Tag Archives: Tragic Exits

Tragic Exits 3

23 Mar

Eddie Meade

Edward “Eddie” Meade appeared headed to the big leagues.  After beginning the 1926 season with the Kinston Eagles in the Virginia League, the 24-year-old left-hander was acquired at midseason by the St. Paul Saints of the American Association and posted a 12-7 record with a 3.40 ERA in 22 games.

Meade began the 1927 season with a 6-0 shutout of the Louisville Colonels on April 17.  The same week he recorded his first victory, The Associated Press said he was about to become a member of the defending American League champions:

“The Yankees talked of possible reinforcements in the shape of Eddie Meade, of St. Paul, called the best young pitcher in the American Association.”

Eddie Meade

Eddie Meade

During the same week, Meade became ill; although the nature of the illness was never disclosed.  Eight days later he started a game with the Columbus Senators but was pulled after giving up six runs in the fifth inning of 9 to 8 loss.  Five days later he pitched in relief against Louisville, but The Minneapolis Journal said he lasted less than an inning due to his “impaired physical condition.”

When the Saints left Minnesota for a series in Kansas City on May 16, Meade stayed behind.  The following evening Meade checked into St. Paul’s Boardman Hotel and shot himself to death.

The day after his suicide, The Journal said, “it was learned today that Meade was slated to go to the New York Yankees in the fall.”

St. Paul Manager Nick Allen told The Associated Press:

“He was one of the hardest working youngsters we ever had on the club and the outlook for his future was bright, as he had only two years in baseball.  The only motive he could have had for such action would be mental depression.  He was not married.  The nature of his illness was no cause for alarm, but he apparently believed it otherwise.”

Tommy Coates

Thomas A. “Tommy” Coates was born in Omro, Wisconsin on February 18, 1886 (Baseball Reference lists his middle initial as “O” but birth and death records  list it as “A”).

After starring, along with his older brother Hiram, on Omro High School’s undefeated baseball team in 1901—The Omro Herald called the team “possibly the best in the state”—Coates played industrial league and semi-pro ball in Central and Northern Wisconsin.

After playing in Rhinelander, Wisconsin in 1908, The Oshkosh Northwestern said:

“Coates had lots of confidence in himself, and during the winter months the Omro boy came to the city one day and sought out “Pink” Hawley. Hawley agreed to give him a trial.”

Emerson Pink Hawley, a Wisconsin native who pitched in the major leagues for a decade, was the manager of the Oshkosh Indians in the Wisconsin-Illinois League.

Tommy Coates

Tommy Coates

 “Coates came to this city from his home at Omro (for his tryout).  He donned baseball togs and he ‘made good’ from the start.”

Coates, who The Northwestern said  was “tall (and) built something like the great Ty Cobb,” became the Indians starting left fielder one week into the season and went on to lead  the team with a .299 batting average (he hit .002 better than his 19-year-old teammate Heinie Groh).

In September, The Sporting News reported that with just one season of professional experience, Coates “Looks good to Connie Mack,” and was drafted by the Philadelphia Athletics. He was the only member of the Indians drafted by a big league club in 1909.

At season’s end in September, Coates, with an invitation to train with Mack’s club in the spring, spent most of his time hunting.

On October 11 Coates was in a row-boat with a friend, hunting in a marsh near Omro.  The friend told The Omro Herald:

“Tom saw a mud hen rise up on the right hand side.  He turned about quickly and took hold of his gun which was at his left side and pulled it toward him…I turned about as soon as I heard the shot, and to my horror saw Tom lunge forward.”

Coates accidentally discharged his gun, shooting himself in the left eye.

Twelve days after the Oshkosh Indians received a $300 check from Connie Mack—his draft price—Coates was dead.

The Northwestern said:

“He was quiet and unassuming. After making a sensational play in the field or batting out the hit that won the game…the Oshkosh fans could not induce Coates to doff his hat.  He would return to the bench with face covered with blushes.”

[…]

“His more ardent admirers were confident he would make good in the American League, and one of their first thoughts upon hearing of the unfortunate accident, was the promising career he had before him.”

Tragic Exits: James McDonough

28 Jan

James Vincent McDonough was born in Chicago in 1888, his father and younger brother were both Chicago police officers.  Primarily a catcher, the 5’ 10” 180 pound right-handed hitter first made a name for himself in the Chicago City League with the Auburn Parks and the Rogers Parks.

