ALL GAME LONG CLAUDE LEUKER HAD BEEN GIVING TY COBB THE BUSINESS. HE HAD TALKED ABOUT HIS HITTING ABILITY AND HOW TERRIBLE A FIELDER HE WAS AND WHAT A MORON HE WAS IN REAL LIFE AND HE THREW IN SOME RACIAL SLURS AND THEN HE ATTACKED COBBS MOTHER AND THAT DID IT. STORMING INTO THE STANDS, COBB GRABBED LEUKER AROUND THE NECK, SMASHED HIM TO THE GROUND AND PROCEEDED TO BEAT THE HECK OUT OF HIM. BEFORE ORDER WAS RESTORED THE WHOLE TIGER TEAM RUSHED INTO THE STANDS IN SUPPORT OF COBB. FANS AND PLAYERS PUMMEL-ED EACH OTHER AROUND, WITH SOME ROUGH INJURIES ENDING UP ON BOTH SIDES. THIS ALL HAPP-ENED IN NEW YORK. IT WAS MAY 15,1912 & IT WOULD LEAD TO BIGGER THINGS. THE NEXT TWO DAYS WOULD PROVE TO BE CRUCIAL ONES FOR THE HISTORY OF BASEBALL IN GENERAL, AND WOULD DEV- ELOP INTO CHANGES IN THE WAY THE GAME WOULD BE PLAYED IN THE FUTURE. BY THE WAY, WHEN A FAN POINTED OUT TO COBB THAT LEUKER WAS DISABLED AND HAD NO ARMS, COBB REPLIED THAT HE WOULD BEAT HIM UP EVEN IF HE HAD NO LEGS AS WELL. THE MEDIA HAD A FIELD DAY WITH THIS.
The suspension game
AN ARTICLE FROM THE MONTHLY BASEBALL MAGAZINE ONEMOREINNING
History gives us some wonderful stories that last through the years, ending up as mythic folklore. That was true on May 18, 1912. Nonentities who would never have been known to us were given their moment of glory, at least in terms of baseball lore.
Two days after Cobb beat up Charles Leuker, Commisioner Ban Johnson suspended him for an indefinite period for conduct unbecoming to a player. Frankly Johnson could have suspended Cobb about three or four times a week throughout his whole playing career. The Tiger team, hearing about the suspension, rallied around Cobb (this was kind of unusual because Cobb wasnt exactly beloved even by his own team). I guess the players felt that Leukers calling Cobbs mother a husband killer was a bit much). Editors note: Cobbs mother was found innocent of murdering her husband when she claimed she killed him when he tried to get in through a window of their home and surprised her. Rumor had it that Cobbs father had suspected her of entertaining men and had come home early from a business trip to catch her in the act. Rumor also had it that she was and that he did.
The Tiger team decided to strike in order to show their solidarity with Cobb. They were due to play the Philadelphia Athletics that day. They presented Tiger management with an edict that said they would not go out on the field until Ban Johnsons suspension of Cobb was lifted. They should have known better. Owner Frank Navin was a tough cookie and first and foremost was a businessman and wouldnt cave in to threats like that. And besides, a great deal of money was involved.
It was made clear to Navin that if the Tigers did not show up on the field against Philadelphia he would be fined $5,000 by the League. It was a no-brainer. Navins dictum was if we dont have a team, we go out and get ourselves one. No matter where and how, you get it. Navin sat down with manager Hughie Jennings and they both decided to sign up some local talent. At first Jennings wasnt too keen on the idea. He was a players manager, loved his team, and felt it was wrong to usurp the teams wishes. His philosophy had always been the feelings of his players should always come first. However Navin made him an offer he couldnt refuse and the search was on.
Going to local teams and colleges in the area they quickly signed up local players. Some of the amateurs recruited were Jim Mcgarr, Jack Coffey, Bill Leinhauser, Dan McGarvey, Aloysius Travers, Pat Meaney, and Hap Ward. Two interesting choices were Detroit coaches Jim McGuire (48) and 41 year old Joe Sugden. Coaching and participating in batting practice didnt make up for the fact that they were out of shape and too old to participate in a Major League game.
