|The Land of Hot Waters|
|Written by Michael Foster|
|Tuesday, 03 April 2012 12:10|
EDITOR'S NOTE: The material presented here is an advance excerpt for SABR's book on the 1912 Red Sox, which will be available soon.
There may be the occasional error here, but we hope we'll catch all those in the final publication. Right now, we wanted to get this to you as soon as we could.
Also in the book:
The team assembled for a portrait at the Buckstaff Bathhouse. Depicted are five who failed to make the final cut: Fred Anderson, Bill Goodman, Dutch Leonard, Jack Lewis, and Jimmy Shinn.
During their first two trips to Hot Springs in 1909 and 1910, the Red Sox took quarters in the famed Majestic Hotel uptown on Park Avenue. However, when he came to the city to firm up training plans late the previous November, Sox executive Robert McRoy learned that the Majestic was already booked to capacity though the entire month of March. The team booked a three-week stay with the Brooklyn Dodgers at the nearby Eastman Hotel.
Internationally renowned, the mammoth “Monarch on the Glen” was one of five luxury hotels in a city that had been catering to a veritable Who’s Who of notable Americans for over a quarter century.1 Occupying the entire downtown along the eastern edge of Central Avenue between Spring Street and Reserve Avenue, the Eastman was just two blocks from the train depot, and a convenient walk to most of the city’s 19 bathhouses and other downtown attractions. Each of the 520 elegantly furnished guestrooms was fitted with electric lights, steam or electric heat, an oversized attached closet, and a private window overlooking the surrounding Hot Springs Mountains. The grand parlor, dozens of card and writing rooms, and separate ladies and gentlemen billiards rooms, parlors and reading rooms offered round-the-clock convenience.
Morning, afternoon, and night, classical music provided by an Eastman house orchestra flowed in the 52’ X 70’ Grand Rotunda, where guests mingled or simply let go their worries. From cakewalks to card playing, the hotel offered an endless array of games and frivolous fun, and following a day of baths, sightseeing, horseback riding, or golf, the pampered visitor would retire to the hotel dining room for an evening meal sumptuously prepared. Then, perhaps after enjoying a sociable and a fine cigar in one of the Hotel parlors, at 9:00 sharp the Eastman Grand Ballroom came to life as guests enjoyed “rhythmic inspiration” provided by the house band at organized “hops” featuring square dancing, group dancing and waltzes.2
Guests from across the globe basked in the luxury of one of America’s finest hotels, but to Jake Stahl and other major league managers the arrival of March meant baseball and baseball meant business.
The 1,200 foot hills surrounding Hot Springs had been providing American ballplayers with a natural gymnasium for hiking and climbing dating all the way back to 1886, when Cap Anson brought his Chicago White Stockings to town to “boil out the alcoholic microbes” in area spas. True, the advent of modern science had long since rendered obsolete many of those old training practices, and yet, lo all these years later, these old hills stood as a vivid reminder of what was still the best way of whipping any flabby ballplayer into shape.
The Eastman Hotel, spring training home of the 1912 Boston Red Sox.
Stahl and Bill Carrigan were joined by Cy Young for a vigorous 10-mile hike on the morning of February 28.3 Their workout in the Hot Springs Mountains completed, the men made their way down West Mountain and arrived at Whittington Park just southwest of downtown. The oldest of Hot Springs’ three training fields, Whittington had been used mostly by Cincinnati and Pittsburgh since its opening to the public in 1894, and six years earlier it was razed to make way for a new grandstand capable of holding upward of 700 spectators. The facilities were the best Hot Springs had to offer, but after three all-star contests and a number of wet practice sessions the playing surface was a mess. Stahl no doubt expressed some measure of relief that his club would not be sharing practice at Whittington as had earlier been rumored.4
Red Sox president John I. Taylor had spared no expense on the construction of the new Red Sox ball grounds in the Fenway, but the same could hardly be said of the team’s spring training grounds, humble Majestic Park. Built in the offseason before spring training in 1909, the bare-bone field featured a modest grandstand capable of holding a few hundred fans, with a lone screen installed behind home plate to keep passed balls from skirting off onto adjacent Carson and Belding Streets. Majestic was nothing fancy, but the playing surface was “as level as the stereotyped billiard table” and the freshly planted grass had grown in almost completely.5 Best of all, the Red Sox would have exclusive use of Majestic through the entire run of spring training, and that was more than good enough for Jake Stahl. “This is the best playing field in the South,” he commended as he walked around the untouched grounds. “Look at the infield; it couldn’t be better. Let the steam roller take one trip over the sod and I wouldn’t swap my field with that old one at Whittington Park.” 6
Heavy spring rains that had been sweeping across the entire South for weeks continued to fall mercilessly, and much to everyone’s chagrin baseball activity was kept to a dull minimum. Old timers in Hot Springs said that the deluge was the worst in memory; roads in Garland County were transformed into veritable mud pits and rising rivers up north were a menace to rail traffic coming into and leaving Hot Springs’ three train stations. To make matters worse, forecasters saw nothing but more precipitation on the horizon.7
A handful of Red Sox players braved the rains and, one by one, began making their way into camp. On the first of March, veteran utility infielder Clyde Engle arrived in town in the company of Nuf Ced McGreevey, king of Boston’s Royal Rooters, who left the comfort of his South End saloon, The Third Base, to head South and work off a few pounds with the hometown team. 8
Right-hander Charley “Sea Lion” Hall arrived unannounced two days later in the Eastman Lobby to the welcoming backslaps and jubilant howls of his teammates.
