Friday, August 16, 2013

'Honest John' stole second . . . with bases loaded

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

The Aug. 3, 1949, issue of The Sporting News was awash with news, photos and commentary of a “bonehead” play by Larry Doby that may have cost the Cleveland Indians the July 20 game against the Yankees.

Unbidden by his manager or third base coach, Doby attempted to steal home plate with his team down four runs, the bases loaded, nobody out and pitcher Joe Page getting wild with two balls on the batter, Bob Kennedy. Doby was fined $50 for his initiative.

Coincidentally, towards the back of that issue, appeared the obituary of John Anderson, who had died July 23 at the age of 75.

Because he rarely argued with umpires he was known as “Honest John.” One contemporary umpire said Anderson could make an umpire second-guess his calls.  “Whenever ‘Honest John’ protested a strike, an umpire later would remark: ‘Maybe I missed that strike, for John wouldn’t have protested otherwise.’”

Anderson was born in Norway in 1873 and emigrated to Worcester, Mass., with his parents in 1878. He became the first major league player to have born in Norway.

He played his first pro ball with Haverhill of the New England League in 1894 and was batting .354 when he was purchased by Brooklyn of the National League and finished the season with them.

Anderson played with Brooklyn, mostly at first base, until he was sold to Milwaukee in the American League for 1900. He moved with the franchise to St. Louis in 1902. In 1904 he joined the New York Highlanders, played with Washington 1905-07, then ended his major league days with the White Sox in 1908.

In 1909 he played for Providence of the Eastern League, then retired.

After spending five years as a policeman in Worcester, he became a coach for Buffalo in the International League.

Anderson had earned a spot on what a TSN editor in Doby’s case had dubbed the “Rockhead Roll of Fame,” by attempting to steal second base while the bases were loaded. That came in a 1905 game when he was with the Senators.

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