Charles Dryden, Rube Waddell
When Charles Dryden of the Philadelphia North American reported on the meeting between Rube Waddell and Andrew Foster in New York City, August 2, 1903, he used half his space to talk about a bizarre incident involving a foul ball off the bat of Waddell that supposedly ignited a box of matches in a spectator’s pocket, setting the poor guy’s suit on fire and causing an uproar.
Ten days later, Dryden wrote about another Waddell start, this one for the A’s against the Boston Americans, in Boston. Here’s the last part of his account, which you may have seen before:
PRODIGAL WADDELL PITCHED AND LOST
As a Side Issue, ‘Rube’ Caused a Bean Factory to Blow Up.
In the seventh inning, Rube Waddell hoisted a long foul over the right field bleachers that landed on the roof of the biggest bean cannery in Boston. In descending, the ball fell on the roof of the engine room and jammed itself between the steam whistle and the stem of the valve that operates it. The pressure set the whistle blowing. It lacked a few minutes of five o’clock, yet the workmen started to leave the building. They thought quitting time had come.
The incessant screeching of the bean-factory whistle led engineers in neighboring factories to think fire had broken out and they turned on their whistles. With a dozen whistles going full blast, a policeman sent in an alarm of fire. Just as the engines arrived, a steam cauldron in the first factory, containing a ton of beans, blew up.
The explosion dislodged Waddell’s foul fly and the whistle stopped blowing, but that was not the end of the trouble.
A shower of scalding beans descended on the bleachers and caused a small panic. One man went insane. When he saw the beans dropping out of a cloud of steam, the unfortunate rooter yelled, ‘The end of the world is coming and we will all be destroyed.’
An ambulance summoned to the supposed fire conveyed the demented man to his home. The ton of beans proved a total loss.”
(Philadelphia North American, August 12, 1903; quoted in Rob Neyer, Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Legends, pp. 1-3)
Although Dryden otherwise reported what actually happened in the Boston/Philadelphia game, it probably won’t come as a great shock to learn that he made up the stuff about the bean factory. If you have any doubt, check out Bill Nowlin’s article, “Consider Your Sources: Baseball and Baked Beans in Boston,” in the Baseball Research Journal (volume 34, 2005, pp. 110-112; unfortunately not online yet).
I should check the Philadelphia North American itself for other, similar stories. Maybe Dryden made a running joke that year out of Rube’s foul balls causing slapstick mayhem.
Incidentally, I don’t think Dryden’s foul-ball fabulations call into question the veracity of the Murray Hills/Cuban X Giants game, or the truth of Foster facing Waddell that day; that the game happened is firmly established by other sources than Dryden, and his usual operating procedure was to add funny stories into otherwise factual accounts of real games. Given that he had no problem making up stuff about regular, high-profile American League games that were lavishly reported on in other papers, there’s no particular reason for him to have inserted Waddell into an obscure semi-pro contest in New York unless the Rube was actually there.
NOTE: The image of Dryden above is taken from the BJR article by Bill Nowlin.