March 30, 1901

The defendants in the suit brought by John Rogers, the owner of the Philadelphia Phillies, wasted no time responding, despite having up to 15 days to do so. Today, Nap Lajoie filed a demurrer in the case, claiming that Rogers’ case, as stated, was invalid on the face of it and not cause even for the consideration of an injunction.

Lajoie’s primary arguments were that the contract was not mutually binding on each party, that the contract was not signed by the requisite three company managers to make it valid, that the contract applied only to the 1900 season and was an attempt to coerce service for “an indeterminate period,” and that Lajoie’s services could be provided by “hundreds of other persons who are ready and willing to be employed for that purpose.” The demurrer concluded by simply stating the Phillies were not entitled to relief.

If the court were to uphold the demurrer, the case would be dismissed, and the Phillies would have to refile at the very least. Rogers was reported to have been shaken by the quick response, having hoped to have more time to influence public opinion in his favor.

Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Record
Philadelphia Times

Mar 29, 1901

The only news of even mild interest today was Ben Shibe’s announcement that the team would provide uniforms free of charge to their players. This was in contrast to the National League, whose teams levied a $30 fee to their players for their game togs.

Philadelphia Record

March 28, 1901

With the light of day, reporters were able to examine the terms of the lawsuit filed by the Phillies and named as defendants were Bill Bernhard, Chick Fraser and Nap Lajoie. Also named, as co-defendants, were Frank Hough, Connie Mack, and Ben Shibe. In the suit, the Phillies argued that each of the players had signed contracts prior to the 1900 season that included a clause giving the team an option to renew the contract in 1901 and for the two seasons following. The team asserted that it had exercised that option for each of the players and upon breach of the contract by a player, the team had the right to seek damages, force compliance, or prevent that player from offering his baseball services to another team for the duration the contract, in this case, until after the 1903 season.

With each of the players having signed with Mack, they were, according to the suit, in breach of their contract and, in addition to depriving the Phillies of their services in 1901, they were encouraging other players to take the same path. The players, thus, were materially harming the Phillies’ efforts to put the best team possible on the field.

As an adjunct to the court papers, Phillies manager Bill Shettsline addressed a letter to Mack. “Dear Sir,” he wrote, “It has been so frequently stated in the newspapers that it has become a matter of public notoriety that you have been negotiating with certain players under contract with our club that I thought it only proper to notify you formally that said players signed a regular contract for us last year, including the well-known 19th paragraph, with its renewed option clause, which we exercise by serving written notice thereof prior to October 15, 1900 [rambling sentence in original]. And by said exercise of such option the players covenant to perform similar services and be subject to all the obligations, duties, and liabilities prescribed in said contract for the six months beginning April 1, 1901.

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March 27, 1901

First baseman Pat Crisham reported to the team today, the first player to do so. Though he was nominally listed as a first baseman, he had significant experience catching and was thought to be able to play anywhere on the field. He was reportedly in “excellent condition.”

Off the field, Phillies owner John Rogers formally filed his suit for injunction with the Court of Common Pleas. His filing took place late in the evening so a perusal of its contents by interested parties would have to wait until tomorrow.

Connie Mack responded to the news, saying, “When the time comes, we will be represented by the best that can be secured and you can make your mind easy as to where Larry (Lajoie) will play this season.”

Philadelphia Record
Philadelphia Times

March 26, 1901

There was all sorts of news to report today in the Athletics camp. The first was that the team was starting to be called the “Athletics.” This wasn’t anything the team had announced, and their official designation was the “Philadelphia American League Club”, but the name was expected to stick, especially given the description of the team’s uniforms that had just been released. Colors would be blue on white at home and blue on gray on the road with the letter “A” on the left breast.

Two more player signings were announced as well. The first was 25-year-old, left-handed hitting outfielder Fred Ketchum. Ketchum had played a handful of games with Louisville in the National League in 1899, but spent last year in Milwaukee, where he hit .231 and slugged .266 in 316 at bats. The other new player was 24-year-old Johnny Flournoy. Flournoy, whose position seems to be lost to the ages, spent 1900 in Ohio playing for Mansfield in the Interstate League. While there, he batted .326 and slugged .503 in 390 at bats.

