Kitty League President Fights Fan (1936)
Kitty League President Fights Fan (1936)
What was the dustup?
The Kitty League was ran very loosely. So much so that teams often wouldn’t pay league dues or notify the league when they signed new players. The league was also infamous for not keeping or publishing player stats, which, by today’s standards seems unforgivable. Many people involved with the Kitty League were critical of Dr. Bassett, president of the Kitty League in 1936. Many wanted to see him step down and be replaced with someone that would run a tighter ship.
At the end of the 1936 season, the Union City Greyhounds won the second half of the season and were set to take on the Paducah Indians, winners of the season’s first half, to determine the champion.
Shortly before the championship series was scheduled to start, there were two protests over ineligible players and concerns by Paducah manager Ben Tincup about playing night games at Union City in the upcoming series. The first protest regarding ineligible players was brought by the Lexington Giants, who finished second in the league behind Union City, protesting Union City winning the league with the use of ineligible pitchers. The second protest was brought by the Paduach Indians who protested the same two recently signed Union City pitchers, both of whom would be used against them in the upcoming championship series.
The two Union City pitchers in question were Larry Irvin, who was signed on August 15th, and “Rip” Schroeder, who was signed on August 18th. The season ended on September 13th and the championship series was scheduled to begin on September 16th. League rules, supposedly, were that no player signed with less than 30 days remaining in the season would be eligible to pitch in the postseason.
Lexington Giants Protest Against Union City Greyhounds
The protest by the owner of the Lexington Giants against awarding the second half pennant to the Union City Greyhounds was denied by a vote of 4 to 0 at a meeting in Mayfield with club owners in attendance on September 14, 1936.
As a result, the playoff between Union City and Paducah, the first half pennant winners, would go on as scheduled.
Owners of four of the six clubs represented at the meeting voted to refuse Lexington’s claim that the second half winners had used more class players than was allowed in league regulations. Lexington and Union City did not vote on the issue. The Owensboro and Jackson clubs were not represented.
Paducah Indians Protest Union City Pitchers
Paducah manager, Ben Tincup, lost his fight to prohibit the use of two Greyhound pitchers during the championship series and also failed in an effort to prevent the playing of night games at Union City.
Tincup protested the use of Larry Irvin and “Rip” Schroeder on the grounds they were signed by the club less than 30 days before the close of the season.
Tincup was informed by Dr. Frank Bassett, president of the league, that a 20-day rule instead of the 30-day rule was inaugurated at the reorganization of the league last year. Dr. Bassett did not present any written rules, however.
This meant that the deadline to sign new players, and have them be eligible for the postseason, was August 24th. Making both Union City pitchers eligible according to Dr. Bassett.
After being informed by Dr. Bassett that the two pitchers would be allowed to play, Tincup argued that Paducah should not be forced to play night ball but again was refused.
Dr. Bassett said he called Judge W. B. Bramham, president of the National Association of Professional Leagues, for an opinion on the subject. It was understood that Judge Bramham informed the Kitty League president that Paducah would have to play the scheduled night games.
Tincup said he was uncertain whether he would appear at Union City for game 1, as his contract was terminated with the close of the season. He said, however, that he had notified the team to appear for the game.
The Championship Series Game 1
September 16th, 1936: The Paducah Indians and Ben Tincup were ordered by Judge W. G. Bramham, president of the National Association, to play game 1 that night as scheduled. After a hectic day of uncertainty, the Indians, minus their manager Ben Tincup, showed up at Union City half an hour late but did play.
When the game finally got underway, Union City defeated Paducah by a score of 6 to 2. Both teams played fine ball but the contest was marred by poor officiating. Umpires frequently made glaring mistakes and questionable decisions. The Paducah players protested many of the rulings without success.
“Rip” Schroeder, the Greyhounds ace pitcher and the center of the pre-series controversy, allowed the Indians nine hits but kept them scattered and himself out of trouble. Paducah manager Ben Tincup refused to make the trip to Union City and did not play.
The largest crowd ever to jam into the Union City ballpark witnessed the game. It was reported that 1,329 attended the contest.
Paducah Walks Out
After the game, Paducah players said that they didn’t want to play because they feared they would not receive an even break from the umpires. Perhaps they had a point given the poor umpiring in the game.
The fact that they did not have their manager on the field to take their side of the arguments and the belief that they were being disloyal to Tincup influenced the team not to continue the series.
Paducah Owner Hook Names “Revolters”
President Frank Bassett of the Kitty League instructed Hook to notify him which players refused to perform and Hook sent the following wire to Bassett and a copy to Bramham:
“Manager Ben Tincup, players James Hoff, Wayne Blackburn, Gordon Swope, Glenn Grimes, Bob Cropenbaker, John Cannon, Junior Thompson all refused to play in the championship series and went home. I have worked hard with the boys, trying to make them play. Balance of the team wanted to play. B.B. Hook.”
This absolved catchers Mel Ivy and Doc Turner. Pitchers Allen Hayes and Bill Woods, shortstop Joe Bestudik and Outfielder Clyde Bracy. Bestudik was given permission to return to his home in Springfield, Illinois due to a serious ankle sprain after being struck with a batted ball last week. His activity in game 1 aggravated the injury.
