SABR

Pop Rising

This article was written by Bill Nowlin.

A player by the name of Percival Sumner Rising wouldn’t go long without attracting a nickname. Pop Rising is how the young player became known at least as early as 1903.i Rising was bald at a very early age, and – the Hartford Courant explained – “as baldness is associated with age, it was believed that Rising was called Pop because he had been a good many years in the service. Not so, said Jimmie [Burns, Springfield Ponies shortstop in 1908.] A good many years ago, when Pop was on some team, he had a habit of popping up a fly every time he went to bat, and that is why he is called Pop Rising.”ii

He was born to John and Rebecca Jane (Ammon) Rising in Industry, Pennsylvania, on January 24, 1877. The family name was probably Reising originally, as John was a German immigrant – and apparently a well-off one at that. In the 1880 census he was listed as a “business agent” but by the 1900 census was described as a “gentleman” and then was retired by 1910. Percy was the fifth child of six known children in the family, the others being Nevida, Emma, Joseph, John, and Edith.

At the time of the 1900 census, Percy was boarding in Monaca Borough, Pennsylvania, working as a laborer in a glass-blowing establishment.

Percy’s first team in professional baseball was in New London, Connecticut, in 1902. Indeed, he played for the New London Whalers in the Connecticut State League from 1902 through 1906. It was originally a Class D team, but from 1905 on became Class B. It was in 1905 that Rising enjoyed his one stretch of major-league baseball, playing with the Boston Americans for the final couple of months of the season.

One of his first big hits came early in the 1902 season, during a game in Meriden on May 5. New London scored three runs in the top of the ninth to tie the game, 5-5, and then Rising hit a home run in the top of the tenth for the win. Three weeks later to the day, Rising’s double, a stolen base, and a home run over the left-field fence that was part of a four-run fifth inning once more embarrassed Meriden in front of their hometown fans. Rising seemed to provide an unusual number of game-winning hits in his first season. Waterbury went down to defeat in the bottom of the 11th on June 6 when Rising singled to drive in Noyes. His single in the bottom of the ninth beat visiting Hartford on July 9. And if he wasn’t driving them in, sometimes he was scoring them – witness the September 1 game against Norwich when Rising singled in the bottom of the tenth, took second on a force out and then scored the winning run on O’Brien’s single. He hit four homers on the season, batting for a .244 average.

In 1903, he was homerless but hit for a .281 average. He was fast on the basepaths, his 56 stolen bases second in the league.iii After the season he stayed in New London, having secured a position there for the winter.

Rising only appeared in 38 games for New London in 1904. He was hitting just.217 and by June had reportedly joined an independent league team in Altoona.iv By mid-September, he was formally reinstated with New London, but he’d already begun playing with them again in August – in time to get into a physical altercation with an umpire named Durnbaugh. It was in a game at Norwich on August 23. The umpire ruled that a New London bunt was a foul, and team captain Keane disagreed vociferously. Hot words and then blows followed. The account in the Hartford Courant stated, “Pop Rising interfered and threw Durnbaugh to the ground.” He was later fined $5.00, but Keane was arrested by a Norwich policeman and so was Durnbaugh, whose arrest had been demanded by New London manager Charles Humphrey. Both men posted bond on the spot and were not hauled off to court, but Keane and Rising were both ejected from the game, leaving New London with only eight men in uniform. Even though they’d been leading 3-0 at the time of the brouhaha, they were unable to field a full time and thus forfeited the game, 9-0.v

How big a man Rising was, we do not know. We have no height or weight information for him and though we know he threw right-handed, we don’t know if he batted left-handed or right-handed or was a switch hitter.

He hit .307 for New London in 87 games in 1905 and was brought to Boston for a shot at the big leagues on August 8, the Bostons paying a reported $1,200 to secure his contract.vi He was said to have “been playing a decidedly clever game in the field.”vii Some saw the outfielder – now 28 years old - with characteristics similar to Hobe Ferris, but manager Jimmy Collins came to see someone who couldn’t hit well enough.viii

John Godwin and Pop Rising both reported to the Boston Americans in early August. Rising debuted on August 10 and Godwin on the 14th. The Americans were the reigning champions, having won the pennant both in 1903 and 1904, but at this juncture were in fifth place in the American League. Boston sportswriter J.C. Morse credited owner John I. Taylor for bringing both players to the team: “Taylor is determined to have as strong an outfield as any, and to keep his team in winning form right along.”ix After a couple of weeks, writer Tim Murnane observed, “Godwin looks like the money, while Rising is also a likely looking chap.”x

But when the team left town on a Western road trip which began on August 18, Pop stayed home, as did Godwin and Yip Owens, remaining to work out with them and catcher Art McGovern.

