Happy Birthday, Alex Voss!

Alex Voss was a major league pitcher if you consider the Union Association a major league – he pitched and played the outfield and first base for Washington and Kansas City in that league in 1884.

Zachariah Alexander Voss arrived on 16 May, but historical data and baseball records don’t agree on the year.  The record books say 1858, but the historical record in the US Census data suggests he was born in 1855 – so he may have changed his age to look younger as a ballplayer.  Anyway, Alex was the son of John and Susan (Fletcher) Voss, who lived on a farm in Roswell, GA – Alex was the fourth of seven children.  His dad later served with in the Cobb County Legion Cavalry and was one of many Confederate soldiers who were captured and imprisoned in late 1864.  John’s time as a prisoner of war was short, though – he took an oath to lay down his arms and was released in October of that year.

Voss abandoned his farm and took his family to the Cincinnati, Ohio area, which was a great place to learn baseball after the war ended.  By his late teens and early twenties, Alex Voss was a member of very good amateur and semi-professional clubs – and, like his father, took up carpentry and painting.  When not playing (or umpiring) baseball, he earned his pay with the brush.  He lost a little time in both gigs in 1876, though, when he accidentally mishandled a pistol and shot himself in his left hand.  Thankfully it wasn’t his pitching hand – and Voss was able to continue doing the two things he loved most.

“The Daytons have three batteries lying on the shelf waiting repairs, and Aleck Voss was put in the box to manipulate the points, and did like a phenomenal. His ability as a ball tosser has increased one hundred percent.”

“Had to Work”, Cincinnati Enquirer, 04 August 1883, Page 2.

Voss’s work with a club in Dayton earned Voss an opportunity with the newly formed Washington Nationals with of the Union Association.  At first, Voss played mostly first base but in time Voss earned a shot as a regular pitcher.  Washington wasn’t very good, but over time the team improved their play and their playing field.

When the Nationals enlarged the right field of their grounds the position of the diamond was somewhat changed and in this change the home plate, after several games had been played, sank somewhat below the surface of the ground. This, of course, had to be remedied and when it was taken up preparatory to making it set straight Alex. Voss planted a horseshoe underneath its smooth surface. Wonder if this has anything to do with the late success of the Nationals? Next thing in order will be to put a horseshoe under each base bag.

“The Situation of Affairs at the Nations Capital.”, The Sporting Life, 16 July 1884, Page 4.

As the summer came to a close, he was moved to the Kansas City entry in the UA, where he lost his only six decisions to finish the year with just five wins and twenty losses on the mound.  Voss didn’t hit well, either – batting .176 and dragging down the team averages for both teams.  Alex finished the fall playing amateur baseball and working as a firefighter in Dayton.

Voss spent the next seasons in Nashville, Memphis and (briefly) in Savannah of the Southern League.  As 1886 closed, he was pitching and living in Denver and stayed there for the 1887 season.  However, his family took very ill and his wife, Lucy, begged him to come home.

The Journal is in receipt of a letter from Alex Voss, who was reported as having jumped his contract with Denver, denying that such was the case. He states that when the club was in Lincoln he received a letter from his wife calling him home on account of her illness and the serious illness of their little boy. Manager McClintock did not wish to have him leave, and said that if he went he would be obliged to pay his own railroad fare. Voss wishes to have his friends in Lincoln understand that he would not be guilty of such a foolish trick as jumping a club.

“Notes”, Nebraska State Journal, 20 September 1887, Page 2.

He would lose two of his children and two years of his baseball career – and quite likely a bit of his ability to cope with life.  No longer painting, he took a job driving a local street car and began to drink.  His reputation as a player got him a position on a Hamilton amateur team and eventually a chance to play professionally one more time in 1890.

“Alex Voss, the big manager of the McKeesport Tri-State League ball club, reported here today, and was banqueted to-night at the Hotel Jerome by the baseball association. During the evening Torreyson was presented with a gold medal for the best batting record. Voss is 29 years of age, stands 6 feet 1 inch and weighs 170 pounds and is regarded as one of the best all-around players in the country.”

“Banqueted Voss”, Pittsburgh Dispatch, 21 March 1890, Page 6.

His job didn’t last long, however – he was fired in May as manager and not retained as a first baseman.  A year later, the papers noted that Voss claimed to have reformed his ways and was trying to play again for 1891.

No longer famous and still coping with family issues – Voss and his wife Lucy Seifert would eventually have five children with three surviving into adulthood – the drinking returned and he became abusive toward his wife.  Lucy called on the Cincinnati police to help her as Voss would alternate between a tolerable and an intolerable person.  The case required two judges as the one initially assigned to the court case backed out because he was personally familiar with Voss’s behavior and couldn’t be partial.  By 1900 he was arrested for drunken behavior and the courts threw Voss into a Cincinnati work house.  Six years later, on 31 August 1906, the pain Voss felt – and created – ended in a Cincinnati hospital.

SOURCES:

Baseball-reference.com
FindAGrave – Alex Voss
FindAGrave – Lucy Seifert Voss
FindAGrave – John A. Voss

GA Marriage Index
US Civil War Prisoner of War Records
1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900 US Census

Nemec, David (editor). Major League Baseball Profiles – 1871 to 1900, Volume 1, University of Nebraska Press, 2011, Pages 193 -194

“Brevities”, Cincinnati Daily Star, 26 June 1876, Page 4.

“Orange Blossoms”, Cincinnati Enquirer, 02 May 1878, Page 8.

“Base-ball.”, Cincinnati Daily Star, 19 August 1878, Page 4.

“Had to Work”, Cincinnati Enquirer, 04 August 1883, Page 2.

“From Porkopolis”, The Sporting Life, 26 March 1884, Page 3.

“The Situation of Affairs at the Nations Capital.”, The Sporting Life, 16 July 1884, Page 4.

“Base Ball.”, Dayton Herald, 26 September 1884, Page 3.

“Notes and Comments.”, The Sporting Life, 05 November 1884, Page 5.

“The Diamond.”, The Nashville Tennessean, 11 January 1886, Page 5.

“Nashville and Memphis Try Their Strength To-Day”, Nashville Tennessean, 18 March 1886, Page 4.

“About Base Ball”, St. Joseph Weekly Gazette, 16 December 1886, Page 3.

“Base Ball.”, Nashville Tennessean, 14 February 1887, Page 8.

“Base Ball Brevities”, Nashville Tennessean, 25 July 1887, Page 4.

“Notes”, Nebraska State Journal, 20 September 1887, Page 2.

“Notes and Comments”, The Sporting Life, 30 January 1889, Page 3.

“The Hamilton Club’s Organization and Team.”, The Sporting Life, 08 May 1889, Page 1.

“Banqueted Voss”, Pittsburgh Dispatch, 21 March 1890, Page 6.

“McKeesport Club’s Movements”, Pittsburgh Dispatch, 10 May 1890, Page 6.

“Voss Leaves the Club”, Pittsburgh Dispatch, 11 May 1890, Page 7.

“Personal News and Gossip”, The Sporting Life, 07 February 1891, Page 3.

“Baseball Caught on the Fly”, The Sporting News, 24 March 1900, Page 5.

“On the Downward Path.”, Williamsburg Star 27 April 1900, Page 4.

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2 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Alex Voss!

  1. Pingback: Baseball History for August 31st | Mighty Casey Baseball

  2. Pingback: Baseball History for May 16th | Mighty Casey Baseball

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