Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ollie Berg Accomplishes Incredibly Rare Feat

Wahpeton-Breckenridge pitcher Ollie (or "Allie") Berg received mention in the September 16, 1902 edition of The Minneapolis Journal for an incredibly rare feat: an unassisted triple play. The unassisted triple play occurs when a fielder is responsible for recording three outs on one batted ball, without any assistance from the other fielders. The play is so incredibly rare that it has happened only 15 times in the history of Major League Baseball. Berg turned his triple play in 1901 when he was pitching for a Langdon, North Dakota town team against a town team from Cavalier, North Dakota. 

Unassisted triple plays in Major League Baseball: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/history/rare_feats/?feature=unassisted_triple_plays

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Moorhead's Frank Kulp Dies in Oregon

One unique aspect of the 1897 Red River Valley League was the fact that players came from far and wide to play baseball on the northern plains. Frank Kulp was originally from Le Sueur, Minnesota, coming up from southern Minnesota to play for the Moorhead Barmaids in 1897. Kulp's baseball career was relatively brief and likely began in 1896, when he served as captain of the Winona, MN club. After the 1897 season in Moorhead, Kulp played a few more years of amateur ball before making his way to the West Coast. He became a police officer in Bend, Oregon, and eventually served a brief stint as their Chief of Police before his death in 1923.

The Bend Bulletin, January 11, 1923. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Perham Team Had Ties to 1897 Fargo Divorcees

The 1901 Perham baseball team had two players who likely had ties to the Red River Valley League of 1897. The catcher on the team is listed as H. Howe, and I believe this is Henry "Harry" Howe, who played for the Fargo Divorcees after several years playing for other Midwest clubs in both the Western League and Western Association. The pitcher on the Perham club is listed as C. T. Roberts, and I believe this is Charles "Tad" Roberts, brother of Lee Roberts, the player and manager on the Fargo club of 1897. Lee and Tad often played together on Fargo nines during the other summers of the 1890s. The picture explains that all of the Perham players were local men, except for the battery (the pitcher and the catcher). Tad Roberts hailed from Fargo and Harry Howe was likely from the Twin Cities, so that piece of the puzzle seems to fit.

The Minneapolis Journal, August 26, 1901

The Perham club of 1901 participated in a loose organization of clubs, a common occurrence among town teams of the era. Unlike the Red River Valley League of 1897, Perham's league was not officially recognized by the National or American Leagues. Nevertheless, the club certainly reveled in its success.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Bill Zink Honored 40 Years After RRVL, 30 Years After Historic Game

The May 27, 1937 Hutchinson News reported that its beloved ballplayer, Bill Zink, would be honored at a ceremony before the May 29 game between the Hutchinson Larks and Joplin (MO) Miners. The Larks were a Class C farm team of the Pittsburgh Pirates at the time, while the Miners were affiliated with the New York Yankees. Bill Zink played in Kansas from 1906-1910, in 1906 as a member of the Leavenworth Old Soldiers, and 1907-1910 as a member of the Hutchinson Salt Packers. On May 29, 1907, Zink took part in a 23 inning contest between Hutchinson and Oklahoma City. After his playing career, Zink settled down with his family in Hutchinson, so he was invited back to Carey Municipal Park in Hutchinson exactly 30 years later to be honored for his part in the memorable game (box score is below). The game was seven innings longer than the longest game of the 1897 season, when Zink was a member of the Fargo Divorcees. On August 2, 1897 Zink played shortstop for the Fargo club in a 16 inning loss to Moorhead. In the 4 to 2 loss, Zink had two hits in six at-bats with a run scored.

"Special Events With Baseball," The Hutchinson News, May 27, 1937, p. 2.
Box score: "A Remarkable Baseball Game," The Leavenworth Post, May 30, 1907, p. 4.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Baseball in the Snow?

