Baseball History for January 15th

<— JANUARY 14     JANUARY 16 –>


1856 Charlie Baker

Baker was a shortstop who played in 15 games for Chicago of the Union Association. He died on his birthday in 1937 (See Obituaries, below…)

Charles Arthur Baker (some sources say it was Charles Alfred) was born to Benjamin and Mary (Noonan) Baker in West Boylston, Massachusetts, the fourth of five kids born to the welder and his wife.  The first three kids were born in Weld, Maine – the original home of the family – before moving to Massachusetts.  After working on a farm, Baker’s dad did three years for the Union in the Civil War, a year of his duty in Andersonville prison as a captive of the Confederacy.  When not a soldier, Benjamin Baker was a tool and die maker.  By 1880, though, dad divorced mom and Charlie lived with his mother while working as a shoe maker.

New England was loaded with opportunities to play baseball 140 years ago – and Charlie Baker learned the game in Massachusetts, playing on local teams and even being hired to play semiprofessional ball for a team in Waltham.   When he was added to the Chicago Unions, they listed his name as “Black” rather than Baker…  Anyway, Baker distinguished himself as a fielder, more than a hitter (he batted all of .140). In a game on August 20, Dick Burns launched a ball into deep right field. “Baker made a hard run with it, turning once or twice as it came toward him to watch its course. When at his greatest speed, and as the ball was passing over his head, he made a leap, extending both hands high in the air, and to the surprise of the spellbound spectators jerked the sphere fairly out of the air. The cries and shouts that went up on the crowd fully realizing that the ball was caught were deafening, and play was delayed some minutes.” (“Daily’s Day,” Cincinnati Enquirer, August 20, 1884: 2.)

All told, Baker lasted less than a month in Chicago and returned home to Massachusetts.

Baker married Mabel Woodbury in 1887, he switched from making shoes to working  at a rubber factory soon after.  By 1920, Mabel had passed away and he was living on a farm owned by his daughter Lena and her husband Carl Hendrick.  (They had a second daughter, Albine, too.)   To see how he died, you’ll have to scroll down to his obituary record…

1865 Massachusetts State Census
1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930 US Censuses
North American Family Histories
Massachusetts Marriage Records

Box Score, Boston Globe, May 14, 1884: 2.

“Waltham Base Ball Club Disbands,” Boston Globe, July 22, 1884: 1.

“Chicago vs. Cincinnati Unions,” Chicago InterOcean, August 2, 1884: 3.

“Daily’s Day,” Cincinnati Enquirer, August 20, 1884: 2.

1858 Mike Mansell

There were three Mansell brothers, all of whom played in the same outfield for Albany in 1881. Mike was the best of the three brothers, very fast and a good outfielder, though not quite a top flight hitter. He spent two years in the NL, then three years in the American Association.

1868 John “Jock” Menefee
1872 Bill Fox
1880 Ed Kinsella
1881 Jess Orndorff

Orndorff was born in Chicago, played a handful of games at catcher for Boston (NL) in 1907 before catching for years in the PCL (one story says he was beaned and nearly died), and for a guy who had such a short major league career he sure lasted in the game a long time.  Moving to the west coast, he opened and operated one of the more successful summer baseball camps and was the owner/manager of a team of old-timers who would tour the country and do baseball exhibitions.  When he died on 28 September 1960, he was remembered for being one of the founders of the Association of the Professional Ball Players of America.  Probably deserves a full biography here…

1885 Grover Lowdermilk
1891 Ray Chapman

One assumes you know about him being on the wrong end of a Carl Mays pitch and being the only player to die from being hit by a pitched ball. Chapman was an amazingly good shortstop and was probably on his way to the Hall of Fame had he not be felled by that pitch. For an excellent biography, find the book “The Pitch That Killed” that tells the story of Chapman and Mays.

1891 Leo Townsend
1897 Joe Genewich
1903 Tom Oliver
1915 Dick Culler
1917 Johnny Rucker
1920 Steve Gromek

steve gromek and larry dobyLong time pitcher for the Cleveland Indians and later the Detroit Tigers. Won 123 games as a frequent starter (but usually a swing man). Went 19 – 9 in 1945, and was the winner of Game 4 of the 1948 World Series – the last time the Indians were the champions.  (The photo you see here shows Gromek and Larry Doby, whose two-run homer combined to beat the Braves and Johnny Sain.)  Went 18 – 16 with Detroit in 1954, and followed that with a 13 – 10 mark before time caught up with his fastball.

