“King of the Bushes”

23 Apr

Edward Francis “Ned” Egan was called “The Connie Mack of the minors” and the “King of the Bushes” during his managerial career.

It is likely that most of the statistics listed under Egan’s name on Baseball Reference and other sources  are for another player or players with the same surname.  Egan’s grave, burial record, birth and death record confirm that he was born on January 13, 1878, in St. Paul, Minnesota–which would make him 10-years-old for the first playing records for the “Ned Egan” listing.  Contemporary references to Egan’s playing career are vague–most say he played semi-pro ball in Minnesota beginning in 1897, and some sources say he was with St. Paul Saints in the Western League in 1901; although his name does not appear on any roster for the team.

What is certain is that his managerial career began 1902 and that he won eight pennants in 16 seasons.

Ned Egan

Ned Egan

Egan won championships in 1902 and 1903 with the Winnipeg Maroons in the Northern League,  then won six more with the Burlington Pathfinders (1906 Iowa League of Professional Baseball Clubs, 1908 Central Association), the Ottumwa Speedboys-Packers (1911,12 and ’13 Central Association), and the Muscatine Muskies (1916 Central Association).  The Washington Post called him “The Central Association’s chronic pennant winner.”

Egan was credited with helping develop several major leaguers including Burleigh Grimes, Lee Magee, Cy Slapnicka, Hank Severeid, and Cliff Lee.

Egan finally got his chance in the high minors in January of 1918, but it happened as a result of a fluke.  Al Timme, owner of the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association announced that Egan would be his new manager.  The Milwaukee Journal said:

 “A very peculiar circumstance brings ‘Ned’ Egan to the local club. When President Temme attended the meeting of the International League in New York some months ago the local prexy opened negotiations with Jack Egan, manager of the Providence club in 1917.  Jack Egan’s name was made public as the possible leader of the Brewers, but the press reports from the east said that ‘Ned’ Egan was being considered by Owner Temme [sic].

“The local baseball headquarters were immediately flooded with recommendations from major leaguers who unanimously stamped ‘Ned’ Egan as the logical man to lead the locals.  Subsequently, Temme [sic], who had not met the St. Paul man, realized that these endorsements of Ned Egan were worth taking stock of and finally he opened negotiations with him.”

Egan was signed to a “provisional contract for 1918, 1919 and 1920.”

Al Timme told reporters he had confidence in his new manager despite the mix-up, and despite the fact he had denied he had any interest in hiring him as recently as a week earlier:

“Ned Egan has devoted his entire life to baseball—is one of the best posted and able men in the game today.  No one has a wider or more favorable acquaintance, especially with major league club owners.  His development of players and many pennants prove conclusively Mr. Egan’s superior ability to build and handle a team.”

Egan returned home to Minnesota in late January, and while ice skating another skater ran into him, knocking him down.  Egan sustained what he thought was a minor back injury.

Ned Egan, 1918

Ned Egan, 1918

In February Egan contacted Timme and told the Brewer owner that the injury was more serious than originally thought; he had fractured two vertebrae and said that a doctor had recommended he resign.  The Journal said:

“Mr. Timme prompted Egan to reconsider.”

A month later after “his fighting spirit kept him on the job constantly,” Egan’s injury became so severe that he was no longer able to walk.  The Journal said:

“The St. Paul man is at present confined to the Sacred Heart sanatorium here, at the expense of the Milwaukee ball club.  He is a nervous wreck…Physicians cannot predict how long Egan will be incapacitated.”

The Brewers then hired Jack Egan, the manager Timme originally sought, to replace Ned Egan.

Egan was still in the sanatorium on May 4 when he was released for 3 days in order “to visit Chicago” and checked into the Grand Pacific Hotel.  On May 6 The Chicago Tribune said:

“Edward F. (Ned) Egan…was found dead with a revolver at his side in the Grand Pacific Hotel shortly after midnight this morning.  He had apparently been dead for hours.  Despondency, brought on by ill health, is believed to have led him to commit suicide.”

The Grand Pacific Hotel Chicago

The Grand Pacific Hotel Chicago

Timme told The Journal:

“So far as I have learned, his condition while at the sanatorium was improving.  I will have Mr. (Tom) Hickey (president of the American Association) obtain the facts from the police at Chicago.”

It was reported that Egan, who “owned considerable property in St. Paul,” was to be married in June.  His first wife had died in 1912, just more than a year after their marriage.  The day following his death, the Cook County Coroner confirmed the cause of death was suicide and said Egan was despondent over his injury.

The Milwaukee Sentinel published a eulogy for Egan written by long-time minor league umpire Oliver Otis “Ollie” Anderson:

“Umpires are supposed to have no feelings—to shed no tears, but they do bow their heads occasionally, and mine is bowed in thought, I have just read of the death of Ned Egan.

“As a baseball genius he was worthy of being compared to Comiskey, as a developer of players he was a Connie Mack, as a winner of pennants he was king of the bushers.  As a friend he was loyalty itself.

“What more can we say.”

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