Category Archives: Baseball History

Mighty Casey Baseball Bio: Ollie Pickering

You may have heard of the term “Texas Leaguer” – a little flair or bloop single that falls just beyond the infielders and just in front of the outfielders – but you might not know where that term came from.

It’s tied to one of the early nomads of baseball history, outfielder Ollie Pickering.

Oliver Daniel Pickering was born on April 9, 1870 in Olney, Illinois to Joseph McKendree Pickering and Emma Jane (Cochenour) Pickering.  His dad was a cooper, building barrels for local wheat and grain mills.  Ollie was one of two kids – he had a sister, Josephine Elijah, who was seven years younger than he.  A fan of baseball from the first time he came in contact with the game, one thing was certain and that was he didn’t want to build barrels.  Ollie had a more adventurous and daring streak – so in 1892 he saved up all his money and used it to buy postage.  He wrote to every baseball manager he could find in the United States, included an envelope with return postage, and hoped that someone would give him a chance to try out for the team – certain that if given a chance, he’d stick.

Nobody gave him a chance, except a manager for the Houston entry in the Texas League, John J. McCloskey.

Meanwhile, Pickering learned that rival baseball clubs in San Antonio, Texas were looking for fresh talent to help resolve a local baseball rivalry.  Without a penny to his name, Pickering raced out and caught a train heading south (well, west and then south) to Texas.  He would race up alongside a slow moving train jump up along a cattle car, and then hang on for dear life.  As Ollie once told The Sporting News, “I pigged it from my home at Olney, Ill., to San Antonio, Tex., a distance of 1,600 miles, hanging to the brake rods.  They couldn’t come too fast for me in those days, and I’ve caught a train going 20 miles an hour.”

Landing in San Antonio, he once again reached out to McCloskey, using the last stamps he had.  McCloskey said he was interested – but never sent a train ticket so Pickering could get to Houston.  While waiting, Pickering played with a couple of local semi-pro teams but didn’t have enough to cover room and board, so he lived “… under a high sidewalk at San Antonio a couple of weeks waiting for a ticket.”  The season was about to start and he still hadn’t heard from the manager, so Pickering took to the rails again.  ‘McCloskey forgot to send the ticket, and two days before the season opened, I pigged it over to Houston.  These days a player won’t report without advance money, transportation, and Pullmans, but the pig train was good enough for me.”

Let’s let Ollie finish the story.

On the morning of the day the season opened, I fell off a slow freight at Houston, hunted up McCloskey and said, “I’m here.”  

He looked me over and said: “Who are you?”

I told him and he sort of gasped.  I had a crop of whiskers with clinkers in them, one shoe, and what clothes I wore were tied on with ropes and wire.  “How did you get here?”  McCloskey asked.  

“Pigged it,” I said. “Tickets don’t cut no ice with me.  I’ve come 1,800 miles looking for a job.”  

“Have you any money?” the manager wanted to know.  

“Couldn’t make the first payment on a clay pipe,” I said.  

McCloskey said he guessed I’d do.  He gave me 50 cents and told me to come out that afternoon for a trial.  He said there might be something in me, and there was.  I blew 10 cents against a barber shop and the rest for grub, and maybe I didn’t throw in a (beverage) that did me good.  With a meal inside of me and rigged up in a new uniform I felt like a horse.  Nothing could stop me.  In seven times at bat I made seven hits with men on bases, and they couldn’t put anything past me in the field.  Houston beat Galveston 30 to 1, and the town went crazy.  

When the excitement cooled down I strolled round near McCloskey and wondered out loud if I would do.  “Come here,” hs said.  He hustled me downtown, bought me a trunk, suit case, suit of clothes, shoes, underwear, shirts, collars; in fact, a whole dude outfit, and stabled me at a hotel with real beds in it.  McClosky must have spent all of $25 togging me out, and I was the white-haired boy at Houston.  I was stuck on being a ball player, and that was how I broke into the game.  And, do you know, it was weeks before I could ride in a Pullman car without holding on with both hands?

— (“Gossip of the Players”, The Sporting News, 2/15/1902, Pg 2. and “A Ball Player’s Start – Ollie Pickering Relates His Early Experiences”, San Antonio Daily Light, 2/18/1902, Pg. 4.)

Pickering wound up hitting ,300 in the Texas League, and he must have hung around there for a while as Baseball-Reference has a record of his playing for Houston in the South Texas League in 1895, but no records for Pickering playing in organized ball between 1892 and 1895.  In 1896, he was playing closer to home – Cairo, Illinois – before being sent east to Lynchburg in the Virginia League.  There, he was signed by a scout for the Louisville Colonels and given a chance with a major league team.  In his first game, facing Cy Young, he had three hits – all little flairs into the outfield.

Between those two events – his seven-hit game for Houston consisting of little flairs just beyond the first or third baseman or his three-hit game for Louisville consisting of several short flairs to the outfield – is the tale of the term Texas Leaguer.  Having read the stories tying the term to his first game in Houston only makes sense if his hits off of Cy Young were similar – as the term itself is rather derogatory.  A real hit is a line drive or a well placed shot.  A Texas Leaguer is the type of flair or accidental bloop single a lucky minor leaguer got in a big league game.  Either way – all the stories say it started with Ollie Pickering.

With Louisville, Pickering hit .303 and stole 13 bases in 45 games.  He didn’t hit nearly as well in 1897, so Louisville replaced him with Texas League star William Nance and sent Pickering to Cleveland.  There, Pickering found his batting stroke – he hit .352 in 46 games there.  Pickering was also fast – he could run down long flies in the outfield and stole 38 bases in 1897.  At the same time, he had his own struggles.  Pickering occasionally misplayed grounders hit to him in the outfield, and was once referred to as a “Blind Bull” on the bases – reckless and not always paying attention.

Cleveland optioned Pickering back to the Western League despite hitting .352 – he played with Omaha in 1898, Columbus/Grand Rapids and Buffalo in 1899 and the new Cleveland entry in American League when Ban Johnson and his friends started the process of converting the Western League into a major league – first by changing the league’s name.  So, when the American League declared itself a major league for the 1901 season, Pickering stayed with Cleveland – where he hit .309, scored 102 runs, and stole 36 bases for the Blues.  When his batting fell back to .256 in 1902 – a season full of injuries – Cleveland shipped Pickering to Philadelphia and Connie Mack’s Athletics.  Pickering would have a fine season for Mack in 1903 – he hit .281, stole a career high 40 bases, and scored 93 runs.  A year later, Pickering struggled, he would hit just .226 for Mack, and so he was let go.