The valley that the Boston Red Sox would call home for the next four weeks was known as “The Place of Hot Waters” (“Tah-Ne-Co”) to the Native American tribes who settled in the region centuries before conquistador Hernando De Soto arrived in 1541.9 Warriors wounded in battle had long recognized the seemingly miraculous healing powers of the warm waters, and in the 350 years that passed as the area evolved from outpost to settlement to resort village of nearly 15,000 year-round residents, the mystique surrounding the thermal waters only grew.
Scientists from universities across the United States had spent the better part of a generation examining the warm springs, and before the first decade of the twentieth century was out an assortment of hypotheses had emerged to explain its mysterious therapeutic effects. Most concurred with Dr. Bertram B. Boltwood of Yale University, who in 1904 found traces of radon in the springs and attributed the healing powers to the wonder of radioactivity (“the touch of God”).10 Six years later, that notion was disputed by A.H. Purdue, who conducted independent tests and concluded that the water had to be of extraterrestrial origin. Still others argued that the explanation lay in an underground cavern somewhere deep beneath the earth’s surface and far outside the purview of modern science.11
For athletes now working out in Hot Springs, the source of water’s healing power was far less intriguing than its effects—namely soothing sore muscles and helping to steam off a few extra pounds. The convenient proximately of the Majestic Bath House to the adjacent Majestic Hotel made it a popular splash point for many visiting athletes in years past, but with no fewer than 19 such facilities opened in the Valley this spring, bathing options were almost limitless.
Because of their proximity in the Eastman, this year the Red Sox were provided exclusive and unlimited access to the city’s newest and most advanced bathing establishment, the Buckstaff Bathhouse, recently rebuilt from the ground up.12 Located just a block from the Eastman Hotel, the Buckstaff was one of 10 bathhouses clustered along Central Avenue’s famed Bathhouse Row and was “a dream come true” to its proprietors.13 Faced with eight handsome Corinthian columns and white stone trim, the three-story brick structure was a “peerless and dignified” architectural contribution to Bathhouse Row. Fine accoutrements, such as imported marble from Italy, stained glass windows and a staff of “thermal experts” gave it, as one observer put it, “a spirit of elegance and luxury, reminiscent of old Rome at the height of its pagan glory.”14
Bathhouse Row, Hot Springs.
Entering the front door, guests were greeted by the warm smile of one of several full-time attendants (the facility prided itself as the only bathhouse in Hot Springs with an “all-white” staff), and personal items were stored in a locker behind the large marble desk. Female visitors rode an elevator to the second floor (“the latest model,” stated one brochure, “large enough to permit an invalid’s cot to be rolled into it”), but a gentleman needed only step through a door to the right of the front desk to enter the men’s bathing facilities. On changing in the dressing room, guests would then enter the bath chamber itself, its antiseptic white tile floor and white walls glistening in ample light provided by fancy electronic lamps and the sun itself. Hot air cabinets, vapor cabinets, shower baths, and sitz baths offered any number of options to the discerning client. After enjoying a long and steamy bath, the luxurious “cooling room” awaited, where any weary bather, “tingling with the toning vitality of his bath,” could stretch out on one of several divans for a leisurely afternoon snooze.15
When he arrived at the Eastman, Charley Hall announced that it was his intention to get in a full cycle of 21 baths before the opening of training on the 12th; Carrigan had soaked every day for over a week.16 So far as Heinie Wagner was concerned, however, over-bathing was ill advised. “I don’t intend to take the full course of baths at Hot Springs,” he said en route to Arkansas. “Of course there will be plunges, but old and experienced players like Cy Young advise against too much of the hot water as being perhaps harmful.”17
When they weren’t hiking through the mountains or soaking at the Buckstaff, target practice at the recently opened gun club was a favorite recreational activity, as was golf at the world renowned Hot Springs Country Club. Lax gambling regulations made betting on the horse races at Essex Park an almost daily activity.
Town fathers had turned a blind eye to these activities for years, but this spring all that changed. Back in 1911, conservative leaders gathered to form a citizens group seeking to eliminate all gambling in city limits. Backed by local law enforcement—Hot Springs Sheriff James B. Wood—reformers conducted a series of surprise raids on underground gaming establishments, arrested proprietors, and ripped their gaming tables and roulette wheels from their fixtures and burned them on the sidewalks outside.18 “My grandparents were founding members of the First Baptist Church,” Wood’s 82-year old granddaughter, Nadia Parker, defends. “That was the group behind the raids. The bets at the horse track and casinos were all illegal in Hot Springs at the time, and they were just trying to make people obey the law.”19
Unfortunately for vacationers that spring, Wood and his reformers did not stop there. After he finished demolishing the gaming establishments and closing down the infamous Black Orchid, the stubborn Sheriff announced the prohibition of Sunday movies, billiards, and bowling. Then, in a blow directed at ball clubs training in Hot Springs, he banned all Sunday baseball practices and games as well.
Team executives, not to mention the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, were livid. “Indignation at the dictum that no Sunday ball is to be played pervades,” observed Boston Post sportswriter Paul Shannon.20 “In vain were all the arguments of Dahlen, Donovan, Stahl, and others. The players can’t understand how a town that stands for back door entrances to gambling resorts and wink and fake raids can see any harm in the playing of Sunday games.” The personal intervention of Father Fanahy from the local Catholic parish on behalf of the ball clubs did nothing to change the mind of the stubborn sheriff, who made it a point to pay a personal visit to each manager with the stern warning that any player caught so much as walking across the grounds in uniform on Sunday would face certain prosecution.
