A BALL PLAYER'S CAREER
Being the PERSONAL EXPERIENCES AND REMINISCENCES of ADRIAN C. ANSON Late Manager and Captain of the Chicago Base Ball Club
To My Father Henry Anson of Marshalltown, Iowa, to whose early training and sound advice I owe my fame
I.—MY BIRTHPLACE AND ANCESTRY.
II.—DAYS AT MARSHALLTOWN
III.—SOME FACTS ABOUT THE NATIONAL GAME
IV.—FURTHER FACTS AND FIGURES
V.—THE GAME AT MARSHALLTOWN
VI.—My EXPERIENCE AT ROCKFORD
VII.—WITH THE ATHLETICS OF PHILADELPHIA
VIII.—SOME MINOR DIVERSIONS
IX.—WE BALL PLAYERS Go ABROAD
X.—THE ARGONAUTS OF 1874
XI.—I WIN ONE PRIZE AND OTHERS FOLLOW
XII.—WITH THE NATIONAL LEAGUE
XIII.—FROM FOURTH PLACE TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP
XIV.—THE CHAMPIONS OF THE EARLY '80S
XV.—WE FALL DOWN AND RISE AGAIN
XVI.—BALL PLAYERS EACH AND EVERY ONE
XVII.—WHILE FORTUNE FROWNS AND SMILES
XVIII.—FROM CHICAGO TO DENVER
XIX.—FROM DENVER TO SAN FRANCISCO
XX.—TWO WEEKS IN CALIFORNIA
XXI.—WE VISIT THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS
XXII.—FROM HONOLULU TO AUSTRALIA
XXIII.—WITH OUR FRIENDS IN THE ANTIPODES
XXIV.—BALL PLAYING AND SIGHT-SEEING IN AUSTRALIA
XXV.—AFLOAT ON THE INDIAN SEA
XXVI.—FROM CEYLON TO EGYPT
XXVII.—IN THE SHADOW OF THE PYRAMIDS
XXVIII.—THE BLUE SKIES OF ITALY
XXIX.—OUR VISIT TO LA BELLE FRANCE
XXX.—THROUGH ENGLAND, SCOTLAND AND IRELAND
XXXI.—"HOME, SWEET HOME"
XXXII.—THE REVOLT OF THE BROTHERHOOD
XXXIII.—MY LAST YEARS ON THE BALL FIELD
XXXIV.—IF THIS BE TREASON, MAKE THE MOST OF IT
XXXV.—HOW MY WINTERS WERE SPENT
XXXVI.—WITH THE KNIGHTS OF THE CUE
XXXVII.—NOT DEAD, BUT SLEEPING
CHAPTER I. MY BIRTHPLACE AND ANCESTRY.
The town of Marshalltown, the county seat of Marshall County, in the great State of Iowa, is now a handsome and flourishing place of some thirteen or fourteen thousand inhabitants. I have not had time recently to take the census myself, and so I cannot be expected to certify exactly as to how many men, women and children are contained within the corporate limits.
At the time that I first appeared upon the scene, however, the town was in a decidedly embryonic state, and outside of some half-dozen white families that had squatted there it boasted of no inhabitants save Indians of the Pottawattamie tribe, whose wigwams, or tepees, were scattered here and there upon the prairie and along the banks of the river that then, as now, was not navigable for anything much larger than a flat-bottomed scow.
The first log cabin that was erected in Marshalltown was built by my father, Henry Anson, who is still living, a hale and hearty old man, whose only trouble seems to be, according to his own story, that he is getting too fleshy, and that he finds it more difficult to get about than he used to.
He and his father, Warren Anson, his grandfather, Jonathan Anson, and his great-grandfather, Silas Anson, were all born in Dutchess County, New York, and were direct descendants of one of two brothers, who came to this country from England some time in the seventeenth century. They traced their lineage back to William Anson, Esq., of Lincoln's Inn, an eminent barrister in the reign of James I, who purchased the Mansion of Shuzsborough, in the county of Stafford, and, even farther back, to Lord Anson, a high Admiral of the English navy, who was one of the first of that daring band of sailors who circumnavigated the globe and helped to lay the foundation of England's present greatness.
I have said that we were direct descendants of one of two brothers. The other of the original Ansons I am not so proud of, and for this reason: He retained the family name until the Revolutionary war broke out, when he sided with the King and became known as a Tory. Then, not wishing to bear the same name as his, brother, who had espoused the cause of the Colonists, he changed his name to Austin, and some of his descendants my father has met on more than one occasion in his travels.
My mother's maiden name was Jeanette Rice, and she, like my father, was of English descent, so you can see how little Swedish blood there is in my veins, in spite of the nickname of "the Swede" that was often applied to me during my ball-playing career, and which was, I fancy, given me more because of my light hair and ruddy complexion than because of any Swedish characteristics that I possessed.
Early in life my father emigrated from New York State into the wilds of Michigan, and later, after he was married, and while he was but nineteen years of age, and his wife two years his junior, he started out to find a home in the West, traveling in one of the old-fashioned prairie schooners drawn by horses and making his first stop of any account on the banks of the Cedar River in Iowa. This was in the high-water days of 1851, and as the river overflowed its banks and the waters kept rising higher and higher my father concluded that it was hardly a desirable place near which to locate a home, and hitching up his team he saddled a horse and swam the stream, going on to the westward. He finally homesteaded a tract of land on the site of the present town of Marshalltown, which he laid out, and to which he gave the name that it now bears. This, for a time, was known as "Marshall," it being named after the town of Marshall in Michigan, but when a post-office was applied for it was discovered that there was already a post-office of that same name in the State, and so the word "town" was added, and Marshalltown it became, the names of Anson, Ansontown and Ansonville having all been thought of and rejected. Had the name of "Ansonia" occurred at that time to my father's mind, however, I do not think that either Marshall or Marshalltown would have been its title on the map.
It was not so very long after the completion of my father's log cabin, which stood on what is now Marshall-town's main street, that I, the first white child that was born there, came into the world, the exact date of my advent being April 17th, 1852. My brother Sturges Ransome, who is two years my senior, was born at the old home in Michigan, and I had still another brother Melville who died while I was yet a small boy, so at the time of which I write there were three babies in the house, all of them boys, and I the youngest and most troublesome of the lot.
The first real grief that came into my life was the death of my mother, which occurred when I was but seven years old. I remember her now as a large, fine-looking woman, who weighed something over two hundred pounds, and she stood about five feet ten-and-a-half inches in height. This is about all the recollection that I have of her.
If the statements made by my father and by other of our relatives are to be relied upon, and I see no reason why they should not be, I was a natural-born kicker from the very outset of my career, and of very little account in the world, being bent upon making trouble for others. I had no particularly bad traits that I am aware of, only that I was possessed of an instinctive dislike both to study and work, and I shirked them whenever opportunity offered.
I had a penchant, too, for getting into scrapes, and it was indeed a happy time for my relatives when a whole day passed without my being up to some mischief.
Some of my father's people had arrived on the scene before my mother's death, and, attracting other settlers to the scene, Marshalltown, or Marshall as it was then called, was making rapid strides in growth and importance. The Pottawattomies, always friendly to the whites, were particularly fond of my father and I often remember seeing both the bucks and the squaws at our cabin, though I fancy that they were not so fond of us boys as they might have been, for we used to tease and bother them at every opportunity. Johnny Green was their chief, and Johnny, in spite of his looks, was a pretty decent sort of a fellow, though he was as fond of fire-water as any of them and as Iowa was not a prohibition State in those early days he managed now and then to get hold of a little. "The fights that he fought and the rows that he made" were as a rule confined to his own people.
Speaking of the Indians, I remember one little occurrence in which I was concerned during those early days that impressed itself upon my memory in a very vivid fashion, and even now I am disposed to regard it as no laughing matter, although my father entertains a contrary opinion, but then my father was not in my position, and that, ofttimes, makes all the difference in the world.
The Pottawattamies were to have a war dance at the little town of Marietta, some six or seven miles up the river, and of course we boys were determined to be on hand and take part in the festivities. There were some twelve or fifteen of us in the party and we enjoyed the show immensely, as was but natural. Had we all been content to look on and then go home peacefully there would have been no trouble, but what boys would act in such unboyish fashion? Not the boys of Marshalltown, at any rate. It was just our luck to run up against two drunken Indians riding on a single pony, and someone in the party, I don't know who, hit the pony and started him, to bucking.
Angrier Indians were never seen. With a whoop and a yell that went ringing across the prairies they started after us, and how we did leg it! How far some of the others ran I have no means of knowing but I know that I ran every foot of the way back to Marshalltown, nor did I stop until I was safe, as I thought, in my father's house.
My troubles did not end there, however, for along in the darkest hours of the night I started from sleep and saw those two Indians, one standing at the head and one at the foot of the bed, and each of them armed with a tomahawk. That they had come to kill me I was certain, and that they would succeed in doing so seemed to me equally sure. I tried to scream but I could not. I was as powerless as a baby. I finally managed to move and as I did so I saw them vanish through the open doorway and disappear in the darkness.
There was no sleep for me that night, as you may imagine. I fancied that the entire Pottawattomie tribe had gathered about the house and that they would never be content until they had both killed and scalped me. I just lay there and shivered until the dawn came, and I do not think there was a happier boy in the country than I when the morning finally broke and I convinced myself by the evidence of my own eye-sight that there was not so much as even a single Indian about.
As soon as it was possible I told my father about my two unwelcome visitors, but the old man only laughed and declared that I had been dreaming. It was just possible that I had, but I do not believe it. I saw those two Indians as they stood at the head and foot of my bed just as plainly as I ever saw a base-ball, and I have had my eye on the ball a good many times since I first began to play the game. I saw both their painted faces and the tomahawks that they held in their sinewy hands. More than that, I heard them as well as saw them when they went out.
