Happy Birthday, Whitey Guese!

Whitey Guese - Detroit Free Press 1899“Guese is a strapping big youngster who hasn’t been a voter long, and another thing is that his is a man of the best of habits…

…When it is considered that Guese has only been off the sand lots one year it is evident that he is a twirler of more than ordinary promise…”

“Guese A Coming Star”, Detroit Free Press, 02 April 1899, Page 8.  (Photo, at left, too…)

Whitey Guese was a giant of a man, more than six feet tall and rarely less than 200 pounds – one assumes 220 or even 240 in his later years – who was signed by the Cincinnati Reds when the owner of a minor league team in Indianapolis decided to fold his team in 1901.  He got his nickname for his neatly combed shock of blond hair he’d pile under his hat.

Theodore Guese, had he chosen to be a fighter, would have been called the Wapakoneta Giant.  He arrived in nearby New Bremen, Ohio to Frederick Wilhelm and Mary Helman (formerly Depenbrock) Guese on 24 January 1872.  Frederick, a Prussian born laborer, sired twelve kids born to two wives (Wilhelmine Solms Guese traveled to the United States with Wilhelm in 1861).  Soon after arriving in the United States, Frederick Wilhelm joined the Union Army in 1862 and served with the 19th Ohio Volunteers for the duration of the war, fighting in places like Shiloh, Nashville, and northern Georgia and Alabama until the Civil War ended.  At some point after the war the Guese parents divorced and Frederick Wilhelm next married Mary Helman, a widow.  Theodore would be his second child of five with Mary.  Soon after, the family moved to Wapakoneta, Ohio where Guese would spend the bulk of his life.

Theodore was one of three Guese boys who played amateur and low level minor league baseball.  His brothers, Adolph (Blackie) and Otto (Red) played on the same Wapak amateur team that played different teams in both Ohio and Indiana.  Initially a first baseman or catcher, Theodore’s throwing arm was strong so he was moved to the mound.  A right handed pitcher throwing from the side, he would win twelve of fourteen decisions in the 1897 season with a crisp rising fastball and a curve that was good enough to fool players in the minors.  This earned Guese a shot with New Castle in the Interstate League for the 1898 season.

Now called The Wapakoneta Wonder or The Wapakoneta Big Boy, Guese rounded into a solid (thick!) and dependable pitcher.  He won 18 of his last 24 decisions to finish at 23 – 14 on the season, and was a pretty good hitter, too.  Pittsburgh got wind of him and signed him – but the Pirates of 1899 were loaded with good young pitching and Guese was farmed out to Detroit, where he would pitch for manager George Stallings.  Stallings didn’t give Guese much of a look, though, and he was released.  A team in Fort Wayne needed an arm and gave Guese a job.

“He is a big fellow, possessing a physique like Amos Rusie and the speed of a Rusie. He was known in the Interstate League as the ‘cannonball’ twirler because of his great speed… He has a faculty of sending them over the plate around a batter’s neck, so that his delivery is hard to solve…”

“He is a glutton for work and can go in the box three or four times a week without weakening…”

“Watkins Drafts Guese”, Indianapolis Journal, 04 February 1900, Page 6.

There, Guese would win 25 games, striking out 116 batters while walking just 89, and adding a .291 batting average with three homers as an occasional first baseman and pinch hitter.  Such heady numbers and his hard not to miss size earned him a promotion of sorts and he signed with Indianapolis for 1900.  Off to a slow start, he was farmed to Youngstown for a few months and returned to Indianapolis for the 1901 season.  Now, he was the ace of the Indianapolis staff.  And, while Indianapolis was a competitive team, it was not fiscally viable – and in early July Indianapolis quit the Western Association.  Many of the players followed the manager to a franchise location in Matthews, Indiana.  A few players were released.  George Hogriever was rumored to be heading to the Athletics.  A handful were scooped up by a struggling Cincinnati Reds team looking for pitching help.

Guese’s first start for the Reds was on 13 July 1901 against Brooklyn and it could have gone better.  He lost, 9 – 8, but his team behind him didn’t help much – the winning run was a ninth inning homer by Bill Dahlen.  His former Indianapolis teammate, Archie Stimmel, had equal difficulty getting major league hitters out.

