Message Area
lblHidCurrentSponsorAdIndex =

  < Back to Table Of Contents  < Back to Topic: Local Histories, Pictures & Event Archives

article number 324
article date 03-13-2014
copyright 2014 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Hot Dogs, Football, Baseball and Automobiles. Detroit 1900-1910
by Norman Beasley & George W. Stark

HENRY FORD himself looked upon Johnny Colquhoun’s lunch wagon with a very special affection. Before the century began and for two and more decades after it began, Johnny’s wagon stood on the Fort Street side of the City Hall. Here was served that meaty confection known as a hot dog, and here Henry Ford was a regular visitor after a long night s work in the plant of the Detroit Edison Company.

The habit of sitting, or standing, at Johnny’s counter munching a hot dog, garnished with mustard or horseradish, and sipping coffee, was with Ford a long time And in the course of events, it became a matter of record that Johnny Colquhoun once loaned Henry Ford four hundred dollars to help him equip the little shop on Bagley Avenue where the first Ford car came to life.

But Johnny’s wagon was not the only night lunch spot in the shadow of the City Hall. The Scrimger brothers, Bill and Andy, also owned a wagon of similar architectural design. Every night, while Colquhoun’s wagon was parking on the Fort Street side, the Scrimgers were taking up residence on the Griswold Street side of the building, just off Michigan Avenue.

In such wise the Scrimgers and Johnny were in strategic positions to catch the nocturnal trade, but one should not make the mistake of thinking there was any ill-feeling between the men. There was none. Johnny was a brother-in-law, having happily married a sister of the Scrimger boys. In a manner of speaking, the profits of the nocturnal trade were all in the family.

Metropolitan life after dark was hardly on an established basis in the first decade of the 20th century. The New York idea of a cabaret had not penetrated; in fact, a cabaret was regarded as something Parisian and, therefore, sinful.

The hard-working citizens whose tasks kept them downtown after midnight gathered in numbers at Johnny’s, or at Scrim’s, and loitered over their hot dogs while they awaited the owl streetcars which ran on a 40-minute schedule. The big bell in the City Hall tower reminded them of the passing hours.

Business prospered on both fronts, on the south side of the City Hall, and on its west side. Evenings at six o’clock, when all daytime business was presumed to end, Johnny and the brothers Scrimger would hitch up their separate business establishments, and drive downtown to the heart of the city.

The horse never had it so good. He would be relieved from duty as soon as he delivered his wagon at its destination. Then he could return home and sleep against the coming of six o’clock in the morning when he would be awakened and required to bring his wagon home.

It was nice work for a horse. Only about an hour a day, although that hour was a bit cut up and a bit turned around. That was a small drawback considering the amount of free time there was to sleep, and eat, and look out the barn door and daydream of green fields.


Johnny Colquhoun had an assistant whose name was Jap Nelson. He was an assistant who combined a domestic nature with spells of wanderlust. These always seemed to come in the spring, when the first of the traveling circuses would arrive. Jap was a trumpet player of talent. The first circus was sure to need a trumpeter. The next day Johnny was sure to need a helper.

Through the years, Johnny and the Scrimger brothers grew wealthy. People were surprised how a trickle of nickels across the counter of a night lunch stand could grow into a reservoir of dollars. At a time when men about town signified their opulence by wearing a pearl in their Ascot ties, Johnny had one that could best be described as immense. As for the diamond in his ring, that could best be described as huge.

However, whatever wealth and honor accrued to the night lunch wagon merchants, the Hot Dog King of the City Hall area was Andy Scrimger. There were some who called him “Scrim,” but that failed to distinguish him from his tall and whip-shaped brother.

It was Andy who identified the hot dog, cataloged and annotated it and all its brothers. This happened because Arnt Ellifson, a deputy state food and drug inspector, issued a ukase to the trade in which he spoke of a vast difference between a hot dog, a wiener and a Frankfort.

“The fellow is wrong,” boomed Andy Scrimger. “It’s purely a matter of geography. People from Coney Island call them
‘red hots.’ People from Germany call them ‘Frankforts.’ People from St. Louis and Milwaukee call them ‘wienies.’ People around these parts just call them ‘hot dogs.’ There ain’t any difference. I’ve sold millions, and I ought to know.”

