February 1904: Watkins Assembles his Millers

3 February 1904, Wednesday eveningWH Watkins c

“Watty” Claims 7 Colts

Today’s Journal reports that “Watty” (magnate-president-manager W. H. Watkins — “Watty” doesn’t seem very respectful) has offered contracts to seven players: Converse, Murphy, Mike Lynch, Craven, Staples, Salisbury, and Jordan. Converse and Salisbury had try-outs with the team last season, while Lynch played center field and third base for the 1902 club. Additionally, Watty is expected to arrive in Minneapolis shortly and should have his 1904 line-up ready when he arrives.

In other baseball news, the Journal reports a provisional agreement was reached between the two major leagues and the Pacific Coast magnates, who agreed to respect the contracts of other leagues, but would not sign the National Agreement unless on par with the two major leagues. The eastern magnates said that was fine with them, but the National Association doesn’t meet, they say, for another couple months, and so we wait on ratification of this agreement, which would be good news for the owners and more bad news for the players.

An article on Thursday, February 4th,  is headlined “No More High Salaries,” and reports more on the magnate meetings in San Francisco. With the agreement between the National and American leagues and the Pacific Coast league, players’ salaries are headed down, down, down.

“There will be no refuge for players who are asked to accept a reduction, and the owners of clubs in both the American and National leagues will get to work with the pruning knife.”

10 February 1904, Wednesday Evening

Back in the day, during spring training, they had ante-season games, and today the Journal reports on the Miller’s ante-season schedule – mostly games against the University of Illinois team, but also some weekend matches, which I think must be against clubs based in Decatur, Springfield, and Fort Wayne. Decatur and Springfield have teams in the class B Three-I (Illinois-Indiana-Iowa) league, while Fort Wayne is in the Class B Central league. Also Mr. Watkins and the Mrs. will be arriving in Minneapolis on February 18th, and will live here thereafter. I wonder where? As a home address doesn’t show up in either the 1904 or 1905 Minneapolis City Directories, I wonder if he’s living in St. Paul, or a suburb, or in the National Hotel?

11 February 1904, Thursday evening – and the slaughter begins.

Watkins announces that he has signed 12 players, however he neglects to mention who they are. I suspect, though, that they will be as good players as this town has ever seen.

In other baseball news there is still more talk about the magnates of the American and National leagues cutting players salaries, thanks to the new (anti-poaching) agreement with the Pacific Coast league. This must have been good days for being a magnate.

“…it is tipped fairly straight that every man who threatened to jump to the coast and who did not make the bluff good, will be soaked unmercifully.”

“Peace being made, the magnates found they had the players where they wanted them, and now the slaughter will begin.”

February 13, 1904, Saturday evening

Miller fans are wondering who Watkins twelve signees might be, and the Journal speculates that five of them are probably from last year’s team – namely Billy Maloney, Andy Oyler, Denny Sullivan, Dan Lally, and pitcher Frosty Thomas. The Journal says that the work of these men last year with a losing club “justifies the assumption that they will play top-notch ball with a winner.” So far no one has picked up on the Biblical allusion of Watkins twelve apostles – perhaps because the St. Paul club has been known as the Apostles, and that might be confusing to the reader.

Spike Shannon - 1909-11 T206 card

Spike Shannon – 1909-11 T206 card

Spike Shannon, who played last year with the St. Paul Saints but apparently is headed this season to the St. Louis nationals, offers his opinion that the American association race this year will be between St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Louisville, primarily because of management. Watkins and Tebeau have a history of success, Shannon says, while Kelley in St. Paul has finished third and first in the last two years.

“…the managerial ability of these three men will be too much for the other club-leaders.”

February 18, 1904, Thursday evening

Watkins arrives in Minneapolis this morning, in chilly 6 degree weather; he seems to be tamping down the expectations a bit, as the team has gone from being “as good a team as ever seen in the city” to “a team which I am confident will be in the fight.” He says he was unable to get two or three men that he wanted — and by this I think he means six or seven men that he wanted —  but he says “I have secured men who are nearly, if not quite, as good.”  That nearly inspires confidence. What about all his baseball connections? Perhaps he’s not as connected as we were led to believe?

