Saturday, June 29, 2013

Grape Jelly Series - Montgomery Edition!

The Grape Jelly Series continues today at Riverwalk stadium where the home-team Biscuits host the visiting Tennessee Smokies in a battle royale of breakfast foods that can be served with grape jelly. Or jam.

Tennessee leads the North Division early in the second half and will be hungry to extend that lead at the expense of the Biscuits who need to pick up the series win in order to maintain the pace of the South Division race. This is my favorite series of the regular season!

Let the puns continue -

For this matchup the first order of business is for Biscuit starters to be hot and fluffy in the heat of "the oven" instead of flaking out and going flat. The Smokies are able to make toast of fat pitches and will have no problems battering biscuit tossers if the Skitz hurlers dont put them on a strict diet of breaking balls.


Mgr Bailey vs Biscuits

Veteran manager Buddy Bailey has over 1500 wins and puts his teams into contention on a regular basis, regardless of the depth of talent on the team. Bailey seems able to have pulled the best results from the rosters has been given, seemingly before most of his current wards were born. He is a former catcher himself and has done much to improve the Cubs catching, which was in a sad state for some time!

Rafael Lopez - Fla state collegiate, lefty hitter has four homers and .253 average in 51 games
SS Alcantara
Chad Noble - Texan has just 18 games with Tn, batting .243 on the year between tn and daytona, but leads team in BABIP

1b Justin Bour - big first sacker has five homers, is a lefty power surge waiting to happen
1b Jonathan Mota - .245 and five homers, from Valencia Venezuela
3B Villanueva
ss Erismendy Alcantara - 10 homers, switch hitting infielder from the Dominican
ss Elliot Soto- glove man, smooth defensive infielder
2b Ron Torreyes - right handed Venezuelan is hitting .262
3b Christian Villanueva - 8 homers from the Mexican third baseman. On the Cubs 40 man roster

Matt Szczur
Johermyn Chavez - Southern League veteran hitting less than the Mendoza line in just over 20 games
Anthony Ginsanti - florida native is hitting .257 this season
Matt Szczur - Cubs prospect is batting .300 with 17 stolen bases. On the Cubs 40 man roster
Rubi Silva - 9 homers, 8 sb from the Cuban lefty hitting outfielder

Closer Batista

Frank Batista, Dominican righty has ten saves as the Smokies closer

Trey McNutt - Alabama native has two wins, two saves and five losses out of the Smokies pen. On the Cubs 40 man roster DL'd on 6/28

 Kevin Rhoderick - two saves in 21 games from the Arizona native this season

RP Rosscup
Hunter Cervenka - Texan lefty is two wins and one loss in ten games for the Smokies

Zach Rosscup - Oregonian lefty has one win, one save, 25 games and a great 2.05 era. Leads Smokies with over 31%Kswinging rate.

Spot starter Yeiper Castillo oh and two as a smokie thru 6/27

Dae-Eun Rhee - on disabled list/rehab

P.J. Francescon - right hander from tennessee is a recent addition to the smokies bullpen, was starting in high-A Daytona until the promotion. Has 85% ground ball rate!

Jeffry Antigua - veteran lefty reliever added 6/28

Tony Zych - in 25 games the Illinois native has two wins and four losses to go with a 3.66 era


 Starter Erik Jokisch has 15 starts, one complete game, a 3.57 era and five wins this season, and could get a start in the series, but wasnt listed in the probable pitchers at this writing.

Alberto Cabrera - Six foot-four inch tall Dominican right hander is 7-3 with a 3.53 era in 15 starts. On the Cubs 40 man roster

Austin Kirk - Lefty from Ok, 1w-1L in four double-A starts since promotion from Daytona.

Kyle Hendricks 8-2 with a splendid 2.17 era in 15 starts, attended Dartmouth

Dallas Beeler - in nine starts the big Oklahoman has a great 3.13 era and four wins

A.J.Morris -  Texan right hander has been in 18 games, making four starts towards a two win and zero loss record. One of the best BABIP pitchers for Smokies.


Someone is going to be toast this weekend and it might be the fans who will be baked in the heat of "the oven". Temps are starting to soar into the 90's and we shall soon see what, if anything, the team has planned for fans to beat the heat!

