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Alfred Lawson: The Yellow Monkey Gets Tutored

The mild winter climate of the southern United States allows baseball to be played in winter months. When baseball was professionalized in the 1870s, it did not take long for itinerant northern players to appear on the rosters of southern independent or minor league teams. Major league teams did not travel south in the early spring months on a regular basis until the late 1880s; but even then their camps were not rigidly planned. Some major league clubs did not go south at all, and instead trained inside gymnasiums in their home cities. Other clubs went south without their star players, who were not as desperate for the money being offered. The typical arrangement was an equal player/club split of any profits from the games played during spring. There was little �training� in the sense of conditioning exercises or even inter-squad practice. Instead, major league teams barnstormed from one town to another, taking on the local minor league, independent, or college teams. Occasionally, they arranged games with other traveling major league clubs also on tour, but there was no set schedule.

Spring training as we know it today, with clubs occupying training facilities in the same Florida town year after year, would not evolve until well into the twentieth century. The spring ball played in the 1890s was played along railway stops throughout the South, including Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, as well as Florida. While the barnstorming did not often generate great profits, owners did discover that telegraphed reports of spring games back to the newspapers of their home city were feasted on by fans eager for the new season, and served to hype early regular season ticket sales. Moreover, sometimes a young player�s talents emerged, and an owner could risk releasing expensive older stars to sign a cheap rookie.

Manager Cap Anson, of the Chicago White Stockings, thought the southern tours did more harm than good, since his players seemed to catch colds and complain of aches more on their return north�but Anson did as the president of his club wished. However, even Anson was anxious to put a team on the field as early as possible in 1890. John Ward�s Players League revolt had been realized since it was first announced in November, 1889, and 55 percent of the National League�s athletes jumped to teams in the new League. That left Anson with a new roster to whip into shape. Since its last championship in 1886, Chicago had been recruiting youths over veterans, so Anson had some experience in evaluating new talent. His White Stockings had picked up the nickname �Colts� as a reflection of their youth movement.

Anson�s Colts arrived in St. Augustine, Florida on Feb. 15, 1890, and were greeted by a challenge from the St. Augustine independent team. St. Augustine had a few ringers on its squad, including former National League third baseman Billy Taylor. They also had a young pitcher name Al Lawson, a "phenom" who earned a reputation playing in Illinois and Wisconsin the previous summer. He had already been signed to a contract with Wilmington, Delaware, of the Atlantic Association for the 1890 season, but with the Wilmington management�s blessing he went south early and hooked up with the St. Augustine team in order to get in condition.  Lawson was put in the Feb. 15 game against the Chicago nine in the fifth inning, after Anson�s Colts had already run up an 11-0 score. Lawson held them scoreless until the game was called by darkness. His fine pitching allowed St. Augustine to score 5 unanswered runs for a less lopsided 11-5 final tally.

Cap Anson was impressed with what he saw of Lawson�s pitching during the Feb. 15th game. A few days later, the two teams played another game, and again Lawson shone in a losing effort. At that point baseball columns around the country reported that Anson was trying to buy out Lawson�s contract from Wilmington, but was not meeting with success.

Chicago was not the only National League team that noticed Lawson�s arm. A few weeks later, on March 18, he appeared in a spring exhibition game at St. Augustine between Brooklyn and Anson�s Chicago team. The Brooklyn Bridegrooms were giving him a try-out. Lawson allowed 7 hits in nine innings, better than the opposing pitcher, but his aim was described as sometimes wild. Chicago won 8-4, but it is unclear whether Lawson�s pitching or Brooklyn�s fielding was more to blame.

On April 1st, Lawson reported to the Wilmington club. Before taking one step onto the field in their uniform, he must have had mixed feelings towards his new team. They had blocked him from making the roster of a major league club. Wilmington had just built a new ballpark, and was determined to field the best talent they could. The Wilmington management wanted to satisfy their own fans with a good pitcher; and at the same time might have been holding out for even larger offers for Lawson�s contract rights from the major league clubs. So even if he performed well, he might be stuck in Delaware if they saw his value was still rising.

