1905: Louisville Players Hurt in Wreck

Back in the day, as they say, accidents involving railway cars were fairly common, but it’s still interesting to look back on such events and find out how they impacted the game of baseball during an earlier time.

The header on page 10 of the Louisville Times for Monday, Sept. 4, 1905 read:

WILL SUE FOR HEAVY DAMAGES…Louisville Players Blame Kansas City Street-Car Company for Accident

On Thursday, August 31, 1905, the Louisville Colonels were in Kansas City to play the Blues in another exciting American Association contest. There wasn’t much at stake; Art Irwin‘s Blues were mired in the cellar of the American Association with a record of 45-101 at the time, while the Louisville squad, under their second manager Suter Sullivan, was in fourth-place in the eight team league, with a record of 75-72.

A group of Colonel players boarded a street car that evening, perhaps headed back to their hotel after arresting the Blues, 6-2, at Kansas City’s Association Park earlier that Thursday. As the trolley car was descending a steep hill, the “motorman” lost control as it continued to gather speed. A wreck was the result, after what was described as a collision. There were no fatalities but eight Louisvilleans sustained injuries. Pitcher Ed Kenna was hospitalized for an extended period.

Among the first to report on their condition upon their arrival in Louisville were shortstop Larry Quinlan (who went 3/4 that day against Kansas City’s Walter Justus), outfielder Fred “Hen” Clay (who lost enough skin in the accident to “cover many baseballs” having been dragged 50 feet), second-baseman Roy Brashear and pitcher Charlie Stecher (who was having a fine season with a 14-8 record on the year). A total of eight players were involved in the debacle.

The scheduled game for the following day at Toledo was not played.

However, on Sept. 2, the Mud Hens hosted the depleted Colonels at Armory Park, as Louisville was able to rely upon local amateurs out of Toledo to fill in for the injured players.

An impending law suit against the street car company and the motorman was to be brought, based on the testimony of the players. It was their belief that the operator (or motorman) was not in control of the rail car, and in addition that he’d failed to ring the warning bell which might have prevented the resulting collision.

From the Times report:

“Brashear and Clay, who are only able to walk about with the aid of canes, and who are suffering no little from their injuries, will not be able to play again this season. Stecher thinks that he will be able to take his turn on the slab the latter part of next week, and Quinlan says that he will be able to get back in the game as soon as the team returns to this city [from its trip to Toledo]. All the players feel confident that Kenna will recover from his injuries and be able to play ball again next season but state that he was badly injured in the wreck.

“All the players place the blame for the accident on the motorman, and suits against the street car company will be instituted shortly. They claim that the car was coming down grade at an excessive rate of speed and that the motorman did not ring the bell to give warning of the approach.

“Brashear says that he will never again take such chances as he did in that ride. ‘The next time I find a wagonette going fast where any car lines are near you will find me doing the duck act. Right out of the rear end for me,’ he said.

“Stecher said that he did not know that he was injured until after he had reached the hotel, when he found that he could not walk.”

“Clay says that the first thing he knew was when he was under the fender of of the car. ‘It was then that I grabbed hold of the fender to protect my life. I certainly had an experience that I hope I will never again be so unfortunate as to have. I was dragged over fifty feet, and I was so rapidly losing my strength that if the car had not been brought to a standstill when it was I am certain wthat I would have been killed.'”

The Colonels’ ball club was supplanted by Toledo amateur players Tommy Lovett who covered the short field, Al Daly who played first-base and Joe Smith who took over duties at second-base. In addition, Miller (first name unknown) played in right field during both games of the Sunday doubleheader to close out the series with Toledo. Louisville tried to arrange to have these players travel with the team to Indianapolis, but were not successful.

The first game held after the accident took place Saturday, September 3. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal,

“…with the exception of Daly, they played nice ball. Daly had some stage fright, but Lovett covered short and Smith second in big league style. Lovett drove the ball deep into the field three times, and in the last inning got a hit.