Revolting Players Face Ineligible List
In a telegram in which he warned the boys to play, Judge Bramham informed them that he would place them on baseball’s ineligible list and fine them if they refused. Hook said that Dr. Bassett informed him that he would recommend severe punishment to Bramham for the players who refused to play.
This is the second year in a row that the Kitty League season ended in a flare-up. Last year Jackson and Union City were disqualified for using ineligible players and the championship was awarded to Portageville, which wound up in third place during the regular season. Lexington, which won the first half legitimately, refused to play Portageville in a series but no action was ever taken.
While Tincup did not make an appearance in Union City, he was still in Paducah at game time.
Players Given an Olive Branch
Judge Bramham told Dr. Frank Bassett to hand out severe punishments to any player refusing to play. Bassett said he regretted to spoil the baseball careers of the youngsters and that if they would get together and agree to resume the series by the end of the week, he would attempt to persuade Bramham to overlook their failure to show up in Union City earlier in the week. Otherwise, he would report the cases to Bramham and let him decide the penalties.
Dr. Bassett and League Officials Travel to Paducah
Hoping to persuade balking members of the Paducah Indians to change their minds and finish the series against Union City, Dr. Frank Bassett and four officials of the Union City club, including Manager Freddie Hofman, made a futile trip to Paducah on Thursday afternoon.
When they arrived in Paducah, they found that the Paducah players had already left for their homes. Bassett reiterated that severe punishment would be meted out to those who were unwilling to continue the championship series.
Officials of the Union City club, which lost between $500 and $1,000 on Paducah’s failure to finish out the series, were very much disappointed.
Bramham Bans Tincup, 7 Others From Baseball
Manager Ben Tincup and seven of his players were placed on the ineligible list of baseball and will be fined for their refusal to play the second game of the series, W. G. Bramham announced on Saturday September 19, 1936.
The players declared ineligible in addition to Tincup, were Junior Thompson, John Cannon, Robert Cropenbaker, Glenn Grimes, Gordon Swope, Wayne Blackburn and James Hoff.
In the absence of a definite reason from Manager Tincup, it was presumed his refusal to continue the series was based on objections to playing under the lights at Union City.
Bramham said reports from the Union City club, confirmed by Bassett, established the fact that Paducah had played at Union City under the lights during the season and had participated in the first game of the championship series, although the contest resolved into a farce, according to reports of the umpires.
The National Association president was informed that Tincup had advised his players not to participate in the series, assuring them he “would take care of things” if any trouble arose.
“Nothing is more detrimental to baseball than the actions of Manager Tincup and the guilty players in this case”, Bramham said. “When two teams are declared winners in a split-season race, the public has a right to see them play for the championship. Baseball will not condone the actions of the Paducah manager and the players who refused to continue nor will it fail to inflict punitive measures against them for such deplorable conduct.”
The 1936 pennant of the Kitty league was awarded to Union City because of Paducah’s refusal to continue play, Bramham was advised by President Bassett.
Fate to be Decided in Montreal Meeting
Early January, 1937: At the minor league meeting in Montreal the fate of Manager Ben Tincup and seven of his Paducah Indians who refused to participate in a playoff series last September with Union City probably will be decided.
I (Sam Livingston of the Paducah Sun-Democrat) had a letter from Junior Thompson, big righthander who won 20 games for the Indians last summer, in which was enclosed a letter from Judge W. G. Bramham, president of the National Association to Thompson.
From Judge Bramham’s letter it was plain to see that Dr. Frank H. Bassett was doing his best to make the going tough for the Paducah players. Dr. Bassett wrote Bramham, according to the letter Thompson received from the judge, that the Paducah players made a ridiculous showing in the one game they played at Union City and did everything they could to disgust the fans and to be thrown out of the game.
Judge Bramham apparently regards that report as the most serious charge against the Indians. Nothing could be more untrue than that description of the Indians play at Union City. The Indians, even though they were without Manager Tincup, gave a superb exhibition and lost only after a gallant struggle. Union City fans and newspapermen praised their diligent efforts.
On behalf of the Indians I (Sam Livingston of the Paducah Sun-Democrat) wrote Bramham the true facts of the Union City incident, and I hope that the punishment will not be too severe on the Paducah boys who unquestionably made a mistake by refusing to continue play but who, after all, are just kids.
The Final Verdict
January 7, 1937: The members of the Paducah Kitty League club who refused to complete a playoff with Union City last September for the league championship will not have to remain out of baseball this year. Writes big Junior Thompson, Indian righthander who won 20 games and lost only 7:
“Well, I haven’t written to you for sometime, so I guess I’ll drop you a few lines and let you in on something that sure sounded sweet to me; that is, if you hadn’t already heard about it. Here’s the verdict: Judge Bramham says that he will let us off with a reprimand and a small fine. Ben Tincup, Paducah manager, wrote to me and told me about this. I think that is about the nicest thing I’ve heard in a long time. I can’t help but think that that letter that you contributed to our cause helped out an awful lot. Tell everybody that I said hello.”
