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Friday 16 March 2012

From the Oliver Typewriter Factory Floor to a Major League Diamond

All on the back of one Triple Play at
Oliver Typewriter’s
McHenry County Field of Dreams
On the eve of St Patrick’s Day,
we salute baseball’s
“Fighting [and Typing] Irishman”
Now that the boys of summer are back swinging their bats across the diamonds of America, it’s timely to look at the tenuous connection between baseball and typewriters.
I am always irresistibly drawn toward Peter Weil’s wonderful quarterly spreads on typewriter ephemera in ETCetera magazine. And as an old sports writer, I am naturally interested in his frequent references to typewriter companies which ran sporting teams, or staged sporting competitions.
I have already mentioned on this blog the ties between the Salter typewriter and the West Bromwich Albion soccer club in England – the football team emerged from a Salter workers’ cricket club.
In the US, of course, cricket’s close cousin is baseball.
Having just a few days ago posted on the typewriter war between the Union and Oliver companies, it seems fitting that I should now salute Oliver’s home county of McHenry, Illinois, where soldiers returning from the Civil War popularised baseball in the late 1860s. A local historian, Jeff Ruetsche, wrote, “[The] veterans came ‘sliding home’ from duty with a new game … they picked up in the Union Army”.
Above and below, 1902 Olivers team photograph. Three players went on to the big leagues.
The McHenry county seat is Woodstock, where Oliver typewriters were made, and soon enough there was to be an Oliver typewriter factory baseball team, the mighty Olivers.
Below, the 1906 Olivers team flanked by Oliver typewritten (of course!) results of the team's contests, with all of the opponents named for Chicago streets and Illinois and Wisconsin towns.

The Olivers were regarded as a “top-notch semi-pro ball club”, one of the best in the Midwest. So much so that on August 5, 1903, the Chicago Cubs became the first Major League team to play in the county – in an exhibition against the Olivers. With Marengo native Carl Lundgren pitching for the Chicago club, the Olivers were blanked 12-0 by the Cubs, in front of 2500 fans at the McHenry Ball Field. But the locals still had plenty to cheer about. The Oliver company’s third base, a 19-year-old stripling, had the good fortune to start a triple play. The eyes of Cubs manager Frank Selee popped out.
Frank Selee
And thus, within seven weeks, that Oliver typewriter factory worker was to make his debut as the youngest player in the Major League, on a one-game try-out for the Cubs on the last day of the 1903 season.
The press noted the Oliver newcomer was "palpably nervous," and he went 0-for-5, though he acquitted himself well in the field. He was on his way, albeit to a stuttering start.
He was George Moriarty, whose step up from the Olivers to the Cubs was the beginning of a 55-year career as a player, manager, umpire, columnist and scout in the majors.
George Joseph Moriarty was born in Chicago on June 7, 1884 and grew up near the Union Stock Yards (there goes that connection again!). His father, John J. Moriarty had been a semi-pro catcher, a childhood friend of Charles Comiskey (who had a summer home overlooking the Fox River in McHenry County). Moriarty senior drove Chicago streetcars for 58 years. George learned to play on the notoriously competitive sandlots of the Windy City.
Moriarty in Olivers uniform, 1903
Young George signed his first pro contract at 16 in 1901, playing for Davenport (Iowa) and Rock Island (Illinois) in the Three-I League. While spending 1902 and 1903 with Bloomington, Joliet, and Springfield, Illinois, Moriarty took a job with the Oliver Typewriter Company.
Moriarty wasn’t an instant success in the Majors. After going hitless in four games for the Cubs at the start of the 1904 season, he was farmed out to Little Rock of the Southern Association, then sold outright a few weeks later to Toledo of the American Association. But, described by a Toledo teammate Willie McGill as "the fightingest kid I ever saw", he battled his way back into the big time with the New York Highlanders, Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox. His final game as a player was on May 4, 1916, with the White Sox.
One historian wrote, “It was in Toledo that Moriarty began to earn a reputation as a brawler. One day in 1905, Indianapolis manager Ed Barrow was riding Moriarty mercilessly, but the young third sacker began shouting comebacks that were more clever than Barrow's insults. Barrow charged, and Moriarty beat him to a pulp.”
In the majors, a young Ty Cobb once decided to fight Moriarty, but Moriarty promptly handed him bat, saying, “A fellow like you needs a bat to even things up when fighting an Irishman.”
In the mid-1930s, George Moriarty made an educational sound film for schools, clubs and theatres, taking viewers behind the scenes at Major League parks. It was called Take Me Out to the Ball Game and was the official motion picture of the American League. Here, at its launch at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, were, from left, Egbert G. Barrow, secretary and business manager of the New york Yankees; Tom Yawkey, president of the Boston Red Sox; Lou Gehrig, Yankee first baseman; Johnnie Murphy, Yankee pitcher; William S. McLean, advertising director of General Motors, which produced and distributed the film, George Moriarty, who wrote and directed it, and sportscaster Ted Husing, who scored it.
After a brief stint as manager of the Memphis Chicks starting in May 1916, Moriarty the next year “found his true calling”. He was an American League umpire from 1917 to 1940, interrupted by two years when he replaced Cobb as manager of the Tigers in 1927-28.
As a man proud of his ancestry in a “land of saints and scholars”, Moriarty in 1918 began banging out a nationally syndicated newspaper column on his Oliver typewriter. It often featured his poetry. Moriarty was an able singer and songwriter and among his musical compositions published by the Remick Music Corporation was It's a Long Road to Dublin. He also wrote a regular column, "Calling Them", for Baseball Magazine.
Moriarty was calling them something else in his most infamous baseball incident, on Memorial Day 1932, when he fought four members of the Chicago White Sox. Moriarty called a pitch by Milt Gaston ball three instead of strike three, and Gaston gave up a game-tying triple on the next pitch, eventually losing the game. When the White Sox heckled Moriarty as he walked off the field, he shouted back, "I'll fight the whole White Sox team!" The 47-year-old was promptly attacked by four White Sox, some scarcely half his age: Gaston, Charlie Berry, Frank Grube and player-manager Lew Fonseca. Moriarty sustained cuts, bruises and a broken hand, but fought them to a draw.
"Mr Moriarty must be slipping," New York World-Telegram columnist Joe Williams wrote. "I can remember when he used to take on whole ball clubs as a warm-up."
 Chicago Cubs players protest umpire George Moriarty's decision to call Phil Cavarretta out after an attempted steal second base during the sixth inning of the third game of the World Series against the Detroit Tigers at Wrigley Field, on October 4, 1935. From left, Billy Jurges, unidentified, Cavarretta, Augie Galan, unidentified, manager Charlie Grimm (in grey shirt, mostly obscured), Moriarty, Goose Goslin, Frank Demaree and Billy Herman. The Tigers went on to win the series by four games to two. 
Yet a 1935 poll of AL players conducted by The Sporting News named Moriarty "hands down" the best umpire in the league. That was the year Moriarty ejected three players from World Series play, without the prior approval of commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. In Game 3, he berated then booted the Cubs' Charlie Grimm, Tuck Stainback and Woody English for, among other things, excessive heckling of Hank Greenberg.

