In 1907, Second baseman Dick Egan of the Cincinnati Reds got real furious one sunny afternoon as Fred Tinker of the Chicago Cubs executed a vicious slide into second base. Before the cloud of dust had even cleared, fans watched as the two men were back on their feet, shouting back and forth.
Egan challenged Tinker to a fight.
“You dirty blankety-blank!” screamed Egan, “As soon as we’re done beating your team’s ass here, I’m going to knock your blankety-blank head off!”
Covered in dirt and have already out-“blanked” Egan; Tinker picked his glove up off of the ground and accepted Egan’s challenge to meet again after the game.
Confrontation was no stranger to the Cubs shortstop. The dark-haired Tinker was known for his fiery temper both on and off of the field but in most cases, his mood would cool just as quickly as it flared and by the end of the game, Tinker would have forgotten all about whatever it was he mad about in the first place.
I say in most cases because that was NOT the case with his long time double play partner and Cub second baseman Johnny Evers.
On September 13, 1905 in Bedford Indiana, the Chicago Cubs played an exhibition game against the local team. That afternoon, 700 excited fans filled the wooden bleachers to not only see the major league team from Chicago but to also see Bob Wicker pitch for the Cubs. Wicker was a home-grown local boy known to the town as the “Pride of Bedford”. Those expecting a pleasant diversion in seeing the big league club showing off their big league skills were shocked when a fight broke out (before the first pitch was even thrown) between two of the Cubs, Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers. Fans watched as Tinker and Evers began shouting at each other, wrestled one another to the ground, and angrily exchanged punches until manager Frank Chance was able to pull them apart.
As it turned out, Evers had ridden off alone in a cab to the ball field from the team’s hotel, leaving Tinker and some other teammates behind. Tinker later told reporters, “I was real mad about and as soon as I got to the park I went up to him and said, ‘who in
the hell are you that you’ve got to have a cab all to yourself?’ Well, one word led to another and before I knew it, we were at it and rolling around among the bats on the ball field. After we were pulled apart, I said to Evers, ‘now listen you son of a bitch, if you and I talk to each other we’re only going to be fighting again. So don’t talk to ME and I won’t talk to YOU. You play your position and I’ll play mine and that’ll be that.’”
The pugnacious Evers responded: “That suits me just fine”, and walked back to the dugout.
The two didn’t speak again until 1937.
But back to the ball field in Cincinnati.
After the game had ended and the both teams were making their way back to their respective clubhouse, Tinker had forgotten all about the challenge he had accepted from that “blankety-blank” Egan.
Not so for Egan.
Never returning to his own clubhouse, Egan patiently waited for Tinker outside of the Cubs clubhouse. After growing impatient Egan furiously barged into the Cubs dressing room searching everywhere for Tinker.
Tinker had simply showered, changed into his suit and had left as he always did after a game.
Not seeing him in the clubhouse, Egan began screaming at the other Cub players, “He’s yella! He’s run out on me!”
Hearing the commotion going on in the clubhouse, Cubs manager Frank Chance walked up to the Reds second baseman. “I’ve known Joe for a long time and Joe Tinker has never ran away from a fight in his life. Let me get him for you”, he calmly said.
Chance walked out of the clubhouse and up onto the field to see the freshly showered and fully dressed Tinker walking just past second base as he was exiting the ball field. “Hey Joe!”, Chance yelled. As Tinker turned around, he saw the bellicose Egan tearing up the dugout steps and across the infield with his fists clenched.
At that point, he remembered the challenge that he had accepted in the early innings of the game. Tinker calmly put down his briefcase, handed Chance his suit coat and in a moment, the battle was on inside of a circle of the Reds and Cubs players.
It lasted perhaps 4 minutes and witnesses said that few men have ever taken such a beating in so short a time as Egan did from Tinker. When it was over, not so much as a strand of Tinker’s hair was out of place
An unbiased witness did say that after it was over and Egan was on the ground staring at the sky, Tinker did have to “straighten his necktie a little.”