December 21, 2014

The Good Old Days: An Out Of Control Series In St. Paul

December 30, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

As the American Association 1904 season winded down the second place Milwaukee Brewers (79-59) entered the territory of the first place St. Paul Saints (89-46) on Saturday, September 10. The Brewers had just fallen completely out of the pennant race, having dropped their last five games in Minneapolis.

Even before the game at St. Paul’s downtown park [a.k.a. Lennon Park] started it was apparent there would be some kind of trouble. The Kansas City players had informed Brewer manager Joe Cantillon that his team would not stand a ghost of a chance with umpire J. F. Shuster, who was in the habit of giving all close calls to the home team. Shuster had only recently joined the American Association umpire staff, replacing Frank Killen who refused to stay any longer in the umpire ranks after his being mobbed after a recent game.

Joe Cantillon

The trouble started in the second inning. Pitcher Elmer Stricklett was standing on second base after a blast to the outfield fence when the Saint’s second baseman Frank Martin tagged him. Shuster called him out. Even the St. Paul Globe reporter thought it a bad call, writing: “unless Shuster saw more than was visible from the stand Stricklett was safe”. Joe Cantillon was upset by the raw call, ran out on the field from the coaching line giving ” the umpire the shoulder in the most approved style and sent the little judge spinning”. Shuster immediately ejected Cantillon. At this point Cantillon “tapped him on the jaw” with his right. Now “the righteous indignation in the grandstand became a hoarse roar and the fans charged down and gripped the wires in their rage, demanding that Cantillon’s blood be spilled”. Responding to this, the Brewer manager took a second swing at the umpire. To say the crowd was upset would be an understatement, as they tried to break through the netting and mob the Brewer manager. The police held the crowd back, and Cantillon was escorted off the field by an officer, being compelled to duck from several thrown bottles and glasses.

Now Brewer shortstop Herman “Germany” Schaefer took up the matter, pushing the umpire around and “spiking him in the face”. Two detectives took charge of Schaefer, but the Brewer captain promised to behave and went to the bench. However, the Brewers on the field began to “use the umpire, who wasn’t any bigger than the proverbial flea, as a ball and tossed him around” until more policemen came on the scene and stopped the rather one sided fight.

When order was restored umpire Shuster informed Schaefer that if he did not leave the grounds the game would be forfeited to the Saints. A special policeman approached Schaefer who was behind the wire screen that enclosed the player’s bench, and the Brewer captain picked up a bat and went after the officer. A detective on the scene grabbed Germany by the shoulder, and he tried to bite the detective. The bat was taken away from Schaefer and he was dragged off the field as the crowd hurled volley after volley of pungent epithets after him”. Saint’s owner George Lennon came on the field and order was restored.

It is interesting to read Cantillon’s version of the story. In The World According To Joe, he and Schaefer were innocent victims. “In the second inning, when he [Shuster] called Stricklett out at second after the pitcher had made a two base hit, the play not even being close, I ran from the coaching line and said ‘I want what is right and won’t stand for any lobster giving me the worst of it’. His reply was ‘I’ll give you what is coming to you.’ And called me a vile name. I slapped his face…Schaefer was not mixed in the row at all, but [Saint’s manager Mike] Kelley told the umpire that he had put Schaefer out, and when Schaefer was going up to bat, the official said, ‘You are out of the game’.” Germany Schaefer backed up this story of innocence a few days later: “Umpire Shuster is not an umpire. He only thinks he is. He put me out of a game at St. Paul for no reason whatever. I was not in the mix-up at all, but when Mike Kelley kidded him and asked him why he did not put me out he immediately proceeded to do so. I was not after trouble and did not make any, but Shuster did.”

Elmer Stricklett

The game continued and the Brewers actually played well, being ahead 4 to 2 going into the bottom of sixth inning. But then Elmer Stricklett, a renowned spit ball pitcher, seemed to lose his skills. According to the Milwaukee Sentinel writer, Stricklett seemed to be more interested in kidding the umpire than pitching. Shuster warned him several times that unless he pitched the ball he would have to go to the bench. Cantillon, as could be expected, had a different version. He said: “Just to show how rotten this man’s work is, in the sixth inning he gave three men bases on balls, when Stricklett had perfect control. But he called our men out as fast as the pitcher could get the ball near the plate”. Whatever the case, the Saints took advantage of Stricklett’s wildness and scored seven runs, going on to win the game 11 to 6.

Herman “Germany” Schaefer

None of this rowdy behavior could have come as a surprise to baseball people. Less than two weeks before this incident Germany Schaefer—who had experienced a good number of encounters with American Association umpires during the season involving fines, ejections and suspensions–had told Milwaukee Journal sport writer Brownie this would be his last season as a captain of a team as the kicking part of it was too hard on his pocket book. Only two weeks prior to this incident, Schaefer had been suspended for two games for instigating the crowd in the bleachers at Milwaukee’s Athletic Park to rush on the field after umpire Bill Klem in a disagreement over a foul ball call he made. And the firey Joe Cantillon was said to be the greatest riot-breeder in the American Association. He also had experienced more than his share of ejections, fines and suspensions this season.

