Friday, November 28, 2014

Rifleman custom card added to TV Westerns

With the creation of this card based on The Rifleman television series of 1958-63, I've expanded into my third addition to the original Topps 1958 TV Westerns bubblegum card issue. (My Maverick cards were featured on the blog on Aug. 13, and Rawhide cards were presented on Sept. 28.)

The Rifleman is one of the few classic TV westerns that is currently (as of late 2014) being shown in reruns regularly on cable; Saturday mornings on AMC.

I'm not going to say too much about the television show, itself. There is plenty of readily available information on the internet. One recommended site is the "Official" web site of the series, at

I can tell you why I chose to make this custom card. I've always been a fan of Chuck Connors; moreso since I met him at the National Sports Collectors Convention in 1985.

A couple of years earlier, one of my contributors at SCD, Paul Green, had worked up a profile of Connors and conducted a Q-and-A session for the paper. The article heavily leaned toward Connors' career in professional baseball: One game with the 1949 Brooklyn Dodgers and 66 games in 1951 as a Chicago Cub, plus more than 950 games in the minor leagues in 1940, 1942, 1946-52.

As we were setting up our booth at the Anaheim National, a tall, well-built fellow, whom I instantly recognized, strode up to me, shook my hand and introduced himself as Chuck Connors.

He wanted to thank me for publishing that interview and, parenthetically, for kick-starting a secondary "career" as an autograph guest at Southern California card shows. Connors didn't do card shows for the money, obviously, but rather because he really seemed to enjoy interacting with fans both baseball fans and Hollywood fans.

When he invited me for a drink, I left the booth set up to my minions and we adjourned to one of the bars at the Disneyland Hotel. We probably talked for two hours.

I listened to great stories of his days in pro ball. I got a real feel for the frustration he suffered in going to spring training with the Dodgers every year in the late 1940s, only to be sent out to Montreal or Mobile  when the season started, where he'd regularly hit around .300 with nearly 20 home runs.  He summarized his lack of success in breaking into the Brooklyn squad by saying he'd had "Gil Hodges stuck up my ass all that time."

We also talked about  his acting career. I was particularly interested in a new project that he had just signed on for. He was going to play Capt. Jonas Skorzeny, an evil lycanthrope, in a series that eventually aired for some 30 episodes in 1987-88 as Werewolf.

Our conversation came to an end when it was time for him to participate in a card-flipping contest. If I recall correctly, he lost in the celebrity division finals to Bob Feller. 

At the 1985 National Convention in Anaheim, Chuck
Connors stands by while Bob Feller makes his throw.

Not long after I returned to Wisconsin from the show, I received an envelope with a handful of autographed 8x10 photos from Connors. We corresponded a time or two prior to his passing in 1992.

My Rifleman custom card focuses on character Lucas McCain's "gimmick gun." Many of the TV westerns of that era featured some sort of signature weapon wielded by the star. Wyatt Earp had his Buntline Special, Johnny Yuma had his double-barreled sawed-off shotgun, Josh Randall his cut-down Winchester, etc.

Lucas McCain had a tricked-out Winchester Model 1892 saddle-ring carbine. Viewers were expected to suspend disbelief that a character in a series set in the 1880s in New Mexico Territory was sporting a rifle that wouldn't be invented for a dozen years.

The Winchester had a 20" barrel and a capacity of 15 rounds of .44-40 ammunition. A modified reverse-D lever had a set-screw that could be deployed to make the rifle fire without pulling the trigger, allowing McCain to get off a string of rapid-fire hip shots.

Viewers also had to suspend disbelief that a rifle could be fired in that fashion with any degree of accuracy. 

According to what I've seen on the internet, there were five rifles used in the series. Several of them have made their way into the gun collectors' market, where they have fetched good prices at auction. 

This may be the only Rifleman custom card I'll make. Good color photos relative to the show are not plentiful. This surely will not be the last time Chuck Connors appears on one of my custom cards, however. Some day I'll work up a baseball card or two.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Is that name too ghetto for the Fortune 500?

Regular followers of my blog probably realize that my typical reader is a male baby boomer.

