Frank Sigafoos, Owner of a Phantom Homer

As a major league player, Frank Sigafoos was a bit snake bit.  Getting four different chances with four different teams, he never was able to get in a good groove with either Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, or Cincinnati.

Frank Sigafoos - IndianapolisAs a Tiger, Sigafoos once hit a home run off of Cuban lefty Oscar Estrada that technically didn’t happen.  It was the only game that Estrada would pitch in the majors – he came on in relief in the ninth inning of a game between the St. Louis Browns and Detroit.  With a runner on base, Sigafoos drilled a pitch far over the wall in right-centerfield.  Except that home plate umpire Bruce Campbell called a balk, nullifying the pitch, the homer, and instead of giving up two runs, Estrada’s penalty was to give up a base to the runner at second.  It would have been Sigafoos’s first, and only, homer.  Maybe it would have turned things around.  Instead, Sigafoos would have to be a star in the minor leagues.

Francis Leonard Sigafoos was born in Easton, PA on 21 March 1904 to William and Kathryn (Beltz) Sigafoos, the first of their four children – though Kathryn brought three daughters into their family from a prior marriage. William Sigafoos was a laborer in chemical works plant. After his days in high school (where he was a three sport star), Frank would work in the coal mines outside of his city.  Looking for a better life, he enrolled in Purdue University where he would play baseball there.  Returning to Philadelphia after college, Sigafoos was playing semi-professional ball when scouted by Connie Mack.  Mack signed him but then dispatched Sigafoos to Newark for the 1925 season.  After hitting .284 there as a third baseman, Mack moved him to Reading where Sigafoos would play shortstop and hit .321, earning a cup of coffee with the Athletics at the end of the 1926 season.  He’d bat .256, but in just 43 at bats.  Mack was no longer enamored with his stocky prospect (5-9, 180); he sold Sigafoos to Portland in the PCL instead.

For two years, Sigafoos hit .335 and .296.  Detroit signed him for the 1929 season, but things didn’t work out and Sigafoos returned to the PCL, this time for Los Angeles.  Hitting .305 there, Cincinnati took an interest in him.  However, after a solid spring training, Sigafoos hit .169 for the Reds and was dispatched to Indianapolis in the American Association. Indians pitcher Bob (Lefty) Logan said of Sigafoos, “He was a swell guy, one of the best, quiet and unassuming … he never bragged about himself and he had great talent.”

It was in Indianapolis that Sigafoos had his best seasons, including a 1933 season where he batted .370, with 53 doubles and had a league record 41 game hitting streak.  Sigafoos loved the city, he loved the fans, and a few years after his baseball career ended, he would return to Indianapolis for the rest of his days.

By then, Frank and his wife, Alice, had been married and living in various American baseball cities for years. He was just finishing high school when the personal secretary of the Easton mayor surprised her friends who were about to throw her a surprise shower – announcing she was getting married. That was 1923. Alice E. Weppel provided one son, Ron, after Frank’s playing days ended. In the off-seasons, Frank took a position with Citizens Gas in Indianapolis.  After spending two years in Louisville, one year as a minor league nomad – and watching his batting average fall from .341 to .253 – he retired from baseball and went to work for Citizen’s Gas all year, which he did for nearly 30 years.

Frank SigafoosAfter his retirement, the company’s recreation and athletic association endowed a scholarship in Sigafoos’s name, awarding $500 to a local high school baseball player for use in his first year of college.

While mowing his lawn, his wife found him slumped near the lawnmower.  Sigafoos died of a heart attack on April 12, 1968; his remains were cremated.









Sources:

Baseball-Reference
FindAGrave.com
Indiana Death Certificate
1910, 1920, 1930, 1940 US Censuses

“Frank Sigafoos Gets ‘Another’ Night,” Indianapolis Star, December 4, 1966: Section 4, Page 10.

“Tribe Infielder Crowned Champ,” Indianapolis Star, December 25, 1933: 26.

“Overman Wins Sigafoos Award,” Indianapolis Star, July 11, 1968: 45.

“Frank Sigafoos Dies; Indians’ Baseball Star,” Indianapolis Star, April 14, 1968: 1, 7.

Harry Bullion, “When is a Circuit Blow Equivalent to a Pass,” Detroit Free Press, April 22, 1929: Sports, Page 1.

“Mayor’s Stenog Weds Easton’s Star Athlete,” Allentown Morning Call, August 26, 1923: 10.

“Alice Sigafoos dies; ballplayer’s widow,” Indianapolis Star, October 30, 1985: 53

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