Pickering signed with Columbus in the American Association where he was a star outfielder.  In 1905 and 1906, he hit .327 and .313 with 398 combined hits in the two seasons.  After two solid seasons, he was drafted back into the major leagues by the St Louis Browns.  In 1907, Pickering hit .276 – not a horrible season considering he was now a 37-year-old outfielder.  However, he wouldn’t stay – he was traded to Washington for Charley Jones.  The New York Times suggested that Pickering fell out of favor with Browns manager Jimmy McAleer because he occasionally enjoyed a beer and was putting on weight.  “Ollie Pickering, cast off by Connie Mack of Philadelphia, and Jimmy McAleer at St. Louis because he liked pie and beer for breakfast, has at last found his way to Washington – the baseball graveyard.”  More likely, Washington manager Joe Cantillon, who knew Pickering from his westward exhibition tours, wanted a better outfielder than Charley Jones, who complained about being in Washington.

It’s hard to believe that Pickering was trouble for anyone.  From what can be gleaned from various articles, people generally liked Pickering.  He had his limitations – he liked his pitches low but struggled against left-handed pitchers, especially those who could keep pitches higher in the zone.  There’s a story Joe Cantillon used to tell about sending Pickering to scout a young lefty pitcher.  “Bring a bat,” Cantillon told Pickering.  “If you get a few good foul balls off him, leave him in the minors.”  Articles talked about his speed afield and on the bases, as well as his occasional miscues – but he was usually referred to as being a well-known and famous outfielder, almost always in a positive light.

As a guy willing to take risks and hit the road, Pickering took a chance in the 1907-1908 off-season by investing in a local theatre troupe and touring around the Midwest with them.  Performing the act “Humpty Dumpty”, the show didn’t last long – having disbanded with just enough money to pay for tickets home for the cast and crew.  Pickering said that when the show got to his birth town of Olney, he was in trouble.  “I thought,” said Pick, “that when my own folks wouldn’t come to see a show it must be pretty punk, so I gave them all carfare home.  I don’t see why it wasn’t a winner.  Had a fine show.  I got a newspaper man to write me some bills, and they were surely swell.  Here is one of them:  ‘Pickering’s Polluted Pollywogs – Picturesque, Pestilential Posers, the Perihelion Pinks of Piccadilly.’  And yet the people wouldn’t come to see my show!”

Pickering lost about $1,000 on the venture.  His son and daughter, Joe and Ozeta, easily took to the stage, though.  They did a traveling skating show and she was an actress for a number of years before returning to Vincennes, Indiana and starting a family there.

Pickering struggled on a poor Washington team in 1908 – he hit .225 with little else to show for his season.  Released at the end of the year, Ollie threatened to retire rather than get shipped back to the minors – but that wasn’t Ollie Pickering.  He was a baseball player.  For most of 1909 he played with the Minneapolis Millers – his friend and former manager, Joe Cantillon, was happy to have Pickering in the outfield.  However, he struggled with illness and injuries.  In 1910, he was traded from Minneapolis to Louisville.  Not good enough to play in the American Association – then known for being a home for fading major leaguers, he went to Omaha in the Western League for 1911, then returned to play for his hometown Vincennes, Indiana team.  As that season ended, he suffered an even greater loss – his son, Joe, was killed while hunting when his gun accidentally discharged and fired a bullet into his chest.

Over the next decade, Pickering continued to play for low level teams in Terre Haute, Henderson, Owensboro, Owatonna, St. Boniface, and even Manitoba (Canada) – where he lied about his age and told his Canadian-based ownership he was 41 (instead of 45).  Joe Cantillon said that “he looked great for fifty…”  For several years, Vincennes tried maintaining a minor league team and Pickering would be called on to manage and occasionally play.  When not managing, he played semi-professional ball, or took time out to manage a firing range and gun club.  When Indianapolis got a team in the Federal League, there were stories that Pickering was interested in being involved – even as a player if possible.  In 1920, at 50, he was playing for Redfield in the South Dakota League, and a year later he would play for the Fort Branch Studebakers.  After managing in Paducah in 1922, he finally called it good and returned home to work in the grain mills.

But baseball never left him – we’re talking about a guy who played into his 50s.  So, he opened up a baseball school in Vincennes and tried to teach the finer points of the game to kids who wanted to make a run at being a professional baseball player.  After years of chasing dreams and fly balls, his heart finally gave out on January 20, 1952, and his restless body was buried in his adopted hometown.  One assumes his soul is still looking to play a ballgame somewhere.

In addition to adding to the lexicon of baseball, Pickering left a legacy in Vincennes – a street there is named after him.  His grandson, Oliver John Russell, like Ollie – a free spirit willing to travel anywhere to follow his dream – would eventually purchase roller coasters and other kiddie rides, bringing them home and setting up a very successful Kiddieland Park in Vincennes.

Web Sources:

Ollie Pickering Page on Retrosheet.org

Ollie Pickering Pages on Baseball-Reference.com

(Majors)

(Minors)

Newspaper Articles:

Centralia Daily Sentinel, 2/17/1896 Page 2.

“Sporting Notes”, Fort Wayne News, 9/21/1900, Pg. 3

“A Ball Player’s Start – Ollie Pickering Relates His Early Experiences”, San Antonio Daily Light, 2/18/1902 Pg. 4.

“Gossip of the Players”, The Sporting News, 2/15/1902, Pg 2.

F. C. Richter. “Philadelphia Points”, Sporting Life, 10/25/ 1902, Pg. 4.

“Baseball Bunts”, Indianapolis Sun, 4/4/1904, Pg. 8.

“Baseball Notes”  Washington Post, 7/9/2014, Pg. 27.

“Milwaukee Players”, Washington Post, 8/12/1904, Pg. 27

“Gossip of the Diamond” Indianapolis Sun, 12/20/1904

“Ollie Pickering Goes Back to Minor League”, San Antonio Gazette, 3/1/1905, Pg. 3.

“Johndon Re-elected President of American League”, Sandusky Star Journal, 12/13/1907, Pg. 7.

“Baseball Gossip”, New York Times, 12/17/1907, Pg. 7.

Poseyville (IN) News, 1/10/1908, Pg 5.

“Show Was Disbanded”, Sullivan Daily Times, 1/21/1908, Pg. 1

“Pick’s Show”, Sporting Life, 2/22/1908, Pg. 7

“Baseball Notes”, Racine Daily Journal, 4/24/1908, Pg. 9.

“Short Sports”, Newark Advocate, 12/28/1908, Pg. 6.

Racine Daily Journal, 1/8/1909, Pg. 10.

“Ollie Pickering Has Unique Record”, Altanta Constitution, 1/17/1909, Pg. 27.

“When Pickering Lost a Toenail”, Des Moines Daily Register, 8/20/1909, Pg. 9.

“Omaha Signs Pickering”, Bessemer Herald, 2/4/1911, Pg. 7.

“Des Moines Gets New Outfielder”, Des Moines Daily News, 5/22/1911, Pg. 8.

“Boy Hunter Accidentally Shot”, Loogootee Sentinel, 12/8/1911, Pg. 7.

“Pickering Bereaved”, Sporting Life, 12/16/1911, Pg. 15.

“The Western League”, Sporting Life, June 10, 1911. Pg. 23.

“Texas Leaguers”, Sporting Life, April 21, 1906, Pg. 2.

“News Items Gathered From All Quarters”, Sporting Life, April 13, 1912, Pg. 5.

