Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pitcher Rollie Stiles, 1906-2007


Rollie Stiles, RHP
1932 and 1934 Milwaukee Brewers
1934-36 Kansas City Blues
b. November 17, 1906 at Ratcliff, Arkansas
d. July 22, 2007 at St. Louis, Missouri
Resurrection Cemetery, St. Louis

For some time, Rolland Mays “Lena” Stiles, or “Leapin’ Lena,” held a unique distinction among former major league ballplayers. With the passing of former Pittsburgh Pirate infielder Howdy (Howard) Groskloss on July 15, 2006, Stiles became the reigning dean of the major leagues, the oldest living former big leaguer. With his passing, Billy Werber (TOL-31), who turned 100 on June 20, 2008, took over as the oldest living major league player. At the time of Stiles’ death, the oldest former professional player alive was, and still is, former Negro Leaguer Emilio Navarro at 102 year of age.
But how did he get that nickname? According to Joan M. Thomas, who interviewed Stiles in 2004, it originated with catcher Paul Richards (MIN-32):

"When Rollie leapt to catch a batted ball, Richards, an opposing team's player, exclaimed, “Leapin' Lena!" And the name stuck.

Stiles took good care of himself as a devoted husband and family man, and his mind was completely in tact until the end. He worked for many years for the Procter & Gamble Company in St. Louis. During a lengthy interview with the American Association Almanac in 2005, Stiles was a cordial and frank while sharing some of the intimate details of his life in baseball, occasionally pausing to share weighty personal information, such as the suicide of an adopted son. For this reason the loss of this fine old ballplayer from the golden years of the minor league was more deeply felt.
The 6-1, 180-lb hurler was farm-raised, athletically talented and good with the books, attending Southeastern Oklahoma State Teachers College in Durant concurrently with his first few season in organized ball. In his debut season, he appeared first with the Western Association’s Muskogee Chiefs (C) under Otto Williams (IND 06-12; KC-13) in 1928. There he performed with such future Association stars as Red Badgro, Tedd Gullic, Paul Richards, Lin Storti and Bill Swift. His 16-13 record for a last-place team helped push him up to the Western League (A) where he took the hill for Marty Berghammer (STP 16-25; mgr. MIL 29-31) and his Tulsa Oilers, going 2-0 to wrap up the ’28 season. His outstanding SO/BB of 117-91 was a landmark for the youngster, an early pinnacle he was unable to replicate as his career progressed.
Then came Stiles’ Grade A season with Class-A Tulsa in ‘29 when his team-leading 22-11 paved the way to a league championship for the Oilers (95-66) and their managers Berghammer and Nick Allen (MIN-12; STP 21-24/26; mgr. STP 24-28)...and to a promotion to the big time. Stiles earned a distinctive feather for his cap by tossing a nine-inning no-hitter against the Des Moines Demons on June 30, 6-0.
In 1930 Stiles was in the American League and handed a set of St. Louis flannels, with skipper Bill Killefer at the helm. Stiles was the second-youngest mate on the good ship Brownie whose senior staffer that season was a big Texan named Harry “Rip” Collins. The Browns finished sixth, slipping two spots in the standings, sandwiched between Detroit and Chicago. Stiles was 3-6 in 20 games (102 innings) during his break-in as a Brown.
The same year Stiles headed for the alter with Margaret Edna Herget, he was also headed for the American Association. By the 1932, he had some serious seasoning under his belt, but his introduction with the Brewers was inauspicious, posting a 1-5 record in 16 appearances. Part of his season was spent with the Longview Cannibals (Browns) of the Texas League (A) that year; he put up a 2.70 ERA in 12 games, assembling a 3-7 record.
Returning to the Browns fold in 1933, Stiles appeared in 31 games, posting a 3-7 record with a 5.01 ERA for a team in transition. The Browns finished last in defense and pitching, and runner-up to the basement in batting.
Stiles was back in the American Association in 1934 as a Milwaukee Brewer but his season under Al Sothoron (LOU-23; mgr. LOU 29-31 and MIL 34-38) was short-lived, as an early-season trade took him to Roger Peckinpaugh’s (mgr. KC-34) Kansas City Blues in exchange for Bryan Harriss (STP 29-33; KC-34; MIL-34), an aging left-hander who had authored a no-hitter against KC on May 18, 1932 as a member of the St. Paul Saints.
During our interview in 2005 Stiles was still perplexed over the reasoning behind the trade. To say that he continued to harbor bitterness about it is an understatement. While he seemed to understand the complex nature of baseball as a business, his general take on the decision was that, not only was it unnecessary, it was unwarranted. To some extent, he perceived it as personal, as an insult, as rejection. Perhaps feelings of such intensity are common when a player of his potential, so completely devoted to his game, winds up taking a hit. He and his wife were suddenly thrown into transition, and it isn’t surprising that residual resentment was the result. Stiles made his feelings clear, over 70 years later, that he was disillusioned by the move that sent him to the Blues, a team that finished in the Association basement that year; Milwaukee finished in third.
Despite the angst, Stiles salvaged the season with 10 wins against 12 losses, but he had developed a new nemesis in the process...the Milwaukee Brewers.
The following season the Blues had a new manager, Dutch Zwilling (IND 16-20; KC 21-23; mgr. KC 27-32 and 35-37), and the club reversed course. Stiles had a hand in the club’s improved fortunes, winning 13 games and lowering his ERA to an impressive 3.39. That showing is even more noteworthy in light of the increase in team batting in the Association that year, from .291 in ‘34 to .293, in a league that had its share of swatsmiths during the 1930’s.
Stiles’ did not star as a hurler in the American Association, but his years in the league were vital to his development. In his 240 minor league career decisions, 53, or 22%, were in the Association where he finished with a 24-29 (.453) record, slightly lower than his overall winning percentage of .471 (113-127). In the Association his hits allowed/game of 5.97 compared well with his overall 6.47. His runs allowed/game in the Association was 1.86 while his overall r/g was 3.26.
Primarily with the Dallas Steers (White Sox, A-1) of the Texas League during the 1936 season, Stiles produced a 7-9 record in 18 games under Alex Gaston (MIL-20; TOL 24-25; STP 27-28; KC 33-34) as part of pennant winning squad, but his ERA was on the rise again, settling in at 4.58.
Stiles became property of the New York Giants for the final few laps of his career, spending three straight years with the double-A Jersey City Giants (International League) from 1937-39. He struggled considerably during his first season on the east coast, going 8-19 in 36 game for Travis Jackson’s cellar dwellers, despite a solid 3.60 ERA. During his final stint with Jersey City in 1939, Stiles showed, perhaps, the type of pitching skill he knew he was capable of. With an 11-8 record, the steady Arkansas farm boy was as true as a country road, honing down his ERA to a glinting 2.86 in 31 games (167 innings), including 22 starts, under Bert Niehoff (IND-11; LOU-13), helping send the Giants to the IL pennant along with their ace Roy Joiners, long time PCL stud, who went 21-8 with a league-leading five shutouts and 2.53 ERA.
A final round with the Chattanooga Lookouts under Kiki Cuyler in the Southern Association (Senators, A-1) in 1940 capped a yeoman-like career for Rollie Stiles.
With his 113 wins and 127 losses, his time in baseball may have been disappointing, but that’s not what Stiles would have said. He knew the pain real losing, about taking your hits in life, that baseball was just a game, that if you could go .500 in the game of life, you’d deserve a tip of the cap.
After living for many years at the Oakdale Retirement Home at Oakdale, Missouri, just south of St. Louis, he passed away in his sleep at the Bethesda Southgate Nursing Home in St. Louis.
Historically, Stiles had a weight that made put him in a higher class. He was the only player still living to pitch to Babe Ruth. Still adored by many, Stiles “got the nod” and joined the Great Majority at the age of 100. For this writer, it was a sublime honor to have spent some quality time with such a class act.

