

Except that it didn’t. Merkle, halfway to second and seeing McCormick score, turned and trotted toward the club house without ever touching second base. The rules (it’s 4.09) state that, with two outs, no run can score if the final out of the inning is a force play. Merkle was forced to run to second, so a force play was in order.

Johnny Evers

At this point, history leaves off and legend takes over. There a several versions of what happened next. All agree that Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers noticed that Merkle failed to touch second. He called for Cubs center fielder Circus Solly Hofman to throw him the ball. At this point there is great disagreement. The stories indicate that there was some interference with the throw. Most sources say that Giants base coach Joseph McGinnity intercepted the ball and threw it into the stands. Other sources say a fan (fans were on the field by this point) grabbed the ball and either tossed it into the stands or pocketed it. Whatever happened, Evers and other Cubs went after the ball. There seems to have been some sort of scuffle and Evers eventually emerged at second with a ball. Whether it was “the ball” or not is in open dispute. Wherever the ball came from, Evers was on second holding it and arguing that Merkle was out and that the run didn’t count. Umpire Hank O’Day agreed and called Merkle out. With fans all over the field and darkness approaching, he also called the game a tie.

Hank O’Day

New York exploded. McGraw was furious with the umpires, not with Merkle. Team President John T. Brush complained to the National League President. The Cubs prepared for the next game. The ramifications of the game would continue for the remainder of the season. They would effect both teams and, unexpectedly, help determine the fate of not only a pennant, but a life.

 

 

 

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1929

July 5, 2016

Time once again for my foray into what a 1901-1934 era Hall of Fame might look like if there was one. This time two worthy inductees.

Connie Mack

Connie Mack

Connie Mack owned and managed the Philadelphia Athletics beginning with their creation in 1901. His teams have won seven American League championships and four World Series. A fine baseball mind both tactically and strategically, he is also known for his ability to find talent.

 

Hank O'Day

Hank O’Day

Pitcher, manager, and umpire Henry “Hank” O’Day has been around baseball since he 1880s. Between 1884 and 1890 he was a Major League pitcher with five teams. Beginning in 1895 he started a successful career as a National League umpire that lasted through 1927 with a short break to serve a field manager of the 1912 Cincinnati Reds and then as manager of the 1913 Chicago Cubs, finishing fourth both seasons. As an umpire he worked in 10 World Series. After retirement he served as a scout searching for qualified umpires for Major League service.

And now the commentary:

1. Why Mack this time instead of earlier? I’ve not been certain when to put in Mack. He’s still managing as late as 1950 but the real Hall of Fame put him in very early. I always assume these classes are chosen in December of the stated year (December 1929 in this case). In other words I’ve done it in conjunction with the modern Veteran’s Committee vote. After falling off in 1915, the Athletics got back to the World Series and won it in 1929. Seemed like a good point to add Mack. BTW I love the picture of Mack that’s above. Three balls to reference World Series wins in 1910, 1911, and 1913 and then the white elephant emblem.

2. So you finally figured out what to do with umps, did you? Yeah, kinda, sorta, maybe. Hank O’Day is such a unique baseball man that it seemed like a good idea to add him. He’s a pitcher, although not particularly successful. He’s a manager, and probably best described as mediocre. His team finishes at the bottom of the first division both years he’s in charge, which is pretty much a definition of mediocre. He’s universally regarded as a fine umpire. I figure that umping in 10 World Series is evidence of an overall competence. After retirement he starts scouting around looking for new umpires. He’s doing it officially, not on his own, indicating a level of trust in him by MLB. I didn’t mention above that he also served on the rules committee. I couldn’t find the exact dates, so I left it out. I seems to have been a substantial number of years. All of that should tell you that O’Day is in partially because he’s a very good umpire, but mostly because of the variety in his career. He’s one of a number of people who, if viewed simply as one-dimensional with regard to baseball probably shouldn’t be in a Hall of Fame. But if you look at the broad nature of their career, they are incredibly impactful (Guys like Clark Griffith, Charles Comiskey, Hughie Jennings, etc.).

3. Next time brings me squarely up against the Negro League issue. Here I mean the Negro Leagues that most of us know about, not the leagues of the 19th Century. Several famous (and not so famous) players and executives are going to show up over the remainder of this project. Let me remind you my rules allow not more than one Negro League type each year and he must be accompanied by an inductee that isn’t black. I know that putting one in is ridiculous for the era, but I wanted to make some sort of reference to the Negro Leagues, so I’m adding them anyway. But I can’t imagine that there would be a situation where a black man would be allowed to stand on the stage alone for induction, so the rule, and it would be unofficial sort of “gentleman’s agreement” by the Hall (I’m not quite sure how this makes people “gentlemen” but that’s the term used), is at least one other guy has to be there.

