Happy Birthday, John E. Rudderham!

John Rudderham.pngHe only played in one major league game – and that was early in his baseball life – but John E. Rudderham had a long career in multiple sports as a player, umpire, and high level amateur boxer.

John Edmund Rudderham arrived on 30 August 1863 to William and Elizabeth (O’Keefe) Rudderham.  Both William and Elizabeth were immigrants.  William was born and raised in Sidney, Cape Breton Island, which is part of Nova Scotia.  William met and married Elizabeth, who had been born and raised in Brighton, England.  William was a harness maker, while Elizabeth had been a servant or maid to some of the wealthiest English families.  In later years, she was a maid for former Civil War General and future ambassador Henry Eustis.

The family moved to the United States around the start of the Civil War with two kids in tow.  Born in Randolph, Massachusetts, John was the fourth of six children, and the last three boys were ballplayers.  John was the first ball player in the family – a sturdy 5′ 8″ 170 lb. athlete who was strong, fast, and fearless.  Frank was a pitcher of some note in the New England leagues, and even the youngest, Edwin, pitched in local semi-professional and minor league games.

“I hereby challenge T. Ferguson, or Michael Barry of Quincy, or C. Dailey of Weymouth, to run a race of 300 yards to a quarter of a mile, for $100 a side. I have posted $5 with THE BOSTON GLOBE, and will meet any of the above parties at any time or place they will name.

Braintree, July 15, 1884″

“Rudderham to Ferguson”, Boston Globe, 16 July 1884, Page 1.

Playing games in the Boston area, Rudderham was given a one game tryout with Boston of the Union League, where he appeared in a game on September 18th, 1884.  He got a hit and made two errors in the outfield and returned to the semi-pro games and local league games instead.  Meanwhile, he was involved in other sporting events – he actually challenged people in the newspapers to races of various distances, much like boxers of the era.  And, he boxed frequently.  He supposedly sparred with John L. Sullivan and many other amateur boxers, including a top notch local featherweight, Johnny Griffin, for whom he would serve as a second during Griffin’s win over Billy Murphy.  For three decades, Rudderham operated a boxing academy and gymnasium in Boston’s West End.

“Rudderham will captain the team, and comes to us with an enviable reputation, both as a coacher and player.”

“Base Ball Matters.”, St. Albans Daily Messenger, 23 April 1887, Page 4.

But baseball occupied his summers.  He spent the better part of a decade playing and serving as captain from his perch at second base for teams all over New England in cities such as Brockton, Lewiston, Portland, Bangor, Portsmouth, and St. Albans, VT.  He even got time in New York and Philadelphia before an injury ended his playing days.

“John Rudderham, short stop and captain, hails from Randolph, Mass.; captained and managed the Braintrees in 1883-84; played short stop for the Brockton of the New England League in 1885; and for Randolph and Bangors in 1886; last season captained the St. Albans, Vt. club; fielding average .965; batting average .320.”

“Central Base Ball League”, The Sunday Leader (Wilkes-Barre, PA), 25 March 1888, Page 5.

His brother Frank was a pitcher in the New England leagues, spending a large portion of his career in Providence, RI – both as a player and as an umpire.  Frank even served a year in the National League, finishing the 1907 season and most of the 1908 season based out of Boston.  Edwin, the youngest, was not nearly as accomplished, but played in local leagues for several years.

In the middle of his minor league trek, Rudderham married Frances McLean.  They would have six kids between 1888 and 1904.  Three of the sons served in World War I in various capacities (William rose to Lieutenant in the army) and all of them played sports.  Joseph tossed two no-hitters as a pitcher and the youngest, Frank, would pitch in the minor leagues.

“John Rudderham, the former minor league player who served three years on the umpire staff of the New England League, has been selected by Manager Murray of the Phillies as physical director. Rudderham has shown marked ability as a trainer, and being an all-around athlete, should prove the ideal man for a league ball team. Rudderham comes from Providence, R. I.”

“Pugilism, Base Ball and Other Sports”. Washington Evening Star, 11 February 1907, Page 9.

His minor league career ended because of accumulated injuries, Rudderham next turned to umpiring.  After three years in the New England League, Rudderham umpired local league games and even spent two seasons in the south with the Carolina and Southern Atlantic Leagues.  But his commitment to fitness got him other opportunities.  Rudderham’s former minor league manager, Billy Murray, was running the Philadelphia Phillies.  He knew Rudderham trained all kinds of athletes so he was hired to be the Phillies trainer for three years, from 1907 to 1909.

After that, the University of Wisconsin and University of Illinois also hired Rudderham to train athletes – a track team he trained at Illinois was a frequent dual meet champion.

