SABR

Larry Pape

This article was written by Marc Aaron.

Laurence Albert Pape played his entire major-league career – three seasons – for the Boston Red Sox. He pitched in a total of 51 games in 1909, 1911, and 1912. Twenty-four of his appearances were as a starting pitcher. He appeared in 13 games with the champion Red Sox of 1912 and did not play in the World Series. The Red Sox’ world championship that season was their first of four in a seven-year span. Pape never learned of the fourth, since he died on his 33rd birthday a few weeks before the 1918 World Series began.

Pape was born in Norwood, Ohio, part of the Cincinnati metropolitan area, on July 21, 1885. His mother, Fannie Kidney, was born in Cincinnati, while his father, Albert H. Pape, was an immigrant from Berlin, Germany. Both parents outlived their son. Census records for 1900 show that Albert was a railway freight agent. The couple had four children at home at the time, Larry and his three sisters. The 1910 Census lists Larry’s profession as a draftsman in a machine shop.

Pape, a right-handed pitcher about 6 feet tall and weighing 170 pounds, was described by Ben Mulford Jr. of Sporting Life as “a clean-cut fellow, well built, of splendid habits and good common sense. … He is long on pluck and ambition, possesses the requisite brains and it is ‘up to his arm.’ ”1

Pape’s minor-league career started in 1908 with the Milwaukee Brewers of the Class A American Association. He was 22 years old and had taken a position in Milwaukee when the electrical department of the Allis-Chalmers plant opened shop there, and the Milwaukee organization noticed his pitching for a local semipro club. In his first year of pro ball, he recorded a 13-5 record for the Brewers, giving up just 51 runs in 172 innings. His talent was on the mound; as a batter, he was certainly substandard, hitting just .054 (three hits in 56 at-bats).

Pitching for the Brewers brought Pape to the attention of some of the Red Sox, who were looking for pitching help during the 1909 season. The June 28 Boston Globe reported that manager Fred Lake had signed “pitcher Herman [sic] Pape, the big right-hander of the Milwaukee club.” Lake said he had observed Pape several times during a scouting trip in 1908 and had been impressed. He wanted to do a deal on the spot, but was told the St. Louis Cardinals had signed Pape. Lake learned otherwise in 1909 (and presumably learned Larry’s first name in due course) and did a deal with the Brewers’ owner by telegraph. Rookie pitcher Joe Wood – soon to become known as Smoky Joe – “speaks in glowing terms” of Pape’s ability. The Red Sox reportedly paid $2,500 for “Herman.”

Pape’s first start for the Red Sox came on July 6, 1909, against Washington, a crisp 1 hour 14 minute nine-inning game, the second of a doubleheader in Boston. He set down 15 Senators in a row and struck out seven, walked one, scattered four hits, and shut out the Senators, 2-0. He singled (off right-hander Bob Groom) in three at-bats and the report in the Globe commented that he “handled himself like a veteran and fielded finely as well.”

When Pape did well for the Red Sox, Milwaukee was asked why it had let him go so easily. Owner McCluskey said Pape had shown up that year out of shape with a lame shoulder – but glossed over the 13-5 start.

Pape started three games in 1909 and relieved in eight more, but none was stranger than the game of September 9 in Washington. In that game, Pape threw 10 innings and won the game on a hit by one of the Senators! Pape, with his “wide, sweeping curve,” would have had a shutout but for his own error. As the 1-1 game went into extra innings, Doc Gessler, who had been traded to the Senators before the game began but was allowed to play for Boston, singled in the winning run. By season’s end, Pape had pitched 58⅓ innings in his 11 games, given up 46 hits, and had a 2-0 record with a 2.01 ERA.

After the season, Pape took part in an exhibition game in Portland, Maine, playing against an all-Maine team, with the Red Sox coming out on top, 3-0.