Huntington News Democrat, 3/22/1912, Pg. 6.

Muskogee Times Democrat, 3/29/1912, Pg. 9.

“Ball Tosser Heads Club”, Lebanon Patriot, 6/13/1912, Pg. 12.

“Baseball Notes”, Alton Evening Telegraph, 6/8/1914, Pg. 6.

“Pickering, at 41, Beats Kid Stars”, Massillon Evening Independent, 6/15/1915.

Janesville Daily Gazette, 9/13/1915, Pg. 8.

Chandler D. Richter. “Mack’s New View”, Sporting Life, 1/23/1915, Pg. 6.

“It’s Up to Albert Lea to Keep Up Reputation”, Albert Lea Evening Tribune, 9/1/1916, Pg. 6.

“Vincennes to Have Team”, Washington Democrat, 2/23/1917, Pg. 3.

“Sport Column”, Princeton Daily Democrat, 3/16/1917, Pg. 2.

“Former Big-League Star Gets New Job”, Elkhart Review, 8/5/1919, Pg. 8.

“Fort Branch to Play Haubstadt Next Sunday P.M.”, Princeton Daily Democrat, 6/24/1921, Pg. 5.

“Kitty League Rejuvenated”, Laurel Daily Leader, 4/14/1922, Pg. 1

“Sign Four Players for Vincennes New Ball Club”, Bicknell Daily News, 4/7/1923, Pg. 1.

“Caught on the Fly”, Sporting Life, 8/12/1911.  Page. 17

“Kiddieland Thrives In Town of 18,000”, The Billboard, 2/19/1955, Pg. 59, 71.

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John McGraw – a Different Perspective

It’s time to reconsider the legacy of John McGraw.  If Rob Manfred gets to review Pete Rose’s case and consider reinstating him, perhaps Manfred should review the history of John McGraw and consider kicking McGraw out and having him removed from the Hall of Fame.

How did I come to this conclusion?  I had thought about it for a little while (see my article on Pol Parrott), but it really came clearer to me in recent weeks.  I was doing some research on Horace Fogel; it was his birthday a few weeks back and I couldn’t remember who he was, but it gave me a reason to think about John McGraw.  I even bought two books about him – a biography and his autobiography.

Long and short, I no longer think John McGraw is one of the greats of the game of baseball.  Rather – I think he was one of the villains.  He’s Aaron Burr with better press and a better final act.

As a player with the Baltimore Orioles, McGraw had a reputation as a cheat.  As a baserunner, he cut bases; as a defender he grabbed players to prevent them from running around third.  He tripped people, he grabbed belts.  The reason we need four umpires (if not six) at a ball game is because of guys like McGraw.  He menaced umpires and other players – when he retired nobody had been thrown out of more baseball games than John McGraw.

Very noble.

It didn’t end there.  McGraw somehow was made the manager of the AL’s Baltimore Orioles.  Always running in harms way with the umpires, McGraw got on the wrong side of AL President Ban Johnson.  So what did McGraw do?  He worked out a deal with the New York Giants and Cincinnati Reds.  He took over managing the Giants – stole many of the best players (some went to the Reds, who were in cahoots with the Giants since the former owner of the Reds was now the owner of the Giants) – and wrecked the Orioles.  Johnson was so angry, he moved the Orioles to New York and set up the Yankees.

McGraw was a successful manager for the Giants – don’t get me wrong – but given a chance to play in the 1904 World Series, McGraw said no.

In the next decade, the Giants were consistently good – but rumors abounded that the Giants had help.  Here’s where Horace Fogel comes in – he owned the Phillies in the early 1910s.  He was a front for the owners of the Cubs and a guy affiliated with the Reds, but he was the president of the team.  Anyway – Fogel was having a rough year – he had invested in good players and they were competitive, but then things went the wrong way.  A player got suspended, another key player got hurt, and the team fell down the stretch.  At some point, he said things he probably should not have said – but some of the things he said were coming from the guy who owned the Cubs.  One of the things Fogel claimed was that in the height of the pennant race, the St. Louis Cards deliberately played to lose when facing the Giants, which helped the Giants win the pennant.

Roger Bresnahan was the manager of the Cardinals – he had become a manager because McGraw took the raw, fiery pitcher with crazy athletic skills and turned him into an outfielder and then a Hall of Fame catcher (not that there was a Hall of Fame then).  Roger doesn’t get this job without McGraw having helped him as a player, and then by providing Bresnahan with quite the letter of recommendation.  Fogel claimed that Bresnahan returned the favor by helping the Giants win the 1914 pennant, in part, by folding games when facing the Giants.

Fogel was brought before the National League owners and management team, where they decided that they needed to shut Fogel up and kick him out of baseball.  Fogel couldn’t really prove anything; but he was saying things the league didn’t want to talk about, so it was easier to make Fogel – who had no real ownership in the Phillies – go away.

A few years later, Pol Parrott was pitching for the Giants when Hal Chase tried to extract some information from Parrott in hopes to make money on a doubleheader (something Hal Chase did a lot, you know – he looked for information, and often included cash offers).  Parrott told McGraw, word got out, and Chase was brought before a league tribunal to account for his actions.  John McGraw testified about what Parrott said to him.  Somehow, Chase got away with it.  To top it off – McGraw then signed Chase to play first base for his New York Giants.

How does that happen?

McGraw was very good friends with the guy who ran a gambling syndicate (actually, a crime ring) in New York, Arnold Rothstein.  They owned a race track together, among other things.  Two players on McGraw’s 1919 Giants – Chase and Heinie Zimmerman worked with Rothstein to throw the World Series.  Makes you think that Rothstein saw an opportunity to make some extra money and had his friend, McGraw, give Chase a job.

After the Black Sox scandal, the Giants were still among the best teams of the National League and won pennants to start the 1920s.  They shared the Polo Grounds with the New York Yankees – oddly, the team that was created when the Orioles franchise was returned to the American League and moved to New York in 1903 – first as the Highlanders, and eventually taking on the Yankees moniker.  Over time, the Yankees proved to be the more popular (and more successful) team – so McGraw, who was now a part owner of the team, worked to kick the Yankees out of the Polo Grounds.

McGraw’s reward was to lose a tenant, and then never win another pennant.  Sure – he won a lot of games until he called it a career, but he never made it to another World Series after 1924.

If you think about this – what is it, exactly, that makes you think that John McGraw should be treated like one of the greats of the game?  It’s like saying Pete Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame because he has 4200+ hits – so what if he broke one of the cardinal rules of baseball.  Maybe THE cardinal rule.  McGraw cheated on the field, he may have indirectly affected the outcome of a pennant race, he cultivated a world of gambling on his own team that contributed to the fixing of a World Series.  He was belligerent; he was pompous; he was corruptible, if not corrupt.

Oh, yeah – he was a great judge of talent.

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Happy Birthday – Curtis Schmidt!

The leading pitcher of the 1991 and 1992 Kansas Jayhawks, Curtis Schmidt went from a 41st round pick of the Montreal Expos to one of the 24 kids who hailed from Montana to make it to the big leagues.

