BURNED-OVER DISTRICT, NY—The Muckdogs open tonight against the cursed Auburn Doubledays. It’s seventy years now that we’ve had a professional baseball team in Batavia, and no one knows more about what has happened on and off the field during those three score and ten than Bill Dougherty, a superb example of what every baseball city has to have: a baseball historian.
Bill Dougherty’s father founded the heating company that has borne the family surname for three generations. Bill is retired, which means he still spends five days a week running for parts and answering phones and pitching in, but when he’s not hanging around the office (or even when he is) Bill is researching and writing articles on our county’s early 20th-century town teams and ethnic nines and even traveling women’s baseball teams. One of these years he wants to stage a girls baseball tournament, apt since the Burned-Over District is the cradle of the 19th-century movement for woman suffrage and legal equality. (Susan B. Anthony I’ll keep on the bench to nag the ump, but Elizabeth Cady Stanton can bat cleanup for me anytime.)
History: “it’s not made by great men!” as the best Marxist postpunk band yelped. It is, rather, an accumulation of small stories that achieve, in their interconnectedness, a solidity, a resonance. I guess we’d have to call Bill an activist historian, since his labors of love have retrieved forgotten games and people and even rewritten the major-league record book.
This story starts with Ty Cobb and the famous “suspension game.” Cobb had gone into the stands in New York on May 15, 1912, to thrash a heckler who was yelling “Your sister screws niggers” and “Your mother is a whore.” The heckler, Claude Lueker, had lost all but two fingers on his hands to an industrial accident, though when told he’d throttled a fingerless man, truculent Ty replied that he’d have beaten up Lueker even if he had been legless. Commissioner Ban Johnson suspended Cobb, his Tiger teammates struck in solidarity—even though most of them despised Cobb–and when Tiger owner Frank Navin realized that he’d be fined heavily if the Detroiters didn’t take the field against the Athletics in Philadelphia, Navin and Tiger manager Hughie Jennings cobbled together a team of Philadelphia-area amateurs, semipros, and sandlot sultans which Cobb biographer Al Stump called “the most farcical lineup the majors ever had known.”
As a player, Detroit manager Hughie Jennings was hit by a pitch 287 times, a major-league record that withstood the modern charge of Houston’s Craig Biggio. The affable Jennings “had two ambitions in life,” writes Bill James: “to become a lawyer, and to meet the pope.” He did both. Even better, he met a Batavian: 24-year-old Vince Maney, who was working in the Iroquois Iron Works in Philadelphia and playing semipro ball. Jennings signed Maney up as shortstop for a day.
The game of May 18, 1912, was a rout. Emergency Tigers pitcher Aloysius Travers, who later became a Jesuit priest, was touched for 24 runs on 26 hits in eight innings. Who needs a bullpen? Vince Maney described the game in a letter to his brother: “I played shortstop and had more fun than you can imagine. Of course it was a big defeat for us, but they paid us $15 for a couple of hours work and I was satisfied to be able to say that I had played against the world champions. I had three putouts, three assists, one error, and no hits.”
If only Bill James had been sabremetricking in 1912. For Vince also walked once and was hit by a pitch, giving him an on-base percentage of .500. Calling Billy Beane!
Maney played under an assumed name that day. He was a strikebreaker, after all—a scab of sorts, although Ty Cobb wasn’t exactly Samuel Gompers. For nigh unto one hundred years the baseball record books listed Maney as Pat Meaney, 41, of Philadelphia. The fictive Meany’s made-up age gave him the specious distinction of being the oldest rookie ever to debut in the majors till 42-year-old Satchel Paige joined Cleveland in 1948.
Enter Bill Dougherty. Add countless hours at the Genesee County History Department and the Richmond Library, volumes of baseball histories, communications with the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and a determination to do right by a fellow Batavia Irishman. Thanks to the indefatigable Dougherty, Vince Maney has gotten his due. Open the newest edition of any standard baseball reference book or website and you’ll find an entry for Vincent Maney, born and died in Batavia, NY, a Detroit Tiger of 1912.
So far as we can tell, Vince is the only Genesee County boy ever to play a game in major league baseball. A Moonlight Graham of our own. Given his due after all these years only because of the labor of another man, a Batavian who grew up enthralled with baseball and his hometown and never lost his love of either.
Soon enough I will find myself on the Dwyer Stadium beer deck draining a beverage with historian Bill Dougherty and, among others, Steve Maxwell, whose insurance company was founded by none other than the homecoming Vince Maney many decades ago. There is a continuity still in the America that counts. Heck, the nuns at St. Joe’s used to make my dad run over to Vince Maney’s office for free inkblotters. We are bound, all of us, in this little place that in my imagination is bigger than the whole world.
Yeah, I know, it all leads back to a single game and an 0-2 line and an .833 fielding average, but Vince did get hit by a pitch, too, just as Batavia has been beaned as often as Hughie Jennings. There’s more than one way to make it to first base. And even for those of us who never cross the plate, never score a run, there are other ways of making it home.
