Herd Chronicles: Bisons take on Columbus in the 1906 Little World Series (part 2)

The controversal end to a soggy series with the Senators

By Brian Frank of HerdChronicles.com / Buffalo Bisons | March 11, 2017 4:20 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

 

This is part two of this series. Click here for PART ONE.

Buffalo headed to Columbus leading the seven game series one game to none, with two games still needed to be made up due to a tie game and a rained out doubleheader.

 

The weather for the first game at Neil Park in Columbus was less than ideal for baseball. The Buffalo Enquirer noted "The weather was bitter cold and the fans who did attend were wrapped in overcoats and gloves and were compelled to stamp up and down the fields to keep warm."[1] A cold wind helped keep attendance down to 1,844. The Buffalo Courier reported that "The attendance was kept down to low figures owing to the cold, raw day. There was great disappointment at the way the weather man treated the clubs for with a sunny afternoon at least five thousand would have been out to see the game."[2] The low attendance in the series was frustrating to the players since they were dividing the gate receipts.

 

The Bisons sent right-hander Rube Kisinger, who was 23-12, to the mound to face Columbus right-hander Bucky Veil, who was 17-11. Veil pitched a great game, but this would be Kisinger's day. As the Buffalo Courier reported "the Columbus champs were handed a fine sample of the pitching art of Rube Kisinger, who was just about as near right as 'Rube' ever was. He had magnificent control, and he had smoke to his spit ball, which made it a mighty hard proposition for Columbus, a weak-hitting team at the best, to find an opportunity to get a run." [3]

 

The game was scoreless until the fifth inning, when Bucky Veil slipped while fielding a two-out bunt by Kisinger, allowing Mickey Corcoran to get to third, and Kisinger to safely reach first. The Buffalo Evening News described what happened next, writing "The Rube started leisurely down the line to coax a throw, the play being a double steal. Veil whirled quickly to throw to second and discharged the ball high in the air. It landed in center field and Corcoran dusted the plate with what proved to be the winning run."[4]

 

The closest Columbus came to scoring off Kisinger was in the seventh inning, when Bill Clymer came to the plate with two on and two out. Clymer launched a fly ball into windy left field, but Billy Milligan was able to make the catch to end the rally. Kisinger's allowed only five hits, all singles, and the 1-0 shutout gave the Bisons a two games to none lead in the series. Due in part to the fact that the Bisons also only had five hits, the game only took one hour and fifteen minutes.

 

The next day, the game was rained out. The teams were still trying to decide how to make up for the loss of two games in Buffalo due to weather, and the loss of a game in Columbus only compounded the problem. On Tuesday, with an unpromising weather forecast in Columbus, the Bisons proposed that the two remaining games in Columbus be postponed, and that the teams should return to Buffalo to play on Friday and Saturday. They could then return to Columbus to finish the series when the weather improved. Buffalo also offered to pay half of the expenses for Columbus if the weather in Buffalo prevented games from being played there.[5] The Bisons argued that they could draw bigger crowds in Buffalo than in Columbus, hoping for as many as 9,000 per game. The Senators countered that the expenses of both teams traveling back and forth between the cities would be too great, and offered to pay half of Buffalo's expenses if they agreed to stay in Columbus. It was finally agreed that Buffalo would play in Columbus on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.[6]

 

While they waited for the series to resume on the weekend, the Bisons traveled to Youngstown, Ohio, to play an exhibition game, but as luck would have it, that game was also rained out. It continued to rain during the week in Columbus, but the weather cooperated on Friday, and the teams were finally able to get another game in. However, only 559 fans attended due to the cold, damp weather.

 

Buffalo sent Clarence Currie, who was 14-15, to the mound, to try to take a commanding three games to none lead in the series. Columbus countered with Heinie Berger, the Columbus ace who pitched the tie game earlier in the series.