*

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Chasing the Colonels: Compiling the Early Stats


Today is Saturday, October 18, 2008.

I have just spent the last eight days developing a comprehensive roster listing for the 1903 Louisville Colonels. I’ve been doing nearly nothing but working on this. But that’s how long it takes. And there are portions of the record which remain incomplete. But more on that later.

Roughly 14 months ago I began the task of compiling the complete rosters for the American Association’s Louisville Colonels form 1902-1954. After completing the initial steps in the process, I was able to advance through the 1915 season before it was time to begin “fleshing out” the roster for each year. A few weeks ago I started with the 1912 season because I knew it would be one of the most demanding, considering that the team had nearly 50 players on its roster at one point or another (at this point I should define “complete roster” -- the approach I’m taking involves establishing the record for each active player, so anyone who did not actually appear in a box score isn’t part of this project; I am using a complete set of box scores I photocopied from Sporting Life microfilm). The process of completing the basic stat line for each player during the 1912 season occupied roughly 60 hours, and that was after completing preliminary work which involved going through the 1903 box scores to make sure I had all the names, positions, etc.

Proceeding in a rather roundabout way, I tackled the 1902 season next. This went fairly well; I was able to reconcile the sum of the pitchers’ wins and losses with those of the official team record with ease. I completed a separate data sheet for each individual player, entered the data into my database and made adjustments for all of the new information, relying upon the text covering the rosters of each American Association team by Marshall Wright and the newly accessible database of minor league rosters at www.minors.sabrwebs.com.

Then last Friday I started to complete the record for the 1903 Louisville team.

There were a lot of problems getting the numbers to justify for 1903, and I finally realized last night that I would not be able to reconcile the official number of the team’s wins because, apparently, there was a game played sometime between June 26 and July 2, 1903 that was never added to the published record, not in Sporting Life or in the Sporting News. There was also no record of any forfeit that I hadn’t already noted.

