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5/17 Through the 1910’s: Schoolmaster Sam Tops Iron Man; Eat My Hat; HBD Cool Papa, Harry, Hal, Elmer, Fred, Frank, Billy & Henry

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  • 1857 – IF Billy Reid was born in London, Ontario. The second baseman was part of a wave of Ontario-born Canadian players that played in the majors around the turn of the 20th century. He had a brief career, spending his second and last season with the Alleghenys, batting .243 in 1884. Billy played in the minors until 1888 and returned to London to get on with his life. 
  • 1858 – UT Henry Oberbeck was born in St. Louis (maybe) Missouri (for sure). He played 66 matches for two leagues and four teams in two years for a short-lived but busy MLB career. Henry started out with two games at first base for the Alleghenys in 1883, going two-for-nine with a double and run scored before moving on to the hometown St. Louis Browns. Henry left an impact on baseball when he won a suit against the Browns (Henry Oberbeck v. Sportsman’s Park and Club Association) to collect his entire contracted salary of $785 (although pro-rated by the jury to $431); the MO of the teams in that era was to quit paying a player that they released. It was one of the early court decisions that ruled contracts not only bound the player to the team, but that the team was bound to pay its players. 
Frank Mountain – 1884 Columbus Buckeyes team photo clip (filter ColouriseSG)
  • 1860 – RHP Frank Mountain was born in Fort Edward, New York. Frank, who was coming off a 23-win campaign with a no-hitter, was one of 10 players the Alleghenys bought from the defunct Columbus Colts club after the 1884 season. Frank only got to pitch seven games in 1985-86, going 1-6, and saw more time in his second year at 1b. After hitting .145, his MLB days were done after that season. 
  • 1868 – LHP Fred Woodcock was born in Winchendon, Massachusetts. Fred’s MLB career consisted of five games (four starts) tossed for the 1892 Pirates; he went 1-2/3.35. He had signed out of Brown (he started at Dartmouth and there were suspicions that he was a pro at some point during his college career) by Bucco manager Bill McGunnigle, who was high on him. But alas for both Gunner and Fred, Tom Burns became the Pirates skipper and Woodcock was released. He later pitched for a couple of New England League teams and then became a successful insurance broker. 
  • 1886 – RHP Elmer Steele was born in Rhinebeck, New York. He spent the final two seasons of his five-year career with Pittsburgh in 1910-11, slashing 9-10-2/2.56 over that time. He left the team under unusual circumstances, being sold to Brooklyn in September although the Pirates were in a pennant race at the time. One school of thought believed he had a bad arm, though the likelier tale is that the fiery Steele had thrown several tantrums and finally pushed the Pirates to the brink when he tossed a sweater in the face of Pirates manager Fred Clarke per Bill Newlin of SABR. At any rate, 1911 was his last big league year. He played in the minors until 1914 and settled into being a player & manager in the local Hudson Valley leagues while spending 30 years as a mailman for his day job. 
  • 1889 – Per John Dreker of Pirates Prospects “After issuing 10 BB in his debut (on this date), Pittsburgh P Al Krumm offered to buy a hat for any batter than drew a BB off him next game.” The Alleghenys lost that match to the NY Giants 11-7 as Krumm went the distance. He never did get a chance to back up his bet – it was the only MLB game he ever pitched. 
  • 1892 – RHP Harold “Hal” Carlson was born in Rockford, Illinois. He worked for the Pirates from 1917-23 (with a year off as an infantryman in WW1) to a 42-55/3.64 line as a curve-ball specialist; he had started out as a spitballer, but wasn’t grandfathered in when the pitch was outlawed. Hal was fairly handy with a stick, too, hitting .224. Carlson died while still a player with the Cubs at the age of 38, the victim of a stomach hemorrhage that some suspect may have been a lingering effect from being gassed during the Battle of the Argonne Forest. 
Hal Carlson – 1921 photo Bain/Library of Congress (filter ColouriseSG)
  • 1897 – 3B Harry Riconda was born in New York City. He spent parts of six years in the majors, with a brief two-month stop in Pittsburgh in 1929, arriving as part of the Glenn Wright trade with Brooklyn. Harry got into eight games and went a pretty solid 7-for-15 with three runs scored and two RBI, but was still sent to the minors next season (Hall of Famer Pie Traynor owned third base at the time). He retired two years later. 
  • 1903 – James “Cool Papa” Bell was born in Starkville, Mississippi. He played for both the Homestead Grays (1932, 1943–1946) and Pittsburgh Crawfords (1933–1938), and compiled a .337 BA in the Negro Leagues. His speed was legendary. One Satch Paige story goes that when facing Bell, the outfielder hit a liner up that went zipping past Paige’s ear and hit Bell in the butt as he was sliding into second base. He also claimed that when he roomed with Bell, Cool Papa hit the light switch one night and was in bed before the light went out. The first Mexican League Triple Crown winner (he played there for three years), Bell was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974. Per “Mississippi History Now,” Bell told baseball writer John Holway about his nickname: “They said that ‘he’s so cool he don’t get excited.’ St. Louis Stars Manager Bill Gatewood said, ‘We’ve got to add something to it. We’ll call him Cool Papa.’” Thus was born the legendary name. The Negro League Museum has a slightly different take, saying that when Gatewood thought Bell might be nervous before a big game, Bell responded with a “Don’t worry!” and thus became “Cool Papa.” Yet a third goes back to his pitching days (yep, he started out on the hill) per Baseball Comes Alive: Teammates referred to him as “Cool” after he struck out Oscar Charleston, and then he added “Papa” because he thought it sounded better. Another story says that veteran teammates gave him the moniker as a 17-year-old rookie, when their predictions that big summer crowds would intimidate him proved false; the manager added the “Papa” because of his youth. 
  • 1906 – “The Goshen Schoolmaster” Sam Leever tossed a three-hit shutout against Iron Man Joe McGinnity as the Bucs defeated the New York Giants 2-0. Leever faced just 27 NY batters at Expo Park. Two runners were erased on DPs and the other was caught stealing. Tommie Leach scored the first run and drove home the second. It was a turnaround in fortune for the Pirates. The Pittsburgh Press wrote that after the win “You couldn’t find a ‘knocker’ within 10 miles of Exposition Park (when) a week ago those Buccaneers were mutts.” To add insult to injury, Giant manager John “Mugsy” McGraw was hauled in front of a magistrate after the game and charged with assault after getting into a post-game shouting match with some boys on the way back to his hotel. The “joshing” ended when Mugsy grabbed the whip from his coach driver and lashed at the kids (literally). He caught one urchin in the face, sending him tumbling out his passing wagon.


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