Tag: washington

When Hartford Witnessed the Remarkable Rube Waddell

Of all the Hall of Famers to barnstorm Hartford, Connecticut, (Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and Babe Ruth, to name a few) one of the earliest stars to come here was George Edward “Rube” Waddell. The unpredictable left-hander led Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics against the Washington Senators at Hartford Base Ball Park. The postseason exhibition game took place on a Monday afternoon, October 8, 1906, to benefit Newington’s Cedar Mountain Hospital for consumptives (patients with tuberculosis).

Rube Waddell, 1901.
Rube Waddell, Philadelphia Athletics, 1902.

A year prior to his Hartford visit, Waddell won a rare pitcher’s Triple Crown. He paced the American League with 27 wins, 287 strikeouts and an earned run average of 1.48. Waddell was baseball’s biggest celebrity and drawing card, though he was injured for the 1905 World Series. Over thirteen big league seasons, he appeared with Louisville, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis. He was nicknamed “Rube,” meaning “country bumpkin” – as many rural players were called at the time.

Philadelphia Athletics at the World Series (an injured Rube Waddell kneels to the right of Connie Mack, standing center) Polo Grounds, New York City, 1905.

Born on Friday the 13th of October, 1876, in Bradford, Pennsylvania, George Edward Waddell was the sixth child of Mary and John Waddell, who worked in the oil fields for Standard Oil Company. Rube made his Major League debut at 20 years old. He garnered a reputation for unmanageable free-spiritedness. Rube was known to miss regular season games for fishing trips and he often moonlighted with amateur teams, which included appearances at Rollins College and Volant College. Sometimes dubbed “Lunatic Lefty,” Waddell indulged in drinking, gambling, firefighting and even alligator wrestling.

Hartford Base Ball Park, c. 1905.

Despite his eccentricities and idiosyncrasies, Waddell was baseball’s top southpaw at the time of his Hartford sojourn. Rube was the talk of the city as the Philadelphia club arrived late to check-in at Hartford’s Heublein Hotel on Wells Street. The game was scheduled for 2:30 PM. Fans arrived early, packing the grandstand and encircling the roped off field. Local dignitaries such as Morgan G. Bulkeley, former U.S. Senator, Connecticut Governor and first President of the National League, William J. Tracy, Vice President of the Connecticut League of Baseball Clubs and John F. Gunshanan, former professional ballplayer, community leader and head organizer of the Rube-featured exhibition.

Rube Waddell, c. 1905.
Hotel Heublein, Hartford, Connecticut, 1908.

Before night fell over Hartford Base Ball Park, onlookers were awed by Waddell’s victorious complete game shutout. He allowed two hits and struck out 16 batters. His fastball was overpowering and his curve confounded opponents. Behind Rube at second base was another Hall of Famer, Charles “Chief” Bender who recorded a double and a run in the game. A pitcher’s duel that lasted one hour and twenty minutes ended with the Athletics downing the Senators, 2-0. Washington’s lefty, Frank Kitson earned the loss on just five Philadelphia hits.

Hartford Courant excerpt, October 9, 1906.

More than 4,000 fans were estimated in attendance at $0.50 per ticket. Waddell’s Hartford game raised $1,250 for consumptives at Cedar Mountain Hospital – the reported cost of running the institution for about a month. After the game, it was claimed that Waddell has some of his teammates stopped in at Wethersfield Prison to lift the spirits of inmates (something you would never hear of Major League baseball players doing today).

Rube Waddell, St. Louis Browns, 1908.

Coincidentally, Waddell contracted tuberculosis less than eight years later. He died of consumption at 37 years old on April Fool’s Day, 1914. He was buried in San Antonio, Texas. The nearly unhittable “Rube” was eventually elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.

Rube Waddell’s National Baseball Hall of Fame plaque.

Rube was one of a kind — just a big kid, you know. He’d pitch one day and we wouldn’t see him for three or four days after. He’d just disappear, go fishing or something, or be off playing ball with a bunch of twelve-year-olds in an empty lot somewhere. You couldn’t control him ’cause he was just a big kid himself. Baseball was just a game to Rube.”

Sam Crawford, Detroit Tigers, National Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee

Sources

  1. Baseball-Reference.com
  2. Rube Waddell: Baseball’s Peter Pan by John Thorn
  3. Hartford Courant database on Newspapers.com
  4. SABR Article: The Strangest Month in the Strange Career of Rube Waddell by Steven A. King

When the Washington Senators Came to Hartford

On September 23, 1930, the Washington Senators stepped off the train at Union Station in Hartford, Connecticut. The club was on their way to Boston for a four game series, but not before making a stop in the Charter Oak City. Washington was led by Hall of Fame pitching ace, and player-manager, Walter Johnson. The club rested up at Hotel Garde that Tuesday morning before their afternoon game at Bulkeley Stadium.

Main Street, Hartford, Connecticut, looking south, 1930.

Opposing Washington was a team comprised of Eastern League All-Stars. The minor league team organized by Billy Gleason, a veteran second basemen from Springfield. Gleason invited his teammate Bill “Whitey” Dreesen, the Eastern League leader in hits. Other players in the Eastern League lineup included Hartford’s corner outfielder John “Bunny” Roser and a Hartford Twilight League pitcher named Fred “Cy” Waterman.

John “Bunny” Roser, 1930.

Local sporting goods store owner and founder of the Hartford Twilight League, Harry N. Anderson was responsible for scheduling the game. Anderson made arrangements with Washington’s owner Clark Griffith. Prices were 75 cents for grandstand seating, 50 cents for bleachers and 25 cents for children. Ticket proceeds were donated to the Hartford Chapter of Disabled American Veterans. Famous showmen Al Schacht and Nick Altrock performed hilarious comedy routines between innings.

Al Schacht in Hartford, 1938.

However, well-known names and newspaper publicity only brought 800 fans to the stadium. Tuesday afternoon was not a convenient time for fans, and there were economic reasons for the low attendance. Hartford, like most places in America at that time, were still in the grips of the Great Depression.

Hartford Courant excerpt, September 21, 1930.

Longtime Hartford umpires, Walter Elliot and John “Boggy” Muldoon worked the exhibition game at Bulkeley Stadium. First pitch was set for 4:15 PM. In the heart of the batting order for Washington was right fielder Sam Rice, left fielder Heinie Manush and shortstop Joe Cronin (all of which later inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame). Washington was one of the most revered hitting teams in all of baseball.

John “Boggy” Muldoon, Umpire, 1930.

Unexpectedly, it was the minor leaguers who took an early lead. Bill Dreesen connected for a grand slam in the fourth inning. The game only lasted eight innings to allow the Senators to catch a train to Boston. Neil Dougherty and Billy Gleason each had two knocks on the day. The Eastern Leaguers won the game (9-8) thanks to a run scoring single by Jonathan “Mandy” Brooks.

Bulkeley Stadium, Hartford, Connecticut, 1931.

The outcome would have been different if Walter Johnson pitched in the game. For whatever reason, Johnson decided not to throw. Perhaps he was focused on Washington’s remaining American League schedule. By the end of September, the Washington Senators had finished second in the American League with 94 wins and 60 losses, eight games behind the Philadelphia Athletics, Connie Mack’s World Series Champions.

Sources

  1. Hartford Courant database on Newspapers.com.
  2. Connecticut Historical Society on CHS.org/research