I warned you about this yesterday when I wrote:
“his story rolls out … like a 4 a.m. dream that unspools out of sequence.”
So, may I trouble you with just one more story about Paul Hines, the Virginia-born ballplayer who, in 1878, made baseball’s first unassisted triple play?
The story goes that President William McKinley became friends with Hines in the 1870s and later gave Hines his post-baseball job as the Department of Agriculture postmaster.
President William McKinley
But, aside from one mention in Hines’ 1935 obituary, I couldn’t confirm a connection between McKinley and Hines. That Associated Press obituary said they became pals when Hines first played for the Washington Nationals and McKinley was in Congress. But, Hines was long gone from DC and playing in Chicago when McKinley first came to Congress in 1877, so those years don’t jibe.
But, Hines returned to DC and played three more seasons there in the mid-1880s, so, sure, they may have crossed paths.
In 1890, Hines is “looking after a job in the congressional document room,” according to a news report. He continues to play baseball through the mid-1890s, so maybe this is a temporary, or off-season, position. In any event, maybe McKinley did help him get this low-levelish job.
McKinley loses his congressional seat in 1890 and leaves Washington until 1897, when he returns as President.
Hines is cut from the Burlington Iowa team he is managing in May 1896, and returns to Washington for good.
On the morning of May 24, 1897 Hines is working, in some capacity, in the Old Columbia Law Building at 5th and D Streets, NW.
How do I know this? Because, this happens:
Leonidas Scooffy, a self-described “gentleman of leisure,” and his sister-in-law Miss Willie Lonsdale enter the building and are escorted into the private office of prominent DC lawyer Howe Totten. Scooffy locks the door, brutally assaults the lawyer, takes out a revolver, and threatens to shoot him.
Totten’s cries are heard by his clerks and they rush to help. Hines, who is deaf, doesn’t hear the shouts, but sees the commotion and joins the men in breaking down the locked door.
Hines is credited with helping subdue the assailant.
“Mr. Hines leaped about Scoovey [sic] and with one blow wrenched the pistol away and knocked him to one side of the room,” The Washington Times reported.
Hines is described as “the former baseball player” as his heroism is breathlessly recounted, along with that of the lawyer’s clerks, in Washington’s newspapers.
Leonidas Scooffy, “Gentleman of Leisure”
Scooffy, whose name is misspelled myriad ways in newspapers, comes from a prosperous California family but has settled in Washington, and it’s believed the incident that spurred the assault stemmed around Scooffy’s young bride.
The couple had eloped just four months earlier and moved to New York. The rumors were that she had, at some point, a relationship with Totten.
We’ll never know for sure. Scooffy tells friends in New York that Totten’s people have come to him to settle the situation “with no further publicity.” He is indicted by a grand jury in June 1897, but, just as Scooffy predicted, the case is dropped in November.
Scooffy’s wife, who divorces him shortly afterward, becomes an actress of some note, and gets tied up in her own later scandals, while Scooffy, the gentleman of leisure, returns to California where he becomes a lumber baron up around Mendocino. His obituary, in 1942, doesn’t mention the assault or the arrest, and says that he never married. We know better.
But, back to Paul Hines.
It’s unclear what job Hines held in 1897, but I’m guessing that Howe Totten was grateful that Hines intervened, was instrumental in subduing Scooffy, and was the one who pried the gun away before Schooffy could shoot.
I mean, I would be pretty grateful if someone stopped someone from shooting me. I’d want to thank that person. Wouldn’t you?
Howe Totten and his father were prominent DC lawyers. And, Howe Totten’s grandfather? That was Senator Timothy Howe, who was once offered – and turned down – the position of Chief Justice of the United States and was later named Postmaster General.
In gratitude, could Howe Totten been the one who helped Hines land his postmaster job, perhaps pulling some strings or putting a good word in with the President?
Like I said yesterday, there’s a lot of blurriness surrounding Paul Hines.
And, while we can’t unblur everything, we can say this …
Paul Hines, the player who made baseball’s first unassisted triple play, was a hero that day.
And, it’s a shame that he’s not remembered for it.
Read Part 1 of Paul Hines’ story here.
Read more from the Virginia-Born Baseball Project here.
Thank you to JJ whose comment yesterday spurred me to dig a little deeper.