Happy Birthday, Al Nevin!

Al Nevin Photo - Yale BioThe son of a wealthy banker and business man, Alexander Nevin used his four years playing baseball at Yale to get a job playing with the Resolutes for two months in 1873.

Alexander Brown Nevin was born 03 October 1851 to Theodore Hugh Nevin and Hannah (Irwin) Nevin, one of seven children.  Living in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Theodore was the president of the First National Bank of Allegheny and also owned a company that manufactured white lead.  Both Theodore’s and Hannah’s family arrived in this country from Ireland in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War.  Hannah traced her ancestry to John Irwin, who was a Captain in the Second Pennsylvania Regiment and decided to stay in the Pittsburgh area after the war.  Theodore was a descendant of Daniel Nevin, who was a Private in the Cumberland County militia.  Later, Theodore helped sponsor an artillery squad during the Civil War.

Young Alex was dispatched to Phillips Academy in Andover, MA for his college preparatory classes and then enrolled in Yale.  Nevin was a member of the baseball team for four years – captain during his junior year – where he played left field and was an alternate pitcher.  He also participated in an intercollegiate track meet at Saratoga in 1874.  There, running the 100 yard dash, he stumbled at the start and lost his footing.  Despite that, Nevin roared back and a few feet from the line – and still behind his fellow runners – he dove forward and grabbed the tape before anyone else could break it.  The rules didn’t say what part of the body had to break the tape first, so judges awarded Nevin the victory.

As school wound down in 1873, Nevin was invited to play for the Resolutes, a professional baseball team operating in Elizabeth, New Jersey.  That year, the Resolutes were part of the National Association – the first New Jersey team designated a “major league” team and the last one until Newark was part of the Federal League some 40 years later.  Nevin appeared in 13 games from late May to mid July, mostly at third base, and earned eleven hits, good for a .200 batting average.  However, there were classes to finish, and his father had a job waiting for him at the First National Bank of Allegheny.  So, armed with his degree, he became a teller. After a year or so, he switched over to his father’s lead business before returning to the bank as an assistant cashier, where he held that position for about sixteen years.

At that point, Alex took his wife, Sophronia Harbaugh, and their two kids William and Hannah, and headed off to California.  The Nevins were married in 1875, with William arriving almost exactly nine months later and Hannah arriving in the fall of 1879.  Apparently Nevin needed a change in his life.

So, within a year of landing on the West Coast, he ditched them.

“Many years ago Nevin unaccountably disappeared and has not been heard of since.”

Biographical Record of the Class of 1874 in Yale College: Part Fourth, 1874-1909, Tuttle, Morehouse and Taylor Co., New Haven, 1912, Pages 164-165.

After not seeing her husband for about a decade, Sophronia obtained a divorce and remarried.  As for Alex, he headed to Pensacola, FL where he lived under an assumed name and was an agent for a large estate there.

The former Mrs. Nevin had no idea where Brown lived – but someone back in Sewickley, PA must have known.  Because one day the postmaster of the Sewickley post office saw a letter and thought that the handwriting looked familiar.  After mulling it over a few hours, he recognized it as that of Alexander Nevin.  He contacted Alexander’s younger brother, Franklin, who then headed to Florida in search of his brother.  And found him.

One wonders if the man formerly known as Alexander Brown Nevin knew that his son died in 1920.  A year later, a sudden bout of paralysis took over Nevin and he died on 10 October 1921 in a hospital in Pensacola.  He’s buried in that city, but a large marker notes his life in a Sewickley cemetery.



1860, 1870, 1880 US Censuses

Biographical Record of the Class of 1874 in Yale College: Part Fourth, 1874-1909, Tuttle, Morehouse and Taylor Co., New Haven, 1912, Pages 164-165. (Also photo)

“Banker Found By Writing”, Rockford Republic, 13 November 1914.

“Missing Banker Found in Florida”, Akron Beacon Journal, 08 October 1914, Page 2.

“Obituary Record of Yale Graduates, 1919-1920”, Published by Yale University, New Haven, Pages 383, 384.

S. Scoville, Jr. “Track Athletics at Yale”, Outing Magazine, March, 1893.


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