Kerwin [Dan] captained the team and had his batting eye open, securing a double and a single. Hallman [Bill] and Stoner [Herb], Dunkle [Ed, “Cannon Ball”] and Scott [George] each hit, but the safe drives were all scattered. Dunkle pitched a good game, allowing but five hits. He had the worst of several decisions and was cautioned by Umpire [Brick] Owens not to take advantage of the crippled condition and make any remarks.”

Despite out-hitting the Hens 8-5, the battle-weary Colonels were held scoreless by Toledo pitcher Wylie Piatt who equalled the season’s strikeout record by whiffing 11 would-be hitters. The Friday final: 3-0, Hens.

Ed Grillo‘s Toledoans swept the weekend series. No doubt the Colonels were just happy to have it behind them.

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Hitting the Bull Durham Tobacco Sign

The June 16, 1910 issue of the Minneapolis Journal clarified what has long been lore in baseball history: players who hit the Bull Durham tobacco sign earned a fair stipend of $50.00. Included in the article was an illustration of the check, drawn from the Morton Trust Company, in the amount of $50.00 awarded to Minneapolis Miller pitcher Nick Altrock who hit the bull sign with a batted ball on May 1, 1910 at Kansas City’s Association Park. According to the article, Blackwell’s Tobacco Company “has erected large cut-out signs in many of the baseball parks throughout the United States, and is offering $50 to any player who hits the bull with a fair fly batted ball in a regular scheduled game. They also offer a five pound carton of tobacco to any player making a home run on any grounds where one of their signs is erected.” Please see earlier blog for additional information.

June 18, 1910: A Strange Day in A.A. Baseball

They say things happen in three’s.

Well, who’s to say. But on Saturday, June 18, 1910 there was a concurrence of events in the baseball world suggesting the influence of a cosmic crease.

The day started sadly with the death of former Milwaukee Brewers’ catcher Charles E. Moran. The 23-year-old catcher was struck full force and broadside by a baseball bat the previous day in LaPorte, Indiana. He died the morning of June 18, 1910 while surgeons were attempting to repair his massive internal injuries.

Then an event took place which, although rare enough, did not parallel the gravity of the first tragic occurrence. Californian Gavvy “Cactus” Cravath was the regular left fielder for the front running Minneapolis Millers in 1910. During the second game of a twin bill being played against the Louisville Colonels on June 18, Cravath struck a ball off Frank Decanniere, a young lefty out of Greeley, Kansas. Cravath was known for his long, strong line drives, many of which he turned into home runs and extra bases. One of 13 Miller hits that day, Cravath’s swat in the seventh banged against the Bull Durham Tobacco sign at Nicollet Park. The feat earned him two bags on the diamond and a $50 bonus. He scored two hitters later after Ollie “Dad” Pickering doubled off Decanniere. Cravath’s tally capped the Miller scoring with their seventh run. The first game was decided by the Millers, 7-3 as “Long Tom” Hughes earned the win en route to a sweep over the Louisvilleans.

Thirdly on that memorable Saturday was a game which landed Toledo Mud Hen right-hander Karl Robinson in the American Association’s eternal annals, as he tossed a no-hit, no run game against a veteran Kansas City Blues team. Four Kansas Citians worked Robby for a free pass, and four found the pads via the error route. But the Mud Hens prevailed at Association Park in Kansas City by a score of 8-0 as Robinson achieved his feat with little early run support. All told, the Toledo men racked up 15 hits on the day, scoring their final five runs in the last three innings. The loss put the struggling Blues one notch deeper into the mire with their 33rd loss of the season as “Vinegar Bill” Essick took the loss. Meanwhile, Robby and his Hen teammates were showing the league-leading Millers that they were hot on their tails with their 38th win against 21 losses.

All in all, it was a day containing a variety of dramatic events which directly impacted American Association fans across the midwest during the season of 1910.