One Inning.

© The Baseball Bloggess

Is this what baseball will be, just hanging on to the memory of one last game?

The one game that you thought would go on forever?

The game where you sat, somewhere up in the stands. Tight up against those other fans.

Seeing what you always see and not wondering if you’d ever see the likes of that again.

Was that you?

A fan in the stands.

July 11, 1910

The not-so-good Cardinals are playing the not-so-good Doves on a partly cloudy Monday in St. Louis.

Game time 3:45 at old League Park. You know the place. The one with the beer garden.

The one with the fans. Those St. Louis fans. Those cranks. Those bugs.

They got so crazied up one day back in June that they threw their pop bottles onto left field. So many empty bottles rained down on Pittsburgh’s outfielder that the umpire had to stop the game. He asked a cop to stop the fans.

But, it was awfully hot. And, the cop would not.

And, just a few days ago, a fight broke out in the bleachers. Even the players stopped to watch.

But, things are quiet on July 11.

And, by the 7th inning the home team is down 6-3.

That’s when the Cards put young Bill Chambers, a West Virginia kid, on the mound.

He gives up a hit, gets stung by an error, makes a bad throw to the plate, an unearned run scores.

Keep an eye on young Bill Chambers, that “well-built chap.”

Were you expecting more?

It was just a game.

The Cardinals lose 9-6 and everyone blames the pitchers.

Bill Chambers, that young kid from West Virginia, pitches one inning, puts up one run. Unearned.

Blame everyone else, not me, for those other eight runs, he probably thinks.

The kid running the hand-crank scoreboard on the field lists Bill Chambers as Clemens for awhile. By the time the mistake is discovered, the inning is over.

And, there’s no photo left of young Bill Chambers, the pitcher the scoreboard kid called Clemens.

There’s nothing at all, really. Except the box score.

Did young Bill Chambers think that day would be it? Four batters. One inning in one lousy game on a partly cloudy Monday, a game the Cards had pretty much lost before he’d even warmed up?

Did young Bill Chambers think, “I better hold on to every moment of this, because this will be all there is to remember”?

Did he save the box score?

I wonder what happened to young Bill Chambers.

I wonder what baseball will mean to me now.

Will it just be that box score of that one last game, the one where I sat before everything changed?

Will I try to remember every moment of that game, because that will be all there is to remember?

Will I miss those strangers – those fans, those cranks, those bugs – who sat pressed up against me, nothing in common but our cheers?

Will they miss me?

On July 15, 1910, it is said, Bill Chambers was sent back east.

I hope he did ok.

15 thoughts on “One Inning.

        • Maybe so, but I think it’s just someone’s guess. Chambers’ birth year is listed as 1888, but the gravestone says 1889. (It’s weird, but likely, the gravestone is wrong, which seems odd, but I pulled up his death certificate which says 1888.) But, I can find a slew of other William Chambers born in West Virginia in 1888 … so who knows which one he turned out to be? It would be helpful if these “cup of coffee” players would stick to unique and unusual names so I can find them again.

          • These are the types of stories I love…

            Prior to his arrival, he was pitching in a West Virginia League in Fairmount, WV. That’s serious low level stuff… Afterwards, it looks like he pitched in Flint, MI.

            I don’t want to intrude, but here’s some of the stuff I found.

            1900 US Census: He goes by his middle name – Christian – and is the fifth of nine Chambers children to Joseph and Annie. Joseph is a carpenter and the oldest son works as a cotton weaver. One assumes that Annie was plenty busy raising all those kids… Our kid’s family is at least three generations of West Virginia folk (Joseph’s dad came from WV, too), his mom hails from PA. They are living in Moundsville (Marshall county).

            His Indiana death certificate continues with family data, too. Annie is Annie (or Anna) Lough. WC Chambers was born in Cameron, WV in 1888 (13 September) – he died on 27 March 1962 at St. Joseph hospital in Fort Wayne of viral pneumonia – likely a complication related in part to his emphysema and asthma. His wife Mary confirmed this for the records. He’s listed as retired – Mr. Chambers used to be a packer for the Hillman China company. And, his World War II registration card from 1942 shows him living in Fort Wayne, married to Mary, and working for Lee Hillman. (Oddity – his birthday is listed as 9-5-1888, but what’s eight days among friends?)

            This allows me to work backward in Census records. In 1940, he’s living with Mary and his youngest daughter, Patricia Jean. Thanks to her marriage record, we learn that Mary Chambers is the former Mary Magdalene Grosselle. And, through that I can find the birth record of their oldest daughter, Iileen (with two Is) Helen Chambers. What makes this interesting is that William Christian Chambers is going by Charles Christian Chambers – which seems very odd, no?

