SABR

Hugh Bradley

This article was written by Bill Nowlin.

The man who hit the first home run at Fenway Park was a native of North Grafton, Massachusetts: Hugh Frederick Bradley. Bradley’s parents were Joseph A. Bradley and Sarah Nutting Bradley and they celebrated his birth on May 23, 1885. Hugh had one brother, John E. Bradley, 11 years his junior.

The first time we can find Hugh Bradley mentioned in print, it was in the account of a 1904 football game between Grafton High School and Upton High. “Hugh F. Bradley, the baseball player, was referee.”i He’d played baseball for the Spencers, the semipro town team for Spencer, Massachusetts, earlier in the 1904 season. There he “made a remarkable showing, his batting average being .361, and his fielding average 1000, accepting 87 chances.”ii Bradley attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, but does not seem to have graduated from there.

Bradley had an abortive start to his pro baseball career. In 1905, he was one of five outfielders who tried out for the Norwich Reds team in the Connecticut State League. [Hartford Courant, April 21, 1905] The season opened on April 28 but Bradley wasn’t in the lineup. He had made the team but left after just a couple of days to seek a tryout with South Manchester, as reported in the May 2 Hartford Courant. Apparently, he injured his right hand after a month – back with Norwich, though not for certain – and had to quit playing. Later in the summer, he is reported to have played some in the Maine Central League, batting .450 in limited action.iii

1906 - Worcester

Bradley’s first full-season professional team was the Worcester Busters of the New England League, a Class B team that was also having its first season. The Worcester ballclub was owned and managed by Jesse Burkett, who also played in the outfield. Sporting Life informed readers in its February 24 issue that Bradley and Burkett had agreed to terms. Bradley signed with the team on March 13, and was described in the Boston Globe dispatch as “a husky chap, standing 5 feet 11 inches and weighing 170 pounds. He is very fast on the bases.” The Worcester Telegram wrote on March 13, “Bradley has played on several strong semi-professional teams in the vicinity of Worcester. …He is a husky player who may prove a find for the Worcesters when he gets the practice of regular playing.”

Bradley was, wrote Sporting Life, “the best-known young ballplayer in Worcester County.”iv On the same day he was signed, grading was done and the ground was staked for the stands of a new ballfield, Boulevard Park, but a snowstorm prevented actual construction of the buildings for the team.

Ballplayers reported for duty on April 19 and training began in earnest. Worcester played its home games at the brand-new facility, and had a successful year, easily winning first place in the eight-team league. First place was a status that Worcester earned all four years (1906-1909) that Bradley held down first base for them.

The first game at Worcester’s Boulevard Park was a spring training game on April 19, and the next day’s Worcester Daily Telegram recounted the 3-1 victory over visiting Bridgeport, played in front of 3,500 spectators, with a nod to cleanup hitter and first baseman Bradley (1-for-4 in the game): “Bradley of Grafton was given a trial at first. Bradley had one difficultly thrown ball to handle, the ball being thrown into the runner. He acquitted himself creditably at the bag. With the stick Bradley swung well, and hit the ball on the nose. He got one safe one.”

The next day Bradley made the Telegram’s subhead: BRADLEY CROSSES PLATE WITH VICTORY. Worcester was playing in Providence. With two outs in the top of the 11th inning of a scoreless game, Bradley grounded the ball to the second baseman (Providence’s player/manager Jack Dunn), who threw wildly to first. Bradley took second on the throw, and then scored when the next batter, Ambrose Kane, lined one to left. Kane was thrown out trying to take second, but Bradley had crossed the plate before the out was recorded.

The regular season began on April 27, and a host of dignitaries were present, including the Massachusetts lieutenant governor and Boston’s Mayor John F. Fitzgerald. Bradley, “the Grafton lad,” figured prominently in the game story. Not only did he manage to catch a foul ball after falling over the bag, handling 11 chances without an error, but he tripled to left field in the bottom of the seventh inning, driving in the third run of the inning, an insurance run which extended the Busters’ lead to 6-4. The Worcester paper said, “Bradley played a nice game at first.”

Hugh went 0-for-4 on the 30th, but on May 1 had himself a 3-for-4 game with a double and a stolen base. The Worcester Telegram wasn’t as impressed as one might have thought, explaining of his hits, “Every one was due almost entirely to good luck.” Bradley typically played first base, but even filled in as catcher once late in the May 11 game, a 13-inning tie against Manchester. Four days later, he started in right field against Lynn, then swapped positions with Kane and moved to first base.