I'm going to step away from that target demographic this time to address a decidedly different audience -- soon-to-be baby mamas.

I want to plead with you that when the time comes to name your boy child, that you consider the long-term consequences of saddling him with a name that is too far out of the mainstream of contemporary American culture.

Sure, giving your baby a unique name might show the other girls in home room how clever you are when you pass around his picture on your Obama-phone. But please, look 20 years down the road.

Recently I've read of several studies conducted in which nearly-identical resumes were submitted to companies in response to job openings. The only difference in the resumes was in the names of the fictitious applicants.

The studies showed a remarkable difference in the selection of those who were invited for interviews or other second steps in the hiring process. Overwhelmingly, resumes of candidates with "normal" contemporary American names were shown preference versus those resumes on which the name was one which most people -- at least the people who make hiring decisions -- would perceive as "ethnic" in origins.

Unfair? Yes. Racist? Sure. Reality? You bet.

But please give this matter some serious thought. The "wrong" name at the top of a resume seems to insure that it never makes it out of the slush pile.

The following caveats are all related only to male first names. Surnames like Ramirez, Washington, Al-Mustafa, etc., are also likely to prompt an immediate rejection in today's business/corporate culture but to an extent, short of going to court to make a change, a person is stuck with his patronym.

And don't get me started on female first names . . . 

So here's ol' Uncle Bob's baby-naming tips to give your son a leg up when he goes job-hunting in 20-25 years.

That first name may be too ghetto:

  • if the name has the "shon" sound in it, and isn't "Sean" or "Shawn"
  • if the name ends in "us" or, especially, "ius," and it isn't shared with one of the 12 Caesars or 266 Popes
  • if the name has four or more syllables and is not found in the Old Testament.
  • if the name has an apostrophe
  • if the name has a "q" anywhere except the first letter
  • if, upon being introduced, the name has to be spelled or pronounced more than once
  • if the Scrabble-tiles total value of the name is more than 21
  • if the name starts with "Da" or "De" and the next letter is capitalized
  • if the name can’t be found on the revolving rack of miniature souvenir license plates at the truck stop/tourist trap/gift shop

If you were the unfortunate victim of first-name child abuse and are now having difficulty getting a foot in the door of corporate America, remember: there's no law against putting a different version of your first name on your resume (i.e., Da'Andre = Daniel), or even a completely different first name. "The Man" doesn't have to know the truth until after you've been hired and have to fill out HR paperwork. Then it's too late to renege on the job offer without landing in Federal court.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dubuc escaped wrath of Judge Landis, Part 3

(Continued from yesterday)

