CHS Field-trip!

Well, I always like to let the hoopla die down a little bit before I jump in.

So, even though the St. Paul Saints opened their new downtown ball park last summer, I thought best to wait till late this summer (31 August – the last home game of the season) to see them play in their still relatively brand new park.

It’s a great place to see a game! The seats are comfortable, and there’s a concourse so that you can walk all around the ballpark and get some exercise and see the game at all angles. Plus there’s a nice view of St. Paul from out in left field. I wonder what their thinking was, in having the park face away from downtown, rather than towards it, so that you’d see the skyline of St. Paul over the outfield. Just curious.

The game was not so bad. The home town boys took it on the chin, dropping the game to the Winnipeg Goldeyes, (apparently some sort of fish,) 5-0, but it was an okay game. Perhaps because it was a perfect night for a ballgame.

The Saints play in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. They’ve played just about .500 ball this year, and it doesn’t look like they’ll make the playoffs. Unfortunate, as I had such a nice time I’d like to get back there soon.

Wait till next year, I guess.

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Happy Birthday McKinley Wheat

Yup. Zach’s younger half-brother Mack was born on 9 June 1893. Mack was a catcher, played a bit with Zach on the Brooklyn Robins, and also played for the Phillies. He finished out his career in 1922 with LA in the Pacific Coast League, where it looks like he played in three games, going 0 for 2 at the plate. Still, he got a pretty nice baseball card out of the deal.

Mack was not quite as good a hitter as Zach, finishing up with a batting average of .204 in just over 600 plate appearances over 7 seasons in the majors. Still: seven years in the majors. Perhaps he was an excellent windpaddist.

Also of note in baseball history today, the Twins hit five home runs in the seventh inning against the Angels in 1966, the first time in the American League there was ever a five home run inning. Rollins, Versalles, Oliva, Mincher, and then, finishing up, the fat kid, Harmon Killebrew. True Twins fans know that the game was never in the bag, but the Twins did manage to hang on somehow to win it, 9-4.

And then, some years later, the great Zoilo Casanova Versalles passed away on 9 June, 1995. American League MVP in 1965, leading the Twins to the World Series. Good game, Zoilo.

It Is Good To Be In First.

Well, so much for the run at best season-opening winning streak. The Twins drop today’s game, 6-2 in Chicago. Given recent history, we are well satisfied with a 4-1 record to start the season. Curious about fast starts, I did a little research and found that the ’87 Brewers and the ’82 Braves hold the “modern” record, both starting their seasons 13-0. The all time mark is held by the St. Louis Maroons of the old Union Association, who started the 1884 season with a 20-0 mark.

The Brewers failed to make the playoffs in ’87, and the Braves were eliminated in the playoffs. The Maroons, however, were the Union Association champions in 1884, finishing the season with a impressive 94-19 record.

The Maroons mark is a bit suspect, though, due to the nature of the Union Association, which many say was not a true “major league.” (The other leagues at the time referred to it as the “Onion Association.”) The Union Association only lasted the one season. Four of the original 12 teams folded during the season, and one moved. And so perhaps the 20-0 mark is a bit suspect, perhaps not an actual “major league” record. However, there’s no denying that it’s still quite a nice start to a season.

I was unable to find a picture of the legendary Maroons of ’84, so here’s a picture of a slightly later edition. A dapper bunch. The Maroons joined the National League in 1885, and played there in 1886 as well, before moving on to greener pastures in Indianapolis. (The old St. Louis Browns of the American Association were too much competition for the Maroons. It was a Brown town.)

[How can there not be a picture of the ’84 Maroons? Ridiculous. There’s gotta be one out there. But, so far, unfindable. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Cardinals organization is to blame.]

But: I digress.

It’s nice to start the season with a few quick wins. However, talking baseball with Ghost today, we decided that it doesn’t have the same impact as starting the season with a string of losses. Starting with losses at the start of the season is like the kiss of death. If you start your season 0-9, you are, unfortunately, pretty well done for the year. There’s no coming back. But if you start out 9-0, it seems like soon enough you find your self in second place, or clinging to a tenuous lead. Early season losses seem to have a greater impact than early season wins. This probably says something profound about the nature of human existance, but it’s a bit late in the day to go down  that road. Suffice to say that even though things are good now, it’s a long way to Tipperary.

