11 April 1904 – the Axeman Cometh

Monday Evening

A Monday evening shocker in the Journal! A buzz goes around town. Watkins has released four players! Whack! And they’ve all found employment with other clubs!

Smell a rat?

The rat’s name is L. Van Praagh, (which is a good name for a rat,) owner of the Duluth White Sox in the Northern league, who happened to come-a-calling on Manager Watkins and then walked away with Frank Martin for his Manager, Captain, and second baseman. Van Praagh is obviously a man who’s careful with a buck, and believes on getting his money’s worth.

Also heading north – Roy (Not Yet In Playing Condition) Converse, who’ll be playing with the Winnipeg Maroons this year, and James (Not the Famous) O’Rourke, destined for the Superior Longshoremen. Good luck to you, boys. God speed.

The biggest surprise, though — and a huge huge glaring mistake, in my humble opinion — is that Joe Koukalik will be heading up with Martin to the Zenith City to play for the White Sox. Joe Koukalik! What is Watkins thinking?!? Has he taken leave of his senses? What’s happened?

Joe Koukalik - "a major error in judgement"

Joe Koukalik –  Johnny we hardly knew ye…

Joe!

Say it ain’t so, Joe!

Baseball is a hard business sometimes.

This means that Frank McNichol will be kept on as the utility player this season, and, in fact, almost all of the positions on the club are pretty much set. So much for competition, for the cream rising to the top, may the best man win. April 11th: it’s all settled.

But wait. Not quite.

William Ludwig - 1908

William Ludwig – 1908

There’re still three catchers on hand, and now, suddenly, it appears that Ludwig – Ludwig! – is going to be doing most of the catching this year! Watkins says: “By the time the season begins I will have taught him all the finer points of the game.” (A regular Svengali…) Our reporter sees that O’Leary is being worked out much more than Roach, and will probably be Ludwig’s back-up! This is another shocker! Ludwig, out of nowhere, suddenly the Miller’s Foremost Windpaddist! This has got to be a serious wake-up call for Mr. O’Leary, who perhaps has been reading the Minneapolis Journal and figured that he had a lock on the position, a sure thing, a starting role, a slot in the batting order. No. Time to shed a few extra pounds of beef, O’Leary! And whither goest Mr. Roach? A Northern league summer, perhaps?

In other news, as if there could be other news, the pitchers are all shaping up nicely. Mr. Munch finally arrives on Tuesday, and it turns out that Bailey isn’t in camp yet either, as he’s a student at a medical college in Columbus. (Inevitably, he will be called “Doc” Bailey.) Case gets special mention from Manager Watkins:

“Case is doing fine twirling. He is in the best of conditions and is practicing a slow ball, which will probably be a winner. “

Probably?

Katoll is also doing some fine twirling. His arm is fine, and he’s even been teaching some of the younger players a few tricks of the trade. Trying to get on Watkins good side, no doubt. Don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, and the wind is blowing north, strong and steady, and carrying with it the Miller’s chaff.

The team did not go to Springfield on Saturday as the weather was bad. They must have had a practice, though, because our indefatigable journalist says that the surprise of the day was Katoll’s fine pitching. “His arm does not trouble him at all.”

Jack "My Arm Feels Fine" Katoll - 1901

Jack “My Arm Feels Fine” Katoll – 1901

It seems odd that on a day when four players are suddenly – without warning – shipped to the northern hinterlands, the Siberia of minor league baseball, our reporter thinks that Katoll’s fine pitching is the surprise of the day. But I suppose that’s how it is, when you are a journalist. The four players – Koukalooka and what were their names? – they are yesterday’s news. The big story here is Katoll: his arm is not hurting!

Or should I say, not hurting yet?

Nah, just kidding. His arm is fine. Really.

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