Alfred Lawson: Escaping the Asylums
With no backer to fund his second tour of Cuba, Alfred Lawson abandoned the players he had gathered in New Orleans and boarded a steamer bound for Tampa, Florida. He arrived in Tampa at a unique time in that city�s history. Until 1884, Tampa had been a small town of a few hundred residents. Beginning in 1882, Railroad magnate Henry Bradley Plant spearheaded a project to upgrade and extend Florida�s small railroads; and to use connections in Florida ports to combine steamship lines and railroads into one transportation system. Tampa became the main terminus of the railroad line, and the major port for ship traffic to Cuba and the Caribbean. A railroad spur brought passengers from Port Tampa into the downtown area, literally dropping them in front of their hotels. Tampa boomed, and its new transportation system was the driving force behind its economy.
Trade with Cuba resulted in Cuban cigar factories being built in Tampa, staffed with workers brought over from the island. Tampa became a center for Cuban exiles, many of them dedicated to actively pursuing the cause of Cuban independence from Spain (and also against annexation by the United States.) The intellectual leader of the independent Cuba movement was Jos� Marti, the �Apostle of Freedom�. Marti was invited to Tampa to address Floridian Cubans on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the 1871 massacre of students by a pro-Spanish militia in Havana. Marti presented his speech on Nov. 26, 1891. His visionary oration used imagery from the scenery he saw as he took the train from Port Tampa into town:
�Let us sing today an anthem to life before their well remembered graves. Yesterday I heard it, rising from the earth itself, as I crossed the dreary afternoon on my way to this faithful town . . . Amidst the shredded clouds, a pine tree defied the storm and thrust the stately trunk upwards. Suddenly, the sun broke through a forest clearing, and there, by a swift flash of light I saw, rising from the yellowed grass amidst the blackened trunks of the fallen pines, the joyful shoots of the new pines. That�s what we are: new pines!�
Marti�s famous speech resonated among his countrymen, and within a few short weeks the Cuban Revolutionary Party was founded and publicly declared among the exile communities in Key West, New York, and Tampa.
Conveying the noble and the ignoble, the same train that carried Jos� Marti into Tampa also brought Alfred Lawson into town--perhaps the same day, but possibly one or two days later. The blackened trunk of his planned Cuban tour had given way to the joyful shoots of his new ambition�starting a Florida baseball league. It is unlikely that Lawson had heard of Marti, but the echoes of Marti�s rallying speech would sound loudly within the next decade, and would affect both Lawson�s baseball aspirations and the mortal health of one of his brothers.
Lawson spent the month of December organizing a league composed of Tampa, St. Augustine, Jacksonville, and Ocala. The league�s scheduled games began in late January, 1892. Lawson told reporters that Tampa had signed Connie Mack of Pittsburgh and of John McGraw of Baltimore, but, in a role reversal from the previous spring, he made those announcements prematurely. Lawson�s Tampa club fielded no major league stars at all, and consisted of vagabond minor leaguers that had migrated to Florida in search of a team. The men Lawson found included: Jack Dooley and Jack Lawler, two friends from New York State; Wild Bill Setley from Philadelphia; Bill Collins, who had played for Rochester, NY in 1891; Walter Lawrence, who had played for the Joliets of the Iowa-Illinois League; George Kurtz, who Lawson had used in the first Cuba tour of early 1891; two Tampa Cubans (Perez and Andres); and unknowns named Vaterlin and Smith.
The alternate pitcher, Wild Bill Setley, was just starting his career, but would eventually rival Al Lawson�s vagabond wanderings as a player. After his pitching days were over, Setley found a second life in baseball as an umpire. Setley�s trickster antics, both as a player and an umpire, have attained legendary status in baseball lore. He was the originator of the �hidden potato� trick: Setley, on the mound, would throw over to a base to keep the runner from stealing; after several tosses, he would make an errant throw over his infielders� head, and the runner would take off, only to be met in the base path by Setley with the ball in his hand�his errant throw had been a baseball-sized potato, not the ball in play. Setley was also known for his whirligig windup motions when pitching; and when fielding pop-ups, he would sometimes turn around and catch them behind his back. Such grandstanding made him a crowd favorite, but infuriated both the opponents and his own teammates. Lawson and Setley would cross paths a few times through the 1890s, but there is no evidence that they were coordinating their career moves.
