Tag Archives: Bill Schwartz

Catch and Release: Bill Schwartz’s Gamble on a Pike

Bill Schwartz was handed the reins of the Nashville club soon after current manager, Bill Bernhard, announced on September 23, 1910 that he would not manage the team any longer. Schwartz joined the Vols earlier that year and played first base for 62 games, hitting at a .288 clip. He came from Akron, where he played for five years, managing the Champs to an 80-41 record and an Ohio-Pennsylvania League (Class C) pennant.

The 6’2”, 185-pound Schwartz had played 24 games for his hometown Cleveland Naps in 1904, his only major-league experience, on a team which included a future Vols teammate, outfielder Harry Bay. Future Hall of Fame members Addie Joss, Elmer Flick, and Nap Lajoie were on that Cleveland ball club. Those great players, along with Naps manager Bill Armour (in 1908, Cleveland announced that it would have two farm clubs: Toledo, managed by Armour, and Nashville, managed by Bill Bernhard) must have been an influence on Bill and his future managerial skills.

After two fourth-, two fifth-, and one seventh-place finish, Bill had a final shot at improving his ball club. Aging Otto Williams had been a steady second-sacker, but at the age of 36 and a weak .246 average in his only season with Nashville, Schwartz saw an opportunity to bring in new blood at the position.

nashville-tennessean-and-american-march-2-1915-pike-schwartzIn 1915, Bill thought he had caught his big fish to fill the slot. On March 2, the Nashville Tennessean and American parodied a news story that about the signing of W. P. (Bill) Pike, and compared the potential of the new player to that of Boston Braves second baseman and 1914 National League most valuable player, Johnny Evers.

Bill Pike was a no-show as pre-season practice began. On March 14, he was still a “no-show”[1], but not necessarily an unusual circumstance as only 12 players had reported at the time. Pike joined first baseman Gene Paulette, shortstop Dolly Stark, third baseman Johnny Dodge, outfielders Bert King, Tommy McCabe, and Jack Farmer, and pitchers Floyd Kroh and Heinie Berger.

Bill Ware, who would also vie for the second base position, had not shown up in Nashville as well, but the first exhibition game was not scheduled for another week when Vanderbilt would be the opponent on Saturday, March 20. The pro club won over the collegiate Commodores 6-2 in chilly Sulphur Dell, and Pike was hitless in to turns at bat. Hoping that Pike would hold down the position at second base, Schwartz inserted Ware as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning. After the strike out, he replaced Pike at second for the last two innings.nashville-tennessean-and-american-march-24-1915-pike-schwartz

When weather delayed the next game, the teams met at Dudley Field on Tuesday, March 23, and Pike was inserted as a pinch-hitter in the last inning as the Vols won, 11-4 in seven innings. Pike was hitless in two turns at bat. Ware played right field, and Howard Baker was at second.[2]

For whatever reason, by April 11, Pike was gone[3]. Bill Ware was not to be found, either. Second base was played by three players during season: Tom Sheehan, 67 games, George Kircher, 39 games, Howard Baker, 33 games, and Ben Diamond, 15 games.

Schwartz was not successful in Nashville, as his clubs never finished higher than fourth, and his Vols record in five campaigns was 350-360. In 1916 Schwartz became head coach of the Vanderbilt University baseball team, and retired with a Schwartz coaching record in 19 seasons.[4]

Ware disappears from baseball  history, and Pike is nowhere to be found. Did Schwartz’s big catch turn out to be a throwback?

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

[1] Nashville Tennessean and American, March 14, 1915, p. 36.

[2] Ibid., March 24, 1915, p. 12.

[3] Ibid., April 11, 1915, p. 36.

[4] Traughber, Bill. “Vandy’s Bill Schwartz remembered”, Commodore History Corner. http://www.vucommodores.com/sports/historycorner/spec-rel/042512aaa.html, accessed March 1, 2017.

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The Trouble With Umpires

George Stallings was on his deathbed on May 13, 1929 when his doctor asked why the former baseball manager had a bad heart. Stallings was reported to have said, “Bases on balls, doc … those damned bases on balls.”

He may not have had enough time to give further detail, but couldn’t Stallings have been a little more specific? Was it the failure of his pitchers to throw strikes, or the failure of the umpire to call them?

A pitcher’s aim is to throw strikes. That’s what they do, or at least what they want to do. Umpires, on the other hand, use their judgment to call them as they see them. Therein lies the one word that have haunted them since before Abner Doubleday was knee-high to a shin guard: judgement.Ump

I believe that should Stallings have been able to carry on the discussion, he would most certainly pinned the blame on umpires. That’s a great yoke for arbiters to carry, the cause of his death being the decisions of umpires.

