Happy Birthday, Jake Volz!

Jake Volz - Manchester 1902 ishAs a pitcher, Jake Volz was known to be wild and would lose control when under any amount of stress. In his personal life, he lost control of his emotions, and it cost him a year of his life as well as his first wife.

Born on 4 April 1878, Jacob Phillip Volz entered this world in San Antonio, TX. The son of Michael and Margaretha (Heimers) Volz, both Prussian immigrants who arrived in the United States around 1868. Jake was the the seventh of eight children – the first two were born in Prussia and came to the United States with the parents. The rest started arriving every two or three years between 1869 and 1880. Michael was a painter, while Margaretha had plenty to do raising eight kids.

In time, Jacob turned to baseball – a sport that certainly was gaining traction in the late 1880s and early 1890s. When the Texas Leagues were still in flux, Jake Volz was signed to pitch for the San Antonio Missionaries (1898) and the San Antonio Bronchos (1899) and play other positions as needed. He and another professional ball player, Lou Barbour, played together as kids and would make it all the way to the highest professional leagues.

“A young local pitcher named Jake Volz was pitted against the Houston Buffaloes today and downed them hard.”

“The Buffaloes Beaten”, Houston Daily Post, 16 April 1898, Page 6.

Much of Volz’s greatest success came playing in the northeast, where he would spend seasons in Manchester, Holyoke, Bridgeport, and Hartford. He won frequently in Manchester in 1901, earning a tryout with Boston in the American League at the tail end of the season. In his first major league start, Volz was swatted around easily and often – he gave up seven hits and nine walks. Two of those hits were long homers, including one by Davy Jones that was tabbed as the longest homer at the rounds. However, while Volz allowed nine runs, Boston scored ten runs off Willie Reidy and got the win in a shortened seven inning game. (It was the second game of a double header.)

It wasn’t enough to stick – Volz returned to Manchester for 1902 and was even more successful than he had been in 1901 and eventually moved up to the American Association for the 1903 season. There, Volz got off to a decent start, earning the nickname “The Texas Terror” from a St. Paul Globe writer, but after about eight weeks started on a losing streak that didn’t let up. After first being pitched to Winnipeg, Volz eventually was traded to Indianapolis.

“Volz was not released because he was unable to win his games, as he won seven out of the first eight games he pitched, but there was a slight difference between him and some of the other St. Paul players and he was released.” – Bill Watkins, Indianapolis Manager

Indianapolis Journal, 28 July 1903, Page 6.

Volz was retained by Indianapolis and went to training camp in 1904, but he wasn’t going to stay. He had little control of his spitter or his fast ball, and was released.

“Volz has shown during the exhibition games that he has very little control of the ball, a fault that he has had for several seasons. He is also troubled with lack of nerve and is very wild when he gets himself in a hole.”

“Volz to be Released And Fisher Retained”, Indianapolis Journal, 19 April 1904, Page 8.

Once again, Volz was back in Manchester, working for Phenomenal Smith and a teammate of Moonlight Graham. He had a third great season and was drafted by the Boston Nationals at the end of the 1904 season, but his season ended on a rather odd note. He was signed by Fitchburg to pitch in a playoff series against Leominster. In his start, Volz was knocked around easily by the semi-pro hitters. However, after the game he told other players that he didn’t get what he understood would be given to him, and his talk with the club’s treasurer about the matter before the game was probably the reason why Leominster put the ball out of the lot so often.

Essentially, people believed that Volz threw the game for not getting paid.

Still, Boston kept him for the 1905 season and he made the team out of training camp. However, he said he came down with a case of rheumatism at the end of training camp and it affected him as soon as he got north with the club. Making just three appearances (two starts), he left Boston with an ERA of over 10 after giving up 12 hits and eight walks in 8.2 innings of work. By the summer, he was back in Manchester, and eventually he agreed to pitch in Iowa at the end of 1905.

“I received a visit this week from Jake Volz, a San Antonio boy who has been playing with the Sioux City team in the Western League. Volz is a comer and would undoubtedly have stuck in the major league if it had not been for a severe attack of rheumatism which put him to the bad just as he received a call from Boston. He was put into the game the day after he arrived in Beantown and strained his arm. The Sioux City team has reserved him for next year, and he will be heard from again.”

San Antonio Gazette, 14 October 1905, Page 14.

It didn’t work out in Sioux City, either. Volz filed a claim for $80 he said Sioux City management owed him.  That case was resolved in favor of the team, so Volz went back to pitching in the northeast.

In 1906, Volz was back in New England. He pitched for Holyoke in the Connecticut State League that season, and followed that with three other teams in the same league for 1907. In one game, the papers recounted that Volz got hits from both sides of the plate in the same game. What is strange about all of his time spent in New England was that he hated it and felt that pitching in the north was bad for his arm, which contributed to his failures, especially at the big league level.