Within just two weeks, though, Lawson realized his prospects might even be worse than he thought. Wilmington was not a good fielding team, and their frequent errors could demolish even a masterful pitching performance. It was not within Al Lawson�s character to quietly suffer the ineptitude of his teammates. In the first weeks of April they lost two exhibition games to American Association teams, and Lawson did not look good. In the April 14th exhibition against Syracuse, while giving up numerous hits, Lawson saw a ball mishandled by his left fielder, Millman. Lawson yelled at him loudly enough to be heard in the stands. When the inning ended, he and Millman exchanged some heated words. After the game later that evening, Lawson and Millman bumped into one another on the sidewalk outside the Bellevue Hotel. A fracas ensued, and Lawson pushed Millman off the sidewalk onto the street gutter. Millman lost his footing and fell on his left leg, breaking it above the ankle.

The episode did little to endear Lawson to his teammates or incline them to make him look good on the mound. For his part, Lawson likely had already decided how to get out of his contract. His next appearance was in a regular Atlantic Association game on April 19th against Worcester, and resulted in an embarrassing 15-5 loss. His fellow players placed the blame on Lawson, but their fielding errors also were a factor. Lawson was suspended by the management for 10 days due to his obvious lack of effort. He retaliated by sending out letters to National League teams giving his version of the past month�s events. His last game for Wilmington was on May 1st, 1890. They released him for �indifferent play,� and were glad to be rid of him.

Since Anson�s interest in Lawson back in February was widely publicized, Al Lawson might have thought that Chicago would sign him after his release from Wilmington. However, �indifferent play� was a cardinal sin in Cap Anson�s mind, so he likely decided not to make an offer to the young pitcher. Instead, Lawson was quickly signed on May 4, 1890, by Frank Selee, manager of the NL�s Boston Beaneaters. Despite the loss of his major star hitter, King Kelly, to the Player�s League, Selee was lucky to retain the services of his future Hall of Fame pitcher, John Clarkson. Earlier that spring, Selee discovered a rookie pitcher, Kid Nichols, who would also go on to be enshrined in baseball�s Hall of Fame. Selee himself would go on to win many National League championships in the 1890s with the Boston club. In time, Selee himself would get into the Hall of Fame for his managerial skills. Anson�s White Stockings and Selee�s Beaneaters were the two dynasties of pre-1900 baseball. Selee�s Cooperstown plaque described him as �an impeccable judge of talent.�  He signed Al Lawson to round out his pitching staff that already included two of the greatest pitchers of the nineteenth century.

The Boston papers hailed Lawson�s arrival with great expectation. A woodcut engraving of his bust appeared in the Boston Globe, with the headline: �Pitcher Lawson: It Was Not Anson�s Fault That Boston Got Him,� and recounted how the Chicago manager had tried unsuccessfully to obtain Lawson from Wilmington. Other cities loved to annoy Cap Anson, so Lawson�s signing served as a needle. Lawson was described as �a bright looking young fellow, smooth-faced and manly in his bearing. He will no doubt prove a valuable acquisition.� Bad weather postponed Lawson�s first start for Boston until May 13th, a road game against the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds in Harlem. Although the Giants had lost their star player, John M. Ward, to the Player�s League, they came into the 1890 season as the National League champions of the past two seasons.

The Beaneaters had not played well on earlier stops of their long road trip, losing 8 out of ten games. Al Lawson had not pitched in a game in the past two weeks�and his April appearances on the mound in Wilmington were not efforts made in earnest. As Lawson walked out to the pitchers box, he was being scrutinized by Frank Selee�one of the best managers in baseball history�who must have been mentally comparing Lawson against fellow pitchers Clarkson and Nichols. Facing Lawson were the National League champs, the New York Giants. The opposing Giants pitcher was a veteran who had not jumped to the Player�s League�future Hall of Fame inductee Mickey Welch. The baseball gods had not set the stage to Lawson�s advantage. There was a hostile crowd to deal with, too, but they numbered only 698�fewer people than Lawson had played to in St. Augustine. The attendance figure was typical for National League parks in that dismal 1890 season; they were outdrawn by their Players League rivals.