           Rumors abounded in the 1923 pre-season that Dubuc would not return to Syracuse. He was said to be planning to join an expansion Ottawa team in the Eastern Canada League as stockholder-manager-pitcher. Another story had him taking the helm of a Syracuse farm club at Williamsport in the newly formed New York-Pennsylvania League.
          Syracuse's new president, Philip Bartelme, quashed all the rumors, however, by affirming Dubuc's place on the Stars roster. The executive called Dubuc, "a handy man to have around, as he can pitch, play the infield or outfield in an emergency and best of all can hit when a hit is needed." Unfortunately, Dubuc's hitting fell off considerably in 1923, dropping 114 points to .237.
          Dubuc did have an excellent, though injury-shortened, record on the mound for Syracuse in 1923. He went 5-2 with a 2.81 ERA. In June he was hit on the right arm in a game with Jersey City. He played the next three games but then went to the dcotor where he learned the arm had been broken. Dubuc was out of action from June 19 through July 29, spending part of his rehabilitation time in Canada on a scouting expedition to shore up the pitching staff.
          In 1924 the prediction that Dubuc would move to Ottawa proved accurate. The Eastern Canada League added a pair of Vermont teams and reorganized as the Quebec-Ontario-Vermont League. Jean Dubuc was able to purchase his release from Syracuse by re-paying his original signing bonus and joined the league as president and manager of the Ottawa-Hull team. To escape local blue laws, the Ottawa teams had for years played their Sunday home games across the river in Hull.
          Ottawa baseball writer M.J. Moloughney predicted Dubuc, whom he desribed as a "French-Canadian" would "receive a good welcome in this city. He will pitch and play the outfield for the local aggregation, and should just about burn up the league in both departments."
          The league consisted of two teams in Montreal, the Royals and Canadiens, the Quebec Bulldogs, the Ottawa Senators, and in Vermont, the Rutland Sheiks and the Montpelier Goldfish. The U.S. teams were unable to finish out the month of July. Neither was Dubuc. He was again disabled when his thumb was broken by a pitched ball in early July. He was able to pinch-hit and play some in the outfield for the remainder of the season, but his team ended the season in last place. Dubuc's pitching record for Ottawa was 2-2 on a 4.24 ERA. He had pitched in seven games and appeared 29 times in the outfield. He hit .286 for the year. The Q-O-V season had been set to run through Sept. 14, but closed after Labor Day. The league disbanded following the 1924 season.
          Dubuc returned to semi-pro ball for 1925, managing the Manchester, N.H., team in the Boston Twilight League. The following year Manchester joined the revived New England League and Dubuc was once again back in Organized Baseball.
          The Class B league consisted of teams in Manchester and Nashua, N.H., Lewiston and Portland in Maine, and the Massachusetts cities of Lynn, Salem, Haverhill and Lawrence. Dubuc's home base was considered the class of the league. Textile Field was described as the equal of any Class B facility in baseball. Its modern concrete and steel grandstand seated 2,900 fans, while an additional 2,000+ could be accomodated in the bleachers. An electric scoreboard allowed the fans to follow every ball and strike.
          Dubuc's 1926 Blue Sox won the premiere season's pennant. He had a 2-2 record and an ERA of 4.24. If he played any other positions in the field, it was not enough to be reported in the official records. He hit .311 for the season.
          In the spring of 1927 it was announced that Dubuc had accepted the position of baseball coach at Brown University. It was expected he would return to Manchester when the college season was over. Instead, Dubuc was reported to have accepted charge of a team in the independent Blackstone Valley League.
          In the off-seasons, Dubuc maintained an active interest in pro hockey. For many years he managed the Rhode Island Reds hockey team at Providence in the American Hockey League. His team made the playoffs for 12 straight years and won five championships.
          In 1928, Dubuc received an offer to return to major league baseball, as a scout for Detroit.
          In a letter dated Jan. 11, Frank Navin made this proposition, "Am going to let Charles Moran out as our representative in the east and I am offering you the position with us as Eastern representative. The position requires that you be on the look-out for us at all times during the year and if you care to you can work actively during the months of July and August when you are through with your college duties. We paid Mr. Moran $1,200 for the season and understood that if he picked up someone that was promising and of any use to us, he would get a suitable bonus in addition to his regular salary. But he never picked up anyone of any account to us so all he got was $1,200 and his expenses. The expenses to cover the time he was traveling for us during July and August. If this kind of a proposition interests you would like to have you advise me."