4. Here’s the carryover for 1930 including new guys for the everyday players: Jack Barry, Cupid Childs, Jake Daubert, Harry Davis, Mike Donlan, Jack Doyle, Art Fletcher, Larry Gardner, Charlie Hollocher, Tommy Leach, Herman Long, Bobby Lowe, Tommy McCarthy, Clyde Milan, Del Pratt, Hardy Richardson, Wildfire Schulte, Cy Seymour, Burt Shotton, Roy Thomas, Mike Tiernan, Joe Tinker, George van Haltren, Tillie Walker. That’s 24 and I have a limit of 20 on the carryover list. So four have to either go or make it to the Hall.

5. The same list for the pitchers: Jim Bagby, Bob Carruthers, Jack Chesbro, Brickyard Kennedy, Sam Leever, Tony Mullane, Jeff Pfeffer, Deacon Phillippe, Jesse Tannehill, Doc White, Joe Wood. That’s 11 and the carryover total here is 10. So one is in or one is off.

6. And the same list for the contributors: Umps–Bob Emslie, Tim Hurst (who was also NL President); Managers–Miller Huggins, George Stallings; Owners–Charles Ebbets, August Herrmann, Ben Shibe; Negro Leagues–Rube Foster, Spottswood Poles, Candy Jim Taylor; NL President Henry C. Pulliam; pre-Civil War pioneer William R. Wheaton. A total of 12 and the carryover list is 10. So two have to go or make it. Don’t be too surprised if Rube Foster gets as serious look.

 

Three for the Hall

December 3, 2012

MLB just announced the results of the pre-integration Hall of Fame committee’s vote. Elected to the Hall of Fame were Jacob Ruppert, Hank O’Day, and Deacon White. That brings the total Hall membership to an even 300, according to the article. Ruppert was owner of the Yankees in the “Murder’s Row”, “Bronx Bombers” period and built Yankee Stadium, O’Day was an early National League umpire who is perhaps most famous for his participation in the “Merkle Game” of 1908. White was a 19th Century catcher and third baseman whose final season was 1890.

I’ve written a couple of posts on this year’s Vet’s Committee election and you can find info on all three there. If you do, you’ll understand that I am pleased by the choices. I would have chosen both Ruppert and White and mentioned that although I had no idea how to evaluate an umpire for Hall of Fame purposes, I had no problem with O’Day’s election.

According to the article Ruppert and O’Day each received 15 votes and White 12. Twelve votes were needed for election. Bill Dahlen received 10 votes and no other candidate received more than 3 votes. Congratulations to the family of each man.

2012 Veteran’s Committee Ballot: the Ump and some thoughts

November 8, 2012

This is the final set of comments on the upcoming Veteran’s Committee vote for the Hall of Fame. I want to look at the one umpire nominated, Hank O’Day, and to offer a few comments on the ballot, including my own picks.

Hank O’Day

Hank O’Day was, like many umpires, a former players. He got to the Major Leagues in 1884, playing for Toledo (the same team as Tony Mullane, another person appearing on the ballot). He was a pitcher, went 73-110, and ended his playing days in the Player’s League. He had a couple of undistinguished years in the minors, then turned to umpiring. He was considered one of the finest umpires of his day, appearing in 10 World Series: 1903, 1905, 1907, 1908, 1910, 1916, 1918, 1920, 1923, and 1926 (only Bill Klem did more–18). He’s probably most well-known today as the plate umpire in the “Merkle Game” of 1908, although he did not make the call that declared Merkle out. In 1912 he took a sabbatical from umping to manage the Cincinnati Reds. They finished fourth at 75-78. After a year back umpiring, he took over managing the Cubs in 1914. Again they finished fourth, this time at 78-76. After that he returned to umping and remained an umpire through the 1927 season. He was the second base umpire who called Bill Wambsganss’ unassisted triple play in the 1920 World Series. After retirement he served as league scout for umpires, dying in 1935.

