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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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.

26 March 1904; Discouraging Words are Heard, but There is Munch to be Grateful For

Six degrees above zero, this morning, crows the Saturday Evening Journal. It looks like Spring is finally here! Meanwhile, the DailyTyphoid Report, on page six, counts seven new cases of typhoid today, and one death.

In more important news…

excerpt - Minneapolis Journal - 26 March 1904 - Real Work Will Begin Next Week

The Millers Start Spring Practice Wednesday… and so we have yet another article in the Journal appraising the team’s talent. Perhaps, as there were a lot of player signings, and new management, and more off-season dealings in those days, perhaps there was more uncertainty among the baseball-fan-population as to who the players were going to be in any given year. Certainly there were a lot less media outlets in those days. It was either the scurrilous press or the talk bruited about in the streets.

Anyway, according to the Journal, it sez here, the infielders and outfielders will be the strongest parts of the club. However the pitching staff also “looms up in promising fashion.” Katoll’s arm seems fine. (Everyone, could you relax a little about Katoll’s Sling Wing? It’s fine. F. I. N. E.)

However, it does seem a little odd that, just after the writer talks in glowing terms about several of the pitchers, he says,

“Altho Watkins has more than half a dozen colts on his pitching staff, Munch is the only one upon whom he banks much.”

Hmmmm. This gives one pause. What about Katoll? Is his arm all right? What about Rusty Owens, and Case, who were top-notchers in the 3-I league last year? What about Frosty Thomas? And can’t Baily be counted on for some good work this year? Is Katoll’s arm not sound?

No. There is only Munch. Munch is Watkins mainstay and support. Everything depends upon Munch, it seems. And I’m not sure that we’ve ever even heard Mr. Munch’s first name. Something of a mystery? Who is this guy, this stalwart, this man Munch??

“Munch is a left-hander with lots of speed and unusually good control for a southpaw.”

 

(Subtle disparagement of southpaws noted.)

So. We will watch for more on Munch. Such as, perhaps, a first name. Did they have the single-named celebrity back then? Like Cher? Bono? Munch?

edvard the scream munch sm

Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. There’s also Converse, Lockersteen, and Koukalik. (LLC). Surely with that stable of slab artists there is one other twirler we may rely upon? What of all this talk about how this will be the best team Minneapolis has seen in a long long while?

“Watty will be satisfied, however, if he gets one good man out of the bunch.”

So, after all the Spring Hoopla, the truth will out. It seems that suddenly our pitching is suspect. All that off-season talk is just that, just talk.

On top of that, our catching is weak! Roach and O’Leary, as we’ve discussed before, leave something to be desired. Roach is reliable, the writer states, but not as good a man as Bob Wood of Milwaukee, for one, or Sullivan in St. Paul. O’Leary, in fact, will probably do the bulk of the work, as he is, at least, speedy. And then there’s Ludwig, of course. He’s a project. But O’Leary seems to be the one, as Watkins likes a speedy man, and at least O’Leary is speedy, or at least compared to Roach and Ludwig.

The infield and the outfield, well, we’ve talked about them before. They are the strength of the team, and I don’t see that we need to go over all that again. They are speedy. Lord knows, they are speedy. And we all know how important speed is.

“It is a well known fact that most championships have been won, not by the teams noted for their hitting ability, such as the old Phillies, or the Clevelands of last season, but by clubs which combined fair hitting ability with speed on the field and on the paths. In signing his men, Watkins has made good legs the first requisite, and the 1904 Millers will not throw away runs as the 1903 bunch was wont to do.”

The writer concludes his piece by looking briefly at the competition. He believes that Indianapolis and Louisville look to be the strongest. St. Paul will hardly be up to last year’s form, he says: Miller Huggins and Spike Shannon will be impossible to replace, and Kelly’s pitching staff “are largely experiments.” Minneapolis ranks up there with Indianapolis and Louisville, while Milwaukee, Columbus, and Kansas City are back in the pack that follows the leaders. The sad Toledo club brings up the rear. “The papers of that city are making a brave effort to keep up the spirits of the fans, but up to date Manager Long has given out only vague assurances that his team would be in the fight…”

 

On a side note, I’m afraid I’m falling a bit behind the current (1904) news. A full-time job certainly interferes with the more important things in life.

15 March 1904 – local boys make good

ORPHEUM THEATER ON 7TH STREET BETWEEN HENNEPIN AND NICOLLET AVENUES - 1900s HCLIB c sm fr

Orpheum Theater, 7th Street, Minneapolis, in the early 1900s, from Hennepin County Library’s photo archive.

Spring continues, in that Minneapolis sort of way, in 1904. It’s 18 degrees today, and might get up to 24 tomorrow, according to T.S. Outram, Section Director.  Today, right now, in 2014, it’s 23 degrees, and not-so-spring-like either. Springtime in Minnesota is marked chiefly by black snow and icier sidewalks.

But, where there is baseball, there is Spring.

Watkins never rests.

Word comes on page 9 of the evening Journal that Al Demontreville — “…younger brother of the famous Gene Demontreville…” — has signed up with the Millers. The lad is “an all-around infielder” – he plays brilliantly (it is said) at second, third or short, though third base is his favorite, and the writer speculates that he will play third, and Fox will play second, and Bonner is, perhaps, out of the picture? No further word on Bonner, at any rate. But no matter, with Demontreville at third, the Millers will undoubtedly have “…easily the fastest infield in the association.” Demontreville is “… lightning fast in getting down to first.”

Gene Demontreville - 1899 Baltimore Orioles - names

Gene D.

He is also apparently a good stick man with the willow, hitting .355 in the New England league in 1902, with a fielding average of .913. (Yikes!) He was hitting about .400 last year in the New England league, and then went up to play with the big boys, hitting .295 with the St. Louis Nationals.

The Demontreville boys, it turns out, were local boys, born in St. Paul; I wonder if their family is from near the Demontreville Trail, a road we go past when we’re on our way to Stillwater?

Older brother Gene Demontreville was a pretty good ball player; he played 11 years in the majors, (with 8 different teams — what, clubhouse poison?) and with a career batting average of .303. In 1896 he hit .343 with the Washington Nationals, and the next year hit .341. “Good with the Willow.” He also played with some great Baltimore teams in 1898 and 1899.

Lee Demontreville b

Lee D.

I don’t find any record of Al Demontreville, but there was a brother named Lee Demontreville, who is probably also known, at least in this article, as Al. Lee played one season with the St. Louis Cardinals, according to Wikipedia, batting .243 (perhaps there was a typo?) while primarily playing shortstop.