It was hard to tell what the local St. Paul fans were happier with, the victory in the game or the fact Cantillon and Scahefer were ousted. The St. Paul Globe commented: “Each circumstance was brilliant in its class, with the preference open to individual tastes, but both together furnished an afternoon of hydrophobia and hysteria”.

Finally the American Association came down hard on the foolishness, suspending Schaefer for five days and Cantillon for the remainder of the season, in addition to a $100 fine.

A special squad of policeman was ordered out to the Lexington Park for the Sunday, September 12 doubleheader. The largest crowed ever to see an American Association game in St. Paul (estimated in
the St. Paul Globe as 6,000)—no doubt in part to see more action between umpire Shuster and the Brewers–saw the Brewers end their six game losing streak with a 3 to 2 win, then lose 6 to 2, managing only two hits in the second contest. But Shuster had been transferred to Minneapolis to umpire the Sunday games there. Billy Hart umpired the game, without incident. Joe Cantillon and Germany Schaefer sat in the grandstand, but made no effort to coach the players.

However, Shuster was back in St. Paul on Monday, September 12. One wondered what American Association President J. Edward Grillo was thinking, sending him back into the ring with the Brewers. Especially as the game, back at St. Paul’s downtown park, was a charity game with receipts being turned over to the House of the Good Shepherd to aid in the repair of buildings that were damaged by a recent storm. In the sixth inning it all started again. It was the bottom of that inning, the Brewers holding a 4 to 3 lead. Umpire Shuster called ball four to a Saint hitter, that Brewer catcher Jack Slattery—with Germany Schaefer suspended, now the acting captain of the team–was certain was a strike. Shuster and Slattery had words, Jack telling the ump what he thought of him. Shuster ordered Slattery off the field, but the Brewer catcher refused to leave the field, and the umpire called for a policeman. A St. Paul police officer came on the field and ordered the Jack to vacate the field. Slattery began calling him names and the officer swung his club him. “A quick change came over the catcher and while he was disposed to move with excessive slowness previously, his main idea now appeared to be to travel fast”.

Slattery, apparently seeing the wisdom of leaving, ran for the opening under the right field bleachers with the officer in pursuit. However, “the bluecoat wasn’t in his class when it came to footing and [Slattery] jogged to the right field entrance under the bleachers with the minion of the law toiling determinedly and laboriously after him”. Joe Cantillon and Germany Schaefer, who had been watching the game from the bleachers, became involved at this point, trying to convince the officer not to continue after Slattery. The officer did not take kindly to Cantillon’s ways of persuasion and wanted to chase the suspended manager from the grounds. Cantillon refused to move. Seeing more trouble brewing, Saint president George Lennon contacted the officer by telephone and called him back to the inner grounds, thus saving Cantillon and Slattery from the long arm of the law.

The ejection from the game carried a $10 fine, however, for catcher Jack Slattery.

Jack Slattery

The remaining Brewers huddled around the umpire at home plate and refused to stop arguing, feeling that with Shuster in command they could not win the game anyway. Shuster pulled out his gold watch and one minute later forfeited the game to St. Paul, making the game an official 9 to 0 forfeit. The Milwaukee Sentinel claimed the Brewers tried to continue play, but after Slattery was ejected Kid Speer began looking for the catcher’s mask and protector to replace Slattery behind the plate. However, Slattery had carried the equipment away with him, leaving it under the bleachers.

But this did not stop the trouble. As Shuster was leaving the grounds with the St. Paul players, he passed under the right field bleachers. Jack Slattery had been waiting for him behind a door, stepped out and planted one behind the arbiter’s ear, after which Jack joined his teammates. Shuster was not hurt, but he did fine Slattery another $10 and went on his way. Slattery drew a three day suspension from the league for this actions.

The Brewers returned home after this series, and American Association president Grillo showed everyone who was in charge of the American Association by sending umpire Shuster to work the Brewer/Kansas City Blues series. The opening game of the series was rained out, so a double header was played the next day. Bad weather kept the crowd to a measly 200 or so, but they were vocal in their attitude toward the umpire. So were the Kansas City players, but there were no scrapes with umpire Shuster. The only fight was between two Blues players—pitchers Tom Barry and James Durnham—who got into an argument with each other, resulting in several blows before they were separated.

And by the way, Germany Schaefer’s suspension was reduced to three days, and he played in this series.

The Saint Paul Saints went on to win the American Association pennant in 1904 with a record of 95 and 52. The Brewers ended in third place with a 89 and 63 record. And I am sure the September series between the Brewers and Saints was talked of for a long time.

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