Tag Archives: Evansville River Rats

Polchow and Starnagle

13 Aug

At the close of the 1902 Three-I League season two unlikely candidates for the big leagues were signed by Cleveland Bronchos Manager Bill Armour.

Pitcher Louis William “Polly” Polchow and catcher George Henry Starnagle (born Steurnagel) did not put up impressive numbers.   Neither the Reach or Spalding Guides included Polchow’s won-loss record, but both said the 22-year-old’s winning percentage was just .414 in 32 games for the Evansville River Rats.  Starnagle hit just .180 with 13 passed balls and eight errors in 93 games for the Terre Haute Hottentots.

Louis Polchow

Louis Polchow

The two joined the fifth place Bronchos in St. Louis on September 13.  The following day both made their major league debuts in the second game of a doubleheader against the second place Browns.

The St. Louis Republic said:

“Captain (Napoleon) Lajoie decided to try his new Three-Eye League battery, which reported to him yesterday.  Starnagle, the former Terre Haute catcher, was as steady as a veteran, but Polchow wobbled at the drop of the hat, and before he steadied himself the damage was done.

“Five runs in the first two innings gave the Browns a good lead, and it was well they made hay while the sun shone, for Polchow handed them six ciphers for dessert.”

Starnagle made an error in the seventh when he overthrew Lajoie on an attempted steal of second by Bobby Wallace—Wallace advanced to third on the error, but Polchow retired the side without a run.

George Starnagle

George Starnagle

In Cleveland’s half of the seventh Starnagle and Polchow had the opportunity to get them back in the game.  With two runs in, and a runner on first and one out Starnagle came to the plate.  The Republic said:

 “Starnagle tried to put on a Three-Eye League slugging scene.  He dislocated two ribs going after (Bill) Reidy’s slow ones and finally fanned.  Polchow forced (Jack) McCarthy.”

Starnagle was lifted in the ninth for a pinch hitter.  Cleveland lost 5-3.  Polchow gave up nine hits and walked four, striking out two, and was 0 for 4 at the plate.  Starnagle was 0 for 3, with one error behind the plate.  Neither would ever appear in another big league game.

The Box Score

The Box Score

Starnagle was 28-years-old, and had only played two seasons of pro ball before his game with Cleveland—he was semi-pro player with teams in Danville and Sterling, Illinois for nearly a decade before he joined Terre Haute in 1901.  He was considered a solid defensive catcher, but during 10 minor league seasons he only hit better than .230 three times.  When he played with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Royals in 1909 The Montreal Gazette said:

“Starnagle has been drafted every year by big league clubs, all of whom have been pretty well supplied with seasoned catchers; hence his failure to be kept.”

Polchow was just 22 when he pitched his only big league game.  Plagued by wildness, he spent three mediocre seasons with teams in the Southern Association and South Atlantic League (he was 36-45 for the Montgomery Senators, Macon Highlanders and Augusta Tourists), then pitched five seasons in the New York State League.

In 1906 he helped lead the Scranton Miners to the New York State League championship (the team’s leading hitter was Archibald “Moonlight” Graham), although The Scranton Republican said his first start with the team was nearly his last.  Polchow lost 12 to 2 to the Utica Pent-Ups, walking 10 and giving up 10 hits.  After the game Polchow accused catcher “Wilkie Clark of throwing the game.  A fight followed and Clark and Polchow never worked together after that.   Andy Roth was Polchow’s battery partner during the remainder of the season.”

Starnagle retired after the 1910 season.  He returned to Danville, Illinois where he died in 1946; he was 72.

Polchow played through the 1911 season, and then became ill.  He died of Bright’s Disease at 32-years-old in August of 1912

In addition to Polchow and Starnagle, the Bronchos signed two other Three-I League players in September of 1902—both had somewhat more success.

Rock Island Islanders catcher George “Peaches” Graham made his debut the same day as Polchow and Starnagle, during the first game of the doubleheader; he struck out as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning of a 3 to 1 loss. He spent parts of seven seasons in the major leagues, and hit .265.  Decatur Commodores pitcher Augustus “Gus” Dorner made his debut three days later beating the Chicago White Sox 7 to 6.  He pitched for parts of six big league seasons, compiling a 35-69 record.

 

Filling in the Blanks—O’Laughlin, 1913 Owensboro Distillers

2 Oct

Baseball Reference lists “O’Laughlin” with the Owensboro Distillers of the Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee (Kitty) League.

”William “Bud” O’Laughlin (misspelled O’Loughlin by some sources) was born near Owensboro, Kentucky in 1888 and became a well-known amateur and industrial league player for teams in Western Kentucky and Southern Indiana. In 1913 he played third base for the Owensboro Distillers in the Kitty League and the following year was, for a time, with the Evansville River Rats in the Central League, but he apparently did not appear in any games with the team.

On January 16 of 1918 O’Laughlin became one of several professional players who shared a similar cause of death; shot by a jealous husband.

The Lexington Herald said O’Laughlin was on the street in Boonville, Indiana with a woman when he was approached by a man named Clyde Barnhill:

“O’Laughlin was in the company of Barnhill’s wife and they were on the way to a show when it is alleged that the woman’s husband walked behind the couple and fired a bullet into O’Laughlin’s head.  He fired two bullets at his wife who fled down the street.”

O’Laughlin died early the following morning.

The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“After Barnhill was caught and overpowered he attempted to shoot himself…there were cries of ‘Lynch him, lynch him’ from the mob that gathered on the streets.”

The Indianapolis Star said that Barnhill “will plead the ‘unwritten law.’ It is said Mrs. Barnhill was insanely in love with her husband’s victim.”

Newspapers in Kentucky and Indiana reported all the scandalous details two months later when Barnhill stood trial for killing O’Laughlin, who The (Hopkinsville) Kentucky New Era called “a favorite with Kitty League players.”

Barnhill testified that he simply approached O’Laughlin and his wife to “compromise the matter” when “O’Laughlin turned and put his hand in his pocket to pull a thirty-eight-caliber blue steel revolver…It was a question of who shot first.”  As for shooting at his unarmed wife, Barnhill said “I guess I was crazed.”

After 17 hours of deliberation the jury found Barnhill guilty of manslaughter; The Indianapolis News said: “The defendant was well pleased with the light verdict and was congratulated by  numerous friends after it was read.” He was sentenced to serve from two to twenty-one years in prison.

O’Laughlin, the former Kitty Leaguer is buried in Boonville.

Note: Baseball Reference lists a “Bud O’Loughlin” with an incorrect death date of January 19, 1915  in Booneville (Sic), Indiana as a member of the 1911 Spokane Indians in the Northwestern League—that O’Loughlin was a pitcher, and it is highly unlikely he is the same player.  (This same incorrect date and misspelled town appeared in The Sporting Life in 1916)