This Day in Reds History: "Rowdy Jack" & "Mighty" Mike Costanzo

Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

On this day in Reds history, a former Red who was involved in one of baseball's all-time great controversies died.

On this day in 1937, former Red Jack O'Connor died in St. Louis at age 71 (at least according to Baseball-Reference. According to Wikipedia, he died on October 7th.) Predominately a catcher, O'Connor played 21 major league seasons from 1887-1904, 1906-07, and 1910. He started his career in the Queen City with the Reds of the old American Association in 1887 and 1888. During those two seasons, he slashed .181/.220/.226 in just 186 plate appearances. Neither Baseball-Reference nor Wikipedia detail why or how he left Cincinnati, but one can surmise that the Reds probably were not too upset about letting a catcher with a .181 average move on to another club. He would play for a variety of teams throughout the rest of his career including the Columbus Solons, Cleveland Spiders, and St. Louis Browns.

O'Connor is notable for at least two other reasons. First, he had two good nicknames. One was "Rowdy Jack", which is a perfectly fine nickname that seemed to be common in that era, but of a style that has been lost to history. The other moniker was "Peach Pie", which is one of the best nicknames I have ever heard. I am not sure if "Peach Pie" pertains to the notion that O'Connor was a real "peach" or something else entirely, but I love it.

Second, while serving as the player-manager for the 1910 St. Louis Browns, O'Connor acted as a central player in one of the most famous batting title controversies of all-time. In that time, the de facto MVP award was presented by the Chalmers Automobile Company and was known as the Chalmers Award. In fact, the winner received a Chalmers automobile. The 1910 season was the first time that Chalmers presented the award. Being a new award, the criteria was not fully developed, and the company decided to give the award to the player with the highest batting average.

On the final day of the season, Detroit's Ty Cobb led Cleveland's Nap Lajoie, .385 to .376. Both the Tigers and the Cleveland Naps had doubleheaders that day. Cobb sat out both games to protect his lead. Cleveland played the Browns in St. Louis on the final day. Jack O'Connor order the Browns' third baseman, Red Corriden, to play on the outfield grass during Lajoie's at-bats. Lajoie collected seven hits in eight at-bats while reaching once on an error to pull within a percentage point of Cobb. Several or all of Lajoie's hits came via a bunt.

O'Connor and coach Harry Howell supposedly attempted to bribe the official scorer to change the error to a hit so as to catapult Lajoie ahead of Cobb in the batting race. As a result, the Browns fired O'Connor and Howell. (Coincidentally, today also would have Howell's birthday.) The two men were blackballed from baseball for the rest of their lives. American League president Ban Johnson investigated the situation and declared Cobb the rightful winner of the batting title. However, Chalmers awarded automobiles to both Cobb and Lajoie. O'Connor's motivation for this fiasco appears to have been an intense hatred of Ty Cobb. Cobb, of course, was a world-class horse's ass that nearly everyone despised.

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On this day in 1942, the Reds sold rightfielder Ival Goodman to the Chicago Cubs.

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On this day in 1969, the Reds signed amateur hurler Joaquin Andujar.

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On this day in 1973, former Red Ruben Rivera was born in Chorrera, Panama.

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On this day in 2011, the Reds signed Mike Costanzo.

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Trivia:

ams78 earned a point yesterday as Barry Larkin removed his captain's "C" from his jersey in protest of the Reds trading away Lenny Harris.

Today's questions:

1) In 2012, Mike Costanzo flew out to deep, deep centerfield in which ballpark to come within feet of his first career major league home run?

2) What was "Nap" Lajoie's real first name?

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