I was simply unable to account for this game.

The final official record for the second-place Colonels was 87-54 (they played 143 games in a 140 game season, two of them being withheld from the final record for whatever reasons); the final record I was able to come up with, by various means, was 86-54. Sporting Life had them at 87-53, so perhaps somewhere along the line they got it wrong. The Sporting News has a different record yet.

I’ve been over my game-by-game record file many times and I can account for 87 wins, but my pitchers account for 86. There were two forfeits to be included as wins for the Colonels, but that’s figured into the 87 wins.

So for now I’m leaving things the way they are.

My record is not perfect, but it fills in the blanks for each player for whom there never was a published record (principally because they didn’t play in enough games to get published by the guides of the time).

I was also able to verify changes in a few pitchers’ records, something I consider notable. For example, the league’s leading pitcher, Tom Walker, is listed with a record of 26-7 in standard sources. By going over (and over and over...) each box score I was able to substantiate that Walker actually finished the 1903 season with a record of 27-6 with the league’s highest winning percentage as well as number of wins. This compares with a 26-7 record.

Here is a summary of the step-by-step process I use for each season:

1. Print published roster (with stats).

2. Using collection of Sporting Life box scores, use highlighter to indicate all games for Louisville.

3. Complete “Season Index of Games” file to account for all games played in published box scores. This has proven to be an invaluable tool for cross-checking pitchers' won-loss info.

4. Compare pitchers’ #W/L with Team #W/L.

5. Compare Season Schedule of Games with published box scores.

6. Note games which were called or forfeited.

7. Create Listing of Players absent from published records.

8. Complete/Revise Record for Player Batting (for multi-team players and “less thans”) and add player position for each game.

9. If not completing a BATTING Record for a particular player, complete Fielding Record as necessary.

10. Complete/Revise Record for Pitchers, esp. games started and complete games and shutouts.

11. Complete Missing Data form for all blanks and question marks.

12. Enter data into Data Form for Base Roster.

13. Check for errors:

--compare Pitcher Record with Season Index of Games for each pitcher to help reconcile team/pitcher W/L record.
--look for blank spaces in the batter records and make sure any blank has a corresponding notation for either the “Trouble Board” or my list for requests to the libraries for research assistance for which a dedicated clipboard is prepared.

I’ve just started using a “Trouble Board.” It’s a dedicated clipboard I use to make make notations on outstanding questions. I started using it as a way to keep track of unresolved questions arising toward the end of the roster compilation process. The Trouble Board helps me cross-check information which was absent from the box score summary.

One thing I’ve found especially valuable as a cross-checking tool is the file I call the “Season Index of Games,” a game-by-game record of the season I use a spreadsheet for. It includes the date, opponent, runs scored by Louisville, runs scored by opponents, starting pitcher and winning pitcher. For the 1903 record, I used this file extensively to help me determine the date of the missing game I was searching for. I was able to determine that the missing game took place between June 26 and July 2, where Sporting Life’s won/loss record in the standings differed from my record. As of this writing that game remains a question.

Pertaining to the photo of the 1903 Louisville Colonels, most of the players are unidentified. But there is certainty for the following: back row center is Louisville outfielder Fred Odwell who was quite a slugger despite his boyish demeanor in the photo. He led the American Association in triples with 19 in 1903 and hit .317 while leading Louisville with 8 home runs.

In the center row, second from left is team manager and outfielder Bill “Derby Day” Clymer who was nearly 30 years of age at the time of the photograph. Second from right is the league’s top winning pitcher, Thomas William Walker who posted a 27-6 record (contrary to the published record of 26-7) in over 300 innings of work. It was his grandson, Ted Walker of Pennsylvania, who supplied this photograph and ID notes. To the right of Walker is Wish Egan who entered the Detroit organization and excelled as a scout, named such after his first name Aloysius. Despite Egan’s published 24-16 record, my efforts declare he won 25 while losing 15. This difference may be attributable to a difference in how the rules of the day were interpreted.

A photograph (not too good) from the microfilm of the Minneapolis Journal depicting the 1903 Colonels with each of the players identified. Each player shown is wearing a ball cap which is characterized by a colored stripe between the bill and the cap.

In the above photo there is no one wearing a ball cap. It’s amazing how a player’s persona, based upon their facial appearance, changes upon the wearing of a cap. The players appear older with a cap on.

The images of the remaining players in the above “cap-less” photo who remain nameless at this point are difficult identify in the semi-corresponding Journal photo because of their caps. However, it is plausible that the player lying to the right in the front is outfielder Dan Kerwin who led the league with 141 games played (a 140-game season) and in at-bats with 70. Kerwin hit .273 while swiping 33 bases and leading the Louisvilleans with 192 hits. Opposite Kerwin is likely the outstanding Louisville third-baseman Suter Sullivan who led the club with 33 doubles.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lally and Marion Gravestones in Place



As published in the Volume 7, Number 2 edition of the American Association Almanac:

After over 70 years, there are now grave markers in place at the graves of Dan Marion and Dan Lally.