The result seemed pre-ordained: New York beat Boston, 7-2. The most damage against Lawson was done by New York's first baseman, Dude Esterbrook, who drove in three runs. The next day�s Boston Globe sports page carried the headline, �Boston Leaguers Can Get No Lower: Lawson�s A Nice Young Man, But He Couldn�t Pitch Ball.� The story under this header began: �Mickey Welch�s smile shone with all its glory today, while the star of Alfred Lawson�s destiny faded into the twilight that hovered over Harlem as the last Boston man crept into his hole. The Wilmington phenomenon--save the mark!�was given a trial, and after the evidence in the shape of 12 base hits was in he was proven guilty of possessing a slow drop ball with no speed.� The game as reported in other cities by the wire news services was gentler on Lawson: �Lawson, Boston�s new pitcher, made a favorable impression notwithstanding the fact that he was hit hard.�

Lawson was released by Boston two days later. Even the unforgiving Boston papers were unsure whether Lawson had been given a fair chance to display his talents: �The serving of the customary 10 days� notice on Lawson may or may not be good baseball policy. [Boston club] President Soden says it is based solely on the exhibition he gave in New York Tuesday. He has very fair command of the ball, but it is doubtful whether he can develop speed enough to satisfy Soden�s pennant hunters.�

After the ten day waiting period, Lawson was immediately signed by the worst team in the National League, the Pittsburgh Alleghenys. Pittsburgh had been decimated more than most teams by defections to the Players League, and its club owner was constantly denying rumors that the club would fold. In the 1890 season, Pittsburgh�s record was 23 wins and 113 losses: one of the worst records in baseball history. Their roster that year was a merry-go-round of signings and releases as the management desperately tried to find capable performers (that didn�t cost too much). Their home attendance was 16,064�not for one game, but for the entire season. Lawson appeared for Pittsburg in the first game of a doubleheader in Philadelphia on May 28, and lost 12-10. Following that game, Pittsburgh owner J. Palmer O�Neill had to fend off reports that he was trying to sell the club and had to borrow money to bring the team back to Pittsburgh from their road trip.

Despite the gossip, the team did get back to Pittsburgh and opened a series against Cap Anson�s Chicago Colts on June 2, 1890. It can only be imagined what was going through the minds of Al Lawson and Cap Anson as they faced each other, pitcher to batter. Anson, no doubt, was looking to vindicate his decision not to sign Lawson. Lawson, for his part, probably was hoping for revenge, but knew his team was woefully overmatched. Lawson gave up 13 hits. Pittsburgh committed 14 errors and lost the game, 14-1. Lawson was released the next day, his National League career over after three games and three losses. As a major leaguer, he was washed up at age 21. Brooklyn, with whom he had been given a try-out in March, won the National League pennant of 1890.

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Al Lawson enjoyed the itinerant lifestyle of professional baseball too much to give it up as a career. His three game stint in the National League had come after long stretches of pitching inactivity, which could have been a factor in his losing efforts. Lawson hadn�t seen much of the supposed glory of �major� league status�the games he had played had been to smaller crowds than most of his minor league and semi-pro games; and the paychecks he had seen weren�t impressive. Lawson might have been justified in viewing his experience as a minor setback, not a crushing blow. It also reinforced how much a player�s fate was at the mercy of management; that management rarely allowed itself to lose money; and that a league club�s fortunes were tied to the viability of the league as a whole.

Lawson spent June and July moving between clubs as quickly as he had the summer before: he went from Pittsburgh to play for Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. After a few appearances there we went on to play for teams in Cobleskill, New York and Albany, New York. By late August he landed the job of player/manager for the Wellsville, New York team in the Western New York League, a fragile organization of clubs representing small towns far from any urban area. It was as much of a sporting backwater as could be imagined, but it offered Lawson his first opportunity to be involved in the management of a team, rather than just as a player.