“I didn’t lose any time getting out of that country when the season was over,” said Jake Volz, upon his return to his native health after having put in the season up in the Connecticut League. “A man from Texas to play in the north has a hard time of it keeping in condition. Here we are playing baseball down in Texas while they are eating snowballs in the north and when the season opens there we are in good condition and are fast while the men up there are just thawing out. The result is that we go to the bad by the time the players there get into condition, and it takes us about a month to get right again. This has been the cause of my troubles in the north.”

“A Bright Texas Star.”, San Antonio Gazette, 28 September 1907, Page 16.

In 1908, it looked like Volz was going to play in Topeka, KS, but he asked for too much money up front and would eventually sign to pitch in the south, getting a slot with Columbia in the South Atlantic League. Volz had one last decent year in the minors (though, with a 9 – 19 record, it couldn’t have been that good a season) and was signed to pitch by a desperate Cincinnati Reds club in the late summer. Used as a swing man, making four starts and relieving in three others, Volz had his longest run in the National League, finishing with a 1 – 2 record with a 3.57 ERA. However, he was still wild – 12 walks in his 22.2 innings of work.  A Reds writer called him “Silent Jake” because he didn’t really talk much to others.  He didn’t stick with the Reds in 1909 and signed with Norfolk in the Virginia League.

At about this time, he married Annie Cloud Zuercher, a divorcee with a small child. He would pitch in San Antonio for 1910, though with less and less success. Released, he signed with Waco to finish the season.

“Jake Volz, a pitcher released by San Antonio, has connected with Waco. Just another derelict added to that aggregation.”

Shelton, Horace H. “Texas League Gossip”, El Paso Herald, 03 June 1910, Page 5.

For 1911, he would be pitching for Victoria in the West Texas League. His time there wouldn’t last long either. He came home on a break to find his wife with another man. Angry, he found a gun and returned home. When Annie and her son, Henry, got to the front yard there was a short confrontation and then the gun was fired.

A charge of murder was filed this morning against Jake Volz, who last night shot and killed his wife after finding her in the company of another man. Volz is a base ball player of national reputation.

“Charge of Murder Against Jake Volz”, Waxahachie Daily Light, 20 May 1911, Page 1.

Jake Volz shot and killed Annie Volz while she was holding the five-year-old Henry’s hand.

Volz was taken to jail. Henry was given to Annie’s parents, though his father William successfully sued to eventually get custody of his son.

“The after-effects on the shock of Jacob P. Volz, charged with killing his wife, is said by jailers to be having a serious effect on the prisoner. They say that he weeps and sobs until late in the night and has hardly slept since he has been confined. He has refused to take nourishment in any quantities since he was placed in jail. His cell is being carefully watched. The grand jury, which meets Monday, will investigate the case. No attempt has been made by Volz to have bail fixed.”

“After-Effects on Volz”, Galveston Daily News, 24 May 1911, Page 7.

“Jacob Volz, the ball pitcher, who is in the County Jail charged with the murder of his wife, May 19, filed application yesterday for a writ of habeas corpus to be released on bail.  The hearing is set for Saturday in the Thirty-seventh district court. Volz has been in jail ever since the killing.”

“Pitcher Volz Asks for Bail.”, Austin American-Statesman, 14 June 1911, Page 9.

By fall, after nearly three months in jail, Volz was released on $5,000 bond and his lawyers announced how they planned to plea.

Case of Jake Volz, Charged With Murder, Set for Oct. 9.

“San Antonio, Tex., Sept. 24 – A plea of insanity will be advanced in the case of Jake Volz, baseball player, charged with the murder of his wife, May 19 last, which is set for trial Oct. 9. Volz’s counsel, Carlos Bee, in preparing the defense, has arranged a series of interrogations which will be propounded to Christian Volz, uncle of the defendant, who resides in Germany, as to whether or not insanity had existed in his family.

“Jake Volz shot his wife when he found her in company with another man on the night he returned from Victoria, where he had been playing ball. Volz has been in jail ever since the killing.”

“Insanity Will Be The Plea”, Austin American-Statesman, 25 September 1911, Page 6.

After delays, a jury was finally selected in January, 1912 and the case was tried in March.  After just one day of deliberations, the jury returned with a verdict: not guilty by reason of insanity.

Free to resume his life, Volz took a job as an engineer for a candy company where he stayed more than forty years. In his final days, he was employed as a fireman there. He would marry a second time, Elsie Boehm took his hand in marriage, and they would have a son, Jacob Phillip Volz, Jr., in 1917. However, a second tragedy occurred – the younger Jake had a heart condition and would die in 1932.