Go Muckdogs! And God bless Bill Dougherty.
Darn Bill, its stories like this that make you this era’s Mark Twain!
Yea, though the Youngstown Scrappers will rise from the ashes of ignominy and smite the Muckdogs…hopefully this year!
Great story, Mr. Kauffman. It’s hard to believe there hasn’t been another Genesee County boy to play in the show. I’d be willing to bet that with enough research one will turn up.
If not, we may have some on the way. In the past week, one batavia boy was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds and another signed a minor league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. Both are products of Batavia High School and one also starred for our local Genesse Community College. Good luck to them both.
And, Bill, don’t be nagging the ump. I was an umpire for 6 years and I am also a graduate of the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring. The fans and players are almost always wrong, believe me.
Enjoy the game. As a fellow Batavian who’s taken a few on the noggin’, I wish I could be there on the beer deck to see it too.
We are going to our first Brooklyn Cyclones game of the season, Sunday.
Sorry Muckdogs we’re coming for you!
P.S. Muckdogs are my second favorite baseball team
Thanks, guys. Next time you’re in Batavia the first round is on me.
I had intended the post to go up this morning, as the opener is tonight (Friday).
As for riding umps, when I was 14 or 15, playing Babe Ruth, a friend asked me to substitute for him as plate umpire at a minor league (ages 8-12) game. Sure, why not? How hard could it be? Well, I was brutal, and a jerk of a coach rode me all game. I vowed then that I would never raise my voice to an umpire and I haven’t since. It’s like that line at the end of Bang the Drum Slowly: From here on, I rag nobody.
I was delighted to see Batavians Chris Page drafted by the Reds and Ryan Gugel sign with the Phillies. I saw Ryan’s dad Chuck a coupla days later, and he was as proud as a man could be. All of Batavia is pulling for you, Chris and Ryan.
[…] Batavia, NY Ok, I’m a sucker for a good baseball yarn. Not much to comment on this story that Bill Kaufman posts on the Front Porch, but I love the little piece of baseball […]
Bill K.: Thanks, guys. Next time you’re in Batavia the first round is on me.
Batavia, here I come.
“Hard to believe there hasn’t been another Genesee county boy to play in the show”
Ummm, if I remember correctly, wasn’t there a young lady from Oakfield with quite a pitching arm? Maybe the Muckdogs could make a few rule changes?
I recently came across this series of columns from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, written by Bill Nichols. They are about hsi experiences with the Batavia Trojans organization in 1980, and are quite well written. As a Batavian they are like a time capsule to me, recording life in Batavia at the time, with comments and mentions of many of the Batavia Baseball Club men, like Ed Dwyer. I thought you might enjoy them as well.
Here’s the link:
Thanks, Tom. That’s a good series of articles. The names conjured up memories. For instance, Jack Cassini, manager of the Trojans in 1976, was the most unorthodox strategist I have ever seen. He loved to call steals of home. If memory serves, he managed AAA Toledo the same way a year or two later and unnamed players slammed him as “bush league”–a great compliment in my book!
Bill knows some of this story. My uncle, Vincent Callahan (what better Batavia Irishman could there be?) was the founder of Batavia Little League and the business manager for the Batavia Clippers in the late forties, when they were a Cleveland farm club. That position got me to Cleveland in 1948 to be part of the largest crowd still ever to see a baseball game, something over 88,000. I saw Satchel Paige pitch. And I plan to take my son-in-law to Batavia in just over a month to see the Muckdogs, and take Bill up on his offer of the first round.
Bill – great story. Keep them coming. As a Brockport native, and big baseball fan, I suppose my ignorance of the Muckdogs can be mostly attributed to my Yankee/Columbus leanings, and having the Rochacha Red Wings slightly closer (with, no doubt, a much larger advertising budget that reaches the “far” western villages and towns – I think even to Holly!).
On a tangent…I turned my father on to your books, and he informed me that he recognized your name because he was your daughter’s AP or Honors English teacher at Elba a couple of years back (he’s the head of the department there), and cast her in the school play as well, I believe. So the world is small, and as an FPR hanger-on I hope to have a chance to make your acquaintance one day, as I will no doubt be able to convince my dad to hit a Muckdog game.
The world is small, and I’m glad you’re the one chronicling our sliver of it (or at least my former sliver). You’ve given me a greater appreciation for the region I roamed for so many years and love to get back to regularly.
The Chief Benefit of the Umpire in Baseball is not, as is commonly accepted to keep the rules and regulations of play followed….a dim prospect at best…. but to act as the most important lightening rod uniting the drunken fans of opposing teams so that they might not murder one another on the way home.
Nobody seems to care a whit what the refs at a Soccer game in Europe have to say but afterwards, its always the salting of Carthage when The Dutch Play the Limeys. If they barked at the Umps more colorfully, the chain link fences might last more than a game or two.