On the other hand, the two Jacks�Dooley and Lawler�kept in touch with Lawson following their stint together at Tampa. Dooley and Lawler were close friends. Both hailed from North Adams, Mass, and were friends with another soon-to-be famous player from the same town, master spitballer Happy Jack Chesbro. Dooley and Lawler became the early strands in a web of personal connections that Lawson used as he moved through the minor league community.
In Tampa, these less-than-stellar teammates came together and played at an impressive level. Between late January and the end of February, 1892, Tampa won 16 of 18 league games, with Lawson pitching many of those victories. Although Tampa didn�t boast any major league stars, the Florida teams they played did have several big-leaguers. Lawson was still just 23 years old, and still in his athletic prime. After one game in late February, he challenged Frank Burke, Florida�s top sprinter, to a hundred-yard dash race on a sandy track. Burke won with a time of 10 5/8 seconds, but Lawson was just 1/8 of a second slower.
The Florida State League collapsed the first week of March, but Lawson�s Tampa club stuck together another week to play an extended series of six games with the National League�s Brooklyn Bridegrooms, who had just arrived for spring training. The Bridegrooms were led by player/manager John M. Ward, who had joined Brooklyn following the humiliating failure of the Players League.
During that week of games between Tampa and Brooklyn, Lawson and Ward must have spent some time together, and that leads to conjecture about how deep their conversations were on the subject of baseball economics. Ward, though he led a truly revolutionary owner/labor cooperative�the Players League--was not a wild-eyed advocate for worker�s rights. On the other hand, by 1892 Al Lawson had shown no evidence of any intellectual thought, other than his own self-interest. Yet over the next decade, Lawson�s social thought was radicalized, and it is tempting to think that exposure to Ward contributed to that awakening. However, with his passion for travel, Lawson was probably more interested in Ward�s experiences on the 1888 Spalding World Tour.
Although Sporting Life predicted that Lawson would sign with a National League club following the breakup of the Tampa club, he instead joined the Atlanta team of the Southern League. Atlanta was managed by former major leaguer Leech Maskrey, who had also been player/manager of the Tacoma team during Lawson�s short stints in Spokane and Seattle the previous spring. Tacoma, Seattle, and Spokane were all clubs in the Pacific Northwest League, so Maskrey had to be aware of Lawson's shenanigans of the previous spring. Maskrey also picked up Jack Dooley from Lawson�s Tampa team. Maskrey had his own history with baseball foreign tours, and in relating this to Lawson, Maskrey had an immediate and profound effect on the younger man
In Atlanta, Maskrey must have told Lawson about the professional baseball league in England that had been started in the wake of Spalding's 1888-89 World Tour. In 1890, baseball enthusiasts in England formed a governing organization, the Baseball Association of Great Britain & Ireland. With support from American sports magnate Albert Spalding, they immediately put together a professional league called the National Baseball League of Great Britain. The league had ambitions to start with eight clubs, but the zeal for the American sport only excited members of established football (i.e. soccer) clubs, who saw in baseball a way to keep their clubs and players active from season to season. The National Baseball League of Great Britain opened with just four clubs: Preston North End, Derby, Stoke, and Aston Villa.
The National Baseball League organizers sent a letter to A. G. Spalding appealing to him to send over 8-10 players from America to help coach the English players, most of whom were footballers. Spalding responded with enthusiasm: he offered funding to the League, and nominated his right-hand man, Jim Hart (who replaced Spalding as President of the Chicago Colts) to go and preside over the new professional league. The other Americans who sailed over to spend the season in England were William J. Barr, Charles B. Bartlett, J. R. Prior, and Leech Maskrey. Three of the clubs--Preston, Stoke, and Aston Villa--relied on Hart to guide their personnel moves. The other club--Derby--was owned by businessman Francis Ley, who operated iron foundries both in England and in Cleveland, Ohio. He was well versed in the games and made his own player decisions.