Guese and Stimmel, who were sent to Cincinnati when the Indianapolis club disbanded, are not making good with the big leaguers. Guese attempted to officiate in two games and was knocked out of the box both times. In yesterday’s game at St. Louis Stimmel was hit ten times in seven innings and the Cardinals scored almost at will. They got tired running the bases.

“Gossip Of The Game.”, Dayton Daily News, 22 July 1901, Page 3.

Guese has not made a brilliant record as pitcher in the National League. He has plenty of speed but no really first class curves or head work.

“Base Ball Notes.”, News-Democrat (Uhrichville Dennison, OH), 23 July 1901, Page 1.

Stimmel got rocked by Chicago, but Guese pitched seven innings of two-run ball in relief.  That earned Guese one more shot against St. Louis on 9 August 1901 – a team that had feasted on Stimmel and Guese a few weeks earlier.

“If the Cardinals had no pitcher but Guese to face all the season they would not only win the pennant in a canter, but they would roll up the fattest batting averages in the history of the game. Guess made his second attempt to throw the St. Louis team down to-day, and again he made a disastrous failure. When Theodore took his position on the rubber the St. Louis players cheered…”

“Guese Was Roughly Used.”, St. Louis Daily Globe, 10 August 1901, Page 7.

Near the end of August, the Reds traveled to Wapakoneta to play an exhibition game.  Guese was allowed to pitch against his Reds teammates.  They held a reception, the Reds won, 9 – 0, and then Bid McPhee handed Guese his walking papers.  Guese wouldn’t sign with another club for the remainder of the season and he stayed home with family and his amateur baseball friends.

“The case of Theodore Guese is a peculiar one. Built like Sandow, that twirler of heroic mold seemingly has a heart like a canary…

“…[Guese] can tear them through the air with the speed of a cyclone blowing through Kansas.

” ‘There isn’t anything in the pitcher’s repertory,”\’ remarked William Henry Watkins the other day, ‘that Guese does not possess. All that he lacks is self-confidence, and without that no man will hold down a front pew in base-ball.’ “

(Sandow is Eugene Sandow, a famous body builder of the era…)

“Notes of the Diamond”, Mansfield News-Journal, 30 November 1901, Page 10.

Whitey Guese - Arkansas Democrat 1905

“Whitey Guese, who was with the Reds for a short time, will pitch for Little Rock in the Southern League again this year. He has the reputation of being the slowest fielding pitcher in the business.”

“Notes of the Diamond”, Mansfield News-Journal, 25 April 1903, Page 11.

Guese’s major league career was over, but at 30 years old, Guese became one of the better minor league pitchers of the south.  He first signed with Little Rock in 1902, where he would play for the next four seasons – twice winning 19 games.  It was in Little Rock where Guese and his wife, Clementina Muma, had their daughter Louceil, on 10 September 1903.  Unfortunately, their happy days were few – Louceil would pass away two months after her birth.  And, Clementina’s life was short, too.  Theodore was listed as a widow in the 1920 US Census.

From a baseball standpoint, Guese would find some satisfaction.  He’d frequently pitch well, winning one game with an 11th inning clout to beat Nashville, 1 – 0.  Guese drove the ball over the centerfielder’s head, reached third on his own (rather slowly) and then scored on a throwing error.  In 1906, he was sold to New Orleans but continued to pitch well.  He faced the World Champion Chicago White Sox in an exhibition game during the 1907 spring training and beat Ed Walsh, 1 – 0, while scattering just three hits.  He also threw three innings of hitless relief against the Philadelphia Athletics in an exhibition game in 1908.  He finished the decade with two seasons in Montgomery – all nine years in the Southern Association he finished the season with a winning record.  He asked for his release for personal reasons in 1910 and it was granted.

Whitey Guese - Montgomery Advertiser 1909After 1910, though, he pitched up north.  At first he was signed to pitch for Syracuse – only to be one of two players arrested for playing in an exhibition game on a Sunday.  Syracuse sold Guese to Grand Falls of the Northwest Montana League, and while Guese claimed he would report for two straight years, he never pitched there.

Instead, Guese returned home to Wapakoneta.  For a couple of years he pitched with local teams.  He worked as a deputy for the county sheriff’s office, and he was a laborer.  He lived with his brother, Adolph, who was also a widow.  They would hunt when not working.  Guese was even invited to participate in old-timer games in Cincinnati.  Eventually, though, the former giant would slow down.  He was moved to a county home and passed away after an extended illness on 08 April 1951.

