Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

Nostalgic Photo Day

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Nothing better than at this coldest, least baseballish hour of the year, than to let the wayback machine work its magic and show us some classic images.
Two of these are screencaps right off MLB Network and they own them and don’t you dare, etc. To the left is, of course, the nonpareil third baseman of the Orioles Brooks Robinson as he stud- what the heck is he wearing?

This is from 1971, when the Orioles experimented, mercifully only briefly, with orange tops and orange pants. Apart from the glow-in-the-dark quality, it meant that Robby’s enormous teammate Boog Powell got to wear both these beauts and the all-red jobs of the 1975 Cleveland Indians. The latter led to Boog’s immortal self-description: “I look like a big red blood clot.” Frank Robinson wore them both too, without any such quality humor, but then again, by Cleveland, Frank was a manager.
Below is a famous image of a famous home run: Chris Chambliss’s 9th Inning job off Mark Littell to win the 1976 ALCS for the Yankees. I was at that game, sat in the seats for most of it, but was actually sitting next to Dick Schaap in the press room as Chris got his slice of immortality. The chaos that ensued has been well documented, but until this aired on MLB Net the other day I had never noticed one detail. Look closely behind Chambliss as he turns first and heads for second:
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Do you see him? The guy in the light blue sleeves, reaching down? The guy is stealing first base! Chambliss is perhaps ten feet past the bag and all bedlam is breaking loose, but this guy is already making off with the props. Good grief, he has to have planned it!
The next two shots are entirely my own, and of much more recent vintage. This would be the view from our Fox Sports Net booth above the right field roof at Fenway Park at no less an event than the Home Run Derby at the 1999 All-Star Game. So besides the display of model rocketry by Mark McGwire that night, and the impending All-Century Team event and the Ted Williams lovefest the following evening – look at that sunset!
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I said “look at that sunset!”
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Good Luck Retirements?

So now that Gil Meche has quit, does that mean the Kansas City Royals are going to win the World Series this year?