Within days of arriving in Wellsville, Lawson was approached by a small, scrawny 17-year-old ballplayer that had been let go by the neighboring Olean club after just six games. The boy�s name was John McGraw. He was raised as a pitcher, but while forced to play third at Olean had made numerous throwing errors--in one game he made nine. Lawson agreed to sign him to the Wellsville team, where he quickly got the hang of playing the infield and hit at a .365 clip. McGraw was paid $60 a month by Lawson.

During their month of September together at Wellsville, Lawson told McGraw that he was going south to Florida in November with the idea of establishing a team there and taking it on a tour of Cuba. Lawson wasn�t the first American to plan a baseball tour of the island. A baseball manager and promoter named Frank Bancroft had taken a squad there in 1879 and played exhibitions against local teams. Lawson had no doubt heard about Bancroft�s trip when he was in St. Augustine the past winter. With the huge publicity that Spalding�s world tour had generated recently, Lawson thought the time was ripe for American ballplayers to revisit Cuba. It was an audacious plan, coming from a 21-year-old with one month�s worth of managerial experience in a flyspeck town in a backwater minor league.

Lawson formed a team in Ocala in December, 1890, and tried to organize a league of Florida clubs. The League never materialized, but Ocala challenged other Florida teams for an impromptu championship. Lawson�s pitching for Ocala was extraordinary. In the five games he pitched in early January, he allowed a grand total of 5 hits. One game against Jacksonville (which boasted seven major leaguers) was a no-hitter. The national Sporting News hailed his achievement under the headline "Lawson's Great Feat." From Jacksonville's team, Lawson enticed veterans Ed Mars (Syracuse, American Association), George Kurtz (Cleveland, Player's League), and S. E. Stratton (Michigan League) for his Cuban tour. Lawson also found Jake Wells, formerly with the St. Louis Browns; Roger Connor Jr., a teammate from Cobleskill in the New York State League; Pat Luby, a starting pitcher from Anson's Chicago Colts; and Dan Minnehan, who later made the Louisville Colonels roster. Rounding out the troupe were Milt West and Will White, a veteran of the Cincinnati Red Stockings. From Ocala the All-Americans caught a steamer from Tampa to Havana, Cuba.

Baseball had arrived in Cuba in the 1860s from two sources: American seamen visiting the ports of the island showed the inhabitants how to play the game; but it was also brought to Cuba by the sons of wealthy landowners returning from American schools and colleges. Cuba was a bustling crossroads to all ports in the Gulf of Mexico. Its cities�particularly Havana�were cosmopolitan urban areas with large numbers of foreign visitors, especially American businessmen. Yet it also remained a possession of Spain after 380 years, and was ruled by an appointed governor. His power was enforced by large Spanish garrisons. Baseball, through its association with the United States and with the spirit of modernity, came to be associated in Cuba with the movement for independence from Spain. Spanish officials tried to discourage the sport, but it took hold among all social levels, black and white. Cuba�s war for independence would begin just a few years after Lawson�s tour, and lead to military intervention by the United States before the decade ended.

Organized league baseball in Cuba was started in the 1870s by the social clubs popular among upper-middle class and upper-class whites, many of them associated with the sugar plantation business. Mirroring the sport�s evolution in America, these social club leagues quickly became professionalized. The 1880s saw players jumping from team to team, imported �ringers� from the Unites States joining teams, and�no surprise�intense gambling on game outcomes. The best players became major celebrities, and were recruited from all social classes�but the club league teams remained all-white, reflecting the racial segregation that existed in Cuban society. Baseball joined literature, music, and the theater as recreational passions of Cuban intellectuals. In overall popularity, it soon rivaled the longtime Spanish pastime, bullfighting.

Lawson�s Ocala All-Americans played a series of games against Cuban League clubs, with uneven results. On January 31, 1891, the All-Americans lost a close game against Habana (Havana). They won the next three games from Matanzas, Progreso, and Almendares. On Feb. 5, they lost to Fe by the lopsided score of 17-6.  This was followed by a loss to a team of All-Cuban stars by an embarrassing 11-0 tally.  Lawson had judged correctly that his team�s bright yellow uniforms would create a sensation (everyday fashions in Cuba�s upper crust society were very conservative.) John McGraw�s scampering style at shortstop earned him the nickname of �El mono amarillo,� the Yellow Monkey.