I have no idea how to assess O’Day’s qualifications for the Hall of Fame. When it comes to players, I have criteria that I consider when asking if I think a player is Hall of Fame quality. I’ll bet you do also. Yours may be different from mine, but there is a set of criteria. Same with managers, owners, executives. But exactly what criteria do you use for an umpire? Integrity? Decisiveness? Knowing the rules? All of them are important for an umpire, but any truly good umpire should have all three of them. If that’s the case, there ought to be 100 or more umps in the Hall of Fame. So how do we pick out O’Day from, for example,  Bob Emslie, the other umpire in the Merkle game, who was an umpire for 33 years and called four no hitters?

All the above should tell you that I have no inherent reason to not vote for O’Day. It’s just that I don’t have a  particular reason to do so. If he’s elected, I’m not going to be upset, but I’m also not going to say “Well, it’s about time” either.

So now a few comments on this entire ballot.

1. If I were on the Veteran’s Committee, I would vote for three people: Deacon White, Jacob Ruppert, and Samuel Breadon. White I mentioned on the post about the everyday players.

2. Why Ruppert? Well, I think Jacob Ruppert is the most overlooked person eligible for the Hall of Fame (except possibly for Marvin Miller). He is the foundation stone for the greatest of all baseball dynasties and if you’re going to put in his players and his general manager (Ed Barrow) you need to put in the man who had the intelligence to pick up all those people and weld them into a  team for the ages.

3. Why Breadon? Simply put, he’s Ruppert in the National League. As SportsPhD pointed out in a comment on the owners post, Breadon’s Cardinals were only slightly less successful than Ruppert’s Yankees over a comparable period. His players weren’t as spectacular as Ruth and Gehrig and DiMaggio, but they were as effective. And Musial and Dean are close to what the Yanks put on the field.

4. I have no problem if they put in Reach, but I’d rather see the other owners first. His sporting goods empire makes no impact to me on his Hall of Fame qualifications and his team is never all that good. The Reach Guide was good, but most of that was due to the editorial skills of Henry Chadwick, not Reach.

5. The pitching list is particularly interesting to me. Obviously I wouldn’t cast a vote for any of them, but they are still interesting. Much of it has to do with the following question, “Is this really the best set of pitchers left from the period before World War II that isn’t in the Hall?” If the answer to that is “yes”, then we can congratulate ourselves for having  enshrined in Cooperstown all the great pitchers of the era. Maybe we have. Or maybe we haven’t My point here is that if these are the three best pitchers still available for the Hall of Fame from the 1876-1946 era then we’ve pretty much gotten the best of the pitchers already in Cooperstown.

6. I wonder if the people putting together the ballot have a quota of some kind. Note there are 3 position players, 3 pitchers, 3 owners, and 1 umpire. Doesn’t the symmetry strike you as a bit strange? Are there really only 3 everyday players capable of making the ballot? Are there really as many as 3 owners who outshine all but 3 everyday players?

Anyway that’s my take on the 2012 Veteran’s Committee ballot. Feel free to disagree.

2012 Veteran’s Committee Ballot

November 2, 2012

Just got a first look at the 2012 Veteran’s Committee ballot. It contains 10 names and covers the period 1876-1946. Here (alphabetically) are the names on the ballot:

1. Sam Breadon–Cardinals owner who hired Branch Rickey

2. Bill Dahlen–Deadball Era shortstop

3. Wes Ferrell–1930s AL pitcher

4. Marty Marion–1940s Cardinals shortstop and MVP

5. Tony Mullane–1880s American Association pitcher and later sports writer

6. Hank O’Day–Deadball Era umpire

7. Alfred Reach–“Reach Guide” founder and sporting goods magnate

8. Jacob Ruppert–owner of the New York Yankees 1920s and 1930s

9. Bucky Walters–1930s-40s National League pitcher who won both an MVP and 1940 World Series

10. Deacon White–19th Century bare handed catcher and third baseman.

That’s the list. Will comment on it later. Election day is 3 December.

The Crab

September 6, 2011

Johnny Evers

Some players have careers that are easy to evaluate. Whatever criteria you use, whatever stats you emphasize, whatever stats you make up, Babe Ruth is going to be pretty clearly marked out as a player. Others aren’t so easy to define. One of those is Johnny Evers.

