SABR

Earl Moseley

This article was written by Bill Nowlin.

Right-hander Earl Moseley pitched in three major leagues in the course of four seasons: the American League, the short-lived Federal League, and the National League. He won 49 games and lost 48, and gave up just a hair over three runs per nine innings (his earned run average was 3.01).

Earl Victor Moseley came from Ohio, born in Middleburg on September 7, 1887. His father was E. B. Moseley and his mother the former Evaline Tarlton. Emerson B. Moseley’s occupation is unknown to us today, but Earl’s grandfather, Leonard Moseley, was a lumberman. When Earl was 2, the family moved about 90 miles away to Dexter City, Ohio, where he (he was more commonly known as “Vic” in baseball circles) attended both elementary and high school.

He began his professional baseball career at age 22 in 1910 with the East Liverpool Potters in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League, a Class C level league, at a salary of $100 per month. His first start came on June 28.

Player profiles were uncommon in the era, but I. E. Sanborn of the Chicago Tribune offered one on Moseley, and a portion of it makes for interesting reading:

Moseley always pitched whenever he could get the chance. That was not oftener than two games a month as a rule, and in order to get that amount of experience on the slab he had to organize his own amateur teams, and sometimes to equip them with the tools of the game. There were no inclosed (sic) ball parks available, and the games were played in open lots without admission. Sometimes when the hat was passed among the spectators enough coin would be raised to pay for the balls used and the bats broken in the game. The players had to rustle for their own uniforms, and Moseley was chief rustler for his team.

Frequently considerable of the cost of financing the team came out of his own pocket. One year in particular, by way of illustration, Moseley advanced money to buy uniforms for four players besides himself. Only one of the other three ever paid him for the uniform, and that was a year later. One of them died and was forgiven for forgetting the loan. So the Cub recruit figures that baseball owes him more money than he has got out of the game yet, but if ambition counts for anything he will be square with the game in a short time.

Moseley is not in baseball to collect what it owes him, however, but because he loves to play ball. No other reason could explain his devotion to it under such difficulties ….i

Vic was 7-7 with East Liverpool, in 17 games. He was loaned to the Class B Wheeling Stogies in the Central League under manager Bill Phillips later in August, where he had a 2-6 record.

Moseley pitched again for Bill Phillips in 1911, this time with another Ohio-Pennsylvania League club, the Youngstown Steelmen. The additional year’s experience, and perhaps pitching for a better team (the Steelmen finished in second place), helped Moseley become a 20-game winner, posting a 21-9 record. He earned his $125 per month salary. It’s not surprising that big-league scouts had begun to track him.

Moseley returned Youngstown and Manager Phillips after an unsuccessful trial with the Chicago Cubs in spring training of 1912. The Steelmen joined the Class B Central League that year, and Moseley led the team in wins for the second year in a row, this time with a 22-11 mark. Sporting Life inadvertently but amusingly named him Earl Victory Moseley in one of its issues.ii

The Boston Red Sox purchased the contracts of two players from the team – Moseley, for a reported $2,500, and shortstop Everett Scott, who went on to have a very successful major league career, playing on four world championship teams. The Red Sox got a bargain. The Sporting News reported that scout George Huff of the Cubs had paid $3,000 for Moseley a year earlier. The Cincinnati Reds offered more money than the Red Sox, but by the time their offer arrived, Youngstown had already completed the deal with Boston. The Red Sox announced the deal on January 17, 1913.iii

Moseley performed well for the Red Sox during spring training at Hot Springs, Arkansas, but they optioned him back to Youngstown. The Steelmen joined a new circuit for the third year in a row, this time the Interstate League under player-manager Curley Blount. Moseley's statistics for the season are unavailable, but his pitching made national news on two occasions. He struck out 18 Steubenville batters in a 6-0 win on May 25, a league record. He followed that up with a no-hitter against Wheeling on June 8. It would have been a perfect game, except Blount dropped a pop fly and was charged with an error. Youngstown won the game 1-0.

The Red Sox called Moseley from Youngstown in mid-June after injuries to both Smoky Joe Wood and Hugh Bedient. His made his debut debut on June 17 at Fenway Park, and he pitched a complete-game 7-4 win over the Tigers in the first of two games held on Bunker Hill Day. His stat line shows that he tossed a six-hitter with three bases on balls and a wild pitch. With the win, the Red Sox improved to 27-25 on the season, hardly the champions they had been in 1912.

