Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Art Weaver: It's 'Six O'Clock' Down Under There

Great Names in Baseball1 enjoys celebrating early 20th Century catchers. This was an era where the position was seen as mostly defensive; catchers weren't expected to hit much. They were field generals with the only view of the entire field. And when they filled a roster spot as a backup, they frequently drank themselves stupid studied the game in depth.

Arthur Coggshall Weaver, better known as "Six O'Clock," was one such journeyman catcher who spent parts of five seasons from 1902-1908 with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox. Weaver hit only .183/.211/.218 in his 86-game career, but was a fine defender who threw out 46% of would-be base stealers.

Before, in-between and after his stints in the big leagues, Six O'Clock traveled through the minor leagues, chalking up season after season with some of the best-named teams in the world. As a 22-year-old kid from Wichita, Weaver found himself playing for the Omahogs of Omaha under legendary Pa Rourke in the Western League in 1901. He would later add the Terra Haute Hottentots, the Wichita Jobbers, the Salt Lake City Skyscrapers2 and the Boise Irrigators to his resume of employers.

His first two years in the minors found him playing under the natural moniker of Art "Basket" Weaver3. This was natural not because of his last name, but because he invented basketball only 10 years after James Naismith. However, he constantly referred to it as "butcherball," because he preferred to play the game with a freshly slaughtered hog's head4. He somehow never managed to find a team to begin a contest, though. His Cedar Rapids Rabbits' teammates mocked Weaver, who thought he'd invented an original game, by calling him "Basket5."

His subsequent two-year appearance as the St. Louis Cardinals' backup catcher saw Weaver earn his better-known nickname "Six O'Clock." His name derived from a custom, known as six o'clock swill, that his Australian ancestors had brought to the states6. However, Weaver insisted that he indulge in this practice at the same time it occurred in Sydney. In St. Louis, this meant that Weaver spent the hour between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. in a rush to "get his drink on."7 He defended his actions by claiming it as his cultural birthright and, upon commencing his practice with the team mascot, would loudly proclaim, "It's Six O'Clock Somewhere8." When Weaver was denied his Six O'Clock celebration, St. Louis player/manager/understanding Irishman Patsy Donovan discovered that Weaver actually played worse when sober and thusly permitted Six O'Clock's six o'clock suds9.

Scholars maintain that Weaver's influence can be felt most strongly in the middle-age party music aspect of Western culture, though his lasting legacy in baseball can be found today in the immediate vicinity, clubhouses and bullpens of Wrigley Field.

Six O'Clock Weaver died in 1917 at the age of 34. Some say that he died of asthma, while others maintain that he died in a tragic and fiery butcherball accident.

1 Great Names in Baseball (GNIB) is a blog that explores possibilities and then substitutes these possibilities for the unknown or, occasionally, The Truth. While some of what is written is undoubtedly fact, is is probably best to assume it's all fiction.

2 This was an interesting choice for a team name, given that the Salt Lake City skyline contained no skyscrapers to speak of.

3 Unsubstantiated claim.

4 Unsubstantiated claim.

5 Unsubstantiated claim.

6 Unsubstantiated claim.

7 Unsubstantiated claim.

8 Unsubstantiated claim.

9 Unsubstantiated claim.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe it was 'wishful thinking' in Salt Lake City? Another fun report.