While writing the grave story of Patsy Tebeau, I came across a huge treasury of stories about him. Many featured him getting into altercations with umpires, as you’d expect given his infamous temper. I briefly tried keeping track of his many fines and suspensions but gave up in frustration. But there are some good stories I couldn’t fit into his story without making it longer than I wanted, so I decided to include them here. Want to know how be beat up an umbrella or how he got rookie Cy Young to smile after a loss? Curious as to where the nickname “Patsy” came from in the first place? Read on:
(The caveat I included in Tebeau’s grave story applies here as well. I don’t know if they’re fact or fiction, but I liked them, so I’m passing them on.)
Patsy Tebeau vs. an umbrella
In baseball’s early days, it wasn’t uncommon for players to be presented with gifts as a token of esteem from fans. Patsy Tebeau was presented with such a gift on Opening Day in Cleveland, 1896. Before he took his first at-bat, he was given a $20 umbrella, with a gold inlaid handle. How do we know it was $20? The price tag was still attached when they gave it to him. For any other player, this would be seen as a sweet and useful gift. Patsy Tebeau, though, had never owned an umbrella and never saw the need for one. Apparently he didn’t know how to operate one either.
The Buffalo Enquirer takes up the rest of the story:
One night a few weeks later — when the club was on its first east-bound trip — Tebeau and the reporter were walking down Broadway when a furious storm came up. Patsy had been using his $20 umbrella as a cane, but now for the first time he raised it.
“For your sake, not for mine,” he said to his companion.
In two minutes’ time the umbrella had torn a young woman’s veil from her face, knocked two silk hats into the gutter, topped off a policeman’s helmet and established a new line of rough talk on Briadway by jabbing one of its points into a cabman’s eye.
It was just after the theaters had closed. Broadway was jammed with crowded cabs and carraiges drawn by prancing, dipping, excited horses, driven by rain-soaked, shouting men.
“See this umbrella?” asked Pat suddenly, when the storm was at its worst, and just after Tebeau had side-wiped a stout old man who said _____ _____ _____ and other things.
The reporter saw.
“It is my first one.”
“It is also my last. Watch me”
And rushing to the curb Tebeau hurled the $20 umbrella, inlaid gold handle and all, into the middle of the street, where it was instantly ground into shapelessness and nothingness.
“If they give me an umbrella next year I’ll refuse to take it,” he said, as he led the way toward the club’s hotel through the drenching rain.
Patsy Tebeau vs. Cy Young
Cy Young debuted with the Cleveland Spiders in 1890. Today, we recognize him at one of the game’s legends, but at the time, he was a 23-year-old farm kid, and not every start was a good one.
Ed McKean relates this story, via The Boston Globe, about the time Young suffered a rough loss and then had to share a carriage ride with McKean, Cupid Childs and Tebeau. The rookie was said to be “the very picture of abject despair.”
“Pat sat facing the big fellow and about a mile from the park he suddenly jumped up and pounced on Cy,” McKean relates.
“‘Laugh, you big farmer, or I’ll strangle you’ he said. ‘I’m glad you got hit. Glad we got beat. I wish they’d made a hundred home runs off you. Now laugh. I’ve sat here looking at that frozen face of yours till I’m most frozen to death. I’m the captain of the team and I’m glad you lost. Now will you laugh?’ and he began hammering Cy on the face with his glove.
“Finally a broad smile broke over the great twirler’s face.
“‘Feel that way?’ he asked in a relieved sort of way.
“‘Yes,’ yelled Patsy, ‘and you’ll get a chance to be hit again tomorrow.’
“But the next day Cy had something to laugh about. He had Anson’s men standing on their heads, and when we went downtown that night he didn’t have to be pounded into smiles.”
Oliver Tebeau vs. Patsy Tebeau
He was born Oliver Wendell, but from the moment he started playing ball, he was known as “Patsy” or “Pat” Tebeau. The “Oliver” was occasionally changed to “Bolivar,” possibly a reference to South American military leader Simón Bolívar. So where did “Pat” come from?
When he was 5 years old, Tebeau was given a toy wagon and a shovel, he said. He decided to take it over to a place near his home named Kerry Patch, where a group of Irishmen were digging a trench. He walked a mile-and-a-half to Kerry Patch and went to work moving dirt with the rest of the workers. He kept on doing it day after day, and he’d bring a lunch pail from home, just like the Irish workers.
“Every day I shoveled away and knocked off for noon with the rest of the laborers,” he told a reporter. “My brother George, when he would see me coming home, would say ‘Here comes Pat from his digging.’ The workingmen got to calling me Pat and the boys in the neighborhood took it up, and I became Pat and I suppose Pat I will be until the keeper at the ‘quiet city’ starts throwing dirt for me.”