It's been a while since we've had a Baseball Story post and without much Mariner news, I figured the time was ripe for another edition. Today, I'll be taking a look at some of the more amusing baseball writing I've found in my perusal of newspapers from near the turn of the 20th century.
Maybe it's the inner history geek in me, but I've always liked poring through old documents. It's fun to see how human thinking and analysis has evolved over time and I particularly enjoy seeing how baseball coverage in the early part of the game's history differs so greatly from what we see today. My senior thesis actually requires me to dig through old newspapers in search of relevant baseball stories (tough job, I know) and I thought I might share a couple of my favorite passages.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 7th, 1877:
"(Seattle's play) was fully equal to, if not superior to, many of the amateur clubs in the country. Seattle may claim to have the best nine on the coast and need not fear defeat from any."
Seattle Times, May 9th, 1900:
It's pretty bad business... for any player to lose his temper at any time in a baseball game...
Seattle Times, July 6th, 1900:
Harmon was very effective, with the exception of one inning, when St. John made a child of himself by holding the ball in his hand while McCarthy scored. That made Harmon hot, and he showed signs of going up in the air, and little Gus Klopf walked over and said a few low, passionate remarks about children and Ira wilted down.
Seattle Times, May 16th, 1906:
Ike Rockenfield, Seattle's native son and one of the best ball players that ever wore a spiked shoe is going to play second base for the St. Paul Club in the American Association... Although Ike was one of the best hitters on the Seattle Club he did not play up to his best form this year for he was not in the best of condition. He did not have the benefit of training that the other men had and as he is naturally pudgy he was considerably overweight, which slowed him up a bit. If Ike takes care of himself he can play in any company. If he does not pay attention to training rules his finish will come quick... Although he played second base like a cigar store sign last Sunday, his hundreds of friends in this city know what he can do when he is right and he will take to St. Paul their best wishes for his success.
Seattle Times, June 7th, 1920:
The Rainiers went on the ball field with a changed lineup, wherein an explanation is necessary. Sammy Bohne sat in the grandstand wearing a brannigan over his right eye and a quart of arnies on his hand. It seemed that Sammy parked the eye on Pete Compton's fist just previous to the start of Saturday's batting practice and a few minutes before Referee Kopecka Kenworthy counted Peter out after the latter had thrice kissed the dust near the home plate. It is understood that Sammy fractured a small bone in his haymaker hand and may be out of the game for a few days. These things crop up occasionally in the best of regulated ball clubs.
The last we recall was when Walt McCredie playfully patted Umpire Red Held on the dome and carried a broken finger for six months. In this respect, Bill Prough was carrying a shiner around all week, bet it is said that Bill bumped his eye on the corner of a Seattle tasicab or something.
But the game's the thing... (launches into game recap)
Seattle Times, September 28th, 1937:
In the opener... the Giants filled the bases on an error, a single and a walk. At that point the usually reliable Lou Fette, running true to the rule that he can't whip the Polo Grounders, committed a balk - and boom, there went the ball game.
In the night-cap Jim Turner set the Giants down in order for six innings and got one away in the eighth, with the score 1-1. The next batter singled, then Turner, with the second out in his grasp fumbled Bill Lohrman's bunt. He retired Joe Moore but Dick Bartell broke up his party with a two-run double.
Lohrman, fresh out of the International League, earned himself a handsome set of freshman spurs by hurling a five-hitter...
Those are the highlights from my research (thus far) but I couldn't end this without sharing my all time favorite baseball-newspaper anecdote. The story in question comes from a play in the infamous Merkle's Boner game back in 1908. In the top of the third inning, Cubs shortstop Joe Tinker lined a ball in the gap. "Turkey" Mike Donlin, a flaky outfielder and one of the best hitters of his time when he felt like it*, tried to knock the ball down with his foot, only to miss it entirely. Tinker scored easily, and the New York Times reporter covering the game was far from impressed with Donlin's effort. In his game recap for the morning paper, he wrote: "If this Donlin boy was our boy, we'd have sent him to bed without his supper, and ye mind that, Mike." Pure gold.
* - Donlin sporadically lost interest in baseball throughout his career, and on three occasions, he missed entire seasons as he tried his hand at stage acting.