 

Things didn't go Buffalo's way early in the game, as Columbus scored runs in the first and third to take a 2-0 lead. To make matters worse, the Bisons struggled to solve Heinie Berger. He took a shutout to the eighth, when Buffalo finally broke through and tied the score with two unearned runs. However, Bisons hurler Clarence Currie had an even rougher eighth inning. After retiring the first two batters, Currie gave up an infield single to Cy Coulter, walked four straight batters, and gave up another single to Rudy Hulswitt to make the score 5-2. Zeke Wrigley then blasted a bases loaded triple over center fielder Jake Gettman's head, and scored on a passed ball. All told, seven runs scored in the inning, and the Senators built a 9-2 lead, which would be the final score. Heinie Berger finished with a complete game, giving up two runs on six hits and two walks, to help Columbus cut Buffalo's lead in the series to two games to one.

 

After an all-night rain on Friday, and into Saturday morning, Saturday's game was rained out, much to the disgust of both teams who had "grown tired of being trifled with by the weather… There was nothing to do but sit in the hotel lobby."[7] The frustrated Buffalo players had to find ways to pass the time. The Buffalo Courier reported that "Rube Kisinger and a party of players visited a bowling alley and spent some time bowling."[8]

 

The teams agreed to play a double header on Sunday. As the Buffalo Express put it "The Buffalo champions are dippy to win the pair and get out of this rain-soaked burg."[9] However, the Bisons were short on pitchers for the twin bill. Bill Tozer was with his wife back in Buffalo for the birth of a child, but was "ready to go on to Columbus if his services are required."[10] Lew Brocket had returned to his home in Illinois, "but is within a call if his mates should need his services."[11] Even manager George Stallings didn't make the trip to Columbus for the series. Due to their pitching shortage, Buffalo decided to start Rube Kisinger in both games of Sunday's doubleheader.

 

Kisinger was dominant in the first game. Buffalo got on the board with a pair of runs in the first inning, and added another in the third. Buffalo carried a 3-0 lead all the way to the seventh inning, when Columbus finally scored on an RBI double by Bill Clymer. But, as the Buffalo Express wrote, "Rube's splitter was working nicely with its dressing of slippery elm and he pitched himself out of a tight hole in every instance."[12] In the eighth inning with the bases loaded and two men out, Kisinger had the nerve "to tip his cap to the howling rooters and then make (Rudy) Hulswitt, who had hit safely twice before in the game, foul out to (first baseman George) McConnell."[13] The Bisons hung to win 3-2, and took a three games to one lead in the series.

 

As great as he was in the first game, Kisinger didn't have it in the second game, and he had to face Columbus ace Heinie Berger, who was pitching on only one day of rest. Buffalo took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on hits by Natty Nattress and George Smith, and an error by second baseman Zach Wrigley. The Senators then began chipping away. As the Buffalo Evening News described "The Columbusters began to touch up the Rube pretty hard and only sharp fielding prevented quite a cluster of runs for the home team. (Catcher Sport) McAllister had an off day throwing to second. This helped plant two Columbus runs. Three straight singles counted for another and the Rube retired in favor of (Ernest) Greene."[14] Heinie Berger not only pitched another gem for Columbus, but also singled home Bill Clymer with the winning run. The game had to be called due to darkness in the sixth inning, with Columbus holding a 3-2 lead. The Senators now trailed in the series three games to two.

 

At some point during or after the doubleheader, the Columbus players informed the Buffalo players that the teams would be playing another doubleheader on Monday. The Buffalo players argued that they had not agreed to play games in Columbus past Sunday, and that if the series were to continue, it should continue in Buffalo. If the Bisons finished the series in Columbus, then six of seven games would have been in Columbus (not counting the tie game.) The Bisons were also upset about the miserable weather they had experienced since arriving in Ohio, which led to low attendance, and a lower payout to the players. In addition, the Buffalo players were well aware that they were short on pitchers, with Brockett in Illinois and Tozer back in Buffalo. They believed Columbus purposely told them about the games the following day too late to summon either player, forcing them to play the final two games shorthanded. Without a doubt, the situation was exacerbated by the fact that it was left to the players on each team to decide when and where to play the games.[15]

 

The Senators then told the Bisons that unless they played in Columbus the next day, they would not pay the Buffalo players the gate receipts of $527.50 that they were owed. An angry George Smith, Buffalo's team captain, authorized a statement to the press saying that:

 

I hereby on behalf of the Buffalo Club, challenge the Columbus team to a series of five games, two to be played in Buffalo, two in Columbus, and the fifth, if necessary on neutral ground, for $1000 a side. I am willing that the $527.50 now held by the Columbus club shall go as a forfeit for said services. As soon as the challenge is accepted, the balance of the money will be posted. To make it stronger, I will agree that all the gate receipts shall go to the winner of the series.[16]

 

At about 10:00 that evening, a furious Buffalo team boarded a train back to Buffalo. The Senators, angry that the Bisons had left Columbus, refused Smith's challenge. And just like that, the series had come to an abrupt and controversial conclusion.

