SABR

Hick Cady

This article was written by William Dowell.

“In Cady Boston has picked up a man who looks like a first-class player. He stands more than six foot high and throws overhead dead to the mark all the time,” observed Tim Murnane, the Boston Globe sportswriter, on March 16, 1912. Murnane was commenting on a promising rookie catcher named Forrest “Hick” Cady, during the Boston Red Sox’ spring training in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Six months earlier the Red Sox had purchased Cady from the Newark Indians of the Eastern League for the then-pricey sum of $6,000 and two players. During the 1912 spring-training season, Cady impressed first-year manager Jake Stahl enough that he accompanied the team north to Boston.

Cady went on to enjoy a seven-year career in the major leagues during the height of the Deadball Era. He played six seasons with the Boston Red Sox on some of their greatest teams, including three World Series champions, and ended his career on a less-than-stellar Philadelphia Phillies team in 1919. Noted for his defensive abilities, Cady was a light-hitting right-handed-batting catcher who had a knack for timely hitting and was known as the preferred catcher of Smokey Joe Wood.

Forrest Cady’s family history and their introduction to the United States is an interesting tale. In 1846 a group of 1,100 Swedes set sail from Gavle, Sweden, in search of the religious freedom that America promised. Called Jansonists after their leader, Eric Janson, they were frequently at odds with Sweden’s state-run Lutheran Church over doctrine. Many of them, especially Janson, had suffered fines and imprisonment. Looking for a place where they could practice their religion without persecution, the group had sent a member ahead to America to secure a parcel of land that would accommodate their growing numbers. By summer, land in western Illinois had been purchased and by October the first colonist arrived. Led by Janson, the group decided to name the village Bishop Hill, after a town of the similar name in their region of Sweden.

Among the first to Bishop Hill was seven-year-old Hans Martensson Hollander, who was born October 9, 1839, in Bollnas, Sweden. Accompanied to America by his parents, Hans was raised in a religious commune where it was customary to spend three hours a day during the week and six hours on Sunday in church. His parents were firm believers in Janson.

Janson met an untimely death on the courthouse steps in Cambridge, Illinois, when he was shot by John Root, a nonbeliever. Root had married a Janson follower named Charlotta, but Janson had refused to allow her to leave the colony with Root. Outraged by this, Root confronted Janson on the courthouse steps in Cambridge, the county seat. Heated words were exchanged and Root pulled out a revolver and shot Janson dead.

Over the years more followers immigrated to Bishop Hill, settling in the colony or in the nearby countryside and becoming farmers. Christena Backlean and her 4-year-old daughter, Christena “Minnie” Backlean, were among this second wave. Minnie had been born in 1865 in Sweden. Hans Hollander and Minnie’s mother met in Bishop Hill, and by November 11, 1871, they were married.

In May 1883 Minnie was married to Johannes (John) Berglund, who had come to the US from Sweden in 1880 and worked as a farm laborer in Bishop Hill. By 1890, when they divorced, the couple had produced three children, Victor, Forrest, and Bessie. In 1892 Minnie married a widower, Frank E. Cady, a carpenter in Bishop Hill. Four-year-old Forrest quickly identified with Frank as a father figure and accepted his surname as his own. Frank had two children, Minnie had three, and she and Frank had three more. (In 1898 Forrest’s father, John Berglund, returned to Sweden, where he worked as a farmhand until his death in 1931.)

As a youngster Forrest Cady was affectionately tabbed with the nickname Hollick, whose origin was unknown. Early in his minor-league career, teammates shortened it to Hick. In his youth he gained a reputation as a first-rate local ballplayer. Local news accounts credited Ben J. Arnquist, a longtime supporter of baseball in the Bishop Hill community, with refining Cady’s skills as an outfielder and hitter. From 1903 to 1907 Cady played primarily with the Bishop Hill club under the tutelage of Arnquist. In 1906, as his team won the amateur Western League pennant, Cady batted.361 and recorded a .978 fielding percentage.

On occasion Cady played for a semipro team from nearby Kewanee, the Clippers, for whom his older brother, Victor, played. After a tryout Cady had impressed Kewanee manager Ike Reno enough to earn a place on the team as a reserve outfielder, occasional first baseman, and pinch-hitter. His career-changing moment came in a doubleheader against a team from Bradford, Illinois, when the Clippers’ regular catcher split his finger and was unable to continue. Even though he had never played the position, Cady donned the catching gear and set his professional career in motion.

For the next couple of years Cady bounced from team to team trying to earn his place in minor-league ball. In 1907 he tried out with the Rock Island, Illinois, club of the Three-I League, but was not offered a contract and went back to playing for Bishop Hill. Toward the end of the season he caught on with Monmouth, an independent club, which sold him at the end of the season to Indianapolis of the American Association for $300. Cady’s trial with Indianapolis was disappointing as he never appeared in a game. Unhappy with his situation in Indianapolis, he asked for and was granted his release.