But that’s nothing new. Umpires have been criticized and disparaged for years. The pay scale is probably pretty good these days, but defending one’s decision in the old days could actually lead to fights among players, managers, and fans. The umpire’s job can often become a thankless one, too, as being judge and jury often leads to having to take cover.

One such instance occurred in Nashville on September 12, 1915. The Chattanooga Lookouts had taken the first game over the Nashville Vols at Sulphur Dell when all hell broke loose.

In the bottom of the second inning, umpire Dan Pfenninger removed Nashville outfielder George Kircher from the coaching box. When Vols manager Bill Schwartz argues against Pfenninger’s action, unhappy fans begin to toss bottles from the grandstands. The trash literally covered the field.

The disturbance continues for nearly ten minutes as a few fans begin to infiltrate the playing field and are dispersed by an officer. Four spectators who had been seen hurling bottles onto the field were arrested.

Play resumed, but in the bottom of the third umpire Ted Breitenstein twice reversed a decision at second base and another disturbance began as a bottle aimed at Pfenninger strikes Nashville catcher Gabby Street on the arm.

Pfenninger forfeits the game to the Lookouts 9-0 after the crowd surged onto the field and threatened Chattanooga manager Kid Eberfield. He had climbed into the bleachers to take a bottle away from a raucous fan who had hit him on the head with a thrown bottle. Lookouts players removed their leader from the fray and intercede in their leader’s verbal barrage.

Stallings, who was a pugnacious bulldog of a manager, would probably have sided with Eberfield’s actions and taken great delight in those two particular umpire’s plight.

But shielding oneself from players, managers, and fans was not always the responsibility of the umpire himself, as leagues began to take a protective approach. Havoc was not to reign at each and every disagreement.

For example, Southern Association president Robert H. Baugh must have had enough of such shenanigans and on October of 1916 decreed that beginning with the 1917 season any player put out of a game by an umpire would be automatically fined $10.

Rules of conduct that included fines did not always make for keeping the peace. On June 25, 1941, Nashville pitcher Boots Poffenberger was suspended for 90 days by league president Trammel Scott. It seems Boots was upset with umpire Ed “Dutch” Hoffman’s calls, and in the fifth inning of the previous night’s game had been ordered off the field by the arbiter after “continual griping and use of abusive language”.

Instead of leaving the field, Poffenberger turned and threw the ball at the umpire, hitting him in the chest protector but not injuring.  Commenting on Poffenberger’s suspension, Nashville manager Larry Gilbert declared, “I’m through with him.  He won’t pitch for Nashville any more”.  Poffenberger won 25 games the previous season and had won seven and lost only three up to the unfortunate confrontation.

But he never pitched for Nashville again.

We have to hand it to the ump for keeping his head in the game, too. On April 25, 1948 in Mobile, Buster Boguskie of Nashville and the Bears’ George Shuba were both ejected for scuffling at second base after Shuba’s hard slide in an attempt to break up a double play.

As the two were rolling in the infield dirt Mobile’s Stubby Greer, who had been at second, ran home and when Nashville coach George Hennessey protested umpire Red McCutcheon’s decision to count the run, Hennessey was tossed.

And on July 18 of that same year umpire Bill Brockwell ejected four Nashville Vols in their 10-3 loss in Chattanooga.  Buster Boguskie was sent packing for arguing a strike decision, manager Hugh Poland was sent to the showers after continuing the debate, Johnny Liptak was chased for a comment as he passed Brockwell on his way to coach first base, and Ziggy Jasinski, who had taken Boguskie’s place at bat, was banished after making another remark that Brockwell did not like.

Someone has to be in control, don’t they?

Stallings would have been upset at the umps for an entirely different reason in another game 1952. On April 25 the start of the game in Nashville was delayed by twelve minutes due to the belated appearance of umpires Walt Welaj and Andy Mitchell. They exclaimed they “were rubbing up baseballs”.

Twelve minutes can’t be so bad, but isn’t that another thing umpires do before each game? Was there more baseballs than they could handle that day?

A few guys give the position a bad name, however. All the way back in 1903, J. E. Folkerth, the baseball umpire who had passed bogus checks of $25.00 to Nashville manager Newt Fisher and three others, was given a sentence in criminal court this morning of three years in the state prison.

Crime doesn’t pay, even if you receive the benefit of the doubt; but steps were taken in the 19th Century to hire and keep the best umpires.

The organizing of the inaugural Southern League for the 1885 included the hiring of an umpire staff of four men at $75 per month and $3 per diem for expenses. That was decent pay by some standards: in 1878 National League teams had to pay umpires $5 per game.

