by Frank Hyde
January 9, 1952
part 2 of 4
Federal League Reality After Snodgrass' Muff
What looked like a coast-in for Jake Stahl's Boston club turned into a crucial eighth game when the Giants roared back with all the fighting fury their little manager, John McGraw, could muster, and won the next two contests.
Thus Bedient and Matthewson were again the mound foes at Fenway Park in Boston on October 16 when a third major league was actually spawned, at least, brought to reality.
In a box seat when Bedient toed the rubber to pitch to the Giant leadoff man was a fellow named James A Gilmore, a glib promoter with a gift for convincing gab, a minor bankroll and a propensity for organizing a third major league.
Flanking Gilmore that day were two pious-looking gentlemen - Phil Ball, St. Louis ice king, and Otto Stifel, a wealthy brewer from Boston.
Refuse to Take Step
The 1912 classic was known as "the half-million dollar series" for it was the first post-season playoff to attract more than $500,000. The competing clubs received $150,000 each and this had been the basis for Gilmore's argument for formation of a third major league.
Although Gilmore had such tycoons as the Ward brothers of baking powder fame, Charles Weeghman, multi-millionaire restaurant owner, Barry Sinclair, head of the mighty Sinclair Oil monarchy and others ready to back his project, strangely, none would take the venturesome step without Stifel and Ball.
Questioned Player Caliber
The iceman and the brewer were willing to part with a quarter million dollars each, but wanted some sort of guarantee that players of major league caliber could be rounded up in sufficient numbers.
Both Stifel and Ball posed the question that is being bandied around today in the Pacific Coast League: "Can we get players who can carry their weight in big league competition? We don't want to be doormats or laughingstocks. If we go it will be with the best."
So Hugh Bedient of Falconer, NY pitched and the final game of the 1912 World Series was on.
Matthewson, peerless "Big Six," who had hurled in the series in 1905 and 1911, pitching three shutout games against the A's in '05, got his first break in the third when Josh Devore walked, advanced on a sacrifice and scored on Red Murray's double.
Red Sox Rebound
Then the tide turned.
Manager Stahl hit a high fly to short left to short left with one done in the seventh that Fred Snodgrass, Art Fletcher and Devore did a perfect Alphonse-Gaston act on. Charlie Wagner worked Matthewson for a base on balls, his first in five World Series games. Forrest Cady flew out and Stahl jerked Bedient for pinch hitter Olaf Henriksen who cracked a 2-2 pitch for a double to tie the score.
Smoky Joe Wood replaced Bedient and the Giants found him for what should have been the winning run in the tenth inning. Murray doubled and Fred Merkle singled to center, Tris Speaker juggling the ball just long enough for Murray to break for the plate and slide in safely.
Start of Nightmare
In the bottom of the tenth, Cliff Engle hit for Wood and lofted an easy fly ball to Snodgrass who parked under it, waited and then dropped it.
Harry Hooper flew out but Steve Yerkes walked. This put men on first and second with the incomparable Tris Speaker up. Matthewson worked like a press on the Texan and got him to loft a harmless looking foul between Merkle and Myers. Both stopped and the ball fell between them.
Giving life to the most dangerous hitter in the American League was folly and Speaker promptly drilled a line single scoring Engle with the tying run and sending Yerkes to third. Matty intentionally passed Duffy Lewis but Larry Gardner drove a long fly that Devore went deep for but couldn't get the throw back to the plate in time to cut down Yerkes who scored the run that cost the Giants "the greatest World Series of the time."
A League is Formed
And as Yerkes raced in, Otto Stifel stood up, pointed a dramatic finger at Snodgrass whose inglorious muff had started it all, and thundered: "If that man is major league caliber, I can dig up his likes in every hamlet in America. Mr. Gilmore, consider me in your baseball league."
So the last barrier before the ill-fated Federal League was hurdled - hurdled because one of the truly fine ballplayers of his time, Fred Snodgrass, had dropped an easy fly ball.
And as Gilmore's brigade of multi-millionaires unbuttoned their purses, Hugh Bedient was one of the late comers to respond to the call of bigger and bigger cash just as baseball men succeeding him by 34 years did in the now historical Mexican League jumps.
Oddly enough all four of the former Major League greats, three of them still living, who make their homes in Jamestown, were lured to the Federal. Bedient reported and played one season at Buffalo. Swat Erickson and Ray Caldwell signed, but never reported as did the late Charlie Harper.
And what of the Federal League?
Actual play did not get under way until 1914. Eight new parks were built in three months including what is now Wrigley Field in Chicago, then to be home of the Chicago Whales. Indianapolis, Baltimore, Buffalo, Brooklyn, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and St. Louis teams were also organized.
Indianapolis won the pennant in '14 and Chicago edge out St. Louis by one percentage point the following season.
One of the more widely known players to jump was Joe Tinker of the famed Cub infield, who managed the Whales. Ty Cobb and Speaker were given lucrative offers, but declined when their salaries were doubled to keep them from joining the so-called "outlaw league."
Bedient, who did not report until 1915, won 16 and lost 18 for Buffalo. That fall the United States was preparing for war and peace feelers were coming in from both the American and National Leagues. Eventually a settlement that covered all investments and player contracts was made and the Federal League became legend.