SABR

Jack Hoey

This article was written by Bill Nowlin.

A Red Sox player sold for one dollar. Jack Hoey played outfield for Boston from 1906 through 1908. After the 1908 season, Hoey tried to continue as a ballplayer in Connecticut and became the center of a controversy when he was sold by the president of the Waterbury club for $1 to the New Britain ballclub as part of what appeared to be a side deal in exchange for a vote at a meeting of the Connecticut League.

Hoey was born in Watertown, Massachusetts, a city outside Boston, on November 10, 1881. His father was a native of England, Michael Hoey, a loomfixer employed at a local mill. He had arrived in the United States 10 years earlier, in 1871, and worked as a section hand in the woolen mills. His mother, Mary Boyle Hoey, was Bay State-born but her parents had both immigrated from Ireland. John Bernard Hoey was the eldest of four children and the only boy.

After completing grammar school, Jack went to Holy Cross Prep in Worcester, Massachusetts, and then on to the College of the Holy Cross for two or three years. His first work in professional baseball was in the major leagues, playing in the outfield for the Boston Americans (later the Red Sox) on June 27, 1906. J.C. Morse, writing in Sporting Life, said, “There is something about Hoey that reminds me forcibly of the departed Ed. [sic] Delehanty [sic]. He is very fast for a big man, and is not afraid to take a chance on the bases. He hits a ball good and hard and has been very unfortunate in not landing balls safely.”[1] It was a bit of a turnaround for Morse, who two weeks earlier had faulted Hoey for his fielding when he first came up and complained that he’d struck out three times in succession. Both Hoey and catcher Bill Carrigan had come to Boston from Holy Cross, in the midst of what was still, after more than a century, the worst season in the franchise’s history. Hoey had hit .391 in 1906, his third year playing left field for the Crusaders, and the Boston Globe called him “the hardest hitter in the college world today.”[2] He had been recommended by Hugh Duffy, the New England-born baseball great, and signed by team Treasurer Hugh McBreen, who noted that living at home in East Watertown for the half of the season that the team was home would leave him with more money in his pocket than any competing offers. Hoey was said to be planning to study for the priesthood.[3] It was his plan to play just one year, then enroll at Brighton Seminary to prepare for life as a priest.[4]

Hoey’s first game was in New York. He played left field and batted fourth. He was 2-for-5 – both singles – and scored two runs. He appeared in 94 games in 1906, batting .244 with 24 RBIs and 27 runs scored. Hoey postponed any plans for the priesthood and went to spring training with Boston. This was the springtime that ended with the suicide of manager Chick Stahl. After the tragedy, it was learned that Stahl had often talked about death, in particular talking with young Hoey, a fellow Catholic, in the days before he took his life. He apparently told Hoey he should learn how to play center field – Stahl’s position – because the chances were that Stahl would not be playing it much in 1907. “He told Hoey that he would like to know how to die, and the ex-college man talked continually to keep ‘Chick’s’ mind off such topics.”[5] 

Starting the 1907 season with the dispirited team, Hoey compiled 98 plate appearances, hitting .219 with eight runs batted in during the early going. At the end of June he was sent to Toronto, where he played his first game on July 2. On the Maple Leafs he joined Carrigan, but by early August he had returned to Boston because of a bad shoulder.

Looking ahead to 1908, there was hope that Hoey’s arm would be all right again. He spent the winter in Florida playing for Ormond in the Florida Hotel League.

In February 1908 Boston sold Hoey’s contract to Trenton, and he played there for five months, paid the full $300 per month he’d been paid while with Boston – one of the conditions of his contract being that Trenton match the $1,800 a season he’d been due under his Boston contract. But the Tri-State League season was only five months long, and when Trenton didn’t pay him any more than $1,500, he filed a complaint with the National Association – but lost.[6] The Red Sox may have heard that he was “hitting like a fiend” for Trenton (it must have been a late flurry, as his stats show a .267 average), and they brought him back to Boston in September in time for their last road trip. [7] He got into 13 games, but his batting had fallen off even further, to .163 without an extra-base hit to his credit. He drove in three runs.

There was some real confusion regarding Hoey’s status heading into 1909. The Red Sox thought they had sold his contract to Baltimore, but the Orioles claimed that after their original offer had not been accepted, they’d withdrawn it and now would take Hoey only on a conditional deal.[8] By the first of February, Hoey had been dealt to St. Paul of the American Association and started the season there. He appeared in 25 games, batting .292. There was a report in June that Hoey had been sold to the Hartford club of the Connecticut State League but it was apparently not the case. Near the end of July, Little Rock traded shortstop Al Boucher to St. Paul and acquired Hoey for the Travelers. Hoey got into 51 Southern Association games, but only hit .230.

His next three seasons were spent in the Connecticut State League – with Waterbury (1910), then New Britain (’11), and then back with Waterbury (’12). In 1910 he played 112 games for manager Michael Finn and hit for a team-leading .287 average, helping see them finish atop the standings. This was a Waterbury team that had a different nickname for each of six consecutive years – they had been the Waterbury Authors in 1908, the Invincibles in 1909 (though they’d finished in fourth place), and the Finnegans in 1910. Finn was ousted after the 1910 season, and with the pennant in their pocket, they called themselves the Champs in 1911.