 

George Smith explained the team's decision to leave Columbus to the Buffalo Evening Times, saying "I'm sorry of course that the series wasn't finished, but we played one more game in Columbus than the agreement called for and we tried to explain to them that the Buffalo fans desire to see some of the games. We guaranteed them $500 a day for two games in Buffalo Monday and Tuesday, but they would not listen to the proposition."[17] He also added that Columbus "knew that neither Brockett, nor Tozer was with us and that we had no pitchers for a double-header. If they had told us the day before we could have had either Brockett or Tozer with us as they are within a dozen hours' call."[18]

 

The Columbus Dispatch later reported that the Senators had decided to split the money with Buffalo, with 50 percent going to each team, rather than 60 percent to the winners as was previously agreed to. They argued that Buffalo had not won a fourth game and therefore had not won the series. The Columbus paper also stated that:

 

The games between Columbus and Buffalo just ended have demonstrated plainly that if any are attempted in the future they ought to be in the hands of a commission appointed by executives of both leagues. The players themselves have no right to say when games are to be played. It ends in quibbling and dissatisfaction to the public. Bad weather of course had plenty to do with it. Had good crowds come out too, there would have been no trouble. It's a safe bet that Buffalo and Columbus will not soon again hook up in a preseason or post season series of any kind.[19]

 

When the Bisons returned to Buffalo, the city greeted them as champions. The day after they returned to the Queen City, the team attended a dinner to honor their amazing season at Buffalo's German American Hall. At the gala, a petition signed by over 100 prominent citizens of Buffalo was presented to manager George Stallings asking him to reconsider his retirement, which he declined to do.[20] As the night wore on, gifts were given, speeches were made, and songs were sung to celebrate the 1906 Eastern League Champions, who also won three out of five games in an abbreviated Little World Series.

 

1 "Rube Kisinger Had Them Guessing," Buffalo Enquirer, October 1, 1906.

2 "Buffalo Wins at Columbus," Buffalo Courier, September 30,1906.

3 Ibid.

4 "Columbus Shut Out Yesterday," Buffalo Evening News, October 1, 1906.

5 "Cold Weather Prevented Games," Buffalo Evening News, October 6, 1906.

6 "Bisons Will Not Play Games Here," Buffalo Courier, October 3, 1906.

7 "Will Try and Play Two Today," Buffalo Courier, October 7, 1906.

8 Ibid.

9 "Contest had to be Called Off," Buffalo Express, October 7, 1906.

10 "Baseball Small Talk," Buffalo Evening News, October 6, 1906.

11 Ibid.

12 "Rube Tried the Iron-man Stunt," Buffalo Express, October 8, 1906.

13 Ibid.

14 "Herd Broke Even at Columbus," Buffalo Evening News, October 8, 1906.

15 On Saturday, the Buffalo Enquirer reported "Two games will be played tomorrow which will end the series." However, some Buffalo newspapers seemed surprised that the Bisons left Columbus without finishing the seven game series on Monday. The fact that the players were deciding when to play the games definitely created confusion. "Buffalo Lost a Game, 9 to 2," Buffalo Enquirer, October 6, 1906.

16 "Captain Smith of the Bisons is a Sore Man and Challenges Columbus to Play the Bisons for $1000 a Side." Buffalo Enquirer, October 8, 1906.

17 "Columbus Club Runs Away from Challenge," Buffalo Evening Times, October 9, 1906.

18 "How About This, Columbusters," Buffalo Evening News, October 8, 1906.

19 "Columbus Club Runs Away from Challenge," Buffalo Evening Times, October 9, 1906.

20 Stallings sat out of baseball for a year, but then returned to manage for another 21 seasons. This included two seasons with the Bisons, two seasons with the New York Highlanders, and eight with the Boston Braves, most notably managing the 1914 World Series Champion Miracle Braves.

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

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