Happy Birthday, Count Gedney!

“The mystery of Alfred W. Gedney’s life was buried with him here yesterday. The old-time ball player, who never used a glove, died at the age of 76 last Friday. He was a member of the champion Philadelphia baseball team, which was the first American outfit to tour Europe, but for the past 25 years he absolutely shunned professional ball and never saw a game.

“In 1890 Gedney played the outfield for the Hackensack team, and since then had occasionally practiced with local teams when his day’s work as an accountant was done. He always was grimly silent on his professional baseball career.”

“Former Star Dies in Baseball Mystic”, New Castle (PA) Herald, 27 March 1922, Page 11.

Let’s see if we can’t tell some of the stories that Alfred Gedney wasn’t willing to share.

Count GedneyAlfred William Gedney hails from one of America’s first arriving British imports.  His lineage goes back to John Gedney, who left Yarmouth, England in 1636.  John’s son, Bartholomew, is famous for being a magistrate in the Salem witch trials.  Fast forward two centuries, and Alfred was born on 06 May 1849 to William Henry and Eliza Forman (Purdy) Gedney – Eliza was William’s second wife (Jane Osterman was the first, and she and her daughter, also Jane, died much too young).  William was connected; an architect and builder in New York’s 9th Ward, he served as a dutiful Republican, friendly with Thurlow Weed and President Chester Alan Arthur.  Alfred was the second of five children, four of whom lived to adulthood.

Playing the evolving game of baseball on the lots of New York City, Alfred was an active member of the amateur clubs of his city.  In 1869, as a member of the Empire club, he was awarded a ceremonial bat for being the best hitter at an event held at the Elysian Fields.  By 1870, he was on the Unions of Morrisania, and a year later Alfred landed on the Eckfords, a top semi-professional club that played a number of games against the first National Association clubs, winning several contests.

“It is rumored that the match on Saturday will wind up the Haymakers as a club hailing from Troy, as they have not received any salary for some time…” 

“The Troy Club.”, Boston Globe, 22 July 1872, Page 8.

Gedney was a fine outfielder with a pretty solid arm and joined the Troy Haymakers for the 1872 season.  As a reserve outfielder, Gedney played really well – even though by midsummer he was no longer getting paid.  When Troy disbanded, many of the players finished the season with the Brooklyn Eckfords, which jumped from being a good amateur team to being a member of the National Association.  Gedney never played with the same team two seasons in a row.  In 1873 he was an outfielder with the New York Mutuals.  A season later, he signed with the Philadelphia Athletics and was one of the ten players who made a tour of England playing baseball exhibitions against Boston’s championship team.  In 1875, Gedney went back to the New York Mutuals, possibly to be closer to home.  By the end of that season, he had taken on his own business – he’d be an accountant for the rest of his days – and was twice called upon to pitch.  In fact, Gedney won his only start.

“Gedney now stepped up to the plate and all waited breathlessly, bets being freely made that the Mutuals would win. Presently Gedney hit a magnificent ball to right field, far over Addy’s head, which carried him to third, and Hicks trotted in easily and the game was tied. There stood Gedney on third and only one man out, and the Philadelphia backers began to turn from the field – well, they might, for the next ball was badly muffed by Fulmer and Gedney made the winning run.”

“A Field Day.”, Philadelphia Times, 18 May 1875, Page 4.

Likely no longer interested in the travel requirements, his batting average – usually a bit below average (his career mark was .251 with few walks and a token number of extra base hits – he usually batted near the bottom of the lineup) fell to .206.  At this point, Gedney returned to the New York City amateur ranks, playing with the Arlingtons, called “…one of the bona-fide first-class amateur clubs of the country” by the New York Herald.  Eventually he moved to Hackensack, New Jersey with his wife, Elizabeth Blanck, whom he married in 1881.  They had no children.  After an illness, Gedney passed with his baseball secrets to the next league on 26 March 1922.

One of those secrets was the source of his nickname.  He had a teammate – Count Sensenderfer – in Philadelphia.  Sensenderfer had the air of an aristocrat, which explained his nickname.  Gedney really WAS an aristocrat.  A reasonably thorough search through digitized newspapers of his playing days never turned up an instance in which Gedney was called “Count”.  And, he had to deal with the problems of being wealthy…  In 1882, he got involved with his in-laws to help extricate his father-in-law from a young woman who convinced the older (and smitten) Mr. Blanck to marry her.  It came with a price, but one the families seemed willing to pay after trying to use questionable legal tactics and a little muscle to kick the woman out of the family estate.

SOURCES:

1855 New York Census
1820, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900,  1910, 1920 US Censuses
US Passport Application, 1874
NY Marriage Index
FindAGrave.com – Alfred
FindAGrave.com – William
FindAGrave.com – Caleb
Baseball-Reference.com
Retrosheet.org
Rootsweb.com
Wikipedia
Ebay

“Base Ball – Election of Officers.”, New York Times, 11 April 1866, Page 2.

“A Grand Match At Paterson.”, Brooklyn Union, 25 November 1868, Page 4.

“Opening By The Empire Club.”, 27 April 1869, Page 6.

“Mutual vs. Atlantic.”, New York Herald, 20 October 1869, Page 5.

“Base Ball Matters.”, Philadelphia Inquirer, 10 May 1870, Page 8.

“Baseball – Eckford vs. Union of Morrisania.”, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 23 June 1870, Page 3.

“The Eckfords Getting Ready”, New York Sun, 01 April 1871, Page 1.

“Athletic Versus Eckford.”, 16 May 1871, Page 4.

“White Stockings Vs. Eckfords”, Cincinnati Enquirer, 30 May 1871, Page 6.

“Defeat of the Haymakers by the Eckfords.”, Brooklyn Union, 10 August 1871, Page 2.

“Baseball – The Great Game Between Harry Wright’s Boston Nine and the Eckfords”, New Orleans Times-Democrat, 11 August 1871, Page 2.

“Baseball”, Philadelphia Inquirer, 03 August 1871, Page 2.

“The New Haymaker Nine.”, Chicago Tribune, 04 December 1871, Page 4.

“The Troy Club”, Chicago Tribune, 14 April 1872, Page 8.

“The Troy Club.”, Boston Globe, 22 July 1872, Page 8.

“Sport and Pastimes.”, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 03 August 1872, Page 3.

“Base Ball.”, Chicago Tribune, 25 November 1872, Page 8.

“Next Year’s Great Nines”, Chicago Tribune, 10 November 1873, Page 3.

“A Trans-Atlantic Tour by the Athletic and Boston Clubs”, Fremont Weekly Journal, 30 January 1874, Page 1.

“Base Ball.”, New York Times, 27 December 1874, Page 5.

“A Field Day.”, Philadelphia Times, 18 May 1875, Page 4.

“Base Ball.”, Hartford Courant, 20 August 1875, Page 2.

“Base-Ball.”, Chicago Tribune, 27 February 1876, Page 9.

“No Fool Like An Old One”, New York Times, 25 August 1882, Page 5.

“Former Star Dies in Baseball Mystic”, New Castle Herald, 27 March 1922, Page 11.

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2 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Count Gedney!

  1. Pingback: Baseball History for March 26th | Mighty Casey Baseball

  2. Pingback: Baseball History for May 6th | Mighty Casey Baseball

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