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.
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.