by Paul R. Spitzzeri
On Thursday, the 2022 season of major league baseball begins, with a lockdown recently narrowly averted, and we’ll see if the Dodgers, with the club’s massive payroll, will emerge as world champions as many predict, while the Angels, with some new additions joining reigning MVP Shohei Ohtani and a Mike Trout, who was injured most of last season, should be much improved. Obviously, it’s a long season and who knows who’ll be left standing come the Fall Classic?
As we usher in the campaign, tonight’s featured object from the Homestead’s collection is a fantastic press photo, date stamped 5 April 1922, but likely from a practice contest a week or so prior, from a game between the Pacific Coast League’s Class-AA Los Angeles Angels and the big-league Chicago Cubs played at the old Washington Park stadium. The image shows a leaping Howard Lindimore, playing third base, trying to snap an errant throw from shortstop Ike McCauley, as Charles “Gabby” Hartnett, rookie catcher for the Cubs, slides safely to the bag.
As acrobatic as Lindimore’s attempt was, he and Hartnett wound up having totally divergent paths in baseball, with the former never leaving the minor leagues in a nomadic career spanning almost two decades, while the latter ended up almost all of his career with Cubs as one of the all-time greats behind the plate and was voted into the Hall of Fame.
As noted in previous posts here, professional baseball in the Angel City began in 1903 when the Angels were formed as part of the Pacific Coast League, comprised at the time of teams from California, Oregon and Washington. The club played in three different stadiums at the same site, known as Washington Gardens in its earliest iteration and later Chutes Park, Luna Park and, finally, Washington Park.
The Cubs franchise was an inaugural member of the National League when it was launched in 1876, though the team was known as the White Stockings until 1890 when it became the Colts. While the name “Cubs” was used by the media and fans as early as 1902, it was not made official until 1907. Seven years before, when the American League was formed, a new Chicago team took the name White Stockings though it quickly became the White Sox.
In 1916, chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr., purchased a minority interest in the Cubs and three years later acquired Santa Catalina Island from the Banning family. When he took full ownership of the club in 1921, he brought the team out west for spring training on the island, while later in the year he bought the Angels and made them a farm team of sorts for the Cubs.
So, when the two teams met for a series of practice, or exhibition, contests in spring 1922, with the Cubs also playing the local PCL franchise, the Vernon Tigers, it was not all that long after the consolidation by Wrigley. Another insularity was that brothers were managers of the teams, with player-manager Bill Killefer, a catcher with the St. Louis Browns and the Philadelphia Phillies before joining the Cubs, was countered by his brother Wade, known commonly as “Red” and who was an outfielder and second basement with four clubs in seven seasons in the majors before becoming skipper of the Seraphs (as the Angels were frequently known) in 1917.
Bill Killefer retired as a player after the 1921 campaign and was the favorite catcher of Hall of Fame hurler Grover Cleveland Alexander with the Phillies and Cubs, but, when he ended his playing days, Bob O’Farrell, his backup, became the starting catcher. Meanwhile, Hartnett, whose nickname came because of his very shy nature, was signed by the Cubs after playing one year with a minor league team on the east coast and it was expected he would be the backup to O’Farrell.
As for Lindimore, nicknamed “Lindy,” he started playing pro ball in 1911 and was with a Class A club in Topeka, Kansas in 1916, though he wound up playing for a trio of Class D teams the following season. After a year in military service during the First World War, he returned to baseball and spent two seasons as a starter with the Class A club in Oklahoma City, where he had batting averages of .316 and .330. In 1921, he joined the Angels, which won the PCL championship, and hit a respectable .269, though his fielding was considered somewhat spotty.
For 1922, the Angels were counting on adding Charlie Deal, who’d just finished ten seasons at third base in the majors, including the last half-dozen with the Cubs, which dealt him to Los Angeles, but Deal held out for more money, so Lindimore was touted as someone who “will show the fans something new in the way of playing the difficult corner.”
So, when the exhibition games were played against the Cubs in the last couple of weeks in March, Lindimore was at third base and showed his athleticism with his attempt at spearing the ball as Hartnett slid into the base at what was probably the 6-2 win by the Cubs over the Angels on 26 March. Incidentally, the starting second baseman for Chicago was 34-year old Marty Krug, a native of Coblenz, Germany, who was in his second year in the big leagues, having a short stint a decade before as a seldom-played backup at shortstop with the World Series champion Boston Red Sox. Krug wound up in the minors including a few seasons in the PCL before Chicago signed him for the 1922 campaign.