Curtis Schmidt was born 16 March 1970 in Miles City, Montana, a mostly farming community in the southeastern portion of the state.  After graduation, he attended Howard College in Big Spring, Texas before transferring to the Jayhawks for his junior and senior seasons.  The 6′ 5″ Schmidt immediately earned a ticket into the starting rotation with his heavy 90 MPH fastball that led to frequent strikeouts and even more frequent ground balls.  While at KU, he fashioned a 13 – 10 record with a 2.80 career ERA, earning two All-Big Eight Conference awards.

He was drafted in 1991 by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 28th round, but chose to return to college.  Then, after completing his eligibility at Kansas, he was selected by the Montreal Expos in the 41st round of the 1992 draft.  Assigned to Jamestown in the NY-PENN League, Schmidt showed promise – he struck out nearly a batter per inning, allowed just a lone homer in over 6o innings of work, and just 42 hits in 63+ innings.  Advanced to West Palm Beach in the Florida State League for the 1993 season, Schmidt continued to show growth but it was his 1994 season with AA Harrisburg where Schmidt went from decent minor leaguer to ” blue chip relief prospect.”  Schmidt went 6 – 2 with a 1.88 ERA, striking out 75 and walking 29 in 71.2 innings of work.  He allowed only 51 hits all year, just four of them clearing fences.

He was called up to the Expos in early 1995, where he would face the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field for his first taste of the major leagues on April 28.  Rey Sanchez bunted on the rookie pitcher, beating out a single to open the fifth inning.  Schmidt, whose fastball usually stayed low, did just that – getting Mark Grace to bounce into a double play.  Then, Sammy Sosa flew out to end the inning.  Unfortunately, not all of Schmidt’s outings were that successful.  Getting a late call in September, Schmidt appeared in 11 games, pitching 10.1 innings, but allowed 15 hits and nine walks, leading to a 6.97 ERA.   Between call ups, Schmidt was undefeated for the AAA Ottawa Lynx in 1995, which became his minor league home for the next two seasons as well.  After starting 1997 slowly, Schmidt moved to the Pirates where he pitched better for Calgary of the Pacific Coast League, but was no longer considered a prospect.  Trying one more time, Schmidt pitched for the independent Somerset Patriots in 1998 before calling it a career.

For me and several of my Jayhawk journalism alums, Curtis Schmidt is a throwback name – a time when Dave Bingham was moving the Jayhawks baseball program forward.  Several of my friends spent springs and summers calling games where Schmidt would mow down hitters in Hoglund-Maupin Stadium, whether as a Jayhawk or a member of the semi-pro Maupintour Travelers.  A year after Schmidt left, the Jayhawks were in the College World Series; Schmidt was part of that growth pattern.  And of the many players we covered from that period, Schmidt was one of the few who made it to the pros.

 

Sources:

Curtis Schmidt Page on Retrosheet.org

Curtis Schmidt Pages on Baseball-Reference.com

(Majors)

(Minors)

Pascarelli, Peter “It’s Not The System, just bad management”, The Sporting News, 9/12/1994, Pg. 47.

“The playoff share”, The Sporting News, 9/11/1995, Pg. 12.

“Schmidt Tabbed in 41st Round”, Lawrence Journal-World, 6/4/1992

 

 

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Mighty Casey Bio: Abraham Lincoln (Link) Bailey

Born February 12, 1895, this future Chicago Cubs pitcher would be named after the president who shared his birthday.

Abraham Lincoln Bailey was born in Joliet, IL, one of nine Bailey kids, where he learned to play baseball in the sandlots of his city.  He grew tall and thick – listed at 6′ 0″ and about 185 pounds, but the few photos of the day suggested that he carried a few pounds more than that.  Still – he threw the ball hard and it was his fastball that drew the attention of Chicago Cubs scouts who saw him play in the old Joliet City League, or on the semi-professional Joliet Rivals, or on a low level team in Kenosha, WI.

When the Cubs finally agreed to terms with Bailey, though, Bailey had already signed up to join the US Army.  Assigned to the 72nd Field Artillery, Bailey spent part of two years in France during World War I.  A picture of Sgt. Bailey even appeared in The Sporting News, alongside much more famous ballplayers who had joined the war, like Pete Alexander.

Interestingly, Grover Cleveland Alexander and Abraham Lincoln Bailey were destined to become teammates – a pair of presidential names gracing the game.  One, a veteran, savvy pitcher who had a reputation for hitting the bottle and the other was a young pitcher needing to harness his game and likely had a reputation for hitting the bakery.  Bailey was “…inclined to be corpulent” and the few articles that mention Bailey note that he didn’t take the game seriously enough and was battling his weight in spring training.

The nickname that followed Bailey into the history books and reference websites is “Sweetbread” – but I haven’t yet figured out where that came from.  He wasn’t called Abe – when Cubs manager Fred Mitchell called him that, Bailey told him, “The folks back home still call me ‘Linc’ for short.”  Many articles refer to him as Link Bailey, so I’ll go with that.

Link Bailey finally joined the Cubs in the 1919 season where he was the ninth or tenth man on a ten man pitching staff.  Appearing 21 times and getting just five starts, Bailey went 3 – 5 for Chicago with an ERA of 3.15.  He struggled in 1920, though – giving up 55 hits in just 36.2 innings, he finished with a 1 – 2 record and a horrific 7.12 ERA.  Bailey came back in 1921, got himself in pretty good shape, but still struggled in 1921, so the Cubs waived him in May of that season.  The Brooklyn Superbas picked Bailey up on waivers, gave him seven appearances in May and June, and sent him off to New Orleans for some seasoning.

At first, Link Bailey found success in the minors – he won ten of fourteen decisions in the Southern Association.  He stayed in New Orleans for the 1922 season and turned in a 12 – 13 record in 39 outings – the 208 innings he logged that year would be the most he would pitch in professional ball.  However, he was done in New Orleans.  He moved to Beaumont in the Texas League in 1923, going 3 – 2 in seven games and was released.  Bailey returned home to Joliet and made his life there so he could be closer to his family.

Unfortunately, like his baseball career, his life ended too soon.  He developed cancer of the pituitary gland, which affected him for the last years of his life.  Bailey died at the home of his sister on 27 September, 1939.

Sources:

Link Bailey Page on Retrosheet.org

Link Bailey Pages on Baseball-Reference.com
(Majors)
(Minors)

A Picture of Sgt. A. Lincoln Bailey appears in the 3/13/1919 issue of The Sporting News on page 6. “Notables Among the National League’s Brave Hundred”

George S, Robbins. “Chicago Cubs.” The Sporting News, 3/13/1919, Page 6.

“Famous Names”, Chicago Eagle, 8/2/1919, Page 7.

Oscar C. Seichow. “Popular Song Will Fit Fred Mitchell”, The Sporting News, 4/8/1920, Page 1.

Oscar C. Seichow. “Big Change in Evers Comes With Years”, The Sporting News, 3/10/1921, Page 1.