What better way to ring in the new year than with a good 'ol game of baseball? Well, typically the weather conditions prevent such a celebration, but in 1899, the folks of Wahpeton decided to give it a try. It must have been a mild day, and a small amount of snow on the ground did not seem to bother the men who came to Wahpeton's Island Park to participate in the "national game." They even attracted a small crowd to witness the novel event.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Another Fargo Major Leaguer? - Some Detective Work

Though not directly relevant to the 1897 Red River Valley League season, the July 14th Forum gave readers an update on a player named Sexton, who had played in Fargo as Wilson the summer before. Sexton was now playing left field for the New Bedford, Massachusetts team of the New England League and was reported to be “batting like a fiend.” After a short trip over to the indispensable www.baseball-reference.com, I discovered that the 1897 New Bedford, MA team did feature a player named Frank Sexton, who had played in 1895 in the National League for the Boston Beaneaters. To confirm that Sexton and Wilson were indeed the same person, I had to determine when and where Sexton played during the summer of 1896. Sporting News articles show Sexton playing in late June 1896 for a team in Springfield, Massachusetts. Sexton disappears from the Springfield box scores after that, which corresponds to the appearance of a Wilson playing for Fargo, who first appeared in late July 1896. The story seems to check out that another major leaguer likely played in Fargo in 1896. 
- “Baseball,” Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, July 14, 1897.
- http://www.baseball-reference.com/register/team.cgi?id=089fa5df
- http://www.baseball-reference.com/register/team.cgi?id=093512be
- The Sporting News, June 27, 1896.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Steele and Zink Reunite

Teammates on the 1897 Fargo Divorcee baseball team, Fred "Jack" Steele and Bill Zink would cross paths again just three years later. Not only did the two men play on the same team, the 1900 Terre Haute Hottentots, they also lived at the same address. It was not uncommon at the time for players to board together in the same residence. The transient nature of minor league baseball players at the time meant such an arrangement make sense. The 1900 Federal Census lists Steele and Zink as being "roomers" at the residence of Albert Kohler in Bloomington, Illinois. Nine ballplayers are listed under the same Bloomington residence. Three of the men are designated as "boarders" and six as "roomers." The term boarder seems to suggest a more permanent status of residency, though at least one of the boarders played with Steele and Zink on the 1900 Hottentots. With the distance between Bloomington and Terre Haute being 140 miles, it is highly doubtful the men stayed at the Kohler residence during the summer baseball season of 1900.

See larger image here: http://historicbaseballfargo.blogspot.com/p/steele-and-zink-1900-federal-census.html

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Pike's Decision: Cigars or Baseball?

Pike Mullaney was the star pitcher, along with Bob Brush, of the 1897 Moorhead Barmaids club that ran away with the Red River Valley League pennant. Mullaney went on to play a few more years of independent baseball in Superior, Wisconsin. By 1901, however, he had disappeared from the baseball scene. Mullaney found his way into the cigar manufacturing business, and he appeared to be content with his full-time work. That fact didn't stop the Duluth News Tribune from buzzing, when in the spring of 1904, Mullaney moved his operations from Eveleth, MN to Superior. 

The local professional club, the Superior Longshoreman of the Class D Northern League, was set to welcome Mullaney's former teammate in Moorhead, Artie O'Dea, to its team, as well as George Keas, Fargo's captain from 1897. Pike, however, would not join the 1904 edition of the Superior baseball nine. Still, local fans hoped they would at least see the star pitcher in some amateur games that summer.

Duluth News Tribune, May 5, 1904

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Big Bill Zink... Was, Not Surprisingly, Big

William Henry "Bill" Zink, Fargo's star infielder from 1897, was not a large man by modern standards. His girth was sufficient by turn of the 20th Century standards, however, to earn him the nickname "Big" Bill Zink. The Rock Island Islanders welcomed Zink to Illinois in 1901, and the local paper lauded his success so far in his young baseball career. Along with providing a brief synopsis of Zink's baseball exploits, the paper informed readers that Zink was, well, big:

The Argus (Rock Island, IL) March 27, 1901

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Rookie Pitcher Deacon Phillippe Tosses No-Hitter

Less than two years after appearing with Fargo in the Red River Valley League, Charles "Deacon" Phillippe found himself in the major leagues pitching for the Louisville Colonels of the National League. On May 25, 1899, Phillippe shut down the New York Giants, surrendering no hits and issuing three walks in a 7-0 Colonel victory. It would be the only no-hitter of his career. Below, Phillippe received accolades from The Sporting Life, appearing on the front page of the June 10 edition of the sporting weekly. The paper spelled his last name as Phillippi, a customary error made for several years by most newspapers. 

The Sporting Life, June 10, 1899.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Gordon's Ad

Senator William Gordon's advertisement in the Grand Forks city directory:

Sunday, July 5, 2015

25 Inning Game Ends in Scoreless Tie

July 18, 1891 - Six years prior to the Red River Valley League, rivals Fargo and Grand Forks squared off in a contest at Devils Lake. After four hours and ten minutes, the teams called it a day and took their trains home. The contest ended without a single run scored, and it would be cited for years afterward as the longest baseball game ever played. RRVL fans would recognize the name of Jimmy Banning as a participant in the game who also played in the 1897 league. (McDonald, erroneously listed in the boxscore as Fargo's right fielder, played third base in this game, and may also be the same McDonald who played for the 1897 Fargo Divorcees.)

