June 17, 1889. George Goetz, The “Fallen Phenom”

I can’t tell you much about Philip Goetz, but I can tell you this.

He was born in Pennsylvania around 1836. He was a shoemaker who married a girl named Ann. They lived in Greencastle, had some children – Clara, Alice, Grace, George, Rose, Frank, Ruth, Mollie, and Ross. Maybe more. I can’t be sure.

Philip Goetz died, age 77, in 1913.

This isn’t about Philip, anyway. And, it’s not about Greencastle, Pennsylvania, although the Goetz family was growing and thriving there in the 1860s when the Civil War was raging and Greencastle was the site of skirmishes, battles, and Confederate encampments, and is just 10 miles from Chambersburg, 30 miles from Antietam, and 35 miles from Gettysburg.

Greencastle, Pennsylvania

It’s not about any of that. It’s about Philip Goetz’s eldest son George, who was born in 1865, after all of that, and there is precious little known of him, either.

Except for this.

In a baseball game on June 17, 1889, George B. Goetz, son of Philip and Ann, was the Baltimore Orioles’ starting pitcher.

It was his first major league appearance. His last one, too.

George is a bit hard to find, not least because he is known as George only on the 1870 census, when he is five, and in his one game for the Orioles.

Everyone else, it seems, called him Bert.

Why? Here’s my guess. Our George B. Goetz, the son of Philip, “a shoemaker,” was born in tiny Greencastle in 1865.

George H. Goetz, the son of John, a “dealer in shoes,” was also born in tiny Greencastle … in 1864.

George H., the elder of the Georges, perhaps got dibs on the name.

This is only a guess. It will not be my only guess about George B. Goetz.

But, I don’t need to guess about the game on June 17, 1889. Continue reading

Toot-Toot! Oh, To Be In Fox Lake In 1868

By Royalbroil via Creative Commons

I don’t know much about Fox Lake, Wisconsin. I’d never even heard of it before now.

I bet it’s nice.

1914’ish

Fox Lake, a town of about 1,500 that’s 70-odd miles northwest’ish of Milwaukee, does include an actual lake and Wisconsonites (Wisconsonians?) consider it one of the best in the state for fishing, especially if you like walleye, which is a decidedly Midwestern thing. The lake is also amply populated by northern pike and crappie, along with muskie, bluegill, and bass, but really it’s the walleye that brings the fishermen back to Fox Lake.

Public Domain

I was delighted to discover that Fox Lake is the hometown of Bunny Berigan, the great jazz trumpeter. I had a friend who was head-over-heels for Bunny Berigan and how she picked him out of all the jazz trumpeters in the world escapes me. What, Miles Davis wasn’t good enough?

Maybe it was because of Berigan’s 1935 hit “Chicken and Waffles” …

 

Or maybe she was just soft on Wisconsonites (Wisconsonians?).

(Bunny, whose real first name was Roland, died in 1942 of cirrhosis. He was 33. Fox Lake’s long-running annual Bunny Berigan festival ended, sadly, in 2018.)

If you are now thinking there ain’t no way, no how this story is going to come around to baseball, then clearly you don’t know me well. Continue reading

Until Then, There Is Coffee

Sometimes I sit with my morning coffee and think …

This is it. This is the high point of my day.

It’s not that I don’t expect something better to happen in the hours ahead.

It’s not that I expect something worse.

I just take another sip and think …

Nothing. Nothing else is going to happen today.

This is both sort of sad, but also comforting.

At least the day had a high point. And, if nothing happens that means that nothing bad will happen.

That’s about as good as it gets these days.

This morning’s coffee, ordered special from a California roaster north of San Francisco where Editor/Husband and I spent our wedding day (long story), is smooth and rich and better than Starbucks or Peets or Dunkin’ Donuts, or whatever it is you can buy off the grocery shelf.

Two months ago, I would throw my coffee into my travel mug and rush out the door. I always like arriving early at my studio so when my first client of the day strolls in, I look settled … like I’ve been there for hours.

But, I didn’t savor the coffee. I had other things to do.

Now, with my studio closed, I pay very close attention to the coffee. What else do I have to do?

I’m sitting here, in my pajamas, drinking my coffee. I guess I’m looking pretty settled here. Bad hair day, sure. But, hey, whose isn’t?

On Monday mornings, I open the calendar on my computer and one-by-one delete each appointment for the week ahead. Delete. Delete. Delete.

I wonder how my clients are doing.

I wonder if they miss me.

I take another sip. Continue reading

Paul Hines:  A Little More To Unspool

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?

Providence Grays, 1882

Paul Hines

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. Continue reading

Paul Hines, Baseball Player: The Unblurrification

It’s the first thing I do every morning. I feed the three cats. They are my top priority and the cats expect no less. I could do it in my sleep and I think, in a way, that’s sort of what I do.

“Feed us.”

Memories get old and, eventually, blurry. Like the minutes when you first wake up, there’s still some nighttime left in your head. Those weird 4 a.m. dreams haven’t quite disappeared. You’re not asleep, but you’re not quite awake. It’s still a little blurry.

Paul Hines, baseball player, is like that. Blurry.