That is the reason why I insist that I was not dreaming. I deny the allegation and defy the alligator!
There were two Indians in my room that night. What they were there for I don't know, and at this late day I don't care, but they were there, and I know it. I shall insist that they were there to my dying day, and they were there!
CHAPTER II. BOYHOOD DAYS AND MEMORIES.
What's in a name? Not much, to be sure, in many of them, but in mine a good deal, for I represent two Michigan towns and two Roman Emperors, Adrian and Constantine. My father had evidently not outgrown his liking for Michigan when I came into the world, and as he was familiar with both Adrian and Constantine and had many friends in both places he concluded to keep them fresh in his memory by naming me after them.
I don't think he gave much consideration to the noble old Romans at that time. In fact, I am inclined to believe that he did not think of them at all, but nevertheless Adrian Constantine I was christened, and it was as Adrian Constantine Anson that my name was first entered upon the roll of the little school at Marshalltown.
I was then in my "smart" years, and what I didn't know about books would have filled a very large library, and I hadn't the slightest desire to know any more. In my youthful mind book-knowledge cut but a small, a very small, figure, and the school house itself was as bad if not worse than the county jail.
The idea of my being cooped up between four walls when the sunbeams were dancing among the leaves outside and the bees were humming among the blossoms, seemed to me the acme of cruelty, and every day that I spent bending over a desk represented to my mind just so many wasted hours and opportunities. I longed through all the weary hours to be running out barefoot on the prairies; to be playing soak-ball, bull pen or two old cat, on one of the vacant lots, or else to be splashing about like a big Newfoundland dog in the cool waters of Lynn Creek.
About that time my father had considerable business to attend to in Chicago and was absent from home for days and weeks at a time. You know the old adage, "When the cat's away," etc.? Well, mouse-like, that was the time in which I played my hardest. I played hookey day after day, and though I was often punished for doing so it had but little effect. Run away from school I would, and run away from school I did until even the old man became disgusted with the idea of trying to make a scholar of me.
Sport of any kind, and particularly sport of an outdoor variety, had for me more attractions than the best book that was ever published. The game of base-ball was then in its infancy and while it was being played to some extent to the eastward of us the craze had not as yet reached Marshalltown. It arrived there later and it struck the town with both feet, too, when it did come.
"Soak Ball" was at this time my favorite sport. It was a game in which the batter was put out while running the bases by being hit with the ball; hence the name. The ball used was a comparatively soft one, yet hard enough to hurt when hurled by a powerful arm, as many of the old-timers as well as myself can testify. It was a good exercise, however, for arms, legs and eyes, and many of the ball players who acquired fame in the early seventies can lay the fact that they did so to the experience and training that this rough game gave to them.
So disgusted did my father finally become with the progress of my education at Marshalltown that he determined upon sending me to the State University at Iowa City. I was unable to pass the examination there the first time that I tried it, but later I succeeded and the old man fondly imagined that I was at last on the high road to wealth, at least so far as book-knowledge would carry me.
But, alas, for his hopes in that direction! I was not a whit better as a student at Iowa City than I had been at home. I was as wild as a mustang and as tough as a pine knot, and the scrapes that I managed to get into were too numerous to mention. The State University finally became too small to hold me and the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, then noted as being one of the strictest schools in the country, was selected as being the proper place for "breaking me into harness," providing that the said "breaking in" performance could be successfully accomplished anywhere.
To Notre Dame I went and if I acquired any honors in the way of scholarships during the brief time that I was there I have never heard of them. Foot-ball, base-ball and fancy skating engrossed the most of my attention, and in all of these branches of sport I attained at least a college reputation. As a fancy skater I excelled, and there were few boys of my age anywhere in the country that could beat me in that line.
The base-ball team that represented Notre Dame at that time was the Juanitas, and of this organization I was a member, playing second base. The bright particular star of this club was my brother Sturgis, who played the center field position. Had he remained in the business he would certainly have made his mark in the profession, but unfortunately he strained his arm one day while playing and was obliged to quit the diamond. He is now a successful business man in the old town and properly thankful that a fate that then seemed most unkind kept him from becoming a professional ball player.
Looking back over my youthful experiences I marvel that I have ever lived to relate them, and that I did not receive at least a hundred thrashings for every one that was given me. I know now that I fully deserved all that I received, and more, too. My father was certainly in those days a most patient man. I have recorded the fact elsewhere that I was as averse to work as I was to study, and I had a way of avoiding it at times that was peculiarly my own.
While I was still a boy in Marshalltown and before I had graduated (?) from either the State University or the college of Notre Dame, my father kept a hotel known as the Anson House. The old gentleman was at that tune the possessor of a silver watch, and to own that watch was the height of my ambition. Time and again I begged him to give it to me, but he had turned a deaf ear to my importunities.
In the back yard of the hotel one day when I had been begging him for the gift harder than usual, there stood a huge pile of wood that needed splitting, and looking at this he remarked, that I could earn the watch if I chose by doing the task. He was about to take a journey at the time and I asked him if he really meant it. He replied that he did, and started away.
I don't think he had any more idea of my doing the task than he had of my flying. I had some ideas of my own on the subject, however, and he was scarcely out of sight before I began to put them into execution. The larder of the hotel was well stocked, and cookies and doughnuts were as good a currency as gold and silver among boys of my acquaintance. This being the case it dawned upon my mind that I could sublet the contract, a plan than I was not long in putting into practice.
Many hands make quick work, and it was not long before I had a little army of boys at work demolishing that wood pile. The chunks that were too big and hard to split we placed on the bottom, then placed the split wood over them. The task was accomplished long before the old gentleman's return, and when on the night of his arrival I took him out and showed him that such was the case he looked a bit astonished. He handed over the watch, though, and for some days afterwards as I strutted about town with it in my pocket I fancied it was as big as the town clock and wondered that everybody that I met in my travels did not stop to ask me the time of day.
It was some time afterwards that my father discovered that the job had been shirked by me, and paid for with the cakes and cookies taken from his own larder, but it was then too late to say anything and I guess, if the truth were known, he chuckled to himself over the manner in which lie had been outwitted.
The old gentleman seldom became very angry with me, no matter what sort of a scrape I might have gotten into, and the only time that he really gave me a good dressing down that I remember was when I had traded during his absence from home his prize gun for a Llewellyn setter. When he returned and found what I had done he was as mad as a hornet, but quieted down after I had told him that he had better go hunting with her before making so much fuss. This he did and was so pleased with the dog's behavior that he forgave me for the trick that I had played him. That the dog was worth more than the gun, the sequel proved.
A man by the name of Dwight who lived down in the bottoms had given his boy instructions to kill a black-and-tan dog if he found it in the vicinity of his sheep. The lad, who did not know one dog from another, killed the setter and then the old gentleman boiled over again. He demanded pay for the dog, which was refused. Then he sued, and a jury awarded him damages to the amount of two hundred dollars, all of which goes to prove that I was even then a pretty good judge of dogs, although I had not been blessed with a bench show experience.
I may state right here that my father and I were more like a couple of chums at school together than like father and son. We fished together, shot together, played ball together, poker together and I regret to say that we fought together. In the early days I got rather the worst of these arguments, but later on I managed to hold my own and sometimes to get even a shade the better of it.
The old gentleman was an athlete of no mean ability. He was a crack shot, a good ball player and a man that could play a game of billiards that in those days was regarded as something wonderful for an amateur. My love of sport, therefore, came to me naturally. I inherited it, and if I have excelled in any particular branch it is because of my father's teachings. He was a square sport, and one that had no use for anything that savored of crookedness. There was nothing whatever of the Puritan in his makeup, and from my early youth he allowed me to participate in any sort of game that took my fancy. He had no idea at that time of my ever becoming a professional. Neither had I. There were but few professional sports outside of the gamblers, and even these few led a most precarious existence.
I was quite an expert at billiards long before I was ever heard of as a ball player. There was a billiard table in the old Anson House and it was upon that that I practiced when I was scarcely large enough to handle a cue. It was rather a primitive piece of furniture, but it answered the purpose for which it had been designed. It was one of the old six pocket affairs, with a bass-wood bed instead of slate, and the balls sometimes went wabbling over it very much the same fashion as eggs would roll if pushed about on a kitchen table with a broomstick. In spite of having to use such poor tools I soon became quite proficient at the game and many a poor drummer was taken into camp by the long, gawky country lad at Marshalltown, whose backers were always looking about for a chance to make some easy money.
Next to base-ball, billiards was at that time my favorite sport and there was not an hour in the day that I was not willing to leave anything that I might be engaged upon to take a hand in either one of these games.
When it came to weeding a garden or hoeing a field of corn I was not to be relied upon, but at laying out a ball, ground I was a whole team. The public square at Marshalltown, the land for which had been donated, by my father, struck me as being an ideal place to play ball in. There were too many trees growing there, however, to make it available for the purpose. I had made up my mind to turn it into a ball ground in spite of this, and shouldering an ax one fine morning I started in.
How long it took me to accomplish the purpose I had in view I have forgotten, but I know that I succeeded finely in getting the timber all out of the way. It was hard work, but you see the base-ball fever was on me and that treeless park for many a long day after was a spot hat I took great pride in.
At the present time it is shaded by stately elms, while, almost in the center of its velvet lawn, flanked by cannon, stands a handsome stone courthouse that is the pride of Marshall County.
Then it was ankle deep in meadow grass and surrounded by a low picket fence over which the ball was often batted, both by members of the home team and by their visitors from abroad.
Many a broken window in Main Street the Anson family were responsible for in those days, but as all the owners of stores on that thoroughfare in the immediate vicinity of the grounds were base-ball enthusiasts, broken windows counted for but little so long as Marshalltown carried off the honors.
