Linh’us’r: Too small for the uniform, too big for the box score

 

Just as it is today, the sight of a bunch of guys hanging out on a Philadelphia street corner was quite common in 1912. But while most fellas hanging on their favored corner would do nothing more that afternoon than talk about girls or sports, this particular group were about to become major league baseball players for a day.

The story of how a bunch of Philadelphia teenagers became instant big leaguers goes back to the afternoon of May 15, 1912, 107 miles away in New York City. The Detroit Tigers were in New York to play the Yankees at Hilltop Park. Ty Cobb, the best ballplayer in the American League, was a natural target for hecklers. One guy sitting in the third base stands was especially vocal. Claude Lucker (or Luecker) was a former printer who lost a hand and three fingers on his other hand in a press accident. He pushed Cobb into the red zone when he called the Georgia Peach one too many racial slurs. Egged on by his teammates, Cobb vaulted into the stands, kicking and beating the defenseless Lucker. When fans around him yelled that Lucker had no hands, Cobb supposedly screamed “I don’t care if he has no legs!” as he rained down blows on the now silenced heckler.

As would be expected, the American League suspended the slugger, but what was unexpected was that his teammates – most who cared for Cobb about as far as they could throw him – fully supported him and voted to go on strike unless he was reinstated. When the Tigers rolled into Philadelphia to begin their series against the defending World Champion Athletics, neither the league nor the striking players were willing to budge.

Tigers manager Hughie Jennings had a big problem: if he didn’t field a team that afternoon at Shibe Park, the game would be forfeited. In addition to a $5,000 fine, Detroit also faced the sobering possibility of their franchise charter being revoked by the league. Tigers owner Frank Navin instructed Jennings to recruit a replacement team in case the players stuck to their decision to strike.

Since there was no time to call up any minor league players Detroit held an option on, Jennings was forced to build a team from scratch. Because he was in Philadelphia and had no clue about the local talent, Jennings turned to his pal Joe Nolan, sportswriter for the Philadelphia Bulletin. Earlier that spring, Nolan had covered an exhibition game between the Philadelphia Athletics and the varsity squad from St. Joseph’s College. The collegians had topped the A’s 8-7 in that game, so Nolan went to see his contact person at St. Joe’s, Al Travers.

AL TRAVERS was a 20 year-old junior at St. Joseph’s, a talented violinist and aspiring actor. As far as baseball, Travers had failed to make his college’s team, but stayed around as the equipment manager. Although it’s not documented anywhere, I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that Nolan figured Travers would be able to simply grab the St. Joe’s varsity nine as a replacement team. In fact, most newspapers erroneously reported that it actually was the St. Joseph’s College team that was pressed into service that day. But since it was more than halfway through May, and the college was probably out for summer recess, the players scattered to the winds.

There are several versions of how Nolan approached Travers and charged him with assembling a team. One creatively fanciful but completely inaccurate article published in the Philadelphia Enquirer in 1995 paints the scene of 50 recruits being corralled in the lobby of a downtown hotel and made to stand at attention as Hughie Jennings fired questions such as “Have you ever hit a fastball, son?” at the aspirants until he selected 18 prospects. As screenplay-ready as that version is, all documented memories by the actual participants relate differing, though still Hollywood-esque scenarios.

In an interview with Red Smith conducted decades after the 1912 game, Al Travers tells of how Nolan contacted him around noon and told him to round up “as many players as I could find.” Travers then “went down to 23rd and Columbia where a bunch of fellows were standing around the corner.”

Writing to the Hall of Fame in 1975, one of the players tells it this way: “I was standing on a corner talking to Jim McGarr, Al Travers and others when a man came up who knew Al. He explained his mission.”

