“A Star of the First Magnitude”

8 Nov

Huyler Westervelt was going to be the next big thing.

By January of 1894 the New York Giants had been trying to sign the 24-year-old Westervelt for more than two years.   Considered the best amateur pitcher on the East Coast, he pitched for a number of top teams including the Englewood Field Club, New Jersey Athletic Club, and Orange Athletic Club. Westervelt came from a prominent family in Tenafly, New Jersey and said repeatedly that he’d never play professionally.

Huyler Westervelt, standing second from right, with the Englewood Field Club team circa 1893

When Giants owner E.B. Talcott finally convinced Westervelt to play professionally he simply signed a piece of paper which said:

“I hereby agree to play with the New York Base Ball Club for the season of 1894 at a salary of $1800.”

Westervelt made his debut for the Giants on April 21, losing 4-3 to the Baltimore Orioles; but beat the Boston Beaneaters 5-2 on May 5, holding the defending champions to three hits and earning the fawning praise of New York Sporting Times columnist O.P. Caylor who said Westervelt was:

 “(A) newly discovered jewel who has flashed out in the baseball firmament as a star of the first magnitude.

“(On May 5) young Westervelt became famous, and his name flashed over thousands of miles of wires that night, while next day the whole country was reading about his triumph.”

Westervelt struggled for the remainder of the season; prone to wildness he finished with a 7-10 record and 5.04 ERA, but still figured into the Giants future plans.  He refused to sign a contract for 1895 which reduced his salary to $1500—Westervelt was added to Giants’ reserve list, where he would remain for several years.

Westervelt continued playing for amateur teams in New York and New Jersey, while working for the Overman Bicycle Company, and attempted to get the Giants to trade or release him.  He filed an appeal contending that he never signed a National League contract, only the piece of paper he signed with Talcott, and therefore the Giants had no right to put him on the reserve list.  He lost the appeal.

Huyler Westervelt

There were reports in early 1896 that Baltimore Orioles manager Ned Hanlon was trying to acquire the pitcher, they never panned out.  In April The Sporting Life said Westervelt was done with professional baseball, but later in the year he joined the Derby-Shelton Angels in the Naugatuck Valley League; no statistics survive other than a brief mention of a seemingly less than successful August game against the Torrington Tornadoes, “(Westervelt) received the warm reception of 16 hits.”

Westervelt returned to the amateur leagues, playing well into the first decade of the 20th Century, and went to work as a broker on Wall Street.  He remained on the reserve list of the New York Giants through the 1901 season, prompting The Sporting Life to say:

 “By the way, did you notice that New York still reserves Huyler Westervelt?  That is one of the standing jokes of each season.”

Westervelt made one more appearance in professional baseball; according to Baseball Reference he played 17 games for the Bradford Drillers in the Interstate League in 1905; while he is not listed on the roster of the Utica Pent-Ups in the New York-Penn League in 1905, he appeared in at least one game for that team, losing a 5-4 decision to the Troy Trojans on June 23.

While Westervelt never achieved the stardom Caylor predicted for him, he remained an important figure in amateur baseball circles until his death in 1949 at the age of 80.

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2 Responses to ““A Star of the First Magnitude””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “Hanlon Springs a Surprise on the Baseball Public” « Baseball History Daily - January 14, 2013

    […] Orioles manager Ned Hanlon signed Maul after he was released by the Washington Senators in 1897.  The results were not good; […]

  2. “Fear of the Black List has Stopped Many a Crooked Player from Jumping” | Baseball History Daily - September 9, 2013

    […] won 102 more games (including 26, and 20 win seasons in 1896 and ’97), but as O. P. Caylor said in The New York Herald he suffered from “a lack of control.”  Meekin walked 1056 batters […]

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