By the end of the season, five of the eight clubs requested that the league president consider increasing that amount. It was hard to keep them on the staff if they were underpaid and could not cover their expenses.

And the owners did not want to pay it out of their own pockets, either.

Beyond that, one season was all it took for conscientious owners to realize the importance of having their games to be overseen in an honest and worthy manner. It was still a “gentlemen’s game”, and it was to have stayed that way.

And going nose to nose with an umpire to argue a call can be hazardous to one’s health, as not all umpires remain “gentlemen”. On October 22, 1933, while managing a barnstorming team playing in Mexico City, Nashville’s Lance Richbourg was struck in the face by Cuban umpire Senor Hernandez after Richbourg disputed a decision at home plate.

For the remainder of his career and beyond, Richbourg suffered from the effects of sciatic rheumatism. Could his encounter have been the cause?

And then there are substitute umpires. Consider the case of one James Hillery, a multi-talented player for Nashville’s first professional team. A gentlemen? Yes. Qualified to call balls and strikes when no league umpire is present? Yes.

But how long does the honor of an umpire last, no matter that his reputation precedes him.

On April 1, 1885 before a home town crowd of 1,500, a clear picture of what lies ahead begins to focus. The newly-formed Nashville Americans topped the visiting Clevelands by a score of 15-7 on that day. There is nothing unusual about that, but James Hillery was asked to serve as umpire.

Was he filling in for an ump who didn’t show up for the game? Had umpires in the fledgling league not been assigned for exhibition games?

There is no evidence that he did other than discharge his duties as asked and as expected. But something happened, lending to the fact that all umpires, and players for that matter, should always hold themselves to the standard set before them.

Without more detail other than the reporting of its occurrence, on June 1, 1885 visiting Chattanooga wins over Nashville 6-2. After the game, the directors of the Nashville Baseball Club indefinitely suspended third baseman James Hillery for drinking, and assess a $50.00 fine. Although he returns 10 days later, a precedent is set.

Rogues, rhubarbs, and umpires? Just part of the game.

In defending the standing of his trade in his book Standing the Gaff (1935), long-time Southern Association umpire Harry “Steamboat” Johnson may have said it best:

“A doctor has an undertaker to cover his mistakes, and umpires don’t. When (a physician) makes a mistake, it is buried and forgotten. When I make one, it lives forever. Play ball.”

© 2015 Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Nashville Hosted Southern Association All Star Games

This week is Major League Baseball’s All Star week with festivities already underway in Cincinnati. The Summer Classic will be held on Tuesday, July 14th. Minor leagues have either held or will be holding their own All Star games, too.

The Southern Association All Star games were hosted by the city which was in first place on a certain day, often only a few days before the game was to be held. The league began the tradition in 1938. For example, by way of leading the league standings after games held on July 14th, Nashville hosted the 1957 All Star game at Sulphur Dell on July 17th.

The first event hosted by Nashville took place on July 8, 1940. The Southern Association All-Stars, with a 17-hit attack featuring home runs by Paul Richards and Rufe Hooks, defeated the Nashville Vols 6-1 at Sulphur Dell before a crowd of 5,500. Nashville’s Boots Poffenberger was the losing pitcher.

Three years later on July 9, 1943, Sulphur Dell was the venue for a second time as the Nashville Vols defeated the Southern Association All Stars, 3-2. Mel Hicks, Johnny Mihalic, and Whitey Platt of the home team garnered two hits apiece.

On July 20, 1948 Nashville hosted the Southern Association All Stars again at Sulphur Dell. Charlie Gilbert slammed a home run over the short right field fence in the twelfth inning to lead the Vols over the league’s stars 4-3.  A crowd of 9,147 was in attendance.

AllStarTicket1948 262

The next season on July 12, 1949 the league All Stars crushed their hosts 18-6 at Sulphur Dell before 11,442 fans.  Atlanta second baseman Davey Williams, already sold to the New York Giants, was five-for-five. Three of his hits were doubles as he scored four runs and participated in three double plays. Mobile’s George “Shotgun” Shuba slammed a three-run homer and Atlanta Crackers outfielder Lloyd Gearhart added a two-run home run.

Once again the Southern Association All Stars won over Nashville 7-6 on July 17, 1957. It was the first All Star game held at the home park of the second-place club at the time of the game, as the Vols had lost their first-place standing which earned them as host.

