Posts Tagged ‘Kennesaw Mountain Landis’

1934: Back to Navin

May 2, 2017

With the Tigers up three games to two, the World Series shifted back to Navin Field in Detroit. To win the Series, all the Tigers had to do was win one of two. Their opponents, the St. Louis Cardinals, would have to sweep on the road to claim their third championship.

Game 6, 8 October 1934

Paul “Daffy” Dean

Detroit sent staff ace Schoolboy Rowe to the mound to clinch the Series. St. Louis responded with the younger Dean brother, Paul. The Cards got a run immediately. With one out, Jack Rothrock doubled. One out later, a Joe Medwick single scored Rothrock to put the Cardinals up 1-0.

It took a couple of innings, but the Tigers got the run back in the third on series of plays that started with a walk to JoJo White. White then stole second and went on to third when St. Louis second baseman, and manager, Frankie Frisch misplayed the ball. A single by Detroit catcher, and also manager, Mickey Cochrane gave the Tigers an unearned run and a tied ball game.

It stayed tied until the fifth when a Leo Durocher single and a Dean bunt put the go ahead run on second. Pepper Martin singled, scoring Durocher, and a bad throw by left fielder Goose Goslin who tried to nip Durocher at the plate got by Cochrane and put Martin on third. He stayed perched there for a couple of pitches before Rothrock rolled one to short. Martin scored as shortstop Billy Rogell got the out at first.

That held up until the sixth when White led off the inning with a walk and went to third on a Cochrane single. A Charlie Gehringer grounder back to the mound that Dean couldn’t handle scored White and advanced Cochrane. A Goslin bunt wasn’t far enough away from the catcher and St. Louis backstop Bill DeLancey gunned Cochrane down at third. A Rogell fly sent Gehringer to third and a Hank Greenberg single brought Gerhinger home with an unearned run that tied the game 3-3.

The tie lasted exactly three batters. With one out in the seventh, Durocher doubled, then came home on a single by pitcher Dean. He’d hurt himself with the misplay in the sixth, but made up for it with a single in the seventh. With St. Louis now up  4-3, he allowed singles in both the seventh and eighth innings (actually two in the eighth) but kept a run for scoring. In the ninth he set Detroit down in order to finish the game and tie the Series at three games each. The decisive game would be the next day.

Game 7, 9 October 1934

Joe Medwick

Game seven turned out to be one of the great blowouts in World Series history. It would be little remembered today except for one play and the fan reaction to it. It would make Joe Medwick a household name and require the Commissioner of Baseball to interfere in the World Series.

The game began with Eldon Auker on the mound for Detroit and Dizzy Dean pitching for St. Louis. For two innings nothing much happened. A handful of Cards got on base and Dean had a man reach on a error, but the score stayed 0-0. In the third with one out, Dean doubled. A Pepper Martin single sent him to third, then Martin stole second. A walk set up an out at any base and made a double play in order. The problem was that Cardinals second baseman Frankie Frisch hit the ball into the right field gap clearing the bases. A second out sent Frisch to third. A Rip Collins single and a Bill DeLancey double plated two runs, A walk and a single reloaded the bases. A Dean single brought in another run while leaving the bases loaded (and making Dean one of the few people to have two hits in one inning of a World Series game). A walk to Martin forced in another run. A Jack Rothrock grounder ended the inning, but the score now stood 7-0.

For Dean it became a walk in the park. Between the bottom of the third and the end of the fifth, he allowed a couple of men on base, but kept them clear of home. Then the Cards struck again in the sixth. Martin opened the frame with a single and came home on a Medwick triple. The play was close at third and Medwick slide in hard upsetting Marv Owen, the Detroit third baseman. Words were exchanged and some sources indicate that at least a few swings were taken. Ultimately Medwick was still safe and came home on a Rip Collins single, making the score 9-0.