“Although boxing classes were organized only this week at the University of Wisconsin, over forty students have signed up for lessons in the sport. John Rudderham, formerly of Illinois university, has charge of three classes each Monday afternoon.”

“Students in Boxing Class.”, Des Moines Tribune, 15 December 1913, Page 8.

He even did a stint in the Federal League where he trained players for Ned Hanlon’s Baltimore squad.

Rudderham lived his sporting and family life until illnesses and God called.  Frances passed on in 1934, and John was called to join her on 3 April 1942.

Before we sign off, I thought I’d throw this nugget out there describing Frank’s days as an umpire in Boston.

Harry Pulliam was following the efforts of Rudderham, who was new to the National League. Rudderham is doing his best to stand up to guff from those who believes he is missing close plays at the base.

“(Frank) Rudderham worked here in Boston yesterday, and he did make mistakes. However, he also showed an aptitude toward getting after the plays. He may have missed that all-important decision at first base, but as a rule his work was good. He was kept at by the home team, and there were cries of ‘robber’ all over the field at intervals. But Rudderham ‘kept on the job,’ as the expression goes, and he showed himself to be of the stuff that sometimes isn’t going to take any backwater whatsoever.”

“The crowd followed the example of the players and roasted him, and perhaps Rudderham did make a mistake or two. But on the whole his work was first-class, and Pulliam is making no mistake when he keeps in his place a man who will stand for all the insults he got yesterday and not send out for an ax and one of those eight-shot repeaters with which to get after obstreperous ball players.

“The chances are that Rudderham made more real friends than he did enemies yesterday, even for his mistakes. Because a man bets 50 cents that a runner will reach first base, and he doesn’t win his half-dollar because the umpire makes a mistake is no excuse for an exhibition of rowdyism. And the supporters and well wishers of the national game welcome a man like Rudderham who stands up in his boots and gives the decisions as he sees them, and who will not stand for kicking, which not only avails nothing but which puts to discredit the crowds and the teams that indulge in it.

“And what the impartial fan will notice about Rudderham’s work yesterday was that even though he was beset with criticism, he was fair to the end of the game, giving Boston a close decision when it looked from the stands as if one of the Doves was out. This the crowd seemed to appreciate, and there was manifest less howling toward the end of the game.

“Give an umpire a fair show, and he’ll fill the bill. He isn’t put out there for political reasons, but because his work in the smaller leagues has show that he’s the right man for fast company. And when you hear a yell go up when an umpire gives a close decision, guess that some shine has just lost about 50 cents and that’s the answer nine times in ten.”

“Baiting the Umpire”, Boston Globe, 25 July 1908, Page 2.


Mass Birth Records, Marriage Records
1870, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940 US Censuses



“Mrs. Rudderham Dead.”, Boston Globe, 29 January 1914, Page 2.

“Rudderham to Ferguson”, Boston Globe, 16 July 1884, Page 1.

“Austin Daily Ready to Run”, Boston Globe, 27 July 1884, Page 6.

“Base Ball Matters.”, St. Albans Daily Messenger, 23 April 1887, Page 4.

“Central Base Ball League”, The Sunday Leader (Wilkes-Barre, PA), 25 March 1888, Page 5.

“Under the Ban.”, Boston Globe, 27 March 1894, Page 6.

“Pugilism, Base Ball and Other Sports”. Washington Evening Star, 11 February 1907, Page 9.

“Baiting the Umpire”, Boston Globe, 25 July 1908, Page 2.

“Baseball Notes”, Boston Globe, 05 September, 1908.

“Old Colony League Reserves Players”, Boston Globe, 14 December 1908, Page 4.

“Baseball Notes”, Boston Globe, 22 September 1910, Page 7.

“His Second No-Hit Game.”, Boston Globe, 38 April 1911, Page 8.

“Rudderham Weds Quietly”, The Boston Globe, 02 May 1912, Page 18.

“Player on Seven Teams Umpire in Six Leagues”, Boston Globe, 21 March 1913, Page 6.

“Randolph.”, Boston Globe, 17 June 1913, Page 4.

“Students in Boxing Class.”, Des Moines Tribune, 15 December 1913, Page 8.

“Live Tips and Topics by ‘Sportsman'”, Boston Globe, 19 March 1914, Page 6.

“Ball Player Rudderham Made a Lieutenant”, Boston Globe, 28 October 1918, Page 8.

Obit, Boston Globe, 25 July 1934, Page 15.

“John E. Rudderham.”, Boston Globe, 04 April 1942, Page 9.


1 thought on “Happy Birthday, John E. Rudderham!

  1. Pingback: Baseball History on April 3rd | Mighty Casey Baseball

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s