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Herd Chronicles: Bisons take on Columbus in the 1906 Little World Series (part 1)
The Herd and Senators agree to seven-game series to decide supremacy of high minors
02/07/2017 4:34 PM ET

This article is written by Brian Frank of HerdChronicles.com, a new website dedicated to some of the many great stories from the storied history of the Buffalo Bisons. Frank has done extensive research on the early days of the Bisons and shares tremendous stories about the team and baseball in the Queen City that are must reads for Buffalo sports fans. Follow them on twitter as well, @HerdChronicles

 

In 1904, the Buffalo Bisons won the Eastern League pennant and defeated the American Association champion St. Paul Saints two games to one, in what later became known as the Little World Series. Two years later, the Bisons battled the Jersey City Skeeters throughout the season, before winning the pennant by 3 ½  games, for their second Eastern League championship in three years. Before the 1906 season ended, the Buffalo players agreed to face the American Association champion Columbus Senators in a best of seven series to once again decide supremacy of the high minor leagues. Bisons manager George Stallings negotiated an agreement with Bobby Quinn of Columbus to play the first three games in Buffalo, followed by three games in Columbus, with a seventh game to be played at a neutral site, if necessary.[1] Large crowds were expected to attend the games in both cities. The players on each team agreed to split the gate receipts for the series, with 60 percent going to members of the winning team and 40 percent going to the losers.

 

The Bisons won the Eastern League with a strong pitching staff, led by 23-game winners Lew "King" Brockett and Rube Kissinger, 16-game winner Bill Tozer, and 14-game winner Clarence Currie. The Herd had a well balanced offense that led the Eastern League in batting average, doubles, home runs, and extra-base hits. Buffalo center fielder Jake Gettman led the team with a .291 batting average, and right fielder Jimmy Murray hit .284 and led the league with seven home runs. Team captain and second baseman George Smith also had a solid season, hitting .277 with five home runs. George Stallings was in his fifth season managing the Herd. Bisons fans were dismayed in mid-September when the popular manager announced he would be retiring from baseball at the end of the season.

 

Columbus was managed by former Buffalo player (and future Bisons manager) Bill Clymer, who was in his third season as player-manager of the Senators.[2] Clymer steered Columbus to the American Association pennant behind an incredible pitching staff, led by phenom Heinie Berger, who had a 28-13 record. The Senators also had 23-game winner Patsy Flaherty, and 17-game winners Bucky Veil and Chick Robitaille. The offense was led by speedster Ollie Pickering, a former Bison, who hit .313, with six home runs.

 

Expectations were high heading into a series that local newspapers billed as the World's Championship between the Class A leagues.[3] The Buffalo Courier reported on the mood heading into the series opener at Olympic Park in Buffalo:

 

The first game of the series will be played tomorrow at 4 o'clock. There will be many side attractions. Preceding the game there will be a parade similar to the spring opening of the Eastern League season in this city. The 65th Regiment Band in an electric tally-ho will lead the procession. Then will follow the players of both teams in autos. Both teams are sure to be on their mettle and the games will go a great way toward deciding which is the stronger league, the Eastern or the American Association.[4]

 

Right-hander Lew "King" Brockett, who was 23-13, started the series opener for the Bisons. Before the season ended, Buffalo sold Brocket to the New York Highlanders (who would become the Yankees) for $4,000, but he remained with Buffalo until the end of the season. Columbus countered with left-hander Patsy Flaherty, who was 23-9. A crowd of up to 8,000 was expected to attend, but only 3,027 fans "braved the winds" to watch the game.[5]

 

Columbus began to rally in the top of the first when Ollie Pickering beat out a grounder to short. King Brockett slipped and fell fielding a bunt by Cy Coulter, putting runners at second and third. After a George Kihm sacrifice advanced the runners, catcher Jack Ryan hit a sacrifice fly to right field and the Senators were on the board.

 

The Bisons scored two runs in the second to take a 2-1 lead. The highlight of the inning was an RBI single by local boy Mickey Corcoran. In the fifth inning, right fielder Jimmy Murray singled home King Brockett to add to Buffalo's lead. The Bisons finished the scoring in the seventh, when Jimmy Murray's third hit of the game brought home Buffalo shortstop Natty Natress, giving the Herd a 4-1 lead.