Too laughable for words? How about Milwaukee, because Trevor Hoffman has hung ‘em up while still theoretically still with the Brewers?
If you haven’t clicked away by now, don’t think for a moment that I’m suggesting there’s a predictable correlation between any of these things, but there is a not insubstantial list of occasions in history in which a prominent player – or even star – has retired only to see his last team go on to win the World Series the following fall.
Three of the game’s All-Time greats managed this impossible and dubious trick. Stan Musial was a World Champ in three of his first four seasons in the majors (’42, ’44, ’46 – he spent 1945 in the service) and then slogged it out with some pretty bad Cardinals teams for the next 17 years before retiring after the ’63 campaign. He then watched from the distant front office as the Birds won it all in ’64.
The other two immortals managed to miss out together. Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker had been forced out of their player-manager jobs in Detroit and Cleveland respectively after a gambling scandal hit the American League in the late ’20s, and concluded their careers as teammates with the 1928 Philadelphia A’s. They left (Cobb to true retirement, and Speaker to a pinch hitting/managing gig with Newark of the International League), and the Athletics won the 1929 Series. Speaker had won crowns in Boston and Cleveland, but though he was in the Series in his second, third, and fourth full seasons in the majors in Detroit, the Tigers lost all three of those Classics and for everything else he did, Cobb could never claim he won a Series.
The most touching example of this impeccably bad timing would obviously be Don Mattingly, who arrived just after the Yankees lost the 1981 World Series. Mattingly suffered through the worst of the Steinbrenner years at Yankee Stadium from 1982 to 1993 without once seeing the post-season. Mattingly’s ’94 Yanks, a pretty good team, were snuffed out by the strike, and in ’95, when he finally reached the playoffs after having announced his retirement, they blew a chance at what would’ve been his only Series appearance by coughing up the 2-0 lead to the Mariners. The Yankees, with Tino Martinez in Donnie Baseball’s stead at first base, went on to win the Series in 1996.
Amazingly there are at least two other Yankee first basemen who did the same thing, although neither had as much to complain about as did Mattingly. George McQuinn retired after the 1948 season, just before the Yanks went on their run of five straight Championships. But McQuinn had already gotten his ring with the ’47 Yankees.
McQuinn’s retirement opened up a path for Joe Collins to take over much of the work at first base in the Bronx. Collins was hardly cheated: he only played eight full seasons but was on six World’s Champs. When the Yanks decided to trade him to Philadelphia after they lost the 1957 Classic, Collins retired – and New York rebounded to win the 1958 crown.
Mathematically, with all those titles, it’s not surprising that there are at least four other Yankees on this strange list. They began asking “where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?” in the winter of 1951 when he retired. With nine rings in just thirteen years on the field, the Yankee Clipper did not get shortchanged. Nevertheless, New York won two more in his first two years away from the game. The talented Jerry Coleman, still going strong in the Padres’ booth just 53 years later, quit the Yanks after the ’57 loss to Milwaukee and, like Collins, missed the ’58 crown. His fellow Yankee infield stalwart Gil McDougald retired after the ’60 loss to Pittsburgh and thus missed the ’61 win over Cincinnati and the ’62 victory over San Francisco. And of the most recent vintage, Mike Mussina’s triumphant climax to his great career, his first 20-win season in his swan song of 2008, also meant he missed out on what would’ve been his only ring in 2009.
This list is probably incomplete; I confess to having done it off the top of my head. But Pee Wee Reese is on it, retiring from the 1958 Dodgers and so on their ’59 Series winners only as a coach. If you want a manager, take Earl Weaver. He retired from the Orioles after 1982. They won it under Joe Altobelli in 1983. Making things worse, the Birds soured on Altobelli in ’85 and Weaver un-retired for two unhappy seasons. 
There are a couple of judgement calls, too. Tim McCarver called it quits from the Phillies at the end of 1979 and went into the broadcasting booth, only to be activated in September, 1980 when rosters expanded. But he was back in civvies for the World Series triumph, which would’ve been his first since St. Louis in 1964. There is also the iffy case of Harvey Haddix. The Baltimore Orioles traded the veteran pitcher to Milwaukee in August of 1965, but Haddix told the Braves he was intending to retire in a month and they shouldn’t waste money or players on obtaining him. In fact, his last major league game was on August 28, 1965, so I’ll leave it to you as to whether or not he qualifies on the bad timing roster considering the ’66 edition of the Orioles won the Series.
Lastly, the most frustrating case I can recall would have to be that of Mel Harder, the Cleveland Indians pitcher for whose Hall of Fame candidacy Ted Williams never stopped lobbying. Harder joined the Tribe in 1928, eight years after they’d taken the Series under player-manager Speaker. He won a tidy 223 games before finally giving up after his 20th season in Cleveland, in 1947. The Indians promptly won the 1948 World Series, in no small measure because of their rookie pitching coach – Harder himself. He stayed in that job through 1963 (and obviously the Indians never won the Series after his first year). To expand our terms a little bit, when the Indians let him go, Harder quickly hooked on as pitching coach of the Mets (five years before their Championship). He would move on to the Reds in ’66 and stay through 1968, exiting just before The Big Red Machine rose to prominence.
So if the Royals or Brewers surprise everybody this year, maybe you know why.

A Modest (Moot) Proposal

So Adrian Beltre is going to cost the Texas Rangers $16 million a year for six years, and Derek Jeter is going to cost the New York Yankees $17 million a year for three years (maybe more).

Did the Yankees ever consider the financial madness, or the lack of quality control, that represents? Or, to phrase it more correctly, how many times will they be forced to think about it in the next three years, as Jeter continues his descent from impact player to easily-jammed to liability to living statue?
If it seems asinine to consider asking Alex Rodriguez to move back to shortstop after seven years at third base, it certainly isn’t much more so than is expecting Jeter to suddenly regain the range that deteriorated so noticeably last year, or to do that and be a productive shortstop on his 40th birthday.
All greatness comes to an end, and usually a year or two later, so does all sentimentality. The Yankees released Babe Ruth in 1934. They forced Yogi Berra into the manager’s office in 1963 and fired him in 1964. They dumped Casey Stengel days after his 10th World Series in a dozen years in the uniform. They let Reggie walk. They cut The Scooter on Old Timers’ Day. They marginalized and then released Bernie Williams in 2006. They cashiered Joe Torre.
If you are horrified by the thought of the Yankees simply throwing away Jeter, how horrified are you by the image of seeing him benched for Ramiro Pena or Cesar Izturis or somebody while the 2012 Yankees are chasing Toronto for third place behind the Sox and Rays, and you’re sitting there thinking “they could’ve had Adrian Beltre for a million less?”