The last two versions, though slightly different, ring quite a bit truer than the 1995 Philadelphia Enquirer version. Travers then selected eight men and they quickly headed over to Shibe Park. At the park, Hughie Jennings explained that the men were to standby in the unlikely event the Tigers went through with their protest. Even if the players made good and refused to play, the replacements would probably suit up, take the field and the game would be called off. However, by 2 o’clock this seemed unlikely, as the entire Tigers team, Cobb included, had suited up and took the field for batting practice.

MEANWHILE, 16,000 fans filled the park for the Saturday game. Shortly after “Play Ball!” was shouted, umpire Ed Perrine spotted Cobb and waved him off the field. He left, as did the rest of the Tigers. The strike was on.

Jennings reluctantly made the call for his B-team and the replacements filed into the visiting clubhouse. Each man was instructed to sign an Official American League Player’s Contract for a salary of $25 and told to suit up in the unused Tigers road uniforms. Al Travers received a $50 contract because he claimed he could pitch. Tigers coaches Joe Sugden and Tom “Deacon” McGuire were both pressed to man key positions, Sugden at first and McGuire behind the plate.

According to some retellings, A’s manager and owner Connie Mack met with Jennings and convinced him to go ahead and play the game. Though this would mean the Tigers would avoid paying a hefty fine and taking an automatic loss, Jennings knew that his pick-up team would get murdered going up against the A’s juggernaut. Mack’s men were the defending World Champs, some say the greatest team ever assembled. The kindly Connie Mack told the Tigers manager that he would hold back his regulars and field his scrubs.

The real Tigers changed into their street clothes and sat in the stands. When the lineup cards were exchanged, Jennings discovered that Connie Mack had duped him – every position was manned by one of his regulars – including three future Hall of Famers.

THE GAME was a slaughter. The third baseman left the game early when a line drive slammed into his mouth, knocking out a handful of teeth. The center fielder reportedly got hit in the head with the fly ball he was trying to catch. At one point, a large group of fans stormed the box office demanding their money back, but were refused. A riot was feared but was somehow avoided.

Back on the field, Al Travers had nothing on the ball and the World Champions hit him at will. When he tried to throw his heater, Hall of Famer Frank “Home Run” Baker crushed it over the right field wall. Luckily for Travers, the 1912 rules meant it was called a foul ball because the ball curved foul after leaving the field. After the blast, Travers recalled that Sugden went to the mound and told him, “Do you want to get killed. Just throw your regular stuff. It ain’t good enough to hit.” Travers’ slow curves did seem to somewhat muffle the A’s bats, keeping the damage to just five hits. However, his fielders committed four errors, and the score was 6-0 Philly after four innings.

Then, in the top of the fifth, Sugden and McGuire hit back to back singles followed by a walk that loaded the bases. A’s catcher Jack Lapp tried to pick off the runner at first, but the throw went into right field, allowing Sugden and McGuire to score.

Now with the score a humbling 6-2, the A’s decided to pour it on. The big leaguers solved the problem of Travers baffling slow curves by bunting. Once on base, the A’s took advantage of the inexperienced infielders by stealing bases at their leisure. By the time the fifth was over, the score was a much more respectable 14-2. When the game mercifully ended the final score was 24-2.

AFTER THE GAME, Ty Cobb begged his teammates to end the strike, which they did. Each of the striking Tigers were fined $100 – $50 more than Cobb’s original fine for beating Claude Lucker back in New York! In their next game, Detroit fielded their normal lineup sans Cobb, who would return from his suspension on May 25th.

As for the replacements, Sugden and McGuire reverted back to coaches and the rest walked out of Shibe Park to became footnotes in baseball history. The nine Philly corner boys remained forgotten until the early 1930s when historical Major League records began to be professionally compiled, culminating in The Official Baseball Encyclopedia. Researchers Hy Turkin and S. C. Thompson began to dig into the bizarre May 18, 1912 game and found that with the exception of Sugden, McGuire and Jennings, no one knew anything about the replacements. Besides the fact that they were amateurs, research was compounded by several players using aliases, and many newspapers either got names wrong or replaced vowels with apostrophes in the box score.