On June 1, Bradley had a pair of hits, one of them a triple, and scored two runs. Bradley played first base throughout, but batted at several slots up and down the lineup – fourth place, fifth place, seventh. He had a three-hit game batting cleanup on August 7, hit a couple of doubles on August 30. It was a good first season. Burkett had had to choose between Kane and Bradley as his regular first baseman. “Although Bradley was pretty green then,” the Telegram opined near the end of the season, “Burkett saw the possibilities and kept Bradley.”

The Busters finished the season as New England League champions. In the postseason, the Worcesters played the Connecticut State League leaders, the Norwich Reds, but Worcester was “off-stride” and went down to defeat in the Inter-League Series. Bradley did little to help his team. All in all, he seems to have played serviceable ball in 1906, collecting 106 base hits for a .243 average in 113 games, but he rarely stood out in any way whatsoever.

After the season was over, Bradley took a position as a clerk in a Thompsonville, Connecticut hotel. He planned to do some coaching of high-school teams on the side as he waited for the 1907 season to begin.

1907 - Worcester

The first home game of the season was May 1, but Bradley had already made headlines in the Worcester Telegram. BRADLEY’S CATCH SAVES THE GAME headlined the April 22 game story, which featured the great stop he made in extra innings during the first game of the year, a 5-4 win in 11 frames at Norwich.

Bradley had three hits and a stolen base on May 10 and another three-hit game on June 11. On July 1, Bradley was the leadoff batter, after hitting third most of the season to this point. Later in July, Burkett held a meeting with the Boston Doves, the National League club owned by George K. Dovey. The Washington Post reported that it was “practically settled” that Bradley and two other players were to be sold to Boston. Two of the four players mentioned in the article served with Boston in September, but neither Bradley nor one of the pitchers were sold, for reasons that remain unknown.

Bradley played out the year with Worcester – a quite good one - finishing the year hitting .285 with 112 hits (30 for extra bases, but without a home run) in 393 at-bats. One of his better days came on August 12, when he hit third in the order and produced two doubles and a single. Worcester once more won the New England League pennant.

In November, a couple of publications reported that Bradley and teammate Eddie Russell were both sold to the Providence club for $600 apiece. Come 1908, though, Bradley was once again at first base for the Busters.

1908 - Worcester

Bradley played a third season with Worcester, but it was the worst season of his 12 years in the minors, finishing the year hitting .238 with one homer in 466 at-bats.

One astonishing game near the end of preseason play didn’t require any hits to win. On April 30, Worcester played Woonsocket and managed to score nine runs in the combined second and third innings without the benefit of even one base hit. There was a six-run bottom of the second produced by four bases on balls, four errors, a stolen base, and a passed ball. In the third, another walk and three more errors by Woonsocket’s shortstop, Maloney, and the Worcesters held a 9-0 lead. The 117 fans at Boulevard Park were thrilled for a moment with Bradley’s long drive to left field but it was hauled in “near the stone heap” in the outfield. “Brad” was 0-for-4 for the day, but with two outs in the bottom of the eighth was robbed of a clean single when the baserunner ahead of him “loafed on his way to second and was thrown out by the centerfielder.”v

Bradley kicked off the regular season with a 2-for-4 game against the New Bedford Whalers, and hit the first home run of his professional career in the first inning of the May 13 game against the Brockton Tigers, in Brockton. He hit only one other homer in 1908, but that one doesn’t show in the record books. It was another first-inning blow, over the right-field fence in a 13-0 exhibition-game victory at Clinton Oval in Woonsocket against the Machine & Press team of the mill league there.

There was a little comedy early in the season, during a 13-1 shellacking Worcester administered to the Lawrence Colts. A throw from the third baseman pulled Bradley off the base, and “Brad” failed to touch the runner as he crossed the first-base bag – but the runner missed the bag. Bradley could have just stepped on the sack to record the out, but instead took off after McLane, the Lawrence baserunner. “The latter continued to run out toward the right-field fence as if he intended to go to Bloomingdale Road if Bradley would give chase.” Instead of chasing him all the way, or returning to step on first, Bradley waited until McLane came back in and then tagged him before he could dodge Bradley’s touch.vi

For the third year in a row, Burkett’s Busters led the New England League. After the season, Bradley picked up a little more cash playing some semipro ball and took part as the right fielder in a game for the Spencer team, going 1-for-3 in helping beat Marlboro, 9-1, during a September 23 game at the Spencer Fair.

