Prince Hal’s Brush with Death

5 Nov

After nearly a decade as one of the California’s most popular players, Bobby Eager became an occasional columnist for The San Jose News.  Eager provided told stories about some of the biggest stars on the West Coast during the first decade of the 20th Century:

 “How close the greatest first baseman the game has ever produced came to losing his life in the infancy of his career is a story that has never been published though I guess everything else Hal Chase ever said, though or did has found its way into print.”

Eager said it happened in 1904 when he and Chase were teammates with the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League.

“We were on our second trip to Seattle.  When the train reached Thrall, which was a water tank line and the last stop in California before we passed into Oregon, Chase and I saw some ripe apples hanging on a tree… Chase went up the tree like a squirrel and I stood on the ground.”

"Prince" Hal Chase

“Prince” Hal Chase

With Chase still in the tree, the train, which Eager re-boarded, prepared to pull out of the station.

“By the time Chase could get back the train got under headway, and the trainman had closed the doors of the Pullman.

“When we discovered the doors were shut we rushed out, and there was poor Hal hanging on the steps and his feet almost dragging in the ties.  He was hanging on for dear life.  First (Norman) Kitty Brashear and I tried to pull him up on the platform but that was impossible.  All the time the train was going faster and faster.  Then I yanked the bell rope but I yanked it so hard that broke and the engineer never got the signal.  In the meantime Tim Flood had rushed ahead to locate the conductor who refused to stop the train until the next station three miles ahead.  We wanted to kill the conductor, but that would have done no good.

“All the time Chase was getting weaker and weaker, but as it was a case of life or death with him he stuck to the train.  It was Brashear who hit on the scheme which saved Chase from having his legs cut off and the game losing its kingpin first sacker.  Brashear got down on the platform, yelled to him to let go when he pushed him with his foot.  Hal said he would do it.  Brashear, who was powerful as a bull, placed his big boot squarely in Chase’s breast and as he yelled ‘let go’ shoved Hal all the way over the embankment and when we saw him roll safely down the embankment we were happy.

“But Hal was not out of his peril.  As he told us afterwards he pulled himself together and hobbled back to Thrall half dead.  This was 3 o’clock in the afternoon.  The next train didn’t come along until 11 at night.  Soon after dark Hal said a flock of coyotes came down from the mountains.  They were hungry and looking for blood.  Hal said he found safety on top of the tank station house.  He said the Coyotes kept him treed until his train pulled in.”

Hal Chase (3), Bobby Eager (6), Tim Flood (12), and Kitty Brashear (13)

Hal Chase (3), Bobby Eager (6), Tim Flood (12), and Kitty Brashear (13)

Despite the injuries, Chase appeared in 190 of the Angels 235 games.  At the close of the 1904 season, he was drafted by the New York Highlanders.

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7 Responses to “Prince Hal’s Brush with Death”

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