Thanks to Sheriff Wood, ball players would see no action on Sunday the 3rd, but the day was bright and warm and forecasters called for improved conditions for the week. Buoyed by the news, Stahl was upbeat about prospects for getting some work in before the official opening of camp. “I feel bully,” he declared. “If the squad gets big enough I will start practice at Majestic Park at once.”21 When Bill Dahlen issued a challenge to American League all-stars to meet his Brooklyn Dodgers at Whittington Park for Monday afternoon, Stahl announced he would take duties at first base. Ignoring the earlier missive from Jimmy McAleer to keep his players off the field until he arrived in Hot Springs from meetings in Chicago, Stahl also granted Fred Anderson’s request to pitch for the Americans.22
In defiance to optimistic forecasts, heavy precipitation persisted for most of the first week. The Red Sox got in two hours at Majestic Park on Tuesday, but aside from hikes and soaks, there was little for the players to do but keep warm and wait. “It’s the same old story from the Southern training camp today,” the Boston Post’s Paul Shannon reported glumly on Thursday, March 8. “More rain and cold weather, more kicking and ‘crabbing’ among the players.” That training camps across the south were all experiencing similar inclement weather was of little consolation in the Springs, and one morning after the next wisps of profanity reverberated through corridors of the Eastman as the grumbling Brooklyn Dodgers awoke to find the same sign hanging in the hotel lobby: “NOTHING DOING.” 23
Teams were not able to get in much practice time, but some unexpected excitement on Wednesday gave all the athletes in town a workout the likes of which they had never seen. It all began around 10:30, when three members of the kitchen staff at the Arlington Hotel became embroiled in a bitter dispute over a breakfast order. Without warning, one of the men pulled out a pistol and shot down his co-worker in cold blood. “Two of the disputants were colored and the third a white man,” Shannon recorded the next morning. “The negro fired one shot, which went through the white man’s body, killing him instantly, then struck the other colored man’s right hand, carrying away three fingers.”24 As the alleged murderer made a hasty escape out a back door and down the alley, hotel employees raced out of the kitchen and into the dining room screaming for their lives.
News that a black man had killed a white man spread fast and furiously. “The temper of Hot Springs was at white heat,” Shannon continued, “and the fact that a white man had been killed by a negro was given as sufficient cause for the decoration of one of the lamp posts of the man street if the victim was captured.”25 Posses of gun-toting officials and residents soon formed, and “law abiding colored citizens” made their way into town for fear of being mistaken for the perpetrator. Ball players, then just heading out for their morning hikes, also assembled into small groups to assist in the manhunt.
For two frenzied hours, mobs of men in trucks raced through the city as frustrated law enforcement officials shouted orders left and right, trying desperately to locate the accused before irate citizens got to him first. Meanwhile, some 50 major and minor leaguers—some in uniform, others wearing layers of sweaters and old overcoats—combed the hills in hot pursuit of a man believed armed and dangerous.
Hunting a murderer: Cy Young, Jake Stahl, Bill Carrigan, and Michael “Nuf Ced” McGreevey join the hunt for the fugitive killer.
Later that afternoon, it was discovered that the alleged murderer had cleverly doubled back to the Arlington and spent the rest of the morning hiding in a second floor room. Unbeknownst to most of the city, at 12:30 he calmly walked down to the dining room and turned himself over to authorities. By then most of the players had dropped out of the chase. Drenched from head to toe and disgusted at not having seen so much as a footprint in the mud, they gave up the search and returned to the hotel for lunch.
The excitement of an alleged murderer at large almost overshadowed the arrival Thursday evening of two new more members of the club, catchers Chester Thomas and Forrest Cady. The two had ridden the last leg to Hot Springs aboard the very same passenger train, but it was not actually until Friday morning that Jake Stahl introduced them to each other in the Eastman lobby.26
The arrival of two catchers added considerably to Red Sox training activities, and on the early morning hours of Friday, March 9, the small group began to get in some practice time on the lawn in front of the Eastman. Still in their street clothes, Engle and Stahl loosened their winter-tightened arms with a game of catch, while Thomas and Cady crouched to receive throws from Anderson and Hall. Only 30 players had received an invitation to try out with the Red Sox this spring, and with the vast majority of them returning veterans, there were precious few openings on the bench.
The bulk of the team was due to arrive within the next 48 hours, and beginning Friday night runners were dispatched to the depots on the half-hour to look out for new arrivals. Baseball fans were pouring into the “Valley of the Vapors” in droves.
“You can’t bank on time tables,” complained one writer, “and you can bank still less on certain railroads.”27 Late Saturday afternoon McRoy wired Stahl from Cincinnati that the team was on schedule to arrive in Hot Springs 3:55 Sunday afternoon, and in no time plans were underfoot to receive the team in grand fashion. Stahl secured a police detail and a small band to greet the express at the station house.
It was all for naught. At noon on Sunday, Stahl was notified that a freight wreck had delayed the team’s arrival into Memphis, and much to everyone’s disappointment all festivities had to be cancelled. The club spent the day and most of the night milling about the rail station waiting for word on their teammates. By midnight, nearly everyone had retreated back to the hotel, leaving Jake Stahl and a handful of others to welcome the Express when it pulled into town eight hours behind schedule.