Please see the April 15 edition of this blog.

On July 30, my wife, Keitha, and I oversaw the grave marker dedication for these two pro ballplayers whose careers were outstanding and whose lives were tragic.

A fund-raising effort by the subscribers to my American Association Almanac resulted in the purchase of the granite gravestones now in place at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

My dedication address which follows was read at the graves of each player. For more information on Dan Lally and Dan Marion please see www.baseball-reference.com or you may purchase a copy of the recently released edition of the American Association Almanac through the store at www.AmericanAssociationAlmanac.com

The Dedication Address was given July 30, 2008 at Milwaukee:

On July 30, one of the warmest days in Milwaukee all summer, a
small gathering of American Association supporters, including Bob Buege, Stephanie London and Paul Tenpenny, assembled at the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Milwaukee to celebrate the newly-installed grave markers for the graves of two find old ballplayers from an earlier era, Dan Marion and Dan Lally. These graves lay anonymous for over 70 years.

It was a toasty, breezy day, ideal for such an event. The grave markers were in place, paid for by a host of American Association Almanac subscribers (see below). Upon our arrival at the cemetery, my wife, Keitha Hamann, and I proceeded to cover the grave markers, which had been installed several weeks earlier, with a dignified “tent” style covering (a forest green-colored bedsheet over a tripod) so that an actual “unveiling” could take place. I prepared the following words to accompany this event:

Dedication Address

We are assembled here this afternoon, in this unlikely setting, for a festive occasion. For those who love baseball and have a passion for baseball history, there is a sort of untold devotion to those men who played America’s game during the early days, men such as Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Nap Lajoie and Christy Mathewson. But there were untold number of characters upon the stage of baseball during that time, people we may unduly glorify yet who we hold in high esteem decades after their deaths even, for they represent a time when things were, perhaps, more pure, more transparent, more real in a way.
When I discovered two professional, and high level, former baseball men had graves here in Milwaukee, historically a rich baseball city, it seemed incongruous that their graves should remain with no marker, a seemingly anonymous patch of turf.
I never knew Dan Lally or Dan Marion, at least not during their lifetime. But I felt as though I made some sort of contact with them while engaged in this project. In 2003 I first visited Mount Olivet Cemetery. Interestingly I worked right up the block as a teacher at public school in Milwaukee for 3 years, never once during that time ever entering this cemetery. During that visit, I discovered that Marion’s grave was unmarked. Later that year I constructed a wooden marker and placed it at the grave site on my return to Milwaukee. One year later I returned and noticed the marker was still there but that the glass was broken. But the following year I found the marker was gone and it was at that point I realized there should be a permanent marker here.
It was during my third visit to Mount Olivet that I made a specific effort to locate the grave of Dan Lally. Imagine my surprise when I realized that it happened to lie roughly 90 feet from Marion’s! Imagine, two graves of such immediate importance as far apart as home plate is from first base. Were these two somehow tied into the cosmically oriented universal family of baseball?
Last September I came to Milwaukee to see a few Brewers games and it was at that point that I resolved to determine the exact location of both the Lally and the Marion grave. With the help of one of the employees here, I roped off the graves using stakes and twine before photographing them as a way of proving the location of the graves. I then used those photographs to inform my readership that I intended to raise the money necessary to fund the installation of two permanent granite markers, one for Dan “Bud” Lally and one for Dan “Rube” Marion.
The story of Lally is a particularly poignant one. After a long “journeyman” career in baseball from 1887 through 1905 as both an outfielder and an umpire, Lally was reportedly committed to the Wisconsin Insane Asylum, now known as the County Grounds in Wauwatosa. Lally passed away in 1936 having lived to the age of 69. I have not been able to learn the particulars behind his commitment. A look at his playing record reveals that he had immense talent both as a baseball player and as a capable athlete. (He hit .400 for Minneapolis of the Western League in 1897.)
According to cemetery records, Mount Olivet Cemetery donated his grave; there is no record of a benefactor. Now, thanks to Fred and Joan Budde of Waverly, Minnesota, Lally’s grave will be marked. He will not be forgotten and his legacy will remain in tact for future generations to discuss and recall.