But the play wasn’t over. Medwick went to his normal position in left field and the Detroit fans let him know what they thought of his roughhouse play. Medwick, being Medwick, didn’t care, but the fans continued to yell. Eventually various items of food, like oranges, and a sandwich or two, went flying out into left field. It went on long enough that play had to be stopped. Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis was in attendance and umpires turned to him for help. With the game already out of hand, Landis ruled that Medwick was to be removed from the game (at 9-0 it was presumed his bat wouldn’t be missed) and play would continue with a new Cardinals left fielder and a thorough clearing of left field. The new left fielder was Chick Fullis.

Losing Medwick didn’t matter. Dean set the Tigers down in order in the sixth and St. Louis tacked on two more runs in the seventh on a triple, an error, and a double. Now up 11-0, the Cards coasted to a win and took the Series in seven games.

It’s tough to call it a terrific Series. Two of the games, including the last, were blowouts, but four were decided by three or less runs. It was punctuated by two famous plays: Dean’s beaning in game four, and Medwick’s confrontation with a fruit salad in game seven.

St. Louis hit .279 with only two home runs, but they had 14 doubles and five triples (along with two stolen bases, both by Martin). Jack Rothrock had six RBIs, Medwick had five, and both Martin and DeLancey had four. Martin, Medwick, and Collins each had 11 hits and Martin, the lead off man, scored eight runs.

Detroit hit only .224 with two homers, one by Greenberg and the other by Gehringer. But they only had one triple and 12 doubles. Greenberg’s seven RBIs easily led the team while lead off man JoJo White had six runs scored. Gehringer’s 11 hits paced the losers.

The Cardinals pitching was spotty. Both the Dean brothers were great. The each had two wins, and Paul’s 1.00 ERA led the starters. But Tex Carleton and Bill Walker had ERA’s over seven. As a team they walked 25 and struck out 43. The Tigers pitchers were equally spotty. Schoolboy Rowe’s ERA was under three, but Eldon Auker’s was over five. As a team they walked 11 and struck out 31.

For St. Louis it would mark the team apex until the coming of the 1940s and Stan Musial. Paul Dean would hurt his arm and Dizzy Dean his toe and both would be out of the game by 1940. Medwick had a great next few years, then went to Brooklyn. DeLancey developed tuberculosis and would die shortly.

For Detroit they would get one more chance to win their first championship. They would, with essentially the same team, win a pennant again in 1935. This time they would face Chicago. I don’t want to give away the ending, but I’ll remind you that the Cubs went 108 years between World Series wins in 1908 and 2016. You figure it out.

 

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Sport

September 22, 2016
"Sport" Sullivan

“Sport” Sullivan

Recently I took a quick look at Abe Atell, one of the gamblers involved in the fixing of the 1919 World Series. As important as Atell was in the entire affair, other gamblers should really hold center stage. One of the most important was “Sport” Sullivan.

Joseph Sullivan was born in November 1870. His parents were from Ireland, making him first generation. For most of his life his census records show him as a realtor, or at least someone working in a real estate office. And I suppose he actually did make some money at some point in real estate, but by 1903 he was considered the premier gambler in the Boston area. Newspaper accounts of the era detail him making $1000 bets on the 1903 World Series (he bet on Boston to win). Either he was making a lot of money in real estate or he’d already begun his gambling ventures.

He found sports gambling to be the most lucrative bets, leading to his nickname. He bet on baseball, but he came to prominence primarily as a boxing gambler. He was accused of fixing fights, and of trying to influence early auto races in the Boston area. And as a successful gambler he was recognized as an expert on the sports involved. After all only an expert could make money the way he did when it came to sporting events.

Of course we know there is another possibility that explains Sullivan’s expertise in sports gambling. He was, as early as 1906, getting in trouble with the Boston police for fixing sporting events. He’d pay fines and be back on the streets in hours, but I find no evidence that he spent time in jail. By 1916 he was the acknowledged king of Boston gamblers.

