Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dubuc escaped wrath of Judge Landis, Part 2

Dubuc was included in the 1915 candy card
issue from Cracker Jack.

(Continued from yesterday)

         While the Tigers improved to fourth place in 1914, Dubuc's record dropped below .500 for the season. He was 13-14 on an ERA of 3.46. One newspaperman described him that season as "a fair pitcher who has a great ability to 'get away with it' when opposing teams can't quite understand how he does it."
          Dubuc explained that his success with the slow ball was the result of three years of hard work in its development, and in its judicious use, depending "on the hitters and the clubs. There are some batters in the American League who murder a slow ball, while others cannot hit it. Naturally, then, I depend upon the delivery when facing men I know are weak before it." He claimed that his slow ball had only once been hit for an extra base.
          Dubuc was again used frequently that season as a pinch-hitter. He went 6-for-32, on the year, a .188 average.
          Following the 1914 season, Dubuc expanded his interests to the fight game, as manager of Frankie Fleming, a featherweight described as one of Canada's most promising boxers. 
          In 1915, Dubuc returned to 17-win form, though that was only the third-best winning record on the Tigers. Detroit won 100 games that year, but finished in second place.
          A highlight of Dubuc's season was a May 9 match-up with Walter Johnson before a crowd of 13,000 (that was big numbers back then) in Detroit. Dubuc one-hit the Senators for a 1-0 shutout. It was one of five shutouts Dubuc threw that season.
          The following year Dubuc's knee injury resurfaced and though his ERA dropped back under 3.00, he was able to garner only a 10-10 record as the Tigers finished third. Figuring he was through as a major league pitcher, the Tigers sold him to Chattanooga for 1917.