The series drew respectably sized and enthusiastic crowds, but Lawson miscalculated the total expenses of the trip, because they soon found themselves without enough funds to get back to Tampa. It does not take a great deal of imagination to conjecture how they raised the money to get back to the States. The temptation to lay bets against themselves and throw games would have been irresistible. After making enough to get from Havana to Key West, the squad was split in two and recruited other American and local players to form two complete teams and played games there. Once again, within a few days they had raised enough to get back to Tampa. On their arrival, Lawson found himself being asked questions by the Tampa papers about his team�s drinking and wagering�his denials were indignant, but the printed charge that they had thrown three games on purpose seems too specific to be spurious.

After arrival back in Florida in Late February, 1891, the team did not return to Ocala. Apparently, Lawson blamed the Ocala team backers for failing to come to their aid during the Cuba trip. Instead, Lawson�s men barnstormed north to Georgia and then back to Gainesville, Florida, but half of the team he took to Cuba deserted him along the way. John McGraw, having no contract with anyone else, stuck with Lawson, but several men had obligations to rejoin their major league clubs. Lawson found replacements and adopted Gainesville as a base to pick up games with other Florida cities. After a few victories against other Florida teams, Lawson anointed his crew as the �Champions of Florida,� and issued challenges to touring major league teams. The Cleveland National Leaguers took the bait, and on March 26, 1891 several hundred spectators in Gainesville watched their new home team take on the Cleveland Spiders.

Despite outdrawing the National League in 1890, the Players League had not survived into a second season. Though no major league made any profits in 1890, the financial backers of the Players League teams did not have the resources or the patience to win war of attrition. To John M. Ward�s disgust, his vision of a cooperatively run league collapsed after just one year. Most Players League men returned to their former National League clubs, though Ward himself moved from the New York Giants to the Brooklyn Bridegrooms.

Therefore the Cleveland Spiders team that Lawson met was replenished with many veteran athletes: Chief Zimmer, Cupid Childs, Big Ed McKean, Spud Johnson, captain Pat Tebeau, Jake �Guesses� Virtue, Gorgeous George Davis, and Dirty Jack Doyle. Cleveland had a rookie pitcher that year, Cy Young, but the pitcher that opposed Lawson on March 26, 1891 was their ace, Lee Viau. It was the best team that Lawson had ever pitched against. Lawson allowed just five hits, but wretched fielding by his team lost the game, 9-6. McGraw was the lone standout for Gainesville�he played brilliantly at shortstop and hit three doubles. McGraw�s performance was written up in the national baseball journals, Sporting News and Sporting Life, which matched the glowing notices Lawson had received for his amazing pitching for Ocala in January.

On the basis of those performances, both Lawson and McGraw received many contract offers from teams around the country�but not from any major league clubs. The majors already had a surfeit of talent, both from the returning veterans and the rookies of 1890 that had proved their mettle. In making their next respective career moves, both Lawson and McGraw followed the same questionable strategy. It takes no guesswork to determine that Lawson, the 22-year-old who already had 5 years experience in professional baseball on twenty different teams, advised the 18-year-old McGraw how to get the best contract. Lawson had no doubt been stung before by team managers that withheld his first salary payment to prevent contract jumping�and then saw that money disappear when the team dissolved unexpectedly. It happened all the time in nineteenth century baseball. He had also probably run into managers that telegraphed a contract offer, but upon his paying travel expenses out of his own pocket to get to the appointed town, discovered the offer was withdrawn

In response, Lawson�s strategy was to accept the telegraphed terms of several clubs, then demand a sizeable advance payment to be wired to him. If the teams were willing to send money, he could then pick the most attractive offer, and return the money of the others--or maybe hold on to the other money for a little while. In March, 1891, Lawson sent his contract terms to all four clubs in the Pacific Northwest League and had them accepted by Spokane, Seattle, and Portland. He agreed to terms with all three and waited for the signing money and tickets. All three teams thought they had Lawson committed and reported his signing in their local papers. Within days each learned of the others claim.

