Friday, February 18, 2011

The New York Times, May 11, 1909

When, in the spring of 1909,  Reverend Father John Tracy of St. Louis's Catholic Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel heard from his Archbishop that he was to be transferred to rural Missouri, he refused to leave his team, opting instead to retire. Tracy was a fixture on the St. Louis third base line, and he visited ballparks in other cities. He was at the Philadephia National Park on August 8, 1903, watching them play the Boston Beaneaters, when he was witness to one of baseball's not-that-infrequent harrowing catastrophes.

Boston was up to bat.  5:40pm, the top of the fourth inning. Two drunks began to argue on the street. Their shouting attracted the attention of some spectators sitting on a walk that hung over the left field bleachers. That's when the trouble started:

The wood buckled and the walk collapsed and bodies plummeted into the bleachers below. Reverend Tracy, sitting in his preferred left field locale, sprang into action.

The New York Times, August 9, 1903

12 people were killed, suffering fractured skulls, broken legs, spinal injuries, concussions, and assorted other fatalities.  Hundreds more were injured. But the ordeal didn't turn Reverend Tracy off baseball.  And it seems he wasn't alone:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Comics

Select members of the Culver, Indiana Negro League team, The Comics. They're rather serious, given their happy moniker. But look closely at Roy Scott, second from right: you know he wants to smile. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Pete Lohman

George F. "Pete" Lohman's baseball debut came and went with a one-year, altogether unremarkable stint with the Washington Statesmen in 1891 (he batted .193 and playing in just 32 games). He enjoyed greater success with his next gig, managing the minor league Oakland Commuters.  He was a hit with the fans and the press. Prior to the Oaks' 1903 season, the Oakland Tribune asserted, "Pete is a very capable director of a baseball team's course, and it was greatly due to his efforts that Oakland won the flag..."

When he left Oakland on July 6, 1905, fourteen years after his arrival, the paper poured on the praise for the manager. They dubbed him the "Grand Old Man," and effused:

"He's about 40 years of age, but he says he doesn't feel that old, nor does he look it...Lohman has worked faithfully for Oakland, and has scores of friends not only here but all over." The article does allude to a stumble or two along the way - "Last year he had nearly all the back-stopping work for the team, and that, with the worry occasioned by the fact that he had to handle the financial matters while the team was on the road, and that certain of his men misbehaved, causing the baseball veteran to break down" -- but overall the Tribune endorsed him as a solid specimen and a fine manager.  The article details how he planned to manage a team in Fresno, to purchase an interest in the Portland team. Maybe umpire, if the money was right.

"Lohman is good yet," the paper insisted, "and the fans join in wishing him better luck and more prosperity."  A nice big photo ran alongside the story.

But the plaudits and celebration didn't last long.

February, 1906 - a mere 7 months later. They even used the same photo.

Oakland Tribune, February 1906

(He lived another 22 years, but the public account seems to have largely stopped here).

From the sports gossip page of The Pittsburgh Press, May 11, 1901


Thursday, February 3, 2011

On June the 18th, 1905, a Bronx team called the Mercers hosted the Interborough Railroad Company team at Corona Park. The day was hot and something nefarious was afoot.

The first inning saw a foul ball break far to the outside and hammer into the head of a girl in the stands. The New York Times reported.

"She fell as if shot."

In the top of the second, one of the Railroad men walloped another fly, and this time the ball (always heavily coated with tobacco juice and liquorice spit, sometimes with blood), struck 18-year-old James Humboldt just below the sternum, hard.

"He went down and out and they carried him to Fordham Hospital."

During the bottom of that same inning- still only the second- a spectator named Henry Stern collapsed in the heat. He followed Humboldt to the hospital.

The IRT team retired the side and went up to bat. The Mercers brought their best defense. Their center fielder made a spectacular catch, and the crowd went wild. James McDermott cheered so hard that he found himself in the throes of an epileptic fit. He too had to be carried out of the grandstand.

The fourth inning came and went without incident, and it seemed perhaps that the spell had lifted, "moved off to the north,"in the parlance of the Times. Once again the visiting team took their place at the plate. And then, without warning, the trouble returned.

A foul rocketed off an Interborough bat and landed squarely in the eye of young Louis Dallinger. He in turn landed at Fordham, bringing the total number of hospital admits to three in four and a half innings. The additional misfortune provided the umpire sufficient cause to call the game, and he did so promptly. A hoodoo hung over the park, he said, and "to let this match go any further would be little short of a crime."

In four innings and a half innings of play, The Mercers (the home team) managed to score 17 runs, their IRT opponents six. Make of that what you will.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Polk County News, July 9, 1909

Pegging this a strange coincidence hardly feels adequate. One hopes that they managed to find the time to  address the snake-filled field bog.