 

 

Saturday evening, April 30th, 1904: “Brilliantly played Game”

The millers won a tight one in Louisville yesterday, 2-1, a “brilliantly played game,” according to our man in Louisville, though there were four errors in the game. Gene Ford got the win, giving up 6 hits and a walk while striking out five. Ford also scored the winning run in the sixth, getting a hit, going to second on a sacrifice, to third on an error, and coming home on a fielder’s choice. It’s miller time!

The colonels lone run came in the second. Brashear singled, then went from first to third on an infield out, a grounder to short. Not sure how that’s possible, but there it is, black and white. Brashear must have blazing speed? Anyway, he then scored (probably easily) on a fly-ball out. Denny Sullivan tied it up for the millers in the bottom of the frame (YES, the millers are batting last, though the game’s in Louisville. What’s up with that?) hitting a long home run (!) into the center field pasture.

Catcher Weaver has a cannon for an arm, apparently, catching four of the five colonels attempting to steal. McNichol was at third again, and handled eight changes without “a skip.” He also dazzled in a double play in the ninth: with runners on first and second, Hart hit a stinger down to McNichol. He stepped on third for one and tossed across to Lally, but too late to catch the speedy Hart. Lally, though, noted that the runner from first had rounded second and was headed to third, and he gunned the ball back across the diamond to McNichol, who applied the tag for the out. Score that 5-3-5, folks, and some heads-up ball by the millers. The colonels love to run too, apparently.

Meanwhile, our scribe gets a few column inches to provide analysis, and, yes, the millers are speedy. Speedy speedy speedy. Everybody agrees. Can we give it a rest for awhile?

Our scribe is highly optimistic that the club will come home from this road trip above the .500 mark. It’s a shame that they only got to play one game against the Columbus team, because the millers clearly outclassed the Ohioans, and they probably would have won two or three games, if they could only have been played. (Instead of just losing the one game, which was, I guess, an anomaly.)

The pitching has been good, though Ford reported late, so he’s still a question mark. (Analysis apparently done pre-game, as Ford rocked the colonels.) Katoll’s arm, meanwhile, is still said to be in good shape, but Watkins “intends to save Big Katoll until warm weather arrives.” But his arm is fine. But he doesn’t want to take any chances. But his arm is healthy. (Why do I think that Katoll’s got a bad arm? I don’t know, but I suspect he won’t make it through the season. Watty should be looking for more pitching.)

McNichol and Demontreville are having a good contest for third base, with McNichol playing a bit better, but Demontreville has not been released yet because of Fox’s sickness. It looks like Watty will hang onto them both for two or three weeks. Fox is in there playing, yesterday, but I guess Watkins like to have a little depth on the bench.

Hitting is a concern. Only 51 safeties in six games, our analyst reports, which, using a little 1904 sabremetrics, breaks out to just eight and a half hits per game: “This is not good enough batting to suit the fans entirely, but six games is hardly a criterion of the team’s real strength.”  Yes, I think I get what he’s trying to say. He’s right. Hardly a criterion.

Finally, catcher Weaver looks good, as does Leslie. Our reporter thinks that Leslie will probably play most of the games, as long as he keeps hitting.

—-

Meanwhile, at UW Madison, it’s the same old same old.

“Seranaded the professors?” I can imagine what that was like. But I’m not sure what happened with the “vaudeville performance.” Why do I suspect that beer was heavily involved with this? Anyway, thank the lord that the police were on hand to break up the shenanigans. I suspect that that’s the last we’ll hear of Mr. Larue of Chicago and Mr. Davies of Davenport.

29 April 1904 – Louisville

newsboy-minneapolis-1904-b“MILLERS FALL DOWN WITH STICK”

Read all about it!

The millers lost yesterday to the colonels in Louisville, by a 3-1 margin.

