This Day in Dodger Baseball - Febr. 1, 1918

In 1918, Brooklyn first baseman Jake Daubert field a lawsuit against owner Charlie Ebbets and the club, claiming he was owed money for the final month of the season that had been cancelled by Major League Baseball because of WWI. Surprisingly he won the suit, an event obscured by the only time in history gamblers had conspired to fix the World Series.

Brooklyn surprised the National League, winning the 1916 pennant although they were beaten by Babe Ruth (the pitcher) and the Boston Red Sox. They fell into seventh place in 1917, some say dispirited by of a mass salary cut, but when 1918 bloomed, they seemed poised to take another shot at the gold ring.

Before the season opened, the Robins (as they were called then) had sent second baseman George Cutshaw and outfielder Casey Stengel -- one of the most popular players on the club -- to Pittsburgh for pitchers Burleigh Grimes, Al Mamaux and infielder Chuck Ward.

Pitching ace Ed Pfeffer joined the Navy and Leon Cadore joined the Army. Following them were pitcher Clarence Mitchell. Manager Wilbert Robinson, thus the team nickname, scrambled to fill the gaps of the departing players.

The first time Pittsburgh came into Ebbets Field to play, most of the Brooklyn crowd was on hand to see Stengel. He didn't fail them.

The first time he came to bat, he received an uproarious cheer from the stands, and he stepped out of the batter's box and tipped his cap -- and a bird flew off his head and darted out of the park.

He told newsmen after the game he had found the bird laying stunned at the base of the right field wall and had put it under his cap to protect it. He continued that he had forgotten about it by the time he came to bat in the first inning and "I was as surprised as anyone when it flew off my head."

Of course, no one believed him.

Pfeffer came down from the Great Lakes with permission of the Navy and shut out the Cubs on two hits. Cadore, now a lieutenant, dropped by and allowed the Pirates only two hits in a game Brooklyn won 2-1 in 12 innings.

"@#$##!," Robinson said. That military training must be good for those fellows. They pitch much better than they ever did."

Then one night in Chicago, Grimes and Rube Marquard were taking a walk and stopped to listen to a Navy recruiting rally. They promptly signed up. Three others, Jim Hickman, Ray Schmandt and Ernie Krueger went into the armed forces.

Robby, noticing Harry Heitman, a young sandlot pitcher who had a number of no-hitters to his credit, quickly signed him and even quicker started him in a game against the Cardinals.

On July 27, in the top of the first inning, Heathcote singled, Fischer tripled, Hornsby singled, McHenry singled and Heitman was in the showers before he had even broke a sweat. The youngster dressed quickly, left the park and joined the Navy, never to pitch again in the Major Leagues.

Brooklyn had spiraled down into sixth place as the season ended on September 2, with the only bright spot of the year coming when outfielder Zach Wheat beat out Cincinnati's Edd Rousch for the batting title .335 to .333.

When the World Series ended, Brooklyn owner Charles Ebbets received a letter from first baseman Jake Daubert, asking for $2,150 for the final month of the season. It was not his fault, he wrote, if the league cancelled the final month, he was still due the money and would appreciate a check as soon as possible.

Ebbets wrote him, pointing out the government has ended the season, not the Brooklyn club, and therefore he was not entitled to the money.

Daubert filed his claim with the National Commission and hired former Brooklyn manager John M. Ward to represent him. Ward pointed out that Daubert had contracted to play the entire 140-game schedule and since the government had said only "players of military age" were ordered to work or fight, Daubert and others his age could have continued to play after the cutoff date.

Since baseball choose not to continue, there should be no hardship shouldered by Daubert.

Ebbets promptly traded Daubert to Cincinnati for infielder Larry Kopf and outfielder Tommy Griffith, hoping to end the suit. However, he didn't know Daubert that well.

More negotiations were held, apparently in private because none were reported in the press, and finally on March 3 it was announced that Daubert at received at least part of the money he claimed.

Daubert, with a fat check in hand, moved from the sixth place Brooklyn team to the 1919 pennant winning Reds, arriving just in time to get another fat check for the series win and placing himself directly in middle of the whirlwind when the White Sox -- for years to come dubbed the Black Sox -- admitted they had thrown the series resulting in the life-time suspension of nine of the Chicago team, including the man Babe Ruth had said was the most perfect hitter of all time, Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Astounding as Daubert's victory over the baseball hierarchy was, it was shoved to the back pages by the Reds disputed victory in the series. However, in a time when the pendulum had swung as far to the owner's side as hit has now moved to the player's side it was nearly unpresidented.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Dodgers reliever Joe Beimel's arbitration hearing with Dodgers is scheduled for Feb. 9. The Dodgers can negotiate an agreement before that time to avoid what would be the club's first such hearing in three years. Beimel, who made $425,000 last season, is asking $1.25 million for 2007. The Dodgers are offering $912,500, a gap of $337,500. Beimel, 29, was promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas on May 1 and proceeded to have the best season of his career. Pitching primarily as a situational left-hander, he posted a 2.96 ERA in 62 appearances. But he cut his hand on a glass in a Manhattan bar in the early hours of Oct. 2 and was unavailable for playoffs that resulted in a three-game sweep by the hands of the New York Mets. The Dodgers last went to arbitration with Eric Gagne, who was coming off his Cy Young season of 2003. The club won that case, leaving Gagne with a $5 million salary for 2004 instead of the $8 million he was seeking.

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