2 April 1904 – and let the games begin…

2 April 1904, Saturday Evening

More optimism from Champaign. The boys will play split squad games today, against the University boys and also the 3i team from Decatur.

the boys from Decatur

the boys from Decatur









Most of the regulars will be playing against the school boys, which seems like good strategy by Watty. (Unless they lose.) There’s a chance of taking both games, but the University boys are “hard hitters” and they are used to playing against the pros, as a lot of teams have trained here over the past few years.

Everyone has finally arrived but for Stimmel. (Where the heck is Stimmel?) Dermont and Ford arrived around noon, and Captain Fox and Katoll “drifted in this evening.” (Way to set an example, Captain Fox. I picture Fox “drifting in” with a cig on his lip and a fancy bottle of gin in his portmanteau. Perhaps you had more important things to do, Mr. Fox?) Katoll’s arm is fine, and both Fox and Katoll seem to be in “splendid” condition. McNichol continues to impress at third; he is covering a lot of ground around third, his throws are fast and on target, (a key point, it would seem,) he’s a fair batter and, of course, “a fast man on the sacks.” Meanwhile Dan Lally appears almost overconfident at first. “Dan says first base is a cinch after playing the outfield, and he has not the slightest doubt himself of his ability to make good.” (Oh, Lally. Pride cometh before what?)

Billy Phyle b

Billy Phyle

Meanwhile, scouts tell us that the Toledo team is looking “considerably stronger than it did a fortnight ago.” However their pitching still appears weak, and so does their outfield, where they have a guy named Frisbee, who played in the Southern league last year. So how much stronger could they really be? They also may have a player named Phyle – “who, it is reported, will be allowed to play with Toledo if he apologizes to the Southern league for his statements that games were thrown in that league last year. Phyle is a valuable man if he can be kept in good order.”

I’d be willing to bet that Mr Phyle was right, I’ll be there were games thrown in the Southern league last year. He looks like a guy who knows whereof he speaks. But it kind of sounds like he hurt the feelings of the whole Southern league, and I suppose he will apologize and play, now that all the leagues are “peacefully co-existing,” and he thus has nowhere else to go.

Spring Training Update – 1 April 1904, Friday evening

Usually it’s April showers bringing May flowers, but spring is early in the southerly climes of Champaign, Illinois, where everything is coming up roses.

The members of the team are a little stiff and sore as a result of their first few days practice, but they are in a cheerful mood and good fellowship prevails all around.

Frank J McNichols c - Salt Lake Herald - 1 Sept 1901

Lally is apparently quite stylish covering first base, and McNichol, “the coast player,” is doing some great work over at third base. The guy has an arm like a cannon, apparently. (I found a nice shot of Mr. McNichol in the Chronicling America collection, from 1901, the Salt Lake Herald.)

Out in the garden, the outfielders are frolicking, covering a lot of ground out there, even with muddy conditions, and pitchers Thomas and Owens are impressing the manager:


Both are now ready to go into a championship game and it seems certain that they will do better than ever this season… Minneapolis can be expected to have the best pitching staff of the association this year… in fact there will not be a weak spot on the team…

Also, Watkins tutelage around the batting cage seems to be having some effect:

All the men are stepping in to meet the ball, and all have their eye on the ball.

I imagine that Watkins stressed that point, as every manager does. Keep Your Eye On The Ball. I can remember my dad telling me that. KYEOTB. It’s that simple. I suppose you could generalize from this point, and think for a moment how important that is in the big picture, the game of Life. How can you expect to hit anything if you don’t keep your eye on the ball?

All you kids out there, reading this: Keep Your Eye On The Ball. It’s a simple game, really.


30 – 31 March 1904 – Spring Training

30 March 1904, Wednesday Evening

Minneapolis Millers logo - no date

“Manager Watkins says Champaign is the best training place he has found in his twenty-one years’ experience.” Manager Watkins seems to think in extremes. Champaign?

Anyway, yesterday the boys practiced batting, pitching, and fielding.

And I guess that about covers it. I suppose it will be more of the same tomorrow.

31 March, Thursday Evening

What do you do on a rainy spring day in Champaign?

Well, the boys spent the day in the gym, running around the jogging track and using the batting cage. Most of the players are there now, though Katoll is coming in later today, and Captain Fox not till Saturday. (Katoll’s arm is reportedly all right.) Captain Fox might try to set a better example, but I suppose he has a real job to attend to. No word on Joe Koukalik, or Frank Bonner either, for that matter. I guess we won’t be seeing him this season after all, which is too bad, as he is fast on the sacks, they say.

After a little moving around, the scribe reports, Watkins lectured the boys, and the university players, on “The Art of Batting.” Scheduled for the next bad-weather day is lecture two, on “The Art of Base Running”. Which I notice now they didn’t cover yesterday — perhaps difficult to do in the gym, really. Especially the sliding part.

Watkins expresses much gratification over the apparent excellent condition of his men. “Every man is looking fine,” he says, when asked about the condition of the men on hand.

If the weather tapers off this afternoon, there is some hope for a practice game, should the grounds be dry enough. I’m sure the boys would like to be out in the fresh spring air, especially after a refreshing rain.

Twins Take Two!

When was the last time the Twins swept a “double-header”?

Does anyone know? Walter Johson - MN Twin

Can anyone ever remember this happening?

Probably the Senators, back in the days when Walter Johnson was around, probably they swept a double-header or two. Back then, of course, there were quite a few more double-headers than today, and they would play them at two-for-the-price-of-one, with a short break between games.

Do they still do that? I think it’s safe to say: rarely.

