Armour as Detroit manager, 1905
|Outfielder / Manager|
September 3, 1869|
|Died: December 2, 1922
William Reginald Armour (September 3, 1869 – December 2, 1922) was a professional baseball player and manager. He was the manager of the Cleveland Bronchos in 1902 when they signed Nap Lajoie to the most lucrative contract in baseball history and the manager of the Detroit Tigers when they acquired Ty Cobb in 1905.
Armour played professional baseball from 1891 to 1896 as a center fielder and right fielder for several minor teams. He earned a reputation for his fielding abilities. He also had excellent speed and stole 43 bases in 69 games in 1891 and 52 bases in 126 games in 1896. Armour began his managerial career with the Dayton, Ohio baseball club, of which he was also the principal owner. He managed the Dayton club from 1897 to 1901.
From 1902 to 1904, he was the manager of the Cleveland Bronchos/Naps. Armour took over a Cleveland team with a losing record, and during his three years there, the team's record improved each year, reaching 86-65 in 1904. From 1905 to 1906, he was the manager of the Detroit Tigers. In his first year in Detroit, the team improved by 17 games over the prior year. With the signing of Ty Cobb, the Tigers set the table for three consecutive American League pennants that followed from 1907 to 1909. From 1907 to 1911, Armour served as the president and co-owner of the Toledo Mud Hens. He served as a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1912 and next became business manager of the Milwaukee baseball club. He subsequently opened a restaurant in Minneapolis where he died in 1922 at age 53.
Armour played professional baseball for several years before he began his career as a manager. In 1891, at age 21, he appeared in 69 games, principally as a right fielder, for the Bradford, Pennsylvania club in the New York-Pennsylvania League. By May 1891, Armour was drawing for his fielding ability. The manager of the Meadville team wrote to the Sporting Life that his team might have one at least one game against Bradford "had not that great fielder, Armour, been playing. In the tenth inning of the first game, with one out and Lyons on second, he caught a line hit foul on which he doubled up Lyons and put an end to what, at that stage of the game, looked like a Meadville victory. It was the finest catch on the grounds this season." Armour compiled a .269 batting average and stole 43 bases for Bradford.
In 1892, Armour appeared in 52 games, principally in right field, for the Toledo Black Pirates of the Western League. His batting average dropped by 124 points to .144 over his performance the prior year with Bradford.
In 1893, Armour played for the Kansas City Blues in the Western Association and saw his batting average jump to .280 with 22 runs scored and 14 stolen bases in only 20 games. Armour also returned to Bradford in 1893 to play in 20 games, including the game that won the Monongahela League pennant for Braddock. The use of Armour, a Western Association player, in the game prompted a protest by the Duquesne club that Braddock's pennant be forfeited. The pennant was ultimately awarded to Braddock.
Armour signed to play with Buffalo in January 1894, but was badly injured in a coasting accident at his hometown of Homestead in February 1894. Initial reports indicated that physicians did not believe Armour could recover. The following month, Armour was recuperating, and a Buffalo correspondent wrote to the Sporting Life expressing hope for his recovery, as "Armour is highly thought of as a fielder and is expected to greatly strengthen our out field." In mid-April 1894, Armour announced that the injury, which had nearly broken his back, would prevent him from playing baseball for six weeks to two months. Official records reflect Armour playing only three games in 1894. After being released by Buffalo, he played in one game each for three Pennsylvania State League teams -- Easton, Scranton, and Altoona.
By 1895, Armour was fully recovered from his injuries. He began the season as the center fielder for the Montgomery Grays of the Southern Association. In March 1885, a Montgomery correspondent wrote to the Sporting Life on Armour's progress: "Your correspondent was out to the park seeing the boys limber up this afternoon, and they are certainly all right. Armour is a race horse in the field, and there is no fear but what centre will be taken care of in A No. 1 style." In June 1895, the Sporting Life reported: "Armour can get to first quicker than any player in the South." In July, the Sporting Life reported that Armour "made two phenomenal running in catches of line hits over the infield which robbed [the opposing team] of two 'sure' safe hits."