The piercing wail of a train whistle off in the distance at 12:15 AM on Monday morning signaled to Stahl that the special from Little Rock was approaching. Dragging a lone Pullman and attached baggage car, Engine #1313 emerged out of the darkness and made its way up the westbound Rock Island tracks along Benton Street. It crossed over intersections at Palm, Laurel and Pleasant Streets, and then slowed to a crawl at the foot of Cottage. After exuding a healthy burst of steam, it came to a full stop at Passenger Depot.28
The group let out a howl when the first of the tired and travel-worn Red Sox stepped from the Pullman.29 The depot’s skeleton crew jumped into action to unload crates, suitcases, and footlockers from the baggage car onto a waiting transport, but most of the 34 members of the Red Sox party refused the invitation to ride with their bags over to the hotel. After three days on the rails, they were only too happy to stretch their legs and make the two-block walk on foot.
Back at the Eastman, McRoy and the other members of the Red Sox were greeted with warm handshakes from their teammates, which now numbered nine with the arrival of Joe Wood and veteran catcher Leslie Nunamaker late Saturday night. The contingent of players and fans from the northeast was far larger than had been expected, so Stahl had to scramble to ensure everyone got a warm bed for the evening. “Confusion prevails at the camp just now,” Shannon wrote. “The hotel is crowded to the doors and people are being turned away.”30
The bulk of the team did not turn in until the wee hours of the morning, but by 8:00 AM on Monday the corridors of the Eastman were overflowing with ballplayers and rooters.31 Owing to the late arrival of the team and another dousing from Mother Nature, Jake Stahl cancelled all practices for the day, but the duties of settling his team into quarters kept busy. When crates containing the team’s missing uniforms were brought into the lobby at noon, Jake doled out the familiar practice grays, heavy sweaters, caps, and stockings to veterans and recruits, and after lunch he led Carrigan, Engle, Hall, Anderson, Cady, and Thomas on another hike. Trainer Joe Quirk spent most of his first day in the Springs weighing in each player, and Bradley, O’Brien, Bedient, and Cicotte took their first bathing plunges over at the Buckstaff.
On Tuesday morning temperatures flirted around freezing point and a stiff breeze whipped across the valley, but after days of rain “Old Sol” at last made an appearance. Ignoring the cold and poor field conditions over at Majestic Park, Stahl called his team out for the first practice of the spring.32
Shortly before 9 AM, the players gathered for in the Eastman lobby for a brief meeting. The new Red Sox manager addressed the entire team for the first time. “Boys,” he began, “there is no need for me to lay down any rules and regulations with you. I can see that at a glance. You’ve got the stuff in you. It is up to you to do your best, keep plugging all the time, be active and never let up in your work.
“I don’t intend to have any drones on the team, I want men who will keep working all the time. I want you to work together. Team-work is what we want. By that you will put the team right up near the top, and I want you to keep the team up among the leaders. There is no reason why the Boston Americans shouldn’t get there and stay there throughout the season. I believe you are going to deliver the goods. That’s all, boys.”33
At the Hot Springs train station are: Henriksen, Gardner, O’Brien, Wagner, Yerkes, and Bradley.
There was neither cheering nor applause when Stahl concluded his remarks, but at least one writer sensed the team “felt just like bubbling over” as they burst out of the Eastman and headed for the clubroom at the Buckstaff.34 They donned their practice uniforms and spikes for the first time of the season, and then the 22 players blazed their way out of the bathhouse and proceeded down Central Avenue to the south end of town. They took a moment to look things over at Majestic, and satisfied that the strong breeze would have the field sufficiently dry by early afternoon, they disappeared into the Hot Springs Mountains, Bill Carrigan leading the pace all the way. “Stahl is a great believer in road work,” recorded John Hallahan for the Herald, “and for the first week’s active training he intends sandwiching a lot of long drills in with morning and afternoon ‘fungo’ sessions.”35
At 1:30, the team headed over to Majestic, and for their first time of the year the silence of winter was broken by the crack of the bat. The staff loosened as Sea Lion Hall took the mound to throw batting practice, and those who were not pitching or hitting ran sprints to the outfield or worked out with a medicine ball.
Jake was the first of the players to step into the batter’s box, and on the first offering from Hall he pounced on the ball, sending it deep to right field and off the outfield fence. “Same old Jake!” Hall yelled from the mound, much to the delight of numerous onlookers.
Over the next hour, players one after the next followed him up to the plate, swinging freely and practicing laying down bunts, and each of the 11 Red Sox pitchers was given time on the mound. Jake busily stalked about the field, encouraging his players to give it their all, and at the close of batting practice he broke the infield up into two squads to commence fielding practice.
All eyes that afternoon were trained on Heinie Wagner. The former captain had joked with reporters on the train ride down that the only reason Stahl came back to Boston was to see if his former teammate “hadn’t lost his arm,” but there was no laughter at Majestic this afternoon as the manager carefully scrutinized the condition of his veteran second baseman.36
The Majestic outfield was still flooded, but the revamped infield grass was in satisfactory condition. Infielders began with a little light throwing, but not five minutes into the workout Wagner deftly scooped up an infield grounder and put pepper on a throw that nearly bowled Stahl over at first base. A number of the players watching from foul territory responded with howls of laughter, but the irate manager was not the least bit amused. “You want to go easy there,” he barked. “I don’t intend on having you on the injured list before we leave the Springs. That arm has got to last you all season, but it won’t last a week if you start shooting that way.”37
Back at the hotel after practice, team trainer Joe Quirk responded to endless calls for rubdowns. He did his best to apply liberal quantities of the traditional (if not vile) combination of Vaseline and Tabasco to ease the pain, but complaints of “lame whips and aching bones” nevertheless echoed through the hallways most of the evening.
