Happy Birthday, Walt Goldsby!

A promising outfielder at the time there were three major leagues,  but couldn’t make it work.  His baseball career, marriage, and post-baseball career all ended badly – but not nearly as badly as his life.

Goldsby, who played a short time last season in the St. Louis Reserve and Virginia teams, is one of the most intelligent and competent of ball tossers, and is now drawing a salary of 160 per month in a railroad office at Evansville, Ind.

Fort Wayne Daily Gazette, 07 November 1884, Page 5.

Walton Hugh Goldsby arrived during the American Civil War in Marion, Louisiana on 31 December 1861.  His father, Miles Walton Goldsby, was a Confederate doctor for Company S in their Medical Staff Infantry Regiment, having been trained as a surgeon in Louisiana.  Dettie Dudgeon was born in Ireland, came to the United States in her childhood, and from her late teens on was a school teacher.  Miles and Dettie would marry and have two children, but Miles never met his second son, Thomas Boykin Goldsby,  Miles died in May, 1865, a few months before Boykin was born.

Walt was gifted athletically and drawn to baseball.  His mother moved to Arkansas with the two boys, and Walt eventually continued to St. Louis where he played amateur baseball and marched with an organization known as the Tredway Rifles, where Walt was listed as a private.  In 1883, Goldsby joined a team in Evansville – a team with a reputation for the ugly treatment of umpires.

Again, the Evansville distinguished themselves by a disgraceful exhibition of kicking on the umpiring until spectators were disgusted and yelled for them to go home.

“The National Game.”, Dayton Herald, 13 September 1883, Page 2.

Still, Goldsby distinguished himself as a player and more than one team expressed an interest with him.  In fact, after Chris Von der Ahe acquired Goldsby, Pittsburgh president Denny McKnight told Von der Ahe how much he wanted him.

President McKnight, who was here during the early part of the week, said to Mr. Von der Ahe: “I am sorry you took Goldsby, for I wanted him to take Mike Mansell’s place. I would rather have him than the man you let go, and he will about be playing your left field next season.” There seems to be a general impression, amongst all who know him, that Goldsby is one of the coming generation of players. I sincerely hope so, for it is encouraging to bring out new talent.

“Ixion’s Epiotle.”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 01 December 1883, Page 6.

In 1884 Goldsby was added to the St. Louis Reserves after spending time training with the St. Louis Browns.  The Reserves was a professional team of backups to the regular Browns.  Von der Ahe took the extra players he owned and liked and put these kids together to play exhibitions and other games with the many local baseball organizations in and around St. Louis.  However, running a second team cost money – and after a couple of months Von der Ahe disbanded the Reserves, but he kept a few players.  Goldsby was one of the three young players kept, and he was soon dispatched to replace Harry Wheeler.

Goldbsy, the excellent left fielder of the St. Louis club, left for the East last evening, and will join the St. Louis Browns in New York, playing there tomorrow in their opening series with the Mets. He will be a great addition to the outfield and undoubtedly to their batting strength, being a better man at the stick than several of the men now on the team. Harry Wheeler has been called home and will probably report here to-day or to-morrow morning.

“Off for the East.”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 26 May 1884, Page 8.

Goldsby didn’t get many opportunities to play – and there is the likelihood that he had a three-hit game that, because the wire copy failed to note he had replaced Arlie Latham in the lineup that day, was credited to Latham and not Goldsby.  After five games, he was moved to Washington’s American Association franchise – only for that team to run into money problems a few weeks later.  In August, he joined his third American Association team – a team in Richmond, VA.  That team didn’t have a home park, though, and wound up playing their final games on the road.  Within a few weeks of landing there, he would be released and playing in Evansville again.  For the 1884 season, he would appear in 22 games, bat .262 in less than 90 plate appearances – all but one of his 22 hits would be singles.

When in Evansville, he would take a job with a railroad company – his jobs after his baseball career were all in the railroad industry – until he found a baseball job for 1885.  Goldsby landed in Atlanta and played well enough, batting .291 with a good mix of extra base hits.  In 1886, his rights were signed by Washington in the National League, but he played in just six games and was moved again – this time he would become the player-manager for Nashville.  There, he would bat over .300 in 86 games, frequently as the lead off hitter.  The baseball nomad would head to Topeka for 1887, and then headed south to Birmingham for 1888 where, among those he would manage, would be a future major league manager – pitcher Joe Cantillon.

One thing that followed the teams that Goldsby played on was kicking – and Goldsby was a well-trained kicker himself.  In one game against Memphis, players restrained Goldsby when he threatened to hit the umpire with his bat.  He probably kicked when teams in the association ran into financial difficulties.  Charleston, for example, was barely paying bills.  New Orleans was being courted by the Texas League and eventually left the association.  Birmingham chose to disband.

Goldsby wasn’t done as a baseball player – Baltimore gave him a few games in 1888, but he didn’t stick in the American Association either.  According to Baseball-Reference, he wandered back to Evansville.  At some point, he must have settled in Memphis.  He plays one more time in the Southern Association in 1892, where he also married Margaret Earley.  They would have one son, Miles Earley Goldsby, in 1894 – but they wouldn’t have a long life together.  In 1900, Margaret was living with her parents – Miles was there, but Walton was not.