One of the players they did manage to sign was Billy Mahorg His real name was Billy Graham (Mahorg was a reverse of Graham). He ended up as the only player of the group who played again in the Majors. In 1916 he had one at bat for the Phillies. As a footnote to his career, he later on was involved in the 1919 Black Sox scandal as a conspirator.
Al Travers, the Detroit pitcher in the game was 20 years old at that time and a student at St. Josephs University. He later went on to become a Jesuit priest. I wonder if his pitching performance that day had anything to do with his decision to embrace the cloth. When the smoke cleared, Travers had given up 26 hits and 24 runs in eight innings. The final score was Philadelphia 24 and Detroit 2. Ed Irvin hit two triples for Detroit and ended up his career with a 2,000 slugging percentage. Joe Sugden and Deacon McGuire had two other hits for the Tigers. Manager Hughie Jennings pinch hit and flew out.
Philadelphia feasted. Led by Eddie Collins 5-6, their hitting included Amos Strunk 3-6, Stuffy McInnis and Hal Maggert 3-4. Jack Coombs was the winner and former Yankee great and future Hall of Famer Herb Pennock pitched three scoreless innings.
EPILOGUE: BAN JOHNSON WAS A STRONG WILLED, TOUGH MINDED INDIVIDUAL WHO WAS AT THIS POINT THE PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN LEAGUE. ONE OF THE GREAT BASEBALL MINDS OF HIS DAY, JOHNSON WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CREATION OF THE AMERICAN LEAGUE. DISGUSTED WITH THE ROWDY BEHAVIOR OF BOTH THE FANS AND THE PLAYERS IN THE NATIONAL LEAGUE, JOHNSON DECIDED HE HAD HAD ENOUGH. HE ALSO FELT THAT THE GAMBLING AND DRINKING HAD GOTTEN WAY OUT OF HAND. IN 19OO HE CHANGED THE NAME OF THE WESTERN ASSOCIATION TO THE AMERICAN LEAGUE. IN 1901 HE DECLARED THAT IT WAS A MAJOR LEAGUE AND IN 1902 INITIATED A SERIES OF PLAYER RAIDS AGAINST THE NATIONAL LEAGUE. AT THAT POINT THE NATIONAL LEAGUE AGREED TO HAVE A WORLD SERIES IN 1903 THUS RECOGNIZING THE LEGITAMITE STATUS OF THE NEW LEAGUE. IT WAS CONFIRMED WHEN THE AMERICAN LEAGUE BEAT THE NATIONAL LEAGUE IN THE 1903 WORLD SERIES.
ON MAY 19th BAN JOHNSON ACTED AGAINST THE TIGERS. IN A MEETING WITH FRANK NAVIN HE LAYED DOWN THE LAW. EITHER YOU PLAY WASHINGTON ON MAY 20th OR YOU WILL NEVER PLAY AGAIN. SRONG WORDS WHICH WORKED. TAKING THE LEAD, COBB AGREED TO GO BACK TO WORK AND HIS TEAM FOLLOWED HIM. JOHNSON FINED HIM THE EQUIVALENT OF A SLAP ON THE WRIST, $50, AND SUSPENDED HIM UNTIL MAY 27th . ALL THE PLAYERS WHO HAD SIGNED THE STRIKE AGREEMENT WERE FINED $IOO.
THE INCIDENT LED TO DISCUSSIONS BETWEEN THE PLAYERS IN BOTH LEAGUES. THE RESULT WAS THE PLAYERS DECIDED TO GET TOGETHER AND FORM A NEW GROUP TO PROTECT THEMSELVES IN THE FUTURE. IT WAS WEAK AND DIDNT ACCOMPLISH MUCH, BUT IT WAS A PRECURSER TO THE PRESNT DAY PLAYERS UNION.