History That Never Was: 1951

As promised yesterday, perhaps the real piece of “History That Never Was”: a 1951 Yankees-Dodgers World Series Program. Another fully-printed edition, not just a cover. This is the Yankee Stadium version. To my knowledge, no copies of the Ebbets Field edition are still in existence, though at least the cover must have been printed. 

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The content is fascinating, of course. Mini-biographies of all the Dodgers, including a very unfortunate photograph (under the circumstances) at the lower corner of page 25:
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It wasn’t a precise substitution, but, as you see, in the actual 1951 World Series program, Mr. Thomson replaced Mr. Branca:
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A Little More History That Never Was

After the generous response to the previous post on “History That Wasn’t,” a little more of it:1967twinscards.jpg

It wasn’t until 1975 that MLB began producing the World Series program. Prior to that the individual teams did it themselves, or contracted the jobs out themselves (although, curiously, during the World Series of the late 1880’s, only one scorecard was produced, apparently as a joint venture of the clubs and the leagues, and sold in the many different cities in which the games were played). 
Thus, with the Twins not eliminated until the last day of the ’67 pennant race in Boston, they prepared at least the cover, copies of which are regularly seen even today. Never seen the full insides, however. Interesting that the program presages the Series of exactly twenty years later.
Next time, what happened to a Yankees’ World Series program when the most dramatic of historical moments intervened.

History That Never Was

A little flashback on MLB Network on the late lamented 1964 Pholding Philadelphia Phillies made me think of a couple of items in my collection, the ones that pertain to baseball history that never was. Let’s start with the obvious:

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A lot of these daggers-to-the-heart of older Philly fans (complete with that painful note about refunds for “tickets for unplayed games”) still exist, as do copies of what would have been the cover of the Phils’ 1964 World Series Program. 
Speaking of which: Can you spot anything wrong with this cover?
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That’s right: the Boston Red Sox did not play the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1946 World Series, certainly not at Ebbets Field. The Dodgers finished the season tied for first with the Cardinals, and lost to St. Louis in a best-of-three playoffs. But though they didn’t make it, the Dodgers’ World Series Program did. And not just the cover – the full contents with biographies and advertising and of course, the scorecard:
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Hope you enjoy that triple-header of Perry Como shots there. 
Speaking of the Dodgers and history that never happened:
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World Series Media credentials are one of the real niche items among collectibles, but it’s not because of their attractiveness nor history (the oldest I have dates to the 1911 Series). If teams used to print World Series Programs on the mere hope they would get in, obviously they had to prepare the credentials too. It was the Giants and not the Dodgers who issued the clubhouse passes for the ’54 games, yet there is a Dodger “phantom” World Series credential nonetheless.
And let’s finish it up with more familiar territory. Don’t know if you have any 1977 Topps baseball cards, but I’m willing to bet you don’t have these three:
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These are unissued “proof” cards – the test printings of the planned designs for a set of cards. Today Topps produces these proofs on thin, glossy stock, but well into the ’90s the proofs were printed on the same stock as the regularly-issued cards. Usually they had blank backs, but occasionally the biographies were printed too.
None of these three cards made the ’77 set. Topps pulled the Jerry Grote card when, not long after the ’76 season ended, the Mets’ catcher declared his intention to retire due to a bad back (he changed his mind, but not until the eve of Spring Training, by which time the cards were already being shipped). The Reggie card is probably the most famous “proof”; people forget he spent the 1976 season with Baltimore, then joined the Yankees as a free agent that winter. The “issued” Jackson card shows him in an A’s batting helmet airbrushed to look vaguely like the “NY” logo. The saddest story is of the Danny Thompson card. The long-time Twins’ infielder was traded to Texas in June, 1976. He was already ill with leukemia, and he succumbed to the disease on December 10th.
The proof cards are very rare, but even among them there are relative degrees of scarceness. For instance there are at least eight copies of the Jackson/Orioles card known. But the Grote and the Thompson are unique, and there is some evidence that Topps pulled them so early that they made another proof sheet featuring the players that replaced them.