1909 - Worcester

After being part of three championship seasons in a row, and despite an offyear with the Worcesters, Bradley, come springtime, decided to hold out for more money. Burkett said he wouldn’t pay any more than he’d offered. After several weeks, Burkett gave in, though perhaps just enough that Bradley could save a little face. The Sporting News reported in its April 29 issue, “It is pretty much all settled now, that Bradley will get a raise, but the amount of the monthly raise would not pay his board for a week in anything better than a third-class hotel.”

The additional funds may have encouraged him, however. He jumped his average dramatically to .312, hitting safely twice on July 24 to pass the century mark in hits. He was particularly praised for his fielding, with Sporting Life commenting on July 3 that “Hugh Bradley is the big boy of the first sack of this league. For three seasons this young man has been the best at that position in the New England League.” By the end of August, the publication, called him “undoubtedly the premier fielding first sacker of the league.” Manager Roger Bresnahan of the St. Louis Cardinals was reportedly interested in Bradley.

He finished the year with seven home runs and tied Brockton’s Simeon Murch for the league lead in hits at 144, Bradley batting cleanup much of the year. His two standout days were May 11, when he singled, doubled, and tripled, scoring twice in a 7-5 win over Fall River, and on July 13, when he hit four singles in a losing effort against Haverhill. 

On September 1, the Red Sox drafted Bradley, pitcher Fred Anderson, and shortstop Steve Yerkes.

1910 – Boston Red Sox

The February 3, 1910, Boston Globe headlined a story “BRADLEY JOINS RED SOX TEAM – Crack First Baseman Signs Contract.” Bradley had come by the team offices to sign his 1910 contract. Tim Murnane, the baseball editor of the Globe, revealed that Bradley was nephew to one of the earliest professional ballplayers in Boston, George H. “Foghorn” Bradley, who had pitched for the 1876 Boston Red Caps (9-10, with a 2.49 ERA) and played four games in the outfield. Foghorn, brother to Hugh’s father, Joseph, played just the one season but umpired for seven seasons.

Jake Stahl was expected to play first base, with Bradley prepared to back him up. This is how it played out.,with Bradley appearing in 21 games at first. Manager Patsy Donovan knew Stahl would be the stalwart at first, so he had Bradley try to develop skills as a catcher, and near the end of the year he appeared in three games behind the plate and “handled himself like a veteran,” said sportswriter A.H.C. Mitchell. He played right field in one game. The Atlanta Crackers tried to pry Bradley away from Boston in May, making an offer to the Red Sox. Boston declined, and the reference to Hugh as “Tom Bradley” in the May 19 Atlanta Constitution leaves one wondering if the Crackers knew which first baseman were they bidding for.

Hugh’s first major-league appearance came on April 25, 1910, when he was sent up to pinch-hit for Smoky Joe Wood in the bottom of the eighth. The Athletics were ahead, 4-2, but Boston had two men on base with only one out. Bradley flied out to center field. Bradley came through in his next appearance, however. It was May 7, in a game at the newly expanded Huntington Avenue Grounds against the visiting New Yorkers. The game was tied after nine, but New York took a 4-1 lead in the top of the 10th thanks to a rally that began with a hit batsman and two errors. With one out in the bottom of the 10th, Bradley batted for pitcher Eddie Cicotte and singled to right. He was stranded on first, though, and the game was a loss.

On May 30, with three runs already in, Bradley’s pinch-hit single to left field tied the game in the bottom of the ninth; the Sox beat the Athletics in the 10th. Three days later, in St. Louis, he doubled to the right-field fence in the top of the 11th (his second two-bagger of the game) and scored the winning run on Heinie Wagner’s single. Manager Patsy Donovan called Bradley “a grand young player” who could play several positions and “a corking good man with the stick.” On June 7, he had an 0-for-5 day, but in the top of the 13th he drew a walk, stole second, reached third on a passed ball, and scored the eventual winning run on Tris Speaker’s single to center.