          Dubuc was interested in the scouting job and it paid big dividends for the Tigers when Dubuc landed Hank Greenberg from under the noses of the New York Yankees. According to what was supposed to have been a humorous account published in 1935, Yankees scout Paul Krichell "had Greenberg all sewed up and set for signing with the Yanks after having eaten Yiddish food at the Greenberg house for over a year to get in the family's good graces.
          "Then in stepped Jean Dubuc, Detroit scout, who called at Hank's house, bringing along his own ham sandwich, and signed up Hank right under the very shadow of the Yankee Stadium."
          The account continued, "Whenever Hank hits a home run Krichell has chills and fever, high blood pressure, water on both knees and a recurrence of the Slobodka Halitosis, which is a rare form, superinduced by eating fetulte miltz, gedumfte brust, gehachte laber and other Yiddish dishes. From that day to this, Paul gets mal de mer every time he gazes upon the corpse of a herring."
          In fact, Dubuc apparently got Greenberg the old-fashioned way -- by offering him more money. According to Greenberg's 1989 biography, The Story of My Life, Dubuc paid him a $6,000 signing bonus with the promise of $3,000 additional when he reported to the Tigers. Just out of high school, Dubuc got Greenberg a spot on the East Douglas, Mass., team in the Blackstone Valley League. "I think he found me the job because he wanted to hide me away from the other scouts in the New York area," Greenberg said.
          Under the terms of the contract signed with Dubuc and the Tigers, Greenberg was allowed to attend N.Y.U., but he quit school after one term to report to Detroit, pick-up his bonus and begin his Hall of Fame slugging career.
          Dubuc's brother Arthur purchased the Nashua, N.H., team in the New England League in 1929, though Jean apparently did not get involved, except perhaps as an investor.
          In spring training 1930, Dubuc put on the Detroit uniform once again, as pitching coach for manager Bucky Harris. Ironically, another of the Tigers coaches that season was Roger Bresnahan. Dubuc remained with Detroit as a coach through the 1931 season.
          In 1934 he was reported back in minor league ball as part-owner and manager of the New Bedford team in the Northeastern League. He returned to Brown University as baseball coach for another three-year term in the mid-1930s, according to an obituary.
          About the same time Dubuc became a salesman for the Braden-Sutphin Ink Co., a position he held for 20 years prior to retiring on the company's farm at Ft. Myers, Fla.
          In December of 1955, Dubuc -- already suffering from heart disease -- had a stroke from which he only partially recovered. His wife died in March, 1956.
          Later that year, a friend of Dubuc's wrote a letter which was published in Joe Barnea's "Barnstorming" column in the Manchester Union Leader, reporting on Dubuc's condition and soliciting letters and cards from well-wishers. While Dubuc was apparently financially sound, the stroke had left him unable to speak or write. "So you see," his friend wrote, "he is cut off from the world in so many ways and if you could drop a hint to his buddies that he'd appreciate hearing from them, you'd be doing him a real favor. He is gradually recovering his strength," the report continued, "and he is now able to get around without a great deal of difficulty. He reads the papers, watches television and the movies and, of course, is interested in baseball, as it was such a part of his life. He was able to watch the World Series games on television and was really excited about the perfect game pitched by Don Larsen of the Yankees."
          Dubuc himself was apparently the type of man who thought of others in times of ill health. The National Baseball Library has a letter from his 1918 Red Sox teammate Babe Ruth to Dubuc, dated Feb. 5, 1947, when the Bambino was dying of cancer. It reads, "Thanks so much for your kind wishes and most amusing get well card. I did not know I had so many thoughtful and sincere friends, and believe me it's messages like yours that have done so much to cheer me up during these long hours here at the hospital."
          Following three years of ill health, Dubuc died on Aug. 28, 1958, at the age of 70. He was interred in the Ft. Myers Memorial Gardens.
          Whether by luck or design, Dubuc was able to evade the wrath of baseball officialdom during the witchhunt that followed the Black Sox scandal. Available evidence indicates Dubuc engaged in activities that were no more than commonplace among the players of his era. Because Landis and his posse made only a token attempt to remove from the game all persons who had "guilty knowledge" of the fix, it was fortunate that Jean Dubuc was able to return and contribute to Organized Baseball. Others, no more culpable that Dubuc were not so fortunate.

