Baseball History for January 1st

<– December 31     January 2 –>


1844 Harry Berthrong
1851 David Lenz
1854 Pete Morris
1855 Tom Mansell
1855 Bill McGunnigle

McGunnigle managed a pennant winner in Brooklyn in both the American Association (1889) and National League (1890).  He is credited with inventing the first (admittedly primitive) catcher’s mitt, and his methods as a manager were eventually mimicked by a player on his 1891 Pittsburgh Pirates squad.  Connie Mack would – like McGunnigle – wear a suit in the dugout and signal to players with his scorecard.

1855 Robert Stevens
1857 Tim Keefe

Keefe won 342 games in three different leagues between 1880 and 1893 – and at four different pitching distances – eventually being added to the Hall of Fame in 1964.  Keefe also spent three years as a regular umpire in the National League, that after being asked to umpire more than a dozen games while still a player.

1858 Hugh Nicol

Nicol was a speedy utility player of the 1880s who was credited with a league leading 138 stolen bases while with Cincinnati in the American Association in 1887.

1865 Jeremiah (Miah) Murray
1868 Dave Zearfoss
1869 Frank Connaughton
1869 Jack Keenan
1870 Charles Leander (Bumpus) Jones

Jones was a minor league nomad of the 1890s who is most famous for throwing a no-hitter in his first major league start for Cincinnati.   Jones never really made it in the majors, but got enough chances because of that famous game.  His no-hitter may be the luckiest of them all.

1872 Malcolm MacDonald
1873 Tom Donovan
1874 Morris F. (Doc) Amole

Bill Lamb penned a really good biography of Amole for SABR, which you can read here.

Amole was not a doctor, unless you consider mixology a profession worthy of the title.  His days in the majors were brief – the end of the 1897 season with the Baltimore Orioles, then a few months struggling with the 1898 Washington Senators, who weren’t very good at all either.

Amole’s claim to fame is that he pitched the very first game in American League history – this was 1900, the year before it launched into a Major League.  Toiling for Buffalo against Detroit, Amole threw a “just wild enough to be effective” no-hitter.  His career sputtered into lower and lower level leagues, though, and by 1912 years of drinking caught up with him and he was found dead in his Wilmington, DE home on March 9th.

1874 Virgil Lee (Ned) Garvin
1876 Harry Wilson
1876 Joe Martin
1880 Claude Rothgeb
1881 Rudy Baerwald (AKA Jack Bell)
1882 Howard Murphy
1882 Andy Bruckmiller
1884 Tom Downey
1887 Johnny Carr
1891 Charlie Schmutz

Schmutz threw a spitball – learned it at a very early age – and managed to make it to the Brooklyn Robins.  He’s probably just as famous for being on one of the truly great high school teams of his era, the 1907 Seattle High nine, that beat the local professional team in an exhibition.

1894 Laurence H. (Hack) Miller
1894 Frank Fuller
1897 (Vernon Monroe) Monty Swartz
1900 Al Stokes
1900 Teddy Kearns
1900 Garnett Norman
1900 Webster McDonald
1904 Ethan Allen

Ethan Allen not only hit .300 in his 13 year career, he later became the head coach of the Yale Baseball team, coaching two teams to the NCAA College World Series finals – teams that included future president George H.W. Bush.  As if that would be a good enough resume, Allen was the creator of the board game All Star Baseball.  Some of you may remember player disks and spinning the wheel to determine batting results…

1905 Pearley Johnson
1910 Charlie Devens
1911 Melvin Coleman
1911 Hank Greenberg

The Tiger great of the 1930s, who lost one season to a broken wrist and a few years to the war.  Plus, of course, he was playing second or third fiddle to Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx.

1912 Albert Thomas (Hiker) Moran
1913 Charlie House
1917 Vernon Riddick
1919 Sherry Robertson
1921 Royce Lint
1924 Charlie Bishop
1924 Earl Torgeson

Torgeson was a bespectacled first baseman of the late 1940s and 1950s who played in two World Series (1948 Boston Braves, 1959 Chicago White Sox) and was a player-coach for the 1961 Yankees.  His batting stats are sort of a poor man’s Bobby Abreu – decent average, fair power, walks, and some stolen bases.  A biography of Torgeson in Baseball Players of the 1950s by Rich Marazzi and Len Fiorito is an interesting read if only it suggests that Toregson wasn’t always a fan friendly player…

1927 Carl Scheib
1931 Foster Castleman
1933 Gene Host
1942 Bill Bethea
1948 Rark Randall (Randy) Bobb
1953 Lynn Jones
1953 Joe Pittman
1955 Bob Owchinko
1955 Dewey LaMarr Hoyt

Hoyt won the 1983 AL Cy Young award mostly because he was a durable and accurate pitcher on a surprise division champ.  His career fell apart quickly – shed from the Sox to San Diego for Ozzie Guillen – because Hoyt had a fondness for marijuana and other drugs.