McDonough, middle row, second from left with the Rogers Parks in 1910.

McDonough, middle row, second from left with the Rogers Parks in 1910.

In 1911 he joined the Grand Rapids Furniture Makers in the Central League; in July The Sporting Life said he was traded to the Terre Haute Miners.  He finished the season with the Traverse City Reporters in the Michigan State League, and then returned to Chicago.

In 1912 and ’13 McDonough was one of the more popular members of Chicago’s entries in the United States and Federal Leagues.  He also started the 1914 season as a member of Joe Tinker’s Whales in the Federal league, although The Chicago Tribune said he was “handicapped this spring with a sore arm,” he played in the club’s final exhibition game in Covington, Kentucky, collecting two hits but never appeared in a game during the regular season, and was released in May.

McDonough

McDonough

That same month McDonough returned to semi-pro ball in Chicago and married the Marion Delores Jordan.

He remained a popular enough figure in Chicago baseball circles that his wedding and the brief marital scandal that followed in 1916 was reported in the local press.  The Tribune said:

“A ‘poisoned phone’ almost brought about the complete separation of Jim McDonough, the former backstop of the Federal baseball team, and his wife a few days ago.  For the last two weeks girls called up Mrs. McDonough every night and told her that her beloved hubby was not the saint she thought him.

“’These naughty girls,’ said the young Mrs. McDonough, ‘said Jim was out drinking champagne with them.  It almost drove me to nervous prostration.  Jim always denied the stories, but by that time I had grown to suspect him.

“’Then I went home to mother’s.  Three days later I saw a lawyer and filed a bill for a divorce.  Then the most wonderful thing in the world happened.  Jim came to me and told me he had done nothing wrong and that he loved me more than ever.”

Marion McDonough

Marion McDonough

The couple reconciled.

On April 22, 1918 McDonough made the papers for the final time.  The Chicago Examiner said:

“James McDonough, well-known as a catcher in the Chicago Federal League baseball team the first year of that organization’s existence, shot and killed his wife last night.  Then he killed himself with a bullet through his temple…Mrs. McDonough left the former ballplayer several months ago, charging that he failed to support her and their two children…McDonough was 29-years-old and subject to the draft. At the time of the separation Mrs. McDonough refused to sign exemption papers for him.  Several times since, it is said, he begged her to return to him or sign the exemption papers.”

The two had an altercation outside a drug store on Chicago’s South side.

“Noticing that they were attracting attention, the couple walked away.  At 4250 Vincennes Ave., McDonough pushed his wife into a hallway.  A moment later he shot her twice, once in the temple and once just below the heart. Then he sent a bullet into his own head.”

Both were taken to a nearby residence.  McDonough died after 10 minutes, his wife died 30 minutes later.

Although it appears he never played organized baseball after 1914, his Cook County, Illinois death certificate listed his profession as “Ballplayer.”

Tragic Exits 2

5 May

Charles Rapp

Charles “Adonis” Rapp was a left-handed pitcher (he also played first base and outfield) who began his career with the Austin Senators in the Texas League in 1898.  For the next several years he played for a variety of Midwest based clubs (Fort Wayne, Saginaw, Grand Rapids) in the Interstate and Michigan State Leagues.

Contemporary newspaper reports say he was also a member of the South Bend Greens in the Central League, but he is not listed on any surviving rosters; he was also said to have been “tried out by Milwaukee, when that city was in the old Western League (1903).”

Rapp’s trail goes cold after the 1903 season until 1909.  Rapp was living in his hometown of South Bend, Indiana.  The Indianapolis News reported on May 17:

“Charles Rapp, former ball player, and well known throughout the city, killed his mother late Saturday and then committed suicide.  The weapons used were a hammer, a dull paring knife and a small pair of shears.  It is said that Rapp had a tendency towards insanity, that the tendency had been marked during the last few days and that he undoubtedly deranged when he attacked his mother.

“Rapp did not die until several hours after the double crime had been committed and after he had been removed from the Rapp home to the St. Joseph County Jail.  Before death came, and in reply to a query about the crime, Rapp said: ‘I tried to get the whole family.’

