Tag Archives: Steubenville Stubs

“Hard Luck” Harry Welchonce

23 Nov

In January of 1913, as Harry Monroe Welchonce was preparing for his fourth attempt to stick with a major league club, The Washington Herald said:

“Welchonce is one of the most unfortunate young men that ever tried to get a steady job in the majors.”

He did not make his professional debut until he was 25-years-old.  He worked as a telegraph operator for the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad while playing amateur ball in Pennsylvania until 1909 when he signed to play with the Steubenville Stubs in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League.

Harry Welchonce

Harry Welchonce

A .321 hitter over seven minor league seasons, Welchonce was purchased by three major league teams—The Phillies, Dodgers, and Senators—and went to spring training at least five times with big league teams, but earned just one 26-game trial with Phillies in 1911. He hit just .212 and made two errors in 17 games.

After failing to make the Senators in 1912, he hit a Southern Association leading .333 for the Nashville Volunteers, earning himself another spring trial with Washington.  The Washington Times said of him:

“(Welchonce) is said to have the abilities of a major leaguer without the inside adornment. In other words, he is easily disheartened. This is said to have caused his failure with the Phillies three years ago.”

While under the headline “Welchonce is Hard Luck Guy,” The Herald attempted to explain his big league failures:

“Welchonce is one of the most unfortunate young men that ever tried to get a steady job in the majors. He has always batted for more than .300 in the minor leagues, and he has the natural speed and ability to make good in the majors.

“Welchonce is a telegraph operator, and his hard luck really dates from several summers ago.  He was seated at his key at Indiana, PA, one afternoon, when a thunderstorm came up. A bolt of lightning shattered a tree outside his office and he was a long time recovering from the shock…He joined the Phillies (in 1910), and his dashy work made a big hit in the training camp at Southern Pines (North Carolina)

“The team had been there only about a week when lightning struck the hotel and a ball of fire ran down into a room in which Johnny Bates, Welchonce, (Lou) Schettler, and (Jim) Moroney were sleeping. The players were all badly scared, and the shock was such that Welchonce did not get over it.”

A contemporary account of the incident in The Philadelphia Inquirer said all four players were badly shaken and that “Welchonce was the first to recover his speech.”  The Associated Press said all four players “were covered with plaster and debris from the ceiling,” and that Schettler “could not talk for two hours.”

Adding to Welchonce’s woes in 1910 was an injured shoulder, or as The Philadelphia North American put it: “(He) still plays with a wrenched shoulder and it affects the fleet youngster’s batting. He can only get a very ladylike swing at the sphere.”

The Phillies sent Welchonce to the South Bend Bronchos in the Central League.  He hit .315, leading South Bend to the pennant.

The Times picked up the story:

“(In 1911) he took the training trip to Birmingham, Alabama (with the Phillies).Again it looked as if Harry would give (John) Titus a hard battle for right field honors.  Then came more hard luck. One of Earl Moore’s cross-fire slants struck Welchonce in the head, and Harry went to a hospital in Birmingham for several days. “

The contemporary account in The Inquirer said that he did not lose consciousness, but “was sick to his stomach,” and quoted a doctor saying he suffered from “nervous shock.”  When he was released from the hospital three days later, the paper said, “He looks weak and colorless.”

He failed to make the Senators again in 1913 and was released to the Atlanta Crackers in the Southern Association again and led the league with a .338.

Welchonce returned to Atlanta in 1914, and so did his “hard luck.”

He was hospitalized at the end of the April with pneumonia and was out for much of May.  By late June, The Atlanta Constitution said he was “Back in Stride,” and he was again hitting above .300.  But his season came to end in August when he was diagnosed with Tuberculosis.  The Atlanta Journal said he “Went to Ashville, North Carolina for the mountain air,” and treatment.

Atlanta held a benefit game and various other fundraisers and presented Welchonce with a check for $883.10.

Welchonce recovered, but not enough to rejoin the Crackers the following season.  He returned to his job with the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad and managed the company’s baseball team.

He returned to pro ball in 1915, accepting an offer from the  to be player-manager of the Texas League club.

welchoncedallas

Welchonce, 1915

He played fairly well, hitting .297, but the Giants were a last place club and Welchonce became ill again in August and retired from professional baseball.

He again returned to the railroad and management of the company baseball team until 1920, when poor health necessitated a move to the West.  He settled first in Denver where he was employed as an accountant, and later Arcadia, California where “Hard Luck” Harry lived to age 93.  He died in 1977.

Charlie Roy

27 May

Robert Charles “Charlie” Roy was one of the most sought after prospects in the country in the winter of 1905.  Raised on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, Roy was a pitcher for the Carlisle Indian School baseball team.

The Minneapolis Journal said of the 21-year-old:

“He has been pitching altogether four years, and he puts remarkable speed into the ball.”

In December of 1905, it was reported that Roy was about to sign with the Cincinnati Reds, but just days later he chose to return to Carlisle

The manager of the Carlisle baseball team in the spring of 1906 was Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Charles “Togie” Pittinger–who won 23 games for Philadelphia in 1905.

In March, it was announced  that Roy had signed a contract with the Phillies on the recommendation of Pittinger.  The Philadelphia Record said Pittinger compared the pitcher’s abilities to those of one of Roy’s childhood friends, another Carlisle product:

“He thinks Roy has every earmark of developing into one of the best pitchers in either major league, and predicts for him as bright a baseball career as that of (Chief) Bender.”