Hollywood's version of Sullivan (Kevin Tighe)

Hollywood’s version of Sullivan (Kevin Tighe)

As a gambler, and I suppose this is as good a time to point out that Sullivan seldom “gambled” on anything; he only bet on sure things, particularly things he could fix before hand. But as a gambler, Sullivan was well known in the community of ball players. He was known for cultivating them, dining with them, helping them out in a pinch (there is some speculation that he found them available female companionship). And that got him access to the 1919 Chicago White Sox and the idea of throwing the World Series. It’s impossible to tell who initially came up with the idea of fixing the Series, but Sullivan was front and center in the entire enterprise. He knew Chick Gandil (since at least 1912) and Eddie Cicotte played for Boston for five years (1908-1912). Things get a little murky here because Gandil said Sullivan proposed the fix while Sullivan laid the blame on Gandil (which ever one you believe, make sure you check to see that you wallet is still there when you leave them).

However it began, Sullivan provided much of the money to pay the players and got more from Arnold Rothstein. Not all of it went to the players and Sullivan made a lot of money betting on the Reds to win the Series. But there were consequences to winning all that money. When the dust settled in 1920 and 1921, Kennesaw Mountain Landis banned Sullivan from ball parks throughout the country.

That was the beginning of Sport Sullivan’s fall from the top of the gambling pyramid. Without access to the parks and players involved in the most important sport in the US, he rapidly faded. He still made money, but now was making ten bucks when previously he’d made thousands. He lived on to April 1949, mostly forgotten but not poor either.

Sullivan's grave from Find a Grave

Sullivan’s grave from Find a Grave

 

 

The Ad Man

April 19, 2016
Albert D. Lasker

Albert D. Lasker

I’m going to interrupt my set on the 1991 World Series to stick this post in. Found this information and wanted to share it now. Back to the ’91 Series in a short while.

Born in Freiburg, Germany in 1880 (his parents were visiting Germany), Albert Davis Lasker grew up in Galveston, Texas, the son of a banker. After trying his hand at journalism and in politics, he moved to Chicago to work in advertising. He became in many ways the father of modern advertising.

Working for Lord and Thomas he began to create ad campaigns that were both revolutionary and modern. His first campaign was for a hearing aid company and featured the following newspaper ad:

Lasker's Wilson's Ear Drums ad

Lasker’s Wilson’s Ear Drums ad

It’s nothing special today, but in 1899 it was revolutionary.

He continued with successful ad campaigns until 1903 when he became a partner. By 1912 (aged 32) he owned the firm. And he continued making successful ad campaign after ad campaign. He made Lucky Strike America’s number one cigarette. He made Palmolive soap a household necessity, He made feminine hygiene products something that could be discretely advertised. And of course he made a lot of money. In 1908 he took over the Sunkist Growers account and made a small fruit company into a national institution. And for good or ill he conceived the idea of making a short (15 minute) continuing radio drama that aired daily and sponsored by a soap company. It became a staple of radio and then moved to television. We call them “soap operas.”

In 1920 he became, along with Will Hays (later of the Hollywood Hays Commission), an advisor to Republican Presidential candidate Ohio Senator Warren G. Harding (there seems to be no truth to the idea he invented the saying “A return to normalcy”), When Harding won, he appointed Lasker to the United States Shipping Board, a position he held for two years (resigning on his own and not being involved in any of the Harding Administration scandals). He went back to advertising, remained President of Lord and Thomas, and retired in 1942. He became a major philanthropist, giving money especially to the National Institutes of Health. He also founded the Lasker Awards, which recognize individuals who make significant contributions to science.

“OK, he sounds like a gem of a guy, but what,” you ask, “does he have to do with our favorite sport?” Glad you asked.

Lasker made a lot of money and he was a baseball fan. In 1916 (one hundred years ago this season), he bought an interest in the Chicago Cubs. He held that interest to 1925 when he sold his part of the Cubs (he was the owner with the second most stock) to William Wrigley, Jr. thus beginning the Wrigley family association with the Cubs. But he’s most important for an idea he had that, although subsequently changed, revolutionized baseball.