 

Jimmy Murray finished the day 3-for-3 with a walk, leading a Buffalo attack that had twelve hits. Murray was one of Buffalo's leading hitters throughout the season, but this was his last game of the series due to an undisclosed illness. The real hero of the day was King Brockett, who dominated the Senators, giving up only one run on four hits and two walks in nine innings. He was also 2-for-3 at the plate, with a run scored. The Buffalo Commercial stated:

 

The King was in his element; he was steady as a clock, and (Columbus manager Billy) Clymer's men thought that they were up against a Christy Mathewson as Brockett proceeded to put his puzzling curves over the plate. Brocket struck out five men, gave two tickets and allowed four safe ones. The fielders supported Brockett in a faultless way, and the distribution of the put-outs shows that the boys in the outer garden were kept busy.[6]

 

Many of the Buffalo newspapers commented on the great fielding by both clubs in the game, and were particularly impressed with the Senators middle infield. The Buffalo Express stated that "The fielding of the Senators team was the best seen in this city in many months. Nothing got by them and there is little wonder that they won if they put up games like they did yesterday. (Second baseman Zeke) Wrigley, the ex-Eastern Leaguer was especially good."[7] The Buffalo Courier noted that "(Rudy) Hulswitt at short and Zeke Wrigley at second are chain lighting."[8]

 

The next day, the Bisons sent Bill Tozer and his 16-6 record to the mound against twenty-four year old right-hander Heinie Berger, who was 28-13. Berger had already been sold by Columbus to the Cleveland Blues of the American League. However, he was allowed to finish the season with Columbus before reporting to Cleveland the following season. The fact that Cleveland paid the high sum of $6,000 for Berger was not lost on the Buffalo press. As the Buffalo Express stated "At that figure he should be some pumpkins when it comes to pitching. Berger is considered the best man in the minor leagues today."[9]

 

Berger lived up to the hype early in the game. He retired the Bisons in order through the first five innings, striking out nine Buffalo batters. The Buffalo Commercial stated that "Berger, the $6,000 pitching star was as impregnable as Gibralter yesterday, and he gave the fans as fine an exhibition of pitching as has been seen in Buffalo this season."[10]

 

Berger also led the Columbus offense, when he gave the Senators the lead with a two-run single in the fifth. Buffalo finally broke through against Berger and got their first baserunner in the sixth inning, when pitcher Bill Tozer singled on a "clean wallop to center."[11] Natty Nattress beat out a ball to short, and Jack White singled to left field to load the bases. Local boy Billy Milligan, who was in the game for the ailing Jimmy Murray, hit a two-out single to center to tie the game at two. After Columbus re-took the lead with a run in the sixth, Buffalo tied the game, 3-3, on a squeeze bunt by shortstop Natty Nattress.

 

Heinie Berger ended up fanning twelve Buffalo batters in the game, including center fielder Jake Gettman four times. Buffalo's Bill Tozer was also locked in, and matched the Columbus hurler pitch for pitch. As the Buffalo Express stated:

 

Tozer was the same yesterday as always- cool and collected, no matter what the conditions. Steady as the clock he pitched one of his smoothest games. Tozer did not shine so prominently as a fanner of batsmen, but he was on deck for duty in the most critical stages. Thus, with star pitcher in the box, the fans witnessed one of the best games of the year.[12]

 

The closest either team came to scoring after the sixth inning was when Buffalo left fielder Jack White was thrown out trying to steal home in the eighth. When Bill Tozer flew out to center field to end the ninth, the umpires called the game due to darkness, with the score knotted at three. The Buffalo Enquirer reported that "The game was one of the best played at the local ball grounds this year, and despite the brilliant playing of both sides the shades of night found them unable to beat each other…"[13] Despite the fact that the game ended in a tie, other newspapers also remarked on what a great game had been played. The Buffalo Evening News stated that:

 

Technically, better baseball games than that of yesterday between the Herd and Columbuses have been seen at Olympic, but seldom a more interesting one. The two teams fought it out until the moon rose over the battlefield, and when to dark for further carnage both teams withdrew, leaving the result a draw.[14]

 

Attendance was again lower than anticipated, with only 2,467 at Olympic Park. A bigger crowd was expected the following day for a doubleheader to make up for the tie game, but, as would become an irritating pattern in the series, the games were both rained out. The two teams decided to head to Columbus to play the games that were already scheduled to be played there, but:

 

Just what will be done about the two games, the tie and the postponed contest, will not be known until the men arrive in Columbus. They had several conferences, but reached no agreement, finally deciding to thresh it out on the train last night. Buffalo thinks that Columbus should return here and play the games next week, say on Wednesday and Thursday, or later in the week. On the other hand, Columbus does not like to risk the weather again, and is willing to make some hotel bills or railroad fares in order to have the Eastern Leaguers remain over and finish the series in Columbus.[15]

 

The fact that it was left to the players to "thresh it out" as to when and where games would be played, would come back to haunt the series.