1915 M101-5 and M101-4 card sets include Dubuc.

          Dubuc refused to report to Tennessee and his contract was transferred to Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League. There was considerable speculation in the Hot Stove League as to whether or not Dubuc would go to Utah. The press said, "Dubuc is a well-known Detroit slow-ball artist. There are doubts that Salt Lake will be able to sign him, as he has been under a $5,000 or $6,000 contract for the past three or four years. During his big league career Dubuc has salted away a goodly horde of shekels and he may prefer retirement to the comedown of a minor league stipend."
          Before he did accept terms with Salt Lake City, Dubuc made a determined attempt to buy the Montreal team in the International League, but was unsuccessful. He was successful, however, in fashioning a 22-16 season with the Bees in 1917, despite a two-week hiatus in August while he dealt with the draft board.
          On Aug. 18, Dubuc pitched an 8-7 win over San Francisco, going 3-for-4 at the plate. He then left the team for his military physical. He evidently received some type of deferment, possibly because of his bad knee, because he was back in baseball uniform on Aug. 31. For the remainder of the season he was 5-4 on the mound, with a 14-inning tie game thrown in.
          Just prior to the opening of the 1918 Pacific Coast League season, Dubuc, along with moundmate Ken Penner, was seriously injured in an auto wreck. Each suffered broken ribs, multiple cuts and contusions.
          The start of Dubuc's season was delayed until April 13, when he pitched an inning of relief. After a couple of pinch-hit appearances, Dubuc began taking his regular turn in the rotation on April 24, with a victory. Dubuc's recovery was considered complete when he one-hit the S.F. Seals on May 8 for a 1-0 win.
          As the season progressed, the player pinch became acute as volunteers and draftees into World War I service began to take a toll. On May 1, the league dropped its roster limit to 16. War industry jobs, with lots of overtime, suddenly became an attractive alternative to minor league baseball salaries, as well.
          By July 1, Dubuc had become Salt Lake City's regular right fielder when he was not pitching. He hit .303 for the season and played errorless ball in the outfield. Dubuc's pitching record for the Bees was an even 9-9 with an ERA of around 3.59. Exact pitching and fielding stats for the P.C.L. in 1918 were not promulgated by the league office and had to be reconstructed from box scores. Along with most other minor leagues, the P.C.L. shut down its 1918 season early due to lack of manpower. Salt Lake finished fifth in the six-team race.
          While the Coast League season was over in mid-July, Dubuc's season was not. He was acquired by the Boston Red Sox for the pennant drive. He joined the team at Chicago and was sent in to mop up the final two innings of an 8-0 blanking by the White Sox on July 28. He got his only hit in a Boston uniform in that game. He was used as a pinch-hitter on Aug. 7, 10 and 24, but failed to connect. In the final game of the season, Dubuc got his only start for the Red Sox, in the second game of the Sept. 2 Labor Day doubleheader at the Polo Grounds. He lost to the Yankees 4-3.
          Dubuc made no contribution to what became the Red Sox last World Championship. He saw action in only one game of the 1918 World Series against the Cubs, as a pinch-hitter striking out in the ninth inning of Game 2, which the BoSox lost 3-1. It's unknown what portion of a $2,315.27 winner's share Dubuc was awarded.
          Surprisingly, the Red Sox took Dubuc to spring training in 1919. Before the season opened, however, they declined to settle with Salt Lake City for the $2,500 draft price and Dubuc was returned to the Bees' roster. He was then sold to the New York Giants, who needed a right-hander in the bullpen.
          Dubuc led the National League in both wins and losses by a relief pitcher in 1919. His entire 6-4 record came in relief, though he had five starts during the season. He was credited with three saves, tops on the team and tied for second in the league. His ERA was 2.66. The Giants finished second in 1919, to the Cincinnati Reds who went on to win the tainted World Championship.
          In January of 1920, Giants manager John McGraw released Dubuc to Toledo of the American Association, presumably as a favor to his old catcher, Roger Bresnahan, who had purchased the Mud Hens.
          Dubuc proved a solid all-around player for Toledo in 1920. When Bresnahan stepped off the field in July, he handed the managerial reins to Dubuc. Besides compiling a 9-7 pitching record on a 2.72 ERA, Dubuc played 23 games in the outfield and 45 games at third base, batting .292 for the season. His fielding was not adequate, however, as he made 22 errors. Dubuc's fielding average as an outfielder was third-worst in the A.A., and only one Association third baseman showed worse glovework.
          As the 1920 season ended, things were getting hot in Chicago as investigation into the 1919 World Series was undertaken. Dubuc's name began to be mentioned as the grand jury took testimony and on Oct. 5, Dubuc was summoned to tell what he knew.
          He presented the panel with a telegram he had received from former teammate Bill Burns prior to the opening of the 1919 World Series, telling him to bet on Cincinnati because it had been fixed for the Reds to win. There was no information leaked as to whether Dubuc acted on the tip or not. He did say that he passed the information on to Giants' teammate Rube Benton.
          McGraw also appeared before the Chicago grand jury that day. His testimony was that Hal Chase and Heinie Zimmerman, who had been dropped from the Giants towards the end of the 1919 season, were the only players on that team guilty of wrongdoing.