More than a month after his debut, Rising had still not collected his first base hit. The September 22 Boston Globe noted that he and Godwin were both “weak with the stick, and have yet to hit the ball safely, showing how much easier it is to talk about picking up batsmen than to find the men.”

Pop ultimately appeared in 11 games, garnering 32 plate appearances. He hit one single, one double, and one triple in 29 at-bats, for a .103 average. He scored two runs and he drove in two. He handled 11 chances without an error, nine in the outfield and two at third base (he filled in one game at third when Bob Unglaub was hurt.) He drew two bases on balls and struck out four times. Boston kept him on the reserve list at the end of the season. “Manager Collins gave Rising and Godwin a try,” wrote Sporting Life, “but they failed to electrify. They are a couple of fast kids and on the go all the time, but they failed with the stick…When the White Sox came here Rising and Godwin were relegated to the bench and the veterans brought back.”xi

Collins took Rising to spring training in 1906, in Macon, Georgia. In one of the games against Mercer, he caught sportswriter Jake Morse’s attention with the way he charged the ball and fired the ball to first base. “Rising has been helping out in the infield and outfield and did quite a trick at Mercer the other day, when twice in one inning he threw men out at first on hits to right, and those college boys are by no means slow runners.”xii

He was cut, near the end of the exhibition season, and Boston entered into a deal with the Montgomery ballclub for Rising’s contract. He was going to be paid double what he’d been making with New London, but the deal was frustrated because Rising did not like the Southern climate and said he might decline to report.xiii

Arrangements were made and he was able to link up again with New London. He hit five homers for New London in 1906 but with an average which only reached .228. Again, some of his hits made a difference. In the June 28 game against New Haven, he hit a homer and another hit and then drove in the winning run, in the bottom of the tenth with his third hit of the game. He was capable at playing a number of positions and in 1906 “was utilized at nearly every position in the field.”xiv That included pitching. He took the mound in the second game of the August 7 doubleheader against Waterbury and threw a two-hit shutout, winning 1-0 when New London scored in the bottom of the ninth.

“POP RISING TO BE A PONY” – so read the headline in the December 7, 1906 Hartford Courant. New London sold his contract to the Springfield Ponies ballclub – another Connecticut State League club. The brief news released said that Rising “had a tryout with the Boston Americans, but was not quite fast enough for them.” Given that Boston finished 1906 with a record of 49-105, some 45 ½ games out of first place, one wonders how “fast” he would have had to be. New London had also finished last, in the Connecticut State League.

In 1907, Rising hit .321 for Springfield. Twice during the year, he became involved in altercations with Umpire Kelly. In bottom of the first inning of the July 17 game at Springfield, Hartford’s catcher threw to second base to nab a Pony trying to steal second. Some of the Springfield players “gathered around Kelly to chew the rag, and Rising stepped up in a threatening manner. Kelly was obliged to square off in regular John L. fashion to keep Rising from walking all over him. He pushed Rising away and Cy Miller stepped between the two men and saved Rising from getting hurt.”xv Rising was fined $5.00.

There was another incident with an umpire during the September 9 game at New Haven. There was “an exchange of blows between Burns and Umpire Kelly, in which Rising and Connor are said to have taken part…a lively incident. The three players were removed from the field by order of the umpire.”xvi

Rising played for Springfield in 1908 (batting .308), and the team won the Connecticut State League championship. He still had speed; in 1908, Rising led the league in stolen bases with 50. One high point in his season was the July 6 game against Meriden, in which Rising was 5-for-5. After the 1908 season, there was word from Idaho in October – where Rising was on a hunting trip – that he was prepared to sign with a ball team in Puyallup.