CHAPTER III. SOME FACTS ABOUT THE NATIONAL GAME.
Just at what particular time the base-ball fever became epidemic in Marshalltown it is difficult to say, for the reason that, unfortunately, all of the records of the game there, together with the trophies accumulated, were destroyed by a fire that swept the place in 1897, and that also destroyed all of the files of the newspapers then published there.
The fever had been raging in the East many years previous to that time, however, and had gradually worked its way over the mountains and across the broad prairies until the sport had obtained a foothold in every little village and hamlet in the land. Before entering further on my experience it may be well to give here and now a brief history of the game and its origin.
When and where the game first made its appearance is a matter of great uncertainty, but the general opinion of the historians seems to be that by some mysterious process of evolution it developed from the boys' game of more than a century ago, then known as "one old cat," in which there was a pitcher, a catcher, and a batter. John M. Ward, a famous base-ball player in his day, and now a prosperous lawyer in the city of Brooklyn, and the late Professor Proctor, carried on a controversy through the columns of the New York newspapers in 1888, the latter claiming that base-ball was taken from the old English game of "rounders," while Ward argued that base-ball was evolved from the boys' game, as above stated, and was distinctly an American game, he plainly proving that it had no connection whatever with "rounders."
The game of base-ball probably owed its name to the fact that bases were used in making its runs, and were one of its prominent features.
There seems to be no doubt that the game was played in the United States as early at least as the beginning of the present century, for Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes declared a few years ago that base-ball was one of the sports of his college days, and the autocrat of the breakfast table graduated at Harvard in 1829. Along in 1842 a number of gentlemen, residents of New York City, were in the habit of playing the game as a means of exercise on the vacant lot at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Twenty-sixth Street, where Madison Square Garden now stands. In 1845 they formed themselves into a permanent organization known as the Knickerbocker Club, and drew up the first code of playing rules of the game, which were very simple as compared with the complex rules which govern the game of the present time, and which are certainly changed in such a way as to keep one busy in keeping track of them.
The grounds of this parent organization were soon transferred to the Elysian Fields, at Hoboken, N. J., where the Knickerbockers played their first match game on June 19th, 1846, their opponents not being an organized club, but merely a party of gentlemen who played together frequently, and styled themselves the New York Club. The New Yorks won easily in four innings, the game in those days being won by the club first making twenty-one runs on even innings. The Knickerbockers played at Hoboken for many years, passing out of existence only in 1882. In 1853 the Olympic Club of Philadelphia was organized for the purpose of playing town-ball, a game which had some slight resemblance to base-ball. The Olympic Club, however, did not adopt the game of base-ball until 1860, and consequently cannot claim priority over the Knickerbockers, although it was one of the oldest ball-playing organizations in existence, and was disbanded only a few years ago.
In New England a game of base-ball known by the distinctive title of "The New England game" was in vogue about fifty years ago. It was played with a small, light ball, which was thrown over-hand to the bat, and was different from the "New York game" as practiced by the Knickerbockers, Gotham, Eagle, and Empire Clubs of that city. The first regularly organized club in Massachusetts playing the present style of base-ball was the Olympic Club of Boston, which was established in 1854, and in the following year participated in the first match game played in that locality, its opponents being the Elm Tree team. The first match games in Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington were played in 1860. For several years the Knickerbocker Club was alone in the field, but after a while similar clubs began to organize, while in 1857 an association was formed which the following year developed into the National Association.
The series of rules prepared by a committee of the principal clubs of New York City governed all games prior to 1857, but on January 22d, 1857, a convention of clubs was held at which a new code of rules was enacted. On March 10th, 1858, delegates from twenty-five clubs of New York and Brooklyn met and organized the National Association of Base-ball Players, which for thirteen successive seasons annually revised the playing rules, and decided all disputes arising in base-ball.
The first series of contests for the championship took place during 1858 and 1859. At that time the Elysian Fields, Hoboken, N. J., were the great center of base-ball playing, and here the Knickerbockers, Eagle, Gotham and Empire Clubs of New York City ruled supreme.
A rival sprung up, however, in the Atlantic Club of Brooklyn, and its success led to the arrangement of a series of games between selected nines of the New York and Brooklyn Clubs in 1858. In these encounters New York proved victorious, winning the first and third games by the respective scores of 22 to 18, and 29 to 18, while Brooklyn won the second contest by 29 to 8. In October, 1861, another contest took place between the representative nines of New York and Brooklyn for the silver ball presented by the New York Clipper, and Brooklyn easily won by a score of 18 to 6. The Civil war materially affected the progress of the game in 1861, '62 and '63 and but little base-ball was played, many wielders of the bat having laid aside the ash to shoulder the musket.
The Atlantic and Eckford Clubs of Brooklyn were the chief contestants for the championship in 1862, the Eckfords then wresting the championship away from the Atlantics, and retaining it also during the succeeding season, when they were credited with an unbroken succession of victories. The champion nine of the Eckford Club in 1863 were Sprague, pitcher; Beach, catcher; Roach, Wood and Duffy on the bases; Devyr, shortstop; and Manolt, Swandell and Josh Snyder in the outfield.
The championship reverted back to the Atlantics in 1864, and they held the nominal title until near the close of 1867, their chief competitors being the Athletics of Philadelphia and the Mutuals of New York City.
The Athletics held the nominal championship longer than any other club, and also claims the credit of not being defeated in any game played during 1864 and 1865, the feat of going through two successive seasons without a defeat being unprecedented at that time in base-ball history. The Eckfords of Brooklyn, however, went through the season of 1863 without losing a game, and the Cincinnati Reds, under the management of the late Harry Wright, accomplished a similar feat in 1869, the latter at the time meeting all of the best teams in the country, both East and West.
The Atlantic's champion nine in 1864 and 1865 were Pratt, pitcher; Pearce, catcher; Stark, Crane and C. Smith, on the bases; Galvin, shortstop; and Chapman, P. O'Brien and S. Smith in the outfield. Frank Norton caught during the latter part of the season and Pearce played shortstop.
The Athletics in 1866 played all of the strongest clubs in the country and were only twice defeated, once by the Atlantics of Brooklyn, and once by the Unions of Morrisania. The first game between the Atlantics and Athletics for the championship took place October 1st, 1866, in Philadelphia, the number of people present inside and outside the inclosed grounds being estimated as high as 30,000, it being the largest attendance known at the baseball game up to that time. Inside the inclosure the crowd was immense, and packed so close there was no room for the players to field. An attempt was made, however, to play the game, but one inning was sufficient to show that it was impossible, and after a vain attempt to clear the field both parties reluctantly consented to a postponement.
The postponed game was played October 22d, in Philadelphia.
The price of tickets was placed at one dollar and upwards, and two thousand people paid the "steep" price of admission, the highest ever charged for mere admission to the grounds, while five or six thousand more witnessed the game from the surrounding embankment. Rain and darkness obliged the umpire to call the game at the end of the second inning, the victory remaining with the Athletics, by the decisive totals of 31 to 12. A dispute about the gate money prevented the playing of the decisive game of the season.
The Unions of Morrisiana, by defeating the Atlantics in two out of three games in the latter part of the season of 1867, became entitled to the nominal championship, which during the next two seasons was shifted back and forth between the leading clubs of New York and Brooklyn. The Athletics in 1868, and the Cincinnatis in 1869, had, however, the best records of their respective seasons, and were generally acknowledged as the virtual champions.
The Athletics of Philadelphia in 1866 had McBride, pitcher; Dockney, catcher; Berkenstock, Reach and Pike on the bases; Wilkins, shortstop; and Sensenderfer, Fisler and Kleinfelder in the outfield. Their nine presented few changes during the next two seasons, Dockney, Berkenstock and Pike giving way to Radcliff, Cuthbert and Berry in 1867, and Schafer taking Kleinfelder's place in 1868.
The Cincinnati nine in 1869 were Brainard, pitcher; Allison, catcher; Gould, Sweasy and Waterman on the bases; George Wright, shortstop, and Leonard, Harry Wright and McVey in the outfield.
In 1868 the late Frank Queen, proprietor and editor of the New York Clipper, offered a series of prizes to be contested for by the leading clubs of the country, a gold ball being offered for the champion club, and a gold badge to the player in each position, from catcher to right field, who had the best batting average. The official award gave the majority of the prizes to the Athletic club. McBride, Radcliff, Fisler, Reach and Sensenderfer, having excelled in their respective positions of pitcher, catcher, first base, second base, and center field. Waterman, Hatfield and Johnson, of the Cincinnatis, excelled in the positions of third base, left field and right field, and George Wright of the Unions, of Morrisiania as shortstop. The gold ball was also officially awarded to the Athletics as the emblem of championship for the season of 1868.
The Atlantics of Brooklyn were virtually the champions of 1870, being the first club to deprive the Cincinnati Reds of the prestige of invincibility which had marked their career during the preceding season. The inaugural contest between these clubs in 1870 took place June 14th on the Capitoline grounds at Brooklyn, N. Y., the Atlantics then winning by a score of 8 to 7 after an exciting struggle of eleven innings. The return game was played September 2d, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and resulted in a decisive victory for the Reds, by a score of 14 to 3.
This necessitated a third or decisive game, which was played in Philadelphia October 6th, and this the Atlantics won by a score of 11 to 7.
The Atlantics in that year had Zettlein, pitcher; Ferguson, catcher; Start, Pike and Smith on the bases; Pearce, shortstop, and Chapman, Hall and McDonald on the outfield.
The newspapers throughout the country had by this time begun to pay unusual attention to the game, and the craze was spreading like wildfire all over the country, every little country town boasting of its nine, and as these were for the greater part made up of home players, local feeling ran high, and the doings of "our team" furnished the chief subject of conversation at the corner grocery, and wherever else the citizens were wont to congregate.