Between 1910-1919, Dubuc appeared in all three series of
Coupon cigarettes tobacco cards (T213). He was always
pictured in the Cincinnati road uniform. In 1910 Type 1
His team designation is Cincinnati. In Type 2, 1914-16
his team is shown Detroit. In 1919 Type 3 his team
designation is "N.Y. Nat."

(Editor's note: Another account of the life and career of Jean Dubuc can be found in the SABR BioProject, authored by Tom Simon and Guy Waterman. It can be found at )

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)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Dubuc escaped wrath of Judge Landis, Part 1

Jean Dubuc's most ubiquitous baseball card appears
           in the tobacco card set known as T206, issued 1909-11
with many different cigarette brands.

(Editor's note: This feature updates an article that I wrote for Sports Collectors Digest circa 1993.)

Nearly every baseball fan and collector is familiar with the "Eight Men Out," the Chicago White Sox players banned from Organized Baseball for fixing the 1919 World Series. Fewer know that baseball's investigation of that scandal and other gambling in the majors and minors resulted in a significant number of other players being thrown out.
          In his efforts to clean up the national pastime, newly ensconced baseball czar Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis threw his net far and wide to rid the game of ballplayers with questionable ethical standards.
          One player -- as guilty as many of those who were banned for life -- escaped the full force of Landis' wrath by hiding out in Canada for a year. When things cooled down, he was able to return to the minor leagues and continue a long and distinguished career in professional sports.
          The "crime" of Jean Dubuc was not that he accepted bribe money or threw ballgames, but rather that he had advance knowledge of the 1919 World Series fix, and instead of blowing the whistle to baseball's hierarchy, he used the information to his personal profit by betting the right way. It was exactly the same charge on which other players were permanently barred, but by making himself scarce while the heat was on, Dubuc salvaged his career.
          While his ancestry was French Canadian, Dubuc (pronounced like the city, Dubuque) was born in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, near the New Hampshire border and less than 50 miles south of Canada, in 1888.
          There are conflicting accounts of Dubuc's school days. Some say he was raised in Nashua, N.H., where at age 13 he weighed 175 pounds and was already showing promise as a pitcher for that city's Indian Head team. His obituary in The Sporting News indicated he attended St. Michael's high school in Winooski, Vt., where he once defeated the University of Vermont team. He is variously reported to have attended Holy Cross College at Worcester, Mass., Fordham in New York and an unnamed theological seminary in Montreal where he is supposed to have studied for the priesthood. Undisputed is the fact that he graduated from Notre Dame in 1908 with a collegiate pitching record that some sources put at 17-1. Among his teammates at Notre Dame were future major leaguers Bob Bescher, George Cutshaw, Bert Daniels, Cliff Curtis and Frank Scanlan.
          Not unusual in those days, Dubuc was immediately signed to a major league contract with the Cincinnati Reds. He made his major league debut in Chicago on June 25, 1908. In the middle of the fourth inning, Dubuc wrenched his knee and was removed from the game. In 3-1/3 innings he had given up five hits and five walks, striking out one. He'd been 0-for-1 at the plate. Dubuc was charged with the 7-0 loss. (Dubuc was relieved by another college boy making his major league debut, Bert Sincock of the University of Michigan. Sincock finished that game and never threw another ball in the big leagues.)
           Dubuc's knee recovered sufficiently for him to appear in a relief role on July 12. He pitched his first complete game on Sept. 3, a 3-1 loss to the Pirates.
