Baseball History for November 1st

BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENTS:

1858 John J. (Rooney) Sweeney

Catcher on and off for a few years at the top levels, though he played as far away as San Francisco – a heck of a life for a New York City native.

According to David Nemec, who penned his SABR bio, history seems to have lost track of him after 1899.

1859 John (Bid) McPhee

Hall of Fame Reds second baseman, apparently quite the defensive wizard – and mostly playing barehanded. In fact, he’d played nearly 14 full seasons in the majors when a finger injury forced him to learn to use a glove.

His SABR biography, written by Ralph Moses, seems a bit thin to me – but probably because he was a gentleman and led a rather quiet (and long) life after baseball.

1864 Clarence Geoghan (Kid) Baldwin

A teammate of McPhee and totally the opposite personality. Baldwin was brash, an alcoholic, and though he began life with as much talent as Bid, he gave it away – the once famous catcher dying in an asylum in his early thirties.

David Ball’s SABR biography is also very different from that written about McPhee. It’s loaded with quotes and details.

1866 Fred Demarais

A Montreal native, according to Baseball Reference Demarais pitched two scoreless innings for the Chicago Colts in 1890. A note about his death in the New Castle News (CT) says that he also played in Philadelphia (but that’s not in the encyclopedias).

I show him pitching with Salem, MA in 1887, losing to Lowell, 24 – 3 (he moved to CF in that game). In 1889, he’s pitching with Quincy in the Three I league (Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa) – which explains why Cap Anson gave him a look in 1890.

The Chicago Inter Ocean has an account of the game (27 July 1890, Page 2) where he faced Brooklyn – Demarais pitched more than those two innings. He actually entered the game in the bottom of the sixth, giving up a double – but that batter scored following an error and a wild pitch. He struck out Dave Foutz, gave up one more hit – but a runner was thrown out at the plate to end the rally. So, he at least threw 2.2 innings, gave up a run, fanned one and apparently walked a batter. He also batted twice, and fielded one ball cleanly.

In 1900, Demarais is living in Stamford working as a locksmith and living with his brother Jospeh and Joseph’s wife, Delia. He may have been back in Canada at least temporarily before returning to Stamford.

His death, 6 March 1919, though, was part of the wire copy – two newspapers included a note about his death and said his playing career ended when he threw his arm out in a game at Philadelphia (even though I can’t find when he might have pitched there).

1870 Connie Murphy

Briefly a catcher with the Reds in 1893 and 1894 (very briefly – 7 games) but spent many years in the Eastern League or New England League – hit .294 in his last recorded season at Haverhill in 1905 where he was listed as a player-manager. Spent most of his life – including his baseball life – in Massachusetts.

1872 Mike Hopkins

The Western PA native got two hits as a backup catcher in his only major league game, 24 August 1902. Apparently he was friendly with Honus Wagner.

A nice SABR bio of Hopkins was written by Chris Rainey.

1874 Thomas Llewellyn (Red) Owens

A long minor league career – nearly 20 years – that took two detours into the majors. Owens played for the Phillies briefly in 1899 and with Brooklyn in 1905. Mostly a second baseman, he could cover any infield position. Owens had a little pop in his bat – with Toledo in 1903 he had 40 doubles, 8 triples and 10 homers – but he wasn’t frequently much over .280 in the minors unless at a low level league.

1876 Harry Hogan

Biographers have work to do here – just a single game for Cleveland in 1901, and little else to go with… Hogan fanned once in four at bats playing right field.

1878 Sherman Montgomery (Snapper) Kennedy

One game guys must be the theme of today’s birthday… Snapper got one game with the Orphans as a center fielder in 1902, fanning once in his five trips.

1880 Tom (Red) Fisher

Tom Fisher was a longtime ace of the Southern Association, pitching in Shreveport and Atlanta for many years and managing teams, too. Nicknamed “Red” for his auburn hair, Fisher got a full season in the rotation with the Boston Beaneaters in 1904. He wasn’t awful – though he went 6 – 16 for a bottom feeder. Fisher even hit a pair of homers (including one that rolled through an open gate). However, he was back in the Southern Association before you knew it – winning between 13 and 24 games a year until 1911 and playing first base when needed.