Watkins goes on to extol one of his pitchers, a lefty by the name of Munch — who was pitching in the Three-I league last fall, and shut down the Rock Island team for 12 innings — and another pitcher named Jack Katoll, who appears to be in magnificent condition, “and he says his arm is all right.” “Big Jack” Katoll pitched in 1901 and 1902 for the White Sox and the Orioles, and in 1903 for the Millers, so apparently they know about his arm issues. Watkins also says that McIntyre for Bonner trade talk was premature. He doesn’t know if he can sign Bonner, and, anyway, McIntyre was a good hitter for Indianapolis last year.

Tuesday Watkins will be attending meetings in Columbus, Ohio, where the agreement with the “outlaw” Pacific league will hopefully be ratified. Without it, Watkins warns, the best players will either leave or demand huge salaries, or perhaps both!

At the top of the sports page on the 20th of February, a Saturday evening, is the announcement that Watkins has signed Dan O’Leary, the star catcher of the 3-I league, playing for Rock Island. O’Leary is “a very fast man, a good sticker, and was considered the best in his league last fall.”

Jack Katoll - 1901

Jack Katoll – 1901

In other Miller news, pitcher Jack Katoll again says his arm is all right. (There seems to be some doubt in the air.) If it’s all right, then the pitching staff will be Munch, Converse, Staples, Salisbury, Katoll, Frosty Thomas, and Harvey Bailey, with McDonald, Williams, and Archie Stimmel, from the 1903 Millers, still available “as needed”.

The rest of the lineup appears to be:

Catchers: Billy Maloney, Dan O’Leary, and Roach, “all good men.”

Infielders: McIntyre, Andy Oyler, Bill Fox, Frank Martin, and Kihm.

Outfielders: Dan Lally, Denny Sullivan, Lynch, and Billy Maloney.

The Journal reporter feels that this is a fairly strong lineup – though some of the older players may still be let go, those older players that are retained are sure to play better this year for Watkins than last.

Meanwhile, there is apparently some opposition brewing in the American association regarding the peace treaty with the Pacific Coast leagues; it seems that some American association members don’t like that the Pacific league is classed above the association, and are worried about losing players to them even with the agreement. Watkins thinks that the agreement is necessary though, and won’t hurt the association at all.

22 February 1904, Monday Evening

President Watkins left today for the meetings in Columbus tomorrow; a new development – one of the Millers pitchers, Dick Williams, who pitched for Minneapolis last year, (with an 11-9 record, which is pretty good on a club that went 50-89) has now been claimed by the Coast league, so we’ll see if Watkins changes his tune.

The Tuesday Evening Journal of February 23rd reassures – it looks like the agreement with the Pacific National organization will be ratified by the National Association of Minor leagues after all; Hanlon of the National league met with Magnates from the three class A leagues, and it sounds like the agreement is better than many class A magnates had thought. Sounds pretty much like a done deal. The only possible hitch is settling the disputed player issues, and there it seems like the first signed player contract will be the one that counts.

24th February 1904, Wednesday Evening

The NAMBL appointed Edward Hanlon of Baltimore and J. H. Farrell of New York to arrange the final details of the agreement with the Pacific National league – this is seen as equivalent to ratifying the agreement, since Hanlon & Farrell have authority to act on behalf of the NAMBL. However, when Farrell contacted the PNl, they received back a message saying that no further meeting is necessary, the PNl would waive the claims it had outstanding on three players also claimed by Hanlon, and, so, it appears – at last –  that the war is over, and peace reigns throughout the baseball land.

(Meanwhile, in the real world, the Japanese are pounding the Russians in the actual Russo-Japanese War of 1904. A big embarrassment for the Czar!)

And this catches us up on the 1904 Millers. Stay tuned for further installments as the season progresses!

Minneapolis Millers logo - no date


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s