Interesting Research Finds
While doing research for a few book projects I’m working on, I came across some interesting and sometimes odd stories on and off the diamond. Here are a handful:
March 29, 1912: During an exhibition game in Baltimore, the Philadelphia Athletics were robbed of $2,500 worth of jewelry and cash.Â According to Sporting Life, C. Emory Titman, a guest of the club, lost a $300 watch, a diamond ring valued at $385, and $185 in cash; Bris Lord was robbed of his 1911 World Series watch fob, a $150 watch, a $150 diamond pin, a $250 diamond ring, and $25 in cash; Eddie Collins lost a $100 diamond pin and $10 in cash; Jack Barry lost his World Series fob and a gold watch; and Stuffy McInnis lost a gold watch, two World Series fobs, and a $300 diamond ring.
All but Rube Oldring, Jack Lapp, and Amos Strunk wrapped their valuables in pouches or handkerchiefs and placed them in a grip full of baseballs that was watched over by right fielder Danny Murphy.Â While Murphy had his back turned, a young bat boy grabbed the valuables and disappeared.Â Murphy notified Baltimore police and gave them a description of the boy.
It took detectives less than a day to track the thief, 14-year-old Edwin Leroy Warnick.Â Warnick took the valuables to his house and gave them to his 16-year-old brother, Arthur, who hid them in his bedroom.Â Edwin was charged with larceny while Arthur was arrested for receiving stolen property.
When asked why he did it, Edwin sobbed, “I wanted to be a baseball manager and when the Philadelphia players left their money and rings on the bench I thought my chance was there.Â I didn’t spend none of the money…but I was going to take it to Washington and get up a boys’ club, and then when we growed up it woulder been a mans’ club, and then I would be a manager and as great a man as Connie Mack.”
A week later, Sporting Life reported that Edwin was committed to St. Mary’s Industrial School until his 21st birthday (ironic, considering that same school was also the home of 17-year-old George Herman Ruth), and Arthur was paroled by the court.
July 8, 1912: The New York Giants and Chicago Cubs met for a potentially historic game at West Side Grounds in Chicago as Giants southpaw Rube Marquard attempted to win his 20th consecutive game, breaking a tie with former Giant Tim Keefe, who won 19 straight in 1888.Â Marquard was opposed by 28-year-old rookie right-hander Jimmy Lavender, who was making only his 11th career start in the majors.Â Lavender had a modest three-game streak of his own heading into the July 8 contest, including a 12-inning complete-game shutout over the Pirates a week earlier.
Lavender proved to be the better man, winning 7-2 and running his win streak to four (it reached six before he fell to the Phillies on July 19).Â Marquard allowed six runs on eight hits and three walks and fanned five in six innings of work.Â In his first 19 games, the Giant lefty allowed only 43 runs for an average of 2.26 per game.Â But in those 19 appearances he didn’t have to face the opponents’ 10th man, or woman in this case.
In what Sporting Life dubbed a “regrettable incident,” a woman named Mary Porter climbed a tree outside of the ball park that overlooked the field and shouted incessantly at Marquard during his six frames of work.Â “In addition to this, long and piercing yells and the waving of the big shawl occupied the woman,” wrote Sporting Life.Â As Marquard walked toward the Giants clubhouse after his day had ended, Porter was heard to shout, “Oh, you big bum, I’m certainly glad you got yours!”Â After the game, Porter was forcibly removed from the tree by the local fire department, who took her to the detention hospital for the insane.
“That poor woman certainly proved to be a jinx,” Marquard admitted later.Â “Her shrill shrieks affected me more than the cries of all the fans inside the park.”Â Apparently Porter was more of a jinx than anyone realized; after beginning the season 19-0, Marquard went only 7-11 in his last 18 decisions.
July 9, 1912: In a game between the fifth-place Philadelphia Phillies and third-place Pittsburgh Pirates at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field, Phillies manager and part-time catcher Red Dooin ordered first baseman Fred Luderus to carry a tube of liniment in his back pocket and smother the ball with it every chance he got.Â Luderus covered the ball twice but was caught both times by Pirates manager Fred Clarke and shortstop Honus Wagner, who brought Luderus’ actions to the attention of the umpires.Â Umpire Mal Eason tossed the balls out of play and umpire Bob Emslie later turned them over to National League president Thomas Lynch.Â At the time, a rule against discoloring baseballs called for a $5 fine, judged to be “entirely inadequate” by Sporting Life.
