Monday, March 12, 2018

Star Pitcher Kidnapped in Montgomery

a special edition of this day in baseball, one of my favorite events in Montgomery's past....

On this date in 1906, star pitcher Rube Waddell of the Philadelphia Athletics filed a report with Montgomery police that he had been "sandbagged" by two men and robbed of all his cash. The top American League pitcher then disappeared again, missing spring training workouts for a second day and causing A's manager Connie Mack considerable consternation.

The report stated that the robbery took place on Bell street and the amount taken was $40.

Rube eventually returns to camp and the eccentric lefthander anchors the Philadelphia rotation, leading the league in strikeouts again in 1906.

Waddell, who adopts Mobile as his offseason home for a while, enjoys his time in Montgomery and becomes a popular figure in local lore for more than just his baseball accumen.

The Rube fancies himself a fireman and helped extinguish a fire on Decatur street, hefted a large wagon from streetcar tracks to clear congestion and led the A's players on rollerskates in a crazed ride up and down the streets and sidewalks of downtown Montgomery.

In a game against local Alabama players, Waddell was pitching and snared a line drive bare handed, pulling the ball out of the air just before it would have struck the umpire standing behind him in the face. Witnesses said Rube saved the mans life.

Waddell and Mathewson
In 1906 Waddell is simply the best pitcher not named Christy Mathewson.  While Matty is the best in the National League, George "Rube" Waddell is his equal in the American League.

Rube is the AL leader in wins with 27, has led the league in strikeouts for four of what would become six consecutive seasons. His 1.48 ERA is tops in the American League as well to bring the fabled Triple Crown of pitching. In the coming year he would allow only one lone home run in forty-three games.

The A's training camp in Montgomery is just one of many southern cities hosting major league teams.

Connie Mack found other cities like New Orleans a distraction for his players as a training site, particularly Rube Waddell. Montgomery was a better fit for Mack's A's and he later agreed to a two year deal that helped improve the ballpark facilities that became Cramton Bowl.

The Rube enjoyed his drink and gambling so Mack tried to limit his star pitcher's ability to find trouble. One way was by giving a daily allowance instead of paying him a weekly salary and doing his best to steer his ace away from tempting situations like spring training during Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Cornelius MacGillicuddy, aka Connie Mack

Another trick employed by the legendary manager Mack was designed to keep Rube in shape. Assigning him as "ball captain" in charge of the stock of baseballs meant Waddell was chasing foul balls all day instead of just hanging around.

Players had to come to the ball captain if they needed a ball and there was a five cent fine for losing one. Rube took the job to heart and was enthusiastic about climbing walls and crawling under the grandstand in search of a lost ball.

However eventually the Rube got suspicious of his teammates weak swings resulting in foul balls that required extra effort to retrieve and gave up being the A's "ball captain".

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