When Esty Chaney pitched for the Boston Red Sox, a good portion of the fans at Fenway Park may not have realized whom they were seeing. He stood only 5-feet-11 (listed with a playing weight of 170 pounds), but the next day’s Boston Globe wrote, “He is as big a man as [catcher] Forrest Cady, and many thought the announcer said that it was Cady pitching when the change was made, and left the grounds under the impression that it was Cady.” Cady stood three inches taller, but this was near the end of a disappointing Elks Day doubleheader and focus among the fans may have been fading. It was still nearly 20 years before the players wore uniform numbers, and public-address announcers strode back and forth using a megaphone to announce changes.
The right-hander made his debut for the reigning world champion Red Sox on August 2, 1913. Boston had lost four games in a row to the visiting Naps (as the Cleveland team of the day was called). Rube Foster had started the game for the Red Sox, but wrenched his knee and had to leave the game. Charley Hall had let the game get out of hand and by the time Chaney came in to pitch the top of the ninth inning of the second game of the twin bill, Boston was trailing 6-0. Chaney gave up one hit and two walks, letting in one run. Manager Bill Carrigan kicked about a play involving Nap Lajoie, but predictably to no avail – though Carrigan did manage to get himself ejected. Chaney finished out the inning, and Cleveland left Fenway Park having pocketed five wins in a row over the Red Sox.
As for Chaney, he was gone about a week later. He never got into another major-league game – or did he? Did he play one game in the majors – or two?
The next year, Chaney appeared in one more game in the “majors” – on May 19, 1914, with the Brooklyn Tip Tops in the Federal League. It’s in the books, and most baseball researchers deem the short-lived Federal League a major league. One game, four innings, seven hits, two walks (and one strikeout), yielding three runs. Call it a career; that was it.
Esty Clyon Chaney was born in Hadley, Pennsylvania, on January 29, 1891. He attended the public schools for 10 years and the Fredonia Institute in Fredonia, Pennsylvania, for one year. By 1912 he was pitching and playing the outfield in town team ball for Beltsville, Maryland, and then in Washington for the Navy Yard team. The Rockaway team in the Capital City League made a bid for his services and acquired him from the Navy Yard team. He was still playing locally in the District of Columbia as late as June 1913, pitching for the Ninth Street Christians in the East Washington League. Perhaps the three-hitter he threw against the First Presbyterians on June 9 caught the eye of a Red Sox scout. It’s not known how the connection was made, but he signed with the Red Sox and pitched the one inning. He was placed with the Brockton Shoemakers and pitched for them, part of a deal that sent pitcher Fred Anderson to the Red Sox. Chaney was 1-9 for Brockton. Anderson went 0-6 for the Red Sox.
In early 1914 Chaney pitched for the Tip-Tops, but only for four innings in a game against the Indianapolis Hoosiers. Confusingly, the New York Times box score mislabeled the team names and shows Chaney pitching for Indianapolis. He did manage at an-bat in the game, but didn’t get a hit. His one chance in the field was a successfully executed assist. Chaney left baseball with a record of 0-0 (7.20 ERA), a lifetime batting average of .000 and a fielding percentage of 1.000.
On June 13, 1914, he was back in Washington pitching for the Ninth Street nine – and threw a no-hitter against St. Agnes, striking out 12 and pitching to only 28 batters. According to the next day’s Washington Post, he “didn’t allow the semblance of a hit.” The Post also noted on August 23 that Chaney “had little difficulty holding the Treasury club in check.” On October 7 he married Nora Belle Croll. Like Chaney, her parents were both native Pennsylvanians. He cropped up pitching for the Greenville, Pennsylvania, team in 1915 and – perhaps – again for Beltsville (as L. Chaney) in August 1916. Chaney bore two nicknames, Jimmy and Larry, according to his wife. Confusing matters at the time, there was an established pitcher named Larry Cheney who won 116 games over nine big-league seasons from 1911 to 1919 for the Cubs and Brooklyn and briefly for the Phillies and Braves.
Esty Chaney looks to have pitched for the Albany Senators in 1914 but is likely not the same Chaney or Cheney who played 10 years later for the Springfield Midgets (Western Association) and/or the Hanover Raiders (Blue Ridge League) as an outfielder in 1924. John Coulson, author of Hanover Raiders: Minor League Baseball in Hanover, Pennsylvania, believes that Chaney was named Al, with no known relation.
What we do know is that by 1917 and for at least the next four years he was working as a railroad fireman for the New York Central Railroad while living in Perry, Pennsylvania. By the time of the 1930 census, he had been promoted to engineer. The couple was living in Stoneboro, Pennsylvania, and had adopted a child, Samuel, in 1923 or 1924. At the time of his draft registration for World War II the couple was living in Cleveland, with Chaney still working for the New York Central.
He died in his home in Cleveland on February 5, 1952, of a coronary thrombosis. Retired after 30 years as a locomotive engineer, he left his wife and son. He had been a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and was active both in the Masonic Order and in men’s work at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Cleveland.
In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed his player file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the online SABR Encyclopedia, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com.