Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Mystery Of The Crimson Rims

A few weeks ago my friend Terrie Ekin forwarded me a newspaper article from Jay Mark of the Arizona Republic newspaper that I thought would make an interesting subject for November's Flannel of the Month. Peering out from the clipping was a proud group of ballplayers carefully grouped in front of palm trees with "Crimson Rims Tempe" emblazoned on their uniforms. Upon close inspection, what is curious about the team (other than the quilted sliding pants fashionable at the time) was the presence of an African-American player, posed with his bat and glove. While segregation in baseball was not always formalized, it would seem somewhat unusual for there to be an integrated team at this time. This photo shared with the newspaper by the curator of the Tempe History Museum, James Burns, with the hope that some light could be shed on this team. Given the savvy group of readers that this space has (response to last month's John Lennon post was amazing) I thought I'd throw this little mystery out to them and see what they came up with. It should be noted that Arizona was still a Territory until 1912.

Tempe History Museum

The only detail on the photo was a written "circa 1910". After the initial article appeared, local historian Ken Reid promptly came up with two newspaper articles from 1900 and 1901, which described games played by the Crimson Rims. The 1900 article describes a defeat for the Crimson boys at the hands of "the DeMund Nine". The 1901 piece reflected the propensity of newspaper editors of the day for hyperbolic headline writing: "An Atrocious Proceeding - National Game Hit In The Solar Plexus Yesterday". This article went on describe a 28-11 drubbing of the Crimson Rims by an opponent identified simply as "Phoenix".

My limited research into this team has come up nearly empty. There apparently was a brand of bicycle known as "Crimson Rim" in the late 1800s. It is possible that this was a company-sponsored semi-pro team. The team was not a member of any professional league we are aware of, yet was well-known enough to be covered by the local newspapers of the time. If anyone can identify the league they played in, or any of the players, the Tempe History Museum and EFF would love to know!

About the jersey: This is a byron-collar pullover style, common at the turn of the last century. It features a contrasting red wool collar and red felt letters. No numeral on back, as they were not worn at the time. It is available for a limited time at $99.

This just in: Blaise Lamphier and an anonymous poster have unearthed a roster from the Rims (see Comments). Based on Lamphier's research it appears possible that the team was sponsored by a Tempe bicycle shop...ed.

Anonymous said...
I found a 1901 newspaper article with the following Rims lineup:C PriestP Carroll1B Schureman2B Valenzuela3B UrbanoSS SigalaRF I. CelayaCF SurrateguiLF H. Celaya

From The Arizona Republican August 26, 1901:
"A regrettable incident occurred about the time the seventh inning was ushered in and it no doubt partly caused the poor playing at that time.
A Mexican named Bernal sat under the grand stand and on the grounds, in violation of the rules of the game, along with several other people No objection was made, however, until the attention of the Phoenix team was called to the fact that Bernal was tipping off the signals of the Phoenix catcher to the Mexican boys in the other team. Alexander, Captain of the Phoenix team, ordered the ground cleared and took particular pains to escort Bernal outside the fence. This resulted in personal remarks which ended later in a mix-up. Before the smoke cleared away Alexander had a painful but not serious wound in his cheek that looks like the work of a pocket knife though the presence of a knife in the melee is denied by some who saw it. The Mexican came in contact with a monkey wrench and also had a sore place to look after."

See Comments for more.

13 comments:

  1. No clue, didn't get to Phoenix until 1965.

    I am however still waiting, waiting, waiting for a replica of the Phoenix Firebirds AAA team jersey. Do miss it. Went to many games.

    Please....???

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  2. Sadly you will have to continue to wait. We don't make doubleknit polyester shirts. Phoenix Giants is doable though!

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  3. I found a 1901 newspaper article with the following Rims lineup:
    C Priest
    P Carroll
    1B Schureman
    2B Valenzuela
    3B Urbano
    SS Sigala
    RF I. Celaya
    CF Surrategui
    LF H. Celaya

    Antonio was listed as a substitute.

    Score was Rims 7, Firemen 3

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  4. A tough one to crack here in Baltimore w/o access to old Arizona newspapers but here are a few historical notes that might be of interest/help in solving the mystery.
    1. If 1910 is the correct date then it is before Arizona statehood (1912) but right at the beginning of a period of tremendous growth for the area, economically, agriculturally, and socially.
    2. The Normal School, an important state teacher's college was founded in Tempe in 1885. Perhaps the school had an amateur club as well that may have played the Rims.
    3. I'm wondering if the name "Crimson Rims" might refer to a "butte", a geographical feature common in Arizona and which often appears a crimson sort-of color.
    4. There was a cotton industry present in Tempe until after WWI. Perhaps there was a textile-league here that may have played the Rims.

    Hopefully, someone in Tempe can find some old box scores on microfilm. It's a fascinating subject-- Arizona Territory Baseball Teams!

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  5. The Arizona Republican, Phoenix, Arizona Thursday, October 24, 1901 | Page 10


    VICTORY FOR VISITORS
    Crimson Rims Won the Ball Game With the Firemen.
    (from Monday's Daily.)
    Yesterday's ball game at the park was a failure in point of attendance, but the disagreeable weather was responsible for that state of affairs. The wind blew severely, which also interfered somewhat with the playing. Nevertheless it was a fairly good game of ball and the Crimson Rims won it and are entitled to credit. The score was 7 to 3 which indicates a pretty evenly matched contest. If the Firemen could not do much business with the score keeper they were able to prevent the visitors from wearing out the score keeper's pencil.
    There were a number of errors, but less than would be expected and altogether the few who witnessed the game were well entertained. The Firemen were handicapped by the absence of three or four of their regular players, who either forgot their previous engagement or who have a greater weakness for hunting than they have for playing ball.
    Collins and Napoleon pitched for the Firemen and Pancho was behind the bat. Carroll was In the box for the Crimson Rims and Priest worked behind the bat. The Firemen did not make as good a showing as they did the Sunday previous, though they did the best they could under the circumstances. The Tempe team, on the other hand, squared itself for the raw work done on the occasion of their last previous appearance at the park.