“Dodgers Count Hal Janvrin Real Asset”, The Sporting News, 6/23/1921, Page 3.

“Necrology”, The Sporting News, 10/5/1939, Page 15.

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Mighty Casey Bio: Jim Essian

A rough and tumble catcher of the 1970s and 1980s, Jim Essian’s greatest success came as a member of the South Side Hit Men, when the 1977 Chicago White Sox nearly won the AL West owing to a barrage of homers being launched out of Comiskey Park.

James Sarkis Essian was born on 2 January, 1951 in Detroit.  Essian was the fourth child of thirteen kids born to an Armenian house painter and his wife.  Not just good at baseball, Essian was a heck of a football player, where he was an all-state linebacker and fullback.  Essian turned down scholarships from a number of interested colleges, including Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Alabama, and Texas, to play baseball – and then wasn’t even drafted.

Essian proved a pretty good catcher, though.  He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as an undrafted free agent in August, 1969.  He played with the Mesa Royals in 1969 in a winter rookie league, earning a second minor league contract.  Sent to Pulaski in the Appalachian League and Spartanburg in the Western Carolinas League, Essian would hit .298, hit 11 homers (with 50 RBI) in just 257 at bats, and finish with a slugging percentage of .525.  His best game was a five-hit, two-homer day in a 10 – 4 Spartanburg win over Anderson.  Finishing with Pulaski, Essian was named to the Rookie All-Star East Team, earning an engraved silver bowl.  His teammates on that all-star team included Dave Parker, Greg Gross, Sam Hairston, and Otto Velez.  The season was good enough to earn a non-roster invite to spring training with the parent club.

His next season in the Phillies chain was not quite as successful from a batting standpoint, but still included many positives.  Essian’s homer in the third playoff game contributed to a sweep over the Kingston Eagles, giving the Peninsula Pilots the Carolina League championship.  Essian’s efforts earned another trip to spring training with the big club.

In 1972, Essian moved up to AA Reading, where he first took on the number 13 – a number that didn’t bother Essian one bit.  “The No. 13 uniform is the only one that fits me properly,” said Essian.  ” Tom Silicato wore No. 13 last year (and hit .329), so it can’t be too bad.”  Essian got off to a great start as a hitter, was named an Eastern League All-Star in his second AA season for 1973, and even homered in the EL All-Star Game.  Essian got his first cup of coffee with the Phillies that September, getting three pinch hitting at bats, tallying no hits but striking out once.

When the 1973 season ended, the Phillies sent a few players who were considered top prospects to Puerto Rico for winter ball, including Mike Schmidt, Larry Christiansen, Billy Grabarkewitz, Dick Ruthvan, and Essian. The next spring, injuries to Bob Boone and Larry Cox gave Essian a shot with the Phillies.  Defensively, Essian caught a good game though his batting wasn’t up to par.  Essian told a writer that spring that he wasn’t interested in spending another season in the minors – one of the first times that Essian revealed himself to be willing to talk to reporters, sometimes too easily, and demonstrating a straight-forward confidence in his ability.

Essian got a chance to demonstrate his toughness when he was ejected for his role in a fight with Derrel Thomas of the San Diego Padres.  Ron Schueler brushed back Thomas with a pitch, which offended the Padres’ jack-of-all-trades.  Thomas flung his bat at Schueler (he said it “slipped”), but Essian would have none of it – grabbing Thomas and getting tossed for protecting his pitcher.

His catching may have been decent, his toughness demonstrated, but hitting .100 (two hits and one ejection) wasn’t going to cut it – so Essian was dispatched to AAA Toledo, where Essian was solid behind the plate, batted .282, and fanned just 17 times in his 202 plate appearances.  Essian was now demonstrating that he made regular contact and was willing to work a walk – he took 30 free passes to his 17 strikeouts in 1974 on the heels of his 1973 season where he struck out just 44 times and drew 82 walks.

Essian’s future in Philadelphia was limited, though.  Boone was an established starter, Larry Cox was a capable backup, and the Phillies added veteran Tim McCarver to the mix.  So, Essian was packaged in a May, 1975 deal along with Barry Bonnell and cash to the Atlanta Braves for Dick Allen (and backup catcher Johnny Oates).  It was a three-way deal, though – Atlanta owed something to the Chicago White Sox for Allen’s rights, so Essian was relayed eight days later to the White Sox as the player to be named later in the original deal.

Essian was put on the White Sox roster as a third catcher behind Brian Downing and Pete Varney.  Downing was young and gaining experience, while Varney was a capable backup and hitting .271.  Over the next two months, Chuck Tanner and the White Sox never once put Essian into a game – despite the fact that Tanner himself had asked for Essian to be included in the Allen deal.  Essian didn’t want to go to the minors, but he didn’t want to do nothing – while the White Sox were avoiding using Essian’s final minor league option.  His batting eye got rusty – when Essian was finally sent to Hawaii to get some playing time, he batted just .209, though pitchers didn’t allow a run in the first 35 innings that Essian was behind the plate.  Returned to the White Sox for September, Essian didn’t play that month, either.

An article in The Sporting News explained, however, that despite not playing Essian maintained a positive attitude and mental acuity through Transcendental Meditation.  Essian, along with Larry Bowa, Jim Lonborg and Paul Owens, attended a four lecture program and, upon completion, began meditating twice each day for about twenty minutes each time.  He would meditate at the hotel pool or even riding the train to Comiskey Park – sitting upright, folding his hands, and closing his eyes – gaining peace and clarity.

“Without T.M.,” he said, “it wouldn’t be easy for me to accept my role with the White Sox.  But I know things are going to work out.  I’m able to just let the thoughts come in to me.  I don’t get uptight.  I’m mentally ready for anything.  I’ve got a few of the guys interested in T.M. (also).  It can keep them from getting physically tired, too, as the season wears on.  In my case, of course, there’s no way I could be tired anyway.”

In 1976, Essian was in the Majors for good – and, rather astonishingly, selected to be the alternate player representative to the union (Bucky Dent was the player rep).  Paul Richards gave Essian plenty of opportunities to play, letting Downing rest or getting extra time when Downing’s elbow bothered him.  Essian was the catcher the night that John “Blue Moon” Odom and Francisco Barrios combined on a no-hitter – though with eleven walks and having allowed an unearned run caused by an errant Essian throw.  In September, Essian repeated his pitcher protection program in a game against the Orioles.  Reggie Jackson’s showboating earned a brush back pitch from Clay Carroll.  Like Thomas, Jackson fired his bat at Carroll while swinging at the next pitch – then charged the mound.  Essian caught Jackson, gave him a bear hug, and completed a picture perfect tackle.

Essian finished the season with a .246 batting average in 78 games.  That October, he married his wife, Janey, who was a hairstylist at the time.  Then, he went to work in construction, which, paired with an exercise regimen, added strength to his 200 pound frame.