          His next start came back in Chicago on Sept. 7 when manager John Ganzel handed him the ball for the first game of the traditional Labor Day doubleheader. "Well, they threw the hooks into me here before," he told the skipper. "This time I may do a little hook-throwing myself, and if I do, I will turn them around after I get them in." Dubuc pitched a 6-0 shutout that went into the books as a two-hitter because of the scorer's charitable interpretation of a misplay by Reds second baseman Hans Lobert. Dubuc's batterymate George Schlei said after the game, "It's a shame because it would have been quite a nice thing for Dubuc to have a one-hit game to his credit against the world's champions. I don't see how they can figure that easy one of Evers' as a hit."
          Dubuc finished the 1908 season with a 5-6 record for the fifth-place Reds, despite an ERA of only 2.74.
          He remained on the Reds roster for 1909, used mainly out of the bullpen and as a spot starter. He had a record of 3-5 on a 3.66 ERA. Under today's rules he would have been credited with a pair of saves.
          In the spring of 1910, Dubuc was sold to Buffalo in the Eastern League for $1,000. The Sporting Life commented, "No one knew why Dubuc was carried all of last season, but at the same time it was figured that he would hold his job another year. Nothing doing. Dubuc, with steady work on a team that can afford to lose some games in the pitching department, ought to develop into a winner. But conditions were such with the Reds that he couldn't be used often and when he was used he didn't look so good."
          In July of 1910, due to a personality conflict with manager George Stallings, Dubuc was sold to Montreal. His combined record for the season was 9-13. Shortly after the season's close, Dubuc was diagnosed with typhoid fever and became seriously ill.
          His recovery was complete, however, and in 1911 he went on to win 21 games for Montreal, despite walking 114 batters, the fourth-highest total in the Eastern League. At one point in early August he had won 10 straight games, the last of which was viewed by no fewer than 15 big league scouts. Montreal magnate Ed Barrow put a $10,000 price tag on the young pitcher and reportedly turned down several offers of $5,000. In September, however, the Detroit Tigers were able to acquire Dubuc for the $1,500 draft price.
          Dubuc did not immediately jump at the opportunity to become a Bengal. He sent back the Tigers' first contract with the following letter now in the archives of the National Baseball Library at Cooperstown. So seldom is such original material available from that era, that it is appropriate to reprint the letter in its entirety, with some minor editing for corrections and clarity. Addressed to Detroit's president, Frank Navin, Dubuc wrote on Jan. 20, "Have just returned from Boston this morning and found your letter and contract awaiting my arrival but I am sorry to say that I am obliged to send the latter back unsigned.
          "You will, no doubt exclaim, 'Another case of hold out,' which is not the object of this letter. I just wish to make you a proposition. You probably already know I am in business here (Dubuc owned a pool hall in Montreal), and that the signing of a Detroit contract would keep me away from it for seven months at least; a long time to be absent considering that four and a half of those are the most busy ones.
          "Now you state in your letter that I received $350 a month for playing here last season, but make no mention of the $400 bonus I received at the close of the season for winning over twenty of my games, which netted me $2,196.68 for a five-month season. On the other hand you sent me a contract which calls for $2,250 for seven months during which I will be obliged to get a good reliable man at a big salary to replace me here. Do you honestly believe that I would be justified in leaving for two months longer and have the worry of my place for a raise in salary of $53.32?
          "Understand me. I do not wish to compete with you on this subject, for I know you can put a thousand like myself out of Base Ball if you so desired; however I do want you to give me an even break and a fair chance.
          "I am young and just started in business and wish to make good in all my undertakings and, under the circumstances, I would rather play in this league rather than leave here for seven months. Now here is just how I stand and as I am always truthful and honest in my dealings, I will lay down my hand open to you knowing you hold the stronger and can raise or call according to your wish; but I want you to consider my position first of all.