Born and raised in Anderson, IN, Fisher came from an athletic family. His older brother, Chauncey, was a major league pitcher for five teams between 1893 and 1901. Initially, Tom Fisher played baseball and football for the Anderson (IN) High School teams from 1897 to 1899 and was pitching in local weekend games in Bloomington, IN when a scout from Indianapolis saw him pitch. The year after he graduated, the Southern Association was formed and Fisher was able to head south to play for Shreveport. He even got the start in the home opener. Even suffering through a minor injury, Fisher won 17 of 29 starts for Shreveport.

As a Beaneater, Fisher got off to a fairly good start even though his team fell quickly to the basement of the National League. “Fisher is … cool under fire,” the TSN correspondent wrote, “and uses excellent judgment in pitching.” Years later, Fisher remembered that a handful of the Boston Beaneaters wouldn’t play ball on Sunday, so the pitchers would frequently cover other positions. The Sporting News wrote, “Manager Buckenberger is much chagrined over the fact that three members of his team will not play Sunday baseb ball; the men being Fred Tenney, Charlie Pittinger and pitcher Wilhelm. Tenney’s reason for not playing Sunday is that his contract does not call for it and ‘Pit’ declares that he promised his mother he would never play baseball on Sundays, while Wilhelm merely objects to playing on the Sabbath.”

A few years later after his first unsuccessful season and not yet 31, he left baseball to go into business. Fisher and his brother owned an iron foundry in Anderson, and when he met his fiancee, Helen Kaufmann, his days in baseball were numbered.

According to an article in the Anderson Daily Bulletin, Fisher said he lost all his baseball mementos in an attic fire in 1923. And, other than making the majors, his biggest thrill was tossing a perfect game for Shreveport on 6 September 1906 against Montgomery. “I struck out 14 men,” Fisher added.

Fisher lived into his 90s, dying in his birth city of Anderson, IN in 1971.

(Sources)

Baseball-Reference.com

Note in the Indianapolis Journal, 3 March 1901, Page 3.

“Ready for the Opening”, Shreveport Times, 1 May 1901, Page 6.

“Nashville in the Van”, The Tennessean, 15 July 1901, Page 6.

“Fielding Finely.”, The Sporting News, 21 May 1904, Page 1.

“Southern Sayings”, Sporting Life, 23 September 1911, Page 17.

Lane, Kevin. “Baseball Excitement Lingers for Local Ex-Pro Tom Fisher”, Anderson Daily Bulletin, 26 August 1970, Page 14.

1884 Robert Hamilton (Ham) Hyatt

Fourth or fifth outfielder and first baseman between 1909 and 1918 – somewhat mobile and able to make contact – for the Pirates, Cards, and Yankees. Spent a lot of time as a pinch hitter. In the high minors, he regularly hit over .300 with doubles and a lot of triples.

1885 Ernie Lush

Sticking with our single game theme, this Villanova and Niagara grad played in one game on July 20, 1910. The Cardinals outfielder fanned and walked once in five plate appearances.

1887 Albert Earl (Jerry) Akers

The Nationals gave Akers a look in May of 1912 – he split two decisions in three starts and two other relief outings. The Senators were willing to take the chance after Akers went 19 – 12 for Dubuque in the III League. Returned to the International League, he lost 21 games…

1888 Grover Gilmore

Chicago native who got a shot to play in Kansas City when the Federal League got rolling, but never appeared in an NL or AL game. In his two seasons, he hit .286 and stole more than 40 bases – he could have been a marginal fourth outfielder somewhere. Instead, he returned to the minors.

1891 Heinie Stafford

Again with the single game guys… Pinch hit for the Giants on the last game of the 1916 season – heck it was the last out of the season.

He never played again – taking a research chemist position instead. Eventually he became a Vermont farmer and legislator.

Tom Simon penned his SABR Bio.

1892 Earl Blackburn

Backup catcher for half the NL teams between 1912 and 1917 – though he played just 71 career games. Returned to his native Massillon, OH (technically he was born in Leesville, but lived much of his youth in Massillon) after spending a few years in the minors “Blackie” played semipro baseball there – and was still appearing in old-timer games in the 1930s. Married twice – Lila and Madeline – is buried next to Madeline… When not playing baseball, he had various jobs in the steel industry. Later, he worked for Mansfield Tire and Rubber Company and was active in both Mansfield and Massillon city politics and organizations until his death in 1966.