After Cady returned home to Bishop Hill, he briefly played with the Kewanee Boilermakers of the Central Association and finished the 1908 season with the Ottumwa, Iowa, Packers of the same league. With both teams he played in 81 games, collecting 58 hits in 251 at-bats for a .231 average. He showed some power, collecting 16 extra-base hits, and a penchant for running the bases by accumulating nine stolen bases. His play earned him a contract the following year with Evansville, Indiana, of the Central League. In December 1906 Cady married Kittie Monjar. They were married for 40 years, until Cady died in 1946.

Playing for the Evansville River Rats in 1909 and 1910, Cady became known as a fine defensive catcher with some pop in his bat. In 240 games during the two seasons, he batted .218 and hit 11 home runs. After the 1910 season he signed with the Newark Indians of the Eastern League, where in 1911 he set personal highs in every offensive category except home runs. Cady played in 136 games, batted .260, scored 42 runs, collected 114 hits, 16 doubles, and 7 triples, and stole 12 bases. In January 1912 the Red Sox purchased his contract for $6,000 and two players.

On April 20, 1912, when the Red Sox opened their brand-new Fenway Park, the 26-year-old Cady was on their roster as a backup catcher. The 6-foot-2, 178-pound backstop was to share backstop duties with Bill Carrigan and Les Nunamaker. He saw his first major-league action on April 26, against the Philadelphia Athletics. For the season Cady played in 47 games, and hit .259 in 135 at-bats. Behind the plate he recorded a .990 fielding percentage in 43 games and he played four games at first base without committing an error. On June 29, against New York, Cady singled, driving in Jake Stahl from third. Then home-plate umpire Silk O’Loughlin ruled that Stahl had actually been balked home and recalled Cady back to bat. This time, Cady doubled. The quirky incident led the newspaper feature “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” to proclaim that Cady had recorded the impossible—two hits in one turn at bat.

Boston won the pennant by 14 games and played the New York Giants in the World Series. In what is considered to be one of the most exciting World Series in history, Boston defeated the Giants in eight games, winning four, losing three, and tying one game. Cady was the starting catcher in six of the games, batting .136 (3-for-22) with one RBI. He and his teammates pocketed the winner’s share paycheck of $4,024.

In Game Three Cady came to bat with two outs, runners on first and third, and the Giants clinging to a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning. He sent a sharply-hit line drive into deep right-center and into the late afternoon haze. Both baserunners appeared to score easily as Cady rounded first base. However, Giants right fielder Josh Devore had a good jump on the ball and raced back, caught the ball over his shoulder, and simply continued full-stride into the outfield clubhouse. The Boston spectators, whose view was impaired by the late-afternoon haze and were reading Devore’s body language, were under the impression that the ball had fallen in and both runs had scored for a Red Sox victory. It wasn’t until the following day when they read the morning newspaper that they realized the Giants had taken the game.

In 1913 Cady found himself as the Opening Day catcher for the defending World Champions. While he enjoyed a solid second season, the Red Sox could not find their way back to the World Series. Cady played in 40 games, batting a solid .250. He also improved upon his defense, and ended with a fielding percentage of .992. An article that year in The Sporting News identified Cady as one of the few catchers who could throw out Ty Cobb and the speedy Clyde Milan during the 1912 season.

The 1914 season was very similar to the 1913 season for both Cady and the Red Sox. Boston finished behind the Athletics and Cady once again put up very similar numbers to his first two years. Appearing in 61 games, he batted.260 and recorded a respectable .971 fielding percentage.

Cady was the Opening Day catcher for a 1915 Boston team that held high hopes of a productive season. He produced his best major-league season. Appearing in 78 games, he collected 57 hits in 205 at-bats for an impressive .278 batting average. (All were career highs.) He hit 12 doubles and two triples while knocking in 17 runs and scoring 25. His trademark defense was also spectacular, with a solid .980 fielding percentage. The Red Sox finished 2½ games ahead of the Detroit Tigers to claim the American League pennant, then defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, four games to one, in the World Series. Cady saw action in four Series games, collecting two hits in six at-bats. In that season Cady became one of the few men to pinch-hit for Babe Ruth, then a second-year pitcher.

The 1916 season started to signal the end for Cady. His fielding percentage of .967, in 63 games, was his lowest to date. At the plate the 30-year-old started to struggle significantly. He finished the season with only 31 hits in 162 at-bats, for a.191 batting average, and scored a meager five runs. (He did hit a career-high three triples.) The Red Sox once again won the pennant and beat the Brooklyn Robins in five games. Cady appeared in only two of the games and collected one hit in four at-bats.

The 1917 season was Cady’s last as a member of the Boston Red Sox. The aging veteran saw action in only 17 games, 14 of them as catcher. He posted career lows in every imaginable offensive and defensive category. He hit a paltry .152, collected only seven hits, two of which were for extra bases, and scored four runs with two RBIs. In the field, Cady committed three errors to compile a career-low .959 fielding percentage. Boston finished in second place in the American League, nine games behind the pennant-winning Chicago White Sox.

