Happy Birthday, Howard Blaisdell!

“The League umpire failed to put in an appearance and ‘Dick’ Blaisdell was taken by mutual consent. His umpiring was the rankest ever seen on the grounds and he was hooted and hissed continually.”

“Haverhills, 7; Newburyports, 6.,” Boston Globe, 26 July 1885, Page 4.

In any other year, Howard Blaisdell likely doesn’t make it to the big leagues, but 1884 wasn’t just any year – there were three major leagues with the addition of the Union Association.  With Kansas City off to a slow start and looking to find people who could play, Blaisdell got a tryout with the Kansas City Unions for about a week in July, 1884.  Thankfully, it happened for Blaisdell in 1884, because he didn’t have many other years.

Howard Carleton Blaisdell was born 18 June 1862 in Bradford, Massachusetts to Richard and Frances A. (Carleton) Blaisdell – which might help explain how Howard became Dick Blaisdell in your baseball encyclopedia.  (He should be Howard Blaisdell.)  Howard was the second of five children born to the shoe manufacturer and housewife.  Richard and Frances were destined to be together.  Richard met Frances when he worked as a carpenter and lived with the Carleton family around 1850.  After they married (and after the Great War for Slavery), Richard Blaisdell was a prison warden in Rhode Island; his second in command was a relative of Frances.  The Blaisdell family can trace its heritage back to a Ralph Blaisdell who came from Bolton, Lancaster, England to what is now Maine in 1635.

In a baseball area like Boston, Blaisdell became a pitcher for local teams, but when he signed with Lynn in 1884, the Boston Globe said he spent 1882 and 1883 in Fort Wayne and Milwaukee.  Skimming through the Boston Globe for the spring and summer of 1884, you can find eleven Massachusetts State League games in which Blaisdell pitched.  He also appeared in a handful of exhibitions against other squads, including the Boston Reserves and a game against the Kansas City Cowboys of the Union Association.

The Cowboys, starting off very slowly, were in the running for young talent to improve the team.  In July, they sent out offers to both Howard Blaisdell and Harry Oxley, Blaisdell’s catcher.  Blaisdell jumped at the chance and caught a train to meet the Cowboys.  The people of Lynn, however, made a strong effort to retain Oxley and, while they suspended Blaisdell for jumping his contract, the Lynns chose to remove Oxley’s suspension and exonerated him for possibly having convinced Blaisdell to take the Cowboys’ offer.  The Boston Herald noted that it was the first time that a Union Association team had stolen a player from another association.

Blaisdell got his first chance with Kansas City on 09 July 1884 and it was his best start.  Facing the Philadelphia Keystones, he lost 8 – 5 – the Keystones bunched runs in the first, fifth, and seventh.  He got a second chance at them a couple of days later, but got slaughtered – the Keystones won, 16 – 4.  After a single game as a right fielder, he went to the mound to face Baltimore on 14 July 1884 and lost that one, 15 – 2.  Soon after, Blaisdell went back to Massachusetts.

In Blaisdell’s profile found in Major League Baseball Profiles: 1871 to 1900 (Volume 2), historian Frank Vaccaro suggested that Blaisdell didn’t go to Massachusetts, but rather was traded to the Baltimore Unions for Henry Overbeck – which would make Blaisdell not only the first player stolen by the Unions but possibly involved in the first trade in major league baseball history.  Vaccaro notes that a player named “Scott” joined the Baltimores while Henry Overbeck switched from Baltimore to Kansas City a few days later.  Scott contributed to a thirteen game winning streak before being let go – and was never heard from again (or, for that matter, easily identified because all we know is Scott’s last name).  Vaccaro thinks that Scott is actually Blaisdell playing under an assumed name to avoid issues with his suspension.  The profile says that in order to confirm Vaccaro’s theory they would need to find a “smoking gun.”

Newspaper evidence suggests that Blaisdell and Scott are not the same person.  On the day that Scott appears in his first game for Baltimore, Blaisdell had returned from Kansas City by train to Lynn, claiming that new Kansas City manager Ted Sullivan asked Blaisdell to scout the east for players and was planning on staying in the area for ten days.  And, in early August, when Scott was playing in his last series with Baltimore on August 3rd and 4th, Blaisdell was scheduled to pitch for Biddeford against the Sanfords on August 2nd.  When the Sanfords saw that Blaisdell was on the mound for the Biddefords, they refused to play the game knowing Blaisdell was a suspended pitcher.  Why would someone “hiding” from a suspension and playing major league baseball leave his team for a day to pitch in a semi-pro game somewhere where his cover might be blown?

In 1885, he was reinstated and allowed to pitch for Haverhill.  Sadly, that’s where Blaisdell’s baseball career ends.  A year later, just 24 years old, Phthitis (tuberculosis) claimed the young pitcher on 20 August 1886.

SOURCES:

https://www.baseball-reference.com/

https://www.findagrave.com/

https://www.blaisdell.org/Index.htm (retrieved August 29, 2020)

Massachusetts Birth and Death Records
Massachusetts Marriage Records
New Hampshire Birth Records

1865 Rhode Island Census
1830, 1850, 1870, 1880 US Census
1882 Lynn, Massachusetts City Directory

Nemec, David (editor). Major League Baseball Profiles, 1871 – 1900, Volume 2, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, Page 353.

Lynn Box Scores, Boston Globe, April to July, 1884,

“Around the Bases,” Boston Globe March 25, 1884: 4.

“Balls and Strikes.,”Boston Globe, 12 April 1884, Page 5.

“Gossipy Gleanings,” Boston Globe, July 06, 1884: 3.

“Keystones, 8; Kansas Citys, 5.,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 10 July 1884, Page 8.

“Keystones, 16; Kansas Citys, 4.,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 12 July 1884, Page 6.

“Innocents Abroad.,” Kansas City Daily Times, July 12, 1884: 8.

“Balls and Strikes.,” Boston Globe, July 16, 1884: 2.

“Baltimore Unions 17, Kansas City 5.,” Baltimore Sun, 17 July 1884, Page 1.

“Gossipy Gleanings,” Boston Globe, 18 July 1884, Page 2.

“The Kansas City Unions.,” Kansas City Star, July 19, 1884, Page 1.

“Base-Ball.,” Baltimore Sun, 05 August 1884, Page 4.

“Around the Bases.,” Boston Globe, 05 August 1884, Page 5.

“Newburyports, 7; Roxburys, 4.,” Boston Globe, 07 September 1884, Page 8.

“Blacklisted Baseballists Reinstated,” Bridgewater Courier-News, 04 April 1885, Page 2.

“Gossipy Gleanings.,” Boston Globe, 16 April 1885, Page 3.

“Haverhills, 7; Newburyports, 6.,” Boston Globe, 26 July 1885, Page 4.

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