Even Big Market Fans Have A Right To Kvetch, Too

I wonder sometimes if I am still living in the baseball city in which I was born.

At almost any point from my teen years to several months ago, the New York newspapers would by now have been calling for the dismissal of Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman, and the public shaming and court-martialing of the Wilpon family.

Instead I am reading a lot about how the Yankees will be “better balanced” without Cliff Lee; that they can get the bullpen depth they need instead, and a righty bat off the bench. Yes, having Sergio Mitre as your third starter and thus sinking to a record around .500 is about as balanced as you can get.

When the city isn’t making excuses for the Yanks’ impenetrable player acquisition strategy, it is commending new Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson as a great baseball man. So’s John McGraw, and what’s more, McGraw’s made just as many big moves this winter as Alderson has.

Seriously, I’m a baseball fan who happens to be a Yankee customer, and I did not have an irrational rooting interest in whether or not Lee ended up in the Bronx. But between the Yanks’ two failures to get him, and the sudden signing of Russell Martin, I’m very dubious about the chain of logic in the front office – if any.

As I recall, the trade with Seattle for Lee fell through last summer because Brian Cashman refused to part with both catching prospect Jesus Montero and shortstop prospect Eduardo Nunez. Nunez, of course, later came up to New York and showed he might survive as a utilityman but right now doesn’t come close to being even a reliable .250 hitter. I have heard two completely conflicting sets of information about Montero: the first that he is the Super Prospect: an influential catcher in all aspects of the job, and a potent bat. The second is that he has not grown either as a defender, handler of pitchers, or check on baserunners, and that his swing has more than one hole.

In 25 years of carefully watching scouting reports, when they conflict this much, I’ve never seen the positive ones prove correct. More over, it is clear that the real catching prospect in the Yankee system is young Gary Sanchez, who cut across rookie ball and at Staten Island like lightning this summer.

And now mix Russell Martin into the recipe. And the re-signed Derek Jeter, with the loose plan that he’ll play shortstop for another two years, by which time Jorge Posada will have presumably retired and Jeter can slide over to become a 39-year old DH without any measurable power.

So Montero has no role in 2010 and Nunez won’t be thought of for a job (one he probably can’t handle anyway) until 2012? And they are in New York and Cliff Lee is not? And even assuming the statistics, the history, the precedent, and the hands of time are wrong about Jeter and Cashman is right – nobody is yelling at Yankee management? Even though there are no prominent pitchers to trade for (and don’t say “Felix Hernandez” – he has a no-trade deal and the Yankees are reportedly on the no-way list)?

And the Mets of this winter make the Yankees of this winter look like the Red Sox of this winter. When you are operating in the nation’s largest community, and your team is without a single nearly-ready position prospect, and you still haven’t bitten the bullet on Luis Castillo and Ollie Perez, and you insist there are no economic restrictions on your personnel budget, and your top free agent signees are two guys dropped by the Pirates, surely some member of the Enraged Fourth Estate that has made this city the cuss-filled territory it is today should be demanding that the team either get on the stick or let the fans in for free.

It would be nice to dismiss this as the ranting of a big market fan with a sense of entitlement and a terrible fear he is finally facing his comeuppance. But face it, in the smaller markets, when the ownership misleads you and puts an inferior product on the field, they do not have the further gall to charge you $100 a ticket in the upper deck. 

Off A Cliff

With Carl Crawford already under the Red Sox Christmas Tree, Jayson Werth inexplicably paid as if he’d had the durability of a lesser Albert Pujols, the Yankees having tied themselves to an aging shortstop well on his way to batting 7th, and the Mets having deftly acknowledged without admitting that their biggest free agent signing this winter will probably be D.J. Carrasco, nearly all the baseball questions I’m getting are about Cliff Lee.