Watty’s colts only managed four hits off the colonel’s Egan, while the elongated Stimmel also tossed a fine game, giving up only six hits himself. Sad to say, poor base running may have played a part in the loss. Watkins can’t be happy about that. Apparently Maloney got caught napping at second base. I assume that billy-maloney-brg-bmeans he got picked off? Ouch! Maloney also got a couple of hits and sparkled out in right field, but I would think that Watkins will overlook those redeeming points and talk to him seriously about the importance of being highly alert while on the base paths.

I’m a bit concerned about the miller’s offence. (As I’m sure we all are.) Here’s the miller rally yesterday, as described by Our Man in the Field:

“The millers’ one score was secure in the fifth, when Oyler lined out a single, Stimmel sacrificed him along, and the shortstop stole third. McNichol bunted, and Dexter fielded the ball home, but Schriver dropped it, making the only miscue of the game.”

That’s probably going to be the nature of the millers’ offence this season: bunts, sacrifices, stolen bases, maybe an error thrown into the mix. I guess, in 1904, that was pretty much the nature of the game. Nowadays we think of the pre-Babe Ruth years as the Dead Ball Era, but back then it was just baseball. Nobody even noticed that the ball was dead. It was just part of the Great American Pastime. It’s a good thing that Watty has assembled a stable of speedsters.

On that note there was an interesting comment by Watty, in yesterday’s paper, I think it was. His theory is that it’s very difficult or impossible, really, to find much good hitting at this level of the game. If a guy shows he can hit, he gets snapped up by the big leagues. And that’s why he’s so focused on speed. Hitting across the league will be weak, and so he believes that the fastest team will create the most runs and thus come out as champions in the end. As long as they are awake out there on the base paths.

Yesterday, more bad weather, but they played anyway and played well. One error for the colonels, none for the boys from Minneapolis. Demontreville was sick, but McNichol played well at 3rd. Oyler was excellent at short. Watty says he will release both Ludwig excerpt-tacoma-times-12-april-1909-wm-ludwigand Roach shortly. Ludwig is apparently not fast enough, while Roach’s work “has been indifferent.” I wonder why he hasn’t released them already. Must be no fun for them. I hope he’s talked to them, and they don’t just read it in the papers. Maybe he’ll yet change his mind about Ludwig, who’s a fan favorite, a game player, and a fine young man, though perhaps not so fast.

Young Munch may twirl for the millers today. Census records seem to indicate that Gustave was born in 1876, which would make him about 28 in 1904. Which makes me wonder how old the rest of these guys are, if he’s “young” Munch?

millers-logo-tilt-glow-c

And in other news of the day:

excerpt-minneapolis-journal-29-april-1904-speed-mark-for-train-b

 

A long belated and apologetic return to 28 April 1904: Rain Out

Rain Rain Rain

“Speed of Watkins’ Men Elicits Favorable Comments”

Well, the rain continues in April of 1904, and yesterday’s scheduled game was a washout. Our scribe had thought that the millers would take two games in Columbus, but instead they drop one and are rained out of their other three opportunities. The club boarded the train last night for Louisville, where they will play a four-game series against the colonels. It looks like the colonels dropped yesterday’s game against Kansas City. (Oddly, the game was played in Louisville, but KC batted on the bottom of the card. So, really, they were the home club, it seems. Perhaps we’ll find out more about this later. Does KC not have a park? Are they like the fabled Rupert Mundy’s, wandering in the wilderness?)

The speed of Watkins’ men continues to astound all who witness their ambulatory talents. Apparently they excel at the bunt game — “…the slightest bobble by a senator on an infield hit meant that the runner would reach first.” I imagine other teams must be quite nervous about these millers and their short-ball style of play. Veritable gazelles. The entire game played with the infield pulled in, guarding against the bunt. “The Minneapolis Shift.”

If this pennant chase comes down to a footrace, the boys quite have it all locked up.

This new catcher Weaver is apparently as tall as the team is fast. He stands well over six feet, a veritable towering Goliath of his day. This now means Watkins has four catchers on the club — Weaver, Leslie, Ludwig, and Roach, and our reporter hazards a guess that Ludwig and Roach are slated for Watkins’ bloody chopping block.

excerpt-tacoma-times-12-april-1909-wm-ludwig

Four backstops are probably too many, but I do hope he keeps Ludwig, who showed some pluck in spring training. Watkins famously said he was going to instruct him in “all the finer points of the game.” I’m sure Ludwig was kidded about that quite a bit. Did Ludwig turn out to be a poor student, or was Watkins just talking a good game? Well, we’ll probably never know.