In 1920 baseball was in trouble. The Black Sox scandal was exploding and baseball seemed unable to figure out how to handle it. The National Commission, the body that ran baseball, was short a member, August Herrmann having just resigned. Traditionally, the Commission consisted of the National League President (John Heydler in 1920), the American League President (Ban Johnson in 1920) and the owner of one of the teams (Herrmann owned the Reds). With or without Herrmann, the Commission was unable to deal with the scandal because of the personal and financial interest of all the members and replacing Herrmann with another owner merely kept the problem going. Lasker came up with a plan (cleverly called “The Lasker Plan”) for a new National Commission. This Commission would retain the two league Presidents, but the third member would be an outsider with no ties to Major League Baseball. In this circumstance it became obvious that this Commission member (a “Commissioner”) would, in many cases, be the deciding vote in running baseball and the Commission would have “unreviewable authority” to run baseball, meaning the owners couldn’t stage a vote and overrule the Commission. They didn’t adopt the entire plan, but Major League Baseball, for the first time, seems to have recognized the advantage of having a non-owner and non-league man run the show. Ultimately, they dumped the two league Presidents (and a later change that would have created a board of three independent commissioners) and decided on a single commissioner. Lasker’s first choice for that job was General John J. Pershing, who didn’t want it. His second choice was a Chicago federal judge named Kennesaw Mountain Landis (In fairness, a number of owners also wanted Landis).

So the modern baseball Commissioner system comes from an idea by a non-traditional baseball man. Lasker is, in a sort of sidelong way, responsible for the Commissioner. Lasker died in 1952, more famous for his advertising genius than for his role in creating the Commissioner of Baseball. He is buried in the family mausoleum in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Lasker mausoleum from Find a Grave

Lasker mausoleum from Find a Grave

Baseball’s VIPs

January 16, 2014
Ban Johnson

Ban Johnson

A couple of posts back, the one on Judge Landis, I made the comment that he was one of the most important people ever in MLB. Well, that led some of my friends to send me emails asking who I considered the 10 most important people ever in the sport. As you know, I’m sort of a glutton for sticking my foot squarely into my mouth, so I decided to publicly respond to them.

First, let me be clear that “most important” has nothing to do with “best player”. Almost all of these people listed below and little or no actual playing time in the big leagues. So don’t be asking, “Where’s Gehrig?” or “Where’s Wagner?” or about other players. They may be terrific players but they aren’t as important in the grand scheme of things as the people I’m about to mention. As you read through the list, you’ll realize I’m big into origins.

Here are my 10 most important listed in alphabetical order:

1. Mel Allen–I suppose any announcer could have gone in here except for a couple of  points. Most of us get our games through the filter of someone in a booth at the stadium keeping us up on what’s going on, so a play-by-play man is not an unreasonable choice for a position on this list. I pick Allen for two specific reasons. First, he announced for the Yankees for years and thus became the primary voice many people heard. Second, when TV decided to add a second camera to games, Allen is supposed to be the guy who suggested adding the second camera in center field, thus showing the pitcher throwing to the batter in something like close up (the previous camera angle was high up behind home plate). It’s become the single most common angle from which most people see a game on television.

2. Alexander Cartwright–Cartwright is here to represent an entire group of people, the pioneers who invented the game as we know it. Somebody had to start putting the rules of the game into a form that became acceptable. It is possible that people like Duncan Curry or Daniel Adams, or William Wheaton should be here in his place. Cartwright certainly did not invent baseball, but was apparently prominent in one of the many attempts to codify the game. As the Hall of Fame has placed him in its midst, he’ll do for this spot, but I’m not certain he’s the best candidate.

3. Henry Chadwick–You a stat guy? Care about the statistics of the game? Well, Chadwick invented the box score and a number of the statistics we still use to determine the quality of play on the diamond. As the first prominent sports reporter his articles helped to popularize the game. Put those two things together and you have someone who belongs on this list.

4. William Hulbert–I don’t like Hulbert. As a human being he is crass, bigoted, vain, parsimonious. But he founded the National League and thus came up with a way to make baseball profitable enough for people to want to become owners and thus establish a stable (sort of) league that flourishes today.

5. Ban Johnson–Founder and first President of the American League. Was de facto lord of baseball until the arrival of the man below.

