It took less than two weeks for Jesse “Jess” M. Frysinger to go from being the most popular man in Holyoke, Massachusetts to becoming not just the most unpopular man in town, but a man reviled by the entire Connecticut State League.
His arrival in Holyoke in the winter of 1904 to take over the reins of the Holyoke Paperweights was met with great fanfare.
Born in 1873 in Chester, Pennsylvania, the son of a newspaper publisher, Frysinger was a well-known ballplayer around his hometown until his mid-20s when he became a manager. He managed a local club in Chester from 1899 to 1901. The 1901 team was a member of the Pennsylvania State League, and the following season Frysinger moved the team and most of the players to Wilmington, Delaware to join the “outlaw” Tri-State League.
When in 1903 Frysinger took over as manager of an independent team in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which would eventually join the Tri-State, he signed a young shortstop he knew in Chester named Joe Cassidy. No statistics survive for the 1903 Harrisburg club, but Cassidy played well enough to be signed by the Washington Senators at the close of the season. The 23-year-old was a promising prospect and rare bright spot with the horrible 1904 and ’05 Senator teams but passed away from either typhoid or malaria (depending on the report) in 1906 before he could realize his potential.
Frysinger managed the Tri-State League Wilmington Peaches in 1904, then left to manage Holyoke, making the bold prediction that he would bring a winning team to the paper producing capital of the world. Frysinger brought with him several players from Pennsylvania who would make up the core of his ballclub, including Snake Deal, Chick Hartley and Butch Rementer.
The Paperweights quickly became the powerhouse of the Connecticut State League, in one stretch, beginning in late June the team won 20 of 23 games, and easily won the league championship.
Frysinger was given a $300 bonus on top of his $1200 salary and on September 12 signed a contract to manage the Paperweights in 1906 at a salary of $1400. He was the town hero and was presented a diamond watch fob by the team’s directors.
Things changed quickly.
On September 29, while Frysinger and the Holyoke team were playing a series of exhibition games against local teams in Pennsylvania, he informed the Holyoke management that he had accepted an offer to manage the Lancaster Red Roses in the Tri-State League for $1800. Holyoke refused to let Frysinger out of his contract so he simply jumped. At the same time, Frysinger did exactly what he did when arriving in Holyoke; he took many Holyoke and Connecticut State League players with him. In addition to Deal, Hartley and Rementer, Frysinger signed Fred Crolius, Pop Foster and Dave Altizer away from the league.
Holyoke was in an uproar.
“Frysinger Hated in the Paper City,” said the headline in The (New London, CT) Day, the story called Frysinger a”
“Traitor to Holyoke ideals and baseball ethics.”
The Bridgeport Herald said Frysinger “Is determined to take away from Holyoke all its best.”
No one in Holyoke or anywhere in the Connecticut State League seemed to care about the contract status of the players when they arrived with Frysinger, but their departure became the main focus of the league meeting in January of 1906.
There were demands to have Frysinger blacklisted, but the manager, recovering from appendicitis in Wilmington, Delaware told The Meriden Daily Journal “I brought them to Holyoke…why shouldn’t I try to bring them to Lancaster as well?”
Frysinger’s status would never be resolved. The 33-year-old manager developed an infection from the surgery and died on February 5, 1906. The Philadelphia Inquirer said most of the Lancaster club and Philadelphia Athletics Manager Connie Mack were present at the funeral in Wilmington.
The Lancaster New Era reported that there was some concern in the city about whether the players signed by Frysinger would play for the team:
“(Q)uite a number of players affixed their signatures to local contacts for the only reason that they were to play under Frysinger, who had the reputation for being one of the squarest managers in the business….The deceased wife (Madge), who acted as the manager’s stenographer through his final illness is thoroughly conversant with the affairs concerning the local baseball situation, and she promises to retain the players already signed.”
She was true to her word; all of the players who were mentioned to have committed to Frysinger were members of the 1906 team which finished in third place in the Tri-State League