Brian Downing couldn’t stay healthy in 1977, which made Essian the starter for most of the 1977 season.  That year, the White Sox picked up Richie Zisk, Oscar Gamble, Eric Soderholm and gave chances to other good hit/weak glove types like Jorge Orta, Alan Bannister, and Lamar Johnson.  The Sox got off to a great start – Harry Caray was singing, the fans loved the regular displays of power, and by mid-summer were regularly calling out Sox hitters for curtain calls after homers – and even pitchers for completing games.

Despite being a big powerful player, Essian didn’t hit a home run in his first 100 games as a big leaguer.  He finally did it in his 101st game, lining a Fergie Jenkins pitch off the upper deck of Comiskey Park in April.  “I wanted to go into my home-run trot, but realized I didn’t have one,” said Essian, who then promised to hit more homers.  He finished the season with ten.  He also cost Ralph Garr a homer in July – Garr lined a shot into the left field corner that barely cleared the wall.  Essian thought it was caught and retreated to first, Garr thought it was in play and raced around the bases – passing Essian.  It didn’t help that umpire Nestor Chylak made a “late and somewhat vague call” – Essian scored, but Garr was counted for a single and an out.

Essian told writer Richard Dozier that, though he was usually kept around for his catching skills (Peter Gammons once said he was the third best AL catcher in calling games, and had the second quickest release), Essian felt he contributed on the offensive side, too.  “I don’t think my catching and throwing are necessarily my strong points,” he said.  “If I’m not doing it with the glove, I’m doing it with the stick.  I bunt pretty well, I get walks.  I run good even though I’m not real fast.  I get a good start and I make a quick cut of the bases.  I don’t get picked off and I know how to slide.  I don’t miss signs and I don’t strike out.”

Dozier noted “Essian has a lot to say about this abilities, but he says things softly and they come across with a curious modesty.”  So, even though Essian was starting only because Downing was injured, Essian had no problem saying, “I look at myself as a regular catcher whether I’m on the bench or not.  Right now I’m in there because Brian has a sore elbow.  But there’s no question I’m going to play a lot.  I expect to be in more than 100 ball games.”

Essian played in 114 games, hit .273 with a .374 OBP, and added thirty extra base hits.  Downing was moved to California for the 1977 season, so Essian came into spring training in 1978 thinking for the first time that he was a starter for good.  Instead, manager Bob Lemon was unhappy with Essian’s attitude and slow start.  So, after first sending Essian to the dog house, the White Sox sent him along with Steve Renko to the Oakland A’s for reliever Pablo Torreabla.

Joe Goddard wrote about Essian’s error in judgment in The Sporting News.

Essian was deep in the doghouse but was not aware of it until too late.

“I think they were impatient with me.  I was taking my time, getting my arm into shape.  They wanted me to come along quicker,” said the Detroit native, who hit .273 with 10 home runs last season after wresting the No. 1 job from Brian Downing, now with the Angels.

Essian began tunneling his own hole the first day of camp when he arrived late and said, “For the first time in my life, there’s no competition.”

Things got worse.  He missed a team bus for an exhibition, was charged with four passed balls while trying to flag down Wilbur Wood’s knuckleball and was chastised for pitch calling.  He was traded the day after six Royals stole bases while he was catching Wood again.

“The only time they talked to me about anything was after the passed balls with Wilbur,” he said.  “I don’t know anything about the rest.  It’s a joke.”

Manager Bob Lemon wasn’t laughing.  “Maybe some of the others who think they’ve got it made will wake up,” he said.

The Oakland As of the late 1970s were a team in turmoil.  Charles Finley had traded off all the players that made the team a perennial AL West champion earlier in the decade.  This period was marked by regular trades and unhappy managers.  Many had issues with young Stanley Burrell (later known as MC Hammer) feeding information about the game to Finley, who would then use the information to chew out managers.  Bobby Winkles grew tired of it and two months into the 1978 season just quit.  In June of 1978, high school graduate Mike Morgan was given a chance to pitch just a week after his graduation.  Players were swapped all over the field (outfielder Miguel Dilone played third base once, making two errors to lose a game; Essian played second base once).  Also, instead of huge happy crowds, the attendance in Oakland was barely a half million.

Essian, now eligible for salary arbitration, won two cases increasing his salary from $40,000 in 1976 to $125,000 by 1980.  Essian was a regular catcher for the A’s, though his batting average and power numbers fell playing in the Oakland Coliseum.  Oakland added other catchers, like Mike Heath and Jeff Newman, and the regular nicks of the job started adding up, too.  He missed part of spring training in 1979 due to a fractured pinky finger.  Then, Essian missed time after a Lou Whitaker foul ball fractured another finger.  In 1980, it was back spasms.  Trying to get him in the lineup, Essian once played third base when Wayne Gross was injured, too.  His lone highlight was likely hitting an inside-the-park grand slam – helped when his former minor league all-star teammate, Otto Velez, chased a liner and stepped on the ball, twisting his knee. Velez couldn’t chase down the ball, and Essian circled the bases.  A strange lowlight?  Essian hit a liner that Carl Yastrzemski caught against the Green Monster – and broke a rib, ending Yaz’s 1980 season.  He also injured Alvis Woods – Woods charged the mound after being hit by a Rick Langford pitch and Essian tackled Woods when Woods tried to charge the mound.

By the end of the 1980 season, Essian figured he would be traded.  Instead, he signed a four-year, $1,000,000 deal with the Chicago White Sox to be their regular catcher.  Bill Veeck said that trading away Essian in 1978 was “the worst trade he ever made…” – now he was back.  Thinking he would be the Sox starter, Essian became the backup when Chicago landed another free agent catcher: Carlton Fisk.  Bob Markus wrote about Essian’s feelings at the time:

Essian, who said at first he would rather the White Sox did not get Fisk, changed his mind by the time it became apparent they were in the running for him.

“Selfishly, I’d like to catch all the games, but I wont be selfish about it.  Anyone will tell you they’ll be glad to have Fisk here and I feel the same way.  I’m not disappointed, and the pitchers have to love it.  It gives them a great bat in the lineup.”

Instead of starting, Essian appeared in only 27 games, getting to bat 52 times.

Essian’s willingness to say what he thought got the better of him a second time when he revealed that most of the Oakland A’s starting rotation threw spitballs in 1980.  Essian claimed that Matt Keough used Vaseline, hiding it in his glove and mitt, while Langford, Mike Norris, and Steve McCatty used sweat or spit.  When Essian tried to visit old teammates in the A’s clubhouse in a 1981 game, the pitchers wanted nothing to do with him.  Keough said, “When a man’s an accomplice in a bank robbery, he isn’t qualified to be called to the stand as a character witness.”

After 1981, Essian was dealt to Seattle, along with Todd Cruz and Rod Allen, for Tom Paciorek.  That season was derailed when Mike Hargrove ran over Essian in a play at the plate, breaking an ankle.  The Indians picked up the veteran catcher where he mostly sat on the bench, until Pat Corrales took over managing the team and gave Essian a chance to play.  He returned to Oakland in 1984, broke his hand and missed more than month, and was eventually released.

