Tag Archives: Bill Speas

Three Balls in Play

28 Nov

Bill Speas played 22 seasons in the minor leagues.  At the height of his career he was numbered among the best fielders in the Pacific Coast League, and The Los Angeles Times said he had the best arm in the league.

Bill Speas

Born in Ohio, Speas began his career with Mansfield Giants in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League in 1906; there he was involved in one of the most unusual plays ever in a game against the Youngstown Ohio Works.

Speas, the Giants left fielder, told the story several times over the years.  Harvey Bailey was pitching for Mansfield; Youngstown had runners on first and second:

“The batter hit a long foul to right field, which the right fielder went after, unobserved by the umpire who was behind the pitcher.  He immediately threw another ball to the catcher which bounded over his head…the umps tossed out another ball to Bailey who made a quick heave to the batter, not noticing that his catcher was not in position.”

The batter singled to left field, where Speas picks up the story:

“I got it and threw it into the plate; only it hit the grandstand instead.  In the meantime the fielder had recovered the foul ball (and the catcher had retrieved the other ball) and the shortstop had one, running a man down between second and third, and the second baseman had the other trying to catch a man between first and second…everybody was running around I was almost sick from laughing out there in left field“

The umpire, who caused most of the confusion, and whose name is lost to history, eventually ruled the foul ball and the ball he threw over the catcher’s head out of play.  Youngstown went on to win the game.

Lost Team Photos

19 Nov

Another photo I’ve never seen published before, the 1908 Akron Champs, Ohio-Pennsylvania League Pennant Winners.

Top left to right:

Dick Breen—a minor leaguer for 12 seasons, his career overlapped with another career minor leaguer named Dick Breen—this Breen’s career came to an end in 1917, when while playing for the Reading Pretzels in the New York State League he got in a fight with Wilkes-Barre Barons  manager Jack “Red” Calhoun.  Both men were suspended indefinitely; Breen was released several days later, neither ever appeared in organized ball after that season.

Bill Speas—longtime minor league player and manager, Speas hit.284 in 22 seasons and won three Mississippi Valley League pennants as a player/manager with the Cedar Rapids Bunnies and Dubuque Dubs.

John Brackenridge—appeared in seven games for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1904, Brackenridge pitched in the Pacific Coast League from 1909-1913.

Fred “Buff” Ehman—a 6’ 4” (some sources list him an inch shorter) right-handed pitcher, the enigmatic Ehman was 81-36 for Akron from 1906-08, but according to The Akron Beacon Journal, was known for disappearing for days at a time and “sulking.” He had multiple trials with Major League clubs; according The Mansfield (OH) Daily Shield he never stuck with a team because of “his refusal to exert himself.”  Through 11 minor league seasons he won 214 games.

Wilbur Good—spent parts of 11 seasons in the Major Leagues: Joe Tinker said of him, “He is one of the fastest runners in the National League and still one of the poorest base runners.”

Edward Murphy—a light hitting catcher, Murphy played five seasons in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League.

Bottom left to right:

Bill Kommer—there is no listing for Kommer on any minor league data base.  He was left-handed pitcher who played for many amateur and semi-pro teams in Ohio during the first decade of the 20th Century;  he was released by Akron in July, there is no record of his statistics for the ’08 season.

William Hille—“Silent Bill” was a shortstop who played until 1917 primarily in the Texas and South Atlantic League.

Jim Callahan—his Major League career consisted of one game with the 1902 New York Giants; played three seasons for Akron (1906-08), was reported to have played in the Western League in 1909, but no records exist.

Matt BroderickThe Reading Eagle called him “one of the best shortstops who ever played on a minor league field,” Broderick played two games in the Major Leagues with Brooklyn in 1903—played minor league and amateur baseball for the remainder of the decade while working for Carpenter Steel Works in Reading, PA.

George Texter—one of the first players to sign with the Federal League in 1913, Texter played for the Indianapolis Hoosiers/New Jersey Pepper during the Fed’s two seasons as a Major League (1913-14).  Managed teams throughout the 1920s in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League (no longer recognized by the National Association, the OPL was nonetheless a strong semi-pro/industrial league during that period).

Cecil Armstrong—a dominant right-handed pitcher, first with the Youngstown Ohio Works team in 1905 during his three seasons with Akron (64-33 from 1906-08), Armstrong spent 1909 and 1910 with New Bedford Whalers in the New England League. Armstrong retired to Akron after the 1910 season.

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