Andy was known to sell 2,500 hot dogs in a night, along with enough sandwiches to use up a hundred loaves of bread, thirty gallons of coffee, and to run out of pie, early and often.

Andy had human qualities as well as the acquisitive sense that goes with running a business. If he was astute enough to make a dribble of nickels grow into a fortune, he also had the even temperament required of one who has to deal through the many years with the temperamental and unpredictable trade of the night wanderers.


Like the evening when he dealt with the snake from Electric Park. This grew out of one of the larger affairs staged by the Detroit Press Club. Newspapermen recruited from all the current daily journals, the ‘News,’ the ‘Free Press,’ the ‘Journal,’ the ‘Times,’ and those from the foreign-language press, gathered for dinner at the Tuller Hotel. There was a gusty preliminary at what passed for what is now known as the cocktail hour.

This, of course, was all prior to the main event of the evening, which was the visit to Electric Park, a gaudy amusement enterprise carefully placed beside the approach to the Belle Isle Bridge, and across from Belier’s Gardens. The guests traveled the five miles out Jefferson Avenue in the rain, and in an open bus. They didn’t mind. At the moment, they considered themselves immune.

The side shows offered amusing challenges, particularly one that featured a snake in its cage. No record was kept as to how the snake got loose, but it was freely accepted that Henry Codd Plass, one of the more daring police reporters, had something to do with it because he walked out of the park with the snake hanging from his arms and dragging along behind him.

He boarded a Jefferson streetcar. Nobody interfered. Downtown he went to Andy’s wagon, which he forthwith entered. Andy dealt with the incident promptly, by leaping out of his wagon and yelling for the police.

Snake and captor were hauled away by the brave officers, the snake returned to its cage, and Henry Codd Plass to the reporters’ room at police headquarters. There were no official complaints, but Henry Codd gained more than a little stature among his fellows.

In its way, the incident added to Andy’s reputation for affability, patience and generosity, as well as another link in the long chain of tradition. Besides, the snake was lethargic, having recently been fed.

Andy’s first day beside the City Hall was March 15, 1903. “On that day,” he said, “they rerouted the Jefferson and Grand River car line from Woodward to Griswold. That was my big chance, and I took it. I drove my wagon right over there on Griswold, behind the City Hall. I got to know every streetcar conductor, every motorman, every newspaperman, every policeman and every saloonkeeper in town. I guess I got to know nearly everybody who stayed up later than midnight.”


Back of Andy’s success was the sister-in-law of Johnny Colquhoun. Andy always said his wife did most of the work; and perhaps she did. She baked twenty-five pies (mince, apple and pumpkin) on five days a week; on Saturday, she baked forty; on Sunday, she baked thirty. Her stove was a wood-burning kitchen range.

As for Andy, he could always judge the state of his business by the way his cigar smoked down. If the cigar he lighted at 6 P.M. wasn’t half gone by two o’clock in the morning, he knew there was lots of cash in the till.

In 1907, Automobile Row, which was along Jefferson Avenue on both sides of Brush Street, contained sixteen dealers, and was assuming importance in the business life of the community.

Twelve years before, or in 1895, William E. Metzger had gone to England to attend the first automobile show held anywhere. Returning to Detroit, he continued to deal in bicycles, but it was not long before he was handling two lines of automobiles, the steam Mobile, and the Waverly Electric.

The Metzger establishment, standing importantly at the northwest corner of Brush Street and Jefferson Avenue, was the nucleus of Automobile Row.

In 1902, Automobile Row (it was called that in 1902) contained four dealerships, and these were sufficient to cause the Tri-State Association to project a show exclusively for motor vehicles. The show was successful and set a pattern for future Detroit exhibits.

It is from this show that the Detroit Automobile Dealers count their beginnings. Among the exhibitors were Waverly, Baker and Columbia Electrics; Mobile, White and Toledo steam cars; Winton, Olds, Knox, Silent Northern, Stevens-Duryea, Marr and Rambler gasoline cars.


