In 1903, The St. Louis Republic told the story about the arrangement that briefly made Rube Waddell a college man in 1897. It involved Dr. Thomas H. George who was the manager of the baseball team at Volant College, a small state Normal School (Teacher’s College) in Volant, Pennsylvania.
George said that he wrote to Waddell “asking his terms,” and upon hearing back that the pitcher had requested one dollar per game, George sent a telegram telling him to meet the team for a game in Waupun, Pennsylvania.
“Rube did not get the telegram until nearly noon on the day of the game, whereupon he hitched up a pair of his father’s horses…The game was nearly over when Waddell reached the field of action…he immediately broke into the game, giving the crowd a yell.”
George said the game was already lost, but Waddell did not allow a baserunner.
“That night Waddell signed a contract…doubling the amount which Waddell had agreed to pitch for, also giving him board and lodging. As Volant only played two games a week, the Rube received the princely salary of but $4 a week. There were many extras, however, as the rooters had a habit of taking up a purse for him after he won, which was, by the way, every game he pitched.”
The text of Waddell’s contract was included with the story, it read in part:
“The party of the second part (Waddell) agrees to pitch ball for the Volant College team during the season of 1897 for and in consideration of $2 for each game of ball played and pitched by said party of the second part. Said party of the first part (Volant) agrees to furnish…suitable room and boarding…This contract to hold good from May 18, 1897 to June 25, 1897.”
The story quoted George talking about one of Waddell’s “eccentricities” while pitching for Volant:
“Rube had a bad habit of throwing to bases without looking at the base to which he was throwing. As a result the ball would go half a mile before it would be recovered, and every man who happened to be on the bases would score. Consequently we had to instruct the basemen to play only for the batter, and not pay any attention to the base runner. That used the Rube all up, for he delighted in throwing to the basemen with all his strength. When he found, however, that the guardians of the sacks were playing off from the bags, and not looking for throws, he stopped the practice.”
The story also claimed that even a contract covering just five weeks was too much for Waddell to honor:
“(Rube) deserted the Volant team upon the day they wanted him the most, commencement day, when a game had been scheduled with Mount Union College…The reason for (jumping) was that at the (nearby) town of Greenville there was fireman’s tournament in progress and a huge crowd would be on hand. Now, Rube always liked to show off in front of a large crowd, and consequently he preferred going where the attendance would be larger. He also took part in th firemen’s races which were held that day.”
There was no record of Waddell having attended a class during his brief college career. He made his major league debut that same season, in September.
Volant College closed after a fire destroyed the school in 1911.