Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Terminology: Part 4 in a Series

A few more old time terminology references found in 1896 editions of the Forum:

"Cross bats" - a way of saying that two teams will play each other
"Did the business" - caused something to happen (a negative event in the Forum's reference)
"Have a snap" - have success; similar to the saying "it was a snap", meaning it was easy
"Rubber" - used to describe home plate; also used to describe the pitcher's rubber, which is the sole use of the term today
"Try conclusions" - a way of saying that two teams will play each other

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Comiskey Connection

Charles Comiskey managed the St. Paul Saints of the Western League from 1895 to 1899, occasionally taking the field for the team. A career .264 hitter in 13 major league seasons, Comiskey later gained recognition as the cheapskate owner of the Chicago White Sox of the American League. Interestingly, his brother Ignatius, who was a deaf/mute, played baseball for the Crookston team in 1896. The Crookston Giants club played teams from Fargo and Moorhead during the course of the summer. On August 13, the younger Comiskey broke his arm in two places when one of the team's wagons tipped over following a game against Morris, MN. Sadly, Ignatius Comiskey died of a heart condition at age 25. He was found in Charles's house in Chicago on July 3, 1900.

St. Paul Globe August 14, 1896 p.5 "Young Comiskey Injured"

St Paul Globe July 4, 1900 p.8 "Ignatius Comiskey Dead"

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Let's Play Some Hobos!

The situation: You are a professional minor league baseball team and your league has ties to nationally organized baseball. You just finished your shortened season in a respectable second place. You are waiting for your league to transfer a team from one town to another, so you and the other clubs can continue playing.

So what do you do with your off-day? Well, its also 1897, so you play a game against some hobos, of course!

On August 2, 1897, the Grand Forks Senators and the other Red River Valley League teams were anxiously awaiting the transfer of the bankrupt Wahpeton-Breckenridge team to Crookston. The newly constituted league was scheduled to kick off with a game between Grand Forks and Crookston, a rivalry that promised to be exciting for both towns. While the Senators waited for the details to fall into place, they wanted to stay sharp, so they scheduled a game for Monday afternoon. Their opponent? Local hobos, or more specifically, migrant workers who were in the valley to assist with the harvest season. As strange as it may sound, Grand Forks took on a team with players claiming nicknames such as "Shorty Swatts", "Pie-faced Charley", and "Bowlegged Pete", among others.

Though the Herald took a shot at the work ethic of the region's migrant workers, the paper didn't have much to brag about in its account of the game. That is because, amazingly, the Senators lost the five-inning contest 3-2. How the Grand Forks club managed to lose the game is hard to conceive, but the hobos apparently had a fair amount of baseball talent. Pitcher "Milwaukee Mike" earned praise for having "as many graceful curves as a ballet dancer", and the game account also lauded the team's fielding and base-running abilities. Furthermore, without a box score, it is unclear whether the full squad of Senators joined in the challenge of playing against the "weary willies". Only pitcher Hoar and Joe Marshall are mentioned by name as participating in the game for Grand Forks. Hoar started on the mound for the Senators, and was later replaced by Marshall, who notably did not pitch in any other game for Grand Forks during the season. And to be fair to the hobos, minor league baseball players in the era were often equally nomadic and of questionable character. Also, it is not a stretch of the imagination to say that some minor leaguers both played baseball and performed farm labor as means of income. In any event, the anonymous group of vagrants notched the win over the Senators in what the Herald reported simply as "a unique game of ball."

Grand Forks Herald August 3, 1897 p.4 "Hobos at Ball"

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Lee Roberts Later in Life

Lee "Reddy" Roberts

Fargo pitcher/manager Lee Roberts (far right) with his son Vern (mid-right), grandson Ken (mid-left), and mother Matilda (left). Lee reminds me of Connie Mack in this picture, but it's probably just because of his hat. But maybe he has that "field general" quality, too - he was Fargo's manager for several years. Lee was about 56 years old when this photo was taken. Strong hand-eye coordination apparently ran in Lee's family. His son Vern was an accomplished pilot.

The photo was taken in Fargo in 1927.
Thanks to Hubbard Neighbour of Moline, IL for locating this picture for me.