Happy Birthday, Walter Marbet!

“With the game lost, Walter Marbet, the new pitching acquisition from Cleveland, Tenn., made his first appearance. He gave cause for hope. Marby seems to have a ‘hop’ on his fast ball, and he has a good curve. He escaped damage in the last two rounds though the outfielders were kept busy.”

“Card Chirpings,” St. Louis Star and Times, June 18, 1913: 8.

With little professional fanfare, Walter Marbet was lifted from the obscurity of Kentucky and Tennessee baseball diamonds and placed on the mound used by the St. Louis Cardinals. His stay in the majors was about two weeks; it took but three days to show that Marbet belonged behind the counter of his family businesses in rural Tennessee.

Walter William Marbet was born on September 13, 1891 in Merrill, Iowa to Swiss immigrants Jacob and Pauline (Karrer) Marbet. The German speaking parents arrived in the United States around 1880 and had three sons – Walter arrived after Albert and before Otto. Around 1896, the Marbets left Iowa for Hohenwald, Tennessee – a town founded by Swiss immigrants about the time that Jacob and Pauline arrived in the United States. In fact, part of what is now Hohenwald includes a town named New Switzerland. Jacob opened a hotel there and ran the hotel until his retirement around World War I.

walter-marbetWalter and Otto both played baseball in Hohenwald in the late 1900s and early 1910s. In fact, they both tried out with the Nashville Volunteers in 1911. Otto’s career never got much beyond that tryout, though he played baseball locally for several years. Walter’s first impression might have been a bit different. In an exhibition game against Vanderbilt, Walter reached as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning and, forgetting a belt, struggled to keep his pants above his posterior while racing to first base. Walter and his flying fanny didn’t make it with Nashville, though he was was versatile enough with a strong arm – good enough to get a look with Clarksville in the Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee League – called the Kitty League at that time.

Walter Marbet played first base, center field, and pitched with Clarksville for much of 1911 and then semi-professionally for Centreville, TN to begin 1912. That June, Walter signed with Paducah in the Kitty League. At first, the tall and lean Marbet was stunningly successful. After winning his maiden effort, the righthander went 14 innings to beat Hopkinsville. However, three weeks after he signed with Paducah, he either lost his nerve or lost his fastball. By early August, manager Pat Bohannon told Marbet to stay home. Marbet agreed and stated he wouldn’t return to Paducah until he was in condition to win games.

Something changed – Marbet wanted to pitch but didn’t want to return to Paducah for 1913. After trying to sell Marbet’s rights, Paducah traded Marbet for infielder Daddy Whitaker with Cleveland of the Appalachian League. There, Marbet found his form – and pitched well enough in front of a St. Louis Cardinals scout to earn a trip to the Gateway City. Marbet’s signing earned a surprised take from his old home city. The Paducah Evening Sun noted, “Marbet pitched star ball for Clarksville in 1911, but his arm went bad, and he showed only flashes of his form last season. Whether Marbet can make good in fast company is a puzzle to the fans.”

A couple of weeks after arriving in St. Louis, Manager Miller Huggins gave Marbet two innings of mop up duty in an 8 – 3 loss to Brooklyn on June 17, 1913. Two days later, desperate to find anyone who could pitch, Huggins gave a start to Marbet against the same Brooklyn nine. This time, Marbet wouldn’t be so lucky. In the first inning an error and two singles scored a run with one out. However, after a foul out, Casey Stengel was fooled by the hidden ball trick to end the inning with just the one run scored. In the second inning, after a ground out, six straight Brooklyn batters singled, scoring four runs and ending Marbet’s day – Bob Harmon came in to finish the remaining 7.2 innings.

Marbet got one more chance – this time in the tenth inning of a June 25 game that was 1 – 1 when the extra inning started. Rube Geyer was hammered by Pittsburgh, so Huggins called for Marbet. Marbet proceeded to walk the next three batters, forcing in two more runs. Huggins next tried Poll Perritt, who at least got the final out – if not quickly. Exactly a month later, St. Louis sent Marbet back to Cleveland, TN.