Now if you will accompany me over to the grave of Dan Marion:

Dan Marion’s premature demise is just plain tragic. He was a successful baseball pitcher during the deadball era. Some years after he hung up his spikes, a Milwaukee observer acknowledged that his fastball was compared with that of Walter Johnson, a highly esteemed compliment. But Johnson’s career was characterized by clean living; Marion’s was not. After marrying in a surprise ceremony while the Milwaukee Brewers were in Minneapolis in 1912, Marion had a successful season and used it as a springboard into the majors. But his success was short lived. He and his wife divorced around 1919, and he returned to the Milwaukee area to work at a roadhouse called the Maple Leaf north of town on Cedarburg Road (I believe this is now State Hwy. 57). Despite the fact that this was the era of prohibition, Marion’s alcohol problems did not abate at this time. Finally, he succumbed to the disastrous effects of alcohol upon his body, as the former star baseball hurler collapsed, penniless, outside his apartment on N. 4th Street before being taken by ambulance to the hospital. He died enroute. It was January 18, 1933.
The Brewers made it publicly known, according to a report published in The Sporting News at the time of Marion’s death, that they would rally behind Marion’s memory to spare their teammate from being buried in a potters field. But they never followed through, nor, apparently, did any of his professional friends. After all, this was the depression and cash was in short supply. Still, the circumstances lead to questions. According to cemetery records, Mount Olivet Cemetery donated his grave plot; there is no record of a benefactor.
Now, 75 years later, Marion’s grave is marked. Thanks to the subscribers of the American Association Almanac, Rube will not be forgotten. His accomplishments upon the diamond will remain for future generations to recall and explore.
Milwaukee is a rich city in so many ways. But it was made that way, in part, through the work of countles personalities such as Dan Marion and Dan Lally. Marion and Lally are no longer buried anonymously in this small patch of Cream City ground. They have been given a small measure of acknowledgment by true supporters of baseball history through this project. May the names Dan “Rube” Marion and Dan “Bud” Lally always provoke positive enthusiasm for the game of baseball, the city of Milwaukee, and the spirit of the old-time ballplayers upon whose lives the game became great.

=================================

The Almanac Extends a Gracious Thank You
to the following fans of baseball history
who donated generously to make the
Lally and Marion Gravestone Project possible:



Fred Budde, of Waverly, Minnesota
Bob Buege, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Dave Chase, of Memphis, Tennessee
Michael Frank, of New York, New York
Chris Gallutia, of Reynoldsburg, Ohio
Don Garrison, of Sun City West, Arizona
Ted Gibson, of Farmington Hills, Michigan
Rex and Keitha Hamann, Andover, Minnesota
Lou Hernandez, of Pembroke Pines, Florida
Denver Howard, of Andrews, Indiana
Frank Kearney, of Plano, Texas
Ken Kopydlowski, of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
Bill Lee, of La Feria, Texas
Jim Mogan, of Circleville, Ohio
Neil Raymond, of Toronto, Ontario
Jeanne Squires, of West Plains, Missouri
Paul Tenpenny, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Hank Gehring, Savvy St. Paul Spitball Artist


I'm currently working on a short biography of Henry "Hank" Gehring, a pitcher during the early years who pitched in various leagues, including the American Association. I wanted to write about him after being invited to write a different bio for a book the local SABR chapter is preparing on Minnesota-born ballplayers. It took some doing, but I convinced the group that Gehring was someone who should not be left out of this compendium, despite his limited experience in the major leagues. His story is both relevant and poignant.

Gehring became a major leaguer in 1907 when he was called up to the American League's Washington Senators. He'd been with Des Moines of the Western League where the manager, Mike Kelley, had a connection with Joe Cantillon, the manager of the Senators.

Born in the heart of St. Paul to a family of Swiss immigrants in 1881, Gehring was the sixth born of nine children, the first U.S.-born son of John and Annie Gehring. He was married to Bertha Horman sometime before the birth of their first child, Florence, in 1904. Hopefully the specific marriage date will be found at the Minnesota History Center when I go down there next week.

Gehring was a spitball artist who was quite successful with the pitch. Hall of Famer Burleigh Grimes credited Gehring with inspiring him to use the spitter when he was a youngster growing up in northwestern Wisconsin near Emerald/Clam Lake. Grimes had attended a St. Paul Saints game at Lexington Park (sometime after mid-season 1909) with his uncle when he witnessed Gehring's work on the mound.

Gehring's American Association career began in 1906, somewhat ironically, as a pitcher for the Minneapolis Millers (being a St. Paul kid, Gehring was likely aware of the intense crosstown rivalry between the two river towns). He had a modestly successful season that year, winning 12 while losing 13. He tossed three shutouts and 20 complete games, showing maturity with excellent control in over 220 innings of work that season.

After a substantial stint with the St. Paul Saints, the talented righty was purchased by the Kansas City Blues in November, 1911 for the 1912 season. Spring training that year was going well, but during the week before the season opener, Gehring stayed in Kansas City, not feeling well. He was suffering from what was known then as Bright's disease, a combination of factors which leads to sudden kidney failure. He died just past his prime as a professional pitcher on April 18, 1912, leaving behind his wife Bertha and 8-year-old daughter Florence.

Bertha remarried, Florence grew up, and a new family was started. Florence married and adopted a son name Maurie, the grandson of Hank Gehring. Maurie lives with his wife Connie in Forest Lake, Minnesota, 30 miles west of wear I live. I've had a chance to visit with them twice, as they've graciously shared their family history with me through photos and stories. The photograph above is one of the items they donated to me.