With the advent of the professional player the game in the larger towns took on a new lease of life, but in the smaller places where they could not afford the expense necessary to the keeping of a first-class team it ceased to be the main attraction and interest was centered in the doings of the teams of the larger places.
That the professional player improved the game itself goes without saying as being a business with him instead of a pastime, and one upon which his daily bread depended, he went into it with his whole soul, developing its beauties in a way that was impossible to the amateur who could only give to it the time that he could spare after the business hours of the day.
This was the situation at the time that I first entered tile base-ball arena, and, looking back, when I come to compare the games of those days with the games of to-day and note the many changes that have taken place, I cannot but marvel at the improvement made and at the interest that the game has everywhere excited.
CHAPTER IV. FURTHER FACTS AND FIGURES.
The professional player of those early days and the professional player of the present time were totally different personages. When professionalism first crept into the ranks it was generally the custom to import from abroad some player who had made a name for himself, playing some certain position, and furnish him with a business situation so that his services might be called for when needed, and so strong was the local pride taken in the success of the team that business men were not averse to furnishing such a man with a position when they were informed that it would be for the good of the home organization.
Prior to the year 1868 the professional was, comparatively speaking, an unknown quantity on the ball field, though it may be set down here as a fact that on more than one occasion previous to that time "the laborer had been found worthy of his hire," even in base-ball, though that matter had been kept a secret as far as possible, even in the home circle.
Up to the year mentioned the rules of the National Association had prohibited the employment of any paid player in a club nine, but at that time so strong had the rivalry become between the leading clubs of the principal cities that the practice of compensating players had become more honored in the breach than in the observance and the law was practically a dead letter so far as these clubs were concerned.
The growth of the professional class of players, and the consequent inequality in strength between these and the amateur players made a distinction necessary and in 1871 the National Association split up, the professional clubs forming an association of their own.
The first series of championship games under a regular official code of rules was then established, and since then the contests for the professional championship have been the events of each season's play.
The first convention of delegates from avowedly professional clubs was held March 17th, 1871, in New York City, and a code of rules were then adopted, the principal clause being the one suggested by the Athletic Club of Philadelphia, to the effect that the championship should belong to the club which won the greatest number of games in a series of five with every other contesting club.
The professional Association thus organized consisted of the following clubs: Athletics of Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Forest Citys of Cleveland, Forest Citys of Rockford, Haymakers of Troy, Kekiongas of Fort Wayne, Mutuals of New York' City, and Olympics of Washington. The Eckford Club of Brooklyn entered the Association about the middle of the season, but its games were not counted. The Kekiongas disbanded in July, but their games were thrown out.
That season marked my advent on the diamond as a professional, I being a member of the Forest Citys of Rockford; so it can readily be seen that I was among the first of the men in America who made of base-ball playing a business.
The additions to the Association in 1872 were the Atlantic and Eckford of Brooklyn, Baltimore, National of Washington, and Mansfield of Middletown, Conn., the last mentioned, however, disbanding before the close of the championship season. The Forest Citys of Rockford did not enter the arena that year, but I was "still in the ring," having transferred my services to the Athletics of Philadelphia, where I remained until the formation of the National League in 1876.
In 1875 the Athletics had a rival in the new Philadelphia club; the Maryland of Baltimore and the Resolute of Elizabeth, N. J., also entering the championship arena. The Forest City of Cleveland and the Eckford of Brooklyn dropped out after 1872, and the two Washington clubs were consolidated. The Chicago club, which had been broken up by the great fire of 1871 and had been out of existence in 1872 and 1873, again entered the Association in 1874, when Hartford was for the first time represented by a professional club. The Washington, Resolute and the Maryland Clubs were not members of the Association in that year.
Thirteen professional clubs competed for the championship in 1875, the St. Louis team being the only one of the new entries that did not disband before the season closed. This was the last season of the Professional Association, it being superseded by the National League, an organization which still exists, though it lacks the brains and power that carried it on to success in, its earlier days, this being notably the case in Chicago and New York, where the clubs representing these cities have gone down the toboggan slide with lightning-like rapidity.
In this connection the names of the teams winning the Professional Association championships, together with the players composing them are given:
1871. Athletic, McBride, pitcher; Malone, catcher; Fisler, Reach and Meyerle on the bases; Radcliffe, shortstop; Cuthbert, Senserderfer and Heubel in the outfield, and Bechtel and Pratt, substitutes.
1872, Boston, Spalding, pitcher; McVey, catcher; Gould, Barnes and Schafer on the bases; George Wright, shortstop; Leonard, Harry Wright and Rogers, in the outfield; and Birdsall and Ryan, substitutes.
1873. Boston, Spalding, pitcher; Jas. White, catcher; Jas. O'Rourke, Barnes and Schafer on the bases; George Wright, shortstop; Leonard, Harry Wright and Manning in the outfield; and Birdsall and Sweasey, substitutes. Addy took Manning's place in the latter part of the season.
1874. Boston, Spalding, pitcher; McVey, catcher; White, Barnes and Schafer on the bases; George Wright, shortstop; Leonard, Hall and Jas. O'Rourke in the outfield; and Harry Wright and Beal, substitutes.
1875. Boston, Spalding, pitcher; Jas. White, catcher; McVey, Barnes and Schafer on the Bases; George Wright, shortstop; Leonard, Jas. O'Rourke and Manning in the outfield, and Harry Wright and Beal, substitutes. Heifert and Latham each played first base during part of the season.
It will thus be seen that the Boston Club held the championship in those early days for four successive seasons, and playing against them as I did I can bear witness to their strength and skill as ball players.
Many of the men, who like myself were among the first to enter the professional ranks in those days, have achieved distinction in the business world, the notables among them being A. G. Spalding, now head of the largest sporting goods house in the world, with headquarters in Chicago; George Wright, who is the head of a similar establishment at Boston, and Al Reach, who is engaged in the same line of business at Philadelphia, while others, not so successful, have managed to earn a living outside of the arena, and others still, have crossed "the great divide" leaving behind them little save a memory and a name.
In those early days of the game the rules required a straight arm delivery, and the old-time pitchers found it a difficult matter to obtain speed save by means of an underhand throw or jerk of the ball. Creighton, of the Excelsiors of Brooklyn, however, with his unusually swift pitching puzzled nearly all of the opposing teams as early as 1860. Sprague developed great speed, according to the early chroniclers of the game, while with the Eckford Club of the same city in 1863, and Tom Pratt and McBride of the Athletics were also among the first of the old-time pitchers to attain speed in their delivery. About 1865, Martin pitched a slow and deceptive drop ball, it being a style of delivery peculiarly his own, and one I have never seen used by any one else, though Cunningham of Louisville uses it to a certain extent.
The greatest change ever made in the National Game was the introduction of what is known as curve pitching, followed as it was several seasons afterwards by the removal of all restrictions on the method of delivering the ball to the batter. Arthur, known under the sobriquet of "Candy," Cummings of Brooklyn is generally conceded to have been the first to introduce curve pitching, which he did about 1867 or 1868. Mount, the pitcher of the Princeton College and Avery of Yale are accredited with using the curve about 1875, but Mathews of the New York Mutuals and Nolan of the Indianapolis team were among the first of the professional pitchers, after Cummings, to become proficient in its use, which was generally adopted in 1877, and to the skill acquired by both of these men in handling of the ball I can testify by personal experience, having had to face them, bat in hand, on more than one occasion.
Many people, including prominent scientists, were for a long time loth to believe that a ball could be curved in the air, but they were soon satisfied by practical tests, publicly made, as to the truth of the matter.
With the doing away with the restrictions that governed the methods of the pitcher's delivery of the ball and the introduction of the curve the running up of large scores in the game became an impossibility, and the batsman was placed at a decided disadvantage.
Reading over the scores of some of those old-time games in the present day one becomes lost in wonder when he thinks of the amount of foot-racing, both around the bases and chasing the ball, that was indulged in by those players of a past generation. Here are some sample performances taken from a history of base-ball, compiled by Al Wright of New York and published in the Clipper Annual of 1891, which go to illustrate the point in question.
The largest number of runs ever made by a club in a game was by the Niagara Club of Buffalo, N. Y., June 8th, 1869, when they defeated the Columbias of that city by the remarkable score of 209 to 10, two of the Niagaras scoring twenty-five runs each, and the least number of runs, scored by any one batsman amounted to twenty. Fifty-eight runs were made in the eighth inning and only three hours were occupied in amassing this mammoth total. Just think of it! Such a performance as that in these days would be a sheer impossibility, and that such is the case the base-ball players should be devoutly thankful, and, mind you, this performance was made by an amateur team and not by a team of professionals.
One hundred runs and upward have been scored in a game no less than twenty-five times, the Athletics of Philadelphia accomplishing this feat nine times in 1865 and 1866, and altogether being credited with scores of 162, 131, 119, 118, 114, 114, 110, 107, 106, 104, 101, and 101. On October 20th, 1865, the Athletics defeated the Williamsport Club by 101 to 8 in the morning, and the Alerts of Danville, Pa., by 162 to 11 in the afternoon. Al Reach in these two games alone scored thirty-four runs.
It strikes me that the ball players of those days earned their salaries even if they did not get them, no matter what other folks may think about it.
In 1867, a game was played in which, the losers made 91 runs and the winning club 123, of which 51 were made in the last inning. The Chicagos defeated the Memphis team May 13th, 1870, by a score of 157 to 1, and the Forest City Club of Cleveland four days later beat a local team 132 to 1, only five innings being played. The Forest Citys made in these five innings no fewer than 101 safe hits, with a total of 180 bases, this being an unequalled record. The Unions of Morrisiania were credited with 100 safe hits in a nine-inning game in 1866.