That brief cluster of activity was the best part of his year, and Brad finished with a .169 average in 83 at-bats, though steady in the field with only one error in 189 chances. Bradley was already noted as a singer and spent the winter months on the vaudeville circuit in New England. He was offered a Red Sox contract for 1911 and signed it at the beginning of January. Stahl said he was retiring and manager Donovan initially penciled in Brad as the everyday first baseman.

1911 – Boston Red Sox

For spring training, President John I. Taylor had his men train at Redondo Beach in Southern California, breaking into two teams to get in more games, then playing a series of games as they traveled back east across the country. Red Sox teams engaged in an astonishing 64 preseason contests, winning 41 of them, playing games in Utah, Nevada, Nebraska, and even in the Arizona Territory. To while away the time in travel to the West Coast, it was Bradley who took the lead in forming a barbershop quartet with teammates Buck O’Brien, Marty McHale, and Larry Gardner.

Bradley suffered a “serious injury” near the end of the spring training trip, and lost his shot at a starting role.vii At first, it was reported that he had suffered a sprained ankle and then developed water on the knee. Sporting Life, though, reported in its season wrapup that it was a fracture of his leg; the publication termed it a broken ankle in another story a year later. Whatever the injury, it was indeed serious and he wore a plaster cast until after the midpoint of May. This left Hack Engle taking over for the departed Jake Stahl at first base. Bradley had less than half the playing time he had in his rookie year, batting only 41 times all season long. He took advantage of his moments, though, hitting for a .317 average and scoring nine runs to 1910’s eight. The highlight of his year was, without a doubt, his first home run. Near the end of the season, on September 25 and playing in one of the last games held at the Huntington Avenue Grounds, Brad faced Lefty George of the St. Louis Browns in the bottom of the sixth inning and hit what the Globe called “a fine home run.” It was the next to last homer hit at the Grounds; Joe Riggert hit one in the last inning of the final game played on Huntington Avenue, on October 7.

After the season, the Red Sox Quartet really got to work. Bradley was joined by Buck O’Brien, Marty McHale, and a new pitcher named Bill Lyons, who took Gardner’s place when the third baseman had to return home to help his ailing father. They performed several shows at Keith’s Theatre in Boston, and headed from there to Philadelphia. “They can sing, and sing well,” noted the Globe. “They compare favorably with any quartet in vaudeville.” Of Bradley, the newspaper – stat book not at hand – gushed, “While Hugh Bradley was hitting the ball to the music of .340 or thereabouts, he can sing rag time at an average of .598.”viii John I. Taylor was pleased with the addition of Lyons, saying, “Lyons, if you can pitch as well as you can sing, we might well hoist the pennant for next year right now.” Vocalizing was presumably his greater strength; Lyons never appeared in a major-league game.

It looked as if 1912 would be the year that Bradley might finally get to play major-league ball on a regular basis. Stahl was still retired in Chicago, active as a banker. Hack Engle had done very well in 1911, but – writing in October 1911 – A.H.C. Mitchell saw Bradley as the man for 1912: “After a long absence caused by breaking his ankle on the spring trip, Hugh Bradley is back in the game again, and the way he is covering first and hitting the ball makes the fans forget about Jake Stahl. There is no doubt Bradley can make good and the club need look no further for a first baseman for next year.”ix

New club president Jimmy McAleer had other objectives. Just a month later, as it happens, the new owners of the team determined to lure Stahl back and did so successfully, hiring him as field manager on November 10 and even granting him a small ownership stake in the team. He would become the only player/manager/owner in Red Sox history.

Fortunately, Brad had his singing to look forward to. The December 2, 1911, issue of Sporting Life saw the songster as irrepressible: “Bradley just cannot keep from singing. It is morning, noon and night with him on the training trips, and those who do not care for music have a hard time of it with Brad around.”

1912 – Boston Red Sox

Bradley’s vaudeville work with the Quartet continued into the new year, and the January 21 Globe remarked, “The second time you hear them you like them better than the first.” The newspaper praised Bradley’s standout number, “Oh, You Beautiful Doll.” They’d performed in at least seven cities, and often stopped the show when audiences clamored for an encore before the next act came on. The January 12 Globe said they’d never received less than six encores per performance. Lyons may have lost his chance to play ball due to the incessant bowing: “Hold on there, I’m bowing so much now that my neck’s lame.”