Earlier in the day, an exhausted Dutch Leonard became the first of the Californians to make his way into town, declaring on arrival that seven days of isolation in a snowbound Pullman berth made him “mighty glad to see a few live people once more.”38 Flooding along the southern route that took Ray and Lillian Collins through Texas made their trip no easier, and Stahl and the other players treated the newlyweds to a warm welcome when they rolled in shortly after dinner.39 Word also came from Duffy Lewis that it he and Stockton rookie Jimmy Shinn were bearing down on Arkansas, and shortly before midnight rookie infielder Bill Goodman arrived from distant Victoria, British Columbia.
Evidence suggested that Harry Hooper, too, was not far behind. Inexplicably, late on Tuesday evening the veteran right fielder’s travel trunk appeared in the Eastman lobby. Hooper himself did not turn up at the hotel for another 12 hours.40
Freezing temperatures and bitter winds up in Boston called to a halt all construction on Fenway Park, and reports coming out of the city stated that concrete crews would now have to work round the clock so the work of installing the 12,000 seats in the grandstand could begin.41
But down in Hot Springs, Red Sox baseball was just kicking into high gear.
The team was not two days into training when, on Wednesday night, Stahl announced that on Saturday afternoon the Boston Americans would square off against Horace Fogel’s Philadelphia Nationals for the first exhibition game of the spring. Fans in Hot Springs were elated by the news, and reports out of the Phillies camp indicated that the Quakers were looking forward to a date with Boston’s Speed Boys.42 But over at the Eastman there was little in the way of enthusiasm for any such contest, several players voicing complaints that it was foolhardy to schedule games so early in training.43
All protests fell on deaf ears. Intent on having a good look at his rookies in action, after a full double practice on Thursday and another rainout on Friday, Stahl announced his lineup for Saturday’s game. Reportedly “in the best of trim” after nearly a month of training, the Phillies announced their intention to play their regular lineup.
After listening to his club bellyache about their aches and pains through most of the morning workout at Majestic, Stahl took lunch and then led his starting lineup down to Fogel Field.44 Poor field conditions did nothing to dissuade some 700 rooters from packing the tiny grandstand far beyond capacity. A number of Brooklyn Dodgers took the afternoon off to enjoy the spectacle, and they were joined by Fred Clarke and the Pittsburgh Pirates who had arrived in the Springs earlier in the day. Fresh in from meetings in Chicago, Jimmy McAleer was in the crowd as well, and sitting with his wife and Robert McRoy, the new owner of the Boston Red Sox took his seat in the front row and proudly looked on as his club warmed up on the field.
Fred Anderson acquitted himself admirably in the early going, and through the first four frames the Nationals managed to score only twice. Things looked up for the Red Sox when they tied the game with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth (they might have scored more had Jake Stahl’s blast not gotten stuck in a tree in deep center), but in the bottom of the inning Boston’s fortunes unraveled. The Phillies pounced on Anderson for six runs on eight straight hits, and Dutch Leonard performed no better in relief, surrendering four more runs in the three innings of work. By game’s end, the Red Sox looked at an ugly 12-2 drubbing. 45
If nothing else, the afternoon gave Stahl a chance to give his rookies a good hard look, and over nine innings the entire reserve squad had an opportunity to bat and play the field.
Hooper’s defensive work stood out in particular, and on more than one occasion play was stopped to give the modest Californian a moment to tip his cap to his appreciative fans. So far as Boston’s press corps was concerned, aside from the loss the only blemish on the afternoon was the work of umpire Moore, who’s calling of balls and strikes was evidently so bad that, by game’s end, he had become the chief object of the fans’ unbridled anger.
Both teams retreated to the spas at the close of the contest, then returned to their respective hotels. After dinner, most donned tuxedos they had brought from home, and in small groups they made their way to the Eastman ballroom. Tonight they would enjoy one the social highlights of spring training, the annual Eastman Ball.
The Eastman Grand Ballroom was a scene of elegance and splendor. The walls were decorated with large mirrors and long tapestries, and crystal chandeliers hung majestically from the ceilings. Tables were set formally and to meticulous perfection, and the hotel orchestra set the ambience with a series of classical pieces. Some of the players danced while others mingled with other guests and talked endlessly about baseball. Buck O’Brien took the opportunity to entertain Eastman residents in the hotel music room, serenading them with a series of love ballads, and unable to resist temptation, Hugh Bradley soon joined him.
Many of these men were college educated, and in polite company they conducted themselves with respect and, in certain cases, sophisticated elegance. But they were ball players, after all, young and brazen, rugged and cocky. Looking back over half a century later, Earl Moore, a pitcher with the 1912 Philadelphia Phillies, remembered these men and their times with honesty and vivid humor. “Baseball players weren’t the same kind of people they are now,” he reminisced. “They did a lot of carousing and a lot of them you wouldn’t want to entertain in your home.”46 Yet there they stood, the lot of them, gathered together one of the finest hotel ballrooms in the country—cursing their enemies, poking fun at the wait staff, chewing on cigars, and rocking with laughter as they unabashedly swapped yarn after backslapping yarn.