The largest score on record by professional clubs was made by the Atlantics of Brooklyn and the Athletics of Philadelphia July 5th, 1869, when the former won by 51 to 48. Fifteen thousand people paid admission to the Capitoline Grounds, Brooklyn, where the game was played, and the Atlantics made six home runs and the Athletics three during its progress. The greatest number of runs in an inning in a first-class game was scored by the Atlantics of Brooklyn in a match with the New York Mutuals, October 16th, 1861, when they scored 26 runs in their third inning. George Wright umpired a game between amateur clubs in Washington, D. C., in 1867, in which the winners made 68 runs in an inning, the largest total ever made.
The most one-sided contest between first class clubs was that between the Mutuals and Chicagos June 14th, 1874, when the former won by 38 to 1, the Chicagos making only two safe hits. The greatest number of home runs in any one game was credited to the Athletics of Philadelphia, September 30th, 1865, when they made twenty-five against the National Club of Jersey City, Reach, Kleinfelder and Potter each having five home runs to their credit on this occasion. The same club was credited with nineteen home runs May 9th, 1866, while playing an amateur club at New Castle, Delaware. Harry Wright, while playing with the Cincinnatis against the Holt Club June 22d, 1867, at Newport, Ky., made seven home runs, the largest number ever scored by any individual player in a game, though "Lip" Pike followed closely, he making six home runs, five in succession, for the Athletics against the Alerts, July 16th, 1866, in Philadelphia.
These were, as a matter of course, exceptional performances, and ones that would be impossible in these days of great speed and curve pitching, but serve to show that there were ball players, and good ones, even in those days when the National Game was as yet, comparatively speaking, in its infancy, and the National League, of the formation and progress of which I will speak later on as yet unheard of.
It must be remembered that, the greater number of these old-time games were not played upon enclosed grounds and that the batter in many cases had no fences to prevent him from lining them out, while the pitcher was so hampered by rules and regulations as to give the batsman every advantage, while now it is the pitcher that enjoys a wide latitude and the batsman who is hampered.
It was a much easier matter to hit the old underhand delivery, with its straight ball, and to send the pigskin screaming through the air and over a low picket fence, than to hit the swift curved ball of to-day and lift it over the high board fences that surround the professional grounds, as any old-time player can testify.
CHAPTER V. THE GAME AT MARSHALLTOWN.
If my memory serves me rightly it was some time in the year 1866 that the Marshalltown Base-Ball Club, of which my father was a prominent member, sprung into existence, and among the men who made up the team at that time were many who have since become prominent in the history not only of Marshalltown but of Marshall County as well, among them being Captain Shaw, Emmett Green, A. B. Cooper, S. R. Anson and the old gentleman himself, it being owing to my father's exertions that Marshalltown acquired the county seat, and he has since served the town as both Mayor and Councilman and seen it grow from a single log cabin to a prosperous city.
Prior to the organization of this team base-ball had been played there in a desultory fashion for some time, but with its formation the fever broke out in its most virulent form, and it was not many weeks before the entire town had gone base-ball crazy, the fever seemingly attacking everybody in the place save the baby in arms, which doubtless escaped merely because of its extreme youth and lack of understanding.
In the absence of any records relating to those early days it is impossible for me to say just who, the Marshalltown team beat and who it did not, but I do know that long before I became a member of it and while I was still playing with the second nine, which went by the name of the "Stars," the team enjoyed a ball-playing reputation second to none in the State and the doings of "our team" every week occupied a conspicuous place in the columns of the local papers, the editors of which might have been seen enjoying the sport and occupying a front seat on the grass at every game, with note book in hand recording each and every play in long-hand, for the score book which has since made matters so easy for the game's chroniclers had not then been perfected and the club's official scorer kept a record of the tallies made by means of notches cut with his jack-knife in a stick provided for the occasion.
Prior to June, 1867, the Marshalltown team had acquired for itself a reputation that extended throughout the length and breadth of the State, and at Waterloo, where a tournament was given, they had beaten everything that came against them. In a tournament given at Belle Plaine in either that year or the next they put in an appearance to contest for a silk flag given by the ladies of that town, but so great was the respect that they inspired that the other visiting clubs refused to play against them unless they were given the odds of six put-outs as against the regular three. This was handicapping with a vengeance, but even at these odds the Marshalltown aggregation was too much for its competitors and the flag was brought home in triumph, where, as may be imagined, a great reception awaited the players, the whole town turning out en masse to do them honor.
There was nothing too good for the ball players of those days and they were made much of wherever they chose to go. A card of invitation that recently came into my possession and that illustrates this fact, reads as follows:
Empire Base Ball Club.
Yourself and lady are cordially invited to attend a Social Party at Lincoln Hall, on Thursday Evening, June 27, 1867, given under the auspices of the Empire Base Ball Club of Waterloo, complimentary to their guests, the Marshalltown B. B. C.
While this aggregation of home talent was busily engaged in acquiring fame but not fortune let no one think for a moment that I was overlooking my opportunities, even though I were only a member of the second nine. On the contrary, I was practicing early and late, and if I had any great ambition it was to play in the first nine, and with this end in view I neglected even my meals in order that I might become worthy of the honor.
My father was as enthusiastic over the game as I was myself and during the long summer seasons the moment that we had swallowed our supper, or, rather, bolted it, he and I would betake ourselves to the ball grounds, where we would practice until the gathering darkness put a stop to our playing.
My brother Sturgis, who was also a member of the team, was not so enthusiastic over base-ball as were my father and myself, and he would finish his supper in a leisurely fashion before following us to the grounds. He was far above the average as a player, however, and excelled both as a thrower and a batsman. I have seen him on more than one occasion throw a ball a distance of from 125 to 130 yards, and in a game that was played at Omaha, Neb., he is credited with making the longest hit ever seen there, the old-timers declaring that he knocked the ball out of sight, which must be true, because nobody was ever able to find it.
It was some time after the tournaments at Belle Plaine and Waterloo before I was promoted to the dignity of a first-niner, and then it was due to the solicitation of my father, who declared that I played as good ball as anybody in the team, even if I was "only a kid."
If ever there was a proud youngster I was one at that particular time, and I think I justified the old gentleman's good opinion of me by playing fairly good ball, at least many of my friends were good enough to tell me so.
With my father playing third base, my brother playing center field and myself playing second base the Anson family was pretty well represented on that old Marshalltown nine, and as the team held the State championship for several years the Anson trio must at least have done their share of the playing.
It was while I was away at Notre Dame that misfortune came to Marshalltown. The Des Moines Club challenged for the flag and the home team accepted the defy. The Des Moines organization was then one of the strongest in the State. The game was played at Marshalltown, and to the horror and astonishment of the good people of that town, who had come to look upon their club as invincible, Des Moines won, and when they went back to the State capital they took the emblem of the championship with them.
This emblem I determined the town should have back, and immediately upon my return from the Indiana College I organized a nine and challenged for the trophy. That team was made up as follows:
Kenny Williams, pitcher; Emmett Green, catcher; A. B. Cooper, A. C. Anson and Henry Anson on the bases; Pete Hoskins, shortstop; Sam Sager, Sturgis Anson and Milton Ellis in the outfield; A. J. Cooper, substitute.
We had the best wishes of the town with us when we departed for Des Moines and were accompanied by quite a delegation of the townspeople who were prepared to wager to some extent on our success. The game was played in the presence of a big crowd and when we came back to Marshalltown the flag came with us and there it remained until, with the other trophies that the club had accumulated, it went up in smoke.
The night of our return there was "a hot time in the old town," and had there been any keys to the city I am pretty certain that we would have been presented with them.
The fame of the Forest City Club of Rockford, one of the first professional clubs to be organized in the West, had been blown across the prairies until it reached Marshalltown, so when they came through Iowa on an exhibition tour after the close of their regular season we arranged for a game with them. They had been winning all along the line by scores that mounted up all the way from 30 to 100 to 1, and while we did not expect to beat them, yet we did expect to give them a better run than they had yet had for their money since the close of the professional season.
The announcement of the Rockford Club's visit naturally excited an intense amount of interest all through that section of the country and when the day set for the game arrived the town was crowded with visitors from all parts of the State. Accompanying the Forest Citys was a large delegation of Chicago sporting men, who had come prepared to wager their money that the Marshalltown aggregation would be beaten by a score varying all the way from 8 to 20 to 1, and they found a good many takers among the townspeople who had seen us play and who had a lot of confidence in our ability to hold the visitor's score down to a low figure.
Upon the result of the game A. G. Spalding, who was the pitcher for the Forest Citys, alleges that my father wagered a cow, but this the old gentleman indignantly denies, and he further declares that not a single wager of any sort was made by any member of the team.
Be this as it may, one thing is certain, and that is that the game was witnessed by one of the largest crowds that had ever gathered around a ball ground in Marshalltown, and we felt that we had every reason to feel elated when at the end of the ninth inning the score stood at 18 to 3 in their favor.
So disgusted were the visitors and their followers over the showing that we had made in spite of their best endeavors that they at once proceeded to arrange another game for the next day, cancelling another date ahead in order to do so.
Speaking of this second game my father says: "The rules of the game at that time made the playing of a 'Ryan dead ball' compulsory, and this it was the province of the home club to furnish, and this was the sort of a ball that was played with the first day. To bat such a ball as this to any great distance was impossible and our fielders were placed well in for the second game, just as they had been in the first, but we soon discovered that the balls were going far beyond us, and on noting their positions when our turn to bat came we found their fielders placed much further out than on the day before. My first impression was that the great flights taken by the ball were due to the tremendous batting, but later on I became convinced that there was something wrong with the ball, and called for time to investigate the matter.