In 1957, Volz would have both of his legs amputated and he spent the next two years confined to his bed. However, an old friend, Lou Barbour returned to San Antonio and learned of Volz’s condition. Barbour was active in the baseball player’s association and he was able to quickly arrange for a wheelchair to be provided to the family. Additionally, he reached out to Win Clark, who was running the association. Clark knew Volz well – they were teammates and, in later years, Clark managed Volz before Volz returned to San Antonio. And, like Volz, Clark was a double amputee. Clark was able to arrange a small pension for Volz, which supplemented his social security payments.

Volz passed away in his native San Antonio on 11 August 1962 of a stroke (the death certificate reads “cerebro vascular accident”). Elsie survived that by another 23 years, passing away in 1985.

“Jake Volz, one of the first San Antonio baseball players to make it to the major leagues, died Saturday night at his home here at 934 W. Kings Highway. He was 84.

“Volz was a sensation in the minors before the turn of the century and he enjoyed good seasons with the Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati, and Boston Braves.

“Funeral Arrangements are being handled by the Zizik-Kearns-Downing Funeral Home.”

“Jake Volz Dies at 84”, San Antonio Express and News, 12 August 1962, Page 39.



Find A Grave

US Census (1880, 1900, 1920, 1930, 1940)

TX Death Records

WWII Registration

“The Buffaloes Beaten”, Houston Daily Post, 16 April 1898, Page 6.

“News and Comment.”, Sporting Life, 14 January 1899, Page 5.

“Outlaw’s Race Is At An End”, Pittsburgh Press, 29 September 1901, Page 20.

“On The Diamond.”, Portsmouth Herald, 18 July 1902, Page 4.

“Questions Answered.”, Sporting Life, 11 April 1903, Page 14.

“Volz and Marcan Are Released”, St. Paul Globe, 05 May 1903, Page 5.

Mac, Billy. “Saints Continue Batting Streak and Take First Place, St. Paul Globe, 24 July 1903, Page 5.

Indianapolis Journal, 28 July 1903, Page 6.

“Volz to be Released And Fisher Retained”, Indianapolis Journal, 19 April 1904, Page 8.

“Hoosier Castoff Is Drafted by National”, Indianapolis Star, 14 September 1904, Page 7.

“Baseball Notes.”, Fitchburg Sentinel, 27 September 1904, Page 2.

San Antonio Gazette, 14 October 1905, Page 14.

“No Change in the Foul Strike Rule”, Philadelphia Inquirer, 15 February 1906, Page

Burlington Free Press, 31 August 1906, Page 3

“San Antonio Boys Shine on the Diamond”, San Antonio Gazette, 01 September 1906, Page 3.

“A Bright Texas Star.”, San Antonio Gazette, 28 September 1907, Page 16.

“Manager Stabbed by Indian Player”, Washington Times, 20 July 1908, Page 1.

“Brief Baseball Bits”, Pittsburgh Press, 14 August 1908, Page 16.

“Few Clubs Will Be Weakened By the Freak Curve Being Ruled From Game”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 30 August 1908, Page 23.

“South Atlantic News.”, Sporting Life, 14 November 1908, Page 2.

“Has Twenty Men”, Wichita Beacon, 06 January 1909, Page 7.

“Breezy Baseball Gossip”, Topeka State Journal, 29 March 1909, Page 2.

“Shreveport, 8; San Antonio, 5”, Austin American-Statesman, 19 April 1910, Page 3.

Shelton, Horace H. “Texas League Gossip”, El Paso Herald, 03 June 1910, Page 5.

“Charge of Murder Against Jake Volz”, Waxahachie Daily Light, 20 May 1911, Page 1.

“Baseball Player Slays Wife”, Weekly Caucasian (Shreveport), 25 May 1911, Page 8.

“After-Effects on volz”, Galveston Daily News, 24 May 1911, Page 7.

“Father Is Awarded the Custody of his Child”, El Paso Herald, 08 June 1911, Page 5.

“Pitcher Volz Asks for Bail.”, Austin American-Statesman, 14 June 1911, Page 9.

“Affirms 16 Convictions”, Austin American-Statesman, 10 October 1911, Page 4.

“Insanity Will Be The Plea”, Austin American-Statesman, 25 September 1911, Page 6.

“Volz Trial Today”, Galveston Daily News, 09 October 1911, Page 4.

“Case of Jake P. Volz”, Galveston Daily News, 30 January 1912, Page 4.

“Jake P. Volz Found Not Guilty”, Galveston Daily News, 31 March 1912, Page 16.

Bryant, Don. “Point Blank”, Lincoln Star, 27 June 1958, Page 17.

“Jake Volz Dies at 84”, San Antonio Express and News, 12 August 1962, Page 39.




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