On April 2, the Portland Morning Oregonian declared: �There is apparently something wrong with Lawson, or else he would not have led three clubs to believe that each would get him. The probability is that he accepted terms from all three, but why he should do this is a mystery that even an umpire can not solve.� A week later, the dispute had still not been resolved, and the patience of all three clubs was wearing thin. Opinion in the Portland newspaper became more pointed: �If he [Lawson] had an idea that such a play would help his reputation, he may be mistaken.�

During those same weeks, Johnny McGraw employed the same tactics. He accepted offers from Cedar Rapids, Davenport, and Rockford in the Illinois-Iowa League; and from Fort Wayne in the Michigan-Indiana League. McGraw had asked for a salary of $125 per month and a $75 advance, and apparently received that amount from several of the above teams. When the Rockford club management heard that McGraw had accepted multiple offers, they retained a lawyer. They promised to: ��stop his coquettish antics and teach him a needed lesson. At best he is but an experiment and is altogether too gay a young blood who has but one season out.� When McGraw reported to the rival Cedar Rapids Canaries in April, the Rockford officials said that �he should not be allowed to play at all.� Davenport�s owner sent sheriffs and process servers after McGraw. The dispute was quietly settled by Illinois-Iowa League officials.

In the Pacific Northwest, Lawson finally opted to play for Spokane. Spokane�s season opener against Portland was scheduled for April 15th, but Portland said that it would refuse to take the field if Lawson appeared in uniform. Lawson was benched for a week until the Secretary and the President of the Pacific Northwest League intervened to declare that Lawson was under contract to Spokane. The money and tickets sent by Seattle and Portland clubs to Lawson were returned. On April 29th, Lawson pitched Spokane to a win, but in other games he played the outfield. Spokane had hedged its bets and signed four pitchers, which meant that one would soon be released. After Lawson�s arm acted up in a game on May 6th, he saw the writing on the wall. Rather than be cut, he asked for his release and was granted it.

Ten days later, Lawson was signed by Seattle, but they also released him within a month due his poor pitching. He appears to have been plagued with an injury, because his next stop at Pendleton, Oregon was very brief. He next landed in Oakland, Cal. and won his first game there on July 4th, but even in that game his delivery was erratic. In games on July 11th and 19th, the opposing teams scored at will. At that point Lawson must have realized his arm was spent and went home to Michigan, where he finished the summer playing a few games for Freemont and Flint.

John McGraw�s gambit in Cedar Rapids turned out better. He batted well, and his fielding amazed onlookers. Shortly after joining Cedar Rapids, the club played an exhibition against Cap Anson�s Chicago Colts. McGraw dazzled the Chicago manager with his play, and sassed Anson back when the Chicago manager launched into one of his loud dugout diatribes. Anson approached McGraw after the game and asked him if he would like to play for Chicago some day. McGraw�s reply was not reported. He continued to excel for Cedar Rapids, and his hard work paid off in August, 1891 when his contract was bought by Baltimore in the American Association. His Hall of Fame career was off and running.

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In November, 1891, Al Lawson tuned up his rested arm pitching for Mobile, Alabama; but he was soon involved in a scheme to round up another team of players to tour Cuba. The team he formed included more seasoned major leaguers than had made the Cuba trip ten months earlier: Billy Alvord, a third baseman most recently with NL Cleveland Spiders; also from Cleveland were Ed Seward and Big Ed McKean; John Dolan, a pitcher from the Cincinnati Reds; and Billy Earle, of the St. Louis Browns. Earle�s nickname was the �Little Globetrotter,� and had been one of the �All-Americas� on A.G. Spalding�s baseball world tour in 1888. The teams� second baseman was John Newell, who broke into the majors earlier in 1891 on the Pittsburgh club. Newell brought along his teammate Doggie Miller. Also on the roster were Johnny McGraw, Bob Champion, Charlie Frank, and Lawson himself.  Three other newcomers were invited: Bad Bill Dahlen was persuaded to come south to rendezvous with the others in New Orleans; John Dolan from the Columbus club was brought on to alternate pitching duties with Lawson; and Joe Neale, a lightly-used pitcher most recently with St. Louis. John McGraw was the only player on this second Cuba tour roster who had been with Lawson on his first tour. The ballplayers met in New Orleans in late November. They played a few exhibition games against Lawson�s recent Mobile teammates; the local New Orleans club; and Pensacola to get in shape. They then waited while Lawson arranged booking to Cuba from Mobile.