The visiting Americans were divided among the clubs, and if they took the field at all it was usually to play catcher. One great concern within the League was that English spectators, who viewed baseball as a variant of cricket, expected huge run scores and batting action, and would have little appreciation of masterful pitching. For that reason, Hart was reluctant to let any Americans pitch. Francis Ley, on the other hand, was in the League to win. He had imported some semi-pro players from Ohio to play for Derby, most notably a pitcher named Reidenbach. Ley had indicated to Hart that he would not put Reidenbach in the pitcher's box, but then did so regardless. After a heated exchange with Hart, Ley withdrew Derby from the four team league.
Meanwhile, the Americans were fighting among themselves over the same issue. The Stoke club was managed by Charles Bartlett, and had J. E. Prior as one of its players. In a game against Preston, League president Hart allowed manager Bartlett to let Prior pitch for the Stoke club, but Hart instructed Prior to throw the ball over the plate in order to let the batters and fielders decide the contest. Bartlett construed those instructions differently, and publicly accused Hart of telling Prior to let Preston win. Hart had Bartlett replaced as Stoke's manager.
The English press had a field day at the expense of the professional League. They ridiculed the idea of pitchers not performing their best. Although the crowds at League games had swelled to the thousands by the end of the season, editors (particularly those in the south of England, where there were no League clubs) declared the season a farce. Professional baseball in England suffered a crushing blow--the League failed to take the field in 1891. However, public enthusiasm for baseball in England was still very much alive, and was satisfied from that point forward by dozens of amateur clubs.
Leech Maskrey, who had been attached to the Preston club (which lost the championship to Aston Villa), returned home to America with a keener appreciation of league politics and the tension between the will to win, competitive balance, and a fickle press. In Atlanta, he would find the newspapers especially difficult. The Atlanta Constitution�s sportswriters covered the team�s games with partisan passion. For Al Lawson�s part, his fortunes can easily be traced by the comments they made about him:
March 24: �The first man the manager signed was Al Lawson, and, in securing him, Maskrey certainly made a ten-strike�Lawson is an all-around player, and, in addition to hitting hard, often, and long, and fielding most thoroughly, is a first-class pitcher.�
April 1 (following first exhibition game against Ward�s Brooklyn Bridegrooms): �Lawson made a fine impression as a pitcher.�
April 20 (during first league series against Birmingham): �In many respects the game was one of the most remarkable ever seen in the south. The battery work of Lawson and Schobel was wonderful. Birmingham appeared unable to touch the big pitcher�s ball�Every game he pitches, Lawson manifests new strength and greater ability.�
April 23: �Lawson certainly pitched a great game.�
May 5: �Lawson lost his first game today. But it wasn�t Lawson�s fault. His pitching was the finest and the best seen on the Atlanta diamond since Shaffer�s grand work in the memorable Atlanta-Savannah game.�
On May 6, Lawson was reported to have contacted Baltimore�s management about signing with them; it would have reunited Lawson with his prot�g� John McGraw.
May 7: �Lawson was in the box for Atlanta yesterday. And the heavy sluggers from New Orleans succeeded in making just two hits off his puzzling delivery�Lawson�s pitching was wonderful.�
May 14: �Lawson�s work throughout the game was magnificent�Lawson was given an ovation as he stepped into the box.�
May 22: (A loss to Mobile) �Lawson allowed hits to come together�Maskrey�s men were shut out up to the ninth inning�There were two out and it was a trying moment, but Lawson came to the bat and knocked a high fly to Hays, who pulled it down, settling Atlanta�s chances.�
June 3: �Lawson, Atlanta�s dude pitcher, showed himself to be very much of a beef yesterday. Between his big head and his very small heart the Atlantas were given an awfully hard drubbing by the Memphians yesterday. The �baby act� was what Lawson played and that he played it perfectly no one doubts who has seen him work the grand stand racket so thoroughly. But he had the sulks and gave away all chances of winning a game that was young yet and might have been won�he has been suspended�Lawson has pitched some mighty good ball this year, but his head has been abnormally enlarged until today he thinks he has a first mortgage on not only the Atlanta club, but on the entire Southern League. Lawson can play good ball when he wants to and about the best thing he can do is apologize to Manager Maskrey.�
June 12: �Lawson has gone to Syracuse, N.Y., where he will show people how to pitch and how to beef.�
June 15: �Lawson�s release was more the work of the board of directors than of Maskrey. Lawson was a thorough disorganizer and while pitching a game in the Atlanta grounds received a telegram asking him for his terms. On the grounds, while under contract with Atlanta, he wired his terms back and asked for a ticket to come on at once.�
June 28: �Since Lawson left Atlanta, he has signed with Syracuse, Troy, and Salem, one after another, and has been released by every club. Last week Lawson wrote to the Atlanta management begging to be given another chance on the team.�
Al Lawson had made an enemies of both the Atlanta Constitution sportswriters and their inside source�most likely one of the board of directors of the Atlanta club. At least one aspect of their reports of Lawson�s misfortunes was true: he was signed and released within days by Syracuse. Perhaps the same thing happened at Troy and Salem�if so, those must have occurred within a matter of days, also. The fact that these incidents surfaced quickly in Atlanta suggests what one northern newspaper claimed later that summer: Al Lawson was blacklisted. All minor leagues that had signed baseball�s National Agreement agreed not to sign any player appearing on the blacklist. To be blacklisted, a player had to commit some egregious sin, such as jumping contracts, or gambling on games �or purposely underperforming.
It may even be true that Lawson wrote to Atlanta to plea for a second chance. Leech Maskrey, Lawson's burdened manager in Atlanta, was forced out of town shortly after Lawson, so if Lawson did grovel, it fell on deaf ears. However, by the time the Constitution reported this item, Lawson had found a spot on another team. Professional baseball�s blacklist extended to minor leagues, but not to independent semi-professional clubs. Lawson�s friend Jack Dooley was playing for such a team�it fact it was one of the most talented and successful (and best-paying) independent teams in the country. Dooley answered Lawson�s call for a favor, and convinced his current hesitant manager to sign Lawson to a month�s contract. Lawson accepted the offered terms and took a train to a point about eighty miles northwest of New York City. On June 22, 1892, Lawson donned the uniform and pitched for one of the most unusual teams in the history of sports: the Middletown Asylums.
* * *
Homeopathy is a system of medical treatment originated by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann in the late 1700s. Homeopathic treatment of illness involves using small, diluted doses of substances that cause symptoms in healthy people similar to those exhibited by the untreated ill patient. This principle is most simply expressed in the maxim �Like cures like.� Contrary to conventional science, homeopaths contend that increasingly diluted medicines can be increasingly effective�in fact the dilution may exceed any presence of the original substance on a molecular level. Homeopathy suggests that those treatments work on the �vital force� level of the person. Since the �vital force� has never been isolated and proven using scientific technique, modern homeopaths suggest that treatments are working at a sub-atomic, quantum level.
While this aspect of homeopathy has caused great controversy, other aspects compare favorably against traditional western medical practice. Homeopathy views each illness as specific to the individual, i.e. they do not conclude that two individuals displaying the same symptoms necessarily suffer from the same cause, or should be treated in the same manner. Therefore homeopathy places great stress on individual care and on gathering information about each patient�s lifestyle, habits, diet, etc. Homeopathy arose during a period when conventional medicine had very little scientific basis of its own, and relied heavily on peremptory diagnoses, purgative toxic drugs, and bloodletting. Homeopathic treatment had favorable results compared to these heavy-handed cures.
Homeopathy was introduced to the United States in 1825 by immigrant physicians. America�s first homeopathic medical school opened in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1835. By the 1890s, about 7 percent of all doctors in the United States were homeopaths, and there were nearly a hundred hospitals throughout the country being run on homeopathic principles. However, after the turn of the century, several factors combined to curtail the growth of homeopathic practice. One big factor was the acceptance of the germ theory as a mechanism of disease; this was seen to be at variance with homeopathy�s focus on symptoms and individuals. The discovery of more diseases caused by inherited genetic conditions also was also seen as a conflict. Perhaps the biggest factor in the decline of homeopathic treatment in the early twentieth century was a concerted effort by the conventional medical establishment to discourage homeopathic practices. However, since 1960, homeopathy has seen a revival, concurrent with increased acceptance of other alternative medical practices.
