Happy Birthday, Jack Wentz!

Jack Wentz was a long time minor league second baseman and later manager from Louisville who managed to get into one game at second base for the Louisville Colonels in 1891.

John George Wernz was born on 04 March 1863 to Domenicus Thomas and Barbara Wernz; he was one of six children.  Thomas was a German-born laborer while Barbara, some twenty years younger than Thomas, was born in Bavaria.  According to the US Census taker, Thomas learned the English language by 1870 while Barbara hadn’t yet picked up the language well enough to read or write English while caring for her children.

Living in one of the great sporting cities of the United States, Wernz learned the game in his home city – then became a minor league nomad for much of the 1880s and 1890s.  He would play second base for teams in Louisville, Dallas, Evansville, Memphis, Norfolk, Kansas City, Little Rock, Fort Wayne, Syracuse, and Milwaukee.  For a brief time in the middle, though, he was a backup infielder for the Louisville Colonels in 1891.  Manager Jack Chapman gave many different infielders a shot at second base – later in the summer, he brought in a young Hughie Jennings for a tryout – and Wernz, known in baseball circles as Jack Wentz, got his shot on 15 April 1891.  Wernz singled to right in the second of four trips to the plate, reached on an error (and was later thrown out at the plate) for his first at bat, made four good plays in the field – including two fine fielding plays – but made two throwing errors which probably led to his being released about a month later.  Undeterred, Wernz went back to his minor league nomadic life.  For many of the last several seasons, he was a player-manager.

“Jack Wentz, second baseman of the Galveston club, will be married to a Miss Ebly to-night by Rev. Waldman and the church on Green street, between Ninth and Tenth. Wentz and his bride will leave at once for Galveston.”

“Notes.” Louisville Courier-Journal, 19 March 1889, Page 8.

In 1889, right before heading to Galveston for the season, he married Lizzie Eppele.  Like Wernz, she had a German father and a Bavarian mother.  They would have six kids, alternating between girls and boys, between 1891 and 1906.  His baseball career over, Wernz took a job molding stoves.  However, shortly after the last son was born, Wernz came down with a pulmonary disease that kept him sick for much of 1907.  In fact, he was so ill, two Louisville semi-pro teams played an exhibition benefit game before over a thousand fans to help raise money for the Wernz family.  Eventually, Wernz would pass away from pneumonia in his Louisville home on 14 September 1907.

Jack Wenz, one of the best known minor league ball players ever turned out from Louisville, died at his home in this city last night at the age of forty-five years. During his career on the diamond Wentz played in the Southern, Eastern, Western, and Virginia leagues, having been at different times with Memphis, Syracuse, Milwaukee, Evansville, and Norfolk.

“Jack Wentz Dead.”, Owensboro Messenger, 18 September 1907, Page 1.

Lizzie, however, would live a long life.  When she passed away in February 1963 at the age of 98, she had fourteen grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren and nine great-great grandchildren.

SOURCES:

“Texas Downs Kentucky”, Louisville Courier-Journal, 17 September 1888, Page 6.

“Notes.” Louisville Courier-Journal, 19 March 1889, Page 8.

“After League Stars.”, Pittsburgh Daily Post, 03 March 1891, Page 6.

“Again They Win.”, Louisville Courier-Journal, 16 April 1891, Page 6.

“Sporting Trifles”, New Ulm Review, 29 April 1891, Page 2.

“The Sporting World.” Galveston Daily News, 03 May 1891, Page 8.

“Northwestern League.”, Louisville Courier-Journal, 08 August 1891, Page 4.

“The Baseball World.”, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 09 August 1891, Page 5.

“Now For Base Ball”, Saint Paul Globe, 23 February 1896, Page 7.

“Ballplayer’s Widow Dies at 98”, Louisville Courier-Journal, 04 February 1964, Page 9.

“Benefit Game for Jack Wentz.”, Louisville Courier-Journal, 14 June 1907, Page 8.

“Jack Wentz Dead.”, Owensboro Messenger, 18 September 1907, Page 1.

KY Birth Records
Indiana Death Records
Kentucky Death Records
1870 US Census
1900 US Census
1910 US Census
1920 US Census
1930 US Census

FindaGrave.com

Baseball-Reference.com

 

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1 thought on “Happy Birthday, Jack Wentz!

  1. Pingback: Baseball History for March 4th | Mighty Casey Baseball

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