Fullerton Files: Practical jokes

This is nearly all of a column by Hugh Fullerton titled "Ball Players on the Road: Rough House on the Cards" that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune on April 7, 1907.

(Paragraph breaks added for easier reading. Subheads added.)


Practical jokes are the bane of life for any man who is forced to travel with a ball club during the summer months.

The man who escapes falling the victim of some alleged wag at least once a week is lucky.

Anything serves to pass away the time during the long jumps from city to city. Poker, of course, or cribbage, helps some, but there are hours and hours during which time hangs heavily, and it it not surprising that, among eighteen or twenty healthy athletes, there always are two or three ready for trouble.

The wit usually is of the slapstick variety. Jerking a sleeper out of an upper berth by the feet is considered a charming bon mot by some of the fellows -- but there are times when real jokes are perpetrated, and when the antics of the fellows who are suffering from an excess of health are really funny.



Years ago, when Big Dan McGann was a youngster, playing with the Baltimore team, he was moving south to join his club at Macon, and fell in with the Chicago club.

Dan had been saying farewell to his admirers at home and came aboard with a solemn and majestic "bun" on.

As soon as he discovered that the Chicago club was on the same train and that his old Eastern League friend, Tom Burns, was in charge, he conceived the idea that it would be a grand thing to pull off a joke on Tim.

He solemnly confided his intentional to several players, who sat up with him and waited until Burns retired, ignorant of McGann's presence.

By that time Dan was as solemn as a stuffed owl. He had evolved a joke. It consisted of pouring a little ice water over his sleeping friend -- T. Burns.

Up to that point the joke didn't look promising, but McGann asked Jimmy Ryan were Burns was sleeping and Ryan informed him "lower six."

As a matter of fact, Burns was reposing safely in the stateroom.

McGann, water in hand, slipped up to lower six, parted the curtains, and dumped the water.



The gang was waiting in the smoking compartment for developments and heard a terrific row, sounds of a wild encounter, and Dan came in, looking rather foolish, and whispered that he had got the wrong berth and wetted down a Cincinnati traveling man.

Everybody tried to smooth over the affair -- and the traveling man retired, still muttering, and hunted up a dry nightie.

Someone ordered another bottle of beer and for a couple of hours everything was quiet. Then Dan began reverting to his joke.

He could not bear to be disappointed, and he knew his old friend Burns would be glad to see him. He finally filled his glass with water again and prepared for the grand joke.

"What berth did you say he was in?" he asked, solemnly.

"Lower six," responded Ryan, seriously.

That time, the traveling was bent on murder -- and only the active and urgent movement of the porter and conductor prevented trouble.



Ryan was the instigator of a similar joke at Hot Springs (Ga.) one training season.

The Chicago and Minneapolis teams, part of the Cleveland team, and a great crowd were there, and there were merry doings.

One night someone won a lot of money and the fun was redoubled. Shortly before midnight a crowd of the Indians paid us a call -- seven or eight of them -- in order to me what a beautiful accumulation [Chicago's] Tim Donahue was carrying.

We sent for a few bottles of beer and then started an argument, which, of course, drew Tim. The argument grew louder and louder. The noise was terrific.

In a few minutes a man began beating on the opposite side of the connecting door.

"You fellows cut it out and go to bed," he said, angrily. "I've got to get some sleep and catch an early train."

Someone threw a beer bottle at the door.


We were quiet for a few minutes, then someone prodded Tim up on the argument, and the noise was resumed.

The man next door pleaded, entreated, and threatened.

Finally, after exhausting all his language, he declared he would appeal to the hotel management. Thereupon the argument subsided.

Everybody was sitting around finishing his bottle of beer and Tim was lying on the bed half asleep. Four perhaps an hour we were respectably quiet -- and the man next door was back in the land of dreams.

Then Ryan started.

"It's a shame the way you treated that fellow, Tim," he said.

"Me?" demanded Tim. "Why, I wasn't making any noise."

"Yes, you were. All the rest of us were trying to keep you quiet."

"Me?" demanded Tim again. "Why, I wasn't saying a word."

"Why, you waked him up three times," said Ryan.

"I'll leave it to the gang if I was making the noise," said Tim.

Of course everybody sided with Ryan.

"You ought to apologize," remarked Ryan.

"Well," said Tim, "if I did anything wrong I'm ready to apologize."

"Why don't you do it?" demanded Ryan.

Whereupon Tim arose, went into the hallway, beat upon the persecuted one's door until he awoke, searing, and apologized.

The language of the man was shocking.

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