What I am hearing is not very specific and not very highly-sourced, but it is consistent: I get the impression that the Yankees are not optimistic that they are going to sign him. 
Even before Lee went into his self-imposed exile of no fixed length, the answers the Yankees were getting from him directly and indirectly, in Arkansas and merely from it, were not encouraging. Lee just isn’t a New York guy. This is not said insultingly, and is in fact part of the reason the vibe seems so strong: He just doesn’t seem capable of giving the generic incomplete truths required of a guy trying to leverage a team he doesn’t really want to play for. 
You can imagine the drill: the Yankees come calling and they say it’d be great to have you on our side and you say “Wow, the New York Yankees. Every kid dreams of what it must be like to pitch for the New York Yankees!” This sounds, at worst, noncommittal. You can say it and mean you’re interested, or you can say it and mean that you dreamt of it when you were a kid and then you grew up and started playing baseball for a living and you realized it would never work for you in a million years. I mean, only once in my three decades in my business have I had to fire an intern and I told the guy just because it didn’t work out that was no reason for him to get screwed out of his college credit. I answered every question of his school evaluation form honestly. I remember writing something like “he now understands exactly what is required of somebody seeking a career in broadcasting.” By this I meant “he understands this because he completely failed at it,” but I didn’t write that. The school advised me the guy got a B+.
The “Not A New York Guy” thing is an essential test. Ed Whitson didn’t listen to the voice telling him not to come here. Mike Hampton heard it from the Missus and got out after a year. It’s very possible A.J. Burnett just began to hear it in Year Two. It’s obvious that Greg Maddux heard it from the beginning and listened and will go to the Hall of Fame as a result. It just isn’t for everybody, and I say this having been born here lived all but about ten years of my life here or nearby. I still mutter under my breath at New Yorkers and contemplate evacuating to higher ground, on average about once a week.
Anyway, back to Lee. Jack Curry of YES Network tweeted yesterday that he’d heard of Yankee “skepticism” about signing the lefthander. This morning, the New York Daily News reported that the Yanks’ offer had been driven up, at least in terms of years, by a previously unreported seven-year bid by the Red Sox, which would explain the constant rumors of the last few weeks that there was a third “mystery” team in the hunt besides New York and Texas.
Put all this together and it would seem this in fact might be a one-team race, and that the month might end the way it began, with the Yankees’ nominal third starter being a choice between Ivan Nova and Burnett, and the team getting a very nice school evaluation and a B+.

110 Years Of Buying The Best – Updated

After Carl Crawford signed with the Red Sox tonight, I got a tweet reading “damn u Sox and Yanks trying to buy all the best players!!”