1892 James (Lefty) York

Arkansas native who spent time in the Phillipines during the years leading to the first World War and played ball in the service. Still young when World War I ended, Connie Mack gave him a tryout in 1919, and after another season in the minors, the Cubs gave him a much longer look in 1921. Apparently he was unhappy playing with the Cubs then – he ditched them to pitch regularly with York in the NY Penn League instead.

May have played with Earl Blackburn – he signed briefly to play with Massillon’s semi-pro team in 1923.

1893 Tom Burr

Rory Costello tells the story of a pitcher who got into just one major league game – and that in centerfield as a late inning defensive replacement – for the Yankees in 1914. Burr was a casualty of World War I, dying in a plane accident during training just before the war ended.

1893 Otis Lawry

University of Maine captain, played at least a season there under manager Monte Cross, one-time shortstop for Connie Mack.

Mack gave Lawry a shot to make the team right out of college in 1916 (along with fellow Maine ballplayers Frank French and Harland Rowe), but after two years it didn’t pan out as Lawry was hitting .191 in 196 plate appearances. Instead, he signed with Baltimore in the International League where he’d hit .299 or better for much of the next decade – even though he was likely the smallest player on the field. And one of the fastest – Lawry was nicknamed “Rabbit” because he could run 100 yards in 10 seconds and in college ran on the Maine track team. He also changed positions. Initially a second sacker with Mack, he played in the outfield most of his days in the IL. From the sounds of it, Lawry was also a bit feisty – one article suggests he regularly received fines for offensive behavior.

“Otis Lawry Draws $75 Fine; Is Told to Behave Himself”, Syracuse Herald, 28 May 1922, Page 80.

“Swarm of Baseball Aspirants at Maine”, Boston Sunday Globe, 19 March 1916, Page 91.

“Miller Huggins Is Prepared To Fill Any Gaps”, Danville Bee, 18 February 1925, Page 7.

1894 Clarence Berger

Clarence Edward Berger was an outfielder and catcher who, when signed by the Pirates in 1914, was acquired at one of the highest prices ever paid for a player coming out of the Virginia League.

Born in East Cleveland, OH, Berger spent most of his youth in Alexandria, VA. After a varied sporting life at Fork Union Prep School, Berger played football for the University of Richmond. As a fullback, he helped break a three-year losing streak by scoring a touchdown and leading the Spiders past William and Mary in 1912. In baseball season, he jumped to Fredericksburg College and pitched, caught, and played the outfield.

In 1913, Berger apparently signed to play with Steve Griffin and Petersburg in the Virginia League but wrote that he was going back to college at Richmond – which landed Berger on the suspended list for a year.

After graduating from the University of Richmond, Berger signed with Richmond in the Virginia League for 1914. After initially getting off to a slow start and fearing getting released, he found his batting stroke after applying for a job with a team in the Appalachian League. Fortunately for Richmond, though, he stayed put. Berger had a pretty good season as a left fielder – among the league leaders in hits and triples. One note said that Berger was a bad ball hitter “…the greatest natural wildpitch hitter in the land…”

Pittsburgh got wind of him and Barney Dreyfuss purchased his contract for $2500, depending on the article it was among the largest if not the largest price paid for a Virginia League player by that time. Berger finished the 1914 season for Virginia before joining the Pirates in September. In limited action in the outfield, Berger mustered a hit in thirteen at bats. Farmed out to Richmond in the International League for 1915, and then farmed to a lower level team in Newport News, he struggled to hit and his career as a baseball player ended rather quickly.

Odd Trivia: An article about Berger written when he played in Richmond said he threw right handed and batted right handed. A note about him in 1914 in the Pittsburgh Press says he batted lefty. Hmmm…

After his playing days, he lived with his brother, Howard, or his parents, Charles and Della. By 1920, he’s listed as a bookkeeper for a dye company. In 1930 and 1940, the US Census shows him as a chemist for a dry cleaner. Somewhere after that he met his wife, Edith.

Berger passed away in 1959. Edith, more than a decade his junior, joined him in 1982.

(Sources)

Malbert, Gus. “Berger Writes He’ll Not Play”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 25 March 1913, Pages 8-9.

Malbert, Gus. “Spiders Break Losing Streak of Three Years”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10 November 1912, Page 7.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, 14 February 1915, Page 13.

Malbert, Gus. “Who, What and Why”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 21 March 1915, Page 15.

