The Sporting News

Who left Joe Vila in out in the cold?

Posted on Updated on

baseball_mitt_mud-hdr-webWhen I write my long-promised  Top 10 list of World Series weather games, the 1925 championship finale will certainly rank high on the chart.

It had almost all the makings of a fall weather classic: pounding rain, vision-obstructing fog, ballplayers’ mud-caked habiliments and thousands of rain-drenched foul-weather fans, so to speak. ‘You could cut the mirk with a cleaver,” The Evening Star of Washington, D.C., reported on the gloomy mid-October afternoon in Pittsburgh.

Game 7 also had a fire on the field, a blaze intentionally set by Forbes Field groundskeeper Jack Fogarty in an attempt to dry the uliginous infield. There’s no report, however, of fans roasting marshmallows.

This nutty game, in which the Pirates bested the Senators 9-7, also produced one irritated journalist.

Among the many World Series recap stories The Sporting News published in its Oct. 22 issue, Joe Vila held no punches in expressing his displeasure over the treatment of writers at the ballpark.

“I do not know who was directly responsible for the press accommodations at Forbes Field, but it’s enough to say that they were outrageous,” wrote Vila, who covered baseball for three decades.

“The press box, instead of being located in the grand stand, under cover, was arranged on the ground in front of the ordinary backstop. Reporters and telegraph operators, who had no redress, worked on Tuesday and Thursday in the mud and rain. They had no protection from the storm and were drenched to the skin.

From Vila’s writing, it’s as clear as mud to determine whether he was actually dodging raindrops and slogging through mud at Forbes Field or if he simply was piping up for those writers who were covering the game.

Under the sub-headline of “Press Handled Like Bleacherites,” Vila continued his salty assault, writing, “If the Pittsburgh Club had entertained the proper respect for the newspapers which spent many thousands of dollars to spread to spread the details of the World Series all over the United States and other parts of the civilized world, such uncomfortable conditions under which the writers and keymen tolled would not have existed.”

Digging through various other newspapers has not revealed, so far, any other scribes complaining about improper working conditions at the ballpark.

Ralph Davis wrote in the Pittsburgh Press that he “leaped” from his seat in the “press box at Forbes Field” at the end of the game, not because his pants were soaked, but from the sight of “Old Rube” Oldham firing the third strike past the Senators’ Goose Goslin, who was “standing there flatfooted, for the final out of the game of the world’s baseball series.”

Advertisements

E5… Blame the groundskeeper

Posted on Updated on

Fogarty-Jack-TSN-1938
The Sporting News photo of Jack Fogarty caring for the Forbes Field infield in 1938.

If you scroll through enough baseball newspapers articles from the early 1900s, you’ll inevitably stumble upon an anecdote or two claiming a rogue infield pebble got in the way of a bouncing routine ground ball, causing the ball to take an unexpected hop past a fielder and cost the fielding team a run or two, or maybe even a game.

Heck, Game 7 of the 1924 World Series turned in favor of the Washington Senators when Bucky Harris hit a grounder toward third in the bottom of the eighth that ricocheted off a small rock and squirted past New York Giants’ third baseman Freddie Lindstrom, allowing two Senators to score and tie the game at 3-3. Washington eventually won the series in extra innings.

I’m not sure if Lindstrom took issue with the Griffith Stadium grounds crew, but in a series of profile stories about the profession, Pirates head groundskeeper Jack Fogarty told The Sporting News in 1938 that players, even Hall of Famers, would occasionally blame their miscues on infield pebbles left behind by him and other grounds crew members.

“…Once in a while a player tries to use me for an alibi,” Fogarty said.

“Old Honus Wagner did that once in his active playing days. He used to carry around a bunch of pebbles in his uniform pocket, and if he booted or fumbled, he’d come in and toss one of those pebbles at me, as if to let everybody know I left a stone out there big enough to deflect the course of a roller.

“Other players have tried that trick, too, but it doesn’t get them anywhere. If there’s ever been a pebble half as big as a marble on the skinned part of that infield, I’ve never found it.”

Fogarty became Pittsburgh’s head groundskeeper in 1919 and was known to sometimes douse the Forbes Field infield with gasoline and set it ablaze in an attempt to dry the playing surface after a lengthy rain. Days after his death in 1995, the Pittsburgh Press described Fogarty as a man “who devoted his lifetime to the tender care of the grass at Forbes Field and a man who took great pride in his work.”

If a player complained about the smoothness of the infield, “the next morning Fogarty went to work to smooth out the rough spot that caused the player to make his complaint and he wasn’t satisfied until the player approved,” the Press reported.

“Fogarty winced when he read that a ball took a bad hop over a player’s shoulder because he felt like this was a reflection on his ability, although it never was written with that in mind. But John Fogarty was a deeply sensitive and was highly regarded in his field.”