Sports Writing Style 100 Years Ago
Manning Vaughan was the main baseball writer of the Milwaukee Sentinel one hundred years ago. His style was colorful and full of panache. While researching the 1912 Brewers I fell in love with his writing style. What follows is what is typical of Vaughan’s wonderful way of bringing baseball games to life in people’s parlors or at the local drinking establishment. Vaughan was a “homer” when the Brewers were winning, honest when things went bad, and always fair and gracious to the opposing team.
A. J. Schinner took over the baseball beat when Manning Vaughan was not at the game. Almost as colorful, he is also a delight to read.
Typically newspapers at the time did not send reporters on the road with the club. The Brewers were home from July 4 to July 28, 1912, so we get nearly a full month of these two men’s writing.
We start with Manning Vaughan.
The Brewers faced the Kansas City Blues at Athletic Park in a Ladies Day afternoon contest on Friday, July 5. The Brewers lost 4 to 3. In his report Vaughan would say the Duffymen were “hornswoggled in spite of the fact that it was the day the suffragettes see things for nothing.” Describing Herman Bahr, a rookie recently acquired from the City League, Vaughan wrote: “the stocky Dutchman from Watertown, knocked down so many fences in the City League last season that [league president] Dick Marcan chased him out of the league to keep the organization out of bankruptcy court.”
On a play in the July 6 game Brewer right fielder Newt Randall was on second when Brewer third baseman Harry Clark blazed a single to right. As Randall rounded third and started for home, the Kansas City outfielder threw to the plate: “The peg was wild, however, hitting Newt on the dome, and bounding away to the stand, Clark pedaling to third in the meantime. Of course by this we do not mean to cast any reflections of the stuff concealed in Newt’s head.”
In the July 8 game the “Looeyville” pitcher Big Floyd Kroh “was pitching like a house afire in spite of his front name, and he matched noses with his opponent all the way. Nine hits were made off the big bending slants he served with his left arm, but they were well distributed and, barring the second, nary a Brewer was permitted to swap chin goods or tobacco with Eddie Lennox at third.”
Ralph Cutting faced the “Looeyville ginks” the next day, and Vaughan gave readers his take on the starting pitchers. “Having tasted the codfish ball before and found it bitter as gall, Generalissimo Hayden [Louisville manager Jack Hayden] sent his best pitching bet to wage war with the Dresden doll. This gent’s name is Toney, and though he hails from Goat hill in Nashville, he never feazed [sic] the New Hampshire midget, who had the visitors tied in knots all the way. But six hits were poled off the repertoire of the sawed off southpaw.”
Cutting, a left handed spit ball pitcher who was apparently somewhere around 5 feet 4 inches tall, was –obviously with great affection -singled out by Vaughan throughout his time with the Brewers for his size. As were catcher Johnny Hughes and outfielder Nemo Leipold. All these players were 5 foot 6 inches or less.
In the first game of the July 10 doubleheader “Lean Loudermilk (whatever kind that is) put the bee on us so hard that the enemy carted off a 7 to 0 win.” Three days later the Brewers won a “dazzling victory” over the Indianapolis Indians, 1 to 0. According to Vaughan “it was one of the kind that made contests of the late Mr. Merriwell and other gents of dime novel lure such wonders in the eyes of kidhood. It fairly sparkled with ticklish situations, wonderful plays, impossible stops and catches, double plays which killed the enemy just in the nick of time and kept the big weekend crowd in a riot from barrier to post.” The two defensive stars were Phil Lewis, who “knocked down hit after hit, stabbed liners which would have proved fatal had they penetrated the infield and raised hades generally,” and Newt Randall, who also made a great play when he “scampered across the green and dragged down a titanic lick from an enemy’s bat that prevented a certain triple and a possible homer.”
Even such a common practice as a pitching change brought on Vaughan’s writing imagination. When Brewer manager Hugh Duffy decided to take out starting pitcher John Nicholson in favor of Joe Hovlik to face Bill Ludwig of Louisville, Manning wrote: “Duffy immediately hoisted Nick off the rubber and high signed Hovlik to the job. We don’t know whether Sir Hugh thinks much of Bill’s batting ability or not, but we have a hunch that he does not. At any rate, he thought Nick was out of place when a gink like Bill swats him.” [Ludwig would hit only .167 in 32 games with Louisville in 1912.]
In the July 12 victory over Indianapolis our baseball writer started: “Those two miniature Sons of Swat, N. Leibold and J. Hughes, hammered circuit smashes to the suburbs of Athletic Park Friday afternoon, the two licks chasing six runs over and giving us first blood in the set with O’Leary’s Indians….There was little to the combat, barring the two masterly shots squirted from the scalping knives of the midget swatsmiths. Hughes’ wallop, coming in the second with two dead, lodged on some thrifty burger’s lawn on Eighth Street. There were two men on the towpaths when Johnny uncovered the knock and three runs was the result. Nemo’s blow was identical in every way, except for the fact that the ball sailed on a line for the scoreboard. It happened in the fourth with two co-laborers on the bases and with two dead, three runs resulting.”
Vaughan could even make a rain out seem more than it was—and poke fun at the famous frugality of Milwaukeeans. On July 22 he wrote “No gentle reader and others, the Mudhens did not bite us on Saturday. It rained instead, and Mr. Harstel and his aspiring young men beat it for Kansas City at an early hour, after spilling some hectic language for the benefit of the local weather guesser. This alleged humor has been used 1,234,678 times, but it still goes in the bush league, so here it is again. As any one knows, who lives within Milwaukee and its suburbs, the leaking began early in the morning and continued to fall in such large chunks all day long that the ballyard looked like a bird’s eye view of Lake Mish. The regular patrons didn’t care much as Toledo has been a jinx all season, but the bargain hunters were greatly peeved. Seeing two games for two bits is great stuff with many of our fans, but as there will be two double attractions the next time the Mudhens flutter into town, they can save their money until then.”