The Smokies were not much to write home about in the first half but have been given a shakeup over the past few weeks and it seems to have given them life. As a result, they are without prospect infielder Jae Hoon Ha and Ty Wright, both promoted to triple-A in recent weeks. This could affect their play in this five game set.

The Biscuits usually play to the level of their opponents, so I expect a tough series at home, and each game should be close in score, except the blowout game that the Skitz seem to have once a homestand.

Biscuits and Smokies are both good with grape jelly and both score runs at about the same rate, though in different ways. Look for the Smokies to run the bases with team speed that the Biscuits have had trouble stopping in previous homestands. Expect the Biscuit defense to be a difference maker in the series, the team with the fewest errors afield is usually the one that takes the series.

Look for the Biscuits to continue to be vexed by the long ball now that the weather has warmed, Skitz pitchers are already the most generous givers of the gopher ball. On the other side of the coin, Montgomery hitters have the most trouble reaching the fences and are last in the league in homers.

However we lead the league in triples, and have more than three times as many as some clubs, which shows we can run a little bit.


Part 1

1910 tobacco cards
When the tobacco companies put little cards with pictures inside the packages, it created a window to the world in so many ways. Often the topics were distant places or subjects with international or travel themes, ships and even famous Captains and sailors made for good images. Plants and flowers were popular pictures, as were birds. Sports soon entered into it, boxers and other manly gamers were obvious candidates.

As companies like Old Mill and Piedmont Cigarettes added baseball players to the pictures on the cards included, they discovered that the cards were wildly popular.

European Royalty - collect them all!

So popular that after the cards were included in 1909, the companies asked for more players the following year. There hadn't really been a plan for there to be a second batch, so where the first issues featured full-color portraits of players in the major leagues and upper minor leagues - it became time to release the black/white unfinished cards that were left out of last years printing. Even artists proofs were scoured and made available to either the tobacco companies or the collectors of the cards.
Among the Southern Leaguers included in the issues from 1909-1910, basically four are in color from the first issue of T-209's and later issues are in black and white from what is essentially the "second batch". There are a few other variations, but we will cover them in a later post.

One of the second batch is todays subject, listed only on the card as PEPE, MONTGOMERY.


Joe Pepe is the starting shortstop for the Climbers in the three seasons he is on the roster. He is the youngest player on the Climbers, and will suffer a major injury, breaking his leg while playing for Montgomery.

Of the 1909 Montgomery Climbers team, only two fail to log time in the Major Leagues. They are the previously discussed Arch Persons and infielder Joe Pepe.


The young infielder from New York starts his career in Macon Ga with the 1906 Macon Brigands. He appears with the Brigs for 23 games in his rookie tilt then returns in '07 and hits .230 in over a hundred games.

Starting at just fifteen years of age, his work in the South Atlantic League over his first two seasons of lowly C-level ball establishes Joe Pepe as a speedy defensive infielder.

Macon was full of older guys, players who had time in the bigs were on the roster as well as quite a few who hadn't and wouldn't. Among those on the Macon Brigands roster with Big League experience either before or after their Macon appearances, George Blackburn, Mike Jacobs, Wilbert Murdoch, Jack Robinson and Bob Spade. Jack Quinn will join the starting rotation the following season.

ca 1906 Macon Jersey

Photo of George Blackburn
George Blackburn - 1906 Macon
Among those who did get into the Majors was pitcher George Blackburn, who played for 1897 Brooklyn Robins. In 1899 Blackburn would play for the Montgomery team for just one game. Strangely, he also played for Montgomery in 1893 in a single contest.

George Blackburn is the answer to an obscure trivia question - he surrendered a hit to Cap Anson in July, 1897. That hit would be Anson's 3000th and the Chicago great is the first hitter ever to reach that milestone.

Photo of Mike Jacobs
Mike Jacobs

Micheal Jacobs - 1906 Macon
 Jacobs plays with 1902 Chicago Orphans (NL) in five games at shortstop and is in the final year of his pro baseball career when he plays for Macon in '06.