Jake Stahl returned to the Red Sox in 1912, to manage and play first base. Hack Engle joined Bradley as a backup infielder. Even so, Bradley had his busiest season yet, with 137 at-bats in 40 games. He was well-regarded, with the Boston Post’s Paul Shannon writing of him on January 17, “Bradley is one of the most earnest players in the game and his heart and soul is always in his work.” Most importantly, Bradley made his mark in history by hitting the first homer ever hit at Boston’s new Fenway Park. The date was April 26. It was only the fifth game played at Fenway.

The dominating feature of the brand new ballpark was the high left-field wall, just 310 feet or so from home plate, but with an imposing height of 31 feet. The original rendition of the wall was a 25-foot wooden barrier set atop the six-foot berm or earthen incline which took on the name Duffy’s Cliff for the Red Sox left fielder who learned how to play this original version of the warning track in front of the fence – and when roped off could also serve as overflow seating.

This was baseball’s Deadball Era, when home runs were few and far between, and many of them were of the inside-the-park variety. The Red Sox as a team hit 29 homers all season long, Tris Speaker’s 10 roundtrippers leading both the pack and the league. He was only the third Sox player to ever reach double digits. Jake Stahl had hit 10 in 1910, and Buck Freeman had done it three times, 1901 (12), 1902 (11), and 1903 (13). Some analysts, scoping out the new park, wondered if anyone would ever hit one over the wall. It didn’t take that long, and came off the bat of the unlikely Hugh Bradley, he of the one career home run to date. It was, as it played out, the last homer he ever hit in major-league ball.

Bradley was facing another pitcher known as Lefty, Lefty Russell of the 1911 world champion Philadelphia Athletics (he had hit his first home run off Lefty George). It was the bottom of the seventh inning, with two outs and two runners on base. Back in the first inning, Bradley had hammered a double off the fence. It was, wrote Paul Shannon in the Boston Post, a “screaming drive to left field, a swat that struck that high board fence wall well up toward the top and sent his two teammates across the plate.” An accompanying note said it hit about 10 feet below the top of the fence. Gardner then singled in Bradley. But the Red Sox frittered away their 3-0 lead and now were down, 6-4. The outfield played deep, mindful of his earlier drive off the wall. After the crack of the bat, Philadelphia left fielder Amos Strunk “flattened himself against the signboard after climbing the bank. He couldn’t get any farther, but the ball knew no such obstacle. It sailed over, seven feet from [the] upper rim.”

The moment the bat struck the ball, reported the Boston Globe: “The scene that followed was indescribable. Players came bolting from the dugout to take a look at the mighty blast. They could not believe their eyes.” Neither could many of the fans, apparently. The Post’s game notes declared, “Few of the fans who have been out to Fenway Park believed it possible to knock a ball over the left field fence, but Hugh Bradley hit one that not only cleared the barrier but also the building on the opposite side of the street.” Brad had five RBIs for the game, and had scored twice. His homer, wrote Shannon, was “a feat that may never be duplicated.”

It was. On May 24, Rube Oldring of the Athletics hit one that the Globe described as clearing the wall “at almost the same spot that Bradley sent it to beat the Athletics four weeks ago today.” Duffy Lewis hit one out on July 2 and Jake Stahl hit one out on July 20. Though none at all cleared the fence in 1913, four homers had been banged out in the first three months of Fenway Park. Bradley’s will forever be the first.

Bradley had his chance to become a regular. Stahl had suffered his own leg injury, which gave Brad his best chance, but he’d proven unable to lay claim to the position.

Bradley hit only .190 for the year, primarily filling in during a stretch when Stahl was hurt, and by July the Sox were looking to move him. Mid-July reports had Brad on his way to the International League’s Jersey City Skeeters as soon as he cleared waivers. This proved more difficult than expected, though, and he remained with Boston throughout the season.

The Los Angeles Times summarized his 1912 season on September 29, saying that he had “started in like a race horse and bade fair to supplant Manager Stahl at first base, but he fell off woefully in his hitting and lost a great opportunity.” Agreed, wrote the Boston Globe, terming Brad “a free hitter [who] could not seem to get them safe and fell off badly in his stickwork.” Still young, the newspaper expected to see him back in the major leagues after another year or two of seasoning. The Boston paper announced on November 25 that he’d been sold to Jersey City.