A typical box score of the game looks like this:

With Sugden, McGuire and Jennings identified, nine players were left for Turkin and Thompson. As the pitcher of record, Al Travers received a bit of newspaper coverage after the game, supposedly earning a slap from his mom when his picture appeared in the paper with the caption “scab” beneath it. Travers, whose full name was Aloysius Joseph Travers, would never pitch another professional ballgame nor become a musician or actor. Instead, he became a Catholic priest and teacher; to this day, he is the only Catholic priest to pitch in the majors.

Maharg” was quickly ID’d as Billy Maharg, local lightweight fighter. He later became a trainer/chauffeur for the Phillies and would get into one other big league game in 1916, duplicating his 1912 debut by going 0 for 1. The next time he appeared in conjunction with the National Pastime was when he and pal Sleepy Bill Burns helped cobble together the fix of the 1919 World Series.

Although many newspapers reported that the replacements were the St. Joseph College varsity nine, “McGarr” and “M’Garvey” were the only college players. Jim McGarr and Dan McGarvey were former Georgetown College ballplayers and were 23 and 24 years-old respectively.

Irwin” was actually “Irvin,” first name Ed. A catcher for 5 minor league seasons and reportedly under contract at the time with the Phillies, Irvin was the sole replacement with pro experience. Irwin hit 2 triples in 3 at bats but struggled at 3rd base when the A’s began relentlessly bunting towards him. He replaced McGuire as catcher in the 7th and 8th innings. Irvin died four years later when he was thrown through a Philadelphia saloon window.

Smith” was the only one of the replacement Tigers to use an alias. The reason Smith, whose real name was John Coffey, used a fictitious name is lost to time, but may have been due to his not wanting to be known as a “scab.” The Philadelphia Enquirer neglected to use the alias but still misidentified him as “Coffee.” The 18 year-old went hitless in his only at bat.

The Tigers’ replacement shortstop has long been shrouded in mystery. “Meaney” or “Meany” was originally believed to have been 41 year-old Pat Meaney, making him noteworthy as the oldest rookie to play in MLB until Satchel Paige. Later it was uncovered that “Pat Meaney” was really Vincent Maney and only 25 in 1912. His one day as a Detroit Tiger yielded a walk and 2 strike outs.

Besides Irvin’s two triples, the only impressive play of the game was in the 2nd inning when right fielder Joseph “Hap” Ward made a spectacular one-handed catch, robbing Jack Barry of a sure hit.

And that brings us to Ty Cobb’s replacement in center field, “Linh’us’r.” This one eluded the intrepid Turkin and Thompson for almost two decades. Besides “Linh’us’r” as found in the Baltimore Sun, the center fielder’s name could also be found as “Lindh’er” (New York Times), “Linhauser” (Detroit Times), “Leinhauser” (Philadelphia Enquirer), “Leinhsr” (Pittsburgh Press) and “Leinhaussen” (Charlotte News). Of these, “Linhauser,” Leinhauser,” and “Leinhaussen” appeared to be actual names, but the Tigers center fielder for a day completely stumped The Official Baseball Encyclopedia co-authors until one day in 1947 when S. C. Thompson saw a headline in a Philadelphia paper that reported a police lieutenant named “Leinhauser” had made a prominent narcotics bust. Thompson tracked Lieutenant Leinhauser down through the Philly PD and put through a call.

“Are you any relation to the ‘Leinhauser’ who played for the Tigers in 1912?” he asked.

“I am he” came the answer. “I wore Ty Cobb’s uniform and it was much too big for me.”

FINALLY, “Linh’us’r” was revealed to be William Charles Leinhauser. In 1912, he was an 18 year-old sandlot player and accomplished welterweight boxer. At noon on May 18, he happened to be hanging out with Al Travers and Jim McGarr on the corner of 23rd and Columbia when Joe Nolan showed up, looking for ballplayers.

