Tag Archives: Cedar Rapids Bunnies

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.

Sammy Strang

5 Nov

Samuel Strang Nicklin, “The Dixie Thrush,” was one of baseball’s great renaissance men.

Born in Tennessee in 1876, he was the scion of one of Chattanooga’s most prominent families.  His father John Bailey Nicklin served in the Union Army during the Civil War, moved to Chattanooga in 1866, and served as mayor from 1887-1889.

Sammy Strang

Samuel Nicklin spent one year at the University of Tennessee where he starred on the football and baseball teams. He also had two short stints in professional baseball 1893 and 1896, which included 14 games with the Louisville Colonels in the National League when he was 19.  Late in 1896, he enlisted as a private in the Tennessee Volunteers, served in Spanish-American War and rose to the rank of captain.

After leaving the service, Nicklin signed a contract with Cedar Rapids Bunnies in the Western Association and dropped his last name; he was known as Sammy Strang for the rest of his career.

The Milwaukee Journal said of the name change:

“(Strang) came of a rich southern family with deep prejudices against professional ball.”

This “prejudice” likely had nothing to do with it given that in addition to serving as Chattanooga mayor, the elder Nicklin was active in professional baseball, serving as president of the Southern Association in the 1890s.

A career .269 hitter, Strang was best known for being one of baseball’s first regular pinch-hitters while playing for John McGraw’s New York Giants from 1905 until June of 1908.  According to The Associated Press:

“McGraw noted the regularity with which he hit in pinches.  So he called him a ‘pinch hitter’—and the term stuck.”

During the 1909 season, Strang began coaching the baseball team at West Point.  He retired from baseball after playing from 1908-1910 with the Baltimore Orioles in the Eastern League, to study opera.

Sammy Strang

During his baseball career, Strang was known for writing songs and singing but decided to seriously pursue a music career in 1910.  He traveled to Paris where he trained under Jean De Reszke, one of the greatest male opera stars of the 1890s.

Upon returning from Paris, he chose not to accept an offer to join an opera company and instead returned to West Point, where he continued as coach until 1917.

Strang returned Tennessee shortly before his father’s death in 1919 to manage and take over ownership of the struggling Chattanooga Lookouts in the Southern League.  While the Lookouts did not win a league championship during Strang’s tenure, he was credited with turning the franchise around and sold the team, for which he paid nothing 1919, for a reported $75,000 in 1927, while retaining ownership of the stadium, Andrews Field.

Unfortunately, Strang’s most ambitious plan–to sign Satchel Paige in 1926–never materialized.

According to Larry Tye’s book “Satchel Paige: The Life and Times of an American Legend,”   Strang failed in an attempt to sign Paige for $500 to pitch a game against the Atlanta Crackers. Paige said of the deal:

“I just had to let him paint me white.”

Samuel Strang Nicklin died in Chattanooga in 1932.

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