"A Record Breaker," The Sporting Life, August 8, 1891, p.8

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Former Lakota Manager Ernie Kent Dies - 8/18/1912

Though not directly involved in the 1897 Red River Valley League, Ernie Kent was a prominent name in local baseball in the 1890s. The league and Kent's Lakota club crossed paths on July 13, 1897 when the Grand Forks Senators defeated Lakota 11-1 in an exhibition game. Kent also managed Fargo catcher Jack Ryan in 1897, for which he deserves our sympathy.

Grand Forks Herald, August 18, 1912

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Grand Forks Catcher William McNeil Dies at 66 - 4/5/1933

Though he played only briefly in the 1897 season after an injury to starting catcher Jake Bouchert, William McNeil was a well-known player and supporter of Grand Forks baseball in the 1890s.

Moorhead Daily News, April 5, 1933

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Former Fargo Pitcher Gus Munch Dies at Age 87 - 8/31/1963

See more about the baseball career of Gus Munch here. His career path was unlike any other player of the 1897 Red River Valley League.

Sporting News, August 31, 1963

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Former Moorhead Pitcher Ed Jess Dies at Age 62 - 12/10/1940

Ed Jess signed on with the Moorhead Barmaids late in the 1897 season. His play was highly regarded, especially after a strong 1896 season with the Crookston club. Jess was also rumored to be one of the men who was paid above the $40/month salary cap of the Red River Valley League. 

Milwaukee Journal, December 10, 1940, p. 41

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Senator Gordon Dies at Age 92 - 11/26/1954

Though he had been away from North Dakota for over a half century, former state senator and Grand Forks baseball manager William A. Gordon was buried in Grand Forks. Gordon was the namesake of the 1897 Grand Forks Senators baseball team of the Red River Valley League.

Grand Forks Herald, November 26, 1954

Monday, June 8, 2015

Jack Page, Shortstop and Captain of 1897 Moorhead Team Dies

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting obituaries of various players and managers involved in the 1897 Red River Valley League. This series began on May 31, with the obituary of Grand Forks pitcher Charlie Hutton.

The obituary from the Grand Forks Herald incorrectly states Jack Page played for the Fargo club in the 1897 RRVL. He was actually team captain of crosstown rival Moorhead.

Grand Forks Herald, December 3, 1918

Friday, June 5, 2015

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Grand Forks Pitcher Charlie Hutton Meets Untimely Death

Grand Forks ace Charlie Hutton seemingly had a promising career ahead of him in baseball. After a strong showing for the 1897 Senators, Hutton appeared for Grand Rapids, MI of the Interstate League in 1898. If he couldn't make it in the minor leagues, Hutton surely could have entertained fans playing amateur baseball in the Red River Valley. The 1902 incarnation of the Northern League in the area may very well have featured a team with Hutton on its roster. But it wasn't to be, as a December 1898 railroad accident tragically took the life of the 24 year old.

"Hutton Dead," Grand Forks Herald, December 23, 1898

"Hutton Killed," Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, December 23, 1898

"In Memoriam," Grand Forks Herald, December 29, 1898

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

"Locked Up in a Cage"

In the June 15 contest between Moorhead and W-B, the actions of W-B team official Claude Rittenhouse were extreme enough to cause the Moorhead Independent to argue that he should be “locked up in a cage.” It began when Moorhead pitcher Pike Mullaney went to retrieve a throw in foul territory that had escaped the reach of first baseman Henry Clayton. When Mullaney reached the ball, the Independent claims, Rittenhouse grabbed the Moorhead ace around the neck and tackled him. Hoping his actions would enable the W-B baserunner on third base to score, Rittenhouse also was said to have tried to trip Mullaney. Watching the outlandish scene unfold was Umpire O’Donnell, who ordered the W-B runner to return to third base as a result of the interference. The umpire did not discipline Rittenhouse in any way, however, possibly because of Rittenhouse’s high position or possibly because the event may not have been as extreme as the Moorhead weekly portrayed it. The paper argued that Rittenhouse should have been ejected from the field and escorted away via police escort. (“Notes of the Diamond,” Moorhead Independent, July 23, 1897).