6. Kennesaw M. Landis–First and most powerful Baseball Commissioner. Ran baseball with an iron fist. Cleaned up the game after the Black Sox nearly wrecked it. He opposed integration, but supported the more lively ball and the farm system (and besides isn’t he what a Commissioner ought to look like?)

7. Marvin Miller–the Lincoln of MLB. When he took over the Player’s Association it was a joke. When he left the union it was a co-partner with the clubs. Whether you like free agency or not, Miller figured out how to free the players from baseball slavery and change the economics and the dynamics of the game. Of all the people on this list, he’s the only one not in the Hall of Fame (Allen is on the writers plaque).

8. Branch Rickey–changed the game twice. He invented both the farm system and brought integration to MLB. He is  arguably the most influential baseball man of the 20th Century.

9. Jackie Robinson–In 1884 Toledo had a black ballplayer. That lasted one year. John McGraw and others had tried to integrate the game and had failed. With Robinson baseball truly does become a game for all Americans.

10. Babe Ruth–in a game in trouble, Ruth takes over and changes forever the way it is played. With the emphasis on the home run over bunting and base stealing we get the game as it’s been played (plus or minus a rule or two) since 1920.

And Honorable Mention to people like John Montgomery Ward (first union), Fleet Walker (who was the first black player), Jim Creighton (apparently the first professional), Lip Pike (who made professionalism acceptable), Harry Wright (who made the modern manager’s job what it is today), Bill Veeck (who made the ballpark experience so much fun), and a host of others, some of which you may decide should be in the list of 10.

The Judge

January 3, 2014
Judge Landis

Judge Landis

It’s been four years that I’ve been writing this blog. In that time I’ve written about a lot of the saints and the sinners that made baseball such a great game. But I’ve failed to do more than just briefly mention one of the half-dozen or so most important people (as opposed to best players) to ever work in Major League Baseball. It’s time to change that. It’s time to write about Judge Landis.

Kennesaw Mountain Landis (the first and middle names are from a battle in the Civil War where the Judge’s father fought) was a baseball fan, but not affiliated with the game prior to 1920. He was a federal judge with quite a mixed bag of decisions. He was noted to be anti-trust, but he’d rendered the decision that declared baseball a legal trust. He was progressive in the 1910s sense of the word (not necessarily the same as the modern political definition of the word) but did not favor integration of the races. He was, in short, a pretty complex man.

You have seen pictures of him (like the one just above). He was tall, thin, had that craggy face and the big head of white hair. He looked like a judge. Heck, he looked like a thin version of Zeus. He was dictatorial, petty, generous, bigoted, a champion of the weaker teams. Like I said above, a complex man.

He came to power in 1921 in the wake of the Black Sox Scandal. His first move was to bar all eight of the “Black Sox” from professional baseball. He also moved to ban an entire set of players (about 23 that I can find) from the game for gambling. It worked. The combination of banning players who bet on the game, took money to throw games, and to also ban those who knew of such plots began to seriously clean up the game. Baseball hasn’t had a major gambling scandal since (Pete Rose excepted) and I think most everyone believes the games are on the up and up. Some people tell us that Babe Ruth “saved baseball” in the 1920s. No, Judge Landis did. Ruth made it popular, but Landis made the critical decisions that restored integrity and didn’t change rules in such a way that would have stopped the offensive explosion brought on by Ruth and the new ball.

He did it because he had both a lifetime contract and absolute power over the game. Those were unprecedented. But the owners were scared in 1921 and Landis, for all his problems, was seen as a rock of integrity and the owners desperately wanted him to oversee the game. He drove a bargain that made sense to him. “Put me in charge, don’t mess with me, and don’t make me worry about job security, and I’ll clean up the game,” was his mantra (not in those exact words). He got what he wanted and that was both good and bad. It did mean that the game would be cleaned up. It meant that players would have to toe a particular line in their baseball activities (like forbidding barnstorming), it meant that Branch Rickey’s attempt to corner the market with his “Farm System” would be accepted as a good idea, but the cornering of the market part would be forbidden (I’ve got to do something about Rickey’s clash with Landis over the farm system at some point). It also meant that there would be no Jackie Robinson while Landis was in charge because the Judge accepted “separate but equal.”

