Kid Elberfeld's Influence - Connie Mack

Source: Amazon Online Books

The Worst Call Ever!: The Most Infamous Calls Ever Blown by Referees, Umpires, and Other Blind Officials

Kyle Garlett, Patrick O'neal

Connie Mack's Malaise

September 30, 1907: Tigers at Athletics

NOTE: The fight between Elberfeld and O'Loughlin took place September 3rd, 1906. The second game described was on Sept 30. 1907

In a little-known incident during the first game of a doubleheader between the New York Highlanders (they became the Yankees in 1913) and Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics on September 3, 1906, umpire Silk O'Loughlin, who would work the first of thirty-one career World Series games later that fall, was physically assaulted by the Highlanders' Kid Elberfeld to the point that police had to forcibly remove the shortstop from the field. New York won the game, 4-3.

In the second game, a disputed collision between New York's Willie Keeler and Philadelphia shortstop Lave Cross allowed two Highlander runners to come around and score. O'Loughlin, on edge and a little shell shocked from his earlier fight with Elberfeld, ruled unequivocally that there was no interference on the play. And when Philadelphia captain Harry Davis got a little too animated during his argument over the questionable call, O'Loughlin declared the game a forfeit in New York's favor, handing them the doubleheader sweep.

Fast fowarding twelve months, once again the umpire was O'Loughlin, and he was again working an important late-season game involving Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics. This time the Detroit Tigers were in town for a critical series involving the American League'• top two teams.

After a 5-4 Detroit win on Friday, a rainout on Saturday, and the mandatory day off on Sunday (can you imagine a time when Sunday was sports-free intentionally?), the Ns and Tigers prepared to play two games on the final Monday of the regular season. For Philadelphia, the year would end that coming Saturday at the Washington Senators.

Game one of the twin bill was exactly what The Net' York Times had predicted it to be: "The greatest struggle in the history of baseball." With an overflow crowd packed to the rafters of Philadelphia's Columbia Park, and said to be fifteen fans deep along the outfield ropes, the Ns jumped out to a hometown- delighting early 7-1 lead. But the Tigers battled back, and in the bottom of the ninth, trailing 8-6, future Hall of Famer Ty Cobb tied things up off future Hall of Fame pitcher Rube Waddell with a 2-run homer to right field.

After an uneventful 10th inning, a run across for each side in the 11th, and scoreless at bats in the 12th and 13th, the Ns looked to have their chance to finally win it in the bottom of the 14th when Harry Davis (the same Harry Davis who'd argued with O'Loughlin causing a forfeit a year earlier) drove a fly ball into the crowd in left-center field that would ordinarily have been called a ground-rule double. But as Tigers centerfielder Sam Crawford ran over to the edge of the crowd, a policeman, who'd been sitting along the rope line on an overturned soda crate, stood up, prompting Detroit to cry foul and call for interference.

The A's contended that the officer was simply trying to get out of Crawford's way. And Mack alleged that O'Loughlin, who was umpiring behind the plate that day, acknowledged his agreement by remarking to on-deck batter Topsy Hartsel, "What are [the Tigers] arguing about? I saw no interference." Base umpire Tommy Connolly claimed, however, that he did see the interference. And after the two umpires conferred for a few minutes—minutes filled with arguments in the stands and a fight on the field between the two teams (started by Cobb, of course) - O'Loughlin turned to Mack and the As bench and called Davis out.

The already angry A's could barely contain their rage, exploding at O'Loughlin and accusing him of conspiracy beyond incompetence. Even the normally reserved Mack got into the heated argument, a vigorous protest that fell on deaf ears but managed to increase in intensity when the next batter up, Danny Murphy, stroked a single that would have easily sent Davis home with the winning run.

Instead, the two teams played three more scoreless innings before O'Loughlin ended the battle in a 9-9 tie and canceled the second game because of darkness. Unable to record the win they rightfully deserved, or get an opportunity to take the second half of the doubleheader, the Athletics finished the week, and the season, 1 1/2 games behind the pennant-winning Tigers.

At the time of the dispute Mack told reporters, "If ever there was such a thing as crooked baseball, today's game would stand as a good example " Forty years later, nearing the end of a Hall of Fame career that resulted in five World Series titles and more than 3,700 wins, the "Grand Old Man of Baseball" - who sported his trademark fedora while managing for a Major League record 53 years - was still angry about 1907, recounting to reporters, "We could have won [the pennant] if Silk O'Loughlin hadn't called that decision against us."