Sunday was St. Patrick’s Day. As it was the Sabbath and a religious holiday, the city was even more quiet than usual that morning, and nearly all the players, Catholic and Protestant, made their way to church services. Afterwards, they spent the day relaxing at the Eastman and soaking the last of the soreness out of their muscles at the Buckstaff. Bill Carrigan was always ready to crack open a cigar and pull out his well-worn deck of playing cards for rounds of poker, and several players took advantage of the good weather to hike through the mountainside. That evening, most of the players attended a sacred concert, where Buck O’Brien enthralled the gathering with a moving rendition of Ave Maria.
Darkness descended upon the Eastman as evening settled in, and with a long week of work ahead of them, the players retired to their rooms. Knowing that his father back in California would be on the lookout for a letter from his 25-year-old son, Harry Hooper picked up a few sheets of Eastman stationary and penned him a note. “Dear dad,” he wrote:
With most of the team signed and ticket sales for the Fenway opener moving forward at a brisk pace, the only real business facing Jimmy McAleer before the start of season was to secure the signatures of Speaker and Nunamaker on their annual contracts. News of an impasse with the two players had been pouring out of Boston sporting columns for the better part of two weeks now, and on the afternoon of McAleer’s arrival in town, Nunamaker went on the offensive. He complained bitterly to Paul Shannon that the Red Sox offer was not close to what he felt he was worth and that he “could get more money from almost any other club in the American League.”48 The Red Sox boss feigned surprise when reporters confronted him with news of his irate catcher. “There is nothing to be fixed between Nunamaker and myself,” he stated blithely. “The salary named is all that will be given.”49 Nunamaker would have none of it, and the saber rattling persisted on Sunday when the veteran catcher threatened to quit the game altogether and start a new life farming a piece of land he had recently acquired in North Dakota.
Under the rules of the hated reserve clause, short of venting his frustration to the press there was little else that Les Nunamaker or virtually any ballplayer could do “The professional baseball player, having once signed his name to the contract offered by any club, becomes the perpetual property and asset of that club until sold, released on ten days notice, traded into the bondage of another club, or drafted by a club of higher class,” wrote Hugh Fullerton. “Legally, the baseball player is a slave held in bondage, but he is the best treated, most pampered slave of history.” Beyond holding out, for most players the only options were signing or quitting the game.
In the absence of formal representation by agents and lawyers, it was left to players themselves to negotiate for their best interest, and here Tris Speaker was nobody’s fool. “Spoke doubtless realizes that he’s a handy man to have round,” wrote Tim Murnane, “and he has been in the game long enough to learn the ins and outs of salary boosting.”50 The Texan knew that in this game an open assault on the front office would not get the terms he was looking for, and on arrival he quietly dismissed rumors of any contractual holdout. He stated publicly only that he had not as yet spoken with the new boss, but he believed “there would not be the slightest difficulty in the way of coming to terms.”51 No naïve businessman himself, the cagey McAleer took Speaker to the side on Saturday afternoon, then graciously announced that “things were practically agreed upon.”52
Nunamaker’s position was not quite so secure. Now going into his second season in the big leagues, the 6’2” Nebraska native had proven his mettle in 62 games with the Sox in 1911, and he enjoyed the advantage of being ace Joe Wood’s favored backstop. But with promising rookies Cady and Thomas on deck to back up the veteran Carrigan, the Boston Americans were a backstop-rich club.
On Monday night the two met for the first time to hammer out their differences, had a short and productive private talk and worked out an agreement. Twenty-four hours later, Speaker followed suit. After a private meeting with McAleer, the center fielder signed for a small increase over his previous year’s salary, but only a one-year deal.53
The club dropped a sloppy 15-12 contest to the Phillies at Majestic Park. Stahl preferred to work his team privately in the friendly confines of Majestic Park, and he announced that his club would participate in no further exhibition games. “The playing of a game with another club gives a chance of a dozen men of the outside to work out,” he reasoned, “whereas in the ordinary club practice among his own men every one gets the opportunity to show.”
Morning hikes. Afternoon batting and fielding practice. Baths at the Buckstaff. Inter-squad games between the veterans and Yannigans. That would be the routine from now until early April, when the team left Hot Springs to begin its barnstorming tour north through Tennessee and Ohio. Then it would be onto Boston to take on the Harvard Crimson Nine at Fenway Park.
Opening day was three weeks away.
His lineup comprised almost entirely of returning veterans, the only real question mark in Jake Stahl’s starting roster lay with the middle infield. Heinie Wagner’s throwing arm had yet to be tested, and Steve Yerkes’ hold on the second sack was anything but secure.54 “If that second base problem were settled,” Stahl had said two days after his arrival in Hot Springs, “any worriment I might have over the chance for our team fighting it out with the Athletics would be ended. Just as soon as I know who is going to play that middle sack, we will get down to the real work.” 55 Yerkes hurt his own cause by showing up so overweight he was scarcely recognized by Treasurer McRoy.56
The excellent early play of the new recruits, Jimmy Shinn, Marty Krug, Bill Goodman, and recent arrival Jack Lewis, made Yerkes’ hold on second base that much more precarious. The speedy Krug was making “a big hit with everyone” in the early going, and McAleer and Stahl were both visibly impressed by his steady work in the field against the Phillies.
