The 3rd of March is another beautiful spring day in Minneapolis, reports the Thursday evening Journal – I guess some things haven’t changed. The temperature was 33 yesterday afternoon, the Journal says, but down to -4 at 9 AM this morning. Along with the plummeting temperatures, “the wind, she blow,” according to one Pierre Lescault of the St. Clair flats – there was a recorded gust of 48 mph, and a fairly steady 40 mph wind. “Tumbling temperature, howling winds, and fine snow.” Yes, it sounds like a typical Minnesota spring! It makes today’s 13 degree temperature seem positively balmy!
And, with the fine Spring weather, all thoughts naturally turn to baseball. President Watkins announced today the signing of three new players: infielder Frank McNichol, pitcher Joseph Koukalik, and second baseman James O’Rourke.
McNichol is “a very fast man” from the Coast. Apparently he was a right-handed hitter till last year, when he decided to swing from the left side, to take advantage of his speed in getting down to first. (I guess you are a bit closer to first, if you are a lefty?) He’s reportedly developed into a good lefty stick, and he’s a good fielder, a good base runner, and he’s very fast, they say. Pitcher Koukalik is a righty with good speed and “unusually good control”. He comes recommended by former Miller twirler Harley Parker, and is sure to make good, for that reason, apparently. Second baseman O’Rourke played with Racine in the Northwestern league last year, and also comes highly recommended, though not by anyone in particular. O’Rourke, is, of course, also fast.
Speed seems to be a general theme here. Watkins is assembling a line-up of speed demons. I wonder how many bases were stolen by the club last year, and how many will be purloined in 1904? I will investigate.
Being a person who will occasionally investigate things, check references, I looked up a bit on Harley Parker, who was so confident in the skills of the new pitcher, Koukalik. Parker, it turns out, was more commonly known as Doc Parker, and is known for one of the worst pitching performances in major league history, as he gave up… uh…. 26 hits… and 21 runs, pitching for Cincinnati in a 21-3 loss to Brooklyn, on June 21, 1901.
Looking at baseballreference.com, I see that Doc only played in the one game that year for the Reds. One was enough, I guess. One game, eight innings pitched. 26 hits. 21 runs. (Only 14 earned runs, mind you.) A home run, a couple of walks, a wild pitch. That’s how it happens, sometimes. A couple of hits, a couple of walks, a few more hits, a wild pitch, and then you look up and there’s 21 runs on the board. Life is like that sometimes. For his lifetime marks, Doc Parker pitched 4 years in the majors with a lifetime record of 5-8, and a 5.90 ERA. He was 17-19, total, for the Millers in 1898 and 1900.
So, I guess I would take his recommendation with a grain of salt, maybe.
On a side note, Joe Koukalik is a pretty great name.