The Red Sox might have disposed of Bradley earlier. Tim Murnane reported in the December 5 Sporting News that Pittsburgh had offered Boston $8,000 for Bradley back in 1911, but they couldn’t get him past waivers in order to effect the sale. After his disappointing season, the Jersey City offer was the best on the table.

Brad saw no action in the World Series against the New York Giants, which the Sox won in eight games, though he collected a share which he planned to spend on real estate in the Worcester area and for some new stage clothing as the Quartette (now comprised of Bradley, Buck O’Brien, Bill Carrigan, and Heinie Wagner) planned on a two-month tour attracting what Bradley himself described as “the highest salaries ever paid for an act of this kind.”x

1913 – Jersey City and Toronto

The Quartette toured, even though Brad was a Skeeter now and not a member of the Red Sox. An early February report indicated dissatisfaction with one aspect of the demotion: “Bradley says he is not satisfied with the terms of the contract sent to him by the Jersey City club.”xi Presumably, it was not for one of the highest salaries ever paid.

One of the benefits, however, was spring training in Bermuda, and by March 1, Brad had come to terms, “counted on to shine at first base for the Pests.”xii Bradley played for both Jersey City and the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1913, starting off with the Skeeters. His old friends hadn’t forgotten him and during the April 27 offday for the Red Sox, Buck O’Brien took a group of players to see Bradley, McHale, and Bill Purtell play for Jersey City against visiting Rochester. Bradley’s tenure with Jersey City was fraught with some difficulty, resulting in a case being taken to baseball’s National Commission. Jersey City wasn’t pleased with the level of his play, and returned him to Boston, claiming that his release to their team had been conditional on his performance and stating that they hadn’t found his play satisfactory during what they argued was a trial period. The Red Sox refused to take Bradley back, and demanded payment of the $1,750 owed them. There was no record of the original transfer in Commission files, but AL president Ban Johnson’s files contained notice of his outright release to Jersey City on November 25. Further, there was a telegram from Montreal in the AL files offering Boston $1,500 for his release. The idea that Boston would have declined a firm offer of $1,500 for a conditional one of just $250 more was deemed unlikely, and the Commission upheld Boston’s claim and ordered Bradley back to Jersey City.xiii

The Jersey City club looked around for takers, and wired the Los Angeles Angels to offer Bradley, but the Angels owner “cast the telegram aside with the remark that any player which is not fast enough for Jersey City should not look to the Coast League for a job.”xiv A deal was worked out with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Bradley headed north to Canada. Within a month, manager Joe Kelley said that Brad was “playing grand ball for his club.”xv He had a good season, hitting .290 all told and added a couple more homers to his resume. Jersey City finished last in the International League, with Toronto one rung above them in the standings. A dispatch from Toronto in the November 29 Sporting Life reflected the thought that Brad was not the top choice of the Leafs: “First baseman Borton has declined to play here and Hugh Bradley will again cover first.”

Needless to say, there would be no touring this winter as part of the Red Sox Quartette. It’s possible the theatrical life had taken a toll on Bradley’s play. Teammates Joe Bush and Wally Schang talked about going into vaudeville in the offseason of 1913, but Harry T. Jordan, who ran the Philadelphia operations of the Keith theater organization, advised them that they could make good money for themselves and the Keith chain, but nonetheless sufficiently discouraged them, advising, “You are both very young and I am afraid you would be open to too many temptations. If you recall, there were four singers known as the Red Sox quartet. Two of them, Buck O’Brien and Hugh Bradley, were members of the Red Sox team. They spent a full winter on the stage, and made quite a success, but neither man is in the major leagues today, although both are young and promising. The same might happen to you.”xvi

1914 – Pittsburgh / Federal League

In mid-February 1914, Toronto manager Joe Kelley said that Bradley was on the market. Brad became intrigued with the idea of the nascent Federal League, hoping to mount a challenge to the established National and American Leagues as a third major. There were rumors that he was going to play for the Chicago Federals, the Whales, but he was signed by the Pittsburgh Rebels. Brad jumped from “organized baseball” to the rival upstart, “because he figured the chances slim of getting back into the big ring after a fellow has been there once and passed out.”xvii He also apparently got a pretty good deal for himself, a three-year contract at the rate of $4,000 per year plus a $1,000 signing bonus.