Further information on the exploits of the savvy St. Paul spitballer will be contained in the Summer issue of the American Association Almanac, due out September 1, 2008.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Red Bird Stadium Issue


It's been a few weeks since I was finally able to get Volume 7, Number 1 of the American Association Almanac out the door. The big surprise was that I just happened to hit the exact first date of the new postal rate hike increase. So instead of it costing me 80 cents to send each issue to my roughly 100 subscribers, it cost me $1.38. Not sure how long I can sustain this business with costs like those. Needless to say there will be a rate increase starting with the summer issue which will be announced in a future blog here.

This is a very dense issue.

Basic Facts for Vol. 7, No. 1, Spring 2008

The title is "Red Bird Stadium in Columbus, Ohio: A Comprehensive Early History."

63 pages; 34,000+ words

Set in Garamond 10 pt.

One-column format; a departure from the two-column format I've been using the last few years.

35 separate references listed.

Cost: $8.00 (you're getting your money's worth)

Table of Contents includes:

Player Introductions
Attendance Trends
Background Check
Pushed and Pulled
April Showers Bring
Excitement Building
Getting Underway
Game On!
The Post-Game Show
The Fences, Home Runs and League Attendance
Columbus and League Attendance
Run Scoring and Home Runs
Red Bird Stadium Season Summary in 1933
Statistical Breakdown of 1933 Home Season
A New Era: Night Baseball
Epilogue
References
Dedication and More
Player Birthdays Ahead


Centerfold
Firsts at Red Bird Stadium
Columbus Newspaper Headings
A Record of the First 100s

Illustrations
Pat Crawford
Phil Weinert
Nick Cullop
Ken Ash
Site of New Baseball Park
Red Bird Stadium and Surroundings
Box Score: June 3 Game vs. Louisville
Bevo LeBourveau
Table A: Field Distances
Attendance Patterns
Red Bird Attendance Rankings
Joe Hauser
Table B: Runs Per Game, 1920-33
Phil Todt
Bill Lee Autograph
Office Building
Footprint of Red Bird Stadium
Birds Eye Views
Photos of Otto Bluege, Mickey Heath, Terry Moore and Doug Taitt
Cartoon from the Columbus Citizen

This issue begins with a fictional public address announcer providing the player introductions for the Opening Game on June 3, 1932 between the Columbus Red Birds and the Louisville Colonels.

In the next section on "Attendance Trends" the following paragraph is provided:

"In fact, Columbus had not shown support for its home town team, contrary to later claims made by the front office. Attendance records from 1920-31 indicate the club ranked a cumulative average of 6.83 out of eight teams during that time frame at Neil Park, a nearly perfect correspondence to the 6.75 place they occupied in the standings, averaged over 12 seasons (1920-31). Its low point was during that dismal 1926 season when 93,000 fans attended Senators games. At the same time, Columbus finished in seventh or eighth place on eight occasions."

Following is a section concerned with the politics of site selection:

"To that point, the cost of the operation stood at $363,000, including the property, with a final price tag expected in the range of $400,000. The actual cost landed in the $450,000 range, a sum considerably higher than the original $350,000 projected, especially considering the value of 1932 dollars. But Cardinals president Sam Breadon had initiated this endeavor and was using his own money, the resources of the St. Louis Cardinals. It appeared he wasn’t about to cut corners building Red Bird Stadium."

The human interest element is fairly strong in this issue:

For some, crossing the emotional bridge between the old and the new, the familiar and the strange, just wasn’t done yet.
Consider the penultimate Columbus baseball fan. His name was Charles W.
Medick, Jr., age nine, and he admitted to Sarah L. Dush, sports reporter for the Ohio State Journal that he dreaded to leave the old field. Blind since birth, Charlie had stood witness to the finale at Neil Park and was very direct when he made it known he was dreading “saying good-bye to the old place.” A self-proclaimed Pat Crawford fan, he had missed only a handful of games in the past four years. Charlie was practically an icon at Neil Park, and he possessed unique talents to support his popularity.

Looking at the statistical component of this issue, great care was taken to establish the home record for offense by the Columbus Red Birds. Here is an example from page 47:

A breakdown of the 56 Red Bird wins at Red Bird Stadium illustrates how well the home team balanced its attack. By scoring an average of 5.94 RPG (394 runs/72 games) and holding the opposition to 2.67 RPG (282 runs), Columbus was dominant at home, both offensively and defensively. The Birds scored 495 runs in 80 games on the road, or 6.19 RPG, a very strong mark. Their combined RPG of 5.81 (889) holds up well in light of the figures achieved by these previous American Association champions, in the years following the advent of the live ball era (see table A). The Columbus offensive attack included 31 home runs which were reciprocated by 20 opponent home runs. For the Red Birds this averaged .55 home runs per game. The Birds ranked second with their 889 runs scored; only the Millers crossed the dish more often with 993 runs, a 6.49 RPG.