            Anyway, our man Chambers is listed as a blacksmith when Iileen is born in 1918. So, let’s go back to the census data. In 1940, he was a packer (same as the death record) but going by Charles with an eighth grade education living in Fort Wayne. (Mary is a presser for a dress factory.) In 1930, he’s Chris C. (it’d be great if he could keep his name straight) – he’s a blacksmith for a gas company in Fort Wayne. Mary, who hails from Ohio, we now learn that her dad was French, but her mom was Irish… Both Iileene and Patricia Jean are living at home. That moves us back to 1920. He’s still a blacksmith at a gas company… He’s married to Mary and they have a toddler (Iileen).

            In the 1910 Census, he’s living in Wheeling with his parents and a good chunk of his brothers and sisters (including child #10). And he’s listed as a ball player.

            Between 1910, when he’s playing ball in WV, St. Louis, and MI and 1920, he moves to Fort Wayne. We can confirm this with his World War I registration. He’s living in Ft. Wayne with his young bride, he’s a blacksmith, and when he filled out his registration card in 1917, he was already of medium height, with a stout build, gray eyes, and balding – what’s left of his hair is brown. And he must have met Mary trying to figure out the rest of his life, having married her in 1916 in her native Defiance, Ohio home.

            The St. Louis Star and Times listed him as C. C. Chambers – a six footer pitching for Fairmount of the West Virginia League who might be a star. (“Bresnahan’s New Twirler,” St. Louis Star, 11 July 1910, Page 7.)

            I found that Chambers signed with the Fort Wayne team after St. Louis passed on him, but for some reason he was not kept and farmed to Flint for 1910 (“Chambers Farmed.,” Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, 28 July 1910, Page 6.), . The Lansing State Journal suggested that Flint regularly moved players between Flint, Toledo, and Fort Wayne because the manager had good friends with the other clubs. By late August, he was recalled to Fort Wayne and in one of his first starts there, threw a shutout..

            As such, Chambers was expected to pitch for Fort Wayne in 1911. He came up with a sore arm, and hung back as an emergency pitcher for a while (“Manager Casey and Local Crowd Off For Wheeling Today,” Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Page 6.) He was loaned around some but couldn’t get the wing loose leading to a suspension. (“Navin Has Nothing Now,” Fort Wayne Daily News, 16 May 1911, Page 3.) What probably happened was that he needed work and took a job with Western Gas and played ball on their local amateur/semi-pro team and stayed in Fort Wayne. (“Two Leaders in City Shop League Are Defeated”, Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, 30 July 1911, Page 25.)

            As soon as he had gone from major league to minor league to semi-pro ball – the more he thought about that inning. The rest is a middle-class, midwestern story. A nice guy, a little heavy, smokes too much, raises two kids with his wife until they move on. Eventually the life of smoking catches up to him – and his wife outlives him by nearly 25 years.

            Thanks for the morning research project!!!

            Paul

            • Wow, interesting stuff you’ve dug up! I found some of it, too, but your extraordinary effort convinced me. I was troubled that there were several William Chambers born in 1888 in W. Virginia … and I got a bit tied up by Boyd Chambers — also a pitcher in Michigan ball at the time, and an infielder named Chambers that made searching for Bill a challenge — but you did a great job of paring down the facts. I had his death certificate that shows that his gravestone is, best I can tell, incorrect … when I enlarged it, I’m fairly certain it says 1889 as his birth year. I just thought that was peculiar.

              And, you found his WWI draft card. I couldn’t dig that up (although I found his WWII card which had far less info).

              When I was writing yesterday, I hadn’t intended to wind up telling Bill Chambers story, I was actually looking for a different story to tell. But, I’m glad I did. Many thanks for spending your morning helping give Bill Chambers his proper story.

    • I love old box scores … and so many have their own unique quirks. Also, the game came in at 2 hours and 31 minutes … although the St. Louis papers complained that the game was very slow because both teams used so many pitchers (four each). I’m sure they would be aghast to learn that 4 pitchers in a game is commonplace now. :)

  1. It will likely be a long pull until you are back in those stands again , but you will be there nevertheless and keeping ylour scorecard while holding your camera between your knees. I can hardly wait for your blog after that game.😎

  2. Great post! That intro moved me!!…. about “just hanging on to the memory of one last game?” I sometimes wonder, sadly, if baseball just stopped…no more…. like some ancient empire that no longer exists. Horrible thought, but at least we’d have our history and imagination.

  3. Pingback: The week gone by — July 12 – A Silly Place

  4. Pingback: Happy Birthday, Bill (but probably Christian) Chambers! | Mighty Casey Baseball

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