Before hosting rules or fan selection were implemented, choosing an All Star team was common place among sportswriters. Nashville’s Grantland Rice picked his own Southern Association elite team in the August 28, 1910 edition of the Nashville Tennessean. New Orleans would win that season’s pennant:

Catchers

Syd Smith, Atlanta

Rowdy Elliott, Birmingham

Pitchers

Harry Coveleski, Birmingham

Otto Hess, New Orleans

Frank Allen, Memphis

Tom Fisher, Atlanta

First Base

Bill Schwartz, Nashville

Second Base

Dutch Jordan, Atlanta

Shortstop

Steve Yerkes, Chattanooga

Third Base

Frank Manush, New Orleans

Left Field

Jud Daley, Montgomery

Center Field

Shoeless Joe Jackson, New Orleans

Right Field

Bobby Messenger, Birmingham

© Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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This Week in Nashville Baseball History: January 4 – January 10

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January 4, 1899 – John Sneed’s death is announced in Jackson, Tennessee. A member of Nashville’s first professional baseball club, the Americans of the newly-formed Southern League, he was a utility player who also pitched. Sneed also played for the Memphis Grays, Memphis Browns, and New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern League. He was born in Shelby County near Memphis in 1861

January 5, 1908 – Bill Bernhard(t) is named as manager of the Nashville Baseball Club. “Strawberry Bill” had pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians beginning in 1899, retiring at the end of the 1907 season with a major league record of 116 -81. Bernhard will manage Nashville for three seasons while continuing to pitch. Leaving the Vols after the 1910 season, he would move to Memphis and manage there from 1911 to 1913 and return to active pitching in Salt Lake City in 1914 and Chattanooga in 1915. After being out of baseball for two years he will return to Salt Lake City as manager in 1916, retiring from pro ball in 1917

January 6, 1897 – Today is the birthday of Byron “By” Speece. The right-handed submariner was 85-60 for Nashville from 1932-1938. He had previously pitched for Washington and Cleveland in the American League in 1924-26 and the Philadelphia Phillies in 1930. After his stint with the Vols Speece moved to the Pacific Coast League, pitching for Portland and Seattle from 1940-1946

January 7, 1882 – Heinie Berger, pitcher for Nashville in 1914 (20-17) and 1915 (12-7), is born in LaSalle, Illinois. After his 1915 season with the Vols, Berger retired from baseball. The 5’9” right hander had previously pitched for Cleveland in the American League from 1907-1910 where Berger had a cumulative major league record of 32-29 with a 2.60 ERA. On September 16, 1907 Berger tossed a one-hitter against the New York Highlanders

January 8, 1914 – Judge A. B. Neil awards a temporary injunction to Nashville manager Bill Schwartz that prevents club president W. G. Hirsig from voting certain sharts of stock at the Nashville Baseball Club stockholders meeting called for January 13.  The 26 shares in question are said to be in the name of W. B. Lee, a prominent Nashville specialist, and had been voted by Hirsig in previous meetings.  Schwartz claims to hold Dr. Lee’s written proxy to vote the shares at the meeting

January 9, 1938 – Larry Gilbert, who will be leaving tomorrow with his wife and youngest son Tookie for Nashville to take over his new duties as manager of the Vols, is given a going-away party at his home in New Orleans.  Over 100 family member and friends visited and presented the Gilberts with a variety of gifts

January 10, 1947 – Tom Wilson, owner of the Baltimore Elite Giants formerly located in Nashville, is ousted as president of the Negro National League. Wilson had held the post since 1938

© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Managing the Nashville Baseball Club, 1901-1961

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Jim Turner

Nashville joined seven cities as a member of the Southern Association when it was formed beginning with the 1901 season. Newt Fisher was instrumental in bringing professional baseball back to his hometown as a team organizer, owner, and manager. Fisher led his team to the first two Southern Association championships.

Here is a list of Nashville managers during the league’s existence, from 1901 through 1961:

1901 – 1904   Newt Fisher

1905 – 1906   Mike Finn

1907                  Johnny Dobbs

1908 – 1910   Bill Bernhard

1911 – 1915     Bill Schwartz

1916 – 1920    Roy Ellam

1921                   Hub Perdue

1922                   Larry Doyle

1923 – 1928   Jimmy Hamilton

1928 – 1930   Clarence Rowland

1931 – 1932    Joe Klugman

1933 – 1934    Charles Dressen

1934 – 1937     Lance Richbourg

1935                   Frank Brazill

1935                   Johnny Butler

1938                  Charles Dressen

1939 – 1948    Larry Gilbert

1949                   Rollie Hemsley

1950 – 1951    Don Osborne

1952 – 1954    Hugh Poland

1955                   Joe Schultz

1956                   Ernie White

1957 – 1959    Dick Sisler

1960                   Jim Turner

1961                    Spencer Robbins

Larry Gilbert’s Vols won four regular season championships (1940-1943-1944-1948), Newt Fisher won two (1901-1902), and Bill Bernhard (1908), Roy Ellam (1916), and Rollie Hemlsey (1949) won one each.

© 2013 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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