Happy Birthday, James “Chief” Roseman!

About 60 major league players were born on the Fourth of July but only James John Roseman both arrived and left this world on July 4th.

James John Roseman was the second child of three born to Thomas and Catharine Roseman, a pair of Irish immigrants who came to the United States in the years prior to the Civil War.  James arrived on 04 July 1856 and learned to play the game on the lots of his native Brooklyn.  He first played in local leagues and before his 20th birthday he had traveled to Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1875.  There, the stocky but athletic Roseman was forced into mound duty.  According to the Buffalo Commercial, “He was in poor condition, having had little practice, and being eager to be effective, he began to drive the ball in with all his might. As he attempted to deliver the third ball his arm broke above the elbow, and the ball dropped to the ground.”

Roseman missed the rest of 1875 and all of 1876 but returned to play for Auburn (NY).  There, among teammates at a bar, he was decked by first baseman and captain William Tobin.  Roseman chose to avoid fighting the team captain and went outside.  However, he was goaded into fighting Tobin.  Roseman went back into the hotel and challenged Tobin to a fight.  So, the two willing combatants moved to an empty lot and held a boxing match.  They toed the scratch and, again, Tobin bloodied Roseman’s face.  Roseman leaned in, though, charged Tobin and got him into a headlock.  After landing several punches to Tobin’s head he then tripped him and landed on Tobin’s midsection.  The two came up for the second round and it went nearly the same as the first – Roseman took a punch, then he put Tobin in a headlock and pummeled him about the head and upper body.  Once again, Roseman took Tobin down and people were surprised that Tobin was able to toe the scratch for a third round.  However, the third round never got started – the police broke up the match and both combatants paid a $10 fine to the local judge.

Let’s return to baseball.

After two seasons playing on Brooklyn and New York semi-pro teams, Roseman was signed to play for Troy’s National League entry in 1882.  There, in addition to playing a fine center field, Roseman got in a row with pitcher Jack Lynch.  The rookie held his own on the field and in the barrooms, but Troy didn’t survive past the season.  The New York Metropolitans were formed in the American Association and Roseman landed as their center fielder.  Roseman was a mobile and willing fielder and his batting average increased some, though he sacrificed some power.  Roseman, however, was just getting started.  In 1884, Roseman was a key performer on a Metropolitan team that won the American Association.  He repeated his strong season in 1885, but the Mets would never be that good again.  At the end of that season, the Metropolitans were sold to Erastus Wiman, who moved the Metropolitans to a park on Staten Island.  And, Brooklyn’s Charles Byrne wanted to eliminate local competition in the American Association.  He tried to get the Metropolitans removed from the Association and he made offers to Dave Orr and James Roseman, two of the best players on the Mets roster.

Byrne’s efforts failed and Roseman returned to a Metropolitans team, signing a $3,000 contract to play on a team that was even worse than the 1885 team.  All but Dave Orr fell off in their batting – though Roseman remained a popular and moderately productive player.  Instead, Roseman became the subject of trade rumors throughout the off-season.  Eventually, Roseman was sold for $750 to the Philadelphia Athletics and agreed to a $2,000 contract with a $500 services contract for 1887.

Within two weeks of the season starting, Roseman spent the night in Baltimore with friends and earned the wrath of the Athletics who didn’t appreciate Roseman’s night on the town.  He was suspended for a month and fined $100.  Roseman’s batting average failed to return to his 1884-85 peak and the Athletics released him in mid-June.  The Metropolitans, who were now barely able to win a third of their games, brought back their popular outfielder.  Roseman couldn’t help – and by this time he was considerably heavier.  The Mets let Roseman go – Roseman finally signed to play with Brooklyn for about a week – he played in just one game for his hometown team.

Roseman played a season with Albany, a minor league organization, and he started asking for chances to play again.  His opportunity came in 1890 when the Players League opened for play and teams were scrambling for able bodies to fill roles.  Chris Von der Ahe signed the older, rounder Chief Roseman – even let him run the club for a few weeks – and Roseman hit about .341.  He was released, briefly played for Louisville, and then went home to Brooklyn.

One story that made the rounds while Roseman was a manager involved how he dealt with Chris Von der Ahe’s trying to play scout when he owned the Browns.  Apparently, Von der Ahe was trying to sign players on the cheap and he signed a catcher named Adams for $40 a month plus room and board… So Roseman got him a loosely fitting uniform and sent him out to warm up. Seeing that the kid wasn’t that good during the pre-game warm up, Roseman put Adams behind the plate for the first pitch. Then, he told the kid to wear his glove on the wrong hand when playing back, but when he moved up close behind the plate, he could put his glove on the correct hand – claiming that this was a Freemason signal for some of the teammates. Roseman also told the catcher to wear his mask backwards when playing back. Elton Chamberlain fired the first pitch to Adams – and it was the only pitch Adams faced.  He was removed immediately – and Roseman told Von der Ahe to let him pick the players on the team.

My favorite story told about Von der Ahe and Roseman, though, had to do with Jack Stivetts.  There were a number of Italian saloons near the ballpark and players had a reputation for visiting the bars and drinking.  Von der Ahe noticed that Stivetts wasn’t around for the morning practice and asked Roseman if Stivetts had been out drinking.

“No, sir,” said Roseman. “Jack hasn’t been well for two days. He’s at home now with lumbago.” Lumbago was a term for pain in the lower back.

