Cannonball bits


An issue of Baseball Magazine featuring Ty Cobb

In the process of doing a little more poking around in various databases about Cannonball Dick Redding, I came up with a few peculiar items. The most … let’s say interesting of the bunch was from the 1916 issue of Baseball Magazine, and it really has to be read in full to believe.

This is under the section heading titled “Pick-Ups”:

Batted Out in the African League at Lenox Oval, New York, Where the Colored Lincoln Giants Explode Against All Comers.
“La-odeez and Genmen — bat-treez foh de white team, Whoozis and Ketchum — foh de Lincoln Giants CANNON BALL Redding and Walloping Doc Wiley.” “Yow, datta boy, Cannon Ball, explode, EXPLOHODE.” “Haw-haw-haw. Dey cain’t see nothin’ but smoke.” “Give ’em dot Dip o’ Death Drop now.” “Mistah Empiah, yo bettah drag dat Reddin’ baby offen them lil white boys. He’s libel to put holes in ’em.” “Take a taxi, boy, take a taxi. It’s de ony way yo all kin get to fuhst.” “Oh, man, jes looka dat old Cycloon Williams ramble. Ah guess Cobb ain’t got nuthin’ on Joe foh speed.” “Cobb!! You stop dot noise, Vol. Why, man if Cycloon evah is gotta do some sho nuff ramblin’ he’ll jes burn dis ball yahd right up. Cobb! Huh. Ty Cobb cain’t even STAHT wid Cycloon Joe.” “Oh you ole Santop. Bust dot lil old dug egg Sam.” “Not too hahd, Sam. Jes about foh miles.” “Bump it, Doc. Git a hit. Git a HIT. Dat pitcher ain’t got nuthin’ but his toe plate.” “Foh bits Doc Wiley get on, genmen. Mah money’s screamin’ at yuh. Bury dot ole onion, Doc. Youah totin’ mah poke chops.” “Keep tryin’ Reddin’. Keep workin’.” “Givem dot double twister, Cannon Ball.” “Oh, boy, if old Cannon Ball keeps goin’ it ain’t agonna be no ball game A-tall.”

Yes, that is for real. Aside from being annoyingly all in one paragraph, I’ve honestly never come across such a egregious and sustained incidence of Stepin Fetchit English as this. The level of racism and stereotyping it took to create this is so stunning that you almost have to just laugh at it for its absurdity and offensiveness. Besides that, it really requires no more comment.

Moving on from the blatantly bigoted to the factually shaky, there’s a Feb. 6, 1977, New York Times “Sports of The Times” column by the legendary Red Smith, in which he discusses the continued, stubborn exclusion of Negro Leaguers from the Hall of Fame, namely by the dissolution, at that time, of the special Negro Leagues committee that ushered in the induction of the first handful of blackball stars.

Smith talks about the exploits and talents of guys like Pop Lloyd and Martin Dihigo, but be also expounds on the virtues of other still-excluded (as of the time of the column’s writing 38 years ago) figures, including Dick Redding. Here’s an excerpt that relates to the myth-making that as sprung up around Cannonball’s supposed encounters with Ty Cobb:

“… When the committee has ceased to be, players like Richard (Cannonball) Redding, Rube Foster and Willie Wells will be out in the cold forever. How good were they? Well, when George Weiss was running all-star games on Sundays in New Haven he could always rely on the services of his friend Ty Cobb, unless Redding was pitching. Cobb flatly refused to face the Cannonball.”

The first thought here is that, fortunately, the Hall later changed its policy and started inducting Negro Leaguers again, including Foster and Wells. However, Cannonball Redding, despite frequently being mentioned in the same breath as other Negro Leagues superstars who are in the hallowed Hall, remains locked out, which, I feel, is a terrible injustice.


Red Smith

But beyond that, stories abound about Ty Cobb encountering — or, rather, refusing to encounter — Dick Redding, many of which are of dubious veracity and/or the result of inflated baseball mythology. Is this one true? Perhaps, but it’s just as likely that it’s just another tall tale that was created out of wishful thinking and then became enlarged and convoluted as history wore on.

Next up, we have an August 1977 commentary in the Los Angeles Sentinel by, impressively enough, Effa Manley, herself a future Hall of Famer. In the piece, Manley, much like Smith did a few months earlier, opine about the way the Hall of Fame insultingly continued to exclude dozens of Negro League greats.

The fact that the story is penned by Effa Manley herself is pretty impressive on its own. But in addition, she lists, position by position, the players she feels were Hall-worthy. Under the pitchers heading, she includes Dick Redding, about whom she later adds: “Redding was noted for his ‘no-windup’ delivery …”

Finally, on an inquiry about Cannonball pitching against Honus Wagner, one of the most gracious and honorable players in baseball history, I did some poking to find out if such an encounter happened between him and Redding.


I couldn’t find any conclusive evidence that it actually happened, but I did come across something else that’s pretty fascinating … A September 1923 article in the Pittsburgh Courier about a game between the Hilldale Club — complete with blackball legends like Judy Johnson, Louis Santop, Pop Lloyd and Frank Warfield — and the Brooklyn Royal Giants, featuring player/manager Dick Redding, who, the article asserts, was on the down slide of his playing career.

Thus, the writer, the great Rollo Wilson, expresses surprises when Redding masters the lineup of future Hall of Famers for a 4-2 victory. Wrote Wilson:

“Sir Richard Redding, Bronze Behemoth of Brooklyn, came back from the baseball grave last Saturday, pitching one of the niftiest games of his career. … The blinding speed, the wide-breaking curve, the baffling floater were once more his … By my faith, Richard was himself again.”

But also featured in the Royals lineup is a slick-fielding shortstop to whom Wilson refers as “Honus” Wagner. It’s obviously not the Honus Wagner that most people know, but my guess is that it’s actually Bill Wagner, a native New Yorker who did have a long career with the Royal Giants, including the 1923 season. Why Wilson refers to Wagner as Honus, other than the fact that the two shared a last name and a position, is unclear to me. But it’s still somewhat intriguing.

Anyway, if anyone has any other cool Cannonball factoids, notes or anecdotes, definitely let me know!

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