When the Brewers lost the day after this rain out, Vaughan wrote the team showed “all the snap and dash of an embalmed herring, surrounded by a can.” But when the Brewers came back to beat the Columbus Senators two days later, Manning could be just as colorful: “Duff’s athletes splashed base hits to all corners of Athletic Park Wednesday afternoon, ran bases like a lot of second story agents, whaled four Columbus pitchers to the queen’s taste and toppled the chesty gents from the capital of O-high-O from their lofty first place perch. Madcap pastiming such as staged on Wednesday has not been seen in this part of the universe in a long while. The Brewers simply went nutty and Mr. Friel’s able pitchers must have thought they were mixed up in the New York gambler’s war before the finish.”
Cutting pitched a wonderful game on July 26 against the Kansas City Blues, and Vaughan wrote: “Ralph Cutting, the New Hampshire coon hunter, turned loose all the wile in his good left arm on the Blooz and the Duffy men, showing in eighteen-karat form, galloped home winners in the first of the set 4 to 0. While pouring on the whitewash, the midget boxman displayed the finest line of flinging wares seen in the vicinity of Eighth and Chambers this summer. He was the master at every stage and angle of the game, and so thoroughly did his magical flinging bewilder the enemy that two hits represented the batting efforts of the Carmen for the afternoon.”
Vaughan gave credit where credit was due to the opposing team, as seen in his description of a home run by Kansas City’s catcher Tony James on July 27. “The laurel for large doings belongs on the head of Sir Anthony, who poled out the longest hit ever made in Athletic yard. With Corriden camping on first in the second, the giant paddist crashed his mace against a ball high and on the outside, and he sent it smoking into the center field bleachers for a homer. It was the first time a ball has ever been landed in the quarter seats and there was such a terrific force back of the blow that the pill landed on the tenth row of seats. Luckily there was a fence in the way or the ball would surely have plugged the stone wall of the thirty arena on the corner of Eighth and Burleigh.”
As mentioned above, when Manning Vaughan was not working a Brewer home game, the assignment went to A. J. Schinner. One of the first games he covered this July was against the Kansas City Blues. In the game Hugh Duffy used a number of pinch hitters. As we shall see, writers in 1912 did not come right to the point, but used more words than we ever use to in describing such a mundane occurrence: “The Little Corporal, Hughie Duffy, in the frantic endeavor to overtop the tantalizing lead of one or two runs held by the Kaws during most of the first nine stanzas, rushed pinch hitter after pinch hitter into the breach to bat for various twirlers ushered from the crop in deep right, but the efforts of the Brewer strategist were in vain and there was nothing doing.”
Schinner had this to say about the Brewer loss on July 14: “After playing the under dog for two days and being forced to eat the dust of our effervescent and seemly rejuvenated athletes, the Indians turned on Duffy’s gallants at the Havenor airdome Sunday afternoon and what they did not do to our pastimers could not be found in Webster’s unabridged”. Schinner then wrote about a recently married Brewer pitcher on July 15. “Don Marion, the eminent duke of Duluth and well known author of ‘Married Life the First Year’, sunned himself for the Burghers, and let it be said that Don earned his salary with a will. The kid had everything, including his red flannel shirt, the glare of which must have offset the green screen in center field for he had the enemy buffaloed during the total of nine rounds, only five blows being gained off him”.
When the Toledo Mud Hens scored two runs in the eleventh inning to beat the Brewers on July 17, Schinner described the inning in detail:
The disaster occurred as follows: After Chapman forced Bronkie, the demon
shortstop took second when Jones dropped Dougherty’s wild peg to first to
catch the aforementioned Ray. Chapman got ambitious along about this stage
and had visions of pilfering a sack on our $10,000 beaut back of the log. Ray
(this is another one) Schalk had killed the enemy deader than so many coffin
nails all through the afternoon. But Chapman daringly attempted to pilfer third.
Schalk was on the job, however, and killed the Hen shortstop a yard from the
sack. Here is where the villain enters. Eagle Eye Erwin watched the play with
his usual astuteness and beat it for third with the throw, but somehow he could
not see it the same as the rest of the gang and called Chappie safe.
A council of war followed which would have done Napoleon justice in his prime,
but like Caesar, after crossing the Rubicon, Erwin took his stand and would not
alter his decision. All’s well. Change the seating for the second scene.
Curtain rises! Burns at bat. The bean pole fouls off a half dozen, picks out a
nice high inshoot, and biff! Some kid picked the ball off of Eighth Street a moment
later and scooted for home. Net total, two runs.
Some of the players in these entertaining paragraphs might not be familiar to modern day fans. “The demon shortstop” Chapman was Ray Chapman, who would become one of the premier shortstops of the major leagues with the Cleveland Indians. Unfortunately, he is better known now for being hit in the head by a Carl Mays pitch and dying the next day. Ray Schalk, the Brewer catcher, would go on to a Hall of Fame career with the Chicago White Sox—not being one of the Eight Men Out in the 1919 World Series.
The day after the above incident Schinner told Sentinel readers that Ralph Cutting’s “fog balls, vapor balls, salivary slants and in fact anything and everything which had a watery secretion” could not stop the Mud Hens.
It was the Dead-ball era on the playing field, but a lively era for baseball writers!