Judge W. G. Bramham, president of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, recently wrote me (Sam Livingston):
“I have never let up in the investigation of the Paducah-Union City matter, held conferences concerning the same at Montreal, and as soon as I am able to get back to my office, will continue to investigate. I will make one comment upon it, and that is that I do not think I have ever heard as many different sides of one story as I have heard relative to this matter.”
The way is now cleared for Thompson and his buddies to report to Macon in the South Atlantic League. Macon, in Class B, now has claim to the following players who performed for Paducah last year: Thompson, “Shorty” Hayes and John Francis Cannon, pitchers: Gordon Swope, first base; Wayne Blackburn, second base: Joe Bestudik, shortstop; Jimmy Hoff, third base; Clyde Bracy, centerfielder; and Mel Ivy, catcher.
Bramham Officially Reinstates Ben Tincup and 7 Suspended Indians
January 12, 1937: William G. Brainham, president of the National Association of Professional baseball leagues has announced that Manager Ben Tincup and seven players of the Paducah club have been restored to good standing.
“After three months of investigation, I am unable to satisfy myself that the facts in the case justify the ineligibility of these players,” Bramham declared. “I am giving them the benefit of the doubt and restoring them to good standing.”
The players affected are James Hoff, Wayne Blackburn, Gordon Swope, Glen Grimes, Robert Cropenbaker, John F. Cannon and Junior Thompson. Several of them have graduated to higher leagues for the coming season.
Kitty League Votes to Protest Leniency
Judge W. G. Bramham’s declaration restoring to good standings Ben Tincup and his Paducah Indians apparently is a direct slap in the face to the present Kitty League Administration.
While this column (Sam Livingston, On Sports Avenue, Paducah Sun-Democrat) indicated some time ago that the players would be excused with a small fine and a reprimand, Judge Bramham’s announcement coming on the heels of action the league took at its meeting last Sunday is most embarrassing to Dr. Frank H. Bassett, Kitty League president, and the club owners supporting him.
At the meeting Sunday the league voted to protest any leniency Judge Bramham might show the Paducah players. Apparently, Bramham heard of their action, for after months of silence he came out Tuesday night with a statement that “after the months of investigation, I am unable to satisfy myself that the facts in the case fully justify the ineligibility of these players. I am giving them the benefit of the doubt and restoring them to good standing.” Bramham’s decision apparently shows how well the Kitty League rates with those higher up.
The Kitty League was a constant source of worry to national officials last year and I would not be surprised if the National Association sent an investigator into this territory to find out just what is ailing the Kitty League.
Union City Fan Unhappy With Findings
January 19, 1937: Answering a letter from J. Burdick, Union City, Tenn. who protested the reinstatement of Ben Tineup and seven Paducah baseball players, suspended last September for not participating in a Kitty League playoff with Union City, Judge W. G. Bramham, president of the National Association, explains his decision.
Mr. J. C. Burdick, Union City, Tenn.
I am in receipt of your letter of January 13. This office makes it a rule to reply to all communications that reach us whether they come from men who are interested in the game or whether they be nuts or vain individuals who find the best food for their egotism is the appearance of their names in the papers. Which class you belong to is impossible for me to determine, though I notice you say you are giving your letter to me to the daily press - The Daily Messenger of Union City.
You term your letter to me a “feeble protest” against my action in reinstating Manager Ben Tincup and the players on the Paducah club who were temporarily placed on the ineligible list as the outgrowth of the failure of the Paducah Club to play off the post-season games with Union City. It is evident that you do not know anything about the facts, but are merely speaking as a Union City fan, disgusted at the failure of the games to be played. In that disgust I share, but it is my duty to fix the responsibility for it, and for four months I have been diligently endeavoring to do so. The record shows that Mr. Tincup was officially released by the Paducah Club before the series began. Every player on the team supports him in his statement that he did not, by word of mouth or otherwise, attempt to influence his players not to play, but when he resigned, urged the boys on his club to go ahead just the same as if he were manager. Upon the occasion of his resignation, evidenced by the official release that is on file in this office, someone else was placed in charge of the club by the Paducah owner.
All of the players of the Paducah Club contend that Mr. Tincup’s statement is true inso far as his conduct is concerned. The Paducah Club contends that the players refused to go to Union City. The players of the club strenuously deny this and state that they were ready and willing to go to Union City and were waiting to do so when they were informed the games were called off, and no transportation was arranged to carry them to Union City.
Whether there was a misunderstanding between the club owner and the players that caused the conflict in the statement of the two, I am not prepared to say, but I do know that after four month’s effort to get solution of this conflict of positions, which includes considerable correspondence with the president of the league and Mr. Hook, the president of the Paducah Club, as well as others acquainted with the situation, the facts developed do not justify my finding against the players and keeping them on the ineligible list.
While I regret that you do not agree with the action taken by me, from the tone of your letter I doubt whether you would agree with anybody on any subject, and it is totally immaterial to me.
I assure you I shall not attempt to satisfy your apparent craving for publicity by further correspondence on the subject, but will contribute to a small degree this stage by favoring the press with a copy of this letter inasmuch as you have favored them with a copy of yours.
Very truly yours,
W. G. BRAMHAM, President.