January, 1904

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.

HG Wells Time Machine d fr

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.

Watkins?

Bill Watkins - old judge - 1888-89

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.

Gus Shallix

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:

Shallix story - St Paul Globe

“…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.

old war-time baseball up for auction…

We’re not talking WWII, or even WWI.

Or even the Spanish-American War.

We’re talking Civil War.

civil war baseball 1 sm

This ball was in Sherman’s march to Atlanta, in 1864. Written on it is Zouave B.B.C. [which must mean Base Ball Club]. The Zouave units in the Civil War were modeled after the French elite Zouave units, which were first formed in Algeria, from native tribesmen. There were numerous volunteer Zouave units on both sides of the Civil War, and initially at least some of these units practiced light infantry tactics. They often wore eye-catching (and bullet-attracting) uniforms, with baggy red pants, short open jackets, and, at times, fezzes.

Zouave fez

In any case, this old baseball is up for auction. Interested? Details here. It will be interesting to see what this goes for.

Carl Furillo…

Furillo- 1957 Topps smToday we note the passing of Carl Furillo, on this date, in 1989.

While the name just says “Brooklyn” to me, Carl was born and died in Stony Creek Mills, Pennsylvania. He was known as “The Reading Rifle” – he played some minor league ball in nearby Reading, and was known for his powerful throwing arm. He could also swing the bat. He finished his 15 year career with a .299 batting average, and he hit .344 in 1953 to lead the league. He also had some power, and drove in a lot of runs for those great Dodger clubs of the late 40s and early 50s.

Carl Furillo obit

Good game, Carl

Comings and Goings…

Happy birthday to ol’ Diz.

dizzy-dean

Dizzy Dean, born on January 16th, in 1910. I remember watching the game of the week on TV in the 60s, with Dizzy and Pee Wee Reese calling the game. Everyone loved Dizzy Dean.

dizzy-dean-and-pee-wee-reese-2

But ol’ Diz could pitch a bit too. He came up in 1932 with the Cardinals, at age 22, and won 18 games, leading the league in strikeouts. The next year he went 20-18 and led the league in strikeouts again. In his third year he went 30-7 – the last National Leaguer to win 30 – and led the league in wins and strikeouts. In 1935 he went 28-12, and lead the NL in wins and strikeouts again. In 1936 he went 24-13, and in 1937 he went 13-10. What happened in ’37? In the ’37 all-star game Earl Averill hit a ball off Dean’s foot. Reportedly, when told that his toe was fractured, Dean replied, “Fractured, hell, the damn things broken!”

Dean reportedly tried to come back too soon after his injury, and changed his pitching motion to avoid landing on his injured toe. He hurt his arm, lost his blazing fastball, and was pretty much done as a pitcher.

The Cubs bought his contract in 1938, and he went 7-1 for them, helping them win the pennant over the Pirates, and winning a crucial 2-1 game against the Pirates on the 27th of September.

dizzy_dean

Diz pitched a bit for the Cubs till 1941, when he retired at age 31.

And, on the other side of the coin, stepping out on the 16th was Rudy Hulswitt.

Born in 1877, he passed away in 1950. The only reason I know anything about Rudy Hulswitt is because I noticed him on his T-206 baseball card, from back in the day, when he played with St. Louis, in ’09 or ’10. He played shortstop and hit about .253 lifetime.

Rudy Hulswitt - t206(Okay, he hit exactly .253 lifetime.)

I like his card, his cap pulled down low. He looks like he means business.

Hulswitt led the league in put-outs by a shortstop in 1902 and ’03, he was also third in the league with assists in ’03, but he also led the league that year in errors, with 81. That’s a lot of errors. Sounds like the guy might have had great range.

After his playing career was over, Rudy did a bit of coaching. I saw one picture of him coaching with one of the Boston clubs.

Good game, Rudy.

happy birthday…

Sandy Valdespino!

Sandy Valdespino

 

Born 14 January 1939 in Cuba, his real name was Hilario Valdespino – but he reminded Johnny Welaj, one of his minor league managers, of Sandy Amoros (whose real first name was Edmundo), and so Welaj started calling him Sandy, and, of course, it stuck. (Makes me wonder about all the other players named Sandy. Sandy Koufax? Did he ever play for Johnny Welaj?) In any case, Sandy Valdespino is a great name, no wonder it caught on. It slips off the tongue like a little bit of poetry.

Valdespino came up in 1965 with the Twins. He was a pretty fair hitter in the minors – in ’64 in Atlanta he hit .337 with 16 home runs – but he did not fare so well in the majors. 1965 was his high-water mark, I think. He hit .261 with a home run and 22 rbis in 245 at bats as the Twins won the junior circuit gonfalon. Sandy continued to play in the majors till 1971, finishing up with Kansas City, and with a lifetime average of .230.

Today Sandy is 75 years old, and reportedly lives in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Happy Birthday, Hilario Valdespino! Good game.