Stahl anticipated that he would have plenty of time to watch his roster develop, but almost on cue Mother Nature again vexed all plans. Rain fell for four straight days beginning on Wednesday the 20th, and on the 24th more rain and cold weather put an end to Stahl’s threat to defy Sheriff Wood’s prohibition against Sunday baseball. “This ‘nothing to do till tomorrow’ weather certainly gets on my nerves,” Heinie Wagner quipped. Adding insult to injury, several members of the Red Sox party were stricken with the same mysterious fever that had swept through camp just two weeks earlier, among them McRoy who was confined to his room for nearly a full week. 57
Players did do their best to break up the monotony of the rainy week. Larry Gardner and Harry Hooper took time to rest up, and a number of the boys followed the horse races at Charleston, South Carolina, laying down bets based on tips that Dr. Quirk doled out around the hotel. There were pool games and more target shoots, and one evening Joe Wood, Charley Hall, and Duffy Lewis took time out to sit in on Andrew Carnegie’s lectures on the American banking system (the steel magnate took note of the baseball men in the overflow audience, offering listeners a litany of schemes which, he insisted, would have them “batting .300 in the banking world”). Mostly, however, the team held up in their rooms dealing endless rounds of cards, doing their best to evade the staff’s relentless request to pawn goods off on them at every turn.
The delay did not seem to bother Jake Stahl, who confirmed early on that the club would retain all four catchers for the summer, and Olaf Henriksen would stay on with the club to back up his veteran outfield. Clyde Engle was guaranteed his spot as a utility infielder, but so far as the rest of the middle infield was concerned anything was possible.
Pitching remained a major concern. Joe Wood, Buck O’Brien, and Eddie Cicotte were secure, and Pape, Anderson, and Bedient had all been impressive for the Yannigans. Casey Hageman had done almost no work in the offseason and was still not in the best of shape, and to complicate matters he was now complaining of a sore shoulder. However, John I. Taylor had guaranteed him $5,000 for the season, so dumping the right-hander would be no easy task. Charley Hall and Ray Collins also complained of soreness, and with McAleer showering praise on Dutch Leonard almost daily, reporters wondered if the big southpaw from Vermont wasn’t “booked for emigration.”58 Endless hot baths and hikes through the countryside had left his staff in the peak of condition, but without steady throwing in the last week of camp, Stahl feared that his hurlers would leave the Springs with nothing to show but lame arms. “A good week would be a Godsend to us,” he said. “We need all the sunshine we can get.”59
Manager (and part-owner) Jake Stahl confers with owner Jimmy McAleer during a spring training game at Hot Springs.
Miraculously, skies cleared on Monday, and players headed back out for a final week of training. Five days of precipitation had transformed Majestic into a veritable mud bath, and when the players stepped on the field for the first time they sank ankle deep in the mud. But none of it seemed to matter. The bright sun and a steady breeze had the field dried up in a matter of hours, and by afternoon intra-squad games again commenced.
Only one day of practice was lost during the entire final week of practice, and reporters looked on with delight as Jake Stahl cracked the whip and worked his players to the limit.
After two weeks of watching the combination of Heinie Wagner and Steve Yerkes at short and second, Stahl decided at the end of the month to award Yerkes the starting job up the middle. The only injury bothering the former captain was a cut of the hand he gave himself shaving (“muffed the business end of using a razor,” Wagner said)60, and with Stahl covering necessary ground to Yerkes’ weak left, the final pieces of the Red Sox infield fell into place. “Heinie Wagner’s arm has regained its former strength and cunning,” reported Shannon, “and there is every reason why McAleer and Stahl should feel jubilant over the outlook.”61
By the smiling countenances of executives and players, there was little evidence in the accounts emanating from the pens of reporters of the tensions or disharmony that had already crept to the surface. Joe Wood was throwing his customary “smoke” and Buck O’Brien was pitching so well that he was mentioned as the probable starter against the Reds in Cincinnati. “When the team leaves here,” enthused one reporter, “they will be pretty near right and a wonderfully different aggregation from the dejected crowd that made that slow return trip from the coast last year.”62
The day before the scheduled end of camp, a number of players were dealt to minor league clubs. Playing professional ball was not a right, McAleer asserted, and unlike other squads that possessed an overabundance of benchwarmers, in Boston players would “work all the time for the privilege of wearing a uniform.”63 Boston would carry 21 players into 1912—four beneath the 25-player league limit—but McAleer left no doubt that additional roster cuts would come. That, however, would have to wait until after the Sox reached the Hub.
The express out of Hot Springs was scheduled to leave at noon on April 2, and on the eve of their departure the team collected their belongings and packed up their crates, and readied for departure. But Mother Nature had the last laugh. For the fifth time in less than a month, skies opened up and heavy rains descended on the Valley. Two days earlier the local papers had voiced concern that the Mississippi River was within two inches of the danger mark, and with another deluge now sweeping across the region the main artery to Memphis was now threatened. The team was forced to postpone their scheduled departure for three more days, and Stahl wired to cancel planned contests with minor leagues in Tennessee and Ohio. Worse still, the flooding Ohio River threatened the exhibitions in Cincinnati as well. Knowing he stood to lose a small fortune if these games were cancelled, on Wednesday afternoon Jimmy McAleer braved the weather and, accompanied by his wife, left Hot Springs to scout possible alternative routes north. McRoy left a few hours later, bound for Boston.
It might have been raining outside, but with spring training nearing its end the players could have cared less. Reporters wrote of a team that was trim and brimming with optimism. “I don’t see how they can stop us from being one of the contenders for the American League championship,” Tris Speaker said confidently. “The boys are pulling together and every one is anxious for the season to open. The pitchers will come around all right, and prospects look very bright.”64 Despite worries about lingering injuries, despite the rain, cold and mud, and despite a mysterious fever epidemic, the Boston Red Sox actually looked good.
