Posts Tagged ‘John T. Brush’

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)

 

A Dozen Things You Should Know About John T. Brush

December 27, 2014
John T. Brush

John T. Brush

1. John Tomlinson Brush was born in Clintonville, NY on 15 June 1845.

2. He served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

3. In 1875 he opened a department store in Indianapolis. It’s main item was clothing.

4. In 1887 he became part owner of the Indianapolis Hoosiers of the National League. He wasn’t particularly a baseball fan, but he saw the open spaces on the outfield fences as a way to advertise he store.

5. In 1889 he came up with a plan to categorize players in five categories. Players in the highest category (Class A) would be paid $2500 with players in class B would receive $2250, class C would receive $2000, class D would get $1750 and class E would receive $1500 for a yearly salary. This was supposed to stop high salaries and, because salaries were uniform, stop players from trying to change teams. As a result, John Montgomery Ward formed the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players.

6. In 1890 Brush became part owner of the New York Giants (Indianapolis was dropped  from the NL). In 1891 he became owner of Cincinnati. In Cincinnati he crossed paths with Ban Johnson, a local reporter. The two men hated each other so much that Brush nominated Johnson to head the Western League in 1894 just to get Johnson out-of-town.

7. In 1901 he proposed the NL become the National League Base Ball Trust. The trust would assign players to team, determine umpires and managers, and make all teams be owned by the trust. In the annual league meeting the Trust was defeated (although it gained four votes).

8. In 1902 Brush began running the Giants and in 1903 took over control of the team. Still owner of the Reds and also owner of the Baltimore Orioles of the American League (now the Yankees), he pulled all his good players from the Reds and Orioles and formed the Giants team that would win pennants in 1904, 1905, 1911, and 1912. Among other things, he brought John McGraw to New York. BTW “syndicate baseball” (owning interest in 2 or more teams), was only outlawed in 1910.

9. In 1904 he refused to let his pennant winning Giants play the American League’s Boston team in a second World Series. Ban Johnson was President of the AL and Brush was still angry over the 1890s conflict with Johnson.

10. In 1908 his team ended up on the wrong side of the Merkle Boner game. When NL President Henry Clay Pulliam ruled the game had to be replayed (and NY lost) Brush attacked Pulliam mercilessly. Some sources contend Brush’s attacks were a major factor in Pulliam’s 1909 suicide.

11. In 1912 he was injured in an automobile accident. In November 1912, while on the way to recuperate in California, Brush died on a train while passing through Missouri.

12. He has never received much support for the Hall of Fame.