The Rebels were initially managed by Brownie Gessler, who had played for the 1908 and 1909 Red Sox. On March 14 both Bradley and center fielder Ennis “Rebel” Oakes joined Pittsburgh’s spring training camp in Lynchburg, Virginia. After the first 11 games, Oakes became manager for the two years the team (and league) lasted.


Brad got off to a terrific start, occasioning correspondent Harry H. Kramer to write from Pittsburgh early in the season, “Bradley’s fielding has been phenomenal and the manner in which he is hammering the ball to all corners of the lot has shown the Federal fans that Manager Gessler made a ten-strike when he secured the former Toronto first-sacker.”xviii The following week, the paper said that his infield work “could not have been improved on.”

There was some sense that Bradley’s ego may have been considerable, not surprising in someone used to the stage during the offseason as well. A Boston Herald report said that “Bradley tried to live on his reputation for being the first man to lift the ball over the left-field fence at Fenway Park” but acknowledged that he was, at the time, batting .343 for the Pittfeds.xix

Bradley was the starting first baseman for the Rebels, playing in 118 games and batting .307 in a career-high 427 at-bats, despite missing a number of games in June to a “sprained side” and in July to a severe spiking that took fully 10 minutes to bandage on the field before he could be taken to the clubhouse. He drove in 61 runs, but not one by the home-run ball. Pittsburgh finished seventh in the eight-team league. At the end of the season, the team hosted Rebel Oakes Day to honor their manager, and it fell to Bradley to step to home plate and present Oakes with a “handsome diamond stickpin.”xx

Come November, once again, there was writing on the wall that – despite his very strong season and despite his three-year deal – Brad would be asked to become a backup once more. The Rebels had acquired veteran St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Ed Konetchy. At least one report surfaced that the Indianapolis Hoosiers were considering trading for Bradley, but he stayed put for the first part of 1915.

1915 – Federal League: Pittsburgh, Brooklyn, and Newark

In 1915, Pittsburgh moved up to third place in Federal League standings, finishing just a half-game out of first, just four percentage points (.562) behind the second-place Chicago Whales (.566). But Konetchy had supplanted Bradley on first base, hitting .314 with 10 homers and 93 RBIs. Brad got into 26 games, batting .273. He drove in only 6 runs and on June 22, he and former St. Louis Cardinal Eddie Holly were both unconditionally released. They had both refused to go to New Haven of the independent Colonial League. The two ballplayers claimed they would hire a lawyer to demand full payment of their salaries. Bradley, though, signed on with the Brooklyn Tip-Tops, returning to the Federal League as a backup first baseman.

He hit .246 for Brooklyn, driving in 18 runs, but on August 23, the Brookfeds gave him his second unconditional release of the season. He signed on with his third Federal League ballclub, the Newark Pepper. With Newark, his batting declined further, and he finished his major-league career hitting just five singles in 33 at-bats (.152).

1916 – 1923 – Columbus/Omaha/Galveston/Houston/New Orleans/Nashville/St. Petersburg

Hugh Bradley wasn’t finished with baseball yet, though, nor were his legal troubles over, either. The Toronto owner was still pursuing a claim against him in the middle of 1916, arguing that Bradley’s contract still belonged to the Maple Leafs for having deserted Toronto to jump to the Federal League.

In March 1916, he signed with the Columbus Senators (American Association) to play first base. He appeared in 146 games, batting .250, and hit a pair of home runs. In June, though, Bradley was looking ahead, reported to be angling for the job of player/manager for the Worcester club, even offering to buy some stock in the team.

Brad played in 1917 for the Omaha Rourkes in the Western League, upping his average to .281 in the Class A circuit. The following year, he was out of baseball, perhaps involved in some way with the war effort or, more likely, simply unable to find work given the small number of teams operating during this wartime season. He played Class B ball in the Texas League in 1919, for both Galveston and Houston, hitting for a combined .280. In 1920, Bradley moved back up a notch to play A ball for the New Orleans Pelicans; he hit .254 in the Southern Association for the Pels, and .289 for the Nashville Volunteers in 1921, appearing in only 25 games.

Bradley’s last years in professional baseball were in the Florida State League with the St. Petersburg Saints. In neither 1922 nor 1923 did he play more than 105 games, but he hit .286 and then .296. In the latter year, he managed the Saints as well, named to the skipper’s slot in December 1922, attracting a salary of $3,500. The Saints finished fourth in the six-team Class C league. It was during 1923 that Brad homered for the last time.