Instead, Walton had a series of jobs with various railroad companies.  No longer in Tennessee, he would become a repair man in St. Louis.  Nothing would stick, however, and he found himself at the Campbell House in Dallas.  I’m guessing he would spend the holidays alone.  One imagines his reactions to affronts in the baseball world also occurred in his domestic life – and in early 1914 Walton Hugh Goldsby found himself alone and despondent.

So, he penned his thoughts; he took a bath.  He neatly arranged his room and belongings.

After two days of deliberate preparation and careful planning, Walton H. Goldsby, a railroad man, “ended it all” by shooting off the top of his head, in a room at the Campbell House Sunday morning at 3 o’clock.

In a letter which he wrote Friday, Goldsby declared he intended to take his life because he was “a failure in every way” and could not find work.

Before firing the fatal shot he paid his hotel bill, took a bath, and neatly packed his clothes in a trunk. The man evidently shot himself shortly after taking a bath. He was garbed only in a bath robe when found dead.

Seldom, say the police, does a despondent man make such deliberate plans to kill himself as did Goldsby.

Goldsby leaves a divorced wife, who lives in Memphis; a brother in England, Ark., and a son in Harrisburg, Ark. According to the letter, he formerly played professional baseball in St. Louis. In his trousers was found $2.70.

“NO PLACE FOR HIM.”

The letter, dated Friday, reads:

“I have decided that there is no place in this world that wants or needs me, and if I have the nerve will end it all as far as I am concerned Friday night. I do not think all my friends and relatives have treated me properly, but I forgive them, and may God have mercy and that they may prosper. I won’t mention any names, but if they ever see this statement will know I mean them.

“I will try again tomorrow to find employment, but have little hope of success. My life has been a failure in every way. I am not a Christian and looks like I can not be one. I have had hard luck in various ways nearly all my life.

“In the first place, while playing baseball in St. Louis, I did as all young men do – * * * A few years later I married in Memphis. – – –

“I did for her the best I could, but that was not enough to suit her, so she secured a divorce. – –

“However, with the above mentioned things, and various other reasons, is no excuse for the action I think I will take. I am a coward and I know it, and may God help me:

“I will pay my hotel bill tomorrow and will owe them nothing. Please have what I leave expressed to Miles Early Goldsby at Harrisburg, Ark. He is my son.

“I am, yours respectfully,

“Walton H. Goldsby.

“P.S. – Be sure and see that my son receives the watch I have in my room, as well as everything else. I have a small balance in the Mechanics National Bank in St. Louis. Do with my body as you like or wire my brother, T. B. Goldsby, at England, Ark. I know that all will say that I am crazy to do such a thing, but will say I may be, but if I am I have been so all my life.”

Officials talked with Goldsby’s brother this morning. He has not decided whether or not to bury his brother here. In the meantime the remains are being held by the Wieland Undertaking Co. – Dallas News.

“Walton H. Goldsby Suicides”, The Gazette (Farmersville, LA), 04 February 1914, Page 4.

Goldsby pulled the trigger on 11 January 1914.  His brother, Boykin, buried Walton in Dallas.

Goldsby would have been proud of his son, Miles.  Miles went to military school, despite being blind in one eye he would serve as a lieutenant in the Arkansas Reserves during World War I, and live a long and prosperous life.

Sources

https://www.baseball-reference.com
https://www.findagrave.com/  (Walton)
https://www.findagrave.com (Miles)

1860, 1880, 1900, 1910 US Censuses
Texas Death Certificate

Dettie Goldsby’s Geneology Page on Ancestry.com, maintained by Deborah Price.

“The National Game.”, Dayton Herald, 20 August 1883, Page 2.

“The National Game.”, Dayton Herald, 13 September 1883, Page 2.

“Getting in Trim.”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 26 November 1883, Page 5.

“Ixion’s Epiotle.”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 01 December 1883, Page 6.

“Off for the East.”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 26 May 1884, Page 8.

“Wound Up.”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 03 June 1884, Page 9.

“A Chat With the Browns’ President”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 20 June 1884, Page 5.

“Sports and Pastimes.”, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 06 July 1884, Page 9.

“Base Ball.”, Washington Evening Star, 26 July 1884, Page 3.

“Diamond Chips.”, St. Louis Post Dispatch, 28 July 1884, Page 5.

Fort Wayne Daily Gazette, 07 November 1884, Page 5.

“The Louisville Club.”, Atlanta Constitution, 19 March 1885, Page 2.

“Montgomery Badly Beaten.”, Atlanta Constitution, 07 April 1885, Page 5.

“The Game in Savannah.”, Atlanta Consititution, 24 May 1885, Page 7.

“Base Ball.”, Times-Picayune, 26 February 1886, Page 2.

“Base Ball.”, Nashville Tennessean, 31 May 1886, Page 4.

“Rain Again”, Nashville Tennessean, 24 July 1886, Page 5.

“On the Fly.”, Boston Daily Globe, 11 September 1886, Page 5.

“BASEBALL.”, Times-Picayune, 18 December 1886, Page 2.

“The Birmingham Team.”, Times-Picayune, 15 December 1887, Page 3.

“Memphis Rallies”, Times-Picayune, 03 June 1888, Page 2.

“The Southern League Situation”, Times-Picayune, 05 July 1888, Page 2.

“Walton H. Goldsby Suicides”, The Gazette (Farmersville, LA), 04 February 1914, Page 4.

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