Tag Archives: Missouri Valley League

“The Disappearing Oakland Infielder”

7 Aug

James Ernest “Jimmy” Frick began his career with the Iola Gasbags in the Missouri Valley League in 1904, hitting .331 in 106 games.  While Frick began the 1905 season with the Oklahoma City Mets in the Western Association, a “C” level league, press reports said he could have played at a higher level and The Sporting Life said St. Louis Cardinals, Hall of Famer pitcher Charles “Kid” Nichols “cannot understand why Jimmy Frick of Oklahoma City persists in hiding out it the bushes when he can make good in fast company.”

Frick was hitting above .300 in July when he was sold to the Seattle Siwashes in the Pacific Coast League; he hit .252 in 18 games until August 18 when The Associated Press said Frick “disappeared mysteriously.”

Four days later The Seattle Star said Frick who “was very popular” with local fans had jumped the Siwashes and rejoined Oklahoma City having been promised “$1000 and a chance to manage the team next year.”

Whether the reported deal was actually promised to Frick is unknown.  While he returned to Oklahoma City he never joined the Mets and finished the season with the Wichita Jobbers.

At the end of the 1905 season multiple teams laid claim to him.  The Associated Press said:

“The case of J. Frick who was claimed by Indianapolis, Wichita, Seattle and Oklahoma City was referred to Secretary (John) Farrell (of the National Association).”

In February of 1906 Frick was awarded to Wichita then immediately traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern League.  He spent the next five and a half years in the Eastern League with Toronto, the Baltimore Orioles and the Newark Indians.

On July 16, 1910, while with Baltimore, Frick was hit in the head with a pitch.  In August The Sporting Life said he had not yet returned to the lineup:

 “(Frick) is in a bad way in this city, as the result of being hit on the head by a pitched ball during the last home series of the Birds. Although the accident happened at least three weeks ago, Frick’s head is still in bad condition, his face is swollen and dizziness seizes him on the slightest provocation. It is doubtful if Frick will play again this season.”

He did return at the tail end of the season, but only appeared in a few games.  In 1911 he was sold to Newark, and after hitting just .200 in 28 games he was sold to the Troy Trojans in the New York State League.

Jimmy Frick

Jimmy Frick

Before the 1912 season, Harry Wolverton, third baseman and manager of the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League, was named manager of the New York Highlanders in the American League.  Oakland hired Bayard “Bud” Sharpe to manage the team; one of his first moves was to purchase Frick from Troy to fill the void Wolverton left at third.

By March 7 The Associated Press said Sharpe was “somewhat exercised about infielder Frick.”  The new third baseman had arrived in Oakland by train several days earlier, but had not arrived at the Oaks training camp in Livermore, California and had not been heard from him.  Sharpe showed up the following day, but it was reported he had spent several days in an Oakland hospital—it was not reported why he was hospitalized.

Frick began the season as the Oaks starting third baseman, but after hurting his foot in April, August “Gus” Hetling filled in and Frick never returned to the regular lineup.

On September 17, with Oakland in a battle for the pennant with the Vernon Tigers, the team was in Los Angeles when Frick, according to The Associated Press left his room at the Hotel Rosslyn and “dropped from sight.”

The Los Angeles Examiner said the Oakland team and the Los Angeles Police Department had looked for Frick for more than a week and found no sign of the infielder.  The Associated Press said “all of Frick’s haunts have been searched,” and that the disappearance “may hurt Oakland in their fight for the pennant, as he is considered the best utility infielder on the team.”

Herb McFarlin, Secretary of the Oaks, said:

“Frick has always been a steady player, not inclined to drink or run around.  He always has been absolutely dependable.”

On October 4 The Associated Press said “the disappearing Oakland infielder” had been found by his wife:

“He had been ill in a Los Angeles Hospital, assuming an alias so that he would not be bothered.”

As with his spring disappearance there was no mention as to why Frick was in the hospital.

On October 5 he was with the Oaks in Portland for a game with the Beavers, he did not play, but was “out on the coaching line rooting for his team.”

Frick was with the team on October 27 when they took both games of a double-header in Los Angeles; Vernon won both games of a doubleheader from Portland, and Oakland took the pennant with a winning percentage of .591 to Vernon’s .587.

Frick saw little action in the final weeks of the season, his replacement Hetling hit .297 and was awarded a Chalmers Automobile as the league’s most valuable player.