But I digress.

Let’s take a moment to revel in winning two in one day. Let us seize the day, make hay whilst the sun doth shine. Two wins in one day!


Minnesota Twins v Houston AstrosWhile we’re at it, let’s revel a bit in Rocky Colabello, 4th in the league in batting (.357) and leading the American League in RBI, with 19. Sure, sure, it’s early. But still. Rejoice a bit. We don’t get many opportunities.

And wait, what’s this? Bull Dozier, second in the AL in home runs! Five of ’em! AND tied for third in stolen bases! Five of ’em! Bull!

Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twins


And still more! KYLE GIBSON, fifth in the AL in ERA, at 0.93! And Gibson again, tied for the League lead in wins, with 3!

Kyle-Gibson- 2



And let’s take a little peek at the standings while we’re at it. Second place! 8-7, a half game back behind the Tigers.


Yes, today was a pretty good day.



What snow?

Larry Doby Day

Let us note, here, on the day after Jackie Robinson Day, that there were two men who integrated major league baseball in 1947 — Jackie Robinson in the National League, and Larry Doby in the American League.

Larry Doby - 1950 Bowman b sm

Larry has always gotten much less attention than Jackie – no doubt that comes partly from being number two, and perhaps also from playing in Cleveland rather than in Brooklyn. Perhaps too, the fact that Larry did not play a lot in his first year made a difference. Larry played second base for the Newark Eagles in the Negro Leagues, but when he was signed by Cleveland they had Joe Gordon at second, and Lou Boudreau at shortstop, and Ken Keltner at third. Hence, Larry played in only 29 games that first season, with only 32 at bats. In 1948 Larry established himself in the outfield, a new position for him, and hit .301 with 14 home runs and 66 rbi, and Cleveland won the pennant and the World Series over the Boston Braves, four games to two. Out of that series came the well known photo of Doby celebrating the win in game three with pitcher Steve Gromek.

doby - gromek -hug-1948

I found a biography of Larry Doby, Pride Against Prejudice, by Joseph Thomas Moore, and it was an interesting read; before that I knew very little about Larry Doby.

While Branch Rickey went about the signing of Jackie Robinson with a good deal of planning and forethought, Bill Veeck, who signed Larry for the Cleveland club, seemed to be less aware of the situation. Veeck had talked about signing blacks to play in the major leagues for some time, and in fact had plans and financing arranged to purchase and integrate the Phillies club in 1942. That plan, though, was derailed by then Commissioner Landis, who saw to it that the club was sold to the National League, instead of to Veeck.

In 1946, though, Veeck became owner and President of the Cleveland club, and in 1947 he signed Larry Doby, integrating the American League. Moore’s book points out how important Cleveland manager Lou Boudreau was to the success of Larry Doby, but also relates how Doby still needed to contend with the pervasive racism in America, often on his own. Doby often could not stay in the same hotels as the rest of the team, for example, and the Cleveland organization just looked the other way. As late as 1958, Doby was forced to have separate accommodations from the rest of the team due to segregated hotels.

Larry played 13 seasons, seven times was an all-star, led the AL in homers twice and rbi once, and helped the Clevelanders go to two World Series. In 1955 he set a record by playing in 158 consecutive errorless games in the outfield. He was one of the first American ball players to play baseball in Japan, was a widely respected hitting coach in the minors and the majors, and  was the second black manager in major league baseball, when he took over the helm of the White Sox in 1978. He finished his playing career with a lifetime batting average of .283, with 253 home runs and 970 rbi.

Larry’s first game for Cleveland came on July 5th, 1947,  two and a half months after Jackie Robinson opened the season with the Brooklyn Dodgers. But today almost all you hear about is the courage of Jackie Robinson. There was the recent move, 42, and Jackie’s number is deservedly retired by Major League Baseball. Every April 15th, the major leagues celebrate Jackie Robinson Day. Certainly all this is well deserved and worthy of remembering. I do think, though, that it’s high time we also gave Larry Doby his due. Major League Baseball should retire his number as well, and July 5th, they day he made his American League debut, would be a fine choice for Larry Doby day. Let’s remember the courage, the class, and the baseball ability of Larry Doby.

Larry Doby - 1949 Bowman

more from 04

28 March 1904, Monday Evening

George Kihm is gone, the evening rag reports, tentatively. Kihm is to be sold to the Senators, the Miller’s business manager says, but the deal has not yet been finalized. If true, it looks like Dan Lally will be at first base this year.

george Kihm b fr - delphos baseball

George Kihm, in his Delphos days…

Kihm hit .319 last year at Indianapolis. The reporter says that Watkins was uneasy about having a person who was mute playing first base, but I have my doubts, as Kihm probably played for Watkins last year at Indianapolis. On the other hand, it seems like playing for the Senators would be a step up for Mr. Kihm.

It turns out that there’s a nice lengthy bio piece on George Kihm on the SABR bio-project website. Oddly, this is what it has to say about 1904:

In 1904 Kihm joined Columbus of the American Association and remained with the club through 1908. In that time the club won three pennants. The league transferred Kihm from Indianapolis to Columbus in April 1904.

Hmmm. Why should the “league” transfer him? What about the Senators? And what about Minneapolis? What’s going on here?

Kihm played for Columbus and then Grand Rapids, then hurt his arm, and his career ended in 1912, at age 38. He hit a .293 over his career, and stole over 300 bases. I think that the Miller’s probably could have found a place for Mr. Kihm, if “the league” hadn’t “transferred” him to Columbus. I think there’s more to this story than meets the eye. Cover up!