Fullerton Files: 'Freaks of Luck'

This is nearly all of a column by Hugh Fullerton titled "Freaks of Luck in Baseball" that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune on March 18, 1906.

(Paragraph breaks added for easier reading. Subheads are in original)


Incident in a Game Played by

the Chicago Club in Washington.

[Cap] Anson used to say, "The luck evens up."

But it never does. There are lucky clubs and unlucky clubs in baseball, and luck is one of the biggest elements in the game.

The runs of good and bad luck that come to teams either get them so full of confidence that they can't be beat, or discourage them so that they could not win a game with a high sky, a head wind, and a home umpire.

The freaks of luck are strange and peculiar. I remember one through which the old Chicago team won a game.

The was playing Washington, and in the ninth inning Chicago was two runs to the bad, with two on bases and two out, when [Bill] Lange rapped a hot grounded to short. It looked easy, but the shortstop fumbled, and Lange was safe.

One run scored, and [Jimmy] Ryan, who had been on second, turned third and dashed for the plate, seemingly throwing away the game.

[Gene] De Mont[reville], the Washington shortstop, recovered the ball and made a quick snap throw to the plate; but the throw was high, and the ball sailed over the catcher's head to the stand, rolled up an inclined door by which the players reached the dressing room, and thence through a hole which had been cut in the stand so that a player could reach a hand through and open the door.

Lange scored, winning the game for Chicago.

After the game was over, Joe Campbell, Tom Browne, and I tried to drove a ball through that hole by main force and failed; the hole was too small. The only explanation ever advanced for the freak was that the ball twisted itself through the hole.


Hole in Pittsburg Grandstand

Which Has Turned Tide of Battle

There is a small hole, about two inches high and perhaps three long, under the Pittsburg grandstand just back of first base that was on the Pirates three games in the last six years.

Each time an overthrow of first resulted in the ball rolling through that hole and under the grandstand, although the space is so small that the players have failed hundreds of times to throw a ball through it from a distance of a few feet.

The hole is regarded by the Pirates as their mascot, and they have had several sharp skirmished with opposing players who have attempted to fill it. . . .


Wilmot Couldn't Get the Ball

Out of a Tomato Can

A strange accident happened in a game between Chicago and Boston back in the early nineties.

The Boston grounds are built alongside the New York, New Haven and Hartford tracks, the left field fence being against the embankment, which frequently breaks the fence by its weight, letting rubbish through, and shoving out the top of the fence until it leans out over the field.

One day Billy Hamilton [of the Beaneaters] cracked a line drive to left that struck the fence and shot down into the angle. Walter Wilmot crawled under the leading fence and began searching for the ball, which had failed to bound out, and Hamilton went sprinting around the bases.

As Hamilton turned second Wilmot crawled from under the fence and hurled a tomato can into the field. The ball was inside the can.

As [Malachi] Kittridge tells the story, [Bill] Dahlen caught the can and tagged Hamilton with it, but [Umpire] Gaffney refused to call Hamilton out, claiming he was not touched with the ball, but with the can.

As a matter of fact, Wilmot only succeeded in throwing the can half way up to third base, and before Dahlen could pry the ball out of the can Hamilton had scored.


Dreyfuss Always Thought He Was

Euchered Out of This Game

One tough luck game was lost by Pittsburgh on the West Side Grounds in Chicago in 1898 -- and [Pirates owner] Barney Dreyfuss never has been fully convinced that he did not get the worst of the deal.

Chicago and Pittsburgh had battled for thirteen innings -- and the score was 1 to 1.

That day Charlie Kuhn, the groundkeeper [sic], had laid a line of garden hose in the third base found line. It was at the outside of the little trench dug through the sod, and it did not protrude above the level of the field, practically being buried in the base line.

In the thirteenth, [Chicago's Clark] Griffith poked a weak little fly out over third base. [Pittsburgh's Fred] Clarke couldn't reach it and [Tommy] Leach couldn't get back to it.

The ball fell on the hose, bounded crooked on to foul ground, and rolled to the grand stand, and the winning run scored.

Dreyfuss always claimed the hit was foul, because to bound toward the stand the ball must have struck the outside edge of the hose, which on the outside edge of the foul line.

[Umpire Hank] O'Day gave Chicago the decision by a sixteenth of an inch. . . .


Anson Hit in the Back

With a Perfectly Thrown Ball

Another odd incident happened in New York along about 1897.

Anson was playing first, of course, and Ryan right, and on that short right field, with its steep downhill pitch, Ryan was a terror to slow runners. He would them out at first on line drives to right.

On this day "Black Bill" Clark, who was big and slow, rapped a line drive to right. Ryan sprinted up the hill, grabbed the ball on the first bound, and without stopping or looking shot it towards first.

It happened that Anson had his back turned and was looking towards the plate when the ball, arriving at the base fifteen feet ahead of Clark, rapped him in the middle of the back and set the crowd roaring.

And Anson solemnly averred that Ryan tried to show him up.

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