Overall, this is my best effort to date. Purchase a copy by July 1 and you will be able to subscribe at the current level of $18/year or $32/2 years. After that date it will be $22/1 year or $36/2 years. Get yours today!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Red Bird Stadium in Columbus, Ohio: Day 1
























KEN ASH



“And now, ladies and gentlemen, here are your starting lineups for this afternoon’s ball game...”

The deep-voiced public address announcer sent his richly hued sound waves reverberating through the humming grandstand on a sweltering late spring day at Columbus’s brand new ballpark. Calling fans to its attention, the resonant voice was as welcoming as a lighthouse spotlight to a wayfaring ship. It welcomed baseball fans from near and far who were milling about the grandstand, settling into their seats, and waiting expectantly for the grand occasion of the day to get underway. It represented the start of a new and hopeful era in Columbus as played out upon a virgin sea of green.
Friday, June 3, 1932. The day had finally arrived. A heat wave engulfed the city. Temperature reports on city streets reached the mid-90’s by midday, although the official high was 88˚, more like mid-July than early June. Dressed in flannel garb and seated in their respective dugouts were the members of the starting cast for the day’s drama to be contested between the Columbus Red Birds and Louisville Colonels. They’d be fanning themselves into delirium on such a day, both on the field and off, on this festive occasion. A predicted storm heads for central Ohio, that should cool things down, just as long as it waits until boys have put in their nine innings...This was one time when a hot day along with a hot dog and a cool drink was the nearest thing to heaven.

“Pitching for your Columbus Red Birds, hailing from Anmoore, West Virginia, number twenty-two, KENNY ASH....

A cheer loud enough to be heard for several blocks would likely have been the crowd’s reply to this announcement.
Born Kenneth Lowther Ash on September 16, 1901, Ash was baptized in major league waters in 1925 as a member of the Chicago White Sox after attending West Virginia Wesleyan College. As a member of the Petersburg Broncos of the Virginia League (B) in 1927, Ash established a minor league record for strikeouts in a season (155 games or less) with 209; that same year Pat Malone of the Indianapolis Indians in the set down 214 batters in a 168 game year to set the American Association record. For his feat, Ash was named to the minor league roll of honor for greatest performances in a single season.
He moved up to the National League as a Cincinnati Red in 1928. That same year he entered the American Association when he joined the Columbus Senators, compiling a record of 12-10, pitching at old Neil Park II (built in 1905). The 5’11 righty would not become a fixture in the Arch City until 1931, the first year the club became known as the Red Birds, when he added 16 wins to the Columbus coffers under Harry “Nemo” Leibold while leading the staff in wins, innings (201) and games (37) as the Red Birds finished in the first division as fourth-place finalists with a record of 84-82. Likely his career finish that year influenced Leibold’s decision to start the veteran hurler on this gala day.
Ash made appearances in each of the final two games of the 1931 season, fully expecting them to be his last ever at the historic Neil Park which was built in 1905. Those games, both dropped to the Toledo Mud Hens, were expected to be the swan song for Neil Park as a venue for the American Association, but political wrangling delayed site selection of the new park and construction started late.

Contact the American Association Almanac at pureout@msn.com to find out how to receive a copy of the entire story of the early history of Red Bird Stadium.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Born on this Date: Nick Polly

Slugger Nick Polly was born on this date, April 18, 1917, in Chicago.

He joined the American Association as a Louisville Colonel in 1944, leading the league in RBI with 120 and walks with 147 while posting a batting average of .290. He led the third-place Colonels with 20 home runs while covering the hot corner 142 games.

In 1945, Polly's second and final season in the Association, he split between Louisville and Toledo, appearing in 118 games while doing outfield duty (33 games) and covering third base (79 games) while chalking up a .314 batting mark with nine home runs.

Born Nicholas Joseph Polachanin, the 5' 11", 190 lb. third baseman/outfielder made his major league debut on Sept. 11, 1937.

Polly died January 17, 1993 in Chicago.

For more on Polly, go to:

http://minors.sabrwebs.com/cgi-bin/player.php?milbID=polly-001nic

visit the Almanac's home website:

www.americanassociationalmanac.com

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Grave Markers for Dan Lally and Dan Marion

All the details have now been finalized, including the design for each grave marker selected. Payment has now been made. Last week I met with Ed Thompson of the Milwaukee Archdiocese Cemeteries at Mount Olivet Cemetery and discussed the arrangements with him.

There will be an hour-long ceremony at Mount Olivet Cemetery on July 30 at 3 p.m. The cemetery is located at S. 35th and Morgan. It will honor the memory and baseball playing career of each player, Dan Lally and Donald "Dan" Marion. Marion was a pitcher who died in 1933. Lally was an outfielder who died as a resident of the Milwaukee County Insane Asylum (county grounds) in 1936. The major league record of both players may be accessed through baseball-reference.com. Each player had a career in the American Association, Lally with Minneapolis and Marion with Milwaukee.

