More Hard Luck for Harry

25 Nov

“Hard Luck” Harry Welchonce had his share of bad luck on and off the field. He may have also been a member of the only professional baseball team that was on a train while it was being robbed.

Harry Welchonce

           Harry Welchonce

The robbery took place when the Atlanta Crackers were traveling home from New Orleans on the Louisville & Nashville train in July of 1914.  Welchonce, the Crackers captain told the story to The Atlanta Georgian:

“All the bunch were busy playing cards when the train stopped abruptly.  We paid no attention to this, but a moment later there was a command of ‘Hands up!’ and a small man with two large guns came in our car, with the train crew and the porters ahead of him.  All hands went up and he went through the car, taking (Henry ‘Hack’) Eibel and (David) Mutt Williams ahead of him.  They were standing in the aisle and he took them right along in their night clothes.  He found nothing in the baggage car, and then turned Williams loose, robbing the conductor and taking the mail clerk and baggage man off the train.

hackeibel

                  Hack Eibel

“There were apparently three robbers (various reports said there were two, three or five).  Two of them remained on the rear of the train and started through, robbing the passengers.”

The robbers shot the train’s flagman who was attempting to send an alert a following train.  After shooting the man, who later died:

“They seemed to get scared then and jumped off the train.  They either made a mistake in the train or got mixed up, and the fact they killed the flagman probably saved all of us as they quickly ordered the train crew to proceed…Some of the boys gathered around the dying flagman and his last words were, ‘For God’s sake, someone go back and flag that train.’  A train was following twenty minutes in the rear.

“Talk about a scared bunch. There was little if any sleep on the car all night, everyone remaining up…We were all congratulating ourselves on our narrow escape and the fact that we saved out valuables, which, no doubt, they would have got had they not become scared after shooting the flagman.”

The robbers got away with $20.25.

The Crackers returned to Atlanta the following day; they finished the season in fourth place.

“Hard Luck” Harry Welchonce, who had already been ill for part of the season, was diagnosed with Tuberculosis the following month.

In the days following the robbery, news reports described armed posses and bloodhounds on the trail of the robbers. There is no record of their capture.

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