After enjoying a farewell concert given by Buck O’Brien and Hugh Bradley on Thursday night, on the morning of Friday, April 4, the team awoke to the hustle and bustle of bellboys scouring about, offering all assistance to aid the team for its scheduled departure to Memphis. The team enjoyed a light breakfast, then proceeded directly over to Majestic Park for one final two-hour morning workout. Then it was back to the Buckstaff for one final hot bath, to the Eastman for lunch, and down to the depot.
The fireman stoked the firebox with coal, and porters stashed suitcases, trunks, and crates into the baggage car. After some brief good-byes, the 25 players and four members of the press stepped aboard and at 1:30 sharp, the team was on its way.65
Spring training for 1912 receded into the history books, and, as he wandered about the passenger cabins and dining car mingling with exhilarated players glad to be on their way home, it was obvious to Paul Shannon that that moment had come none too soon. “Not a man on the team but was tickled at the idea of getting away from here and heading toward the Hub,” he wrote.66 Under new ownership, a new manager, and with a fresh new ballpark waiting, a new era of Red Sox baseball was about to be ushered in.
1. For information on the Eastman Hotel, see Scully, Francis J. Hot Springs, Arkansas and Hot Springs National Park; the story of a city and the Nation’s health resort. (Little Rock, Ark., Hanson Co., 1966), 165.
2. Hot Springs: Carlsbad of America. Courtesy of SABR member Tom Simon.
3. Boston Post, February 29, 1912, 13.
4. For Stahl family, see Dick Thompson, “In Name Only,” National Pastime, January 1, 2000, 54.
5. Boston Herald, March 11, 1912, 10.
6. Boston Globe, February 28, 1912, 7.
7. Boston Post, March 6, 1912, 14.
8. For the arrival of Engle, see Boston American, March 2, 1912, 6.
9. Scully, op. cit., 15.
10. John C. Paige and Laura Souliere Harrison, Out of the vapors: a social and architectural history of bathhouse row. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1987, 184, 186.
12. Hooper correspondence, courtesy of John Hooper.
13. For descriptions of the Buckstaff, see “Buckstaff Bathhouse” Courtesy of the Garland County Historical Society.
14. Dee Brown, The American Spa: Hot Springs, Arkansas. (Little Rock, Arkansas: Rose Publishing Company, 1982).
15. Scully, op. cit., 206.
16. Boston Herald, March 4, 1912, 14.
17. Boston American, March 8, 1912, 7.
18. For the raids on gambling houses, see Boston Post, March 2, 1912, 12.
19. Author’s telephone interview with Nadia Parker, January 16. 2002.
20. Boston Post, March 3, 1912, 14. See also Boston Post, March 4, 1912, 12.
21. Boston Globe, March 4, 1912, 6.
22. For Fred Anderson’s career, see Shea files in DTP and Boston Post, March 10, 1912, p. 17. See also, Fred Anderson biographical file, E.H. Little Library, Davidson College, Davidson, NC.
23. Boston Post, March 6, 1912, 14.
24. Boston Post, March 7, 1912, 17.
26. The author wishes to express his sincere thanks to the late Dick Thompson for his assistance in piecing together the minor-league career of Pinch Thomas. Author’s e-mail correspondence with Richard Thompson, February 6, 2003. For Forrest Cady’s minor-league career, see Boston Post, October 6, 1912, 6.
27. Boston Post, March 11, 1912, 10.
28. Boston American, March 16, 1912, 9.
29. Boston American, March 11, 1912, 9.
31. Boston Globe, March 12, 1912, 9.
32. Boston American, March 11, 1912, 9.
33. Boston American, March 12, 1912, 11.
35. Boston Herald, March 11, 1912, 10.
36. Boston Herald, March 9, 1912, 10.
37. Boston Post, March 13, 1912, 17.
38. Boston Evening Globe, March 12, 1912, 6.
39. Boston Globe, March 13, 1912, 6.
40. Boston Herald, March 12, 1912, 4.
41. Boston Globe, March 13, 1912, 7.
42. Boston Herald, March 15, 1912, 8.
43. Boston Globe, March 13, 1912, 7.
44. Boston American, March 16, 1912, 5.
45. Boston Herald, March 17, 1912, 9.
46. Clipping provided courtesy of Kathaleen Moore.
47. Hooper Family Correspondence, John Hooper Papers.
48. Boston Post, March 18, 1912, 9.
49. Boston American, March 18, 1912, 12.
50. Boston Globe, March 12, 1912, 6.
51. Boston Post, March 17, 1912, 12.
53. Boston Post, March 20, 1912, 9.
54. Boston Post, April 1, 1912, 12.
55. Boston Post, February 29, 1912, 13.
56. Boston Post, March 13, 1912, 17
57. Boston Post, March 21, 1912, 5.
58. Boston Post, March 24, 1912, 19.
59. Boston American, March 25, 1912, 6.
60. Boston American, March 27 1912, 9.
61. Boston Post, April 12, 1912, 21.
62. Boston Post, April 1, 1912, 12.
63. Boston Post, March 30, 1912, 12
64. Boston Herald, April 3, 1912, 8.
65. Boston American, April 14, 1912, 14.
66. Boston Post, April 5, 1912, 8.
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