The 26 March contest was covered extensive by the Los Angeles Times and, with the legendary Alexander on the mound for the Cubs and the greenhorn Hartnett behind the plate, the Angels were held scoreless with just four hits over five innings by the 35-year old “Alexander the Great,” who’d been in the service during World War I and suffered shell shock and epilepsy which led to increased drinking from the hard-living hurler.
The Halos scored twice in the sixth inning off Vic Aldridge, but the Cubs had a pair of runs at the top of the frame including a triple by Hartnett, which may have been the play shown in the photo. Krug, who batted in front of the catcher, was 3 for 3, with a single, double and triple and added a stolen base and scored half of the Cubs’ runs. Hartnett was 2 for 3, so the two men accounted for almost half of the eleven hits, a number matched by the Angels.
Lindimore was 2 for 4 with an RBI single, but the home team squandered a bases loaded opportunity with just one out in the 8th, but Lindimore popped out and pinch-hitter McKinley (Mack) Wheat, who’d spent seven seasons in the majors between 1915 and 1921, mostly with the Brooklyn Robins, for which his brother, Hall of Famer Zack Wheat played, struck out. In the final frame, the Angels, with two out, managed to load the bases again, but hard-hitting first basemen Art Griggs, who was 2 for 4, popped out to Krug to end the contest.
The major league season commenced on 12 April and ended on 8 October. The Cubs finished fifth out of eight teams in the National League, compiling a record of 80-74, 13 games behind the pennant-winning New York Giants. The New York Yankees captured the American League crown, even as Babe Ruth missed more than 40 games due to a suspension and “only” hit 35 homers (after clubbing 59 in 1921 and 50 in 1920, his first season with the Yanks, thanks largely to the introduction of a new “live” ball), but the Giants cruised to the championship, winning in five games, with one tie (yes, a tie!).
Hartnett was O’Farrell’s backup and only appeared in 31 games that season, batting just .194 with no home runs and only 4 runs batted in. Krug had a decent year at the plate, hitting. 276, though he was not retained and wound up as a player-manager with the Angels, winning a PCL crown in 1926. Alexander finished the campaign with a 16-13 record and a 3.63 ERA, just slightly higher than Aldridge, who was 16-15 with a 3.52 ERA.
After another season backing up O’Farrell, Harnett moved into the starting lineup in 1924 when the former suffered a skull fracture during a game. The next year, he set a record for home runs by a catcher, smacking 24, and was known for his strong arm, but also for his propensity for errors and passed balls. Hartnett, however, came into his prime by the late Twenties and was an All-Star for six straight seasons during the following decade, with a greatly improved defensive record and a long-standing record for catcher of 37 homers in 1930.
In 1935, he was the NL MVP and his .354 batting average two seasons later remained a catcher’s record until Mike Piazza of the Dodgers hit .362 in 1997. Hartnett remained a Cub until 1940, including as a player-manager toward the end and the spent his final year in that capacity with the Giants before retiring. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1955 and died 17 years later.
As for the Angels, the club finished third in the PCL with a record of 111-88 (that’s right, almost 200 games played!) behind Vernon and the San Francisco Seals. In its 100 or so home games, the team averaged an attendance of just under 3,000 per game at Washington Park, with fans watching Deal, who finally inked a deal for the season, hit .331, while Griggs topped him at .338 and smashed a club-leading 20 homers (the team only hit 35 all season!). The pitching staff was led by Nick Dumovich, who was 20-11 with a 2.36 ERA, while Claude Thomas and Tom Hughes had good years, as well.
Lindimore had a decent 1922 season, hitting .271 with 25 doubles and 11 triples in 190 games, while his fielding percentage improved to .960. In a limited campaign the following year, he batted .290 and his work on the field got better. In 1924, he joined the PCL’s Salt Lake City for two seasons and had a career high .339 batting average, .973 fielding average and 15 homers the first year, though he dropped in all categories in 1925.
After a brief stint with the Hollywood Stars to open the 1926 season, he went to Fort Worth, Texas, following by time spent at Wichita, Kansas (his home state) and St. Joseph, Missouri. All of these were Class A teams and, in his final year, in 1933 he played for three clubs, ending up in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. At age 40, his career was over and he found work in a Phillips oil field, but, at the end of the year, he was working to hoist a tank when it fell on top of him and another employee, killing them both.
This photo is an interesting one for its associations with Los Angeles Angels baseball in the Roaring Twenties, as an early one of future Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett, and for the athleticism of Howard Lindimore, whose career, however, never got him to the big leagues and who died tragically. As the 2022 major league season kicks off, this look back a century ago is another notable entry in the “Games People Play” series of posts on The Homestead Blog.