In 1896, Armour played center field for the Paterson Silk Weavers in the Atlantic League. He compiled a .268 batting average at Paterson with 115 runs scored, 52 stolen bases and 24 extra base hits in 126 games. He also continued to play well in the outfield, with a Paterson correspondent writing to the Sporting Life in late June that Armour was "head and shoulders" above anything previously seen in center field and that he was playing his position in a manner that has brought forth the greatest praise from the patrons of the game."
In 1897, Armour began his managerial career at age 27 as player-manager for the Dayton Old Soldiers in the Interstate League. He also became the principal owner of the Dayton baseball club. In mid-August 1897, Armour had led Dayton to 14 wins in 17 games, and the Dayton correspondent to the Sporting Life wrote that it was "one of the best teams that ever represented Dayton" and that Armour was "getting very good work out of the boys, who are all satisfied with his management."
Armour continued to manage the Dayton club, renamed the Veterans in 1899 and 1900, for five years from 1897 to 1901.
In 1902, Armour was hired as the manager of the Cleveland Bronchos in the American League. The team had finished the 1901 season in seventh place with a 54-82 record. In the team's first season under Armour, the team opened the season by losing 24 of its first 35 games. However, the team gained momentum and compiled a 69-67 record—a 15-game improvement over the prior year's finish.
On May 31, 1902, during Armour's first season at Cleveland, the club signed future Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Nap Lajoie as a free agent; Lajoie compiled a .379 batting average for Cleveland in 1902. Armour announced that Lajoie would be paid the largest salary ever paid to a baseball player: "For his services with our club he will receive $28,000 for four years, every cent of which he will he paid, play or not, as the courts may direct. This is the largest salary ever paid a base ball player, and beats by $3000 the figure paid by Boston several years for pitcher Clarkson." Armour also engineered the mid-season acquisition of pitcher Bill Bernhard, who Armour called "the best pitcher in present day baseball." Bernhard ended up with a 17-5 record for Cleveland in 1902 (and a 23-13 record in 1904).
In Armour's second year in Cleveland, the team continued to improve, finishing in third place with a 77-63 record. Lajoie won the American League batting crown with a .344 average.
In Armour's third year in Cleveland, the team again improved, compiling a 86-65 record as Lajoie won his second consecutive American League batting crown.
Despite the steady improvement each year during Armour's tenure with Cleveland, friction had developed between Armour and the team's star and captain, Nap Lajoie. By the last half of the 1904 season, the two were reportedly "not on speaking terms." On September 8, 1904, Armour announced his resignation as manager of the Cleveland club, effective at the end of the season. The Cleveland Plain Dealer praised Armour's efforts in that city: "No better judge of a ball player's ability than Bill Armour lives, and not a small point necessary to win games escapes him. But the ability of the players to carry out his plans has, oftimes, been lacking."
In late September 1904, Armour was hired as the manager of the Detroit Tigers for the 1905 season. In October 1904, he rented a suite at the Pasadena Apartments in on Detroit's Jefferson Avenue.
Accordubg to Bill James' "Historical Baseball Abstract" Armour quite likely was the inventor of platooning while with Detroit in his use of catcher Boss Schmidt.
In 1905, Armour led the Tigers to third place in the American League with a 79-74 record. The finish represented a 17-game improvement over the prior year's seventh place finish and 62-90 record. Armour's greatest contribution during the 1905 season was the discovery and signing of Ty Cobb. Armour paid the Augusta club for Cobb's early release, and Cobb joined the Tigers in August 1905. Cobb later wrote:
"To Manager Armour, my first big league boss, I cannot give too much thanks for his kindly action and his personal attention to me, my work and my welfare. He is an ideal man for any young baseball player to 'break in' under. He seems to feel just how a recruit feels when he is starting his Major League career, and his record of developing young diamond pastimers will bear me out."
The 1906 Tigers were also plagued by numerous injuries, including the loss of second baseman Germany Schaefer, and the team's record slid in 1906 to 71-78. On September 17, 1906, Armour announced he would not be returning to Detroit in 1907 and that he would be succeeded by Hughie Jennings. Paul H. Bruske in Sporting Life wrote that "wherever William Armour goes he will always make firm friends and, had his hands been left free in Detroit, his team would undoubtedly have worked much better, for that is the sort of a man Armour is — to put ginger and steam into all that he does."