Of the cars on display, Metzger was the Detroit representative for the Waverly, Baker and Columbia electrics, the Mobile and Toledo steam cars, and the Winton, Olds, Knox and Silent Northern gasoline cars. His was the largest automobile dealership in the United States.

Included among his lively personnel were William V. Neumann, William A. Brush, James J. Brady, Frank Riggs, William Huriburt, Joseph A. Schulte, and an industrious young fellow named Walter J. Bemb, who applied himself so diligently that he became an inseparable part of the growing industry.

Walter was employed in the service department and his principal duty was to go to all parts of town and retrieve those electrics which had failed because their owners had allowed the batteries to run down. A single battery charge was calculated to last a car from forty to fifty miles.

A dead battery was a pretty substantial alibi when an owner failed to get home on time.

The year 1902 became memorable in Detroit automobile circles because it saw the formation of the city’s first automobile club, with a roster of thirty members. Among the organizers were Henry B. Joy, Russell A. Alger, John A. and Truman H. Newberry.

It was in this same year that Fred J. Fisher designed the first Cadillac body. At the time, Fisher was employed by the Wilson Carriage Company.

This body was one of the first, if not the first, of the convertibles, in that a tonneau seat for extra passengers was detachable and replaceable by a delivery body for converting the Cadillac into a commercial car.


The following year the Metzger organization added a new car to its line. This was the Welch-Detroit. It was a car that reached the final assembly stage in the midst of the traffic on Jefferson Avenue.

Before going further, it may be well to say that if the story bears any resemblance to the story of the man who built a boat in his basement, and had to tear down the house to get the boat to water—well, it can’t be helped.

The Welch-Detroit car was built in the upstairs area of the Metzger establishment, and, when all the parts were in place, the car was too big to get into the elevator, or down the stairs. Mechanics disassembled it, carried out the pieces, piece by piece, and put the car together again in the street.

The first woman driver in Detroit was Mrs. Russell A. Alger, Jr.; the second was Mrs. Wilson W. Mills, daughter of the former Mayor of Detroit, and Governor of Michigan, Hazen S. Pingree.

The daughter was well-conditioned for facing up to the problems of traffic on Detroit streets. When she was a very little girl, her father presented her with a pony. As Hazel Pingree, it was her gay custom to ride the pony from the big stone Pingree mansion, at Woodward Avenue and Farnsworth Avenue, to the City Hall. She would go clattering down Woodward Avenue, tie her pony to a lamppost in front of the City Hall, and go calling on papa.

The Pingree coachman was a gentleman named George, and he presided over the carriagehouse in the rear of the mansion. When the family acquired its first car, a Packard, George was commissioned to care for it He never drove it. Figured it would take him too long to master all the things he would have to do, since it took him a full week to learn how to oil it.


The family doctor was Harry S. Kiskadden. A tall man who wore a full, black beard, Dr. Kiskadden was one of the first medical men in Detroit to forsake the horse and buggy for the automobile.

The Kiskaddens lived on Hancock Avenue, just west of Woodward, in a spacious house with a wide front verandah. Often the doctor took his family for a Sunday ride in the country, and to the Kiskadden farm, which eventually became Kiskadden Park. His first car was a one-lung Cadillac, which was followed by a two-cycle Elmore.

There were occasions when Dr. Kiskadden was especially proud, and that was when a particular passenger drove with him. This was his cousin who, when she wasn’t driving with the doctor, might be found enjoying the Kiskadden verandah. The neighbors always knew when she was there, and peeked extra hard from behind their window shades.

There was something very special about this house guest. Her name was Maude Kiskadden, but the world knew her, and remembers and treasures her, as Maude Adams, the actress.

In these years automobile dealers made their real profits not from the sale of cars, but from the sale of accessories. It was not until 1910 that a windshield, a top, and a speedometer were standard equipment. In fact, up to 1910, a customer often had to pay extra for lamps. Metzger’s entire second floor was stocked with accessories.