          "I am willing to join Detroit for $2,800 or buy my own release for $1,500. I have not much money but would be willing to give you that amount if satisfactory to you. On the other hand, if you wish me to play in Detroit I will go satisfied for the $2,800 which is just an increase of 25% over what I received last year and would enable me to pay a man to replace me here for a good enough salary to stop me from worrying during the playing season. Furthermore, if you have any doubts as to my earning that amount for you I will gamble another $500 with you that I make good. I would not write you this had I not had the experience I have had of big league playing and fell through my own fault. However, experience teaches.
           "I hope you will not misunderstand the meaning of this letter and as I said before I lay myself at your mercy. If you don't think you can afford to pay me $2,800 then I will be glad to pay you $1,500 for my release. If neither meets with your approval then I will be obliged to accept your verdict and remain here with my own interests.
          "I am just asking you a fair chance and I hope it will meet with your approval, and I am sure whichever way you decide you will be giving me a helping hand that you will never regret, if earnest endeavor and hard work will make me a winner for Detroit which I am pretty sure I will do.
          "Hoping this will meet with your approval and that I will receive an early reply, I remain, Yours truly."
          It's unknown what deal was finally struck, but Dubuc signed with the Tigers in March and went on have a strong 1912 season. He tied for the staff lead with 17 wins and led the Tigers' pitchers with a trio of saves.
          In late June the Sporting Life called him "the Tigers best bet in the pitching line." He'd developed a "wonderful change of pace that has made him a vastly improved hurler over what he was when (1909 Reds manager) Clark Griffith thought him unfit to associate with big leaguers and relegated him back to the minors." The paper continued, "He has a tantalizing slow ball, and also a nifty fast one. His delivery is perfect and one that deceives the batsman completely. He gives no inkling to the batter as to what he is about to dish up, as is the case with most pitchers, and this is his strong point. He winds up and grips the ball, to all appearances, exactly the same for every delivery, and this has the batter guessing all the time."
          Future Hall of Fame umpire Billy Evans went so far as to say that Dubuc's slow ball was the best he had ever seen.
          In mid-season, Dubuc went on an 11-game winning streak before being beaten by the Highlanders (Yankees) 5-4 on Aug. 15. Dubuc gave up five stolen bases in the first inning, and three more in the rest of that game. In recognition of his win streak the fans of Montreal sent him a $500 purse.
          By mid-September, however, Dubuc's salary wing was in trouble due to overwork. Because of injuries to the staff he'd been required to fill in between his regular starts when a reliever was needed. The pitcher was required to visit an osteopath for treatment of his forearm, which had swelled to what he described as "three times its natural size." There was no great pain, Dubuc reported, just an occasional twinge in the fingers of his right hand and a general feeling of uselessness of the arm.
          Even before the season closed, Dubuc began his campaign for another salary boost for the coming year. Apparently a crafty manipulator of the press for this purpose, Dubuc again cited his outside business interests as the reason he'd need a fat increase to return to the mound in 1913.
          A Sept. 19 article in The Sporting News said Dubuc "has been a valuable man and President Navin is willing to meet the demands of those who, he thinks, deserve consideration. It is probable that Jean will return to Detroit next spring a much higher paid man than he is now.
          "Dubuc owns a very profitable pool and billiard room and has a bowling alley in Montreal and he has an opportunity to get into a paying cafe business. He is in baseball because he believes it will pay him financially, so if he doesn't get what he wants he says that he'll quit the game. Besides the emoluments coming from his business in Montreal, Jean has some mining stock that is in the lucky column and is paying good dividends."
          In mid-November, Dubuc stepped up his salary drive with news that he had been offered a five-year tenure in Paris as baseball coach of the French Union team. The salary was reported to be $3,000 more than he was being offered by the Tigers. The pitcher told Sporting Life "he felt confident that Detroit would give him a satisfactory increase in salary, and that he rather preferred to remain on this side of the Atlantic."
          The Philadelphia North American speculated on the offer, "the probable motive being that he is one of the few diamond stars who could say, 'Work the corners, old boy,' 'Shoot 'em over,' 'Give us all you've got,' 'Try yer fast one' and 'You've got everything today, old fellow' in the language of the frog absorber."
           On Jan. 15, Dubuc formally rejected the Tigers $4,000 contract for the 1913 season. He was managing and playing on an all-star hockey team in Montreal and said he would quit baseball before he'd sign for less than $5,000. He claimed he had an offer to coach baseball at Notre Dame that spring.
          Navin fired back in the press. "Dubuc has been treated well by this club," he said. "A year ago he was a recruit who had failed once in the big leagues and we took a chance with him. He made good, and proved to be our winning pitcher. I will say that for him. The club gave him a nice boost in salary, and the contract we offered to him called for a salary which was almost double what he got two years ago in the International League."
          The Tigers' prexy continued, "Dubuc won 17 games for us last season and lost 10. While he was making his bid for a pitching record he also was a good attraction, but when his winning streak was broken his work fell off badly."
          Navin then pulled out the traditional poor-mouth plea of baseball owners of all eras, "The Detroit club is not a mint. We are now a second division team, and have lost much of our attraction on the road, as it is now three years since we were champions. It is absolutely necessary for us to economize in some way, and the salaries our stars are trying to get from us are entirely out of the question."
          The sides did come to terms, however, on what was apparently a long-term contract which prevented Dubuc's name from ever surfacing in the great Federal League baseball raids of 1914-15. Dubuc was chosen as the opening day pitcher for 1913, beginning another good season for Detroit, though the team again finished in sixth place. Dubuc led the Tigers staff with 15 wins and two saves. He also appeared 28 times as a pinch-hitter, though he batted only .107 in that role.
          In a barn-storming game following the 1913 season, Dubuc reinjured his knee. The damage was serious enough that Navin considered ordering him to report to Detroit for surgery. The pitcher was able to come back by spring training, taking a detour to Hot Springs to work out the wounded joint.

Dubuc was among 36 native Vermonters
in a 36-card set issued in 2000 by
the Vermont Historical Society.

(Continued tomorrow)