          A week later at the World Series in Brooklyn, McGraw confronted Dubuc and accused him of crookedness. A fight was prevented when Bresnahan stepped between the two. McGraw then blasted Dubuc in the press, intimating he had disposed of him to Toledo because of his association with gamblers. "Bill Burns hung around the Giants the latter part of the 1919 campaign," McGraw said. "He was trying to interest me in a Texas oil proposition, he said, but when the season ended and the Reds had clinched the pennant, he disappeared. He constantly associated with one of our pitchers, Jean Dubuc, for which reason I finally decided to release Dubuc unconditionally. Burns and Chase, according to the Chicago indictments, helped to frame the 1919 World Series, and in my opinion they had something to do with the Giants failure to beat the Reds that year." McGraw stopped short of voicing his suspicion that Dubuc, along with several other Giants, may have conspired to throw the 1919 National League pennant to Cincinnati. 
          In November, Bresnahan was reported to be in Montreal to visit Dubuc for the purpose of arranging to purchase a franchise in the International League for the Quebec city. The Sporting News called it, "a queer story." A month later, Bresnahan announced the release of Dubuc. He revealed that the true purpose of his trip to Canada had been to investigate Dubuc's role in the World Series scandal by interveiwing the fugitive fighter Abe Attell, who had been hiding out in Montreal to avoid testifying against gangster Arnold Rothstein in the Black Sox affair.
          In March of 1921, Heinie Zimmerman made headlines by charging that Benny Kauff, Fred Toney and Rube Benton had taken bribes to throw games during the 1919 season. The Sporting News dragged Dubuc's name into the matter by reviving gossip that the Giants had thrown the crucial games of Sept. 15-16 to the Reds, and that Dubuc had been a participant in one of those games. Dubuc had come on in relief of Benton in the game of Sept. 15. Benton had staked the Reds to a three-run lead in the first five innings, but Dubuc held Cincinnati hitless for the two innings he worked. The Reds won 3-0. Dubuc didn't appear in the 4-3 Giants loss on the 16th.
          Dubuc received another black eye during the trial of the World Series conspirators in July. From the witness stand, Bill Burns testified that Dubuc and Toney had been present in a hotel room when the details for the fix were being nailed down.
          Through all of the noise and fury of the Black Sox investigation and trial, and Commissioner Landis' banishment of players who participated or knew about the plot, Dubuc was laying low, playing semi-pro ball in Montreal. Apparently the "out of sight, out of mind" strategy worked to prevent Dubuc from being totally blackballed in Organized Baseball. While he never again pitched in the major leagues, it is likely his mound skills would have prevented a return to fast company anyway. Dubuc joined a handful of other players on the periphery of baseball's gambling scandals who were allowed to continue to play in the minor leagues.
          In its Feb. 16, 1922, edition, The Sporting News reported, "The astounding news comes from Syracuse that President Ernest Landgraf plans to take on Jean Dubuc, former major leaguer and later with Toledo, from which club he drew his walking papers because he was supposed to know too much about the throwing of the 1919 World's Series."
          The Stars had a working agreement with, and were 50% owned by, the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1922 they were managed by Frank Shaughnessy, who had scouted Dubuc in Canada the previous season. According to a local sports writer, Shaughnessy "claims that Dubuc is as good a pitcher today as he was when with the Giants. Aside from his pitching ability he is a good hitter and can play any outfield position creditably."
          Dubuc was also apparently recruited as something of an assistant manager to aid in the development of young pitchers. When the manager was away at St. Louis' spring training camp in Texas, Dubuc was placed in charge of the Syracuse players.
          By mid-May, Dubuc was being called the ace of the Stars pitching staff. On May 14, facing Reading and their player-manager Chief Bender, Dubuc threw no-hit ball for eight and a third innings before Bender broke it up with an infield single off the legs of another future Hall of Famer, Syracuse first baseman Jim Bottomley. Reading tied the game and Dubuc and Bender hooked up for an additional five innings. Dubuc won his own game in the bottom of the 14th with a home run. According to the paper, "The crowd swarmed on the field and made the circuit of the bases with Jean, and after he had touched home plate the fans put the hero of the day on their shoulders and carried him to the club house."
          In early July, Dubuc's pitching arm gave out and he was relegated to relief work and position play. He was hitting over .400 at the time.
          He finished the season third on the hitting list, with a .351 average. He had led the league with 32 pinch-hit appearances. Besides an 8-9 record on a 4.77 ERA in 26 games on the mound, Dubuc had played 56 games in the outfield, a dozen at third base and two at first base. Syracuse finished the season next-to-last in the I.L.
          Somebody at The Sporting News continued to rake the muck and in a post-season editorial titled "The Difference in Policy," Dubuc once again came in for unfavorable mention.
          The editorial read, "At this time the names of three players are recalled who attracted unsavory comment during the investigation of the 1919 World's Series scandal. They had no part in throwing the games, because they were not members of the White Sox team. But it was alleged that Joe Gedeon, Rube Benton and Jean Dubuc had been tipped off that the White Sox were to throw the Series.
          "In the case of Gedeon, he manfully admitted his part; in the case of Benton affidavits were made by other players that he had told them there was something doing and they should bet every dollar they could get hold of on the Reds; in the case of Dubuc there was also documentary evidence.
          "And now three years after, what is the status of this trio? The St. Louis Americans dropped Gedeon from their roster, instanter, and he has disappeared. Benton was dismissed by the Giants 'because he would not obey training rules,' and now that he seems valuable, efforts are being made to bring him back to the National League; Dubuc is with a minor league club owned by the St. Louis Nationals, after Roger Bresnahan dismissed him.
          "Gedeon gone; Benton and Dubuc on National League payrolls!
          "Just a difference in policy, that's all."

(Continued tomorrow)

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