Here in Peace-Loving Puritan America, we revile our Umps, thus preserving civilization for its better expressions.
Any team with the name “Doubledays” should be taken out and pistol whipped on principle. Beat them and the doublecross they rode in on. Maybe they could change their name to something less reprehensible ..like say…the Auburn Ted Bundys maybe.
Oh ..my bad, there I go, spouting off again, forgetting my distinctions between the beloved Doubleday and the reviled Walter O’Malley, worsest person in history. Still though, beat Auburn because your name is better.
Captain Abner Doubleday was born at Ballston Spa, New York, in 1819, and attended schools at Auburn and Cooperstown. Hence the link to Auburn’s past, and why they are nicknamed the Doubleday’s. He’s also the reason why Cooperstown is in Cooperstown, as the somewhat fictitious claim that it was there in 1839 that he invented the game.
Alas though, as a staunch Unionist and Lincoln supporter, Doubleday may not have been anymore of a Front Porcher than Branch Rickey.
As for the Muckdog name, as a former Batavian I still wince when I hear it. Any Batavian will tell you that there is no muck in Batavia. The muck is in Elba, where only writers and onion farmers live. Not that there’s anything wrong with either one 😉
If it had been up to me I’d have named the Batavia club after a piece of Batavia history. The “Batavia Anti-masons” has a nice ring to it.
My father regales me with stories of the Elba onion festival and their pageant every year. I found it hard to believe that any self respecting woman would fight to be the Onion Queen (or whatever royal mantra is bestowed on the winner – i profess ignorance of the actual details), until I heard locals here professing their delight in the local mosquito queen pageant.
Place is a curious thing.
I proposed “Mighty Tonawandas” (after our creek) when we renamed the team but I must say “Muckdogs” has been a souvenir cash crop. Besides, how many teams are named for the soil from which the local wealth grew?
Nathan, my mom was a runner-up in the 1957 Onion Queen pageant. She still complains that the winner made eyes at the judges.
The muck is certainly of regional significance. Most muckland, in fact, lies in areas north of Elba, especially Barre, NY. Historically, many Batavians worked on the muck either full time or seasonally. Further, I would assume that various Batavia businesses involved in hardware and farm machinery were, and still are, closely connected to Elba muckers.
By the way, the Muckdogs are off to a 3-0 start.
Although the most common manifestation of Muck in New Yawk appears to be within its sordid Statehouse, the Peat and Muck soils seem to crop up all over the place in the Empire State, Middletown and Orange County being another Onion and Spud zone with a deep and rich black dirt that makes the scabbed hands of any hardscrabble New England Farmer throb with desire.
As to the Minors, my favorite spot for this pure baseball was with the Ravens in New Haven, sadly gone for some time now . They played in storied Yale Field , a superb ballfield, exposed iron trusses dripping history and a place that has seen Ruth swat balls….not to mention the elder Bush. A game @ Yale field and then burgers with onions @ Louis Lunch and one could feel that they were American to the very core.
I keep threatening to try out the Bridgeport Bluefish if for no other reason than I find their baseball bat wielding Bluefish logo a keeper.
Thanks for the story about Ty Cobb…a magnificent spiking scoundrel who woulda made mincemeat of a certain number of today’s pampered stars.
I have come across an ancient photo on the East Liverpool Historical Society website of olde Patterson Field down by the Ohio river back at the turn of the century. There are old cars, horses and buggies, and the stands full of citizens watching a baseball game!
I’m pretty sure it’s the long before my time, City Merchants semi-pro team.
On Friday nites in the fall when the fightin’ Potters were getting ready to play high school football at Patterson Field we kids would line up at a certain place by the fence and Smitty-the-cop would saunter over, lift up the chain link fence, and say, “Now you kids be good and don’t bother people watchin’ the game.”
Smitty loved kids, white or black, and because of Smitty we kids learned that racism was stupid. He died before his time, he left a legacy among a great many of us. Funny, the things a ballyard can teach you.
I played ball (not well) on that field
[…] Play Ball! Tell Stories – Bill Kaufman (Front Porch Republic) […]
Bill – It seems the ‘Dogs had a banner outing last night, crushing Jamestown 12-nil. We were on our way home from the French-Indian war “reenactment” at Fort Niagara (which was more of a paraphrase taking great politically correct liberties – I spotted a woman with a blackberry on the front line of the British advance in the Wilderness battle). Driving 31 or Ridge home makes for a much more enjoyable ride than that damned Thruway. I’ve finally located all of those towns who’s firetrucks were in the parade every summer.
Would you happen to know if Bill Dougherty’s research on Vince Maney unearthed a photo or image of the man, and if so, how might I locate it to view ?
Wonderful story, and kudos to Mr. Dougherty for the valuable research.
Yes, Bill found a photo of Maney with (if I recall correctly) Hughie Jennings that appeared in the Batavia Daily News. He’d be happy to send you a (rather grainy) copy. Drop him a line at 309 School St., Batavia NY 14020.
Comments are closed.