So Landis is a very mixed bag for baseball. It’s tough to like him, even tougher to respect his views on race. On the other hand he did clean up the sport, did open up the minors, did lend Major League Baseball a veneer of respectability. He’s in the Hall of Fame where he should be. We’ll never see a Commissioner like him again. That both a good and a bad thing.

The Feds

January 26, 2010

We tend to think of baseball as a monolithic entity of 2 leagues forever unchanging. Ain’t so, team. As late as 1914 there was a major challenge to the established National and American Leagues. It was called the Federal League.

James Gilmore ran the Federal League, a minor league, in 1914. He decided that the US could use a third major league so he went out, found backing from a number of major financial players of the day like Charles Weeghman, and announced the new league would compete on an equal basis with the established leagues. There were teams in Chicago, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Kansas City. Additionally, Gilmore said he would scrap the reserve clause (that’s the part of the baseball contract that bound a player to a team at the team’s discretion) and significantly raise salaries.

A bunch of players immeditely bolted to the Feds. Most were marginal players looking for a higher salary, or weaker players looking for playing time. Most major players simply agreed to stay with their current clubs for substantial raises. Ty Cobb did this, so did Tris Speaker and Walter Johnson. Others like Eddie Collins and Joe Jackson got trades because their old teams couldn’t afford the looming salary increases.

A third type of player went to the Federal League. These were older guys hanging on for one last chance at glory and/or a paycheck. Players like Three Finger Brown, Joe Tinker, and Eddie Plank ended up playing in the Federal League. Most of them had short rises in their career numbers, but never became stars of the new league.

The stars were new guys. Benny Kauff became the biggest Federal League star. In 1914 he led the league in batting, stole 75 bases, and his team (Indianapolis) won the pennant. The next season at Brooklyn he again led the league in both categories and was second in home runs. Kauff’s a good way to gauge the quality of play in the new league. In 2 years with the Feds he hit 370 and 342, stole 130 bases, had 376 hits, scored 212 runs, and hit a total of 20 home runs. For the entire rest of his career he hit 281, stole 104 bases, had 585 hits, scored 309 runs, and hit 29 home runs. He was 25 when he left the Feds and played until he was banned at age 30 in 1920. So most of his good numbers come from the 2 seasons away from the NL and AL (He played 5 of 569 games for the Yankees and the rest for the Giants.). Those stats are fairly common. Pitchers like Cy Falkenburg do the same thing.

The Federal League folded after the 1915 season (Chicago won the last pennant). It just wasn’t making enough money to continue offering the salaries it was offering and the fan base wasn’t growing. Indianapolis won the first pennant and promptly folded for lack of fans. There was a lawsuit (you knew the lawyers would get involved, didn’t you?), resolved by, of all people, Kennesaw Mountain Landis. Two Federal League owners got NL or AL teams (the Cubs and the Browns) and baseball returned to its normal 2 league set up.

But the Federal League had a legacy, quite a substantial one actually. The driving up of salaries and the subsequent collapse of paychecks is  considered, in some quarters, a major factor in the gambling scandals that were to hit baseball in the next 5 years, culminating with the Black Sox. It did produce one great player. Edd Roush was a centerfielder who got a cup of coffee with the White Sox in 1913 (he went 1 for 10). He went to the Feds, did well, and ended up in the National League. In 1919 he won the batting title at Cincinnati and led them into the World Series. He also led the NL in doubles once and triples once. For a career he hit 323 with a 446 sluging percentage and made the Hall of Fame in 1962. The lawsuit that ended the Federal League became the mainstay of Major League baseball’s contractual program into the 1970s. It’s the decision that ultimately led to the Supreme Court declaring that the unique nature of baseball made it immune to anti-trust laws and effectively made the players slaves to their teams.

Finally, the Chicago Federal League team (they were called the Whales) built a brand new stadium for its team. When they folded, well, there was this nice new stadium available and, you see the Cubs were playing in an outdated park, and, well, you know, it’s there and everything. The Cubs moved into the Whales park and later renamed it Wrigley Field.   They still use it.