And he only threw a fastball – his side-armed delivery didn’t allow the Indians pitching coaches to teach him a new pitch. Thankfully, that fastball was plenty fast and good enough. He also worked plenty fast. “I can’t see much sense waiting around and scuffing up dirt and stuff if you like to work fast like I do,” Gromak once told reporters. “I like to throw. Once, when I was with Cleveland, I threw 79 pitches in an hour and 19 minutes. That was a real fast game.”

Gromek was playing shortstop at Class D Mansfield in 1939 when he blew out his left shoulder swinging a bat. (He could swing a bat – he was batting .315 at the time.) Unable to field, the team took a flyer at making the strong thrower a pitcher in 1940 and it worked. He went 18 – 2 over his first two seasons and was called to the big leagues in 1941.

The Hammtramck, MI native and former bowling alley proprietor passed away on 12 March 2002.

Spencer, Jon. “Brave grew to be Tribe member”, Mansfield News-Journal, 15 August 2001, Pages 1B and 4B.

“Fans Get Home To Dinner When Tigers Use Gromek”, Escanaba Daily Press, 08 May 1954, Page 14.

1932 Georges Maranda
1933 Bobby Durnbaugh
1937 Bob Sadowski
1943 Mike Marshall

Remarkably durable reliever who owns the single season record for most games pitched in both leagues, and won the 1974 NL Cy Young award, in part, because he pitched over 200 innings in relief for the Dodgers.

1946 Tom Robson
1947 Gerry Schoen
1947 Tony Solaita
1949 Luis Alvarado
1949 Bobby Grich

Andy Finch and I like to argue over which second baseman was better: Willie Randolph or Frank White, but the truth is that it was Grich.  Durable, dependable, intelligent, and just a whale of a hitter and fielder.

1954 George Cappuzzello
1956 Jerry Narron
1956 Rance Mulliniks
1956 Don Cooper
1960 Curt Brown
1961 Joe Lansford
1963 William Brennan
1964 Jeff Banister
1967 Bill Wertz
1969 Delino DeShields
1973 Wayne Gomes
1974 Ray King
1975 Edwin Diaz
1979 Ben Howard
1980 Matt Holliday
1980 JD Closser
1982 Melvin Dorta
1982 Armando Galarraga

Famously lost a perfect game to a blown call at first base on the 27th batter, then got the next out to complete the no-hitter.  His handling of the incident – a call that gets overturned had replay existed then – showed a professionalism and humility that earned a lot of respect from many people.

1991 Matt Duffy
1991 Mitch Garver
1992 Tim  Mayza
1992 Alexander “Chi Chi” Gonzalez
1992 Brennan Bernardino
1994 Skye Bolt
1995 Riley Smith
1996 Janson Junk
1997 Daz Cameron
1998 Triston Casas


1889 Lew Brown
1913 Icicle Reeder
1924 Pat Friel
1937 Eddie Foster
1937 Charlie Baker

According to his NH death report, Baker died of chronic myocarditis – his wife, Mabel (Woodbury) had preceded him in death in 1915 of pneumonia.

1947 Jimmy Sheckard
1952 Ben Houser
1953 Carl East
1961 Joe Price
1961 Lefty Capers
1964 Ed Henderson
1964 Bob Larmore
1966 Walt Walsh
1966 Stover McIlwain
1970 Bill Leard
1972 Willie Curtis
1986 Fred Thomas
1988 George Hennessey
1991 Lyle Judy
1992 Charlie Gassaway
1996 Dave Harper
1999 Oscar Georgy
2000 Jim LaMarque
2004 Gus Suhr
2004 Jim Devlin
2011 Roy Hartsfield
2013 Bill Glynn
2018 Bob Barton


1942 FDR writes to Judge Landis, “I honestly feel it would be best for the country to keep baseball going.” FDR also encouraged more night games so workers could see the games.


1888 Pittsburgh purchased Billy Sunday from Chicago for about $2,000.

1926 Cincinnati purchased first baseman Wally Pipp from the Yankees.

1944 The Cubs signed amateur free agent Roy Smalley.

1965 New York sent George Altman to the Cubs for Billy Cowan.

1973 Cleveland signed amateur free agent Pedro Guerrero.

1990 After a year in Japan, Cecil Fielder signs with the Tigers… That worked out well for everybody!

2002 Los Angeles traded Gary Sheffield to the Braves for Brian Jordan, Odalis Perez, and Andrew Brown.

2018 Pittsburgh sent Andrew McCutchen and cash to San Francisco for Kyle Crick, Brian Reynolds, and some international slot cash.


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