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  6. The Arizona Republican, Phoenix, Arizona,
    Wednesday, May 09, 1906 Page 5

    MORE CHARITY BASEBALL—The Phoenix Mexican Athletic Club has challenged the Crimson Rims of Tempe to play two baseball games, the proceeds to be sent to San Francisco for the benefit of the earthquake sufferers. The first game is scheduled for Tempe next Sunday, and the second for Eastlake Park, Phoenix a week later.

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  7. The Arizona Republican, Phoenix, Arizona, Monday, September 23, 1901,Page 6

    The True Blues of Phoenix came over yesterday to meet the Crimson Rims on the diamond and received a drubbing to the extent of 9 to 3. Chas. Carroll pitched for the Crimson Rims, and the True Blues simply couldn't stand up to his delivery. John Priest was behind the bat but retired in the third inning with an injured hand, Chris Sigala taking his place. Carroll's red hot pitching resulted in nineteen strikeouts in the course of the game. Arizona has furnished several crack pitchers and Mr. Carroll seems to be on the way to a star position among them all.

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  8. The Arizona Republican August 26, 1901

    The game of the day was between the Crimson Rims of Tempe and the Phoenix team, and Phoenix, of course, sent the visitors home with the short end of it. Baseball in this age of the world is science rather than sympathy, and while Phoenix would gladly have given the game to the visitors for courtesy’s sake, they thought about the money they had taken in at the gate and couldn’t find it in their hearts to cheat the grandstand. So they just waxed it to 'em and handed up a score card that read Phoenix 14 Tempe 5.
    That way of putting it, though, is perhaps too strong. In the seventh inning Tempe got hog wild and played in a manner that was really discreditable to themselves, for they can do better.
    The result was that Phoenix made 8 runs in that inning, which sent them so far ahead the Southsiders could not see the streak they made for dust. Previous to this the score stood four to four and nobody got a thing except what he worked for. When the eighth started in 12 to 4 the Crimson Rims knew that their prospects for winning he game were about equal to the chance for a heavy fall of snow, before night, but they recovered their equilibrium and went to work just as though they were in the game. Phoenix made two more runs in the eighth and Tempe made one scoring a goose egg in the ninth. Phoenix refused to mutilate the score book further by batting out the ninth inning.
    With the exception of the seventh, above referred to, it was a good game and was thoroughly enjoyed by the grandstand. There was some real good playing on both sides and a little on either side that will be forgotten just as soon as possible.
    Mays, the left fielder who lined up with the Clerks last week, has transferred his affections to the Phoenix team and held down the box for them yesterday. He was relieved toward the end of the game by Wormell. The record of the Phoenix side was 1 balk, 1 base on balls, eight struck out, two double plays and one passed ball. Parish caught, but was not at his best. Carroll filled the box for the Crimson Rims till the last inning, when Sigala took his place. Their record shows six struck out, while two men were given bases on balls. There were two passed balls. Priest caught for the visitors.
    One bad play made by Brawley, who held first base for the home team, the result of a game leg he secured lately in running to a fire. He caught the ball and dropped it, and while he was staggering around on one foot hunting for it the visitor found the bag.
    The umpire was J. H. Phillips, a recent arrival from California. His decisions seemed to give general satisfaction, and even the grand stand treated him courteously.

    The score by innings was:
    Phoenix 0 1 0 0 0 3 8 2 * --14
    Crimsn Rims 2 1 0 0 0 l 0 1 0 ---5
    A regrettable incident occurred about the time the seventh inning was ushered in and it no doubt partly caused the poor playing at that time.
    A Mexican named Bernal sat under the grand stand and on the grounds, in violation of the rules of the game, along with several other people No objection was made, however, until the attention of the Phoenix team was called to the fact that Bernal was tipping off the signals of the Phoenix catcher to the Mexican boys in the other team. Alexander, Captain of the Phoenix team, ordered the ground cleared and took particular pains to escort Bernal outside the fence. This resulted in personal remarks which ended later in a mix-up. Before the smoke cleared away Alexander had a painful but not serious wound in his cheek that looks like the work of a pocket knife though the presence of a knife in the melee is denied by some who saw it. The Mexican came in contact with a monkey wrench and also had a sore place to look after.

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  9. I found a possible link to Arizona State Univ., which was named Tempe Normal School in the early 1900s. The manager of the football team in 1902 was named Schureman. Could have been either Fletcher or Cyrus, cousins living together in Tempe. Also, a player on the football team was named Chris Sigala. Source: Maroon & Gold: A History of Sun Devil Athletics By Bob Eger, page 8. It's on Google books.

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  10. The copy of this photo that I have is dated 1898. My Great Grandfather, Edward P. Carr, is seated left. That's the only information written on the back of my photo. My guess is that the team is advertising Crimson Rims for the local bicycle shop. I have a copy of a newspaper ad from the Arizona Republican dated March 27, 1900 for the Tempe Bicycle Store, Edward Carr proprietor.

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    Replies
    1. Mr. Hurd;

      Please contact me by email at: john.tenney@gmail.com. I have some questions about that photograph for you. Thanks.

      Delete
  11. Wow, I've lived here in Mesa/Tempe for 17 years now and never heard about the Crimson Rims! I did go to Firebirds games (before the Dbacks came into being). Re: Ron Macdonald's first post, I did find that the local Hat Club in Tempe (AZ Mills mall) carries replica Firebird fitted caps. Great logo.

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