Monday, October 5, 2015

Old as Moses Monday - Andy "Don't Touch My Hat" Coakley

*I bet you can figure out the concept of this feature; it shines the spotlight on Cubs players from baseball's ancient history that have found their way into my CATRC. We're talking pre-WWI here!*

Andy Coakley was lucky enough to be a member of the (as of yet, fingers-crossed) last Cubs team to win the World Series in 1908.  He wasn't there long; but, he definitely made his presence felt during his the stretch run.  However, it was his desire to be compensated for his efforts that kept him from continuing onward with the then Westsiders or any other ball club.

Coakley has quite an interesting story behind him.

He originally came up in 1902 with Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics, fresh off of completing his second year of studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts.  The 19-year old rookie went 21 in 3 starts for the A's with an ERA of 2.67 - not bad for a youngster.

Now, one has to wonder if there might have been some overlap with his MLB service time and his college studies.  For that 1902 season, Coakley played under the alias of Jack McAllister.  It appears as though Mr. Mack might have let Andy pull some double duty with his alma-mater's squad.

Coakley didn't start seeing regular action in the Bigs until the 1905 season - perhaps it was due to further eligibility snafus - when he burst onto the scene with an 18-8, 1.84 ERA season as the number two pitcher for the Philly AL club.  Unfortunately, Andy's breakout season would also be the one in which he punched his ticket out of town.

The ace of the Athletic's staff that season was HOF'er Rube Waddell, known for being a top-flight hurler on the mound and a first-class knucklehead off of it.  The former Cub had already ruin himself off a handful of clubs for his antics, including attempting to leave the mound in the middle of a game to chase a firetruck on it's way to a blaze.  He was something to deal with, that's for sure.

"Rube" Waddell definitely earned his nickname

That September, the A's had a comfy 7 game lead for the AL pennant.  While travelling back to Philly after a long road trip, Rube knocked Andy's straw hat right off of his head.  Though it was likely meant as a playful gesture, Coakley took offense to the childish act and engaged the man in fisticuffs.  How's that for some period appropriate terminology, eh?

Rube was injured in the scuffle and lost for the rest of the season.  The club very nearly blew their 7 game lead and then promptly lost the World Series to Christy Mathewson and the Giants in 5 games.  To top it all off, Coakley lost his only appearance in the Series in a 9-0 blow out.

To say the least, Connie Mack was a little peeved with Andy.

After his record dropped to 7-8 in 1906, Andy eventually lost his spot in the starting rotation and was then sent packing to the baseball hell that was Cincinnati.  Connie had definitely lost his patience with the young man.

The Cubs rescued Andy from the second-division Reds in September of 1908.  Needing another arm for the stretch drive of their epic battle with the Giants, Chicago still saw potential in the embattled arm.  Coakley responded by posting 2 big wins and no losses, with a minuscule 0.89 ERA in 4 appearances (3 starts).  Not too shabby, eh?

Despite his efforts, Coakley was left off of the World Series roster.  I'm not sure how eligibility worked way back then; but, he certainly would not have been eligible to play today, having been acquired after September 1st.

A visual approximation of how that meeting went

Here is where the trouble begins again.  His short-term teammates slighted Andy by voting him not even a partial share of their World Series winnings - not a single dollar.  Of course, he felt slighted by their actions; he had no illusions of earning a full-share, but he did believe he deserved a little something for his troubles.

So, Andy took the Cubs to court.  I cannot find the ruling for the case of Coakley vs. The Cubs; however, I can find that he was lambasted in the press as being greedy and ungrateful.  Additionally, seeing as his contract was still controlled by Chicago, his playing time in 1909 amounted to just a single game and he was promptly pounded in that start.

Outside of a two game cuppacoffee  with the Yankees in 1911, Andy found himself informally blackballed by Major League Baseball and was forced to play out the rest of his career in various outlaw leagues.  All because he had the audacity to stand up for himself and ask that he be compensated for his services.  

Unfortunately for Andy, Curt Flood and the player's union were still more than half a decade away.

It wasn't all bad for Mr. Coakley though,  After his playing days, he embarked on a long and successful coaching career for Columbia University, spending 37 years as the head coach of the Lions from 1915 to 1951.  His most notable pupil?  A young man by the name of Lou Gehrig.

He died in 1963 at the age of 81.

Coakley and a few of his chargees from Columbia
Photo courtesy of the Museum of NYC and taken by none other than Stanley Kubrick!

As for the card I have featured here, it's a reprint (yea, I can't afford the real stuff) of a set put out by Ramly's Turkish Cigarettes in 1909.  The company behind the reprint edition isn't entirely career; but, it was definitely released in 1993 according to the back of the card.  I was gifted the entire Cubs portion of the set by my parents on Christmas morning, roughly a decade ago, and several of these cards still serve as representatives in my CATRC, including Coakley.

Maybe someday I'll have the money to replace them with the real deal?  Yea, right.  If that ever happens, that money is going towards my student loan debt.

Still though, the reprints are more than adequate for me and allowed me the opportunity to learn a little bit about forgotten players from before my grandparents were even born, including the troubled Andy Coakley.  

Moral of the story, don't injure the star player of your own team - it won't end well for you.

1 comment:

  1. This is my cousin! Thank you for all the research here! We are also cousin to Martha Coakley (yes, the Coakleys are still in New England) the former Massachusettes Attorney General