His playing days about done, Essian signed a deal with an independent Miami Marlins team where he eventually took over as the team’s manager.  The Cubs picked him up to be a coach and manager in the minors, and when Jim Frey gave Don Zimmer the boot after a slow start in 1991, Essian got the job as top man for the Cubs.  In over his head, Essian changed over coaches (Richie Zisk took over as the batting coach, Billy Connors came in to work with pitchers), used 17 lineups in 21 days, sent starter Rick Sutcliffe to the bullpen for a short while, and watched as the morale disappeared – by the end of the season, Shawon Dunston, Damon Berryhill, and Jerome Walton all demanded trades.  Everyone got fired at the end of the year.  As to Essian’s skill as a manager, former Cub Bill Madlock used Essian as an example as to why more blacks should be managers.  Saying Herzog was the best manager and Essian was the worst, Madlock noted, “There’s a whole lot of us (meaning African-Americans) that could fall between those two.  If Essian gets a job, we should all get jobs.”

Essian’s years in professional baseball ended soon after – the Cubs used him as a scout in 1992, and he was once named manager of an independent team in 1995.

Sources:

Jim Essian Page on Retrosheet.org

Jim Essian Pages on Baseball-Reference.com
(majors)
(minors)

Holtzman, Jerome. “Essian Doing Super Job as Chisox Sub Catcher”, The Sporting News, June 26, 1976, Page 8.

Dozer Richard. “Essian’s Bat Kindles Chisox Spurt”, The Sporting News, May 7 1977, Page 14.

“Class A Leagues (notes)”, The Sporting News, 5/23/70, Page 48.

“Pitchers Play Dominant Role in Playoff Drama”, The Sporting News, 9/18/71, Page 43.

“Eastern League Notes (13 Lucky for Essian)”, The Sporting News, 5/26/1973, Page 39.

“Ruthven Trying to Locate Missing Curve in Florida”, The Sporting News, 10/27/1973, Page 22.

Kelly, Ray. “Phil Foe Getting Big Jolt from Anderson’s Hot Bat”, The Sporting News, 4/13/1974, Page 18.

Kelly, Ray. “Phils Welcome a ‘Different’ Dick Allen”, The Sporting News, 5/24/1975.

Dozer, Richard. “A Chisox Riddle: Why Essian Rides Bench”, The Sporting News, 7/26/75, Page 16.

Dozer, Richard . “11-Walk, No-Hit Combo: Blue Moon, Barrios”, The Sporting News, 8/14/76, Page 9.

Henneman, Jim. “Singleton’s Once-Dead Bat Now Buries Rivals”, The Sporting News, 9/4/76, Page 7.

Dozer, Richard. “Speedy Bannister Earns Chisox Post”, The Sporting News, 4/30/77, Page 10.

Dozer, Richard. “Bell, Sox’ Choice Prospect, Out for Season”, The Sporting News, 7/16/77, Page 13.

Holtzman, Jerome. “Winds of Victory Turn on White Sox Fans”, The Sporting News, 8/20/77, Page 13.

Goddard, Joe. “White Sox Left With Raw Receivers”, The Sporting News, 4/15/78, Page 20.

Weir, Tom. “Heaverlo Sits, Ponders His Standing With A’s”, The Sporting News, 12/9/1978, Page 34.

Weir, Tom. “Cupboard Bare, Finley Tells Page”, The Sporting News, 3/24/79, Page 46.

Chass, Murray. “Finley Suffers 5-0 Shutout in Pay Arbitration Clashes”, The Sporting News, 3/31/79, Page 36.

Weir, Tom. “Generous Portion of Rehash Likley when A’s Go to Dish”, The Sporting News, 4/7/79, Page 26.

Weir, Tom. “Kid Henderson Man of Month in Oakland”, The Sporting News, 8/4/79, Page 19.

Gammons, Peter. “AL Beat”, The Sporting News, 10/25/1980, Page 21.

Markus, Bob. “White Sox Play the Role of High-Rollers”, The Sporting News, 12/13/1980, Page 39.

Markus, Bob. “Fisk Gives White Sox Heady Feeling”, The Sporting News, 3/28/81, Page 18.

Gammons, Peter. “No More Clowns in Ranger Infield”, The Sporting News, 5/16/1981, Page 11.

“Insiders Say”, The Sporting News, 6/20/81, Page 10.

Chass, Murray. “10 Pass Up Free Agency for Huge Jackpots”, The Sporting News, 11/28/81, Page 54.

“Essian Gets Chance As Regular Catcher”, The Sporting News, 1-30-82, Page 57.

Pluto, Terry. “AL EAST NOTES”, The Sporting News, 1/31/1983, Pages 40 – 41.

Ocker, Sheldon. “Bernazard Solves One Tribe Woe”, The Sporting News, 12/19/83, Page 41.

Goddard, Joe. “Cubs Notes”, The Sporting News, 6/1, 1991, Page 15

Goddard, Joe. “Cubs Notes”, The Sporting News, 6/10/91, Page 15.

Goddard, Joe. “Cubs Notes”, The Sporting News, 6/24/91, Page 17.

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Lave Cross on William “Dummy” Hoy

Staying up late during an IT deployment, I logged into NewspaperArchive.com – an interesting collection of American history – and found this baseball nugget:

“‘Dummy’ Hoy introduced many curious and wonderful innovations into the game in his day,” says Lave Cross. “He was playing in center field for Cincinnati one afternoon when our old St. Louis team was there for a series. In the first inning, the man ahead of me in the batting order sent a long, low fly to Hoy, which he caught after a hard run, and we all noticed that he held the ball for a long time after it was in his hands.

“When the ball finally came back the pitcher picked it up carefully, looked at it as if he were searching for something, and then gave me two low incurves [SIC], at which I made futile swings.

“Out of sheer curiosity I stepped on the plate and asked to see the ball. The catcher handed it over, and there on its new white surface was scratched in Hoy’s well-known hand:

“‘Low in-curve.’

“The pitcher had followed ‘Dummy’s’ tip and had me 2-0. And even then Hoy had not exhausted his ingenuity, for he lifted his hands and gave (Billy) Rhines a sign signal which I interpreted as meaning ‘fast one straight across’, but which really was ‘slow one,’ and I struck out, greatly [to] Hoy’s delight.”

— “The Sports Tell Stories.” The Muskogee (OK) Democrat, 3 February 1905, Pg. 6.

This can’t be totally accurate…  Rhines and Hoy were teammates on Cincinnati for the 1895, 1896, and 1897 seasons.  At that time, Lave was a member of the Phillies – he wouldn’t join St. Louis until the following season.  That’s a harmless memory lapse…  Then you start wondering about the rest…  “Scratched in Hoy’s well-known hand…” – makes you think that he was regularly putting instructions on the ball.  Granted – Hoy’s inability to speak meant that he was constantly writing (when not signing to teammates who would learn sign language) – but can you imagine being able to scratch on the ball the way one writes?  Maybe it was three letters L I C.  I totally believe that Hoy would send signals to his pitcher.  The little I have read about Hoy said he was a complete student of the game – without the ability to hear, he may have been extra observant of other things that would give him or his teammates an additional edge from time to time.  It helped him stay in baseball as a productive player into his 40s.  He retired not because he couldn’t play, but because the Los Angeles Loo Loos (Pacific Coast League) wanted to cut his salary and Hoy, who had amassed a reasonable fortune through shrewd investments, could choose to do whatever he wanted (he bought a dairy farm).

