Happy Birthday, Ody Abbott!

“Abbott, you will remember, came to us from the Northwest last year, but could not get into condition. He was fat in the spring training this year, but toiled mightily to acquire a Delsarte figure. He’s no Ty Cobb on the bases, but he can punch the ball for a knockout when a Kayo is badly needed.”

Fitz, Billy. “Seals Can’t Win Twice Straight; Hope Oaks Can” Oakland Tribune, 26 April 1913, Page 13.

Ody Abbott - TacomaOne of nine kids born to William and Elizabeth Hodgson Abbott, Ody Cleon Abbott was a St. Louis Cardinal outfielder turned sheriff of his hometown Washington County, PA.

Born 05 September 1888 in New Eagle, PA, Abbott learned baseball on the sandlots of Monongahela.  He was a multiple sport athlete at the California Normal school and, while at Washington & Jefferson, the football end and baseball outfielder nearly followed his parent’s wishes and considered becoming a preacher. However, a conversation with coach Frank Strohecker convinced him to give professional baseball a try with the New Castle baseball club and his ministerial future ended. Strohecker was convinced he needed Abbott after Ody moved to the mound and beat Penn State via shutout.

After his collegiate athletic career he played baseball in New Castle, PA and three seasons later, despite having an improving but subpar batting average was given a shot with the St. Louis Cardinals at the end of the 1910 season, where he batted .186 as their center fielder. (He once get a hit off of Christy Mathewson.) The Cardinals sent him west to Tacoma for 1911.

There, it appears that Abbott liked hanging out with his teammates after the games as much as during the games. I saw a couple of articles that suggested that Abbott had issues keeping in his fighting trim. One article noted that his 1912 contract came with a water wagon clause. Another article said that the first time he was released by Tacoma it was because “personal habits.” Anyway, he got time with the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League and got himself back into shape before returning to Tacoma in 1913 and he played there until his arm went south. He threatened to retire. “I have an offer from the Federals,” he wrote to an Oakland sports writer. “However, I don’t think I will take it, my arm not being strong enough for the work.”  After opening 1913 with the Oaks, he was eventually returned to Tacoma. In 1914, he stopped hitting, too, and Tacoma manager Joe McGinnity unconditionally released Abbott. Ody returned home.

Ody Abbott - WJ EndAfter his baseball days, he worked locally for the sheriff’s department and played semi-pro baseball in Monongahela. In 1917 he enlisted in the US Army for World War I service and reported to Camp Sherman in Chillicothe, Ohio. He was one of a small group of people selected to enter officer’s training at camp, and quickly was promoted to Sergeant. Abbott enjoyed his days with the Army, writing to a family friend named George Chip, “…I am sure getting in shape and when I get out of the army I’ll be able to go six rounds with you. I like the work very much, George, and if things continue as they have Young Abbott will be perfectly satisfied. It’s an entirely new game to me, George, and I’ll say again I like it very much.” (George Chip and his brother, Joe, were boxers.)


After the war, he returned to his public safety role, was eventually elected to be the county warden and then successfully ran for Sheriff of Washington County, which he won handily in 1925. After a term as sheriff, he stepped out of the political role and remained a deputy for the remainder of his life.

Ody AbbottUnfortunately, the remainder of his life was rather short. Abbott fought heart disease and diabetes forcing him to leave his job in 1932. He recuperated enough to report to duty, but his health failed a second time. He was hustled to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. where treatments included time in oxygen tanks. Nothing worked, though, and eventually complications of the two diseases took his life on 13 April 1933. He was just 44.

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Here’s his obit from the Pittsburgh Press.

Ody C. Abbott, 45, of this city, whose death occurred today in the Walter Reed Hospital, Washington, D. C., after an illness of several weeks, was nationally prominent as a baseball player for several years and was widely known throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Born at New Eagle, near Monongahela, Pa., a son of Mr. and Mrs. William Abbott, he attended the schools of that district and then enrolled at California Normal School, now California Teachers College, and was one of a group of athletes to make athletic history there.

Prominent among his teammates were Ed (Bull) McCleary, Alex Gray, Tillie Dewar and R. J. Coulson, all of the Monongahela Valley. Sports of the school were only a shade higher than those of prep schools when they entered. Under the instruction of “Dad” Harmon they developed rapidly. West Virginia University was defeated in football and Washington and Jefferson and Penn State were battled to a standstill.

The five athletes in particular became prominently known and they were eagerly sought by colleges. McCleary, Gray, and Coulson went to Penn State where they continued to perform brilliantly. Abbott and Dewar entered W & J playing on the elevens coached by Attorney Frank Piekarsko of Pittsburgh. Abbott remained at W & J but Dewar later went to Pitt.

Abbott was a clever baseball player and he was signed by the Charleroi Club of the old P.O.M. League. Then he was sold to Braddock of the same circuit. The Newark Club of the International League used him for one season and then he went to the New Castle Club of the Ohio and Pennsylvania League. The next season he was farmed out to the Tacoma club of the Northwestern League, and 1912 found him with the Oakland Club of the Pacific Coast League. A weakening arm cut his diamond career short and he returned home.

With the outbreak of the World War, Abbott entered the service and was on duty at Camp Sherman, near Chillicothe, being top sergeant of Company F, Second Depot Regiment.

Returning to Washington County, he became a deputy sheriff under Alex Gray, his old teammate, when the latter was elected to that office. Entering politics himself, Abbott was elected Sheriff, completing his term four about four years ago. Another of his teammates, R. J. Coulson, is present Registrar of Wills in Washington County.

Completing his term as sheriff, Abbott was named chief deputy by his successor and present holder of the office, J. A. Seaman.


“Ody Abbott, Ex-Sheriff and Baseball Star, Dies”, Pittsburgh Press, 13 April 1933, Page 35.

“Latest Bulletin Assures Ody Abbott of Victory; Leading By 1,500 Votes”, The Daily Republican, 16 September 1925, Page 1.

“Ody Abbott and ‘Wild’ Bill Yohe Given Walking Papers”, Seattle Star, 16 June 1914, Page 7.

Fitz, Billy. “Seals Can’t Win Twice Straight; Hope Oaks Can” Oakland Tribune, 26 April 1913, Page 13.

“Abbott Would be a Minister But for Frank Strohecker”, New Castle Herald, 04 August 1911, Page 11.

“Ody Abbott to Play With New Eagle”, Monongahela Valley Repulbican, 25 May 1905, Page 2.

“Ody Abbott Gets Appointment”, Daily Republican, 08 January 1918, Page 4.

“Ody Abbott Hearkens To The Bugle’s Call”, New Castle News, 18 September 1917, Page 16.

“Ody C. Abbott, Former Sheriff, Dies in Washington Hospital”, Monongahela Daily Republican, 13 April 1933, Pages 1, 6.

“How They Are Hitting”, Tacoma Times, 04 June 1914, Page 2.

“Tiger Changes Mean Strength”, Seattle Star, 19 July 1912, Page 2.

“Gossip Among Sports”, Bemidji Pioneer, 21 February 1912, Page 4,

Elizabeth Hodgson Abbott Obit, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 07 July 1909, Page 7.

“Abbott May Retire From Baseball”, Oakland Tribune, 22 January 1914, Page 20.




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