In the late 1800s, homeopathy proved to be especially valuable in treating mental illness. Again, the attentive care given to patients, the examination of their backgrounds, along with diluted drugs brought better results than conventional methods. State governments proved willing to support state-funded mental hospitals operated on homeopathic principles. The largest of these was the Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital in Middletown, New York, run by superintendent Dr. Selden Haines Talcott.
Talcott was hired to run the asylum in 1877, shortly after it was taken over by the State. He was a leading figure in American homeopathy, and headed the American Instutute of Homeopathy. He lectured at both the Homeopathic Medical College of New York City and Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia. He was a frequent author of articles dealing with treatment of the insane. Yet these were all secondary pursuits--he threw his heart and soul into the operation of Middletown facility and to providing the best care possible. In 1901, Talcott wrote a standard medical text, Mental Diseases and Their Modern Treatment. In the last chapter of this text, Talcott goes into meticulous detail on how mental institutions should be run, including window fixtures, chair design, mattress materials, etc. He concludes his text:
�The task of upbuilding a public institution for the insane is a noble and a glorious one. It is an undertaking worthy of the attention, the careful contemplation, and the best energies of any thoughtful man. The upbuilding of an establishment, whose outlines we have endeavored very briefly to sketch, is an enterprise so lofty in purpose, and so beneficent in result as to afford serene satisfaction to all who may engage in the work.�
Sometime in the late 1880s, Talcott was walking through the large campus of the Hospital and noticed a crowd of people congregated in one of the open fields. It turned out to be an impromptu baseball game being played by some of the hospital�s staff, but what interested Talcott was the reaction he saw among the patients who were observing the game. Introspective patients were cheering and booing plays on the field; previously unresponsive patients were plainly focused on the game�s drama and outcome. Talcott had heard the term �fanatic� applied to baseball audiences before, but its homeopathic import now struck him. The main homeopathic principle, �Like cures like�, was being demonstrated in front of his eyes. Baseball fanaticism was overcoming unhealthy fanaticisms of the mind.
In 1889, Talcott appointed a staff member, W. E. Cook, to organize and manage a team sponsored by the State Hospital. Several players were recruited from among the Hospital�s own staff of attendants, a job requiring physical strength to handle unruly patients. However, Talcott also authorized paying players not on the Hospital staff, in order to field a team that could compete with other teams in the region around Middletown. The team bore the name of its sponsor; they were the Middletown Asylums.
Talcott built grandstands at the field on hospital grounds and began charging admission to the games to defray the team�s operational costs. That first year he began chronicling the fortunes of the baseball team in his annual reports to the New York State Health Department. In their first year, they won eleven games, tied one, and lost three. In their second year, Talcott commented, �the beneficial effects upon those whose minds have been depressed and disturbed is very marked.�
By 1892, the Middletown Asylums were the baseball juggernaut of the Hudson Valley. In late June, when Al Lawson joined the team, they were undefeated with five wins and no losses. In addition to Jack Dooley, the Asylum team�s star hitter was Jack Lawler, Dooley�s childhood friend and another one of Lawson�s Tampa team members. Lawson pitched a masterful 3-hitter on June 22nd, defeating the Englewood (N.J.) Field Club, 8-0. Six days later, the mighty Cuban Giants (composed of African-Americans, not Cubans) came to play at the Hospital grounds. This time, Lawson held them to four hits, while the Asylums batted at will, winning 15-3. Word of Lawson�s appearance eventually filtered down to the vindictive bigots at the Atlanta Constitution: �Al Lawson pitched against a negro team last week�good company for Al.�
With their games spaced out between several days rest, Lawson was in the box for the Asylums next five games, against the Plainfield (N.J.) Crescent League team; the Hudson Base Ball Club of Brooklyn; the Gorhams of New York; the Flushings of Long Island; and the Oritani Field Club of Hackensack, N.J. on July 20th. One can imagine Lawson sending box scores of these seven victories in a row down to his former employers in Georgia. But Lawson pressed his luck by making a start against the Brightons of New York on July 22, on just two days rest. His arm gave out, and he left in the second inning (but the Asylums still won). That was Lawson�s last game for the Hospital.