Other notes…

Lave Cross is very nearly qualified to be a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Look up his record – it’s really not shabby.  He was a very good player on a number of good teams – and extremely hard to strike out.  Over a five year period (1898 to 1902) the most he struck out in a season was eight times – Eight!  (Ike Futch could appreciate that.)  You could argue that he was one of the two or three best third baseman of the period and had the rather unique record for having played on all four Philadelphia entrants in the majors (American Association, Player’s League, National League, and American League).

I’ve scribbled a few notes about Dummy Hoy before – as a member of the Society of American Baseball Research, we get to vote annually about the most overlooked star of the 1800s, and I always vote for Hoy.  One day, Hoy may wind up in the Hall of Fame.

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Baseball 365 – January 19th in History

Birth Announcements:

(1888) Chick Gandil

Member of the Black Sox – career ended in infamy.

(1903) Merle (Lefty) Settlemire

(1935) Fred (Squeaky) Valentine

Fred Valentine was an outfielder with Baltimore and Washington in the 1960s – had a decent season in 1966, batting .276 with some power and 22 stolen bases, but didn’t maintain that level of production and disappeared after 1968.  Of course, by the time Valentine got regular playing time, he was in his 30s – he was a victim of the racism of the period, which limited opportunities unless he hit like Willie or Hank.

Baltimore drafted Valentine as an infielder out of Tennessee A&I (now Tennessee State) having chosen baseball over football because there were no black quarterbacks in the NFL in the late 1950s.  However, the Orioles had Brooks Robinson and Luis Aparicio – so he moved to the outfield.

Ted Leavengood wrote an excellent biography of Valentine for the Society of American Baseball Research – give it a read.

(1948) Ken Frailing

Cubs/White Sox prospect that never really panned out.

(1950) Jon Matlack

Mets pitcher, and a good one, in the middle 1970s.

(1954) Rich Gale

Royals starter (and, later, other teams) during the playoff runs in 1978 and 1980, won 14 games as a rookie, then 13 more in 1980.  In 1978, despite going 14 – 8, walked 100 batters while striking out just 88…

(1962) Chris Sabo

Reds and Orioles third baseman – injuries clipped what started off as potentially a solid career.

(1966) Anthony Young

Owner of one of the longest losing streaks you might ever see – and yet he didn’t really deserve it.  A pretty good pitcher on some awful teams.

(1974) Amaury Telemaco

I saw Telemaco pitch while he was in Class A Daytona about 20 years ago.  He looked like he was going to be a dominating pitcher – reminded me of Joaquin Andujar with his presence on the mound.  A couple of years later, he was with the Cubs and he bounced around the majors and minors for the better part of ten years.  I rooted for him, but that apparently wasn’t helping.

Obituaries:

(1900) Marty Bergen

Bergen was a catcher for Boston in the late 1890s, and a pretty good one.  He also suffered from some form of mental illness, possibly schizophrenia or manic depression.  Artciles written at the time of his death talked about how he frequently left the team and suggested that he regularly felt like teammates were out to get him.  Bergen even feared his family doctor was trying to kill him.  His teammates and managers tolerated his moods because he was a great player – finally manager Frank Selee admitted that after the 1899 season he would eventually have to let his star catcher go.  Bergen’s son died while on a road trip – and an already fragile mind became intolerably so.  Bergen’s death was a complete tragedy – he used an axe to murder his wife and two remaining children then slit his own throat.

“Bergen Tragedy.” The Sporting News, 1/27/1900, Pg. 3.

(1938) Wild Bill Everitt

Third baseman and first baseman with Chicago in the NL during the first century of baseball, was released for his lack of power and wound up in the new American League by joining Washington in 1901.  Hit .376 in the Western League, earning a draft call from Chicago, then hit .358 as a rookie with the Colts.  A collision while running the bases ruined his throwing shoulder – but Anson’s retirement after the 1897 season meant that Everitt could move to first base and his arm would be less of a problem.  In 1898, he would set a major league record – most at bats by a first baseman without hitting a single homer.  Hit .317 in his major league career before returning to the minors as both a player and later a manager.  Owned his own grocery store and other businesses in his Denver home before being called to the great field in the sky.

(Summary adapted from David Nemec’s Major League Baseball Profiles, 1871 – 1900, Bison Books, 2011)

(1987) George Selkirk

Nicknamed “Twinkletoes” by Ernest Lanigan because, as a Jersey City outfielder, he learned to run on his toes… Selkirk was the guy who replaced Babe Ruth in right field for the Yankees.  He even wore his number.  Obviously, Selkirk was no Babe Ruth, but he was a regular for much of the next six full seasons.  He cleared .300 on five occasions, hitting between 11 and 21 homers in his full seasons, and twice driving in more than 100 runs.  Selkirk’s career ended as World War II was taking players out of the majors.  Even though Selkirk was Canadian, he served in the US Navy.  Selkirk returned from the war and took up coaching and eventually moved into the front office.  He was a player personnel director for Kansas City and Baltimore (at a time the Yankees made a lot of trades with both Kansas City and Baltimore…).  In 1962, he became a general manager for the Washington Senators.

I see a future writing project for me…

(2013) Earl Weaver

Pitching, defense, and three-run homers.

(2013) Stan Musial

Not as exciting as Willie Mays but every bit as important to his team.

(2013) Milt Bolling

When the two Hall of Famers passed away on the same day in 2013, few paid attention to the other guy who also died that day.

Milt Bolling was a southern born infielder mostly with the Red Sox during the 1950s.  As his career wound down – he wasn’t much of a hitter – he got to play in the same infield as his brother, Frank, in Detroit.  Milt’s career as a player ended, but for years he was an assistant to Tom Yawkey, and then an area scout based in his home of Mobile.

You Should Have Been There!!!

Haven’t found any events we missed on this date.  Still looking.

Transactions:

(1931) The PCL’s Oakland Oaks traded C Ernie Lombardi to Brooklyn for C Hank DeBerry and INF Eddie Moore.  Lombardi would go on to have a Hall of Fame career.

(1943) Boston releases Paul Waner.  He wasn’t done, though – Waner signed with Brooklyn and even pinch hit ten times for the Yankees before he was done in 1945.

(1961) Cleveland released Don Newcombe.  He was done, sadly.

(1983) Los Angeles trades Ron Cey to Chicago for Dan Cataline and Vance Lovelace.  Cey would help Chicago win the 1984 NL East.

(2004) Houston signs free agent Roger Clemens.

(2007) Atlanta trades Adam LaRoche and Jamie Romak to Pittsburgh for Mike Gonzalez and Brent Lillibridge.

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