Cincinnati protested the signing and claimed Roy had “Verbally agreed,” to a contract the previous December and belonged to Reds.  As the National League considered which team he belonged to, Roy worked out with Phillies.

Charlie Roy, Carlisle Indian School, 1906

Any thought that he’d instantly join the team and be the next Bender was dispelled by Phillies Manager Hugh Duffy who was quoted in The Pittsburgh Press that Philadelphia would not appeal if Cincinnati won the claim because:

“Roy lacks the experience necessary to make him a success in the big league.  He is still green, and until the greenness wears off he will be of no value to big league team.”

The National League ruled that Roy was the property of Philadelphia, and regardless of Duffy’s assessment he made his debut for the Phillies in late June.  Roy only appeared in seven games, posted a 0-1 record with a 4.91 ERA and was sent to the Newark Sailors in the Eastern League.

Charlie Roy

Charlie Roy

He was 2-4 with Newark and was 2-4 again early in 1907 when he was released by the Sailors.  He signed with the Wilmington Peaches of the Tri-State League, although there is no record of him appearing in a game.  He finished the 1907 season with the Steubenville Stubs in the Pennsylvania-Ohio-Maryland League, appearing in 15 games.

Despite dropping from the Major Leagues to a class “D” league in 18 months, the 23-year-old pitcher was still considered a good prospect. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said after he won his first start for the Stubs, a 7-2 three-hitter against the Braddock Infants:

“He has plenty of speed and fine curves and looks like a winner.”

But near the close of the 1907 season it was clear he’d never be another Bender.  Despite being drafted by Boston Doves, The Associated Press reported that he would refuse to report to the National League club in the spring:

 “Charlie Roy, The Indian Twirler…has quit baseball to go into the evangelist field.”

Some papers reported the pitcher’s decision more impoliticly.

The Harrisburg Telegraph:

“(Roy) says he has had all the National League game he wanted, and rather than report he will go back to the plains and throw mud balls at his fellow Indians.”

The Sporting Life:

 “(Roy) intends to forsake the diamond after the close of this season and equip himself for evangelistic labors among the redskins of the Northwest.”

Roy returned to the White Earth Reservation to preach and eventually settled in Blackfoot, Idaho  where he died in 1950.

A shorter version of this post appeared on October 30, 2012.

Filling in the Blanks—Eastman, Huntington 1913

18 Feb

Baseball Reference lists “Eastman” as a player with the 1913 Huntington Blue Sox in the Ohio State League— he quickly became one of the biggest baseball stories in the spring of 1913, and just as quickly disappeared from the game.

George A. Eastman was born in South Dakota.  In 1862 his grandfather was one of the 284 Santee Sioux warriors who participated in the  Dakota War and  had their death sentences commuted by Abraham Lincoln—38 others were hanged in Mankato, Minnesota.

His father John Eastman was a farmer and Presbyterian minister in Flandreau, South Dakota and his uncle, Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman was a prominent writer, nationally known lecturer and activist.

Exactly when Eastman began playing baseball is unclear, but in 1912 he played on a semi-pro team in Sisseton, South Dakota with former Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher Homer Hillebrand.  According to The Pittsburgh Gazette-Times Hillebrand “Considered him very promising material,” and recommended Eastman to Pirate manager Fred Clarke, the paper said “Clarke says Indian players are the style, and the Pittsburgh club will be in style.”

George Eastman in Hot Springs, 1913

George Eastman in Hot Springs, 1913

When Eastman joined the Pirates in Hot Springs, Arkansas, The Gazette-Times, who of course dubbed him “Chief,” said:

“Eastman is a well built fellow, from the baseball standpoint.  He is 5 feet 10 ½ inches tall, weighs 150 pounds and is very fast.”

The paper said Eastman’s preacher father “does not know much about baseball, and does not think very well of it as a profession.”

A shortstop, Eastman quickly became the source of great interest in Hot Springs.  The Associated Press said even the Pirates best player took notice:

“Honus Wagner has taken more than a passing interest in the Indian Chief Eastman.  (Wagner) isn’t given to indulging in extravagant statements and when he says a recruit is a ‘mighty good ballplayer’ it means something…and he added that “chief throws like Mickey Doolan (Doolin) and fields just like Jack Miller.”

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

The Associated Press said:

“(A) Sioux Indian is burning up things around short field at Hot Springs with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Fred Clarke probably will retain him as an understudy to Hans Wagner.”

The Sporting Life thought he was bound for stardom:

“The Pittsburgh players are very enthusiastic over George Eastman, the Sioux Indian player, now being tried out at short. They say that he is a wonderful natural ball player, including hitting ability. They say he is sure of a place on the team, as he can play most any position and can ‘outhit Larry Lajoie.’

Despite the fanfare, Eastman did not make the team and was released to the Steubenville Stubs of the Interstate League.  It’s unclear whether Eastman ever appeared in a game with Steubenville, and was returned to the Pirates in early May; he was then sent to Huntington for the remainder of the 1913 season.

Eastman hit .210 in 57 games for Huntington.  There is an Eastman who appeared in 18 games in the Central League in 1914, but there’s no evidence that it’s George Eastman, who is never mentioned in connection with professional baseball again.

In fact, the trail for Eastman goes cold from the end of the 1913 until 1937 when he became the first tribal president of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe.  He served seven terms as tribal president before his death in 1954.

George Eastman, circa 1937

George Eastman, circa 1937