It took under a day to get the first bug report. Thanks go to Deanna, of Marinerds.
On p.19, Babe Ruth is said to have yelled “Give me a break” at Bossard, who doctored the box and watered down right field for him. But Ruth played in the AL from 1914-1934, and only fielded from 1918 on.
Yet in describing Bossard’s career, I said that from 1911, it was “twenty-five years before he got his break” and took over major league grounds keeping… which puts it past Ruth’s time.
Further, it’s 1935 when Steve O’Neill took over Cleveland in 1935, and in 1936 the new GM, Cy Slapnicka, asked him to recommend a new groundskeeper, and O’Neill, who’d seen Bossard’s work in Toledo, told Slapnicka that Bossard was the best. Slapnicka gave him a two-year contract, and Bossard stayed on forever. That story’s frequently repeated, and given the people involved, it’s easy to pin down the time.
And yet Emil Bossard’s frequently credited as “a grounds keeper for the Indians in the 1920s and 1930s” and said to have moved the fences back when the Yankees visited. See, for instance, this ESPN article.
For Bossard to be there, moving the fences around, he has to have been hired or at least present in Cleveland well ahead of O’Neill/Slapnicka. Plus, reading histories, they generally say that grounds keeping as a profession came to be in the late 1930s, with Emil and his sons.
Right now it looks like there are a couple of choices:
- Bossard got to Cleveland earlier than O’Neill/Slapnicka, and started much earlier moving fences and getting into trouble
- Bossard didn’t get to Cleveland earlier than 1936, the Ruth story’s apocryphal, and I didn’t catch the two-year gap between Ruth’s career in the AL and Bossard’s career as a groundskeeper.
- Ruth, while playing in the outfield as a Yankee, played an exhibition or some other game against a team Bossard worked for
The problem with the last one is that all I have is the Ruth quote: there’s no location or date information to help me track it down.
(I tried to stall Deanna by pointing out that Ruth played for the Providence Grays in 1914 of the American Association and would have faced the Toledo Mud Hens, but Deanna was undeterred, pointing out immediately that at that time, Ruth was still a pitcher.)
And unfortunately, there’s no great Bossard biography I can read to check events against a well-documented timeline.
I’m going to try and look into this some more and provide an update.