On display were linen dusters, goggles, veils, gauntlets, puttees, special items to fit smart motoring costumes, hampers to hang on the side of a car as a receptacle for canes and umbrellas, horns, oilcloth lap protectors for use in rainy weather, jacks, pumps, cans of carbide, oilcloth sheets to spread on the ground when the driver had to “get out and get under”; there were dozens of items.

Meanwhile, in 1908, occurred the most important single event in the history of the automobile. Three years of sketching, designing, testing and discarding were ended. Ford’s Model T was off the drawing boards and in production.

Jubilantly, Ford paraded the car through the downtown streets, so sure was he that he had solved the riddle of cheap transportation. In the next twenty years more than 15,000,000 (15,456,868) Model T’s came off the production lines.


It is easy to put down figures on paper, even such a large figure as 15,000,000. Just put down a 1 and a 5 and add six ciphers. That does it.

But what does one put down to calculate the social and economic influences of 15,000,000 automobiles? How does one go about estimating the effect on the people who made the cars, and the effect on the people who used them?

Added to these things, what does one use for statistics in estimating the effect on all the people in the steel, rubber, glass and other industries who made the parts, and supplied the materials—or on the transportation people, on the sales people, the advertising people, those who work on newspapers and on magazines, on the farmers?

All this is employment that builds homes, educates families, develops communities, builds roads, opens markets, expands industries, brings into public service a multitude of small merchants and small manufacturers; it is employment that opens city markets for farm products, makes neighbors out of the people of Maine and California, and maintains the functions of government itself.

These are gains that cannot be put down in figures, so how does one go about estimating their social and economic significance?

As for the car itself, Lee Stroud White wrote in nostalgic vein in his ‘Farewell to Model T’:

“The driver. . . was a man enthroned. The car, with top up, stood seven feet high. The driver sat on top of the gas tank, brooding it with his own body.

“When he wanted gasoline, he alighted, along with everything else in the front seat; the seat was pulled off, the metal cap unscrewed, and a wooden stick thrust down to sound the liquid in the well. There were always a couple of these sounding sticks kicking around in the ratty subcushion regions of a flivver.

“Refueling was more of a social function then, because the driver had to unbend, whether he wanted to or not. Directly in front of the driver was the windshield—high, uncompromisingly erect. Nobody talked about air resistance, and the four cylinders pushed the car through the atmosphere with a simple disregard for physical law....”

The first circulars describing the car were sent to dealers on March 19, 1908; deliveries were promised for October 1, 1908; and in the Ford ‘Times’ of July 1, it was stated that “no car under $2,000 offers more, and no car above $2,000 offers more except in trimmings.” The price for the roadster was $825, and for the touring car $850.


In the same year, William C. Durant moved from Flint to Detroit by way of New York and New Jersey, and brought with him a new corporation he called the General Motors Company. It was incorporated on September 16, 1908, at Trenton, N. J., by a New York firm of lawyers. Its original capitalization was $2,000; and, pretty generally, Detroit newspapers ignored the event although in Flint, where, in 1904, Durant had taken over control of the Buick Motor Company, the new corporation was the talk of the town.*

* On September 28, 1908, the company was authorized to use all of its actual capital of $12,500,000.

Within two years, General Motors Corporation included twenty companies and in the rapid expansion Durant lost control.

The companies were:

- Buick Motor Company, Flint
- Cadillac Motor Car Company, Detroit
- Cartercar Company, Pontiac
- Champion Ignition Company (now AC Spark Plug Company), Flint
- Dow Rim Company, New York City
- Elmore Manufacturing Company, Clyde, Ohio
- Ewing Automobile Company, Geneva, Ohio
- Jackson-Church-Wilcox Company, Jackson
- Michigan Auto Parts Company, Detroit
- Michigan Motor Castings Company, Flint
- National Motor Cab Company
- Northway Motor & Manufacturing Company, Detroit
- Oakland Motor Car Company, Pontiac
- Olds Motor Works, Lansing
- Rainier Motor Company, Saginaw
- Rapid Motor Vehicle Company, Pontiac
- Reliance Motor Truck Company, Owosso
- Welch-Detroit Company, Detroit
- Welch Motor Car Company, Pontiac
- Weston-Mott Company, Flint

In addition, the corporation had stock interests in Maxwell-Briscoe, United Motors Company and Lansden Electric.