"On questioning our unsophisticated management I discovered that the visitors had generously (?) offered to furnish the ball for the second game, as we had furnished the ball for the first, and had been allowed to do so. We later learned that they had skinned the liveliest kind of a 'Bounding Rock' and re-covered it with a 'Ryan Dead Ball' cover. This enabled them to get ahead at the start, but after we had learned of the deception we held them down so close that they won back but a very small share of the money that they had lost on the game of the day before, though they beat us by a score of 35 to 5.
"Let me say right here, too, that the visitors had their own umpire with them, and he was allowed to umpire the game. He let Al Spalding do about as he pleased, and pitch as many balls as he wished without calling them, and once when I was at the bat and he could not induce me to hit at the wild ones that he was sending in he fired a vicious one straight in my direction, when, becoming irritated in my turn, I dropped the bat and walked out in his direction with a view of administering a little proper punishment to the frisky gentleman. He discovered what was coming, however, and meekly crawled back, piteously begging pardon and declaring it all a mistake. There was one result of the game, however, which was that when the Rockford people were organizing a professional nine they wrote to Marshalltown and tried to secure the whole Anson family, and Adrian, who was still only a boy, was allowed to sign with them, I retaining his older brother at home to aid me in my business."
I am inclined to think that the old gentleman is mistaken in the substitution of a "Bounding Rock" for a "Ryan Dead Ball" in that game, although I do remember that the stitching was different from anything that we had ever seen before, and it may be that we were fooled as he has stated. If so the trick was certainly a clever one.
That same fall Sager and Haskins were engaged by the Rockford team, and I have always thought that it was due to the representations made by them that I was engaged to play with the Forest Citys the following season. I signed with them for a salary of sixty-six dollars a month, which was then considered a fairly good salary for a ball player, and especially one who was only eighteen years old and a green country lad at that.
All that winter Sager and I practiced as best we could in the loft of my father's barn and I worked as hard as I knew how in order to become proficient in the ball-playing art.
Before saying farewell to Marshalltown and its ball players let me relate a most ludicrous incident that took place there some time before my departure. A feeling of most intense rivalry in the base-ball line existed between Des Moines and Clinton, Iowa, and one time when the former had a match on with the latter I received an offer of fifty dollars from the Clinton team to go on there and play with them in a single game.
Now fifty dollars at that time was more money than I had ever had at any one time in my life, and so without consulting any one I determined to accept the offer. I knew that I would be compelled to disguise myself in order to escape recognition either by members of the Des Moines team or by some of the spectators, and this I proceeded to do by dying my hair, staining my skin, etc.
I did not think that my own father could recognize me, when I completed my preparations and started to the depot to take the train for Des Moines, but that was where I made a mistake. The old gentleman ran against me on the platform, penetrated my disguise at once and asked me where I was going. I told him, and then he remarked that I should do no such thing, and he started me back home in a hurry. When he got there he gave me a lecture, told me that such a proceeding on my part was not honest and would ruin my reputation. In fact, he made me thoroughly ashamed of myself. The team from Clinton had to get along without my services, but I shall never forget what a time I had in getting the dye out of my hair and the stain from my skin.
That fifty dollars that I didn't get bothered me, too, for a long time afterwards. I am glad now, however, that the old gentleman prevented me getting it. Dishonesty does not pay in base-ball any better than it does in any other business, and that I learned the lesson early in life is a part of my good fortune.
CHAPTER VI. MY EXPERIENCE AT ROCKFORD.
I can remember almost as well as if it were but yesterday my first experience as a ball player at Rockford. It was early in the spring, and so cold that a winter overcoat was comfortable. I had been there but a day or two when I received orders from the management to report one afternoon at the ball grounds for practice. It was a day better fitted for telling stories around a blazing fire than for playing ball, but orders were orders, and I obeyed them. I soon found that it was to test my qualities as a batsman that I had been ordered to report. A bleak March wind blew across the enclosure, and as I doffed my coat and took my stand at the plate I shivered as though suffering from the ague. This was partially from the effects of the cold and partially from the effects of what actors call stage fright, and I do not mind saying right now that the latter had more than the former to do with it. You must remember that I was "a stranger in a strange land," a "kid" both as to years and experience, with a knowledge that my future very largely depended upon the showing that I might make.
Facing me was "Cherokee Fisher," one of the swiftest of the old-time underhand pitchers, a man that I had heard a great deal about, but whom I had never before seen, while watching my every move from the stand were the directors of the team, conspicuous among them being Hiram Waldo, whose judgment in base-ball matters was at that time second to no man's in the West, and a man that I have always been proud to call my friend.
I can remember now that I had spent some considerable time in selecting a bat and that I was wondering in my own mind whether I should be able to hit the ball or not. Finally Fisher began sending them in with all the speed for which he was noted. I let a couple go by and then I slammed one out in the right field, and with that first hit my confidence came back to me. From that time on I batted Fisher successfully, but the most of my hits were to the right field, owing to the fact that I could not at that time successfully gauge his delivery, which was much swifter than anything that I had ever been up against.
In after years a hit to right field was considered "the proper caper," and the man who could line a ball out in that direction at the proper time was looked upon as a most successful batsman. It was to their ability in that line of hitting that the Bostons for many years owed their success in winning the championship, though it took some time for their rivals in the base-ball arena to catch on to that fact.
After that time I was informed by Mr. Waldo that I was "all right," and as you may imagine this assurance coming from his lips was a most welcome one, as it meant at that time a great deal to me, a fact that, young as I was, I thoroughly appreciated.
The make-up of the Rockford Club that season was as follows: Hastings, catcher; Fisher, pitcher; Fulmer, shortstop; Mack, first base; Addy, second base; Anson, third base; Ham, left fielder; Bird center fielder; and Stires, right fielder; Mayer, substitute.
This was a fairly strong organization for those days, and especially so when the fact is taken into consideration that Rockford was but a little country town then and the smallest place in size of any in the country that sup-ported a professional league team, and that the venture was never a paying one is scarcely to be wondered at. To be sure, it was a good base-ball town of its size, but it was not large enough to support an expensive team, and for that reason it dropped out of the arena after the season of 1871 was over, it being unable to hold its players at the salaries that it could then afford to pay.
There were several changes in the make-up of the team before the season was over, but the names of the players as I have given them were those whose averages were turned in by the Official Scorer of the league at the end of the season, they having all, with one exception, played in twenty-five games, that exception being Fulmer, who participated in but sixteen. I led the team that season both in batting and fielding, as is shown by the following table, a table by the way that is hardly as complete as the tables of these latter days:
Players. Games Avg base hits Avg put out Avg assisted Anson, 3d b 25 1.64 2.27 3.66 Mack, 1st b 25 1.20 11. 0.44 Addy, 2d b 25 1.20 2.72 3.33 Fisher, p 25 1.20 1.16 1.88 Stires, r f 25 1.20 1.27 0.33 Hastings, c 25 1.12 3.33 0.83 Ham, l f 25 1.00 1.50 0.55 Bird, c f 25 1.00 1.66 0.11 Fulmer, s s 16 1.00 2.35 3.57
These averages, in my estimation, are hardly to be relied upon, as changes in the personnel of the team were often made without due notice being given, while the system of scoring was faulty and not near so perfect as at the present writing. This was not the fault of their compiler, however who was obliged to take the figures given him by the club scorer, a man more or less incompetent, as the case might be.
Before the regular season began my time at Rockford was mostly spent in practice, so that I was in fairly good shape when the day arrived for me to make my professional debut on the diamond. My first game was played on the home grounds the Rockford team having for its opponent the Forest City Club of Cleveland, Ohio, a fairly strong organization and one that that season finished fourth on the list for championship honors, the Athletics of Philadelphia carrying off the prize.
I had looked forward to this game with fear and misgivings, and my feelings were by no means improved when I was informed that owing to the non-arrival of Scott Hastings, the regular catcher, I was expected to fill that responsible position, one to which I was a comparative stranger. There was nothing to do but to make the best of the situation, however, and this I did, though I can truthfully say that for the first five innings I was as nervous as a kitten.
We were beaten that day by a score of 12 to 4, and though I had a few passed balls to my credit, yet on the whole I believe that, everything considered, I played a fairly good game; at least I have been told so by those who were in a better position to judge than I was.
With that first game my nervousness all passed away, and I settled down to play a steady game, which I did all through the season. As I have said, however, the Rockford team was not a strong one, and of the thirty-two record games in which we engaged we won but thirteen, our winning scores being as follows: May 17th, at Rockford, Rockford 15, Olympics of Washington 12; May 23, at Fort Wayne, Rockford 17, Kekionga 13; June 5th, at Philadelphia, Rockford 11, Athletic 10; June 15th, at Philadelphia, Rockford 10, Athletics 7; July 5th, at Rockford, Rockford 29, Chicago 14; July 31st, at Rockford, Rockford 18, Mutual 5; August 3d, at Rockford, Rockford 4, Kekionga 0 (forfeited); August 7th, at Chicago, Rockford 16, Chicago 7; August 8th, at Chicago, Rockford 12, Cleveland 5; September 1st, at Brooklyn, Rockford 39, Athletics 5; September 2d, at Brooklyn, Rockford 14, Eckford 9; September 5th, at Troy, Rockford 15, Haymakers 5; September 16th, at Cleveland, Rockford 19, Cleveland 12.
In the final revision many of these games were thrown out for one reason and another, so that in the official guides for that year the Rockford Club is credited with only six games won and is given the last position in the championship race, several of the games with the Athletics being among those declared forfeited.