1890

It was a long time ago. There’s no video, no newsreels, no oral histories hidden away in boxes, no people left who saw him play.

And, that makes me wonder about the things that Paul Hines did. Did he really do them? And, if he did, why are people so focused on proving he didn’t?

I make my coffee only after the cats are fed. Often, coffee must wait so I can move the cat plates around so that Zuzu doesn’t push into Mookie’s plate before Mookie is through. I’m the cafeteria monitor. The cat-feteria monitor. Once the plates are reordered, then I make my coffee. That, too, I think I could do in my sleep.

The Unblurrification

Paul Hines was born in Virginia in 1855. Of the nearly 300 big leaguers born in Virginia, he was the first. Continue reading

Major A.K. Fulton. The Good Luck Baseball Fan.

I suppose I should tell you that the Baltimore Orioles won two of their first three games this season, defeating the Yankees … in New York.

“At the corner of Unacceptable and Intolerable, the Yankees lost a season-opening series to the Orioles.”The New York Post

Even the Cleveland Spiders, the worst team ever, won 20 games in 1899 (they lost 134), so don’t get too giddy about two wins — no matter how unexpected. (Still … yay.)

That’s not why I’m here, anyway. I’m here to tell you about Major Albert Kimberly (A.K.) Fulton of Baltimore and his strange connection to the Baltimore Orioles of the 1890s.

And, I’m starting at the end …

The Baltimore Sun, 2/1/1900

Major Fulton was 63 when he died in January 1900, living a generous 16 additional years beyond the frighteningly short life expectancy of the time. Continue reading

“Baltimore Base-Ball Club’s Suits Have A Washday”

There was a time – long before our time – when a housewife would set aside her entire Monday for doing the laundry.

I do a lot of laundry.

I have a washing machine that will agitate itself into a frenzy. I have eco-friendly laundry detergent and a dryer that runs extremely hot. With the exception of folding, I do very little.

It takes awhile, but it doesn’t take all day.

I still hate it.

But, I really would have hated it in 1895 when hours upon hours were spent boiling water over a fire and then scrubbing and rubbing and twisting out stains with caustic soaps and lye and turpentine until your hands turned red and peeled and bled.

Sure, the clothes wringer made washing day a little less back-breaking, but, as you can see, its biggest benefit was giving the wife time to get dinner on the table in time.

Doing the laundry in 1895 has nothing to do with baseball.

Until I found this …

The Baltimore Sun, 2/7/1895

“This wash-day scene is a sign of spring.” ~ The Baltimore Sun

Fourteen black Orioles uniforms were hanging to dry at the von der Horsts’ on a February day in 1895. Continue reading

1884: Richmond Joins The Major Leagues

Our story so far … On August 2, 1884, after an atrocious 12-51 record, the Washington Nationals of the American Association folded mid-season. The Richmond Virginians, playing in the lesser Eastern League, were tapped to complete the remaining games on Washington’s schedule. Those games represent the only major league games in Richmond baseball history.

If you’re going to picture Richmond, Virginia’s history of major league baseball – 71 days and 46 games in 1884 – you’re going to have to use your imagination.

They played at Virginia Ball-Park.

And, the outfield – rocky and uneven, but wider and deeper than most outfields – was over here, more or less …

… where the controversial statue of Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart stands today on Richmond’s Monument Avenue.

And, the front gate, home plate, and wooden grandstand where the brass band would play were over here …

… where the even more controversial statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee now stands just a few blocks away.

That’s Richmond, Virginia in a nutshell. Its history is a wonderful pastoral pastime and its history is a conflicted and ugly war. And, sometimes they converge.

Like they did in 1884. Continue reading

1884: Those Other Washington Nationals

“We are going to have a genuine baseball revival this season.” –  Lloyd Moxley, 1884.

Lloyd. Lloyd. Lloyd.

God knows you tried.

There you were spending your money on a brand new baseball team, bringing major league baseball to Washington, DC. You had plans. Big plans.

You polished up a ballpark. Paid for a fine team of players.

You filled the schedule with Ladies Days, giving women free admission.

You put comfortable cushions on the seats.

You bought a “giant gong” to announce the start of games.

Sure, you wouldn’t sell alcohol, but who needs beer when you’ve got cigar stands and concessions galore? Continue reading

They Called Him Dad

Dad Clarke never married. He had no children.

But, baseball fans called him Dad, reporters called him Dad, everyone called him Dad, although his given name, which was given in 1865, was William.

Public Domain

Dad Clarke, circa 1888.

He is the only childless “Dad” I know.

I wonder if that seemed peculiar to him? To be a Dad in name only?

There are a lot of dads in baseball. The lower-case, fathers-with-children kind. Some ballplayers today have kids like other people have Tupperware. Just lots of kids. Preternaturally fertile, these players.

(Full disclosure: I am a kidless writer. I do not know beans about parenting. But, I had a dad, and I called him Dad, so I’m confident that I’m qualified to write this.)

There are only a handful of ballplayers who, over the years, were known primarily as “Dad.” Not as a sometime nickname, but as the name that overrode the name they were given.

Or, were there?

Continue reading