“The last person to see Mrs. Rapp alive and the first one to discover the body of the woman and the dying son was Charlotte Benz.  Mrs. Benz had spent the day at the Rapp home and left the house late in the afternoon…On her return she stopped at the Rapp place, entering by the rear door…and then suddenly a sickening sight met her gaze.  Lying in a pool of blood at one side of the sitting-room were Rapp and the body of the mother.  The heads were close together and as Mrs. Benz entered the young man cried out: ‘Get out of here, Lottie, get out of here.’  It was evidently his intention to kill the Benz woman, but Rapp was unable to move from loss of blood.”

The Associated Press said of the incident:

 “Until Rapp fell a victim to the liquor habit he was one of the most popular young men in the city.”

Henry Long

Henry Long was born in Chicago in 1870 or 1871 (cemetery and death records disagree), he was the younger brother of  Herman who had a 16-year big league career.

Herman Long

Herman Long

Little is known about Henry’s early life, or when exactly he began playing professional baseball.  Based on newspaper reports he appears to be the “Long” who played with the Battle Creek Adventists in the Michigan State League in 1895.

Before the 1896 season he was signed by the Lewiston team in the New England League.  The Lewiston Daily Sun said:

“Manager (Michael) Garrity has signed pitcher Henry Long of Chicago, a brother of Herman Long of the Bostons, and is said to be a good pitcher, a hard hitter and a good all-around man.”

Long didn’t last in Lewiston, he was 0-2 in just three games before he was released.  Long then appeared in one game for the Shamokin Actives in the Pennsylvania State League, and then joined the Hagerstown Lions in the Cumberland Valley League.

The right-handed pitcher started seven games for the Lions and was 4-3 with a 1.29 ERA.

On July 10 he missed the team’s train for a game in Hanover, Maryland.  The Philadelphia Times said he attempted to hop a freight train and fell; his right arm was crushed under the wheels.  His arm was amputated “but Long sank rapidly and died in the hospital” in Hagerstown.  While contemporary news reports said the body was to be shipped back to Chicago, where it would be “received by his brother Herman,” he was instead buried in Maryland

Matt Barry

In 1900 The Sporting Life said Matthew “Matt” Barry had been “the first player from Rhode Island to receive money for playing ball.”

Information on where he played is sketchy—he was the Rhode Islands in the New England League in 1877 and Springfield (MA) of the International Association in 1878–but beyond that, there are few references to where he played during his career.

The Providence News-Democrat called Barry, who was born in Providence in 1850, a “well-known ballplayer and one of the best-known members of the sporting fraternity in the state.”

Barry eventually returned to his hometown, Providence where he operated the Empire Saloon, on Empire Street.

After the turn of the century, Barry suffered a series of financial setbacks.   On August 30, 1907 The News Democrat said:

 “(Barry) attempted suicide by inhaling illuminating gas in his room in the Essex house, at 23 Burrill Street.”

Barry was discovered by the owner of the house:

 “The room was locked, but the door was forced, and then Barry was seen unconscious on the bed with gas streaming from an open unlighted jet…as Barry’s usual custom was to sleep with all the windows open , the fact that they were closed , indicated that he had prepared to take his life.”

He was taken to Rhode Island, where he died on September 2.

Barry’s friends disputed the story that he had taken his own life, claiming his “financial embarrassments” had been overstated and that he “was in better condition financially than he had been for years.”  His friends instead said Barry, who “had been troubled with insomnia” and took morphine to sleep, turning off the lights “at that time the morphine would begin to get in its work,” had accidentally turned on the gas when he meant to turn off the light “which was on the same chandelier.”

The cause of death was never officially determined.

Tragic Exits

28 Apr

George Frazee

George Donald Frazee, listed on Baseball Reference as “G. Frazee” with the Shreveport Sports in the Texas League in 1928, was a three-sport star at Texas Christian University.

Born November 21, 1904 in Fort Worth, Texas, Frazee played outfield for the baseball team, halfback and fullback with the football team, and was a guard on the basketball team from 1923-1925.  After graduation he played basketball with a team representing the Fort Worth, Texas YMCA which played throughout the Southwest and Mexico.

It’s unclear where Frazee played baseball in 1926 and ’27, but in 1928 he started the season with the San Angelo Red Snappers in the West Texas League, there are no surviving statistics for his time there, but after being transferred to Shreveport he hit .301 in 32 games. Frazee signed with Shreveport for the following season.