Babe Ruth, Seattle 1927
Once, while Moriarty was umpiring, Babe Ruth (above) stepped out of the batter's box and asked Moriarty to spell his last name. Ruth remarked, "Just as I thought; only one eye."
Long before taking up umpiring, the six-foot tall, 190 pounds Moriarty had been recognised as, “Fiery and temperamental on the playing field but friendly and reserved off it … one of the most colourful characters of the Deadball Era, gaining fame at various times as a third baseman, umpire, manager, poet, newspaper columnist and songwriter.
"Famed for his leadership abilities, penchant for brawling, a strong arm at third base, and an unparallelled knack for stealing home, Moriarty manned the hot corner for Detroit from 1909 through 1914 … [He] ‘was always likely to come through in the pinch’, Detroit sportswriter Joe S. Jackson wrote in 1915.
‘As a third baseman he had a wonderful whip and as a base runner he was daring, and especially dangerous after he had reached third base’.” Williams said, “[Moriarty] had that rare something in his makeup which produces leadership, that divine spark that invests mediocrity with might."
Moriarty died of kidney cancer at Coral Gables, Florida, on April 7, 1964. aged 79. He is buried in St Mary Catholic Cemetery in the south Chicago suburb of Evergreen Park. The headline over his Sporting News obituary read: "BATTLING MORIARTY - UMP WHO LOVED TO FIGHT." The Oliver typewriter had died long before him.
Did you know?: George Moriarty was the grandfather of actor and former Law & Order star Michael Moriarty, who played pitcher Henry Wiggen in the brilliant 1973 baseball movie Bang the Drum Slowly.
Did you know?: There was a team called the Ilion Typewriters which played in the New York State League in 1902. One of its players was James Dean.
Did you know?: The first Australian-born player to play Major League Baseball was Joseph J. Quinn, born in Sydney on Christmas Day 1864. Quinn, a second baseman, played 17 seasons in the majors, starting in 1884 with the Union Association's St Louis Maroons. Quinn also had two stints as a big league manager, with the St Louis Browns in 1895 and the Cleveland Spiders in 1899, considered to have been the worst team in major league history. In the off-season, Quinn was a mortician. It was another 102 years, until 1986, before another Australian entered the majors.
Did you know?: Typewriter-wielding author Paul Auster, who has many baseball references in his works, wanted to be a pro baseballer – like Moriarty, as a third baseman. Asked once, “When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?”, Auster replied, “About a year after I understood that I wasn’t going to be a Major League baseball player. Until I was about 16, baseball was probably the most important thing in my life.
“If I’d stuck with it, I might have made it to the low minor leagues. I could hit well, with occasional bursts of power, but I wasn’t a very fast runner. At third base, which was the position I usually played, I had quick reflexes and a strong arm — but my throws were often wild.”
Did you know?: Ronald Todd “Typewriter” Mingo claimed in 1975 to have set a Guinness Book of World Records record for speed typing at 160 words a minute. He also played minor league baseball for three seasons between 1966-70, for Idaho Falls Angels, Quad Cities Angels and Danville Warriors. Mingo was a high school typing teacher in Oakland, California, and was also MC Hammer's high school baseball coach.

You see can see footage of Mingo’s typing on a 1980 NBC TV show, Real People, at
Did you know?: James Anthony Abbott was a former Major League player who played despite having been born without a right hand. He played for the California Angels, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers from 1989 to 1999. While with the University of Michigan, Abbott won the James E.Sullivan Award as the nation's best amateur athlete in 1987 and won a gold medal in the demonstration event at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. Jim Abbott also mastered one-handed typing on a typewriter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can anybody give me a lead on the educational film mentioned in the article called " Take me out to the ball game " ? thanks