Photo of Wilbur Murdoch
Wilbur Murdoch -1906 Macon
Murdoch has yet to make his debut, which he will in August of 1908, just two years after his time with Pepe in Macon. Wilbur plays in 27 games in the outfield, hitting a respectable .258 for the StLouis Cardinals. It will be his only season in the Majors, but Murdoch has the best big league batting stats of all the oh-six Brigands.

Photo of Jack Robinson
Jack Robinson - 1906 Macon
By the time he plays in Macon he has gone to college at Harvard and had a cup of coffee with the NY Giants. In 1902 he got into four games for the Giants just after John McGraw took over. Robinson had nine plate appearances and went ohfer, no hits and three strikeouts are what history records for Jacks time in the NL. Jack plays for Macon for four seasons, then retires from the game and appears to settle in the area, for he is listed as passing away in Macon many years later.

Photo of Bob Spade
Bob Spade - 1906 Macon
Spade is the best player on the '06 Brigands in terms of being a prospect.

Spade won 16 games for Macon in 1906, then moved on during the season to log another four victories in Akron. Less than a year after he was winning games in C-League lots for Macon he was tossing a shutout for the Cincinnati Redlegs.
Debuting in 1907, Spade would pitch in 62 major league games over the next three seasons, compiling a record of 25-24 with 36 complete games, 4 shutouts and a career ERA of 2.96.
Bob Spade.jpg
In 1908 Bob is with the Cinci Redlegs as they play Negro and Latin teams in the very first Cuban-American Major League Clubs Series which takes place in 1908. Each year from 1908-1913 an invitational winter series would take place involving one MLB team, one Negro league team, one team from Cuba and one team from Mexico in a pre-WBC international competition. Spade is 2w-3L in this series, which is considered "Negro League" level games by Baseball Reference but is probably one of the higher levels of play at that time.

Jack Quinn - 1907 Macon
The Enigma

In '07 Jack Quinn is a rookie pitcher, but at age 23 is already seven years older than Brigands shortstop Joe Pepe.


Jack Quinn is a man of mystery for baseball researchers who look to Macon as the start of the career of this unsung legend. No two sources list the same birthdate, the city of his birth is in dispute and even his birth name is up for debate. This is one of the most fascinating players in baseball history, and very little is known about him, though much is conjectured.

Born around 1883, perhaps in Slovakia, perhaps Russia, Greece, or even Pennsylvania and likely arriving in the states as a child, he found work in the coal mines of Pa. at around the age of 12. He changed his name from Johannes Picus/Joannes Pajkos to Jack Quinn.

After working in the mines for a few years, as an eager teenager he heads west to seek fortune. He doesnt find it, and returns home to Pennsylvania in 1900. One afternoon that summer he is watching as teams warm up for a semi-pro game. A ball rolls toward him and he is asked to throw it back - which he does with such velocity the manager offers him to pitch that very day, five dollars for a win and two-fifty even if they lose.

Photo of Jack Quinn
Jamie Moyer's role model
He won, got the five bucks and began a career as a pitcher, winning more major league games than Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, Whitey Ford, Dizzy Dean and a host of other Hall of Famers. Known as a spitballer with control, Quinn tossed a "dry spitter", fastball and changeup. During his career he developed a reputation for being a control pitcher, always among the leaders in fewest walks per game.

Debuting in 1909 and pitching his final game at the age of 50 in 1933 Jack Quinn had 247 wins, a fantastic 3.29 career ERA. He is credited with 57 saves as well as 28 shutouts, mopping up as a reliever between his own starts. He appeared in three world series, one with the Yankees and winning two with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1929 and 1930.

Pitching until the age of 50, his name is the one often referenced when Jamie Moyer did anything significant because of his age. Quinn was the oldest person to throw a shutout, oldest to hit a homer, oldest to start a game, etc etc etc.

Overlooked to this point by Cooperstown, partly due to Quinn's own quiet nature and avoidance of the spotlight, its probably just a matter of time before Jack Quinn is given a plaque at the shrine of baseball.
1906 Macon Brigands, Pepe's first team 
Joe Pepe spends two seasons with Macon, 1906 and 1907, learning from veteran players like these guys.

Next time, Joe Pepe joins Montgomery and gets on his first baseball card!

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