Although Lawson�s season may have been cut short by injury, he had already been making plans to leave Middletown, so the injury may have been incidental. Earlier in July, Lawson had advertised in the New York City papers for college players willing to go on a tour of England, leaving in August, 1892. Lawson also sent out letters to several teams in the National Baseball League of Great Britain, offering his services as a coach and pitcher. He left his hotel bill in Middletown unpaid. As was Lawson�s habit, he needed a backer for enough front money to get to England, and then would depend on gate receipts to cover the ongoing expenses while abroad. Lawson invited Jack Dooley and Jack Lawler, but they knew enough about Lawson�s background to be leery of his foreign tours.
Instead, Dooley and Lawler completed a legendary season with the Asylums. Since 1889, Superintendent Talcott�s annual reports to the state had devoted more and more pages of text to recounting the fortunes of the Hospital�s baseball team. In writing up the successful 1892 season, Talcott made some amazing claims for the restorative power of baseball. Talcott included in his annual report this quote (of unknown authorship):
�After several years of experiment our medical superintendent claims that baseball as a craze displaces other crazes and helps to relieve the mind of its troubles and delusions. There is ample evidence for this belief, and any one at all acquainted with the insane has only to attend a ball game on the asylum grounds, or go through the wards on the day of a game, to feel its full force. It must be a very intensely interesting diversion that will make the mind forget the pressure of an imaginary trouble stamped upon the imagination by years of brooding and self-introspection. Such however, is baseball. So fascinating is this game, so kaleidoscopic in its many and ever-varying features, so full of the chivalric spirit of ancient joust and tourney, and so democratic in its power of bringing all classes of people together in a harmony of intense interest, that the mind of the spectator, however diseased, is simply carried out of itself, the imagination purged of impurities, and the person for the time transported to an entirely new and virgin plane of existence, delightfully entrancing�sane.
"Feeling improved and benefited by this entertainment, a sense of gratitude wells up in the hearts of all towards those who have so liberally supplied them with this health giving agency. Long may the national game remain prosperous at the State Homeopathic Hospital, and continue its interesting work of restoring to its pedestal the dethroned and scarred statue of human reason!�
In the season Talcott was summarizing, the Asylums won 22 games, and lost only two. Al Lawson was only there for eight of the wins. The Asylums� two losses, on Aug. 12 and Oct. 13, were to the same team�the New York Giants of the National League. They lost their first game against the Giants by a score of 2-1. The Asylums lost the second game by a tally of 6-5. One can only imagine the mental state of Dr. Selden Talcott as he watched those contests.
* * *
If baseball embodied the chivalric spirit and transported the mind to a sane plane of existence�you couldn�t hold Al Lawson up as an example of that effect. Lawson set sail on July 24th so that he would arrive in England about ten days ahead of his �New York Amateur� players. His job was to secure game dates and negotiate the receipt income with the grounds where the games would take place. He would also send out inquiries to Australia, where the team hoped to go if England proved profitable. Lawson�s backer, former Asylum player V. E. Harvey, was to sign the remainder of the uncommitted players and bring them over to England. What actually occurred during the trip varied depending on Harvey�s perspective or Lawson�s perspective.
Harvey arrived in England on August 11th, 1892 with only five players. Lawson was furious with him�though it is unclear whether Lawson had prematurely counted on other players he had approached before he left. The team, such as it was, played their first game against the Preston North End club, beating them 16-15. Both teams were short-handed. That evening, Harvey and Lawson had a row. Harvey accused Lawson of not scheduling more games in advance, and of holding onto money advanced to him. Lawson said that only $605 was advanced to him, and that $465 of that was spent on the teams� passage to England. Of the remaining $140, Lawson said he used it for boarding, meals, and laundering of uniforms during the ten days he had already been in England. Lawson also gave Harvey that days� gate receipts: $100. Harvey thought the real gate amount must have been more, since attendance was over 10,000 people--in essence, he accused Lawson of stealing. He also accused Lawson of impersonating him at the steamship's ticket office--probably a attempt by Lawson to recoup the unused tickets of the men Harvey failed to bring over. Harvey tried to have Lawson arrested, but in order to do so, would have had to secure bonds, which he could not afford at that point. Lawson washed his hands of any more involvement in the venture, claiming he had held up his end and Harvey had failed his responsibilities.