1969 Roberto Rivera
1970 Gary Wilson
1972 Rafael Roque
1974 Kevin Beirne
1975 Fernando Tatis

Tatis was the first player to hit two grand slams in the same inning, both off of Chan Ho Park, on April 23, 1999.   Here’s something about that game you may not remember – Tatis was later pulled in the eighth inning as part of a double-switch.

1984 Neil Wagner
1986 Nick Hagadone
1988 Dallas Keuchel

2015 AL Cy Young winner for the Astros, and a heck of a fine pitcher.

1989 Jarrett Parker
1990 Xavier Avery
1994 LaMonte Wade, Jr.


1904 George Radbourn

A cousin of Ol’ Hoss…  Died in Bloomington, IL – apparently his friends called him Dordy.

“A Radbourn Dead,” Decatur Daily Review, January 10, 1904: 14.

1916 Jake Drauby

His real name was Jacob Taubert, but he played under the name Jack Drauby…  Maybe his German parents weren’t fans of his being a professional ballplayer?  Taubert/Drauby died of Bright’s Disease.

“Jacob F. Taubert,” Harrisburg Telegraph, January 3, 1916: 3.
PA Death Certificate

1919 Gene Curtis

A minor league slugger without the wheels to cover a major league outfield…  Curtis died at 43 of pneumonia that developed after he came down with the Spanish Flu.

“Valley Clubs To Again Play Ball,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 4, 1919: 10.
“Former Cub Player Dies,” Knoxville Sentinel, January 4, 1919: 1.

1921 George Winkleman
1923 Willie Keeler

Heart disease turned the outfielder to an invalid.  He died just hours after midnight, after ringing in the New Year with friends.

Fullerton, Hugh. “Willie Keeler, the Ty Cobb of Other Days, Passes Out,” Chicago Tribune, January 2, 1923: 18.

1925 Hank Simon
1932 Tom Parrott
1949 Hans Rasmussen
1953 Doug McWeeny

The Chicago native and former White Sox pitcher had been ill for three weeks when he suffered a heart attack.

“Sports in Brief: 500-Mile Race Okays Turbine Engines; DeSpirito Pays Off,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, January 4, 1953: 12.

1959 Neck Stanley
1960 William Arthur (Tige) Stone
1966 Oscar Dugey

According to his TX death certificate, Dugey, a former painter (and Phillies player) had suffered a number of strokes and had lung disease.  Pneumonia took him at 77.

1967 John (Lindsay) Brown
1971 Joe Lotz
1971 Harry Rice
1974 Jimmy Smith
1977 Danny Frisella

Dune buggy accident – he tried to jump out as the vehicle started to roll but his foot got stuck.

1986 Bill Hall
1987 Ernie Maun
1990 Carmen Hill
1992 George Washington (Buck) Stanton
1999 Len Dondero
2000 Andy Spognardi

Was 91 when he passed.  Spognardi played with the Red Sox in 1932, but left baseball for Tufts University where he went to medical school and eventually became a family doctor.

“Andrew E. Spognardi,” Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, January 14, 2000: 5A.

2004 John Stoneham
2006 Paul Lindblad

The last player to face Willie Mays – in a World Series game in 1973.  Lindblad’s demise at 64 was caused by early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

“Paul Lindblad, 64; World Series Pitcher for Athletics in ’73 and Yankees in ’78,” Los Angeles Times, January 14, 2006: B13.

2007 Ernie Koy, Sr.

Koy was 97 and had only recently given up ranching due to a broken hip…  An All-Conference fullback at Texas, Koy signed with the Yankees but wasn’t a major leaguer until traded to Brooklyn where he homered in his first major league at bat.  Koy was also REALLY fast.  He once beat Jesse Owens by two steps in a 100-yard dash at a pre-game event (though Owens gave Koy a five yard head start).

Haliburton, Suzanne. “Koy was one of the Horns’ first legends,” Austin American-Statesman, January 2, 20078: C7.

2008 Chuck Daniel
2013 Satchel Davis
2019 Walt McKeel
2020 Don Larsen

Per his NY Times obit, Larsen passed at 90 of esophogeal cancer.

2020 Jim Manning


1941 Babe Ruth purchases $50,000 in US Defense Bonds, the most any one person could purchase at the time.


1894 In a particularly one-sided deal, Baltimore gets Baltimore trades Billy Shindle and George Treadway to Brooklyn for Dan Brouthers and Willie Keeler.  In the 1890s, the same ownership group controlled both Baltimore and Brooklyn and would keep all the good players on Baltimore.  So, while this is listed as a trade (and, on the surface, a really lopsided one at that), the truth is it was more a reorganization of talent.

1927 Brooklyn released an aging Zack Wheat.  Wheat signed with Philadelphia for the 1927 season and hit .324 in his only AL season.  He probably wasn’t finished as a ballplayer, but hung it up at the end of the 1927 season anyway.

2005 New York signs free agent first baseman Tino Martinez.

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