Edgar Bear

9 Dec

It was somewhat by accident that Edgar J. Bear came to be involved in organized baseball—as president and manager of the 1902 Wilmington Sailors.

Bear was born in Wilmington on January 12, 1877, and attended the Oak Ridge College Preparatory school, now Oak Ridge Military Academy, where according to The Charlotte Observer, he studied business then “wandered around the country for several years.”  The paper also said he inherited $30,000 from his father’s estate.

He first worked as a jockey, and then joined the circus.  He was with Walter L. Main and Carlo Brothers Circuses as a bareback rider and acrobat.  The Wilmington Messenger said he performed throughout the United States and South America, and “three trick mules” were part of his act.

In 1898 The Wilmington Morning Star said he took a break from the circus to travel to Alaska in search of gold.

Sometime early in 1902 he returned to Wilmington, and according to The Observer “became interested in baseball.”  In March The Morning Star said a Massachusetts man who was being counted on to bankroll a local team in the newly formed North Carolina League had dropped out and “Mr. Edgar J. Bear was found to be the man of the hour.”

The paper said Bear “made a proposition to assume the responsibility of managing and maintaining a team throughout the season, provided $500 will be raised by popular subscription and the Street Railway Company will hold good its proposition to furnish an enclosed park and donate $200 to the fund, making a total of $700.”

With that Bear became the president and manager of a professional baseball team.  He quickly raised the money to operate the club for the season; The Messenger said he “deserves credit for his zealous efforts and the faithful manner in which he has worked.”

That same month, the new league hired an umpire from Pennsylvania named George Dudley Proud.  It was Proud’s first professional job; he had worked in amateur leagues around Philadelphia for several years.

Wilmington got off to a slow start, losing six of their first eight games.

Proud, the league’s rookie umpire was having his own problems.  During the first week of the season Proud ejected George “King” Kelly, manager of the Greensboro Farmers, in the eighth inning of a game against the Raleigh Red Birds, after a close play at first base.  The Morning Star said:

“Kelly came on the field and insisted wildly that (the runner) was out and challenged the umpire to fight him.  Proud said he could not, in view of his position, have a fight.  Kelly refused to get off the field and was forcibly ejected amid great excitement…he later assaulted the umpire on Fayetteville street.”

The paper said Kelly landed several punches, but no one seriously hurt.

The Greensboro Daily Record accused the umpire of being crooked, and threatened further bodily harm:

The Record wants to say that the people of Greensboro are as fair as any people on earth.  Had the same thing occurred here and in our favor the public would not have stood it.  The umpire might have been allowed to have his way at the time, but the score would not have stood.  We want to say further that should Mr. Proud pursue his same tactics here we would advise him to get an accident policy.  He may not be killed while the game is going on, but someone will maul the life out of him afterwards.  Many spectators who have observed his work—they are not Greensboro people—say that his conduct is such as to lead to the belief that he is standing in with a lot of sports who are dividing their earnings with him.  That is to say, that there are men who make bets, tell Proud what they are and trust him to save them, then they divide with him.  If this or anything approaching it is true, the sooner his services are dispensed with, the better.”

The Morning Star said the day after the above story appeared in Greensboro, Proud “employed a Raleigh attorney to enter suit for libel against The Daily Record.”

On May 15 the first-time manager with a one and seven record, and the first-time umpire whose integrity was on the line came together in Durham, when the Wilmington Sailors arrived for three games with the Durham Bulls.

They lost the first game 5 to 3.  The Morning Star said “Manager Bear was put out of the grounds for interfering and he protested the game several times.  Several of the Wilmington players were fined.”

The following day Wilmington lost 3 to 0 and two more players were fined—The Messenger said the game was “marred by kicks against umpire Proud,” The Morning Star said “Proud doesn’t seem to be making a very enviable reputation,” and predicted that he “has umpired his last game.”

The prediction was wrong; the rest of the story tomorrow.

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