He didn’t play in Puyallup, or anywhere other than Springfield, in 1909. A press notice from Springfield said that he “decided that three square meals a day in Springfield will be better than eating strawberries in Idaho.”xvii It may have taken a word of warning from J. H. Farrell of the National Baseball Commission, reminding him of the consequences should he fail to report. He played for the Ponies and he hit .286 in 1909.

Not long after the season, he was in the newspaper again, working as a policeman for the Springfield Police Department. Assigned as a special officer at the Gilmore Theater, he made his first arrests. “Someone in the gallery threw a cigarette butt away and Morris Akterski and Arthur Richards engaged in a hot fight to see who should have the butt. The battle was waging fiercely until Pop broke it up and lugged the combatants off to headquarters. Both boys were charged with breach of the peace.”xviii Rising indicated that “he will show what he can do if some umpire of the Connecticut League tries to start something in the galley of the Gilmore.”

Early in 1910, Springfield traded Rising to the New Bedford Whalers club of the New England League for pitcher Henry Coffin and outfielder William Brown. He’d been hoping to play for Hartford, but took the job playing for Tommy Dowd, and for the second season in a row hit for a .286 average. Dowd named Rising team captain. Why did he appoint the mercurial Rising captain? Some thought Dowd might need to “have his head fixed.” Over the wintertime, in early 1911, Dowd answered the question by asking one of his own: “Just look at me and you’ll see who is the mate and the captain bold of the New Bedford club. He doesn’t look like Pop Rising, does he?” He expanded, adding, “I got a lot of baseball by telling him he could be field captain. It swelled him up like a poisoned pup, but it got a lot of extra work out of him. And ‘what were his duties?’ you ask. Why, before each game, I used to write out our lineup and hand it to him. Then he used to hand it to the umpire.”xix

The strategy may have paid off; New Bedford won the 1910 New England League pennant.

During the offseason, New Bedford let it be known that Rising was available. If there was interest expressed, the offers weren’t sufficient and no deal was done. He hit almost the same as the year before, coming in at .282 in 1911. The team plunged from first place to seventh .

Pop’s last season in baseball was 1912. He began the season playing for Lowell, in the New England League, appearing in 22 games and batting .352. He hit three doubles in the May 2 game against Worcester. By June, however, he had agreed to play for Tom McCarthy’s team, the Hartford Independents, though nothing really seems to have come of it.

In June 1913, Rising married Mary Ann Wood. There is believed to be an earlier marriage, to Alice Thompson, perhaps in 1901.xx

We know just a little more about Rising’s life circumstances, thanks to the United States Census. In 1920 he – or someone by the name of Percy Rising – is listed as single, living in Cleveland, and working as a servant in the household of widow Corlie Hamal and her son Leonard, a partner in a sales agency. And in 1930, Percy Rising – single – was living in Vanport, Pennsylvania, (about five miles from his birthplace in Industry) working as a laborer for the United States Government.

Percy Rising died in Rochester, Pennsylvania, on January 28, 1938. He was reported to have suffered a sudden heart attack while a spectator at a bingo game being conducted at the American Legion Home in Rochester.xxi He was survived by three sisters and one brother. Rising is buried a few miles away in the Oak Grove Cemetery at Industry.

 

Sources

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

 

Notes

i See, for instance, the June 11, 1903 Hartford Courant.

ii Hartford Courant, October 26, 1908.

iii Sporting Life, December 12, 1903.

iv Sporting Life, June 4, 1904.

v Hartford Courant, August 24, 1904.

vi Boston Globe, August 9, 1905.

vii Ibid.

viii The Hobe Ferris similarity was noted in the October 7 issue of Sporting Life.

ix Sporting Life, August 19, 1905.

x Sporting Life, September 2, 1905.

xi Sporting Life, October 7, 1905.

xii Sporting Life, March 13, 1906.

xiii Hartford Courant, April 2, 1906.

xiv Sporting Life, December 15, 1906.

xv Hartford Courant, July 18, 1907.

xvi Sporting Life, September 21, 1907.

xvii Hartford Courant, April 27, 1909.

xviii Hartford Courant, October 30, 1909.

xix Hartford Courant, January 30, 1911.

xx Letter from Gale J. Bunner to Bill Haber in 1987, located in Rising’s player file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

xxi The Daily Times, Beaver, Pennsylvania, January 29, 1938.

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