“Another New Pirate”, The Pittsburgh Press, 22 August 1914, Page 12.

“Baseball Notes.”, The Pittsburgh Press, 6 September 1914, Page 23.

“Outfielders Joe Kelly and Berger and Released by Pirates to Minor League Clubs”, The Pittsburgh Press, 14 February 1915, Page 16.

“Clarence Berger Is Sent To Newport News.”, The Pittsburgh Press, 19 April 1915, Page 32.

Clarence Berger’s Statistics at Baseball-Reference.com

Clarence Berger’s MLB Record at Retrosheet.org

1904 Johnny Burnett
1906 Heinie Schuble
1906 Warren Dawson (Pete) Rambo

Let’s face it – born 50 years too soon.

1907 Larry French
1911 Art Parks
1917 Pat Mullin
1922 Andy Lapihuska
1927 Vic Power
1930 Russ Kemmerer
1932 Jim Pyburn
1934 Howie Goss
1945 Bobby Brooks
1946 Dick Baney
1946 Jim Kennedy
1950 Clint Compton
1951 Eric Raich
1951 Manuel (Chico) Ruiz
1954 Miguel Dilone
1956 Gary Redus
1957 Jose Moreno
1958 Rich Thompson
1960 Fernando Valenzuela
1964 Eddie Williams
1966 Bob Wells
1967 Carlos Rodriguez
1974 Ryan Glynn
1976 Cleatus Davidson
1977 Luis de los Santos
1979 Covelli (Coco) Crisp
1983 Steven Tolleson
1984 Stephen Vogt
1985 Paulo Orlando
1986 Rhiner Cruz
1987 Steve Geltz
1987 Anthony Bass
1987 Donnie Joseph
1988 Masahiro Tanaka
1989 Engel Beltre
1993 Eric Hanhold
1996 Trent Grisham

OBITUARIES:

1910 Bob Pettit
1912 Ed Green
1917 Steve Brady
1922 Billy Goeckel
1925 Roy Clark
1925 Billy Serad
1933 Ed Scott
1937 Benny Frey
1945 George Hale
1948 Fred (Cougar?) Mollenkamp
1951 Mickey Doolin
1952 Wally Clement
1952 Ed McNichol
1956 Limb McKenry
1957 Charlie Caldwell
1961 Tom Hughes
1967 Frank Gabler
1969 George Winn
1969 Joe Mellana
1974 Bullet Joe Bush
1983 Art Ruble
1988 Lefty Sullivan
1999 Pat McLaughlin
2001 Tom Cheney
2003 Sonny Senerchia

Motorcycle accident.

2012 Pascual Perez

YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE!!!

1942 The Dodgers sign team president Branch Rickey.

2009 The first home run review using replay in World Series history helps Alex Rodriguez turn a double into a homer – the ball hit a camera in right field at Citizen’s Bank Ballpark and bounced back into play.

1979 Edward Bennett Williams pays $12.3 million to Jerold Hoffberger to buy the Baltimore Orioles. Should this be listed under transactions???

2010 Giants infielder Edgar Renteria hits a three-run homer to beat the Rangers in game 5 of the World Series – only the fourth player (and only non-Yankee) to have two World Series game-winning hits.

TRANSACTION WIRE:

1934 To acquire Phillies infielder Dick Bartell, the Giants send Philadelphia George Watkins, Blondy Ryan, Pretzel Pezzullo, and Johnny Vergez.

1946 Cleveland takes Gus Zernial from Altanta in the Rule 5 Draft.

1962 Houston signs amateur free agent Joe Morgan.

1976 23 players become free agents, including Willie McCovey and half the Oakland A’s. (Bando, Campy, Fingers, Rudi, Tenace, and Reggie – who had spent 1976 in Baltimore…)

1977 The Yankees are dealing… After sending Chris Chambliss, Damaso Garcia, and Paul Mirabella to Toronto for Rick Cerone, Tom Underwood, and Ted Wilborn, New York sends Rick Anderson, Jim Beattie, Juan Beniquez, and Jerry Narron to Seattle for Ruppert Jones and Jim Lewis.

2014 Cubs Manager Rich Renteria is fired to make room for Joe Maddon.

I liked Renteria – a very nice and smart man, I thought. Renteria was an original Florida Marlin, too.

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