Durant also tried to absorb two other companies, the E. R. Thomas Company of Buffalo, manufacturers of the famous “Thomas Flyer,” and the Ford Motor Company. The transactions did not materialize because Durant could not raise the money.

In the case of Ford, the sum needed was $8,000,000. And, in its way, the Ford offer illustrates how fast money was made, and lost, in the automobile business in these creative years.


In 1909, the bankers refused to lend Durant, and General Motors, the sum needed to buy Ford; in 1912, the net income of the Ford Motor Company was $13,542,678.28. In 1909, Durant bought the Dow Rim Company for $48,000, and offered in payment $28,000 in General Motors preferred stock, and a choice of $20,000 in General Motors common stock or $20,000 in notes.

Dow did not hesitate. He chose to take the notes. Had he taken the stock, and kept it, the returns would have been far into the millions. The same was true of the other recipients of General Motors common stock.

In practically all cases, there was an exchange of General Motors stock, common and preferred, for the stock of the company that was purchased, along with a modest amount of cash. Most of the recipients of the common stock did as Alexander Dow did—they sold the stock.

In 1909, eleven automobile companies were in production in Detroit; and, in Lansing, twenty-two new companies filed articles of incorporation; and out on Woodward Avenue, in Highland Park, and in the midst of a 62½ -acre piece of ground once used as a race track, was a newly erected sign:

Will be the largest automobile Factory in the world

Already, Ford had sent for, and had talked with, Albert Kahn. The architect listened to what Ford said he wanted in the way of a factory design, and gave it to him. It was a design for a factory containing six acres of floor space under one roof, and with provisions for expansion.

It was a factory design wholly new. On the day before New Year’s in 1910, the last Ford cars were shipped from the Piquette Avenue factory; on the day after New Year’s, shipments were made from Highland Park.*

* Ford moved his operations from Mack Avenue to a new plant on Piquette, at Beaubien Street, in late 1904 and early 1905. The entire plant area was 1.4 acres.


Other men were writing their names into the history of the area. From Canton, Ohio, had come Walter E. Flanders to put machines together in a way that brought better production for the Ford Company and who, in 1909, left Ford to join up with Barney Everitt and William E. Metzger in forming the E-M-F Company.

Intrigued by the possibilities, J. L. Hudson agreed to the use of his name and prestige in backing Roy D. Chapin in the formation of the Hudson Motor Car Company.

Robert Hupp and Charles D. Hastings, hacked by less than $10,000, organized the Hupp Motor Car Company.

Packard raised its capital from $600,000 to $10,000,000.

In Indianapolis, the Overland Company was facing bankruptcy for want of $350.

John N. Willys was living in Elmira, New York, and had orders for 500 cars when he heard the distressing news that the Overland Company was closing. He went to Indianapolis, arriving there on a Saturday night in December, 1907. On Sunday morning he was told by an Overland official that a receiver would be appointed on Monday morning.

“Why?” demanded Willys.

“Because yesterday was payday, and there isn’t enough money in the bank to cover the checks.”

“How much are you short?”

“About three hundred and fifty dollars.”

“If I get it can you stay open?”

“Perhaps. But how will you get it, unless you’ve got it with you? The bank won’t cash your check, and the town is practically on a scrip basis.”

Returning to his hotel, Willys presented a check for $350. The clerk said he couldn’t cash it. Didn’t have enough money. Willys went to the hotel management, explained the Overland problem, and said if he could raise the money the company could be saved.

The hotel management finally agreed to his proposition—that being to save every penny it received during the day, and to cash no checks for anyone excepting Willys.

On Monday morning the hotel took Willys’ check, and presented him with a few bills and several fistfuls of half-dollars, quarter-dollars, dimes, nickels and pennies—all amounting to three hundred and fifty dollars.

Putting the money in a paper sack, Willys took it to the factory. After persuading the company to keep open its doors, and postpone paying any bills until he could round up the necessary cash to keep it in business, he accompanied a company official to the bank.