SOURCES:

https://www.baseball-reference.com/
https://www.findagrave.com/ (Theodore Guese)
https://www.findagrave.com/ (Father)
https://www.findagrave.com/ (Louceil Guese)

1880, 1920, 1930, 1940 US Censuses
Ohio Births and Christenings Index

“Sport.”, Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, 21 January 1898, Page 3.

“Base Ball Gossip”, Dayton Daily News, 04 October 1898, Page 3.

“Guese A Coming Star”, Detroit Free Press, 02 April 1899, Page 8. (Also Picture)

“Shorty Fuller Here.”, Dayton Daily News, 13 April 1899, Page 3.

“Watkins Drafts Guese”, Indianapolis Journal, 04 February 1900, Page 6.

“Glasscock with Ft. Wayne”, Mansfield News-Journal, 26 February 1900, Page 6.

“Notes.”, Mansfield News-Journal, 26 July 1900, Page 6.

“Watkins Quits Western Association”, Dayton Herald, 12 July 1901, Page 6.

“The Diamond.”, Marietta Daily Leader, 14 July 1901, Page 8.

“Whitey”, Lima News, 19 July 1901, Page 5.

“Gossip Of The Game.”, Dayton Daily News, 22 July 1901, Page 3.

“Base Ball Notes.”, News-Democrat (Uhrichville Dennison, OH), 23 July 1901, Page 1.

Box Score and Notes, Dayton Daily News, 31 July 1901, Page 3.

“At Cincinnati.”, Dayton Daily News, 10 August 1901, Page 3.

“Guese Was Roughly Used.”, St. Louis Daily Globe, 10 August 1901, Page 7.

“Baseball Notes.” Topeka State Journal, 12 August 1901, Page 2.

Delphos Daily Herald, 24 August 1901, Page 1.

“Notes of the Diamond”, Mansfield News-Journal, 27 August 1901, Page 3.

“Notes of the Diamond”, Mansfield News-Journal, 30 November 1901, Page 10.

Philadelphia Inquirer, 28 February 1902, Page 10.

“Notes of the Diamond”, Mansfield News-Journal, 25 April 1903, Page 11.

“Miss Guess Is Our New Mascot”, Arkansas Democrat, 11 September 1903, Page 5.

“11 Players on Little Rock Team”, Daily Arkansas Gazette, 20 September 1904, Page 6.

“Guese Won Great Game”, Arkansas Democrat, 28 May 1905, Page 2. (Also photo)

“Frank Secures Guese”, New Orleans Times-Democrat, 01 March 1906, Page 13.

“Pelican Pitcher Wins; White Sox Shut Out”, New Orleans Times-Democrat, 23 March 1907, Page 12.

“New Orleans Wins From Athletics”, Philadelphia Inquirer, 15 March 1908, Page 26.

Photo of Guese, Montomery Advertiser, 20 July 1909, Page 9.

“Guese Obtains Release From Montgomery, New Orleans Times-Democrat, 09 July 1910, Page 7.

“Diamond Glints.”, Tuscaloosa News, 27 July 1910, Page 1.

“Stars Return Contracts To Manager Ashenback”, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, 16 January 1911, Page 12.

“Sheriff Arrests Two Twinklers”, Binghamton Press, 25 April 1911, Page 11.

“Pitcher Guese Sold.”, Buffalo Times, 24 June 1911, Page 6.

“Guese’s Contract Eliminates Doubt”, Great Falls Tribune, 29 February 1912, Page 6.

“Diamond Dust”,Salt Lake Telegram, 13 May 1912, Page 9.

“Houtz and Guese Targets For Fans In Sunday Game”, Lima News, 15 August 1913, Page 4.

“Botkins to Play Here Sunday”, Lima News, 30 June 1915, Page 10.

“Will Exhibit ‘Wild Animal’ in Auglaize”, Dayton Daily News, 06 May 1928, Page 13 (Sports).

Ryder, Jack. “Double-Headers Piling Up For Redlegs”, Cincinnati Enquirer, 25 August 1931, Pages 11, 12.

“Theodore Guese”, Dayton Daily News, 10 April 1951, Page 3.

“Famed Ball Player Buried Today at Wapakoneta”, New Bremen Sun, 12 April 1951.

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