On September 25, 1906, Armour was assaulted with blows to the face by Washington catcher Jack Warner under the grandstand in Detroit after a game between Detroit and Washington. Warner had played for the Tigers in 1905 and 1906 but was sold to Washington in August 1906. Warner stated that Armour had "branded him falsely as a disturber," and Armour blamed the failure of the 1906 Detroit team to Warner. After the season ended, team owner Frank Navin alleged that Armour had been "too lenient with the players."
Toledo Mud Hens
In November 1906, Armour purchased the Toledo Mud Hens and became the club's president. He also served as the team's manager in 1907 and 1908. The club was a financial success in the first three years under Armour. However, attendance declined after Swayne field was sold, and the team was required to play its games at a less convenient location during the 1910 and 1911 seasons. In November 1911, Armour resigned as the club's president, citing the inability to turn the club into a profitable enterprise. Armour also sold his one-third interest in the club at that time.
St. Louis, Milwaukee and Kansas City
In November 1911, Armour purchased the Lancaster club in the Ohio State League and took over as the team's manager. However, Armour opted not to manager the Lancaster team and instead accepted a position as a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1912 season. In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, Armour explained his rationale for giving up managing:
"I really believe that I would have been a dead man now had I tried to keep up managing a ball club. I proved one of the hardest losers in the game . . . I couldn't forget after the game what had happened during the battle. I worried so much that I couldn't eat. The result was that I found myself moping about during the evening, apparently sore at myself, the world and everything else and then decided that if I wanted to have any pleasure in life I would have to give up trying to manage a ball club."
Family and later years
On March 27, 1901, Armour was married to Ida Fulton at the home of the bride's parents in Homestead, Pennsylvania. In his later years, Armour was engaged in the restaurant business in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In December 1922, he died suddenly in Minneapolis from "a stroke of apoplexy" at age 53.
- "Bill Armour Minor League Statistics". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved January 5, 2014.
- "Meadville Mems" (PDF). Sporting Life. May 30, 1891. p. 10.
- "Condensed Despatches". Sporting Life. August 29, 1891. p. 1.
- Box scores published in the Sporting Life reflect Armour playing principally at right field for the 1892 Toledo team.
- "The Duquesne and Braddock Clubs Arguing About Their League Flag" (PDF). Sporting Life. September 30, 1893. p. 1.
- "Got the Flag: The Braddock Team Receives the Monongahela League Pennant" (PDF). Sporting Life. January 20, 1894. p. 1.
- "Buffalo Bits" (PDF). Sporting Life. January 13, 1894. p. 5.
- "Buffalo's Loss: Outfielder Armour Seriously, Perhaps Fatally, Injured" (PDF). Sporting Life. February 24, 1894. p. 8.
- "Armour Still In It" (PDF). Sporting Life. March 17, 1894. p. 1.("Will Armour, the well-known base ball player, who was injured several weeks ago in a coasting accident at this place, and who is signed with the Buffalo team for the coming season, was not as badly hurt as was at first reported.")
- "Buffalo Pleased" (PDF). Sporting Life. March 17, 1894. p. 8.
- "Personal and Pertinent" (PDF). Sporting Life. April 21, 1894. p. 3.
- "Montgomery Mems" (PDF). Sporting Life. March 23, 1895. p. 11.
- "Southern Affairs" (PDF). Sporting Life. June 8, 1895. p. 19.
- "In the South" (PDF). Sporting Life. July 6, 1895. p. 8.
- "Paterson Pickings" (PDF). Sporting Life. June 20, 1896. p. 7.
- "Paterson Pets" (PDF). Sporting Life. June 27, 1896. p. 6.
- "Dayton Delighted" (PDF). Sporting Life. April 6, 1901. p. 7.
- "Dayton Dotlets: The Local Team Playing Fast Ball Under Armour" (PDF). Sporting Life. August 14, 1897. p. 16.
- "1901 Cleveland Blues". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved January 5, 2014.
- Russell Schneider (2004). The Cleveland Indians Encyclopedia. Sports Publishing LLC. p. 318.
- "1902 Cleveland Blues". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved January 5, 2014.
- "Nap Lajoie Statistics and History". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved January 5, 2014.
