Sunday, November 29, 2015

Not Your Average Day at the Ballpark

When 16 year old Samuel Arnold plunked down his two quarters for a grandstand seat at Philadelphia's Huntingdon Street Grounds (later Baker Bowl) on August 28, 1911, he probably anticipated little more than an enjoyable day at the ball park.  Certainly he couldn't have had any idea his enthusiastic rooting for his beloved Phillies would set off a chain of events which would reach a meeting of the National League owners.  Arnold's support for the home team was understandable, led by rookie sensation, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Philadelphia was enjoying a successful season, comfortably in the first division.  And, if that wasn't sufficient attraction, the young fan was doubtless looking forward to a pitching match up between two future Hall of Famers the aforementioned Alexander and Cub star, Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, both of whom would win 20 games that season.  While Arnold's Phillies at 8.5 games out of first were a long shot to catch the first place Giants, the defending National League champion Cubs approached September only 1.5 games back of McGraw's men.  Another intense pennant race between the two arch rivals seemed highly likely, lending even more anticipation to the day's events at Huntingdon and Broad Streets.

Philadelphia Inquirer - August 29, 1911

From his seat on the third base side, just behind the box seats, reportedly filled with a large number of ladies and gentlemen,  Arnold must have joined in the cheering when the home town heroes took the lead by scoring once off Brown during the bottom of the second, a lead Alexander preserved through five frames.  As the game headed to the sixth, the Philadelphia fans may have been hoping for a shut out from their young ace (he would record seven for the season), but the Cubs quashed those hopes and the Phillies' lead with a four run uprising.  Understandably depressed by this turn of events, Arnold and his fellow fans took heart as Philadelphia staged their own sixth inning rally, culminating with a Hans Lobert single which plated Sherry Magee with the tying run.  With two on and only one out, Brown was clearly on the ropes, and it was at this point that Arnold became more than just another fan.  With Fred Luderus coming to the plate for the Phillies, future Hall of Fame umpire, Bill Klem stopped the game and directed acting Philadelphia manager, Otto Knabe and the police to eject a fan, one Samuel Arnold or he would forfeit the game to the Cubs.

Baker Bowl 

Accounts of exactly what happened differ.  Writing in the Chicago Daily Tribune, Sam Weller, no doubt writing from a Dickensian moral view, claimed that Arnold had been "insulting the Cub players personally all through the game" before moving on to a "vicious and vulgar attack"on Klem himself.  According to Weller, however, the umpire's order to eject the obnoxious fan was based not on the verbal abuse directed at Klem, but concern about ladies being subjected to such reprehensible and unmanly behavior.  From the Philadelphia perspective, however, Jim Nasium (Edgar Forrest Wolfe) of the Philadelphia Inquirer dismissed Arnold's actions as nothing more than someone "trying to get more than his money's worth of yelling."  Nasium, who illustrated his game accounts with his own cartoons, said the whole thing was an overreaction on Klem's part, sarcastically wondering if instead of watching a a major league game, he was witnessing a contest between the "Fifth Ward Juniors and the Newsboys Home."  Perhaps not surprisingly, the fans strongly objected to the ejection, but unexpectedly the police all the way up to the captain in charge also resisted enforcing Klem's order.  So incensed were the umpires that Klem's partner, Bill Brennan went into the stands to pick out the miscreant.  After lengthy debate, Arnold was escorted outside the grounds and refunded his 50 cents which supposedly was forced upon him.

Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown

Given his passion for the Phillies and/or against the Cubs, Arnold may have been better off missing the rest of the game.  Brown retired the Phillies without further incident to end the sixth and Chicago scored four times in the eighth to defeat Alexander 8-4.  Nasium, however, was not willing to drop what seemed to be an unjustified ejection and after some investigative reporting, wrote that while the 16 year old had called Brown, "yellow," he never used profanity or any language that bothered the ladies seated nearby.  As the Inquirer writer and cartoonist understood it, Brown complained to Klem about the name calling which triggered everything that happened afterwards.  If the Cubs star was that sensitive to taunting, one wonders how he felt when Nasium referred to him as "Mr. Minus Digit" in print.  It's not clear whether the reporter ever spoke directly with Arnold, but regardless of where the idea may have come from, the ejected and no doubt humiliated fan was also unwilling to let the matter drop.  Less than two weeks later, the Inquirer reported that Arnold had sued the Philadelphia club for $5000, claiming the ejection was illegal and breached the contract established by the ticket purchase.

Bill Klem

Most club owners would have worked the whole thing out behind the scenes, but Horace Fogel, the Phillies president was no ordinary owner, if, in fact, he really was the owner.  A former sportswriter, sports editor and baseball manager, Fogel had purchased the Phillies in 1909, although it appeared the acquisitions was financed by Charles Taft, the half-brother of President William Howard Taft.  According to an article by Steve Steinberg in the fall 2012 issue of "Baseball: A Journal of the Early Game,"  Fogel was "a protege of the outspoken and acerbic" Charles Murphy, the owner of the Cubs, also reportedly financed by Taft.  Like his mentor, Fogel wasn't reluctant to share his opinions with his fellow magnates.  With the Arnold trial scheduled for February 29, 1912, Fogel wrote at length to National League president, Thomas Lynch and then raised the issue of the pending lawsuit at the owners meeting in early February.  In his letter, the Philadelphia magnate shed further light on what happened that August afternoon.  According to Fogel's account, Brown denied he had ever said a word to Klem about Arnold.  Taking responsibility instead was Chicago catcher Tom Needham who admitted he had fanned the flames because Brown was in trouble and needed time to recover.  In other words, Needham had simply "put a job up on Klem."

Horace Fogel 

If Klem didn't recognize he was being manipulated, the Philadelphia fans, according to Fogel, knew exactly what was going on.  Rather than being offended by Arnold, those sitting near him were "amused" by how he cheered and none of it was "in the slightest degree offensive."  That explained why the fans opposed Arnold's ejection so vehemently and the police were unwilling to enforce it since comments like "Take him out," "He is weakening" and the previously mentioned "yellow" characterization were hardly grounds for ejection.  None of this, however, was why Fogel was raising the issue with Lynch and the other owners.  Before finally giving in on the ejection which he knew would further infuriate the crowd, the police captain in charge, asked Klem if the National League would assume liability for any claims arising out of the incident, to which the umpire responded in the affirmative.  Such a claim had now been made and Fogel with a marginal franchise financially didn't want to be on the hook if a jury sided with the increasingly sympathetic looking fan.  Nor surprisingly, president Lynch and the owners took the position that crowd control was the club's problem and declined any liability.

Tom Needham

To date nothing has been discovered about the outcome of Arnold's lawsuit.  The apparent lack of newspaper accounts about the result of a lawsuit which attracted extended media attention when it was filed, suggests some kind of out of court settlement.  If the young man was as enthusiastic as it appears, he might willingly have accepted tickets for 1912 games in exchange for dropping his lawsuit and a commitment to moderate his vocal comments.  In any event, by the end of 1912, the lawsuit was the least of Horace Fogel's problems.  Fogel began his letter by suggesting the inappropriate ejection was another example of the umpires' prejudice against the Phillies.  While that was bad enough, Fogel was even less discreet later in 1912 when he wrote in the Chicago Daily Post that the National League pennant race had been fixed in favor of the Giants.  Understandably, the other owners couldn't and wouldn't tolerate such outbursts and Fogel was tried, convicted and banished from baseball in November of 1912.  How Samuel Arnold felt about this is hard to say, but one hopes that a few years later, in 1915, he was once again in the stands, cheering for his Phillies as they won the National League pennant.

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