30 March 1904, Wednesday Evening
“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.
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…
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?
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Saturday Evening. A chilly spring day today in Minneapolis, topping out at 26 degrees, and dropping down to 10 tonight. In 1903 it had reached 60 on the 12th, but no such luck this year.
Kihm is aboard. President Watkins received his signed contract today, along with Andy Oyler and Frosty Thomas. Kihm might play first base this year. Or it might be Lally. We’ll have to wait and see.
On the other side of the coin, Rosco Staples and Will Salisbury have been released to the West Superior club in the Northern League. Staples and Salisbury, pitchers, are not so fast, apparently, not exactly what you might call Slab Artists. Off they go, into the hinterland, to burnish their horsehide hurling acumen.
Also, President Watkins sent out the official “notice to report” today, calling upon his forces to rendezvous on the 30th of March in Champagne, Illinois for Spring Training. It sez here that the pitchers might be ordered to report a few days earlier, “to get their salary wings in shape.” Watkins, still playing his cards close to his vest, would not say exactly who has been contacted, (and perhaps he’s just not sure) but the reporter estimates about 20 men, and – “it is probable that four or five of the twenty-five odd he has now will be canned.” While Watkins doesn’t disclose names, he does say that from what he knows of the other teams he feels good about the Millers “being well up in the race this summer.” There’s still some question as to whether Watkins can sign his new crack second-base man, Bonner. If he signs, then it will likely be Lally at first, Bonner at second, Oyler at short, and Fox at third, with Sullivan, Maloney, and Coulter in the outfield. If Bonner doesn’t come in, than O’Rourke or McNichol will probably make good, and Fox will move to second. The outfield, is fast as they come, and “also good with the willow.” But what about catcher? Never fear. “The team also looks strong in battery men.” No mention of where the mighty Kihm might be playing.
And, wait! What’s this? A new pitcher has been signed! Does Watkins never rest? When he said that he would not miss any opportunity to improve the club, he was not merely whistling Dixie! Welcome aboard, Harold W. Lockersteen! Lockersteen was an amateur, spotted by the Miller’s captain Fox while he was coaching the Purdue University squad over the winter.
“He is a well built young fellow, with lots of speed, good control, and a headpiece, and Fox thinks he will prove a find.”