- "Somers' Success: The Young Napoleon Wins Where All Others Failed; The Greatest Ball Player in the World, Napoleon Lajoie, and the Star Pitcher, William Bernhard, Added to the Cleveland Team" (PDF). Sporting Life. June 7, 1902. p. 2.
- "Somers Succeeds In Capturing the Enjoined Players Lajoie and Bernhard; The Famous Stars Leave Philadelphia for Cleveland" (PDF). Sporting Life. May 31, 1902. p. 1.
- "Cleveland Chatter: Bernhard's Remarkable Work For the Club" (PDF). Sporting Life. November 1, 1902. p. 8.
- "Bill Bernhard Statistics and History". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC.
- "1903 Cleveland Naps". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved January 5, 2014.
- "1904 Cleveland Naps". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved January 5, 2014.
- "Armour Resigns Cleveland Berth". Detroit Free Press. September 9, 1904. p. 3.
- "Armour Resigns The Task of Handling The Cleveland Stars: On the Outs With Lajoie and Other Members of the Cleveland Team, and Unable to Get Out the Work Essential to a Winning Team, Armour Just Quits" (PDF). Sporting Life. September 17, 1904. p. 2.
- "Armour's Berth: The Capable and Popular Ex Cleveland Manager Will Undoubtedly Control the More Tractable Detroit Team Next Year" (PDF). Sporting Life. October 1, 1904. p. 11.
- "Armour Arranges To Locate In Detroit". Detroit Free Press. October 1904.
- Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, 1987
- "1905 Detroit Tigers". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved January 5, 2014.
- "1904 Detroit Tigers". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved January 5, 2014.
- "New Detroiter Is Star of Southern Country: Tyrus Cobb, of Augusta, Leads South Atlantic at Bat and on Bases". Detroit Free Press. August 27, 1905. p. 11.
- Ty Cobb. Inside Baseball With Ty Cobb. p. 66.
- "B. Armour Resigns: Manager of Tigers Wires Navin He Will Quit End of Game Saturday Caused Trouble With Owner; Slight Chance He May Change His Mind on Matter". Detroit Free Press. May 7, 1906. p. 8.
- "Armour Will Be Retained As Manager of Tigers". Detroit Free Press. May 8, 1906. p. 9.
- Paul H. Bruske (May 19, 1906). "Detroit Doings: The Chief Topics of the Week Were the Sale of Outfielder Barrett and the Resignation and Reconsideration of Manager Armour" (PDF). Sporting Life. p. 17.
- Paul H. Bruske (June 23, 1906). "Detroit Doings" (PDF). Sporting Life. p. 1.
- Paul H. Bruske (September 22, 1906). "Jennings for Detroit: William R. Armour Admits That the Baltimorean is to Succeed Him as Detroit's Team Manager" (PDF). Sporting Life. p. 19.
- "Warner Goes After Armour: Lands Punch Before Manager Has Chance to Prepare for Defense; Attack at Ball Park, With No Provocation". Detroit Free Press. September 23, 1906. p. 11.
- "Warner's Break: The Veteran Catcher Attacks Manager Armour, of Detroit" (PDF). Sporting Life. September 29, 1906. p. 3.
- "American League Notes" (PDF). Sporting Life. October 6, 1906. p. 7.
- Al Howell (November 24, 1906). "The Acquisition of the Toledo Club by William R. Armour Very Pleasing to Toledo Fans" (PDF). Sporting Life. p. 5.
- "Bill Armour Quits Toledo Club: Former Tiger Manager Sells Out Holdings in Maumee City and Acquires Lancaster". Detroit Free Press. November 1911. p. 9.
- "Being A Hard Loser Caused Armour To Give Up Managing". Detroit Free Press. March 31, 1912. p. 19.
- "Bill Armour Goes Over Great Divide: Former Manager of Tigers Dies in Minneapolis". Detroit Free Press. December 3, 1922. p. 21.
- "Big Teams Carry Too Many Players: Eighteen Men Sufficient for Any One Team Says Veteran Bill Armour". New Castle News. April 28, 1913.
- "Armour's Death Causes Sorrow: Veteran Was Manager at Detroit When Ty Cobb Broke In". The Sporting News. December 7, 1922. p. 1.