Within a short time—about a month—Willys rounded up $3,500, persuaded creditors to accept it in payment for debts of $80,000, and reorganized the company.


It wasn’t long before the company was located in Toledo; and the name and face and voice of John N. Willys were as well known in Detroit as in Elmira or Toledo.

These, of course, were some of the big things that were going on in Detroit and its surroundings. There were other things, too.

There was football. It was attaining physical magnificence, and beginning to attract the personal attention of sports writers such as Joe S. Jackson, H. G. Salsinger, Joe Smith, Paul Bruske, Clarence Budington Kelland and Lee Anderson of the Detroit press; Jimmy Isaminger and George Graham, of Philadelphia; I. E. Sanborn, Charley Hughes and Ring Lardner, of Chicago.

Michigan’s Yost used to delight in bewildering the experts by chiding them for their reports on the games. He also chided his own football players, as on this day after a disastrous game with Pennsylvania, he was chiding his great star, Harry Hammond:

“I asked you, Mr. Hammond, to stand this-a-way, and you stand that-a-way. And Mr. Scarlett, of Pennsylvania, looks over and sees where you’re standing, and he says, ‘Well, well, cherries are ripe. Let’s pick ‘em. Ding! Ding! Touchdown!!’”

It was playing against this Pennsylvania team that Yost experienced another of his great disappointments. For weeks he had drilled Michigan in the intricacies of a triple forward pass. When sprung, it had such a devastating effect upon the opposition that the players began wheeling in circles, and yelling frantically at each other, Where’s the ball? Where s the ball?” and all the while a Michigan man was racing down the sidelines.

An official called the play back, ruling it was illegal because the pass had been made within five yards of center, which was contrary to the rules.

For the remainder of the season, and for many seasons thereafter, Yost spent much of his spare time proving by all the branches of higher mathematics that it was a geometrical impossibility for the pass to have originated where it did, and end where it ended, and remain within five yards of center.

It was the first completed triple forward pass in college football so, perhaps, Mr. Yost was justified.


Not so long before, a few years, Yost had looked upon Ralph Rose with covetous longing. Other footballers, jealous of the coach’s interest in the Californian, viewed Rose’s presence as an intrusion. As things turned out, they were alarmed unnecessarily.

Bob Clancy was Rose’s roommate, and it was Clancy who persuaded Rose, much against the behemoth’s will, to go out for football practice, and to report for early training at Whitmore Lake.

Thinking to discourage Rose, a couple of the players invited him on a boat ride, and when the small craft was in the middle of the lake it was capsized. Coming to the surface, and still in his clothes, Rose swam to the dock in front of the hotel where the team was quartered.

Pulling himself up, he shed his clothes, shook the water from them, and turning to a group of students who had been watching, laughed:

“Gosh, that water’s swell! Guess I’ll take a little swim before I eat.”

Plunging back into the lake, he swam across it and back to the dock. The distance was about three miles.

Being the roommate of Rose brought responsibilities to Clancy. It was his job to awaken the athlete in time for morning classes. In desperation, Clancy invested in a sturdy alarm clock. On the first night, he set the alarm and placed the clock close to the ear of the sleeping giant.

Bright and early the clock exploded its strident message. Slowly the sleeper opened his eyes, rubbed them, looked angrily about for the cause of the disturbance, and spotted it. Cautiously one huge paw stole out from beneath the blankets, closed over the offending timepiece, and crushed it into a shapeless mass.

The name of Ralph Rose, of Ukiah, California, occupies a high place in the records of the Michigan track team; in the records of the Michigan football team, there is no mention of him, He had neither the time, nor the temper, nor the talent to be a football player.

In 1908, Hughie Jennings and his Tigers won the American League pennant and, as in 1907, lost the World’s Series to Frank Chance and his Chicago Cubs. This time the Tigers did not lose four straight games. This time they won one game before losing four. Despite that, it was a notable series.


In Detroit, visiting newspapermen were forced to cover the games from the roof of the stands behind first base. The seats were in the open, were reached by climbing a ladder, and there was no protection from wind or rain or snow, all of which visited the park during the series.