Gus Hetling, Frick's replacement at third

Gus Hetling, Frick’s replacement at third

Frick and his wife went to Portland at the end of the season, and in late November planned to leave for Oklahoma City where they owned a farm.  On November 20 Mrs. Frick went to pick up tickets for the trip, when she returned home, she found Jimmy Frick dead.  He committed suicide by drinking carbolic acid. (Baseball Reference incorrectly lists his date of death as November 18),

The Portland Oregonian said Frick had been “ill and despondent,” and said he was suffering from “brain fever.”  (Brain fever is an antiquated and vague term used for inflammation of the brain).

None of the stories about Frick’s suicide and “brain fever” mentioned the severe injury he had received when he was hit in the head in 1910, so  it’s impossible to determine whether it contributed to the erratic behavior that year, hospital stays, or death of the disappearing Oakland infielder.”

Alonzo Hedges and the Hunting Dog

31 Oct

In 1903 Alonzo Hedges briefly became a baseball sensation.

“Pongo” Joe Cantillon, manager of the pitching strapped Milwaukee Brewers in the American Association acquired fellow Kentuckian Hedges in August from the Paducah Chiefs in the Kitty League (no roster exists for the team, but Hedges is listed in multiple box scores in Kentucky newspapers).

Said to be a 19-year-old, Hedges started his first game for Milwaukee the day after his arrival and shut down the Columbus Senators–he took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, giving up a single with two outs.

After another shutout in his second game, Hedges, “The Boy Pitcher of Milwaukee,” appeared headed for stardom.  He wasn’t.

Alonzo Hedges

First, The Chicago Tribune revealed in mid August that “The ‘boy pitcher’, whom a number of clubs are after, is really 23-years-old.”   Then Hedges faltered.  While posting a 5-4 record he was hit hard in last 11 games with Milwaukee, after being nearly unhittable in the first two.

Back in the Kitty League with the Springfield Hustlers in 1904, Hedges was effective and helped lead the team to the league championship (again, no statistics survive), but he was no longer mentioned seriously as prospect.

Newspaper accounts indicate he was the “Hedges” who appeared in four games for the Webb City Goldbugs in the Missouri Valley League in 1905—although an arm injury ended his career early in the season.   Hedges signed with the Springfield Senators of the Three-I League in 1906, but it appears that he never played for the team.

How Hedges ended up with Springfield after his brief time in Milwaukee is the real story.

One of the stories that has been told and retold about the colorful Joe Cantillon is that in 1915, while part owner and manager of the Minneapolis Millers, he traded a player, “outfielder Bruce Hopper,” to the Chicago Cubs for a hunting dog.

There are two problems with the oft-repeated story:  “outfielder Bruce Hopper”  is actually pitcher Bill “Bird Dog” Hopper, and contemporaneous accounts mentioning that Hopper was once traded for a dog provide no details of the transaction and predate Hopper’s tenure playing for Cantillon.

Joe Cantillon

However, such a trade might have taken place, but it happened more than ten years earlier and the player traded was Alonzo Hedges.

A 1910 article in The Milwaukee Sentinel mentions that Milwaukee Brewers owner Charles Sheldon Havenor kept a photo of Cantillon on his desk, along with a letter.  The letter read:

“The mother of the dog in the picture is the one I received in exchange for Alonzo Hedges, the pitcher.”

The story went on to tell the story of the trade:

“Cantillon went to Springfield, IL, to see a friend of his who owned the Springfield club and ran a cafe on the side.  During the course of the afternoon the friend showed Joe a couple of dandy setter puppies.”

Later in the discussion when the Springfield owner mentioned his need for pitching, Cantillon offered to sell him Hedges, and Cantillon said “I’ll let you have the fellow for one of those dogs.”

The Sentinel concluded:

“Mr. Hedges may not have been much of a bear cat as a pitcher, but he probably has the distinction of being the only ball player in captivity ever traded for a dog.”

One more note on Hedges.  The Chicago Tribune might have been wrong, the 23-year-old “Boy Pitcher,” might have actually been 26-years-old.  While Hedges grave lists his birth date as 1880, all extant records, including Hedges’ death certificate and census data, indicate he was born on 1877.

Hedges passed away January 12, 1928 in Paducah, Kentucky.