April 4, 1937
Jack Harper, Former Major League Pitcher,
Is Still Member Of Cubs With Whom He Played 30 Years Ago
Altho thirty years have come and gone since Jack Harper wore a big league baseball uniform he is still a Chicago Cub, never having drawn his release when he retired from the game and left the famous team managed by Frank Chance, the Peerless Leader, one of the cogs in the immortal double play combination of Johnny Evers and Joe Tinker.
Memories of other days in the great national pastime are vividly recalled by this tall, blue-eyed, gray-haired man who pitched for several old National League clubs before the American League was organized shortly after the turn of the century.
He first saw the light of day near Franklin, Pa. Altho christened Charles W., he has been called Jack so long that he would not be known by any other name. After playing in the oil country, Harper as a youth went to Ohio and in 1898 was throwing ‘em across the plate for the Montgomery, Ala., club of the Southern League.
“The Spanish-American War broke out that year and the league broke up. The next season I went to Grand Rapids, Mich., in the Interstate League, being sold to the Cleveland Nationals at the close of that campaign,” relates Jack, who recalls at that time Cleveland was one of 12 cities in the circuit.
Later Cleveland, Louisville, Baltimore and Washington dropped out when the league was reduced to eight clubs and in 1900 Jack was transferred to St. Louis. After two years with the mound city Nationals, Harper jumped to the St. Louis Americans along with Wallace, Heidrick, Padden, Powell and a few other players.
The year 1903 saw Harper back in the National League, this time wearing a Cincinnati uniform. Reserve clauses were not required in contracts in those days and for four seasons Jack’s good right arm kept the Reds well up in the thick of the National League pennant fight.
Harper was sold to the Cubs in 1906, going to Chicago in exchange for Bob Wicker, another pitcher, and Honus Lobert. Explaining how he happened to join the Cubs, Jack says that after he had beaten the Cubs 3 to 2 in an 11-inning game, Chance asked him if he would like to make the change, providing a deal could be arranged. Harper replied in the affirmative and the trade followed.
Jack had been with the Cubs for only a month or two when he broke his thumb stopping a hot liner thru the box and the developed a sore elbow which kept him out of the world series that season between the Cubs and White Sox which thew latter team won.
“We couldn’t agree on satisfactory terms the next season and I didn’t sign the contract the Cubs sent me. Quitting the game, I came to Jamestown on a visit and bought the Oak cafe on West Second street, operating it until prohibition,” Harper says.
Altho the double-play combination of Tinker, Evers and Chance was a good one, there were also other good fielders in those days, this veteran of the diamond declares.
They didn’t baby and pamper the pitchers then like they do now. Many clubs only carried four hurlers for the 156-game schedule each season and it was nothing to have to go in and pitch two days in a row unless you could think of some good excuse to resat your arm.
“Those managers would work a fellow to death. If they had been as careful about a pitcher then as they are now, we would have had whiskers down to our waist before retiring,” Jack says with a grin.
In addition to Tinker, Evers and Chance, other members of the Cubs of Harper’s days were Overall, Steinfeldt, Schulte, Kling, Lundgren, Mordecai Brown, Reuhlbach, Hofman, Moran and Gessler.
There was a great spirit of rivalry manifest between clubs and players in those times, when Harper was the highest salaried player on thew Cubs. When he was with the Reds, the best paid player received $4000, whereas a few years ago when Harper attended a reunion in Cincinnati, he was informed the highest priced player drew an annual check of $18,000.
“Guess I was born thirty years too soon,” Harper told President Weiss of the Cincinnati team.
During the 1904 season, Harper won 24 and lost 9 games for Cincinnati while in 1901 with St. Louis he turned in 21 victories against 13 defeats.
One of the most memorable games he pitched was on June 3, 1904, when he engaged in a 2-2, 11-inning tie game with “Iron Mike” McGinnity of the New York Giants. The game was called on account of darkness. The N.Y. ball ground was the scene of the hardest pitching battle and largest attendance known to the game then since both were unbeaten up to that time.
In addition to numerous pictures of old time players, including Mike Donlin and other stars, a prized memento of those days is a leather bound book od humorous cartoons from the pen of J. F. Collins, who drew them at the close of each game and displayed them if front of a Cincinnati cigar store for players and fans to gaze upon. Later the volume was dedicated to August (Garry) Herrman, president of the club and former national commissioner, the post now held by Judge Landis.
Pictures of Harper and records of his feats appear frequently and prominently thru the volume. Covering the 1904 season, the first entry shows Jack pitched the Reds to a 7-4 win over the Cubs on April 26, his initial start of the season. Shortly later he blanked Philadelphia 10-0, allowing only one hit and receiving grand support, Collins chronicles.
Other games in which Harper pitched that season resulted as follows: Cincinnati 3, Chicago 1; Cincinnati 11, New York 2; Cincinnati 7, Brooklyn 2; Cincinnati 12, Boston 7; Cincinnati 2, Chicago 0; Cincinnati 6, Philadelphia 5; Cincinnati 2, Brooklyn 0; Cincinnati 2, New York 0; Cincinnati 5, Brooklyn 0. Ewing, Hahn, Kellum and Walker were other members of the Reds” pitching staff that season.
Harper’s club, on which the late Miller Huggins, former New York Yankees manager, was a second baseman, finished that year in third place. It was one of Jack’s best seasons in the big show and preceded his being traded to the Cubs, with whom he closed his diamond career a generation ago, when names of Wagner, Lajoie and other greats appeared in the daily box scores.