An intriguing chapter in Bradley’s life appeared to open up after the 1920 campaign, when it was announced that he was going into the movie business, granted a territory by the Pathe Studios in which his job was to place films.xxi He nonetheless remained known as a Worcester man and it appeared to be but a short-lived posting.

Bradley turned up at the winter meetings in Chicago in December 1923, hoping to land a job as manager of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts, club, but he didn’t get the job and Pittsfield saw three different managers during an unsettled 1924 season.

Brad took up work as an umpire, working in the Eastern League beginning in 1927; he officiated at the season opener in New Haven. There was an incident in Waterbury on June 12 when manager William McCorry of the Albany Senators was suspended for assaulting Bradley. McCorry was fined $50 for the assault and an additional $25 for using offensive language directed at Bradley. It wasn’t an easy job umpiring; on August 7, a foul ball caromed off his chest protector in the eighth inning and struck him in the Adam’s apple. After first aid was administered and Bradley caught his breath, he worked the remainder of the game. He was dropped from the umpire list in 1928, but – in what seemed like an odd-year phenomenon – was back again in 1929 and again in 1931.

Life after baseball

According to the 1930 Census, Hugh was 29 when he got married in 1914. He married Worcester native Rita E. Kenney. Her given name appears to be Margarita (or possibly Marguerita), and the couple had a daughter, Doris A. Bradley (b. ~1915), who married Edward P. Salmon. They provided the Bradleys with three grandchildren. Bradley was a member of the Holy Name Society of St. Paul’s Church in Worcester.

In the years after his playing days were done. Bradley held a number of jobs. He worked as playground director at Worcester’s Logan Field, and worked with many boys who went on to play with high-school and semipro teams in the area. He was a member of the Worcester Retired Professional Baseball Players Club and spoke up on behalf of umpires (based on his own Eastern League experiences and perhaps aware of his uncle Foghorn’s umpiring career), leading an appeal in the middle 1940s for them to be included in the National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. “They deserve a place there,” he declared. “They have played a big part in building up the game.”xxii

In February 1947, three-quarters of the old Red Sox Quartet reunited at the Boston Baseball Writers Association, and Gardner, McHale, and Bradley entertained the writers with songs of days long gone.

Bradley died of a heart attack at City Hospital in Worcester on January 26, 1949. He was living at 43 Austin Street in Worcester at the time, and a front-page story on his death in the Worcester Telegram informed readers that after being stricken at home, he tried to walk to the police station but was unable to make it. A passing motorist saw him and took him to police headquarters, where he was rushed to the hospital and died half an hour later. He was 63 years old.

At the time of his death in 1949, Bradley was employed by the Wright Machine Company, a long-established metal machining firm based in Worcester.

Former Worcester teammate Hugh J. McCune said that Bradley “was always a great fellow to have around a ball club. He was always trying to help everyone. He had a fine personality, and a great singing voice. Many times he helped cheer up the ball players with his songs after a losing game.”xxiii

 

Sources

In addition to the sources cited above, the author consulted the online SABR Encyclopedia, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Refefence.com.

 

Notes

i Boston Globe, October 1, 1904. Grafton won, 6-0.

ii Sporting Life, April 21, 1906

iii Boston Globe, March 14, 1906, Hartford Courant, April 23, 1905, and Sporting Life, February 24 and April 21, 1906

iv Sporting Life, April 21, 1906

v Worcester Telegram, May 1, 1908

vi Worcester Telegram, May 13, 1908

vii Los Angeles Times, September 29, 1912

viii Boston Globe, November 26, 1911

ix Sporting Life, October 7, 1911

x Sporting Life, October 26, 1912

xi Sporting Life, February 8, 1913

xii Sporting Life, March 1, 1913

xiii Boston Globe, June 15, 1913

xiv Los Angeles Times, June 18, 1913

xv Boston Globe, July 18, 1913

xvi Sporting Life, November 15, 1913

xvii Hartford Courant, March 6, 1914

xviii Sporting Life, May 2, 1914

xix Quoted in Sporting Life, August 14, 1914

xx Sporting Life, October 17, 1914

xxi Atlanta Constitution, September 16, 1920

xxii Worcester Telegram, January 27, 1949

xxiii Ibid.

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