SABR

Pussy Tebeau

This article was written by Brian McKenna.

Charles Tebeau made the most of his brief baseball career, appearing in two games in the majors for the Cleveland Spiders, even though he played only two abbreviated seasons as a professional. When the New England Association collapsed in July 1895, he quickly signed with Portland in the New England League. Despite that commitment, Tebeau caught a train to Cleveland and joined the Spiders for a series against Washington. Portland's manager, unaware of Tebeau's whereabouts, saw his name in the newspapers playing right field for a National League club. He filed a grievance and the Spiders were forced to release their new find. Portland never even used him the rest of the season. A beaning in early 1896 marked the end of his active baseball career.

Charles Alston Tebeau was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, on February 22, 1870. His parents were of French Canadian descent; his father may have been born in France. Charles played amateur ball in and around the area. His interest often led him into New York state, where he met Catherine, or Katie, O'Hearn of Schaghticoke, in the Albany area, and married her. He was 20 years old at the time. The couple lived in Schaghticoke, then moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, about halfway between their two families, in 1893. By this time, they had three daughters.

The next year, 1894, Tebeau joined his first professional squad, the Pittsfield Bay Staters in the independent New York State League. That club was the only New England team ever to play in the NYSL. The team disbanded in early July after only 30 games; the league followed by the end of the month.

Tebeau, a right-handed second baseman and outfielder, signed with Lowell for the 1895 season. The club played in another independent league that wouldn't complete its season, the New England Association. Tebeau made the most of the opportunity, though, hitting well and making a name for himself. The circuit collapsed on July 8 after a third team disbanded. Lowell finished with a 24-24 record in third place. Haverhill manager Frank J. Leonard, a longtime New England favorite, quickly surveyed the league and signed a few players to bring along as he assumed the reigns of the Portland, Maine, club in Tim Murnane's New England League, a formal member of organized baseball. Leonard took off for Portland but Tebeau never showed.

Instead, he caught a train for Cleveland on July 11. Tebeau joined his namesakes, the brothers George and Patsy Tebeau, on the Spiders. Charles was not related to the brothers as some have said. They were born and reared in St. Louis. Some have speculated that Charles was brought in by Patsy, Cleveland's manager, to confuse opposing managers with a lineup full several ambiguous Tebeaus. Patsy (formally Oliver Wendell Tebeau) could potentially list one or two Tebeaus on his lineup card, and later decide which of the three to play or bat in a specific order. At this time the national newspapers identified Charles as C.A. Tebeau, which highlights his initials C.A.T. This may very well account for his unusual nickname.

On Monday, July 22, 1895, Pussy made his debut for the first-place Spiders against Washington. He entered the game replacing Harry Blake in right field at the same time a pitching change brought Cy Young to the mound in the fourth inning. In the fifth inning, Tebeau walked and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Ed McKean. In the eighth he placed a single to center and scored again on a hit by Jack O'Connor. In the field, Tebeau hauled in two flies without a miscue. The Spiders won, 8-6.

The next day, Tebeau started in right field, batting eighth in front of pitcher Bobby Wallace, in the first game of a doubleheader. He led off the third inning with a single to center field and scored on another sacrifice fly by McKean. In the fifth, Tebeau singled again, to right field, knocking in Chief Zimmer. After stealing second, Tebeau followed Chippy McGarr home on an errant throw by Washington's second baseman. McGarr scored but the umpire ruled that he had interfered with the catcher as Tebeau came in; Tebeau was called out. Even the Washington sportswriters questioned the arbiter's reasoning. Tebeau was pulled near the end of the game for George Tebeau. The Spiders won in the 11th inning on the aggressive baserunning of Jimmy McAleer. He walked, stole second, then took off for third, scoring when the pitcher overthrew the third baseman.

In the two abbreviated games with Cleveland, Tebeau fared well, reaching base five times, knocking in a run, stealing a base, and scoring three times. That was it, though; his major league career was over. Portland manager Leonard saw Tebeau's name in the newspapers on the morning of July 23 playing in the National League. He immediately suspended the player and filed a grievance with the National League, as had already filed Tebeau's contract with league president Nick Young. The arguments dragged on into August, but Patsy Tebeau was forced to relinquish his rights. He did so bitterly, declaring that the player "isn't much good anyway," departing words that the Boston Globe described as sour grapes.

Tebeau returned home, but records indicate that he didn't play with Portland in 1895. Instead he occasionally played semipro games with a Pittsfield club called Stanley. He did re-sign with the Portland club over the winter and joined the team in the spring of 1896. In the final preseason exhibition game, against Lawrence on April 30, Tebeau was beaned and was unconscious for more than 15 minutes. The game was called in the eighth inning after the incident. Tebeau was in the hospital for more than two weeks. A hardy 5 feet 10 inches tall and 175 pounds, he had lost 25 pounds by the time he was released. He never appeared in a regular season game for Portland and was released by the club in the middle of June.

Portland played a benefit game on June 25 for the injured player, fearing that his season and perhaps career was over; it essentially was. He recovered by the end of the year, prompting Sporting Life in its December 19 issue to direct all potential interest in his services to Pittsfield. He received an inquiry from Tom Burns, manager of Springfield, Massachusetts, in the Eastern League, but Tebeau never played another game in organized baseball.

Back in Pittsfield in 1897, Tebeau took over the managerial reins of a revamped local club, hoping to establish a viable Massachusetts State League with Al Lawson, organizer of the North Adams franchise, among others. The league never developed, prompting Tebeau to disband his club by May 23.

Outside the game, Tebeau was busy raising a growing family. In fact, he was probably happy to return to Pittsfield after the games with the Spiders. His and Katie's first son, John H., was born on the day of Pussy's major-league debut, which may explain why he never joined Portland in 1895. In all, he and Katie had eight children. One son died in his first month of life. Their oldest daughter, Frances, who never married, was the chief clerk at the Pittsfield Health Department for 35 years, the city's only female commissioner. She lived past her 100th birthday.

Tebeau supported the family as a machinist and toolmaker, an occupation he took up while still in his teens. He worked for many years for General Electric before retiring in 1933. He was active in Democratic politics as a councilman and alderman representing Pittsfield's Ward 3. Tebeau was a member of the city Board of Health from 1920 to 1926.

Tebeau died at his longtime residence, 125 Newell Street in Pittsfield, on March 25, 1950, at the age of 80 after a long illness. He is buried at the local St. Joseph Cemetery.

Sources

Ancestry.com

Berkshire County Eagle, Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Berkshire Evening Eagle, Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Boston Globe

Johnson, Lloyd, and Miles Wolff. The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, 3rd Edition. Durham, N.C.: Baseball America, 2007.

North Adams Transcript, Massachusetts

Pittsfield Evening Journal

Sporting Life

The Sporting News

Times Record, Troy, New York

Washington Post

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