Back home in Bishop Hill after the season, Cady and his wife, Kittie, were involved in a fatal automobile accident in October while returning home from Kewanee after a night out with friends. They were apparently traveling at a good rate and did not see a horse and buggy in the darkness. In an attempt to avoid the collision, Cady jerked his car to one side but still managed to clip the rear wheel of the buggy. Cady’s Hupmobile continued through the ditch and rolled two or three times. Milford Lundberg, one of his passengers, was killed. His wife and Lundberg’s wife escaped without serious injury as did those in the buggy. Cady suffered multiple breaks in his right shoulder.

The injuries did not stop Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics from trading for Cady. On January 10, 1918, three months after the accident, Boston sent Cady along with outfielder Tilly Walker and third baseman Larry Gardner to Philadelphia for first baseman Stuffy McInnis. While dumping McInnis was more about purging salary than acquiring young talent or capable veterans, it is not clear why Mack would agree to accept a diminished player in Cady and now a debilitated one as well.

While he was with the Athletics, Cady never played for the team. Apparently his only duty was to warm up the pitchers. He was released in late June. Newspapers reported that manager Pat Moran of the National League Phillies was considering signing Cady, even noting that he worked out with the Phillies, but there is no indication that Cady was ever offered a contract by the Phillies.

Cady had other pressing matters to deal with. With the US now embroiled in the First World War, all able-bodied men were required to join the armed forces or find war-related work. During the summer Cady went to work for the Chester Ship Building Company in Pennsylvania, listing his occupation as ship builder. The shipyard had a team in the Delaware River Shipyards League, and Cady played for the team, mostly as a first baseman, as the team won 12 of its 14 games.

In 1919, with the war over, Cady made a brief comeback. In what was his last season as a major leaguer, he caught on with the Phillies. His skills significantly diminished, Cady played in 34 games and batted .214. Although he had only 98 at-bats, he had a career-high 19 RBIs and hit the only home run of his seven-year major-league career. But his major-league career ended on a sour note. On July 9 Cady and two Phillies pitchers, Gene Packard and Frank Woodward, were thrown out of the game. The three dressed and went into the center-field bleachers where they “harangued the bleacherites against the action of President Baker in changing managers.” For sticking up for their beloved manager, Jack Coombs, pitchers Packard and Woodward were fined $200 while Cady was fined $100 and given 10 days’ notice of his release

Before the end of the season, Cady caught on with the Vernon Tigers of the Pacific Coast League and eventually the Sacramento Senators of the same league. For the next six years he bounced around the minor-league circuit, with stops in Joplin, Missouri; Kansas City, Missouri; Augusta, Georgia; Danville, Illinois; and Columbus, Ohio. Cady briefly managed the Augusta Tygers of the South Atlantic League (1922) and the Danville Veterans of the Three-I League (1924). He ended his playing career in 1925 but quickly reappeared in organized baseball as an umpire in the Western, Pacific Coast, and Three-I Leagues for nearly two decades.

On March 3, 1946, at the age of 60, Cady died in a hotel fire in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. According to Cady’s death records, he was employed as a desk clerk at the hotel. The fire was caused by sparks from an electric heater that ignited some papers in his room. Cady was discovered by the hotel manager after other guests reported smelling smoke coming from his room. The fire was contained to his room. Cady apparently forgot to turn off the heater when he went to bed. He was survived by his wife, Kittie.

 

Sources

Baseball Hall of Fame Library. Forrest Cady file.

Bishop Hill (Illinois) State Historic Site. Correspondence with author.

Bishop Hill News, March 11 and May 16, 1890.

“Forrest Cady Dies In Blaze,” Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette, March 4, 1946.

“Chester Ship Building Co. vs. N.Y. Ship,” Chester (Pennsylvania) Times, July 27, 1918.

Arthur Daley, “Strange Things Happen in the World Series.” New York Times, October 2, 1945.

Paul Elmen. Wheat Flour Messiah (Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1997).

“The Days of Forrest Cady Recalled By Francis Geiger.” Galvaland Magazine, August 1961.

Galva (Illinois) News, May 24, 1883.

“Meets His Death In Auto Accident,” Galva (Illinois) News, October 25, 1917.

“Bishop Hill Star Once in Series,” Galva (Illinois) News, October 16, 1983.

Gary Gillette and Pete Palmer, eds. ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia (New York: Sterling, 2008).

Iowa State Department of Health, Forrest Cady Death Certificate, 1946.

“Connie Mack Makes Up List of Players,” Los Angeles Times, March 16, 1918.

T. H. Murnane, “Stahl Will Try Out Six Recruits Against Dooin’s Best Team.” Boston Globe, March 16, 1912.

“Catcher Sold To Boston,” Naugatuck (Connecticut) Daily News, May 15, 1911.

“Baker Fines 3 Players,” New York Times, July 10, 1919.

Roy Ostrom, “Forrest ‘Hick’ Cady.” E-mail message to Doug Dowell, April 15, 2007.

Herb Simmons. “They Pinch Hit For The Greats” Baseball Digest, November 1972, 71-76.

The Sporting News, January 23, 1913.

Trenton (New Jersey) Evening News, June 26, 1918.

Warren (Pennsylvania) Evening Times, August 12, 1918.

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