Von der Ahe thought Lumbago was the name of one of the Italian saloon owners and he told Roseman to fine Stivetts $10 for his being absent.

“One of Chris’s Breaks.”, Nashville Banner, 27 February 1897, Page 9.

When not playing baseball, Roseman owned and operated a gaming hall and bar.  Roseman enjoyed this life – he was known for his willingness to drink.  The Brooklyn Daily Eagle once wrote that it was probably a good idea that Brooklyn hadn’t signed Roseman in 1886.  “Though the team would have been strengthened by the addition of Orr, it would not have been by placing Roseman in it, as his playing skill is offset by objectionable ways.”

Throw in the fights early in his career, and Roseman was a lively guy.  He was also well-liked.  O. P. Caylor followed Roseman in 1887 and said that he was just the best person – worked hard, was kind, and easy to talk to.  So how did an Irish immigrant get the nickname Chief?  Because the boisterous outfielder would let out war-whoops in the field, sometimes adding, “Stick your chest out!” loud enough for all to hear.  Other players might join in the war cries – leading to the Mets briefly being called “the Indians” in various papers while Rosemen was with New York.

Roseman’s days with his bar ended around 1899.  By then, Roseman had been married to Sarah J. Smith for about 20 years.  They had five children and lived a more normal life after Roseman started working for the City of New York, spending 34 years working in the Sewer Department.  After Sarah’s death, he married Sarah Clancey Hoar – his second wife of Irish heritage.  He outlived both wives and two of his children.  Roseman finally passed to the next league on 04 July 1938 – entering and exiting the world via Brooklyn.




1860, 1900, 1910, 1930 US Censuses

New York Marriage Indexes

“Sports And Pastimes.”, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 15 June 1881, Page 1.

“Base-Ball.”, New York Times, 27 August 1881, Page 8.

“Notes.”, Buffalo Commercial 09 June 1882, Page 3.

“Sporting Notes.”, Buffalo Commercial, 26 March 1883, Page 3.

“Lynch Licked.”, Louisville Courier-Journal, 30 June 1884, Page 8.

“Our League Pets’ Departure.”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 05 May 1885, Page 5.

“Pittsburgs, 13; Metropolitans, 4.” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 12 May 1885, Page 4.

“To Stand By Mr. Wiman”, New York Times, 13 December 1885, Page 10.

“The Base-Ball Muddle.”, Marion County Herald, 01 January 1886, Page 2.

“Sports And Pastimes.”, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 31 Jamuary 1886, Page 11.

“Base Ball Gossip.”, Buffalo Times, 22 March 1886, Page 2.

“Sports And Pastimes.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 11 September 1886, Page 1.

“Base Ball.”, The Sporting News, 11 December 1886, Pages 2, 3.

“Diamond Dust.”, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 09 December 1886, Page 5.

“From The Bat Bag”, Democrat and Chronicle, 30 January 1887, Page 7.

“Philadelphia Times, 06 February 1887, Page 11.

“Base Ball News.”, Philadelphia Inquirer, 03 March 1887, Page 2.

“Sporting News.”, Philadelphia Inquirer, 20 April 1887, Page 3.

“Base Ball Notes.”, Pittsburgh Daily Post, 25 April 1887, Page 6.

“Diamond Sparks.”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 02 May 1887, Page 8.

“Athletic Players Released.” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 16 June 1887, Page 8.

Brooklyn Standard Union, 16 June 1887, Page 4.

“Mets, 7; Athletics, 4.”, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 19 June 1887, Page 11.

“Closely Contested.”, Brooklyn Citizen, 26 June 1887, Page 2.

“Diamond Dust.”, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 29 August 1887, Page 3.

Brooklyn Daily Times, 10 September 1887, Page 4.

“The National Game.”, Brooklyn Daily Times, 03 October 1887, Page 1.

Caylor, O.P. “Caylor’s Comment.”, The Sporting Life, 05 October 1887, Page 4.

“Fifteenth Ward Democratic Club.”, Brooklyn Times Union, 06 October 1887, Page 2.

“A Memorable Battle.”, The Sporting Life, 16 November 1887, Page 2.

“Notes And Comments.”, The Sporting Life, 18 July 1888, Page 5.

“Not So Easy.”, Buffalo Morning Express, 24 July 1888, Page 5.

“Notes and Comments.”, The Sporting Life, 06 February 1889, Page 2.

“Notes and Gossip.”, The Sporting Life, 10 May 1890, Page 4.

“Notes and Gossip.”, The Sporting Life, 09 August 1890, Page 4.

“Sure To Win It.”, The Sporting Life, 16 August 1890, Page 8.

“Louisville Lines.”, The Sporting Life, 20 September 1890, Page 8.

“Editorial Views, News, Comment.”, The Sporting Life, 28 May 1892, Page 2.

“Sporting”, Buffalo Enquirer, 08 April 1896, Page 8.

“One of Chris’s Breaks.”, Nashville Banner, 27 February 1897, Page 9.

“May Open At Eastern Park.”, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 02 April 1897, Page 4.

“Baseball Talk.” Buffalo Courier, 14 November 1898, Page 3.

Kelly, Walter C. “The Wild World of Sport”, Buffalo Courier, 09 March 1903, Page 9.

“How It Was Done.” Buffalo Times, 04 April 1905, Page 8.

“James Roseman, Ex-Ball Player”, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 05 July 1938, Page 11.


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