On January 24, 1929 Frazee was flying from Ft. Worth with World War I flyer Willoughby Alvous “Al” Henley and another Fort Worth man, to attend the opening celebration for San Angelo’s new airport.  The United Press wire story said:

 “Tragedy marred the formal opening of the municipal airport today, claiming the life of Al Henley…one of the nation’s most skilled pilots.  Henley, Donald Frazee, professional baseball player, and W.E. Shytles…were killed when their cabin monoplane crashed in an attempted landing.”

The Brownsville Herald said:

 “He was an outfielder, fast, big and aggressive.  Shreveport lost an outfielder who was certain to make good this year.”

 

Chief Wano

William “Chief” Wano was born on Oklahoma’s Pottawatomie reservation on May 12, 1896.  He played semi-pro ball in Oklahoma City and in the army while serving with the 79th Infantry, 15th Division at Camp Logan, Texas.  After his discharge in early 1919 the twenty-three-year-old began his professional career with the Tulsa Oilers in the Western League.

Wano struggled during his first season, hitting just .195, but joined the Little Rock Travelers in the Southern Association the following season—and along with fellow Oklahoman, and former classmate and teammate at the Chilocco Indian School– Moses “Chief” Yellow Horse; he helped lead Little Rock to the pennant.

William Wano,

William Wano, back, fourth from right, at Chilocco Indian School

Wano was a consistent hitter throughout the 1920s (.317 in 11 seasons in class-A leagues), but was an erratic fielder and never made it to the major leagues.

After hitting .331 for the St. Joseph Saints in the Western League in 1930 Wano left organized baseball, first playing semi-pro then he accepted a position managing Ben Harjo’s All-Indian Baseball Club—Harjo was a millionaire and full-blooded Creek.   The team, based in Harjo’s hometown Holdenville, Oklahoma, barnstormed the Midwest and Southwest, and with Wano as player-manager won the Denver Post Tournament in July 1932.

Chief Wano

Chief Wano

Wano quit two months later after a dispute over two players Wano signed.  Harjo hired Jim Thorpe to manage the club the following season.

Wano moved to Dallas after his career.  According to The United Press he spent World War II working at the North American Aircraft plant in Dallas, and living at the home of Kal Hill Segrist Sr., his former Dallas Steers teammate (and father of Kal Segrist, who played with the New York Yankees in 1952 and the Baltimore Orioles in 1955).

On July 30, 1945 Wano was in the Dallas City Jail (reports varied on why he was there), when according to The Dallas Times-Herald another prisoner “slugged Wano on the chin, Wano fell, striking his head on the concrete floor.”  Other reports said Wano was trying to break up a fight when he was hit.

William “Chief” Wano died that night in Dallas’ Parkland Hospital.  A month later a grand jury chose not to indict the man who threw the punch.

 

Gene Gaffney

Eugene “Gene” Gaffney was one of the better hitters in the Florida State League during his brief career (1920-23), he was also a manager’s nightmare.

Gaffney hit .335 in 60 games for the league champion Orlando Tigers in 1921, but was suspended for several days in July by Manager Joe Tinker.

The following season he joined the Jacksonville Indians, managed by former major leaguer George Stovall.  The team struggled, and Gaffney, had his only sub .300 season, hitting just .277.  And, according to The St. Petersburg Evening Independent, a car caused a major riff between the outfielder and his manager:

“Has a baseball player a right to ride to and from the park in his own automobile?  George Stovall says no.  He suspended Gene Gaffney because Gaffney had bought an automobile and insisted on being his own bus.

“Stovall insisted he should parade to the park in the team bus.  Gaffney told Stovall to go jump; that if the team would win enough games so that he wouldn’t be ashamed to wear the uniform on parade it might be different.  At last accounts Gaffney was off the ballclub, but riding his automobile to his own intents and purposes, while Stovall still was trying to get the rest of the Jacksonville team somewhere on the field.”

Gaffney played just one more season; he hit .357 for the Daytona Beach Islanders in 1923.

After baseball, Gaffney tended bar in Orlando until August 12, 1937—The Associated Press said:

“Gene Gaffney, about 43, local bartender who once led the old Florida State League in batting, was believed today to have been the victim of foul play.

“His automobile, its windshield shattered and other windows broken, was found mired in mud on the shores of an almost inaccessible lake just across the Orange County line in Seminole County, with evidence of a struggle having taken place.

“His eye glasses were found in the mud about 20 feet from the car.”

Gaffney’s body was found the following day.  His death was ruled a homicide.