According to Minor League Registry, Lally was committed to the Wisconsin State Asylum in 1910, located in what is known as the Milwaukee County Grounds. I'm not sure if he was ever released, but I believe he was. However, according to the death notice in the Milwaukee Journal, he died at the county hospital on April 14, 1936 and was, I believe, a registered patient/inmate there.

Marion died after collapsing behind his home, a rooming house located at 814 N. 5th St. (downtown) in Milwaukee on January 18, 1933 as the result of an internal hemorrhage.

Both players were penniless at the time of their death.

Anyone interested in contacting me about this event may contact me directly at pureout@msn.com

I am still in need of donations.

I discovered that the grave of Marion was unmarked when I first visited the Mount Olivet cemetery in 2004. At the time I place a temporary marker there built of wood and glass. After revisiting the cemetery the following year, the marker was still in place but the glass was broken. The following year the marker was gone. In the interim time period I learned that Lally was also buried there, only about 50 yards from the site of Marion's grave, if that. Last December I started a fund raising effort through my baseball history journal, the American Association Almanac. Many people came forward within the next few weeks to show their interest in helping preserve the memory of these two early 20th-century ballplayers, both of whom wound up in Milwaukee because of their baseball career.

Now there will be a permanent reminder of the baseball career of each player, and for those interested in pursuing baseball history through the visitation of cemeteries will have a new destination to pursue, thanks in large part to the subscribers of the American Association Almanac.

Death of Tommy Holmes

The baseball world lost one of the grand survivors of the golden age of baseball when Tommy Holmes died. Although his career in the American Association was scant, the former Dodger and Brave had played under Bill Meyer as a Kansas City Blues outfielder in seven games, hitting .150 in 20 at-bats before moving on to the Newark Bears. Both teams were double-A affiliates of the New York Yankees. The Brooklyn, NY native was 22 as a Kansas City Blue. At the time of his death, Holmes had celebrated his 91st birthday only a two weeks prior.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Contact the American Association Almanac


If you wish to contact the American Association Almanac for answers to questions or comments you might have, please email me at pureout@msn.com

There is no advertising accepted in the American Association Almanac.

To subscribe to the American Association Almanac, you have a few different options.

Option 1: Subscribe for one year. You get three issues, Spring, Summer and Fall. The cost is $18.00.

Option 2: Subscribe for two years. You get six issues. Cost is $32.00.

Option 3: Become a Lifetime Subscriber. Ten years guaranteed. Cost: $150.00.

Option 4: Become a Benefactor of the Almanac. Minimum donation: $200.00. Monies donated to the American Association Almanac are used to further the cause of researching the information used in this publication. Starting with the Spring issue of 2008, all benefactors will have their name published in each subsequent issue.

Back issues are available on a per unit basis or as a complete set. Please contact me for details.

Spring 2008 Almanac in Progress


The spring 2008 edition of the American Association Almanac is well underway and should be in the mail in two weeks, gods and goddesses willing. It will contain numerous photos and other graphics, including editorial cartoons published in local period newspapers.

The topic of the spring issue centers on Red Bird Stadium in Columbus, Ohio which was built in 1932. This ballpark is still in existence and is in its last year of use by a professional baseball team. Now the home of the Columbus Clippers, an affiliate of the National League's Washington Nationals, the park is known as Cooper Stadium after a city father who helped promote the rejuvenation of the park some years back.

As an American Association venue, Red Bird Stadium was in use from 1932 through the 1954 season when the Columbus Red Birds played there. The club was originally known as the Columbus Senators as an inaugural member of the American Association in 1902. They initially played their games at Neil Park, but the structure was completely rebuilt in 1905 and was still known as Neil Park, but is also referred to as Neil Park II to distinguish it from its predecessor.

My base website, www.americanassociationalmanac.com contains broader descriptions of each issue dedicated to these parks, as well as numerous other topics, from managers to team histories of the American Association.

Complete issues of the Almanac have been devoted to both incarnations of Neil Park. There you can find complete details as to the persons behind the actual construction of the stands, the key players of the Columbus Senators at the time, along with numerous other information.

The Spring issue will again offer a replete history of the origins of this fascinating Columbus ballpark, Red Bird Stadium. A full description of its contents will likely follow on this blog site.

The American Association Almanac is dedicated to preserving the history of the American Association minor league baseball organization from 1902 through 1952, occasionally going outside these boundaries when relevant. It included high level (A and AA) minor league teams in Columbus, Indianpolis, Kansas City, Louisville, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Toledo.

I have just elected to try the format at blogger.com in order to take advantag of its simplicity in mounting photographs that pertain to historical baseball, particularly with respect to the American Association.