Barney Dreyfuss Remembers A Pete Dowling Story
I have always enjoyed reading reminisces of old ball players (and owners in this case). When time permits and I have enough information, I check on some of them—-many times finding baseball people’s memories are not that much better than my own weak ones.
I came across this story in the Milwaukee Daily News of February 11, 1903:
Barney Dreyfuss is out with an interesting story about Pete Dowling, who formerly pitched for the Milwaukee club. It shows Pete up in an unenviable light. Dreyfuss says:
“Pete was drunk. That has always been his fault. He went into the box and made Boston look like bad money. Pete would look at the batter, curse him a bit and then let fly a ball that had all kinds of fancy things to it. If the umpire did not call it a strike Pete let loose on him for everything he could think of. He told the umpire, who was Latham, that if he did not call everything strikes he would cut his d—d throat. Latham was bluffed and he obeyed orders. Dowling would rap balls around the Beaneaters’ necks and throw them over their heads. It was all the same—they were strikes according to Latham.
“The ninth inning proved exciting. Dowling was now so drunk that he could hardly see the home plate. He had a bottle of whisky in his shirt and had been drinking from it all through the game. There was a man on second base, one on third and one out. The score was 2 to 1 in favor of Pittsburg. The man at the bat swatted one of Dowling’s shoots so hard that it looked good for a homer, and I thought for sure it would go over the fence. I says, ‘I don’t want to see it,’ and turned my head in the opposite direction. I thought there was no use, we are beaten. All at once I heard vociferous yelling and turned to see that [Hans] Wagner had caught the ball about three feet over his head right at the fence. [Jimmy] Collins, who was on third, had started for home and was near the plate, when Wagner pulled the ball down. He fired it to third and the game was over.
“I discharged Dowling, you bet, after the game. During that awful finish Dowling actually pulled his bottle and took one. Pete is still one of the best pitchers in the business if he would let whiskey alone.”
So, is this story true?
First of all, Dowling never pitched for Dreyfuss in Pittsburgh. However, he did pitch for Dreyfuss’ 1897 to 1899 Louisville Colonels. So we can forgive Barney for that mistake.
The only game I could find that had Dowling pitching against Boston, and also had Arlie Latham umpiring, was on August 17, 1899—the second game of a doubleheader. Add to that the final score was 2 to 1 in favor the Louisville, and I was pretty sure I was looking at the same game. Reading the game summary I am was sure “the moon was in the Seventh House and Jupiter aligned with Mars,” and I was looking at the same game.
But how close was Dreyfuss to what actually happened in the game? Close, but not exact. Here is the game story by W.S. Barnes, Jr. of the Boston Journal.
It was like finding money for the Bostons to have won two games from the Louisvilles yesterday afternoon, but it was as much as ever that they pulled out ahead in one. It was the most lamentable exhibition of base ball shown by the home team this season and, unless they wake up very soon and get into the game, they will not be in the hunt at the finish. Poor base running, either too rash or too slow, and wretched batting with men on the bases, especially in the second game, made them look like demoralized tail-enders when on the offensive.
Bad umpiring usually makes a poor game, and yesterday the suffering spectators were kept in a disgusted frame of mind nearly all the time. Gaffney and Latham were constantly in hot water. Their judgment was frightfully warped at times and their backbones were as pliable as a bamboo stick. Both teams suffered frequently, but there seemed to be more fatality in the decisions against the Bostons. Latham, who was behind the bat in the second game, gave Dowling and other players too much latitude, and so much time was wasted in outrageous kicking by Dowling that it was necessary to call the game on account of darkness. Latham finally imposed a fine upon the fractious pitcher, but not until he had made the game a farce.
All through the game Dowling wasted time by coming in after every few balls pitched to register a kick, and yet Latham stood this nonsense for five innings before he made the least stand against it. On the other hand he put [Billy] Hamilton out of the first game, because he objected to an apparently unjust decision. We do not remember when Hamilton was ever put out of a game before.
Later, giving details on the second game, Barnes wrote:
The main fault with almost every [Boston] batsman was the he failed to pick out good balls, and did not play the limit on Dowling’s wildness. The latter was manifestly suffering from a lapse of training and it was a disgrace to the Louisville club that he was allowed to pitch. That he should win his game was one of the anomalies of fortune. Latham knew the cause of Dowling’s constant kicking, and yet he did not have the sand to put him out of the game, as he was surely justified to do.
