Memories of Black Sox Haunt Him, But Gleason Carries On

Westbrook Pegler

Chicago Tribune/October 3, 1929

The old party who steps out on the ball field with a little toothpick hat d hits grounders to the infield of the Athletics for an hour every day, weather permitting, from February in Florida until the season ends in the fall.

It seems strange that such a waggish redoubtable old campaigner, a man among all kinds of men, should have gone all to smash over the corruption of a gang of ball players who certainly weren’t fit subjects for sentimental hysterics. But, Kid Gleason was the manager of the White Sox of 1919 who sold him out in the world series against the Reds. Some of the fellows who went wrong had been open mouthed yokels with the native grace and knack for baseball, whom he had picked up here and there, as recruits and he had come to think of them as belonging to him and himself to them. When they went wrong, the Kid went blooie.

The Kid Wouldn’t Admit it to Himself

On a rainy Sunday afternoon in Chicago while that world series was going on, the Kid sat in his office at the ball park talking over the crazy progress of events to date. In another room close by, a crowd of politicians and other front runners were washing down rich delicatessen set out on a groaning table by Charlie Comiskey with bourbon high balls from Charlie’s private cellars and braying some discordant doggerel that some dipsomaniac had composed as the hymn of the White Sox.

“I don’t know what’s the matter,” the old Kid said, gloomily. “But I know my club isn’t playing ball, and the best club is losing this world series.”

As a matter of fact, the Kid knew all right, but he had no proof. He had seen his men playing out of position. He had seen Eddie Cicotte run over and pick off a throw for the plate which would have cut off a runner with a score. The Kid knew but the idea was so fantastic to him that he wouldn’t admit to himself that what he know could happen to his ball club—even though the crowds in the saloons were singing “I’m forever throwing ball games.”

The next year. the evidence became stronger. During a series with the Yankees at the Polo grounds, his nerves suddenly jangled and two of the men who had done this to him, helped him to the club house and into a cab tor the hotel. But he was very tough. He had played with the old Orioles. There were three of them left, managing major league teams—himself, McGraw and Wilbert Robinson. He went through the final expose late in the 1920 season. His club was leading the league, and could have walked in backward, but in one day the team was destroyed, and Cleveland came up to head him off.

The Kid held on until 1923. Then he collapsed. He went to his home in Philadelphia. He wouldn’t eat, he wouldn’t see his friends, he couldn’t sit still, he couldn’t lie down, he hadn’t the strength to stand, he couldn’t endure company, and he was afraid to be alone. He was in what he now describes as one hell of a fix, by and large.

In the fall of 1924, after an eclipse of two years, the old timer bobbed up in Pittsburgh for the world series and Connie Mack asked him to go with the Athletics as coach. But the Kid was thirty pounds off his weight and generally unhealthy and he only said he’d see how he felt in the spring.

That was the spring when Joe Hauser, the A’s star first baseman, was taking his first few sensitive steps on his mending knee-cap which had been wired into place after a bad fracture. Connie Mack left the Kid in Philadelphia to work on and gave him confidence, while the team went south to train. The Kid was only a convalescent, good for not more than ten minutes a day with a fungo stick. He made Hauser run backward wearing spikes.

“Running backward. with spikes on. you lift your feet higher than you do running forward,” he explained. “I want you to work that knee.”

Hauser ran backward. No man ever ran backward as far or as fast as Joe Hauser ran with Kid Gleason urging him on, until Gene Tunney came along to break all previous records in the maneuver of advancing to the rear.

Has Batted an Hour a Day Since 1925.

As the club swung into the 1925 season the Kid lengthened his daily period of batting to infield practice. In a couple of months he was able to hit for an hour. He has hit for an hour every day in season since. And at his age, too. His age is a sensitive matter. Sixty, I’d say, for his is hair is white, what little he has, and his face is wrinkled, but his eyes are clear and his skin clear and he walks with a cocky swagger.

The Kid and his repartee, which is rugged and sharp, have been done into American literature in Ring Lardner’s series on Jack Keefe—“You Know Me Al.” He is old school and thinks the old baseball writers were best, but he is politic enough to say that the A’s of 1929 are second to no ballclub he ever saw. But, if you put his hand on the Book, he’d confess that the White Sox of 1919 were the champions of all time to him.

“We never had no fightin’ on that club,” says the Kid.

(Source: Chicago Tribune Archives,