“Who told you you were a Ladies’ man, Mr. Viau?’

3 Oct

Leon A. “Lee” Viau (pronounced vee-o) was the first player from Dartmouth College to make it to the major leagues.

Listed at only 5’ 4” and 160 pounds Viau was 83-77 in five big league seasons.  The Cleveland Leader said of his time pitching for the Spiders:

“(Viau) with comparatively little speed but with curves well mixed with gray matter, got out of lots of tight places where an ordinary twirler would have been knocked out of the box.”

In addition to having attended an Ivy League school, he was best known for his looks, and for being one of the best-dressed players in baseball.

The Philadelphia Inquirer called him “The Adonis of the diamond.”  When he played for the Patterson Silk Weavers in the Atlantic League The Patterson Weekly Press called him “the Beau Brummell of the club.”

Lee Viau

Lee Viau

A story, perhaps apocryphal, made the rounds in several newspapers during the first decade of the 20th Century about how “the grandstand was filled with ladies…when the handsome Viau was in the box.”

On this particular occasion, as recounted in The Kansas City Star, Viau was pitching for the Spiders against “Cap” Anson and his Chicago Colts in Cleveland:

“The score stood 4 to 2 in the last half of the ninth inning, and in Cleveland’s favor.  There was a Chicago man on second and one on third, while Anson was at the bat.

“He was madly anxious to bring in those runs, and he swung viciously at the first ball pitched. ‘Strike one!’ yelled umpire (Thomas) Lynch.

“Anson gritted his teeth and waited for the next one.  Lee sent up one of those slow, deceptive drop balls for which he was noted, and again Anson swung wildly.  ‘Strike two!’ cried Lynch.

“At this there was a veritable uproar among the female occupants of the grandstand.

“’Strike him out Lee! Oh, do strike him out!’ they shrieked in chorus.

“Hearing these cries, the grim old Anson, with a sneer on his face, sardonically inquired: ‘Who told you you were a ladies’ man, Mr. Viau?’

“Lee maintained a haughty silence, wound his arm slowly about his head and then, taking a wide swing, shot the ball up to the plate, and Anson took the third swipe at it and missed.

“’Now’ remarked Lee, as he advanced toward Anson, ‘I will answer your question.  The same person who told you you could bat.’”

Lee Viau, front row third from right, with 1892 Cleveland Spiders

Lee Viau, front row third from right, with 1892 Cleveland Spiders

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