I learned more of the world that season with the Rockfords than I had ever known before. Prior to that time my travels had been confined to the trips away to school and to some of the towns adjacent to Marshalltown, and outside of these I knew but little. With the Rockford team, however, I traveled all over the East and West and learned more regarding the country I lived in and its wonderful resources than I could have learned by going to school for the half of a lifetime. The Rockford management treated the players in those days very nicely. We traveled in sleeping cars and not in the ordinary day coaches as did many of the players, and though we were obliged to sleep two in a berth we did not look upon this as an especial hardship as would the players of these latter days, many of whom are inclined to grumble because they cannot have the use of a private stateroom on their travels.
I made acquaintances, too, in all parts of the country that were invaluable to me in after days, and though I had not finished sowing my wild oats I think the folly of it all had begun to dawn on my mind as I saw player after player disappear from the arena, the majority of them being men who had given promise of being shining lights in the base-ball world.
Of the men who played with me at Rockford but few remained in the profession, and these but for a season or two, after which they drifted into other lines of business. Bob Addy, who was one of the best of the lot, was a good, hard hustling player, a good base runner and a hard hitter. He was as honest as the day is long and the last that I heard of him he was living out in Oregon, where he was engaged in running a tin shop. He was an odd sort of a genius and quit the game because he thought he could do better at something else.
"Cherokee" Fisher was originally a Philadelphian, but after the disbandment of the Rockford Club he came to Chicago, securing a place in the Fire Department, where he still runs with the machine. He was a good man in his day and ranked high as a pitcher.
Charles Fulmer was a fair average player. He, too, drifted out of the game in the early '70s, and the last that I knew of him he was a member of the Board of Aldermen in the Quaker City.
Scott Hastings, the regular catcher, was a fair all-around player, but by no means a wonder. After he left Rockford he went to Chicago, where he was employed for a time in a wholesale clothing house. He is now, or was at last accounts, in San Francisco and reported as being worth a comfortable sum of money.
The other members of the old team I have lost sight of and whether they are living or dead I cannot say. They were a good-hearted, jovial set of fellows, as a rule, and my association with them was most pleasant, as was also my relations with the Rockford management, who could not have treated me better had I been a native son, and to whom I am indebted for much both in the way of good advice and encouraging words; and let me say right here that nothing does so much good to a young player as a few words of approbation spoken in the right way and at the right time. It braces him up, gives him needed confidence in himself, and goes a long way further toward making him a first-class player than does continual fault-finding.
It had been an understood thing, at least so far as the old gentleman was concerned, when he gave his consent to my playing with Rockford for a season, that I should at the end of it return home and resume my studies, but fate ordained otherwise. Several times during the season I was approached by members of the Athletic Club management with offers to play as a member of their team the next season, that of 1872, and they finally offered me the sum of $1,250 per annum for my services. This was much better than I was doing at Rockford, and vet I was reluctant to leave the little Illinois town, where I had made my professional debut, and where I had hosts of friends.
When the end of the season came and the Rockford people offered to again sign me et the same old figures I told them frankly of the Philadelphia offer, but at the same time offered to again sign with Rockford, providing that they would raise my salary to $100 per month. The club had not made its expenses and they were not even certain that they would place a professional team in the arena during the next season. This they told me and also that they could not afford to pay the sum I asked for my services, and so without consulting the folks at Marshalltown I appended my name to a Philadelphia contract, and late in the fall bade good-by to Rockford and its ball players, turning my face towards the City of Brotherly Love, where I played ball with the Athletics until the formation of the National League in 1876, and it was not until five years had elapsed that I revisited my old home in Marshalltown, taking a bride with me.
CHAPTER VII. WITH THE ATHLETICS OF PHILADELPHIA.
The winter of 1871 and 1872 I spent in Philadelphia, where I put in my time practicing in the gymnasium, playing billiards and taking in the sights of a great city.
The whirligig of time had in the meantime made a good many changes in the membership of the Professional League, for in spite of the fact that 1871 had been the most prosperous year in the history of base-ball, up to that time, many clubs had fallen by the wayside, their places in the ranks being taken by new-comers, and that several of these were unable to weather the storms of 1872 because of a lack of financial support is now a matter of history.
Conspicuous among the absentees when the season opened was the Chicago Club, which had been broken up by the great fire that swept over the Queen of the Inland Seas in October of 1871, and not then reorganized; the Forest City of Rockford, the Kekiongas of Fort Wayne, and several others.
At the opening of the regular playing season the League numbered eleven members, as follows: Boston, of Boston, Mass.; Baltimore, of Baltimore, Md.; Mutuals, of New York; Athletics, of Philadelphia; Troy, of Troy, N. Y.; Atlantic, of Brooklyn; Cleveland, of Cleveland, Ohio; Mansfield, of Mansfield, Ohio; Eckford, of Brooklyn; and Olympic and National, both of Washington, D. C. Of these eleven clubs but six finished the season, the others falling out, either because of bad management or a lack of financial support, these six being the Athletic, Baltimore, Boston, Mutual, Atlantic and Eckford teams. The first four of these were regularly salaried clubs, while the two last were co-operative concerns.
The make-up of the Athletics that season was as follows: Malone, catcher; McBride, pitcher; Mack, first base; Fisler, second base; Anson, third base; McGeary, shortstop; Cuthbert, left field; Tracey, center field; and Meyerle, right field. Outside of the Bostons this was the strongest team that had yet appeared on the diamond. It was even stronger than the team that represented the Hub in some respects, though not equal to them as a whole, the latter excelling at team work, which then, as now, proved one of the most important factors in winning a championship.
That the Athletics were particularly strong at the bat is shown by the fact that six of their players that season figure among the first eleven on the batting list, the Bostons coming next with three, and the Baltimore third.
In some of the games that we played that season the fielders had a merry time of it and found at least plenty of exercise in chasing the ball. In the first games that I played with the Athletics, our opponents being the Baltimores, the fielders did not have 'a picnic by any means, the score standing at 34 to 19 at the end of the game, and this in spite of the fact that the ball used was a "dead one."
During the entire season and not counting exhibition games we played forty-six games, of which we won thirty and lost sixteen, while the Bostons, who carried off the championship, took part in fifty-nine games, of which they won 38 and lost 11.
Figuring in twenty-eight championship games, I finished fourth on the list of batsmen, with forty-seven base-hits to my credit, an average of 1.67 to the game, a performance that I was at that time very proud of and that I am not ashamed of even at this late date.
The season of 1873 saw some changes in the make-up of the Athletics, the nine that season being made up as follows: McGeary, catcher; McBride, pitcher; Murnane, first base; Fisler, second base; Fulton, third base; Anson, shortstop; Cuhbert, left field; Reach, center field; Fisler, right field; and McMullen and Sensenderfer, substitutes.
This was, if anything, a stronger all-around team than the one of the preceding year, and if it failed to make equally as good a showing it was because the teams that were opposed to it were also of a better calibre. The demand for good ball players had risen, and as is usual in such cases the supply was equal to the demand, just as it would be today under similar circumstances.
The opening of the championship season found nine clubs ready to compete for the championship honors, viz.: The Athletics, Atlantics, Baltimore, Boston, Mutual, Maryland, Philadelphia, Resolute and Washington, and five of these beside the Athletics had particularly strong teams, the Maryland, Resolute and Washington teams being the weaklings.
During the year the Athletics took part in fifty professional games, of which they won twenty-seven and lost twenty-three, and in fourteen exhibition games, of which they won twelve and lost two, being defeated in the exhibition series twice by their home rivals, the Philadelphias, which numbered among its players several who had helped to make the Athletics famous in former years, among them being Malone and Mack.
Between these two nines there was the strongest kind of a rivalry, and as both were popular with the home people great crowds turned out to see the contests between them. One of these contests resulted in a thirteen inning game, the score then standing at 5 to 4 in favor of the Philadelphias, greatly to our disgust, and to the intense joy of our rivals.
For the second time since the formation of the Players' League, Boston carried off the championship honors, while we were compelled to content ourselves with the third position, but I still stood forth on the batting list, and that was some consolation, at least to me.
The opening of the season of 1874 again saw nine clubs ready to do battle for the championship, but the Maryland and Resolute Clubs were missing from the list and in their places were the re-organized Chicagos and the Hartford aggregation, both of which presented strong teams and teams that, properly managed, might have made much better showing in the pennant race.
Still more changes had been made in the make-up of the Athletic team, which in May of that year was composed of the following players: Clapp, catcher; McBride, second base; Sutton, third base; McGeary, shortstop; Gedney, left field; McMullen, center field; and Anson, right field.
From the way in which I was changed around from one position to another in those days it can be readily surmised that I was looked upon as a sort of a general-utility man, who could play in one position about as well as in another, which in my humble judgment was a mistake, for in base-ball as in all other trades and professions the old adage holds true that a jack-of-all trades is master of none.
The year 1874 will ever be memorable in the history of the game by reason of the fact that base-ball was then introduced to the notice of our English cousins by a trip that was made to the "Tight Little Isle" by the members of the Boston and Athletic Clubs, a trip of which I shall have more to say later, and also by reason of the fact that the game that season enjoyed a veritable boom, clubs of the professional, semi-professional and amateur variety springing up in every direction.
The clubs going to make up the Professional League were admittedly stronger than ever before, and to take the pennant from Boston was the avowed ambition not only of the Athletics but of every team that was to contest against the "Hub" aggregation. The effort was, however, as futile as those of the two preceding years had been, and for the third successive season the teams from the modern Athens carried off the prize, not because they were the better ball players, but for the reason that better discipline was preserved among them and they were better managed in every way than were any of their opponents. For the second time we were compelled to content ourselves with the third place in the race, the second going to the Mutuals of New York, that being the first time since the Professional League was organized that they had climbed so high up the ladder. The Philadelphias fell from the second to the fourth place and the Chicago "White Stockings," of whom great things had been expected, finished on the fifth rung of the ladder.
