Stories

One of the greatest pleasures I’m taking out of researching and writing auction descriptions is learning about the long-lost stories they tell, and unearthing these amazing legends, seeing how they all fit together, and explaining it in the descriptions.

This is Jimmy McAleer.  He was born in 1864 in Youngstown, Ohio, and at some point in the early 1890s, he went to the Meacham & Sabine photo studio and had this picture taken.  The picture passed through however many hands, starting with someone at the studio, then onto McAleer, and likely through his family.  It survived two World Wars, paper drives, an unknown number of housecleanings and estate sales, and long after McAleer was gone, passed into the hands of someone who recognized the subject.  More than a hundred years later, it’s being featured in our auction.

In the 1890s, McAleer latched on as an outfielder with the Cleveland Spiders.  He was a speedy guy and a great defensive player – he stole 51 bases one year, and helped the Spiders win the Temple Cup in 1895 (along with some other guys you might have heard of: Cy Young, John Clarkson, and Jesse Burkett).  McAleer had a temper and was a fiery guy.

This is Arlie Latham.  This N173 Old Judge cabinet of Latham is also in our auction. Latham was one of the best third baseman ever, and also was a speedy guy.  He stole 129 bases in 1887.  In the late 1800s, teams used players as base coaches, and Latham used to coach third.  Latham was also a fiery guy – he was one of the original “bench jockeys,” yelling insults at the opposing pitchers, and running up and down the baseline while the opposing pitchers were making their delivery.  Eventually, the league established the “coaches box,” basically to keep Arlie Latham in one place, and prevent him from distracting the opposing pitcher.

Once, when the Spiders were playing the Reds in 1891, Jimmy McAleer was rounding third, and Latham reached out and tripped him.  Enraged, McAleer went after Latham with his bat.

While Latham’s coaching career was short-lived, McAleer was actually pretty good at it.  In 1900, he became player-manager of the Cleveland Lake Shores (who eventually became the Indians).  In 1901, the Lake Shores changed their name to the Blues, and joined the fledgling American League.  After the National League decided to limit player salaries, McAleer worked with his good friend, American League President Ban Johnson, to recruit dozens of NL players to come join the new American League.

McAleer went on to join the St. Louis Browns as manager in 1902, and the Washington Senators in 1909.  In 1910, he asked President William Howard Taft to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day.  Taft agreed.  Thus began the tradition of US Presidents throwing out the first pitch on Opening Day.

This is E.S. Barnard.  This Carl Horner cabinet photo of Barnard is also in our auction.  Barnard lived in Delaware, Ohio, and in 1903 was hired by the Cleveland Indians in 1903 as traveling secretary.  In 1908, he was promoted to vice president and general manager of the team.

In 1911, Jimmy McAleer resigned as manager of the Senators and announced that he had purchased half of the Boston Red Sox.  The Sox, playing in their brand-new stadium, Fenway Park, went all the way to the World Series in 1912.  The Red Sox’ manager was Jake Stahl, another close friend of AL president Ban Johnson.  Like many owners we know today, McAleer was very engaged in the management of the team, and with a 3-1 World Series lead and a Game 6 (game 2 had ended in a tie, due to darkness) in New York, McAleer began thinking about the gate revenues of having one last Series game in the brand new Fenway Park.

Stahl had decided that Boston Ace Smokey Joe Wood would start the following day’s game in New York on two days rest.  Wood had a 34-5 record that season and was already 2-0 in the series, as dominant a pitcher as there was in 1912.  McAleer intervened, and insisted that Stahl hold back Wood, and start Buck O’Brien in the game.  Of course O’Brien lost the game, setting up a Game 7 at Fenway.

Due to a ticket SNAFU that resulted in Boston’s loyal fans the “Royal Rooters” being unable to obtain tickets to the game, there was a riot before the game, while Wood was warming up.  During the mayhem, Wood took a seat, and his arm stiffened.  When the game started, Smokey Joe was ineffective, lasting just one inning.  The Sox lost the game, setting up a decisive Game 8.  The Red Sox ran into a bout of good fortune (the infamous Snodgrass error in the 10th), and managed to win the game and the Series.

The Sox struggled in 1913, and McAleer fired manager Stahl.  Watching all this from the sidelines, AL president Ban Johnson was not happy about the dismissal of his friend, and eventually forced McAleer to sell his shares and retire.

Back in Cleveland, Ernest Barnard eventually became the president of the Indians, often serving as a mediator between Johnson and others.  After the Black Sox Scandal of 1919, team owners appointed Judge Landis as Commissioner of baseball.  Landis and Johnson clashed, and finally in 1927, Ban Johnson was removed as American League president after a dust-up over Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker allegedly throwing a game.  Ernest Barnard was Ban Johnson’s replacement as AL president.

In late 1930, Barnard was re-elected to a three year term as American League president.  McAleer, having returned to Youngstown, served on the draft board during World War I, and eventually fell into poor health.  After being replaced, Johnson retired, refusing the salary he was entitled to receive until 1935.

On March 27, 1931, Ernest Barnard died suddenly while at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, waiting for an examination.  Just hours later in St. Louis, Ban Johnson died of diabetes.  One month later, Jimmy McAleer died as well.

Today, Johnson is enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  But Barnard and McAleer were also instrumental in the development and early success of the American League.  The three are baseball pioneers who built the American League together, became successful together, and, sadly, died within one month of each other in the spring of 1931.

Great stories, baseball.

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