George “Dut” Chalmers is one of only seven big league players born in Scotland. He came to New York City as a young child and, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer “his baseball education was begun” with the Bradhurst Field Club which played their games at 145th and Lenox Avenue. He also played on amateur teams in Hoboken, New Jersey and Red Hook, Brooklyn.
After attending Manhattan College, Chalmers began his professional career in 1909 with the Scranton Miners in the New York State League, managed by Gus Zeimer. The Sporting Life said:
“In George Chalmers, the giant young Manhattan College grad, Zeimer has landed what looks to be the prize-package pitcher of the league. His work has been sensational.”
There are no complete statistics for 1909, but the following season the 22-year-old Chalmers was 25-6 for Scranton; finishing second in victories to 23-year-old Syracuse Stars pitcher Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander who was 29-11.
The Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader said Chalmers:
“Looks like one of the very best in the minor leagues, having a major league head and everything in the pitching line, including fine control and a spitball.”
At the end of the 1910 season the Philadelphia Phillies acquired both of the New York League’s star pitchers; Chalmers was purchased, for either $3000 or $4000, depending on the source, and Alexander was obtained through the Rule 5 Draft.
Both rookies made the club after spring training in Birmingham, Alabama. Six years later The Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger said of Chalmers’ first days with the 1911 Phillies:
“Chalmers came with an elaborate trousseau, together with lots of pinch neckwear and considerable toggery that aroused the brunette population of Birmingham to deep, empurpled envy. “
In addition to his fashion sense, Chalmers also impressed the Phillies with his pitching ability.
While Alexander got off to a great start, Chalmers started slow, but after back-to-back victories in July, Phillies manager and catcher Charles “Red” Dooin told The Philadelphia Times:
“That youngster is a great twirler. You know they told me up in the New York League that Chalmers was a better pitcher than Alexander.
“Of course this is impossible because I think that ‘Alex’ is the greatest pitcher that ever drew breath, but I am going to say there’s not a club in either league which could beat the ball Chalmers has pitched for the last two weeks.
“I think I have another Alexander in Chalmers and if he don’t make good prediction I will say that he lacks the nerve and nothing else. Chalmers has more stuff than Matty (Christy Mathewson) had. He needs the experience and knowledge of batsmen, but aside from that he is the best young twirler I have ever seen excepting Alex.”
A syndicated story from The American Press Association said Chalmers had given up other sports for baseball:
“George Chalmers, one of the pitching sensations of the Philadelphia National League team, is a motorcycle rider as well as a box artist. Before he joined the Phillies Chalmers occasionally picked up a little spare change acting as a pacemaker for Elmer Collins, the bicycle rider. Chalmers has paced Collins several times in the latter’s races against Bobby Walthour. Chalmers, however, doesn’t intend riding any more. He fears a spill that might injure his arm and affect his pitching.
“Chalmers at one time had an ambition to become an automobile race driver. He gave up this notion when he got his chance to join Philadelphia. The big right-hand pitcher is not sorry that he sidetracked that ambition, for his pitching now is yielding him a healthy income.”
While he was overshadowed by Alexander, who was 28-13 with a 2.57 ERA, Chalmers had a respectable rookie season posting a 13-10 record with a 3.11 ERA.
In September it was announced that the Phillies would travel to Cuba for a 12-game series with the Almendares and Havana teams in November. As the October 31 departure date drew near it became clear that, for a variety of reasons, many of the Phillies would not be making the trip. Most notably Alexander, locked in a contract dispute, and Dooin would remain at home.
Besides Chalmers, the players who made the trip were:
Fred Luderus 1B
Otto Knabe 2B
Hans Lobert 3B/MGR
Jimmy Walsh SS
Sherry Magee OF
Mike Mitchell OF (Borrowed from Cincinnati Reds)
Dick Cotter OF
The first game of the series, reduced from 12 to nine games because of the Phillies’ limited roster, took place on November 5. Chalmers faced Almendares and Cuban legend Jose Mendez; the Phillies lost 3-1. It is likely Chalmers hurt his arm during the series; he did not start another game, and Schultz picked up the slack, pitching six games, he was credited with the victory in the five games the Phillies won.
Upon returning to Key West the last week of November, Chalmers was briefly detained by authorities. The Philadelphia Times said the ship’s manifest listed Chalmers as American, but:
“On arrival in the states when he had to sign a long paper of identification, he told the officials that he was Scotch and never naturalized…Chalmers was reprimanded and the ship company was fined for carelessness”
Heading into the 1912 season The Philadelphia Times, and the second year pitcher, had high hopes:
“Chalmers is young and has every confidence in himself. He is big and strong and is a perfect running mate for Alexander the Great.”
But the George Chalmers who returned from Cuba would never be the same pitcher.
Special thanks to Karen Weiss, George Chalmers’ great niece, for generously providing copies of photos from Mr. Chalmers’ scrapbook.
Thanks to Mark Fimoff co-chair SABR Pictorial History Committee for identifying Earl Moore in the first picture and correcting my incorrect, original caption placing Chalmers on the right–the information has been corrected in the caption. October 18, 2013