Sunday, June 17, 2012

On This Date: Joe Marshall Tearing up the RRVL

June 17, 1897

When the Grand Forks Herald listed the Senators team batting leaders on June 17th, one name stood out from the rest: Joe Marshall. The 21-year-old led the team with a .449 batting average, adding a home run to help Grand Forks beat Moorhead on the 17th by a score of 6-1. Over the next week, Marshall was nearly unstoppable. During a stretch of four games against Wahpeton-Breckenridge, the Audubon, MN native went 11 for 21 with two home runs, two doubles, and eight runs scored.

June 23 - 2 for 5 with a double in a 7-0 Grand Forks shutout win
June 24 - 4 for 5 with a home run and three runs scored in a 9-6 win
June 25 - 4 for 6 with a home run, double, and four runs scored in a 22-8 rout
June 26 - 1 for 5 with a run scored in a 8-7 loss

Marshall did commit six errors in the four game stretch, three of them playing out of position as a catcher in the June 26th loss. "Home Run" Joe typically played second or third base for the Senators during the 1897 season.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

On This Date: Forum Responds to Criticism, Herald Worries

Apparently, the Moorhead News accused the other newspapers in the region of not being fair to Barmaids pitcher Pike Mullaney. The Forum shot back, saying the News was off base, and that its sportswriter had to have been "eating green apples and...suffered the attendant consequences."  The Forum contended that the local papers had always been complimentary of the "plucky little pitcher." They had no reason not to be charitable towards Mullaney, who finished with a record of 14-3 for the season.

Also on this date, the Grand Forks Herald worried about the other Red River Valley League teams bolstering their rosters. The paper explained that the fans would be happy if the Senators could come away with a split in their coming series with Moorhead. Fargo, for its part, had released Reddy Hill, as well as Hornsby and Frank Schumansky, as they attempted to move up in the standings after a slow start. The Divorcees were excited about adding outfielder Hopkins, shortstop John Murphy, and a talented young second baseman from Iowa, Bill Zink. Pitcher Fred Steele would make his way to Fargo from Nebraska within the week.

June 16, 1897 Fargo Forum and Daily Republican p. 4

June 16, 1897 Grand Forks Herald Front page

Monday, June 11, 2012

Banning Ripped by Forum

Sometimes it takes a second look at the research to find a gem. This is one I overlooked when making my first pass through the pages of the Forum from June 1897. I picked up the story while scouring the Grand Forks Herald today, which noted some harsh criticism that the Fargo Forum had directed toward RRVL umpire Jimmy Banning.

Banning began the year playing for the Fargo team, but switched to the role of umpire just a few weeks into the season. He had played on Fargo's minor league team in 1887, which the June 19th Forum mentioned in its front page rant. My favorite part of the not so veiled criticism was this line, in which the writer may have wanted to show impartiality, but just couldn't hold back: "...Personally Jimmie is a nice fellow, and he has hosts of friends here from his good work behind the bat in the old Red River league. But with all due respect to the memory of his rapidly fading glory - as umpire - he's the rottenest specimen that ever came over the pike..." Wow.

Interestingly, it wasn't unfair treatment of the Fargo team that spurred the sportswriter's diatribe. Instead, it was Banning's work in a game between Grand Forks and Moorhead that prompted the criticism. It makes you wonder if there was some bad blood between the writer and the former Fargo shortstop. Especially when you consider he described Banning's worst call as the " piece of idiocy...".

Friday, June 8, 2012

On This Date: Sloppy Game Ends in a Tie

June 8, 1897 - The Fargo Divorcees met the Grand Forks Senators in a poorly played afternoon match up. Backed by a seven run 5th inning, Fargo led 12-5 after five and a half. Sloppy defense in the 8th and 9th squandered a certain Fargo victory - Hartman and Reddy Hill had errors in the 8th, but it was Fargo's shortstop Russell whose misplay proved most costly. With two outs in the ninth, Grand Forks right fielder Rudge hit a "little grounder" which Russell couldn't handle cleanly, allowing the tying run to score. With the game tied 12-12, the teams went to extra innings. After neither team scored in the 10th, the game was called a tie at 5 p.m. to allow the Grand Forks team to catch their scheduled train home. The game was slated to be completed at a later date. In all, the game featured four hit batters, two passed balls, and 15 errors, Fargo with seven and Grand Forks eight. Remarkably, only one of Fargo's runs was earned, while Grand Forks tallied six earned runs.

Charles Jahnke homered for Fargo and future major leaguer Joe Marshall went deep for Grand Forks. (Incidentally, Marshall later became known as "Home Run" Joe, despite hitting no home runs in 118 major league at-bats. Marshall earned the nickname for his minor league work, which included a very impressive 25 homers for the San Francisco Pirates of the Pacific National League in 1903.)

Gus Munch pitched all ten innings for Fargo and struck out eleven Senators, but did allow fourteen hits. Grand Forks pitcher Harris went the distance, striking out only three Divorcees, but scattering ten hits over his ten innings of work. In the end, the Senators' miscues in the field sabotaged his solid pitching performance.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Where Did Everyone Go?

Minor league baseball players in the late 19th Century often led a nomadic life. Minor leagues and teams were independent, not having the direct support of a Major League club as they do today. A league or a team that failed to draw enough fans and remain financially solvent couldn't hang on for very long without folding. As a result of this constant state of flux, players could not always count on staying in the same city throughout the summer. Even if their team and league were stable, it was still common for players to play a few games with other local teams when their league team was idle. For the Fargo Divorcees in 1897, these factors, along with a late start to the season (late May), the July 31st folding of the Red River Valley League, and the craving of baseball fans in the valley produced a perfect storm in which Fargo's players appeared in many different uniforms throughout the summer.

A working list of teams that featured Fargo players sometime during the summer of 1897:

Jimmy Banning - Umpired in the RRVL
Bergstrom - Minnehahas (MN)
Flannery - Perham, MN
Jimmie French - Hope, ND (2 games)
Reilly Green - Kenyon, MN
Haverty - Detroit Lakes, MN
Hayes - Omaha, NE (Western Association)
A. J. Hessler - Foster County, ND
C. R. Hickey - Wadena, MN (1 game)
Henry "Harry" Howe - Moorhead Barmaids and Denison-Sherman/Waco, TX (Texas League)
Charles Jahnke - Moorhead Barmaids
George Keas - a team in Southern Minnesota (after the league folded)
Arthur "Tige" Lyons - Sheldon, ND, Perham, MN, and served as umpire for RRVL games
Gus Munch - St. Paul Saints (Western League), Staples, MN (1 game)
Oscar Peterson - Minneapolis Millers (Western League), Wadena, MN (1 game), Wheatland, ND (1 game)
Charles "Deacon" Phillippe - Minneapolis Millers (Western League)
Josh Reilly - Kansas City Blues, Indianapolis Indians (both Western League), Springfield, IL Governors (Interstate League), Kenyon, MN
Lee Roberts - Mandan, ND (several games), Sheldon, ND, Detroit Lakes, MN
Fred Steele - Milnor, ND (1 game), a team in Western Iowa possibly
Bill Zink - a team in Western Iowa possibly