Frankly, I would not be at all surprised if the club picked up another new catcher in Louisville in the next day or two. Watkins seems to have some sort of weird obsession with the position. It seems like there’s always someone better waiting in the wings. Tomorrow perhaps we’ll hear about catcher Slumhaggen, a seven-footer who can run like a jaguar and is a wand master of the highest degree. If I was catcher Weaver or catcher Leslie, I would not be feeling too comfortable.

Perhaps you’re wondering about the standings? Especially given the extended lay-off between our visits to 1904. Our last visit being, (embarrassingly) in November of 2015. 2015? Yes, 2015. My apologies.

Well, keep in mind that it’s early yet, and far, far too early to make any serious prognostications about future success. Especially given the amount of rain we’ve been having. But here’s the scoop:

04-28-04-standings-b

Tomorrow we’ll find out how we fared against those colonels in Louisville.

27 April, 1904: Too Much Malarky

27 April 04 - Millers can't hit malarky b

Yesterday there was rain all across the circuit, and our home-town scribe was bemoaning the Miller’s lost opportunity to pick up a win against the Columbus Senators. Well, perhaps the Senate caught wind of this. Perhaps they heard that they were considered an easy mark, a Win just waiting to be plucked. For, lo, the Senators downed the visitors 5-4, as Watty’s colts only muster 5 hits against the mighty Malarky.

John Malarky b

John Malarky was a pretty good pitcher – in ’03 he pitched for the Beaneaters in Boston, and was second on their staff in ERA, going 11-16, and finishing 25 of his 27 starts. The Boston club needed money, though, and sold Malarky to the Columbus club. Malarky was 32 years old in ’04, and never made it back to the majors again, (yes, the Beaneaters were “the majors” back then.)

Anyway, not a good game for the boys from Minneapolis. All the Millers runs came on throwing errors by the Senators, including 3 runs in the third on a wild toss from the outfield. But Malarky had the game well in hand, and Olyer and Lally were troubled by “slippery footing.”

The play of the game (from the Minneapolis perspective) was a double play, where Bowcock tried to steal home, was tagged out by Leslie, who then tossed to second in time to get Yeager. Heads up play by Mr. Leslie!  Good going!

None-the-less, our reporter says that Watkins is trying to acquire a catcher from Columbus, perhaps a fella name of Weaver. As I recall, (and it has been some time now) the Millers had two or three catchers in spring training, and it was the youngster, Ludwig, who surprised and looked to be the starter, and then suddenly Watty brings this guy Leslie onto the scene, and now… now.. Leslie is on the way out? Plus Leslie, whoever he is, he’s been hitting the ball some.

Or maybe our reporter doesn’t know what he’s talking about. A couple of days ago he said Demontreville was about to be cut, and now it’s Leslie, while Demontreville, meanwhile, started at second and scored a run, and “played a good game at the second cushion.”

I’ll bet Watkins has everybody on edge. He likes to wheel and deal.

And hey, there it is, right on page 2 of the day’s paper. I’d missed it, scurrying to page 18 to catch the score. “Minneapolis Secures Crack Backstop by Purchase from the Columbus Club.” Watkins sends a telegram to the Journal to announce the acquisition of “Catcher Weaver” (is that his name?) Weaver caught for St. Louis and Pittsburgh in the National league last summer. He played in 32 games and had… er….thirteen passed balls. Thirteen? Yes, that’s right. Thirteen passed balls. In 32 games. While hitting a solid .237. I wonder if the Journal was being sarcastic when they termed him a “crack backstop?” They say his bat will help the club, and that signing Weaver shows that Watkins — though confident that he has a winning club –  will apparently spare no effort in order to strengthen his club, even acquiring a “crack backstop” while at the same time Leslie has been doing well at catcher, and Ludwig has been a capable back up. But that’s not enough for Watkins, whose passion is, apparently, a strong fast ball club, replete with windpaddists. Well, whatever. I wonder who the starting catcher will be tomorrow?