Of the fifty-two record games that were counted as championship contests and that were played by the Athletics, we won thirty-one and lost twenty-one, while of the sixty games in which the Bostons figured they won forty-three and lost but seventeen, a wonderful showing when the playing strength of the clubs pitted against them is taken into consideration.
Among the batsmen that season I stood eighth on the list, the lowest position that I had occupied since I broke into the ranks of the professional players.
When the season of 1875 opened I little realized that it was to be the last year that I should wear an Athletic uniform, and yet such proved to be the case. While playing with them my salary had been raised each successive season, until I was now drawing $1,800 a year, and the limit had not yet been reached, as I was to find out later, although at the time I left Philadelphia for Chicago I would, for personal reasons that will appear later, have preferred to remain with the Athletics at a considerable less salary than I was afterward paid. This, too, was destined to be the last year of the Professional League, the National League taking its place, and as a result a general shifting about among the players took place in 1876, many of the old-time ball tossers being at that time lost in the shuffle.
The year 1875 saw no less than thirteen clubs enter the championship arena, Philadelphia being represented by no less than three, while St. Louis, a new-comer, furnished two aspirants for the honors, the full list being as follows: Boston, Athletic, Hartford, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Chicago, Mutual, New Haven, St. Louis Reds, Washington, Centennial, Atlantic and Western, the latter organization representing the far Western city of Keokuk.
The series consisted of ten games, six to be played as the legal quota, and at the close of the season but seven of the thirteen original championship seekers had fulfilled the conditions, three of the clubs having been disbanded when the season was but about half over. Again and for the fourth time the Boston aggregation carried off the honors, with a record unsurpassed up to that time, as out of seventy-nine games played they won seventy-one and lost but eight, while the Athletics, who finished in the second place, played seventy-three games in all, losing twenty and winning fifty-three.
That three of the clubs that started in the race should have dropped out as they did is not to be wondered at, and why one of them at least was ever allowed to enter is a mystery. Looked at from a purely geographical standpoint, the Keokuk Club, known as the Western, was doomed to failure from the very start. It was too far away from the center of the base-ball interests and the expense of reaching it too great to warrant the Eastern clubs in making the trip, and the city itself was too small to turn out a paying crowd, while the other two local clubs found the field already too well covered and succumbed to local opposition.
Small scores in 1875 were the rule and not the exception. The sharp fielding and the restrictions placed on the batter, which had grown closer with each passing season, made the running up of such big scores as marked the game in the early days impossible, while the many close contests that took place added greatly to the popularity of what was now fully recognized as distinctively the National Game of America.
It was not all smooth sailing for the promoters of the game, even at this time. In the many poolrooms then existing throughout the country and especially in the larger cities great sums of money were wagered on the result of the various contests, and as a result "crookedness" on the part of various players was being charged, and though these charges were vigorously denied by those interested the denials carried but little weight in view of the in-and-out performances of the teams in which they were engaged.
There was a lack of discipline, too, among the players, and it was the necessity for prompt action in stamping out the evils then existing that caused the birth of the new National League and the death of the old organization.
There are "crooks" in all professions, but I venture the assertion right here that the "crooks" in base-ball have indeed been few and far between. Once detected, they have been summarily dismissed from the ranks, and with the brand of dishonesty stamped upon them they have been forced to earn a living in some other way.
It has long been a maxim among the followers of racing that "a crooked jockey" is always "broke," and this same saying holds good regarding the crooked ball players. I might mention the names of several players who were summarily dismissed from the league ranks because of crookedness and who have since that time managed to eke out a miserable existence by hanging about poolrooms and bucket-shops, but what good would it do? They have learned their lesson and the lesson has indeed been a bitter one.
It must be remembered, however, that the charges against these men were proven. They were not dismissed because of idle hearsay, but because of absolute and convincing proof. The breath of scandal has assailed more than one ball player without any good and convincing reason, and will doubtless do so again, just as it has assailed private reputations of men in other walks of life. The breath of truth has blown these scandals aside, however, and to-day the professional ball player stands as high in the estimation of his fellow men, providing that he conducts himself as a gentleman and not as a loafer, as does the professional man in other walks of life.
CHAPTER VIII. SOME MINOR DIVERSIONS.
Philadelphia is a good city to live in, at least I found it so, and had I had my own way I presume that I should still be a resident of the city that William Penn founded instead of a citizen of Chicago, while had I had my own way when I left Marshalltown to go into a world I knew but little about I might never have lived in Philadelphia at all. At that time I was more than anxious to come to Chicago and did my best to secure a position with the Chicago Club, of which Tom Foley, the veteran billiard-room keeper, was then the manager. As he has since informed me, he was looking at that time for ball players with a reputation, and not for players who had a reputation yet to make, as was the case with me, and so he turned my application down with the result that I began my professional career in Rockford instead of in Chicago, as I had wished to do. "It is an ill wind that blows nobody good," however, and for the Providence that took me to Rockford and afterward to the "City of Brotherly Love," I am at this late day truly thankful, however displeased I may have been at that time.
I have often consoled myself since then with the reflection that had I come to Chicago to start my career in 1871, that career might have come to a sudden end right there and then, and all of my hopes for the future might have gone up in smoke, for the big fire that blotted out the city scattered the members of the Chicago Base Ball club far and wide and left many of them stranded, for the me being at least, on the sands of adversity.
Shakespeare has said, "There is a Providence that shapes our ends rough hew them as we will," and it seems to me that the immortal Bard of Avon must have had my case in mind when he wrote that line, for I can see but little to complain about thus far in the treatment accorded me by Providence, though I am willing to admit that there was some pretty rough hewing to do before I was knocked into any shape at all.
When I began playing ball at Rockford I was just at that age when, in my estimation, I knew a heap more than did the old man, and that idea had not been entirely knocked out of my head when I arrived in Philadelphia. The outdoor life that I had led when a youngster, the constant exercise that I had indulged in, together with the self-evident truth that the Lord had blessed me with a constitution that a young bull might envy, had all conspired to make me a young giant in strength, and as a result I was as full of animal spirits as is an unbroken thoroughbred colt, and as impatient of restraint.
Good advice was, to a greater or less extent, thrown away upon me, and if I had any trouble it rolled off from my broad shoulders as water from a duck's back and left not a trace behind. In the language of the old song, I was, "Good for any game at night, my boys," or day, either, for that matter, and the pranks that I played and the scrapes that I got into were, some of them, not of a very creditable nature, though they were due more to exuberation than to any innate love of wrong-doing.
In any contest that required strength and skill I was always ready to take a hand, and in these contests I was able to hold my own as a rule, though now and then I got the worst of it, as was the case when I entered the throwing match at the Union Grounds in Brooklyn in October, 1872. The entries were Hatfield and Boyd, of the Mutuals; George Wright and Leonard, of the Bostons, and Fisler and myself, representing the Athletics. The ball was thrown from a rope stretched between two stakes driven into the ground one hundred and ten yards from the home-plate. Each competitor was allowed three throws, and the rules governing the contest required that the ball be dropped within two large bags placed on a line with the home-plate and about sixty feet apart. Hatfield led us all in each of his three trials, and on the last one he beat his own record of 132 yards made at Cincinnati in 1868 by clearing 133 yards 1 foot and 7 1/2 inches. Leonard came next with 119 yards 1 foot 10 inches, Wright third with 117 yards 1 foot 1 inch, Boyd fourth with 115 yards 1 foot 7 inches, Fisler fifth with 112 yards 6 inches, while your humble servant brought up the tail end of the procession with a throw of 110 yards and 6 inches, not a bad performance in itself, but lacking a long ways of being good enough to get the money with.
Among the famous characters of which the Quaker City boasted in those days was Prof. William McLean, or "Billy" McLean, as he was generally called, an ex-prize fighter and a boxing teacher whose reputation for skill with the padded mitts was second to no man's in the country. To take boxing lessons from a professional who really knew something touching the "noble art of self-defense," as the followers of ring sports would say, was something that I had never had an opportunity of doing before, and it is hardly to be wondered at that I availed myself of the chance before I had been there a very long time.
I towered over McLean like a mountain over a mole hill, and I remember well that the first time that I faced him I thought what an easy matter it would be for me to knock his reputation into a cocked hat, and that before a man could say "Jack Robinson." In a very few moments, however, I had changed my opinion. I had fancied that I was a pretty good sort of a man myself with or without the gloves, but long before the end of that first lesson I had come to the conclusion that my education in that line, as well as others, had been neglected, and that I still had considerable to learn. McLean went around me very much as a cooper goes around a barrel, hitting me wherever and whenever he pleased, and the worst of the matter was that I could not hit him at all. It was not until after he had convinced me just how little I knew that he began to teach me, beginning with the rudiments of the art. I proved to be an apt pupil and soon became quite proficient at the game, in fact so good was I that I sometimes fancied that I could lick a whole army of wildcats, this being especially the case when the beer was in and the wit was out, for be it beer or wine, the effect is generally the same, a fact that I had not yet learned, though it dawned on me long before I left Philadelphia, and I quit it for good and all, to which fact I attribute the success that I have since met with both in the sporting and the business world.
It was in 1875 and during my last season with the Athletics, if I remember rightly, that I became involved in a saloon row, that, to say the least of it, was not to my credit, and that I have been ashamed of ever since. We had been out to the grounds practicing until nearly nightfall and on the way home we stepped into a German saloon on the corner for the purpose of refreshing the inner man and washing the dust out of our throats. In some way the conversation turned on the doings of various fighters and I expressed myself pretty freely concerning their merits and demerits, for having taken boxing lessons, I was naturally anxious to set myself up as an authority on matters pugilistic.