No doubt the above paragraphs go along way to confirm Dowling’s condition as described by Dreyfuss. And it appears for whatever reason, Arlie Latham was giving Pete the calls.
Now as to Dreyfuss’ recollection of the ninth inning. Well, first off, the game only went seven innings. But again Barney can be excused, as the catch he recalled occurred in this final inning. Again W.S. Barnes Jr.: “Wagner, Hickman and Collins carried off the fielding honors. The former covered a great deal of ground and saved the game with a great catch next to the fence in the seventh inning.”
But the inning did not unfold as Dreyfuss recalled. Boston came to bat in the seventh inning, down 2 to 0. Here is what was reported in the newspaper:
Again in the seventh inning did Hamilton reach first on balls. [Fred] Tenney banged a long fly to left, but Wagner (lf) ran back and caught the ball in spite of a collision with the fence. [Herman] Long followed with a hot shot to [Billy] Clingman (ss), who missed it, but by a strange fortune the ball held in the air just back of him, so that he recovered it in time to force Hamilton. Collins at last ‘did business’ by driving a two-bagger to left, and Long scored on Dowling’s failure to hold Wagner’s return of the ball. With Collins on third [Charlie] Hickman popped up a fly to the ubiquitous [Tommy] Leach (3b).
So Wagner did make a nice catch, but it did not result in a double play. The second out was made on a force at second base. Collins died on third on an infield pop up for the final out that inning. Actually the Colonels batted in the eighth inning and scored, but the game was called by darkness and the score reverted back to the seventh inning.
So Barney Dreyfuss was “in the ball park” on his story.
Where Dreyfuss goes bad, is saying he got rid of Dowling right after the game. Actually Dowling stayed with the team, pitching again at least three more times, the last time on August 31. The Sporting News reported this on September 9, 1899:
Pete Dowling, the crack young southpaw of St. Louis, has been laid off for the remainder of the season. Pete has dallied with the flowing blow with more or less frequency during the entire year. After Saturday’s game with Washington [September 2] he proceed to betake himself on a roaring spree and did not leave for Cincinnati with the team. The next morning he appeared on Fourth Street and attempted to whip anybody that crossed his path. He received a telegram from Manager Clark, saying that his services would not be desired anymore this year and accordingly Peter is enjoying Louisville on a prolonged vacation. A deal is on with Philadelphia whereby the young man may be added to the Quaker corps of twirlers before many days have passed. The Phillies are dissatisfied with Magee and want to return him to Louisville together with Cooley and Chiles in exchange for Dowling. The trade would be a great one for Captain Clarke to consummate, as Magee is equally as good a pitcher and with no worse habits than Dowling. How Philadelphia is to be benefited is hard to see.
A week later Sporting Life reported that Dowling was still property of the Colonels, as teammate Charley Dexter persuaded him to rejoin the team. But Pete was gone too long from the team, Harry Pulliam telegraphing him his services were no longer needed. The correspondent thought “supplication on [Dowling's] part will doubtless be needed to restore him to favor, but as the lad is independent it is likely he and the team are parted for the season at least, unless some emergency bring him and his manager together.”
The official bulletin from National League secretary Nick Young of September 21 carried Dowling as suspended.
By October Dreyfuss had still not got rid of Dowling. The October 7, 1899, issue of Sporting Life reported: “Pitcher Dowling has not yet come to terms. The management of the Louisville club says Pete must take the initiative; that any overtures must come through him, as none will be made to him by the club. Dowling’s escapades cost him just $700. He lost two months’ salary by his suspension and forfeited $300 that he would have received had he kept straight during the season…Dowling’s future seems to be clouded…”.
Pete did not help himself any as time went by. On November 14 it was reported he got drunk in Paducah and when he was placed in jail he kicked over a stove setting fire to the prison. When brought before the judge he was given one hour to leave town, which he did.
In February 1900 Connie Mack of the minor league Milwaukee Brewers purchased Dowling’s release from Dreyfuss, now owner of the Pirates.
So Barney Dreyfuss was close to correct in many parts of his remembrance, but not in the part that he dumped Dowling immediately after the August 17 game. Then, as now, a left-handed pitcher can come in handy when he is winning.
I would like to thank Jonathan Frankel, David Nemec and Paul Proia for their help in finding sources for this story.