There was also talk the team was negotiating with 20-year-old right-handed pitcher Christy Mathewson, whose brief stint with the Giants last year had been unimpressive, but while with Norfolk in the Virginia League, had posted an 18-2 record with a sparkling 0.74 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 183 innings.

All the drama, though, was going to be at Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas. Phillies owner John Rogers said he was getting the paperwork together to request an injunction preventing Bill Bernhard, Chick Fraser, and Nap Lajoie from playing with the Athletics this season.

“The suit will surely be brought this week,” said Rogers. “I have been busily engaged with the drawing up of the papers and the formal petition to that will be presented to the court. They have been approved by (the team’s) attorney…and are now in the hands of the printer. They will all be filed within a few days.”

Athletics president Ben Shibe was unperturbed by the news. “The sooner the better,” he said. “We expect the Philadelphia club to bring suit and do not care when it begins. We think they will be all wiser after it is all over. The option clause in league contracts is not legal and that is why we sign the players.”

Connie Mack added, “It is only a bluff to scare the players whom they think they are likely to lose. Such as (outfielder Jimmy) Slagle for instance. He had promised to sign with (manager Jimmy) Manning’s Washington team but now seems inclined to go back on his promise. This threat of Rogers’s is designed to scare him into signing with the Philadelphia club and it begins to look as though it might have that effect.”

Baseball Reference
Philadelphia Record
Philadelphia Times

Sporting Life

March 25, 1901

Someone had finally discovered that the Philadelphia and Washington teams were scheduled to play in two different cities on July 3. Connie Mack said not to worry: “President (Ban) Johnson will issue his official schedule to the club owners in a few days and any mistakes will then by fixed. I don’t know how the difficulty will be met, but we will probably play a doubleheader in Washington on July 2 and then return home to play on July 3.”

Philadelphia Times

March 24, 1901

The team said they were making a small change in the ballpark plans to increase total seating capacity to 13,000. The grandstand seat count would grow from 3,500 to 4,000 and total bleacher capacity was bumped from 7,000 to 9,000, though they didn’t specify totals for each foul line. Some superstitious person apparently asked Connie Mack whether he thought 13,000 was a good idea, because he was quoted as saying, “My best trip out West was started on a Friday the 13th with 13 men and a playing schedule of 13 games. I guess 13 must by my lucky number.”

Philadelphia Record

March 23, 1901

The team was still short a left fielder, but Connie Mack was working on it. “We are after two good men,” he said, not identifying them, “and expect to land one or the other, or both. One of them played on a National League team last season, while the other, although he did not play, was owned by a National League club.”

While Mack was working on his roster, another update on ballpark progress came out. With roughly a week to go before training was to begin, bad weather had slowed some of the work. The bleachers and the roof over the grandstand were done, as were the wooden walls and the brick façade around the main entrance on the corner of 30th and Oxford. However, the grandstand’s folding seats were not yet installed, and the grading of the outfield wasn’t complete.

Philadelphia Record
Sporting Life

March 22, 1901

The team announced they had signed another Phillie to the roster, 30-year-old, right-handed pitcher Bill Bernhard. Last year, in his second major league season, he had gone 15-10 with 49 strikeouts in 218 innings. Thought to have a superior fastball with good control, the word was that manager Bill Shettsline had perhaps worked him too hard, leading to a late-season decline and a 4.77 earned-run average.

Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Record

Philadelphia Times

March 21, 1901

The announcement that Connie Mack had signed Nap Lajoie brought an immediate response from the Phillies in the person of manager Bill Shettsline, who said his team would contest the transaction “immediately.” While Lajoie was still in the fold, outfielder Lefty Davis would not be. While Davis had been penciled into the prospective lineup for more than a week, the 26-year-old said he had decided to stay with his old team in Minneapolis.

Another outfielder, Roy Thomas, who had been the subject of rumors in February, confirmed today that he would remain with the Phillies for 1901.

While contract talks were going on in the background, the American League representatives were working out the season’s schedule and released the finished product today. Each team would play 140 games, with the season to start on April 24 and end on September 28. Of the Philadelphia team’s 70 home dates, 22 of those would coincide with Phillies home dates. One error would need to be corrected as Washington and Philadelphia were scheduled to play in both cities on July 3. The full schedule, with error, follows:

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