Louisville’s Eclipse Park, 1902-22

After starting research for this project some months back, my published account of Louisville’s Eclipse Park was mailed out yesterday to my subscribers. This was my 35th issue of the American Association Almanac, a project I started back in November of 2001.

The issue was originally intended to come out as one, but the length exceeded what I would normally be able to produce, and mailing costs have gone up so much I decided it was most prudent to cut it in half. As it is, the content approaches 25,000 words and includes the early history of the home site of the American Association’s Louisville Colonels. Known also as Eclipse Park III, the facility sat at the corner of 7th and Kentucky Streets, one mile south-southwest of the city’s center. As the story goes, Louisville was not originally slated to become a franchise in the American Association when plans were laid to start the new league in 1901. Instead, Omaha was to be the entrant, but the league owners quickly realized this would make travel expenses unbalanced, making the Omaha choice an unwise one. So George Tebeau was enlisted to go forth into uncharted waters. He had no contacts in Louisville, but he had the will to build a ballpark there and put a team in a city which had been intimately familiar with major league baseball for years, through the 1899 season. Tebeau encountered many difficulties, documented in the text of this issue, and it makes for interesting reading. I’ve examined various sources in an attempt to portray the situation as historically accurate as possible, and I chronicle the construction of the park. Included is a thorough account of the first game played there, as well as a section on the home runs hit at the park from 1902-11. Deadball fans will recognize that this was a period of slower offensive output, but baseball fans generally may be surprised at the number of home runs hit in Louisville during the league’s first decade.

Featured are 15 graphics, including a splendid photograph of the scoreboard at Eclipse Park, used by permission (it cost me thirty-five bucks) from the University of Louisville’s Eckstrom Library, which incidentally, was completely inflexible with me when I tried to work with them to obtain permission to obtain the use of additional photos at a discount, but they chose to stand in the way of public scholarship. Regardless of the obstacles, there is a host of other graphics included in this issue which help add to the overall story of Eclipse Park.

The issue sells for $8.00 + postage. If you wish to subscribe you will receive a 10% discount if you mention this blog. Subscription rates for one year: $21.00. For two years, $36.00.EclipseParkGrandstandLCJ32302

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have: pureout@msn.com

Also, please see my blogspot blog at http://www.almanacpark.blogspot.com

Advertisements

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.

1910 Home Run Log: Miller LF Gavvy Cravath

1910 HOME RUN LOG FOR
MINNEAPOLIS MILLERS’ LEFT FIELDER
GAVVY “CACTUS” CRAVATH,
THE 1910 AMERICAN ASSOCIATION’S
LEADING HOME RUN HITTER

1. Game 1…April 13…vs. Kansas City Blues’ Billy Campbell (L) at home
2. Game 16…May 4…vs. Toledo Mud Hens’ Hi West (R) at home
3. Game 28…May 16…vs. Louisville Colonels’ Bill Fisher (L) at home
4. Game 41…May 30 (g. 2, inn. 4) vs. St. Paul Saints’ Louis LaRoy (R) at home
5. Game 41…May 30 (g. 2, inn. 6) vs. St. Paul Saints’ Louis LaRoy (R) at home
6. Game 58…June 16 vs. Louisville Colonels’ Walter Slagle (R) win at home
7. Game 60…June 18 (g. 1) vs. Louisville Colonels’ Frank Decanniere (L) at home
8. Game 76…July 1 vs. St. Paul Saints’ Jack Ryan (R) at St. Paul
9. Game 103…July 25 vs. Louisville Colonels’ Jack Halla (R) at Louisville
10. Game 118…August 9 vs. Columbus Senators’ George Kahler (R) at home
11. Game 121…August 12 (inn. 4) vs. St. Paul Saints’ Elmer Rieger (R) at St. Paul
12. Game 121…August 12 (inn. 9) vs. St. Paul Saints’ Elmer Rieger (R) at St. Paul
13. Game 127…August 19 vs. Louisville Colonels’ Jack Halla (R) at Louisville
14. Game 164…September 21 vs. Milwaukee Brewers’ Jack Gilligan (R) at home

The Ballparks:

Minneapolis: Nicollet Park
Louisville: Eclipse Park
St. Paul: Lexington Park

Note 1: Cravath’s third and sixth home runs were inside-the-park homers.
Note 2: Cravath’s home run hit the Bull Durham Tobacco sign on June 18 and August 12 on his second homer (9th inning) for a $50 bonus in each instance.
Note 3: Cravath’s first home run (4th inning) on August 12 was reportedly the longest ball ever hit at St. Paul’s Lexington Park which had one of the most expansive outfields in the league.
Note 4: Cravath drove in a total of 26 runs with his 14 home runs.
Note 5. The Millers won 11 of the 12 games Cravath homered in, losing only the first one, Opening Day, 1910 against Louisville.

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.

Louisville’s Stansbury Sustains Fracture at Minneapolis

Here is the story according to Sporting Life magazine, May 25, 1912:

Jack Stansbury, the Louisville third-baseman, is out of the game with a broken arm. The accident happened while Jack was seated on the bench, while the Louisville Club was playng in Minneapolis. Second baseman Lynn Bell of the Colonels fouled one into the Louisville dugout. Stansbury threw up his arm to guard his head and the ball struck him on the bone, fracturing it. He will be out of the game for a month or six weeks.

If you think about it, it’s amazing that there weren’t more injuries of this fashion in those days, back when “men were men” so to speak, considering the comparatively small foul area. But it was a real rough and tumble crowd in those days, those players…I’m sure Stansbury would have winced once and said, “Hell, I ain’t goin’ to no damn doctor for this…”