I thought it might be interesting this year to take a look at the adventures of the Minneapolis ball club of 100 years ago. (With a big tip of the cap to 19th Century Baseball, New Haven Style) Unfortunately, I found that the 1914 Minneapolis Tribune archives are only available via the ProQuest database, and, as I thought I might want snippets of articles, pictures, etc., that did not seem like a very useful resource. But then I found that the 1904 Minneapolis Journal is a part of the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America database, which makes it quite a bit more accessible. And so, using the Library of Congress’s newspaper Time Machine, we will travel back a 110 years, to January, 1904, to follow the struggles and adventures of the hometown club.
Welcome to the early days of the 20th Century!
1 January – Friday
A bit of a slow baseball news day, as you might expect for New Year’s Day.
There’s a brief article on page 13, disputing a story from Pittsburg that claims that Jack Menefee, “the famous pitcher and former Miller” has been offered $5000 to manage the Minneapolis club in ’04. Menefee plans to consult his partners prior to accepting or declining the offer, the story goes, as he had planned on quitting baseball to devout himself to his brickyard interests. The Minneapolis Journal reporter, though, has talked to Ed Johnson, former president of the Minneapolis club, “who is looking after the interests of Watkins until the latter arrives in Minneapolis.” Johnson says that the story probably has no truth to it, as Watkins has always managed his own teams, and probably will continue to do so.
William Henry Watkins was, I learn, a Canadian with a long involvement in the early days of baseball. There’s a detailed biography of him on the SABR website, but, briefly summarizing, 1884 finds Watkins as a 26 year old second-baseman for the Indianapolis Hoosiers club in the American Association. On August 1 of ’84 he also took over as manager of the club, but on August 26th he was hit on the head and nearly killed by a pitch thrown by Cincinnati’s hard-throwing Gus Shallix. He spent several days slipping in and out of a coma before he finally came to. And then, amazingly, he puts himself back into the lineup on September 11th. He went 2 for 4 on that day, but only 3 for 37 in the remaining games of the season, and that was the end of his playing career. In 1885 Watkins joined with two partners in organizing the Western League, with Watkins owning the Indianapolis franchise. The Western League did not last an entire season, but once it folded Watkins went on to Detroit, then Kansas City, Sioux City, St. Paul, Rochester, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis (again), and then, finally, Minneapolis. In November of 1901 Watkins’ Indianapolis club joined the new American Association, which was to be one of baseball’s more resilient minor league circuits. In 1902 the Indianapolis Indians won the Association championship, but in 1903 they finished fourth, and Watkins resigned his position so as to take over the rival Minneapolis club in 1904.
I was a little curious about this pitcher Gus Shallix, whose real name (or former name) was August Schallick. Shallix was born in Paderborn, Germany, in 1858, and I found a brief story about him in the St. Paul Globe, dated July 19, 1896:
“…he contracted a powerful attack of dead arm”?
I wonder if that’s very contagious?
Back to the 20th Century. There’s also a small blurb on the first of January about the case of infielder Charles Donahue, which has been reopened by the National Commission. Apparently Donahue was claimed by both the St. Louis Nationals and the Chicago Americans. The National Commission awarded him to the St. Louis club, but now the President of the Spokane club, where Donahue played last season, has come forward with “new evidence,” and the case is thus reopened. Though the National Commission has seemed to have mostly lost interest in the case, and have kicked the case downstairs, referring it to the National Association of Minor Leagues. Deal with this, will you?
Thus begins the year 1904. I had hoped to follow this day by day, but Life has intervened, and I’m getting a late start. However, how much baseball news will there be in January and February? Probably not much. I figure I’ll be caught up by mid-February.