 

Despite low attendance at the two games in Buffalo due to weather, enthusiasm for the series remained high. Columbus manager Bill Clymer stated "I am surprised at the interest taken in these games. I believe they will be of as much interest to the baseball world in the future as are the world's series between major league clubs."[16]

 

Even Philadelphia A's manager Connie Mack came to Buffalo to see the doubleheader that was rained out. Mack refused to tell the press which players he was interested in seeing, however, the legendary manager offered some hints while being interviewed at Buffalo's Iroquois Hotel. Mack praised two of Buffalo's key players, saying "I would like to have (catcher) Lew McAllister and (right fielder) Jimmy Murray. They are fast enough for the big leagues. McAllister has no business playing here. He should be up there. I would be turned down cold if I asked for them, as no doubt the Buffalo management would not stand losing them."[17]

 

Before the teams left Buffalo, there were many remarks made about how well the Buffalo crowds behaved during the series. The fans not only cheered on the Bisons, but also applauded their former player, Senators player-manager Bill Clymer, and acknowledged the great plays and performances of other Columbus players. Columbus team secretary Bobby Quinn praised the fans of the Queen City, telling the Buffalo Express:

 

I just want to say that the Columbus players and myself are very pleased, both with the attendance and the impartiality shown. That is the way it should be in baseball. The sooner the baseball public can see two clubs in the field the better it is going to be for the game- and for the umpires. I trust we will be able to reciprocate when Buffalo reaches Columbus. I feel sure that we will. To have the fans compel Berger doff his cap and to see them applaud Columbus for every good play was indeed very sportsmanlike and we fully appreciate it, I can tell you.[18]

 

So, with Buffalo leading the series one game to nothing, the team's headed to Columbus, with two games needed to be made up due to a tie game and a rained out doubleheader.

 

 

To be continued...

 

 

[1] Cleveland's League Park was being considered as a neutral site for the seventh game. Hotspur "Sporting Man About Town," Buffalo Enquirer, September 26, 1906.

[2] Clymer played right field during the series in place of Bill Hinchman, who hit .314 during the season. The Buffalo Evening Times gave a hint as to why Hinchman didn't play, when it stated that Clymer would play instead of "faint hearted" Bill Hinchman, which may suggest it was his choice to not play in the series. Perhaps splitting the gate receipts were not enough to entice him. "Baseball Gossip," Buffalo Evening Times, September 27, 1906.

[3] "Season's Windup Is Almost Here," Buffalo Express, September 21, 1906.

[4] "Bisons to Meet Columbus Team," Buffalo Courier, September 26, 1906.

[5] "Columbus Lost the First Game," Buffalo Enquirer, September 28, 1906.

[6] "Not in Our Class," Buffalo Commercial, September 28, 1906.

[7] "Bisons Scored First Victory, Won by Clouting," Buffalo Express, September 28, 1906.

[8] "Bisons Take the First of Series," Buffalo Courier, September 28, 1906.

[9] "Bisons Scored First Victory," Buffalo Express, September 28, 1906.

[10] "Two Games Today," Buffalo Commercial, September 29, 1906.

[11] "Champions Raced Home in a Tie, Hummer of a Game," Buffalo Express, September 29, 1906.

[12] Ibid.

[13] "Played a Great Game to a Tie," Buffalo Enquirer, September 29, 1906.

[14] "Fought Columbus to a Standstill," Buffalo Evening News, September 29, 1906.

[15] "Rain Cut Off Doubleheader," Buffalo Express, September 30, 1906.

[16] Ibid.

[17] "Connie Mack Scouting in Buffalo," Buffalo Times, September 30, 1906. The Buffalo Evening Times later confirmed that it was McAlister and Murray that Mack was after, and that he offered to give "three players and $1,000 or 5,000 for McAllister and Murray." "$22,000 Offered for Buffalo Ball Players," Buffalo Evening Times, October 1, 1906.

[18] "Champions Raced Home in a Tie Game, Hummer of a Game," Buffalo Express, September 29, 1906.

 

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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