The Waterbury club was sold after the 1910 season, and the purchasers were told that Hoey was not included in the deal, even though he’d been on the list of players under contract. He had indeed already signed his 1911 contract with Waterbury. The purchasers were told that Waterbury had given Hoey to the New Britain club in order to resolve a dispute on another matter, even though it hadn’t been mentioned at the time Finn was deposed and Harold Durant took over as president of the Waterbury club. A handwritten note was presented as evidence, though the transaction had never been recorded with any of the appropriate bodies. Though it is too complex a story to get into here, the Hartford Courant first murmured that the directors of the league could have staged Uncle Tom’s Cabin instead, and later railed in the spring of 1911 that “the player himself … had about as much to say as a slave on the auction block in the south” before the Civil War.[9]

As it turned out, Hoey was not in the best of shape. He’d taken an offseason job as a clerk at the Connecticut Hotel in Waterbury, but didn’t like the work so he took a position at a lunchroom, where he apparently impressed patrons by juggling fishcakes. The Courant complained that the buyer and seller in the dollar deal both acted as though they personally owned Hoey. The ballplayer refused to report to New Britain and, while awaiting a decision from the National Commission, trained with and even played a few early-season games for Waterbury – causing the Courant to complain that the results of the games in question were in jeopardy and that Hoey (and new Waterbury manager Carl Pace) should wait until the case was decided.[10] The league president ordered him not to play, and on April 27 he was suspended for insubordination for refusing to report to New Britain. But by May 14 Hoey was in the lineup for New Britain playing against Waterbury, earning loud cheers from a large Waterbury home crowd. He hit .278 in 62 games. New Britain finished fifth and Waterbury finished sixth.

Come 1912, things took an even more unusual turn. The Waterbury club had dissolved over the winter, as did the Northampton club, shrinking the eight-team league to six. Hoey was made player-manager of the New Britain team – and on June 15, the team moved to Waterbury! Hoey played in 101 games for the New Britain/Waterbury Spuds, batting .291.

The whole Connecticut State League was gone by 1913, replaced by the Eastern Association. No longer manager, Hoey started with the Waterbury Contenders, but didn’t get along with manager Sam Kennedy and was traded to the Meriden Hopes for catcher Walter Ahearn on July 14, just three days after the Holyoke Papermakers had moved to Meriden and taken on the new name. Hoey didn’t like it in Meriden, and it was reflected in his play. Moreover, Meriden didn’t really want to pay his hefty salary and so gave him his release on August 5.  The first team he telegrammed that he was a free agent was the Hartford Senators, and they snapped him up.[11] There wasn’t a lot of the season left, but Hoey helped Hartford take first place. His stats for the season show a .289 average.  Hartford and Lowell, the first-place team in the New England League, played a postseason series, with Lowell winning, four games to two.

Hoey played for Hartford again in 1914, starting slow but by season’s end hitting a steady .283. Notably, Hoey appeared in his second marathon ballgame. When with Boston in 1906, he’d played in that year’s memorable 24-inning game. On July 14, 1914, he played in a 23-inning game between Hartford and New Haven, when he was 3-for-8. In June he married Helen M. Foy. There had been an earlier marriage to an Anna Shea. Helen Hoey gave birth to four sons – Edward, James, John, and Thomas.

Hartford chose not to tender a contract to Hoey in 1915. He landed the left-field job with the Lynn Pirates of the New England League, where he played until he was released on June 23. He found work with the last-place Fitchburg Burghers and finished the season with them. His combined average for the year, his last in Organized Baseball, was .260.

Hoey turned up in the news a few years later as the manager of the Charleston (South Carolina) Naval Station baseball team during the First World War. He may have also taken work as an umpire in the South Atlantic League, in 1921. He was listed as living in Watertown at the time of the 1920 Census, working as a machinist in a watch factory. Hoey also worked as a clerk in a gas office, for Connecticut Light & Power, Chase Metal and Brass, and for the US Rubber Co. in Naugatuck, Connecticut. He was working for Worden’s Dairy in Waterbury as a clerk at the time on his death on November 14, 1947, the result of pernicious anemia brought on by a duodenal ulcer. He and Helen had four sons.[12]

February 8, 2011

Sources

In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Hoey’s player file from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the online SABR Encyclopedia, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com. Some of this material was originally published in the book Red Sox Threads.




[1] Sporting Life, August 4, 1906

[2] Boston Globe, June 19, 1906  

[3] Sporting Life, May 26 and June 2, 1906

[4] Washington Post, July 12, 1906

[5] Boston Globe, March 29, 1907  

[6] Sporting Life, July 11, 1908

[7] Boston Globe, July 8 and August 8, 1908

[8] Sporting Life, January 23, 1909

[9] Hartford Courant, March 21 and 29, 1911

[10] Hartford Courant, April 24, 1911

[11] Hartford Courant, August 7, 1913

[12] Curiously, a clipping in the Hall of Fame files from the May 30 (year not specified) San Mateo Times contains a funeral notice from Daly City saying that services would be held on June 1 in San Francisco, and that he had died on May 27. The notice says he was “a former big league player with the Boston Red Sox at the turn of the century” and that he was “well known in the Bay Area as a dog track official at Belmont and Bayshore in the 1930s.” Given that we have an official death notice from the State of Connecticut and clear family connections among the informants, this would appear to be another case of someone posing as a former baseball player, for such satisfactions as the impostor might derive. The age of this purported Hoey was given as 89, not 66. 

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