Happy Birthday, Count Sensenderfer!

“The centre fielder, Sensenderfer, is a sure catch, and a very skillful player.”

“Base Ball.” Buffalo Commercial, 29 June 1868, Page 3.

His real name was John Phillips Jenkins Sensenderfer.  They called him Count because of his mustache and his bearing (and, according to Major League Baseball Profiles: 1871 – 1900, Volume 1, because he was excellent with the piano and the ladies).  An alternate opinion could be gleaned from an article describing a Sensenderfer family reunion.

“The Sensenderfers trace their ancestry to Count Von Zinsendorf, founder of the Bethlehem and the Moravian church…”

“Sensenderfer Family Reunion on Saturday”, Allentown Morning Call, 21 August 1929, Page 5.

Sensenderfer was born to James and Mary Sensenderfer on 28 December 1847, the fourth of six children, in Philadelphia, and according to an article about his death in the Reading Times, he died in the building adjoining that in which he was born.  He joined the Athletics of Philadelphia when it was among the top amateur clubs in the country and stayed there throughout its days in the National Association and eventually its entry in the National League.  When Philadelphia and Boston made a European Tour in 1874, he was one of the players who made the trip.  While his playing days ended as the National League began, he hung around the club and was briefly named manager of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1877.  His career is notable for one thing (other than his skill as a fly chaser):  no position player had more plate appearances without drawing a single walk.  (Tracy Stallard had a few more at bats without a walk, but he was a pitcher about 100 years after the Count put away his gear.)

Sensenderfer gave up baseball to open up a mercantile (clothing store) that was near his former teammate Al Reach’s sporting good store and over time got involved in politics.

“John P. J. Sensenderfer has been nominated as Country Commissioner of Philadelphia, and his nomination is virtually equivalent to his election. All the ball tossers of the city will vote for ‘Count’ Sensenderfer. The veteran was an outfielder of the old-time Athletics of Philadelphia from 1866 to 1879.”

“Notes of the Diamond.”, Chicago Tribune, 17 October 1887, Page 6.

Sensenderfer’s position in the Democratic party rose over time – he was frequently an elector for statewide and national conventions.  That ended when William Jennings Bryan took over the top of the ticket.

Mr. Curley, of Philadelphia, offered a resolution endorsing Bryan and Sewall and making an “appeal to every citizen who loved his country to support the ticket and approve the platform.” On this County Commissioner Sensenderfer, of Philadelphia, demanded a call of the roll and then occurred a dramatic incident.

Instead of a call of the roll, a rising vote was taken, and Sensenderfer was the only one who stood up in opposition. “I will not support the Chicago platform,: he said, hotly. “Let him resign,” shouted Tim O’Leary, of Pittsburgh. “Kick him out of the party,” shouted another, and there were groans and hisses for the Philadelphian.

Mr. Sensenderfer looked calmly over the scene, and when the disorder had subsided he said that he would have resigned long ago, but he did not know whether to hand him resignation to the City Committee which elected him or to the State Committee.

“You can give your resignation to this committee at once,” Chairman (John M.) Garman said, bitterly.

“I do it with pleasure,” said Sensenderfer courteously, and he bowed himself out of the Democratic party to take his place beside many who cannot support Bryan.

“Another Convention to Be Called”, Pottsville Republican, 14 August 1896, Page 1.

After his playing days, Sensenderfer married Mary Eudora Wagner at her home in 1881.  They had two children.

Find below an article summarizing Sensenderfer’s life in the Sporting Life at the time of his death in 1903.  The photo of Sensenderfer was cropped out of an image in the Albert Spaulding collection that has been digitized and made available by the New York Public Library.



John P. Sensenderfer, of the Famous Old Athletics, Passes Away.

Special to “Sporting Life.”

Count SensenderferPhiladelphia, Pa., May 5. – John P. J. Sensenderfer died on Sunday, May 3, at his home, 1023 Brown Street, after a brief illness.  Mr. Sensenderfer is remembered by the baseball fans, for he was a member of the old Athletics when they won championships, just as the present Athletic Club did last year.  From 1865 to 1876 he played centre field on the famous Athletic Club of those years, and accompanied the team when the Athletic and Boston Clubs toured Europe in 1874.  Mr. Sensenderfer was born in this city December 28, 1847.  Although he studied law he never practiced it, but engaged in mercantile pursuits.  When he gave up playing baseball he was appointed a clerk in the Receiver of Taxes office and was later Deputy Collector of Delinquent Taxes.  He was City Commissioner in ’87, and continued in the office for three terms.  Of late he represented the fourteenth ward in the Democratic City Committee, and was for some time secretary of the body.  He was secretary of both conventions that nominated Governor Pattison for the terms for which he was elected, and was a delegate to the National Democratic Convention of 1884 that nominated Cleveland, and was also an elector.

Sporting Life, 09 May 1903, Page 5.


1850, 1860, 1880, 1900 US Censuses
Pennsylvania Church and Town Records

“Base Ball.” Buffalo Commercial, 29 June 1868, Page 3.
“Notes of the Diamond.”, Chicago Tribune, 17 October 1887, Page 6.
“Sensenderfer Family Reunion on Saturday”, Allentown Morning Call, 21 August 1929, Page 5.
Sporting Life, 09 May 1903, Page 5.
“John P. J. Sensenderfer”, Reading Times, 05 May 1903, Page 4.
“Another Convention to Be Called”, Pottsville Republican, 14 August 1896, Page 1.
“Local Summary”, Philadelphia Inquirer, 02 April 1877, Page 3.

David Nemec, editor. “Major League Baseball Profiles: 1871 – 1900”, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE , 2011, Page 602.

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