Evers was born in upstate New York in 1881, and began his minor league career in 1902. That same year he was the “throw in” guy in the purchase of a pitcher by the Chicago Cubs. Evers was short, weighed barely 100 pounds, had great range, could throw well, and made a lot of errors because of his range (he got to a lot of balls then couldn’t make the play). Initially the shortstop, he was moved to second base after about a week. There he was terrific by Dead Ball Era standards. He teamed with Joe Tinker at shortstop and Frank Chance (later his manager) to form the most famous, if not necessarily the best, double play combination of the era. The team won 116 games in 1906 (a number equaled once, and that with eight more games on the schedule) but lost the World Series. They won the Series the next two years. Evers hit well, but this was a team built on pitching and defense and his play at second was, perhaps, more significant than his hitting.

He was also a pain, which is a nice way of saying few people liked him. It helped earn him the nickname “The Crab”. He and Tinker didn’t speak off the field for years. You get a lot of reasons depending on the source. Evers own version has Tinker firing a ball to record an out that hurt Evers hand. When Evers complained, Tinker laughed and that destroyed any brewing friendship. And with Evers there don’t seem to have been a lot of friends. To say he was “high-strung” is to understate the measure. He alienated teammates with his criticism of bad plays, opponents with his hard play. In fact, he alienated almost everyone (I guess his folks liked him, but that’s a guess). In 1911, he had a nervous breakdown that cost him most of the season. Again there are a lot of  stories of what happened, but Evers own account says he lost money in a business venture and was broke.

Evers also had a habit of not going out with the guys in the evenings. With his personality, would you want him along? (A Dale Carnegie graduate he wasn’t.). He used his spare time to read, including the baseball rulebook. He became something of an expert on the more arcane rules, which led to his participation in the most famous of all Dead Ball Era plays, the “Merkle play”. With two out in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game in 1908, Giants baserunner Fred Merkle failed to advance from first to second on a single while the winning run scored (there are a lot of places on-line where you can get the details). Evers retrieved a ball (probably not “the” ball), stepped on second, and demanded the umpire declare Merkle out and the run void. Apparently Evers and umpire Hank O’Day knew the rule. O’Day called Merkle out, the game ended in a tie, the season ended in a tie, the Cubs won the replay, and their last World Series to date.

In 1913, Evers became manager of the Cubs. Think about that. Here’s a high-strung guy that fights with everyone, that no one likes, and you make him the team manager (and you wonder why the Cubs don’t win often). Despite all that, the Cubs still finished third, but Evers managed to alienate everyone, including the beer salesmen and the owner, so out he went. They sent him to Boston where he took over the second base job for the Braves. His leadership skills (“Play hard or Evers will scream”) and his getting hot with the bat during the last half of the season were considered reasons why the “Miracle Braves” moved from last to first in the final three months of the season to capture the National League pennant, then win the NL’s first World Series since 1909 in a four game sweep of the Athletics. Evers won that season’s NL Chalmers Award (the early version of the MVP).

It was his last good year. He was on the downside of his career anyway and his nerves began really fraying. His did poorly in 1915, worse in 1916, and was cut prior to the 1917 season. He did some managing after his retirement, skippering both the Cubs and the White Sox. He did reasonably well, but never won. He  got into one game in both 1922 and 1929, drew two walks and had no hits, then retired for good. He ran a sporting goods store in Albany, New York (wonder how he was with customers), had a stroke in 1942, made the Hall of Fame in 1946, and died in 1947.

For his career Evers hit .270, slugged .334, had an OBP of .356, for an OPS of .690 (OPS+ of 106). He hit all of 12 home runs, had 216 doubles, 70 triples, and 1659 hits for 2051 total bases. He scored 919 runs and knocked in 528. He had 324 stolen bases.  He never led the NL in any major hitting category but finished as high as second in both walks and stolen bases. In World Series play he hit .316, scored 11 runs, knocked in six, and stole eight bases. He hit .438 with an OBP of .500 in the 1914 World Series victory. As a fielder he led the NL in assists twice and also in errors twice, doing both in 1904 (now that’s a neat trick). He also led the league in putouts and fielding percentage among second baseman once each.

So those numbers don’t sound all that great, do they? Even for Dead Ball Era players they’re not that spectacular. But Evers seems to be one of those guys that is more than the sum of his stats. He’s bright, he’s aggressive, he’s also a pain. Those are things difficult to evaluate. He’s a good second baseman, a lousy teammate. He’s a good glove man, not so great with the bat. He’s knowledgable about the game, but he can’t stay healthy. He’s certainly a mixed bag. I like him because he’s fun to study, but I don’t think I’d like to have known him. And maybe that’s the fascination with Evers. He’s all those things listed above and that makes for an interesting character.