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Chicken Hawks and Other Distractions
Nelson Louis “Chicken” Hawks, born and raised in San Francisco, began a professional baseball career with the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League in 1918. In a 13-year career, he got see a lot of the country, and even parts of Canada where he played with Calvary in the Western Canada League (class B) in 1920. He played with the Nashville Vols of the Class A Southern Association in 1923 and 1924. In 1925 he was a Major Leaguer; he played 105 games at first base for the Phillies, hitting .322 with five homeruns and 45 RBIs. Good enough to remain in the Big Show? Nope. In 1926 he was back in the minors. Even his name couldn’t save him.
Whaddaya want, Art? Manager Fletcher was engaged in a waiver war, constantly searching for something to make his team better. On March 30 he claimed Lew Fonseca from Cincinnati. Fonseca may be the only major league player ever to be a trained opera singer. Fonseca played 126 games at first and second base for the 1925 Phillies, hitting .319 with seven homeruns and 60 RBIs. Good enough to earn him a trip to the Newark Bears in the International League where in 1926 he hit .389 with 21 homeruns. In 1929, with the Cleveland Indians, Fonseca hit .369 to lead the American League in batting average. Whaddaya want, Art? How can a team that needs so much, sniff at such performances as Chicken and Lew turned in? And how can a man like Fletcher, noted for his defensive shortstop play on McGraw’s champion Giants, put up with a shortstop like Heinie Sand who must have given nightmares to the Phillies’ we-need-all-the-help-we-can-get pitchers, with his 60 errors.
But hang on – the team was much better in 1925 than 1924 – they moved up to 3rd in the league by scoring 812 runs, 136 more than the previous year. Oh yeah, the pitching staff was still smelly, allowing a league worst 930 runs, 64 more than the next worse Brooklyn Robins, who the Phillies managed to tie for 6th place with 68-85 records achieved with a season-ending 5 ghws. Manager Fletcher had exhorted his ill-talented troops the entire season about avoiding losing streaks and mounting winning streaks. Who was he kidding? As late as June 5 they had scrapped to a 21-21 record, then mounted an 11 grls to settle into their now-familiar, deep in the second division, standing.
Elsewhere in the league, the Pirates found a way to at last beat the Giants and won the pennant easily behind the hitting of outfielder KiKi Cuyler and third baseman Pie Traynor. Old Philly, Lee Meadows led Pirates pitchers with 19 wins, Eppa Rixey was second in the league with 21 wins, and 38 year-old Pete Alexander was 15-11 with the Cubs, including two over the Phillies, who squeezed out a 3-2 victory over him on June 20 in Chicago. Beauty Bancroft, in his second year as Braves’ playing manager, edged the Phillies by two games for fifth place, after a 100-loss first season as manager in 1924.
Rogers Hornsby won the triple crown, batting ,403 with 39 homeruns, and 143 RBIs; he was named team manager on May 30, finishing in 4th place.
In the World’s Series, Walter Johnson (20-7), 38 years old and two years from retiring as one of the all-time great righthanders in baseball history, was given a 4 run lead in the deciding game seven, but following his 4-0 shoutout win three days earlier in game four, he was mostly ineffective, yielding 15 hits in a 9-7 Pittsburgh win. But four of the runs were unearned when shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh, the American League MVP, dropped a pop fly in the 7th, and made a wild throw in the 8th, his 7th and 8th errors of the Series.