“Doctoring balls is not only unsportsmanlike, but extremely dangerous,” insisted Clarke.Â “This liniment the Phillies used is the most powerful known.Â Suppose a man should get a little of it on his hand and rub his hand over his eyeâ€”he would be rendered blind for hours.Â If a bit of it should get into an open sore or cut it would cause excruciating pain.Â It burns like fire.”
So why was Luderus smearing liniment on the ball at Dooin’s orders?Â Because spitball artist Marty O’Toole was hurling that day for the Pirates, and instead of applying spit to the ball or his fingers, O’Toole actually licked the horsehide.Â Dooin insisted he wasn’t trying to get a competitive advantage by putting a potentially dangerous substance on the ball, but was merely concerned with the health of his players and claimed the liniment was meant to be a disinfectant on the “germ-laden” baseballs.
“The spitball is unsanitary and players who are called upon to take chances against it cannot be blamed for resorting to some precautionary measures,” Dooin explained.Â “The ‘spitter’ is a menace to the health of other players.Â The ball may be carrying the germs of one of many contagious diseases…We have put disinfectant on the ball when facing spitball pitchers.Â I do not deny it and I’m not afraid to say that we are going to continue to do so.”
According to an interview Dooin gave in 1908, he’d always loathed the spitball, so it’s not surprising that he would do anything in his power to thwart spitball pitchers.Â “It’s rotten,” he declared, “and it’s really harder on the catcher than it is on the batter.Â Very few pitchers have any sort of control over the thing, and it has ruined some catchers completely.Â Besides being the hardest kind of a ball to catch, it is almost impossible to make any kind of an accurate quick throw with it.Â Don’t say spitball to me.Â It’s a bad noise.”
Regardless of Dooin’s motives, O’Toole was unfazed by the tactic, shutting out the Phillies and allowing only one of nine baserunners to reach third base.Â Dooin kept his promise and continued rubbing liniment on the ball whenever the Phils faced a spitballer.Â On July 19, in a game against the Cubs at Chicago’s West Side Grounds, Dooin was caught applying liniment to the ball after it was fouled off near the Phillies’ bench.Â Cubs manager Frank Chance suspected something was amiss when Dooin took longer than usual to toss the ball back into play.Â Umpire Cy Rigler was equally suspicious, then threw Dooin out of the game when he detected an odor coming off the ball.
Cubs rookie hurler and spitball artist Jimmy Lavender was removed from the game after only three innings after complaining that his lips and fingers were burned by the liniment.Â Cubs president Charles Murphy and Pirates president Barney Dreyfus filed a complaint with Lynch, who promised a full investigation.
Dooin’s case appeared to be strengthened, however, when Phillies pitcher Ad Brennan contracted diphtheria, which physicians attributed to Brennan’s contact with balls hurled by spitball pitchers.Â The New York Tribune reported that doctors feared what might happen if a spitball hurler ever came down with tuberculosis and that it was possible for the entire league to get infected.Â The paper also reported that Dooin was going to seek Lynch’s permission to use a disinfectant whenever the Phils faced a spitballer.
But from there, the trail grows cold.Â According to Harold Seymour’s Baseball: The Golden Age, Lynch threatened to fine Dooin $50 if he continued rubbing liniment on the baseballs.
Brennan recovered from his bout with diphtheria and enjoyed his best season the following year, going 14-12 with a 2.39 ERA in 40 appearances, and finished seventh in the National League in ERA.Â O’Toole went 15-17 with a 2.71 ERA in 1912, but was out of the majors within two years.Â Lavender went 16-13 with a 3.04 ERA, but enjoyed a pedestrian six-year career, in which he lost more than he won, but with a decent 3.09 ERA in 224 career appearances.Â Dooin managed in the majors until 1914 and played until 1916.
January 20, 1913: In an effort to shorten major league ball games, Detroit Tigers magnate Frank Navin suggested to the rules committee that the coaching boxes be moved back 10 feet.Â Why?Â Because catchers were wasting too much time trying to hide their signs from the opponent’s first and third base coaches.Â Moving them back 10 feet would allow backstops to give their signs freely without fear of them being stolen, which would in turn speed up games.
June 7, 1913: According to Sporting Life, the New York Yankees became the first team on record that failed to win at least one home game before June.Â A quick check of retrosheet.org shows that the Yanks lost their first 16 home contests before finally defeating the Chicago White Sox, 3-2, on June 7 (prior to that, they came closest to winning on May 24 when they tied the Boston Red Sox 3-3, so they actually had a 17-game home winless streak).
Once they realized how delicious home cooking could be, the Yankees went 26-31 at home the rest of the way.Â Still not great, but much better than the .056 winning percentage they had during their winless streak.