He suffered from poor run support in losing his next three starts, with Red Sox batters scoring 0, 1, and then 2 runs for him. Things broke better for him on August 8 with a 5-4 win over the Tigers, He followed that up with a 2-1 win in St. Louis on August 15, and then back-to-back four-hit shutouts, in Detroit on August 24 and at Fenway against visiting New York on September 1. Overall, Moseley appeared in 24 games that season, including 15 starts.

Editor A. H. C. Mitchell of Sporting Life wrote in the September 20 issue:

“Young Moseley, who has a very deceptive spitball and plenty of other stuff, has learned the big league ropes and is taking his regular turn. He pitched a grand game against the Browns on Saturday [a 3-2 win on the 13th], holding them down to five scattered hits.

He closed the season well, with a three-hitter on September 25 and a two-hitter on the 30th, with the only sour taste being his final appearance, a loss to the second-place Washington team in which he was “wild and ineffective” (Boston Globe).

By season’s end, he’d thrown seven complete games and posted a record of 8-5, with an ERA of 3.13, a bit above the team average 2.94.

The Red Sox were very pleased with Moseley’s performance, enthusing enough that Sporting Life reported, “The Red Sox believe they have picked up another Joe Wood in Moseley.”iv

He was far from a good batter, hitting .081 for Boston (with 20 strikeouts in 37 at-bats) and just .114 lifetime in the majors; that was even worse than his paltry career minor-league career average of .121. He struck out more than half the time, with 148 Ks in 280 major-league at-bats. The Boston Globe’s J. C. O’Leary observed early on, “Moseley is a weak hitter. As a rule he misses the ball altogether, swinging on about everything served up, and the best he has got since he joined the team were two or three fouls.”v Nonetheless he scored the winning run in the August 8 game on which O’Leary was commenting by the simple strategy of not swinging at all – and Tigers pitcher Dubuc not being able to find the plate. It was the only run he scored all year long. He also had one RBI during the season.

On the first day of February 1914, the Indianapolis Hoosiers Federal League baseball club announced it had signed Moseley to pitch for 1914. The manager of the Hoosiers was Moseley's old mentor Bill Phillips. The Hoosiers played great ball, and beat out the Chicago Whales by 1 ½ games for the pennant, on the strength of a seven-game winning streak finale; Moseley won two of the seven games including the 7-4 win over St. Louis that put them in first place to stay. Moseley had a 19-18 record with a 3.47 ERA. He had the second-most wins on the team, after the 25-16 (2.22) Cy Falkenberg.

Because the Federal League was deemed an “outlaw” league, there was no one to play for a postseason World Series.

The Indianapolis franchise shifted to Newark, New Jersey for 1915 and became known as the Newark Pepper. Manager? Bill Phillips. Falkenberg faltered (9-11), and Ed Ruelbach ruled (21-10, 2.23). Earl Victor Moseley (newspapers often printed his full name) was 15-15 with a league-leading 1.91 ERA, but the Pepper finished fifth.

On December 23, 1915, after it was clear that the Federal League would not be able to continue and teams began to sell off players to help settle their debts, it was announced that the Cincinnati Reds had purchased Moseley's contract from the Hoosiers, reportedly for $5,000. One report said that he was the first of the Federal League players to be sold.

Moseley was a disappointing 7-10 (with a 3.89 ERA and more walks than strikeouts) for Cincinnati in 1916. His final appearance came in relief during a 4-0 loss to the Phillies on September 25. He registered for the draft and also bought and managed a billiard room in Alliance, Ohio, where he made his home for the remainder of his life.

In August 1917, Moseley joined the United States Army and served with the infantry in the Vittorio-Veneto defensive sector with the American Expeditionary Force until he was honorably discharged on April 14, 1919. Four months after his discharge he married Gladys Ochloe Shriver. Before his marriage, he played in a few games with the Beaumont Oilers. In 1920, he tried baseball one last time and was 7-2 with the Akron Buckeyes, though with a 4.43 ERA. He left the game – though he played semipro baseball for the next six seasons with the Massillon (Ohio) Agathons.

Moseley eventually owned a men’s clothing store in Alliance. At the time of the 1930 census, he and Gladys had three children: a daughter Mada and sons Richard and E. Victor.

At a certain point he left the clothing line and worked in maintenance for Mount Union College until he turned 73. He died of cancer of the duodenum at age 75, in Alliance, on July 1, 1963.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Moseley’s player file from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com.

 

Notes

i Chicago Tribune, March 13, 1912.

ii Sporting Life, January 25, 1913.

iii Boston Globe, January 18, 1913. A Sporting News story datelined August 28 reported the details of the purchase price.

iv Sporting Life, November 1, 1913.

v Boston Globe, August 9, 1913.

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