In 1903 Alonzo Hedges briefly became a baseball sensation.
“Pongo” Joe Cantillon, manager of the pitching strapped Milwaukee Brewers in the American Association acquired fellow Kentuckian Hedges in August from the Paducah Chiefs in the Kitty League (no roster exists for the team, but Hedges is listed in multiple box scores in Kentucky newspapers).
Said to be a 19-year-old, Hedges started his first game for Milwaukee the day after his arrival and shut down the Columbus Senators–he took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, giving up a single with two outs.
After another shutout in his second game, Hedges, “The Boy Pitcher of Milwaukee,” appeared headed for stardom. He wasn’t.
First, The Chicago Tribune revealed in mid August that “The ‘boy pitcher’, whom a number of clubs are after, is really 23-years-old.” Then Hedges faltered. While posting a 5-4 record he was hit hard in last 11 games with Milwaukee, after being nearly unhittable in the first two.
Back in the Kitty League with the Springfield Hustlers in 1904, Hedges was effective and helped lead the team to the league championship (again, no statistics survive), but he was no longer mentioned seriously as prospect.
Newspaper accounts indicate he was the “Hedges” who appeared in four games for the Webb City Goldbugs in the Missouri Valley League in 1905—although an arm injury ended his career early in the season. Hedges signed with the Springfield Senators of the Three-I League in 1906, but it appears that he never played for the team.
How Hedges ended up with Springfield after his brief time in Milwaukee is the real story.
One of the stories that has been told and retold about the colorful Joe Cantillon is that in 1915, while part owner and manager of the Minneapolis Millers, he traded a player, “outfielder Bruce Hopper,” to the Chicago Cubs for a hunting dog.
There are two problems with the oft-repeated story: ”outfielder Bruce Hopper” is actually pitcher Bill “Bird Dog” Hopper, and contemporaneous accounts mentioning that Hopper was once traded for a dog provide no details of the transaction and predate Hopper’s tenure playing for Cantillon.
However, such a trade might have taken place, but it happened more than ten years earlier and the player traded was Alonzo Hedges.
A 1910 article in The Milwaukee Sentinel mentions that Milwaukee Brewers owner Charles Sheldon Havenor kept a photo of Cantillon on his desk, along with a letter. The letter read:
“The mother of the dog in the picture is the one I received in exchange for Alonzo Hedges, the pitcher.”
The story went on to tell the story of the trade:
“Cantillon went to Springfield, IL, to see a friend of his who owned the Springfield club and ran a cafe on the side. During the course of the afternoon the friend showed Joe a couple of dandy setter puppies.”
Later in the discussion when the Springfield owner mentioned his need for pitching, Cantillon offered to sell him Hedges, and Cantillon said “I’ll let you have the fellow for one of those dogs.”
The Sentinel concluded:
“Mr. Hedges may not have been much of a bear cat as a pitcher, but he probably has the distinction of being the only ball player in captivity ever traded for a dog.”
One more note on Hedges. The Chicago Tribune might have been wrong, the 23-year-old “Boy Pitcher,” might have actually been 26-years-old. While Hedges grave lists his birth date as 1880, all extant records, including Hedges’ death certificate and census data, indicate he was born on 1877.
Hedges passed away January 12, 1928 in Paducah, Kentucky.