I felt compelled to reply that yeah, it was bad, and it had just started. In fact it had suddenly dawned on me that this has been going on in twelve different decades. Consider: in the winter of 1900-01 the Boston club of the brand new American League signed away future Hall of Famers Cy Young and Jimmy Collins (along with practically everybody else on the team) from National League clubs as – in effect – Free Agents. The next winter it would be Bill Dinneen, signed away from the crosstown N.L. club and paying off with three consecutive 20-win seasons.
In 1908, the newly-christened Red Sox would buy pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Smoky Joe Wood (34 wins in 1912) and Hall of Fame outfielder Tris Speaker from minor league teams. A year later they got another Famer, Harry Hooper, the same way. In 1914 they bought a first-year professional pitcher named George Herman Ruth from the minor league Baltimore Orioles. In 1934 it would be Lefty Grove from the A’s for $125,000. That winter, $225,000 to Washington for their player-manager Joe Cronin. For 1936, another $150,000 to Philadelphia for Jimmie Foxx. After that it was Ted Williams ($20,000) and Bobby Doerr from the minor league San Diego Padres. In the winter of 1947 they bought slugging shortstop Bobby Doerr and soon-to-be 18-game winner Jack Kramer from the St. Louis Browns for $310,000.
The Yankees, of course, owe their existence to “buying all the best players.” Owners Big Bill Devery and Frank Ferrell bought the bankrupt Baltimore franchise from the American League in January, 1903, for $18,000, and then went out and signed away Hall of Famers Wee Willie Keeler and Jack Chesbro from the National League. It was the last spending spree until the era of owners Jacob Ruppert and Cap Huston. Carl Mays from the Red Sox in 1919 ($40,000). Babe Ruth a year later ($125,000 and a mortgage), shortstop Everett Scott ($100,000) for 1922, and Hall of Fame pitchers Herb Pennock ($50,000) in 1923, and Red Ruffing ($50,000) in 1930. Second baseman Tony Lazzeri was purchased from the PCL for $50,000 in 1926 and Joe DiMaggio for $25,000 and a peck of players a decade later. Thereafter they largely confined their money-showers to getting role-players like Johnny Mize ($40,000 from the Giants in 1949), and reliever Johnny Sain ($50,000 from the Braves in 1951).
And those are just the ones I can remember – before the days of free agency, and before buying players began to be “frowned upon.”
Welcome to the club, Carl Crawford. It’s a very large one.
UPDATE 12/9: A great note by commenter RRHersh:
Yeah, well, in 1875 the Chicago club (which would eventually come to be known as the Cubs) hired away four stars from the perennial champion Boston club (which would eventually come to be known as the Braves) for the 1876 season. This was before the reserve clause, so that wasn’t a problem, but the negotiations occurred, and went public, before the end of the 1875 season, which wasn’t kosher. 
Ah, but the hiring away stuff with the Boston stars (Al Spalding, Ross Barnes, foremost among them), actually goes back further still. Most of the original Boston dynasty of the National Association era (1871-1875) had in fact been hired away from the original Cincinnati Red Stockings (1869-1870), baseball’s first professional team, unbeaten until the middle of its second season. Harry Wright, and his brother George, came in to run the show, and hired away stars from other clubs, too – like Spalding.
But of course none of those guys had started in Cincinnati. The Wrights, and players like second baseman Charlie Sweasy, were originally the stars of top semi-pro clubs… in New York!
This also reminds me that the Boston team actually did rebound from the wholesale defection of its talent to Chicago in 1876. By 1887, the Red Stockings began to buy Chicago’s stars, most notably Hall of Famers John Clarkson and Mike “King” Kelly, who instantly became known as “$10,000 Kelly” because that was the phenomenal price Boston paid for him (the equivalent of only about $235,000 today – which gives you a real picture of just how much baseball has grown in 123 years).

I’ll Come Back From 1894 In A Moment. But First…

…just mentioning in passing. Nothing against Pat Gillick, but he was the General Manager most deserving of election to the Hall of Fame? Hogwash. Charlie Finley served as his own GM and built three straight A’s World Champions of the ’70s himself, lost them all to Free Agency, then rebuilt a contender by 1980. How about John Schuerholz? General Manager of the Royals, 1981-90 (that would include a World Series win in 1985 and the AL West in 1984), General Manager of the Braves, 1991-2007 (something about 14 straight division titles?). What about Al Rosen with the Yankees?

Buzzie Bavasi, perhaps? Seven NL pennants as General Manager of the Dodgers. Got the Padres started from scratch. Two division titles with the Angels (and a third with basically the same team, two years after he retired). 
Gillick’s selection – combined with the embarrassing ignoring of George Steinbrenner and Marvin Miller, to say nothing of Ron Santo, to say nothing of the BBWAA’s incompetent annual voting – proves the voting has devolved into a popularity contest. It also underscores the necessity of scrapping the Hall of Fame election process in its entirety. I’d sooner have Bill James individually pick the members of the Hall than stick with the current system.

LAST ABOUT 1894:
Until something new pops up, of course. If you’ve been following Baseball Nerd’s Crack Coverage of the 1894 Temple Cup (2nd Place New York Giants upend Pennant-Winning Baltimore Orioles, 4-0, for NL Crown), you might enjoy this:1894GIANTS.jpg
Back Row: C Parke Wilson, C Duke Farrell, CF George Van Haltren, 1B Roger Connor (HOF), P Jouett Meekin, P Huyler Westervelt, P Amos Rusie (HOF). Middle Row: P Dad Clark, P Les German, IF Jack Doyle, 2B-MGR John Montgomery Ward (HOF), OF Mike Tiernan, 3B George Stacey Davis (HOF), SS Shorty Fuller, LF Eddie Burke. In Front: IF-OF General Stafford, IF Yale Murphy
The copyright is attributed to “Prince, Fotographer” – yep, spelled that way.
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