The dispute between the Harvey and Lawson doomed the remainder of the �New York Amateurs� tour. They had no expense money, and no scheduled games to refill their pockets. They had return passages, but their tickets could not be used before the specified sailing date. In desperation, Harvey and the collegians sent a representative to London, where Buffalo Bill Cody was drawing large crowds of spectators to baseball games played by a team from his troupe versus teams of American expatriate theater performers. The plea from the New York Amateurs to Buffalo Bill to schedule a game to raise funds to get them home was refused by Cody; he had already committed his men to a series of games against the "Thespians" of the London Baseball Association, and could offer no charity.
Lawson left England immediately after the row with Harvey. Sporting Life, once it caught up with the story a couple of weeks later, printed Harvey�s side of the story under the headline:
�LAWSON A FRAUD; His Trip to England a Swindling Operation. He Deserts His Backer and Fellow Players, Leaving Them Penniless in a Strange Land.�
The story concluded: �When last heard from this scoundrelly adventurer, Lawson, was on his way to Australia, where he doubtless expects to find ready opportunity for the prosecution of his swindling operations.� Where Lawson got the money for his trip around the world is not known�but Harvey later claimed that Lawson cashed in the pre-paid tickets of the three players who never made it over to England.
* * *
With or without a team, Lawson was determined to continue his baseball tour around the world. It was an eerie echo of the A. G. Spalding World Tour of 1888, except Lawson traveled west to east instead of east to west. The one deviation from the Spalding Tour itinerary took him from England to Cape Town, South Africa, instead of through Egypt and the Suez Canal. In South Africa he found a small community of American gold miners and used them as a nucleus for baseball exhibitions. Lawson later claimed to have organized a game between a team of Kaffirs and Zulus on one side, and English, Dutch, Italians, and Americans on the opposing team.
From South Africa, Lawson stopped in India, and once again later claimed to have organized ball games while there. By December, 1892, he had reach Australia, where he was greeted by the Australian Sporting Life editor who showed Lawson copies of the headlines that labeled him a villain. Lawson wrote an indignant letter in his own defense and posted it to the United States. Sporting Life printed his letter on Dec. 26, 1892. It refuted some of the scurrilous charges made against him and ignored others.
He left Australia a short time later, broke, and earned his passage back to the United States as a sailor. His ship stopped at the Hawaiian Islands in January, 1893, just at the time when the last royal ruler of Hawaii, Queen Lili�uokalani was deposed. She had been in power only two years, taking over from her brother Kalākaua. She had immediately tried to change the nation�s constitution to restore power to native Hawaiians, but was overthrown by the American Minister, who was backed by American business interests in the Islands. The Americans in Hawaii had ordered a ship of U. S. Marines to land to carry out the removal of the Queen. Her deposition was later ruled to have been illegal, but because of threats she made against the Americans who had wronged her, she was never allowed to return to power. Al Lawson was probably disappointed to learn that the Americans on the island were a little too preoccupied at that moment to take much interest in baseball games. Also, they had lost their leading advocate of the game the previous summer, in 1892: Alexander Cartwright. Cartwright, as a member of the New York Knickerbockers club in the 1840s, had written the first rules of the game of baseball. Cartwright had lived in Hawaii since 1849.
By April, 1893, Lawson had arrived back in the United States and had made his way to Salt Lake City, Utah. He arrived there during the dedication period for the Salt Lake Temple, the magnificent cathedral-like building that is the international symbol of the Church of Latter Day Saints. The Salt Lake Temple had taken 40 years to construct, so the celebration that took place between April 6th and April 24th captivated the entire city. Even a religious skeptic, as Lawson was, must have been impressed by the sight of this grandiose work of American-born spirituality, visible from anywhere in the city. Lawson spent about four weeks in Salt Lake City, organizing a city team and trying to get a league established. By mid May both had failed, and Lawson continued east to Denver.