Though selected to replace the Georgia Peach in center, Leinhauser was no Ty Cobb, going 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts against the World Champs. Besides his failure at the plate, according to an article in the New York Times, Leinhauser also managed to get hit on the head by a fly ball. But since Leinhauser was one of the few replacements not to be charged with an error during the game, either the Times story was fake news, the scorer gave him a break or he was hit when the ball ricocheted off the outfield wall. If it did happen, Leinhauser could be forgiven since Travers was serving up gopher balls all afternoon, and the replacement Tigers were run ragged chasing flies. “I played all nine innings and did nothing but chase balls all over the place,” Leinhauser later recalled.

Cobb’s replacement never appeared in another professional ballgame, but he did go on to have a successful amateur boxing career. At 5’-10” and 150 pounds, Leinhauser fought as a welterweight under the name “Willie Klein.” He must have packed a devastating punch; barely a year before his sole big league game, Leinhauser was arrested for killing 35 year-old Charles Schorr. Schorr, who had been drinking, was riding on a trolley early one Sunday morning when he was accosted by a group of young men. According to witnesses, Leinhauser defended the inebriated man against the group, but after the two got off the trolley, Schorr inexplicably took a swing at Leinhauser, who countered with a single blow that knocked the older man down, causing him to strike his head on the ground and fracture his skull. Schorr died several hours later. Though no follow-up story was published, it can be assumed witness testimony exonerated the 17 year-old from any charges.

IN THE YEARS following the infamous ballgame, Leinhauser boxed as Willie Klein and worked as a chauffeur, married Margaret Cope and had a son named William. He enlisted in the army during World War I and went to France with an anti-aircraft machine gun battalion. One wild local North Philly legend had Sergeant Leinhauser going “over the top” against the Germans wearing Ty Cobb’s jersey underneath his doughboy uniform.
Returning home in 1919, Leinhauser joined the Philadelphia Police Department, quickly rising through the ranks and making detective. In 1934, Leinhauser made headlines up and down the Mid-Atlantic when he captured Eddie Adamski, a safecracker and burglar, who had escaped from a New Jersey jail. Through patient sleuthing, Sergeant of Detectives Leinhauser learned of Adamski’s girlfriend and staked out her place until the love-starved Adamski showed up for some action. Leinhauser’s arrest prompted Adamski to turn state’s evidence because he had the goods on one of the more heinous crimes of the era–the murder of business executive Bradway Brown. The senseless crime had baffled police and private sleuths for more than a year before Leinhauser’s interrogation of Adamski busted the case wide open, culminating in the arrest of his partner Adam Szewczak, the man who actually pulled the trigger on Brown.

As head of the Philly PD’s narcotics squad from the 1930s on, Leinhauser was frequently in the papers at the center of prominent drug busts. It was one of those arrests that led to S. C. Thompson identifying the long lost replacement Tiger. Leinhauser later used the databases available to him as a cop to help Turkin and Thompson track down vital information on the other replacements so they could be accurately listed in their Official Encyclopedia when it was published in 1951. In 1959, after 41 years, 27 of those years as head of the narcotics squad, Bill Leinhauser retired as Captain of the North Central Detective Division.

“Linh’us’r,” Ty Cobb’s replacement for a day, passed away in 1978, aged 84, his name accurately preserved in every book and database of Major League statistics.

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This week’s story is Number 36 in a series of collectible booklets.

Each of the hand-numbered and signed 4 ¼” x 5 1/2″ booklets feature an 8 to 24 page story along with a colored art card attached to the inside back cover. These mini-books can be bought individually, thematically or collected as a never-ending set. In addition to the individual booklets, I envision there being themed sets, such as the series I did on Minor League Home Run Champions. You can order a Subscription to Season 3 as well. A year subscription includes a guaranteed regular 12 issues at a discounted price, plus at least one extra Subscriber Special Issue. Each subscription will begin with Booklet Number 030 and will be active through December of 2021. Booklets 1-29 can be purchased as a group, too.

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