Lawson�s Cuba trip hopes were pinned on advance backing from a shady New Orleans investor named P. H. McTague. Lawson had arranged to meet McTague at his hotel in New Orleans on the day following McTague's withdrawal of the trip funds from the bank. According to Lawson, McTague failed to appear, and Lawson investigated and found McTague drugged and robbed. Lawson told the players about the loss, and they were understandably upset. Lawson contacted his recent manager at Mobile, John F. Kelly, to ask for help in backing the trip. Kelly told Lawson that he would be willing to front one-way tickets to Havana. Lawson relayed that offer to the players, but they had heard the story of Lawson's first Cuba trip and demanded round-trip tickets. Lawson washed his hands of the affair at that point and packed his bags, and took the first steamer he could find going to Tampa, Florida. Kelly, meanwhile, talked to the owner of the Mobile team, oyster magnate J. E. "Jack" Hooper, who agreed to fully fund the trip. The ballplayers sailed from Mobile on Dec. 4, 1891 as "Hooper's All-American Base Ball Club," with John F. Kelly as their manager.

These "All-Americans" were much more talented than the Ocala  All-Americans that Lawson had brought to the island eleven months earlier. They had little problem defeating the Cuban League teams. Against Habana, the score was 17-0. Against Fe, the game ended 11-4. In a second game against Habana, the All-Americans won 10-1. Kelly�s men beat Almendares, 14-0; and finally beat the All-Cubans 14-3. To solve the problem of being shorthanded playing under the Cuban League's ten-man rule, Kelly recruited their biggest star, batting champion Antonio Maria Garcia, to play right field for the All-Americans. Garcia�s nickname was �El Ingles.� He spoke flawless English and had refined tastes, and was considered the best Cuban player of the nineteenth century.

The Hooper All-Americans returned from Cuba with a tidy profit. News of Lawson's abandonment of the team spread through the community of major league players, and was recalled in later years as the first public example of Lawson�s tendency to solve his troubles by leaving the area where they occurred. Lawson tried to defend himself with impassioned letters to editors of sporting papers: Sporting News  published one under the headline "Honorable (?) Al Lawson."  Lawson argued, in fact, that he was due some thanks for paving the way for a venture that, after all, ended profitably; and for putting the players in touch with John F. Kelly. He claimed that he was bringing suit against McTague.

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John McGraw returned from Cuba and pleaded with Baltimore team owners to sign the man most responsible for the popularizing what came to be known as the "American Series" in Cuba. The player that McGraw was lobbying on behalf of was not his mentor Alfred Lawson...it was Antonio Maria Garcia. The recruitment failed. For his part, Garcia claimed he could earn more playing in Cuba; but it should be noted that it would be many more years before the first Latino player appeared in the major leagues.


Cap Anson: White Stockings Became Colts

Frank Selee, who's managerial genius made the Boston Beaneaters a dynasty in the 1890s.

John Clarkson, Boston star pitcher.

Kid Nichols, Boston star pitcher.

Al Lawson, Boston pitcher for one game

New York ace Mickey Welch: not the man to face in your first game in the majors




17-year-old Johnnie McGraw: released by his first team Olean after just six games


Jake Wells, catcher for the Ocala All-Americans that toured Cuba in early 1891.


Dan Minnehan, outfielder for the Ocala All-Americans.

John Perkins "Pat" Luby, shared pitching duties for the Ocala All-Americans.









Billy Alvord, one of Hooper's Cuba tour players

Ed Seward, of Philadelphia and Cleveland.

Billy Earle, Hooper All-Americans.

Cuban hitting champ Antonio Maria Garcia

John McGraw, star for Baltimore

Jerry Kuntz � 1997-2006 | All Rights Reserved | Contact