After appearing in a few games for a Denver team, it is likely Lawson completed his version of the Spalding World Tour by arriving in Chicago in the summer of 1893. He would have been sure to have taken in the magnificent Chicago Columbian Exposition, the world�s fair that introduced the Ferris Wheel. The Exposition's amusements section, the Midway, was anchored at one end by the franchise that helped the fair survive through a disastrous national economic depression that hit America that summer; that franchise was the Buffalo Bill Wild West show.
* * *
Lawson, apparently now off baseball�s blacklist, reentered the minor league ranks pitching for Albany in the spring of 1894. Albany was a member of the New York State League, and suffered from poor coverage of its games in the local newspapers and from local Blue Laws prohibiting Sunday play. The major theme of Albany�s season that year was its running court battle to get approval to play Sunday games. The courts see-sawed their decision back and forth, but meanwhile the Albany team played Sunday games in defiance. On June 4th, unformed players representing Albany and Pittsfield took the field, but were promptly hauled away to the local jail. At the station house, police learned that the men in their custody had been hired at the ball field from among the ranks of the arriving crowd to don uniforms and walk out onto the diamond�the real players waited until the police had marched the impostors off and then started their game wearing their alternate uniforms.
By the end of June, 1894, the New York State League had folded, and Lawson headed north to finish his summer in appearances for Poland Springs, Maine; Pawtucket, R.I., and Greenville, N.H. He played outfield and pitched, but his record does not indicate that he had recovered his pitching form to the high level he had last shown in 1892. It may be that the arm injury he suffered in his last game for the Middletown Asylums was more serious than he realized.
When he joined the Pawtucket team, a profile of him in the local newspaper listed him as being a stenographer by profession. The year-long gap in Lawson�s whereabouts between the summers of 1893 and 1894 was likely spent learning this trade. Many years later, Lawson claimed to have run a business college in Buffalo. That claim corroborates the idea that he must have spent some time being trained in stenography, and no other gap in his history seems long enough to learn that skill. Possibly, it was an outgrowth of his previous experience in sewing machines sales. Sewing machine companies and the new typewriter manufacturing industry were closely related�sometimes the same company made both devices. For instance, Remington made guns, sewing machines, and typewriters. Aside from being constructed from finely tooled machine parts, sewing machines and typewriters were about the same size, and both were marketed to women. Just as sewing machine companies had opened demonstration floor rooms, typewriter manufacturers opened �business college� franchises in order to train a new labor force to operate their wares.
Lawson�s later written claim to having run a business college was accompanied by a drawing of him standing in front of a class of attentive (and attractive) young women students. In training women to be typists and stenographers, Lawson was once again participating in a landmark event in the feminization of the American work force. At least women working at sewing machines for wages could be discounted by chauvinist men as an extension of female domestic impulses�but women office workers entering the white-collar realm of business and commerce was held by many to be a danger to the moral order of the nation. Lawson�s own lack of attachments probably meant that he found career women to be more attractive than threatening�undoubtedly he was more comfortable meeting women in a setting other than through their traditional domestic roles, where he might have been encouraged to make commitments and assume responsibilities. �Settling down� was not within Alfred Lawson�s character.
But at least Al Lawson seemed conscious of his natural restlessness. His brother George was not self-aware�which made him all the wilder.
Jos� Marti, Cuban patriot, made his "Young Pines" speech in Tampa on Nov. 26, 1891
John M. Ward's Brooklyn Bridegrooms played a series of games in march 1892 against Al Lawson's Tampa team; and in April against the Southern League Atlanta team.
Leech Maskrey, the Atlantans manager, put up with sportswriter second-guessing, owner interference, and one unruly star pitcher: Al Lawson.
Al Lawson, in his Atlanta uniform, 1892.
Superintendent Seldon Haines Talcott of the Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital
The grounds of the Middletoen (NY) State Homeopathic Hospital.
Picture postcard: full moon over the Asylum. To be sent to...? From...?
Portrait of Lawson that appeared in Sporting Life and the National Police Gazette to commemorate his upcoming tour of England.
Queen Lili�uokalani, the last royal ruler of Hawaii.
The Salt Lake Temple had a week-long dedication in late April, 1893
The office of an Albany, NY business college in 1894.
Jerry Kuntz � 1997-2006 | All Rights Reserved | Contact