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Fullerton Files: Finale

This is the last of a series of excerpts from the highly entertaining columns about baseball by Hugh Fullerton that appeared in Sunday editions of the Chicago Tribune between 1905 and 1907.

After Fullerton left the Tribune, he wrote stories and columns for 2 rival papers, the Herald and the Examiner.

The night before Game 1 of the 1919 World Series, he sent a column to 40 subscribing papers that said the Series was being fixed. Only 2 of the papers published his column.

After the Reds upset the White Sox, 5 games to 2, Fullerton announced that he would not cover baseball again until the game was cleaned up.

A few months later, he was persuaded to write about the fix for the New York Evening World. His allegations were roundly ignored.

Baseball Magazine published this poem:

A dopester whose first name was Hugh

Said the White Sox would win five to two.

But the Reds with a rush

Put the dope on the crush

Now the dopester still bellows "bugh-hugh!"

It was not until late in the 1920 season that the full scandal came to light, leading to the permanent ban of 8 White Sox who had taken part in it.

Fullerton moved to New York, where he wrote for the Evening World, then was sports editor of the Mail. He later worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Columbus Dispatch, and was an associate editor of Liberty magazine.

He died at the age of 72, two days after Christmas in 1945, in Clearwater, Fla.

...

Following is most of his final column for the Tribune, which was published on Aug. 11, 1907, under the headline, "Unknown Handicap in Baseball."

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

.......

The best team does not always win the pennant in baseball. Given a fair field and decent luck, the club composed of the best ball players ought to win, but the fact remains that, in a close race, the pennant winner generally looks weaker, even after winning, than the loser.

There are dozens of things that happen to keep a team from landing a pennant about which the general public is ignorant and which never can be explained clearly.

For instance, one of the mysteries of baseball was the breaking up of the famous Chicago White Stockings team [today's Cubs].

Hundreds and thousands of people cursed the management of the Chicago team for selling off star players and wrecking the club -- and few ever knew why it was.

The management felt worse over it than the fans possible could feel -- but it was inevitable.

A scandal in the club, concerning two star members and the wife of one of them, started the trouble. Threats to kill each other were made -- and the disruption of the club became absolutely necessary.

The sale of [catcher King] Kelly and [pitcher John] Clarkson was the beginning -- and after a time all parties to the scandal were let out -- and Chicago was given a decade of losing clubs.

...

'AN INVETERATE GOSSIP'

Women have been the cause of the ruin of more good ball clubs than anything else. They need not necessarily be bad women.

There was one club in the old twelve-club National League which, for two years, was knocked out of all chance of winning merely because the wife of one of the players was an inveterate gossip.

She knew everything that went on in the club, and retailed it until she had half the players up in arms against each other.

One of the best managers in the country today frowns upon all women, and his players, under his direction, forbid their wives to mention the subject of baseball to each other. The result is that there is best feeling in the club. Almost every member of the team is married, their wives meet socially at times -- and baseball is tabooed by common consent. . . .

...

A 'SURE WINNER' FAILS

One of the hardest things to explain in the game was the failure of [Cap] Anson's club to win in 1897.

In July of that year, figuring the schedule carefully, the team looked like a sure winner. It was pretty well up in the race, within striking distance, and after the eastern trip its schedule was almost all at home, and vast majority of the remaining games were against weaker club.

The pitchers, especially [Jimmy] Callahan and [Clark] Griffith, were going in fine form, and the club's prospects never were brighter.

The team started the long trip east in magnificent form, and went through Cincinnati and Boston as if to wipe up the earth with the easterners.

Then, at Brooklyn, it started losing -- and from that to the end of the year it lost steadily and finished down among the tailenders.

The general public never understood, and few outside the team knew what the trouble was.

The whole trouble was that nine of the players were stricken with a disease that made them practically useless for the remainder of the year. Four of the nine were pitchers, which put the entire club to bad.

...

THOROUGHBRED FEVER

Horse racing, however, has ruined almost as many clubs as women have. Once get a team interested in horse racing and so far as winning goes it might as well disband.

One of the greatest troubles in the present New York National League team is the devotion of some of the players to the racing game. [Manager John] McGraw himself has been so successful at it that baseball has become a sort of side issue. Many of his players have followed his example, and the result they think more of horse racing than of baseball.

Racing did more to wreck [Ned] Hanlon's championship Brooklyn team that any other thing. The Washington Park grounds are so close to the Brighton and Sheepshead tracks that the players could see two or three races an afternoon and then reach the [ball]park before time to practice, as games are called [to begin] late in Brooklyn.

Eventually baseball was forgotten, and the conversation in the clubhouse dwelt only on horse racing.

Anson had a crowd of horse race fans for several years, and the result on the work of the team was something frightful. They talked horse racing even on the field, and had the telegraph operators throwing out messages telling what horse had won.

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GAMBLING GOT 'EM

Gambling, in several forms, broke up the New York ball club under the [Andrew] Freedman regime. There always was a crap game or a poker game in the clubhouse, and the stakes were so high that bitter feeling was engendered.

The old Washington club under the Wagners was another example of the effects of gambling.

The Chicago team the second year under Tom Burns [1899] was wrecked by this same sort of deal, the manager setting it a bad example in that respect.

Burns also was charged by the Pittsburg owners with ruining their club, when he was manager [in 1892], by permitting and encouraging gambling.

...

DOPED AND SICKENED

One of the oddest of unexpected happenings in baseball was the downfall of the St. Louis champions after winning three pennants [4, actually, in the American Association, 1885-88].

The team was beaten out of a [fifth] by a gift of three ice cold watermelons during a jump from St. Louis to Columbus, just at the close of the season.

An admirer presented the club with the melons as it passed through a small town in Illinois, and the result was the illness of several star players during the crucial series.

The charge of "doping" the drinking water to make visiting players sick several times has been made, but the evidence never has been forthcoming.

But the hardest luck was that which befell a Lake Providence, La., team in a small league down in Louisiana a few years ago.

The team was walking away with the pennant when it was quarantined on account of yellow fever and forfeited enough games to lose the pennant.

After it got out of quarantine it broke up the league by trying to play in towns which feared yellow fever.

Just who won the pennant no one knows even now.

..........

A NOTE ABOUT THE COLUMN

Fullerton's account of "Anson's club to win" in 1897 is mysterious.

He says the team was "pretty well up" in the standings in July, when the Colts actually began the month in 11th place, 20.5 games out of first.

The 2 pitchers that Fullerton mentioned, Clark Griffith and Jimmy Callahan, were on the team together only that year and the next 3, 1898-1900.

And 1897 was Anson's last year with the team.

In 1898, the Colts were fifth in mid-July, but their road trip that month began with a single game at Cincinnati and did not include Boston or Brooklyn, as Fullerton describes the trip.

In 1899, the Colts were second, just 4 games behind, after winning on July 6 at Pittsburgh, then lost twice there, went 2-1 at Boston and lost 3 in a row at Brooklyn.

They wound up eighth of the 12 teams, 26 games behind.

And in 1900, the Colts were third, 7 games behind, in mid-July, then played 1 game at Pittsburgh, 3 at Boston and 3 at Brooklyn. They were fourth by the time they returned to Chicago, 10.5 out of first, and finished fifth, 19 to the rear.

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