The Red Sox trained in Hot Springs, Arkansas, before the 1910 season. Pape joined the team train as it passed through Cincinnati on March 5. He didn’t make the big-league team, though; a year later, the Washington Post said he “wasn’t seasoned enough to hold his place in fast company.”2 The Red Sox kept him close at hand, however; he pitched for the Brockton Shoemakers of the Class B New England League, winning 13 of his first 17 games by mid-July; he finished with a 19-9 record. Late in the season, the Red Sox moved him up to the Sacramento Sacts of the Pacific Coast League, with whom the Red Sox had close ties, and where the season didn’t end until November.3 Pape’s team-leading ERA of 1.44 in 87⅔ innings pitched for Sacramento was a factor in Boston’s decision to bring him back to Boston for the 1911 season.

Red Sox owner John I. Taylor announced early in January that Pape would be a starter on the 1911 team. The Globe’s Tim Murnane wrote that Taylor had always been “sweet” on Pape, “who had a knack of pulling out of tight places and always keeping his head.” Why hadn’t manager Patsy Donovan been higher on Pape? The “only fault” was “an apparent lack of ambition.”4 For spring training 1911, the Red Sox were based in Redondo Beach, California, but never played a game there – crossing the country twice, playing 64 exhibition games in all, after splitting into two teams (a northern contingent and a southern one) which took separate routes back east, playing along the way in states like Nebraska and Utah where they would never play again. Pape was part of the southern team.

His “year in the tall grass” seemed to help him, wrote the Post as he beat Washington, 6-3, with a six-hitter on May 3. Pape was a regular part of the Red Sox rotation pitching on a staff with Joe Wood, Eddie Cicotte, Ray Collins, and Ed Karger. He pitched several strong games, acquitting himself well throughout the season, finishing 10-8 with a 2.45 ERA (10th in the league), though walking more (63) than he struck out (49). The year 1911 was his best of his three major-league seasons; he appeared in 27 games, 19 as a starter.

The Red Sox returned to Hot Springs in March 1912, and Pape once again joined the train as it passed through Cincinnati. He started the season with the Red Sox, and was on hand for the formal dedication of Fenway Park on May 17 – a day he was probably glad to forget, since his ninth-inning error cost the Red Sox the game.

Pape appeared in only 13 games that season, starting just twice, and saw no action in the World Series. Red Sox manager Jake Stahl may have sensed the same thing as the sports columnist Hugh Fullerton, who wrote just before the World Series: “Charlie Hall is a good, effective pitcher and so is Pape, but I believe the Giants would hit either one of them.”5 Pape was among the world champions honored at the celebrations after the Series. For the season, Pape was 1-1 with a 4.99 ERA in 48⅔ innings.

There were some postseason rumors that Cincinnati manager Joe Tinker was going to acquire Pape for the Reds, and the Red Sox were said to be willing, but a confusing period ensued, and Pape played no ball in 1913. On January 12, a number of newspapers reported that manager Stahl had been visiting Los Angeles and consummated a straight sale of Pape’s contract to the Pacific Coast League’s Vernon (California) Tigers. Two days later, the Boston Globe reported that Red Sox president James McAleer had sold Pape unconditionally to Buffalo of the International League for cash. Six months later, Stahl was gone – fired by McAleer. Pape probably had little to do with that, but there were indications that the Red Sox were in some form of internal disarray. A story by James O’Leary in the Globe said the reason Pape hadn’t worked much in 1912 was that Stahl didn’t have much confidence in him; the article mentioned the error he’d made in the May 17 game. Perhaps a little tension between McAleer and Stahl was reflected in McAleer’s remark to O’Leary: “Many think that Pape is a good pitcher, but if the manager wouldn’t work him he could be of no use to the Boston club, so I disposed of him. The boy will now have a chance to get plenty of work and show what he can do.” 6

Less than a week later, Joe S. Jackson of the Washington Post wrote a column headlined, “Pape Case Shows Injustice of Present Baseball Rule.”7 Jackson termed Pape’s sale to Buffalo an “abuse,” saying that Boston had put him on waivers and Cincinnati asked for him. The Sox then pulled him back off waivers and sold him to the Buffalo Bisons, where he would earn less than the Reds would have paid him and less than the reported $4,000 the Red Sox paid him in 1912.