In Chicago, visiting newspapermen found their working seats in the last row of the grandstand.

On October 14, before the playing of the fifth game, angry writers met in the Pontchartrain Hotel and formed an organization they called the Baseball Writers Association of America, elected Joe S. Jackson, of the Detroit ‘Free Press’ to the presidency, and gave him the job of seeing to it that a set of rules, drafted on that same day, was enforced in all big-league parks beginning with the opening game of the 1909 season.

Included in the rules was one which gave to the writers the final say as to who should be admitted to the press sections during the championship season, as well as during the World Series.

The provocation was real. For a number of years, despite protests, sports writers often found actors or politicians or friends of the management sitting in, and occupying seats in the press section.

The protests were especially vigorous in New York’s Polo Grounds on October 8, when the Cubs defeated the Giants in a play-off game.

Hugh Fullerton, Chicago sports writer, found Louis Mann, an actor, occupying his seat in the press box. Mann refused to move. Fullerton sat down in the actor’s lap. Stubbornly, Mann refused to move. The game went the full nine innings. Fullerton covered the game sitting in the actor’s lap.

In 1909, the Tigers won again, and lost again. They won the American League pennant, and lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World’s Series, four games to three. But all was not loss for Detroit.

Under his agreement with Yawkey, Frank Navin owned a half-interest in the ball team, but had not been able to pay for his stock. His share of the World Series profits was slightly more than $50,000. It was enough to clear off his indebtedness to Yawkey. This Navin promptly did.

Frustrating as was the loss of a third consecutive World Series, Detroit, and the Tigers—and baseball in general—came close to encountering a greater loss.

In 1909, as in 1907, the Tigers and Athletics were the principal contenders for the American League pennant. Playing third base for the Athletics was Frank (Home Run) Baker. A good-sized man, a good hitter and a good fielder, Baker also was an awkward fielder.


On this particular occasion, Cobb was on second base, and in a mood to steal third base.

Cobb had a way of sliding all his own. One foot hooked a corner of the base; the other foot was held high, spikes flashing in the sunlight, and if a fielder got in the way he was almost sure to be cut. This day, intent on stealing third, Cobb went tearing into the bag in his desperate style. Baker had him blocked off. Cobb’s spikes hit Baker’s forearm, slashing it severely.

That night the Philadelphia team backed up Baker in preferring charges against Cobb. In Chicago, Ban Johnson, President of the American League, ordered an investigation and said, if the charges were found to be true, Cobb would be barred from organized baseball.

The accusers reckoned without Bill Kuenzel’s camera. The ‘News’ photographer was at the game, and was standing off third base when Cobb came sliding in. The picture Kuenzel snapped showed Baker blocking Cobb s path to the base.

Johnson examined the photograph. Cobb was exonerated at once. Under baseball rules, the base runner was (and is) entitled to the base path, and a fielder who blocks that same path does so at his own risk.

Regarding this incident, it may be added that Cobb was spiked as often, if not oftener, than were defending infielders.

One day a young baseball writer wandered into the Detroit clubhouse and paused to talk with Cobb. The ballplayer was getting into uniform. Glancing at Cobb’s bare legs, the newspaperman noticed a spike wound that was beginning to heal and, looking closer, saw a dozen, or more, scars.

“How many times have you been spiked?” he asked Cobb.

“I’ve never been spiked,” grinned the ballplayer.

“What is that?” asked the reporter, pointing at the healing wound; and, shifting the pointing finger to indicate the scars, asked a second question: “What are those?”

“Occupational hazards,” said Cobb. Then, in a serious voice, he pleaded: “Promise me one thing, will you?”


“Please don’t write anything about the cuts and scars on my legs. I don’t want people to think I’m a cry-baby and, just as much, I don’t want to give any ballplayer the satisfaction of knowing he cut his initials on me. Promise me you won’t write about it. Please.”

“How can I make that promise? How do I know what I’ll be writing about next week, or next year, or ten years from now?”

“Okay. Well then, promise me that so long as I’m playing baseball you won’t print this story.”

There was so much earnestness in Cobb’s voice that the promise was made.

< Back to Top of Page