Tag Archives: Reading Coal Heavers

“Baseballists of Note”

16 Dec

After rain prevented a June 1899 game between the Reading Coal Heavers and Wilkes-Barre Coal Barons of the Atlantic League, The Reading Times said “the handful of rooters that gathered,” had a good time in spite of the weather:

Baseballists of Note

The Wilkes-Barre boys are a jolly lot and, while the rain was falling (performed) a vocal concert by a quartet composed of (Billy) Goeckel, (Bill) Clymer, (Cy) Vorhees, and (Reading’s) Eddie Murphy.  The boys sand ragtime melodies, sentimental songs and selections from various operas in splendid shape.  Murphy, it was learned, is one of the sweetest tenors this old town has met for a long time.  Goeckel has an excellent bass voice, while Clymer sings a clear baritone.  Vorhees’ voice is a cross between a falsetto and a soprano, but at any rate he can make himself heard.”

Baritone Bill Clymer

Baritone Bill Clymer

And there was more:

“Wilkes-Barre’s mascot pup, ‘George,’ also contributed to the amusement of the crowd by chasing balls thrown in the diamond.  Captain Goeckel claims ‘George’ can beat Clymer to a standstill hunting up grounders at short.”

George’s performance managed to improve his image in Reading;  a month earlier after Wilkes-Barre had defeated the Coal Heavers 5 to 4 with a run in the in the ninth, The Times quoted a fan who was convinced the mascot was to blame:

 “Hang these dog mascots; they’re always Reading’s hoodoo.”

Despite the “hoodoo” George was alleged to put on opponents, Wilkes-Barre was three games behind the league leading Richmond Bluebirds on August 6 when the financially troubled league disbanded.

Cooney Snyder

22 Oct

“Cooney” Snyder‘s Major League career lasted only 17 games for the 1898 Louisville Colonels in the National League.

Born in Canada in 1873, Abraham Conrad Snyder was most frequently identified as “Frank” Snyder during his career.

Snyder played in the Western Association in 1884 and he is mentioned frequently in contemporaneous news stories as a member of the 1885 Guelph Maple Leafs in the Canadian League, although no records survive.

Snyder earned his shot in the Major Leagues after hitting .333 for the London Cockneys in the Canadian League and .340 for the Toronto Canucks in the Eastern League in 1897.

The Sporting Life said, “Snyder is credited with an extraordinary throwing arm as well as a strong swing as a batsman,” and attributed his strength to the job he held before playing professional ball:

 “Snyder acquired this strength in a peculiar way.  Before he became proficient in base ball “Cooney” was a keeper in a Canadian insane asylum. His daily task was to wrestle with the patients who showed a desire to buck against the rules of the institution.”

Snyder was Drafted by the Washington Senators, then sold to the Colonels before the 1898 season.  After hitting a disappointing .164, Snyder was released by Louisville and returned to the Canucks, then finished the season with the St. Thomas Saints in the Canadian League.

Snyder finished his career with the Reading Coal Heavers in the Atlantic League in 1899.

“Cooney” Snyder, 1899

In 1900, at 26-years-old, it was reported by the Reading Eagle that Snyder had accepted a job at a hotel owned by former Major Leaguer, and Reading resident Larry Ressler.  The article said Snyder was “Considering offers from several Eastern League teams,” but it appears he never played again.

Snyder made the news one more time before eventually returning to Canada and passing away there in 1917; it was later in 1900 when the Reading Herald reported on Snyder’s heroic actions during a factory fire:

 “For nearly an hour he stood under a burning building breaking the fifteen-foot fall of many factory girls, who were penned in the blazing structure like rats in a trap. His position was one of the greatest peril, as red hot brick and burning embers were failing all around him.”

“Champ” Fertsch

5 Oct

A bullet nearly ended Edward “Champ” Fertsch’s career before it really got started.

Fertsch was born in Moorestown, New Jersey (birthplace incorrectly listed as Reading, PA in Baseball Reference) in 1874. The 5’ 10” 175 pound righthander played with the Carlisle Colts of the Cumberland Valley League in 1895, then pitched for Salisbury in the unaffiliated Peach Tree League in Maryland and Taunton in the New England League—records are incomplete or nonexistent for these seasons.

Fertsch joined the Reading Coal Heavers of the Atlantic League in 1898 and played two seasons, winning 14 games in 1899.  In 1900 Fertsch split time between New Castle in the Interstate League and Buffalo Bisons in the then minor league American League.  Fertsch’s contract was purchased by the Brooklyn Superbas, but he never had the opportunity to report the following spring.

That fall Fertsch was hunting with a friend, as the friend climbed a fence his gun discharged and Fertsch was hit the left arm.  Initially the arm was to be amputated, but Fertsch implored doctors to save it.

Assuming his career was over Brooklyn released Fertsch, but he sufficiently recovered to rejoin the Coal Heavers for the 1901 season.

According to the Reading Eagle “Fertsch cannot use the limb very well in delivering or batting, but it does not seem to hinder his twirling.”

“Champ” Fertsch

No records survive for the 1901 season, but Fertsch pitched well enough coming off the shooting to earn another shot in the Eastern League; splitting time with the Providence Grays and the Jersey City Skeeters Fertsch posted a 17-11 record.

Fertsch remained in the Eastern League for the next four seasons (no statistics survive for 1902 or ‘03), after 9-10 and 11-14 seasons in 1904 and ’05, Fertsch played the next four seasons with the Lancaster Red Roses and Reading Pretzels in the Tri-State League.

Again no complete records are available for those years, but Fertsch was frequently referred to in the Eagle as Reading’s and the Tri-State’s “Highest paid professional ballplayer.”

Fertsch was plagued by arm injuries after returning to the Tri-State and retired at the close of the 1909 season.  He became an umpire in the Tri-State League in 1910, but only served for one season because of a league rule change which no longer allowed umpires to be residents of one of the Tri-State club’s cities.

Fertsch again attempted to pitch for Reading in 1911, but only appeared in one game.

After baseball Fertsch was considered one the best bowlers in Pennsylvania.

He died in Reading in 1964.

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