Boston Rustlers

From BR Bullpen

Boston Rustlers: (Apr. 12-Oct. 9, 1911)

  • Win-Loss-Record: 44-107-5 (.298) 699-1021 (-322)
  • Ballpark: South End Grounds III: 19-54-2 (.267) 391-536 (-145)

The Boston Rustlers was a nickname used by the press during the 1911 season when referring to the Boston National League Base Ball Company. Alternatively the press also used Heps, Hapes, and Hopes. These names were in reference to team owner William Hepburn Russell, who bought the team prior to the start of the season. It should be pointed out that none of these nicknames was ever widely used by either fans or the players themselves. More often than not, the team was also referred to in either the singular or the plural (i.e. Boston or Bostons).

Team History[edit]

Prior to the 1912 season, the Boston Baseball Club did not have an official nickname. Most of the time the team was called either Boston or the Bostons. However the press would frequently refer to the team by various nicknames, such as Red Stockings, Reds, Beaneaters, Triumvirs (referring to the team’s trio of owners - Arthur Soden, James Billings and William Conant), the Seleemen (after manager Frank Selee), the Doves (after the Dovey Brothers, who were former owners) and the Nationals. On November 12, 1910, John S.C. Dovey sold his interest in the team to John Harris, the team’s chief investor, and a deal was finalized at noon at the Paddock Building on December 17th, when Harris sold the team to a group led by William Russell, a lawyer from New York, NY. Russell assumed the title of team president.

In addition to Russell, there were the Page brothers: Louis C. Page and George A. Page, both of whom were in the publishing business. Louis served as vice president while George became club secretary. Finally there was Frederic J. Murphy, who was an insurance executive. Murphy took on the role of treasurer. Unlike Russell, these three men were from Boston, MA. The new owners paid Harris $100,000.00 for his 765 shares. They also purchased an additional 215 shares to bring their total to 980. The remaining 20 shares were held by one P.F. Kelley, who rounded out the board of directors and served as clerk. To manage the team, former Doves’ manager Fred Tenney was brought back for the upcoming season.

The Rustlers opened the season on April 12th with a 2-1 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers, but lost the next two and the opening series to Brooklyn. A 5-4 win on April 15th over the Philadelphia Phillies put the team back at .500 which was the last time it would be there all season. Half-way through the season the team's record was 18-58-1. In the front office there was dissention among the Page brothers and Russell over trades that the latter was making, as well as over who had say in the direction of the team. At one point former Baltimore Orioles manager Ned Hanlon had put forward an offer to buy the club for $250,000, presumably in order to move it to Baltimore. Fortunately for fans, the team’s owners turned the deal down. Russell then increased his stock in the team by buying out Louis Page on July 24th. With this move, he was now majority owner of the team and announced that the team was not for sale.

The second half of the season saw the team increase its win total by 8. They also scored 53 more runs while giving up 33 fewer than they did in the first half of the season. Overall the team finished the season with a record of 44-107-5. It was the team’s third straight season with 100 or more loses. Percentage-wise it would be the team’s worst mark (.291) until the 1935 season. Since the league increased the number of games to more than 100 back in 1883 it was also the fewest wins by Boston. The team ERA was the worst in all of baseball at 5.08, far higher than the league average of 3.39. Attendance dropped to 116,000, still the worst in the league.

During the off-season, tragedy struck the front office again. On November 21st, Russell died unexpectedly of a heart-attack. The team was put up for sale yet again, this time by Russell’s estate, led by his widow, Mary. The team was bought nearly a month later, on December 20th, by a group led by John Ward and James Gaffney. Ward was named team president, while Gaffney was named treasurer.

With the team under new management, a new nickname was needed. According to an article in the Milwaukee Journal, it was reported that the team would be called the Boston Braves on a suggestion by Ward, due to Gaffney’s connections with New York’s Tammany Hall (whose symbol was an Indian head), a name that would outlast the team's stay in Boston by decades. The last surviving player from the Rustlers' lone season was infielder Art Butler, who died on October 7, 1984.

Sources[edit]

Books[edit]

  • William J. Craig: A History of the Boston Braves: A Time Gone, The History Press, 2012.
  • Peter Filichia: Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebrations of All 273 Major League and Negro League Ballparks Past and Present, Addison Wesley Publishing Company, 1993.
  • Harold Kaese: Boston Braves, 1871-1953, UPNE, 1948
  • Glenn Stout, Dick Johnson: Red Sox Century: The Definitive History of Baseball’s Most Storied Franchise, Houghton Mifflin, 2004.

Newspapers[edit]

  • "Harris Now Owns Doves", Boston Herald, November 13, 1910, p. 7.
  • "Russell Gives Details of Deal", Boston Globe, December 14, 1910, p. 7.
  • "Boston Nationals Sold", Boston Evening Transcript, December 17, 1910.
  • "Hanlon Wants Boston Club for Baltimore", Boston Journal, July 22, 1911, p. 1.
  • "Russell Takes the Page Stock", Boston Herald, July 25, 1911, p. 4.
  • "The Name’s All Right", Milwaukee Journal, December 20, 1911, p. 25.

See Also[edit]

  • Bob LeMoine: Boston Braves team ownership history SABR [1]