In January of 1911, the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association were in search of a first baseman.
Newspapers across the country began to speculate that getting someone to play the position might be a problem.
They began to talk about the “Milwaukee First Base Jinx.”
Dan McGann, who had been Milwaukee’s first baseman in 1909 and 1910 committed suicide a month earlier at Besler’s Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky (Although McGann’s sisters claimed he was murdered because an expensive ring was missing, there was a history of depression and suicide in the family and other expensive items were found on his body).
The regular first baseman before McGann, Arthur Brown, as mentioned in an earlier post, was killed in 1911 by an actor whose wife had left him for the first baseman
The man Brown replaced at first in 1908 was Quait Bateman, who also had a brush with violence. He had been stabbed by Charlie Dexter. Initial reports said the stabbing happened as a result of what The Milwaukee News called “A drunken row,” later Bateman said it was an accident and refused to press charges.
Unlike the others, Bateman did not die–although he was said to be close to death twice– and actually returned to Milwaukee for three more seasons.
But that fact didn’t get in the way of a good jinx story.
Shortly after the jinx stories appeared, Milwaukee signed 34-year-old former American League first baseman Tom Jones. As the club’s first baseman for four seasons–and part of a fifth–Jones temporarily put the talk to rest.
But it was revised again in 1913.
Newspapers brought up the jinx again when another former Milwaukee first baseman Jiggs Donahue–who played for the club in 1902 and ’03– died in July. Donahue died in the Ohio State Hospital in Columbus. It was widely assumed his mental illness the result of advanced syphilis.
Articles in a number of papers speculated on what fate awaited Jones. The Day in New London Connecticut said:
“Tom Jones, first baseman at Milwaukee, wonders what’ll become of him. Murder, suicide, stabbing, shooting and insanity have been the fates former Milwaukee first basemen have met.”
Jones, at least in the short term, dodged the jinx. His career with the Brewers ended during the 1915 season with no stabbings, shootings or other mayhem. He died in 1923 at age 46.
A shorter version of this post appeared on August 20, 1912.