And with that, Walter Marbet’s professional career was over. And it was Walter, not Walt. If you run queries for “Walt Marbet” on Newspapers.com you won’t get a single hit. But “Walter Marbet” returns scores of hits over a five or ten year period of time. Marbet tried out one more time in 1914, but the Nashville Volunteers decided he wasn’t good enough after three years wandering through other professional circuits. He’d play locally in any number of amateur or semi-professional leagues for the rest of the decade, but Walter Marbet’s days getting paid to play baseball were done.

Like many of this era, Marbet registered for the draft as World War I started. However, a few things changed. His father sold the hotel business – and Walter Marbet became a year older, listing his birthdate as 1890 instead of 1891. On that registration form, Marbet used his father’s retirement as a reason he should have been exempt from military service – he was the lone provider for his father. One figures that the locals saw through the ruse. Walter eventually was inducted into the Army and sent to Camp Wadsworth in late October, 1918. The war ended three weeks later and Private Marbet soon returned home.

Marbet married a woman at least twelve years his junior, Florine Springer. His father was eighteen years older than his mother, so maybe this was in his genes. To pay the bills, he operated a grocery store for the better part of thirty years. The life long Democrat also served two terms as a county trustee from 1944 to 1948. Florine helped run the family grocery store and gave birth to two children. The oldest, Dorothy, would marry and move away. His son, Jacob Springer Marbet, opened a service station around 1950 but only ran it for five years – he would perish in an automobile wreck at just 29 years old in 1955. Walter Marbet still worked the service station in Hohenwald when lung cancer took him to the next league on September 9, 1956 – just four days shy of his 65th birthday, He was buried in Swiss Cemetery in Hohenwald two days later.

NOTES:

Baseball-Reference,com
Retrosheet.org
FindaGrave.com

1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940 US Censuses
Iowa Birth Records
Tennessee Death Records
Tennessee Marriage Records
World War I Registration Records

“Walter Marbet,” Nashville Tennessean, February 8, 1911: 7. (Includes picture.)

“Three of Hirsig’s Proteges Arrive,” Nashville Banner, March 14, 1911: 12.

“Notes of Yesterday’s Game,” Nashville Banner, April 6, 1911: 16

“Diamond Dope,” Hopkinsville Kentuckian, April 15, 1911: 4.

Jack Nye, “Vol. Sidelights,” Nashville Banner, May 25, 1911: 14.

“Go Out and See New Club,” Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle, May 22, 1912: 1.

“14 Innings to Great Victory,” Paducah Evening Sun, June 28, 1912: 6.

“Big Chief,” Paducah Evening Sun, August 8, 1912: 1.

“Kitty Scratches,” Paducah Evening Sun, May, 8, 1913: 6.

“Walter Marbet Given Tryout by Cardinals,” Paducah Evening Sun, June 6, 1913: 8.

“Card Chirpings,” St. Louis Star and Times, June 18, 1913: 8.

“Marbet Will Go Full Route Today Against Dodgers,” St. Louis Star and Times, June 19, 1913: 10.

“Dodgers Pass Cubs; Return in Third Place,” Brooklyn Standard Union, June 20, 1913: 12.

“Big Bob Before Native Friends,” Davenport Daily Times, June 26, 1913: 13

“Contracts and Releases,” Fall River Globe, July 25, 1913: 6.

“Colonels Romp on Vols 6 to 2,” Nashville Banner, March 23, 1914: 10.

“N., C. & ST. L. Team Defeats Hohenwald,” Nashville Banner, July 6, 1916: 10.

“Moore Democratic Primary Quiet,” Nashville Banner, April 2, 1946: 18.

“Hohenwald Man Killed in Wreck,” Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle, August 26, 1955: 4.

W.W. Marbet Dies in Lewis; Rites Wednesday,” Nashville Banner, September 25, 1956: 6.

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