Jackson wrote that Pape might have been destined for a turn in the minor leagues, “as he has shown nothing this past season.” The writer apparently had a sense that there was something else at play, however, and termed it a “peculiar 1912 season,” given how little Pape had been used. While all this was going on, Pape was trying to settle down and start a family. He married his childhood sweetheart, Edith M. Smith, on January 29, 1913, at the home of the bride in East Norwood.

As it happened, Pape didn’t play at all in 1913. He worked out during the spring with Buffalo, but when informed in mid-May that Buffalo was going to farm him out to a Canadian team, he took a stand. He said he would not sign with any league lower than the International and asked instead for his unconditional release. When that was refused him, he announced that he was quitting baseball. He returned to his home in Pittsburgh, to which he and his wife had moved, to continue his former vocation as an electrician.

At some point, he was sold to the Portland Beavers for a reported $2,000. The Los Angeles Times’ report in its November 24, 1913, edition made the sale appear to have just occurred, but Harry A. Williams’ column in the paper’s May 7, 1914, edition said that the sale had occurred during the 1913 season after it was clear that he would not report to the Canadian team. Williams wrote, “Pape had trouble with [Buffalo’s manager Bill] Clymer, and refused to continue with Buffalo. He was sold to Portland, but failed to show up, and declined to give any reasons for not coming.” After sitting out the full season, he agreed in November to play for the Beavers in 1914 – but he took his time turning up, the “high-class twirler” arriving in Palo Alto on May 8.8

Pape pitched 36 innings for Portland in nine games, his first win coming on July 17, a six-hitter against the Los Angeles Angels. Once again he was not getting much work, “owing to a bad arm” (according to the August 31, 1914, Los Angeles Times). The Times informed readers that Pape had been released back to Buffalo the previous day. He finished 3-2 with a 3.75 ERA for Portland.

But Buffalo was not interested and told Portland to give Pape his release. He returned to his work as an engineering draftsman for Westinghouse Electric. There was a wrangle afterward, when Pape put in a salary claim with baseball’s National Commission for $660 against Portland.

The contretemps had its origin on April 20, 1914, when Pape, then living with his wife in Wilkensburg, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, received a wire from Portland asking him if there was any way he could be persuaded to join the team. Pape replied that he had not played ball for a year, was not in the best of shape, had recently married, and had quit the game and taken up a good position in the industrial world. He told Portland that because of the uncertainties of the baseball business he would need some substantial guarantee in order for him and his wife to leave their life in Wilkensburg behind. Pape followed up with a wire stating that if he received a guarantee of $2,000 for the balance of the season, plus transportation for both him and his wife, he would accept a Portland offer. Pape put special emphasis in the telegram on the resulting business and domestic inconvenience he would incur in order to go to Portland. Pape assured the club it would get its money’s worth. He took this guarantee as the basis for his claim for $660. However, he did not perform as expected and was therefore released and compensated only for his time on the roster, and was denied the final $660 he felt was due him. But he had not obtained any guarantee from Portland in writing, and lost his case before the National Commission.

Pape’s career record as a major-league pitcher was 13-9 with an ERA of 2.80. He had three saves and pitched two shutouts. Pape surrendered only three home runs, all in 1911, and only one of those left the park on the fly. The first homer hit off him was an inside-the-park home run off the bat of Senators pitcher Walter Johnson at the Huntington Avenue Grounds on July 5. The second was a bounce home run by Bris Lord on September 2. Eleven days later, on September 13, Pape gave up his only over-the-fence home run, to the Senators’ Clyde Milan at Washington’s Griffith Stadium. All three home runs came with the bases empty.

Larry Pape died in Swissvale, Pennsylvania, a Pittsburgh suburb, on July 21, 1918, his 33rd birthday. The cause was reportedly complications from an earlier baseball injury suffered when a batted ball hit him in the stomach. According to his death certificate, the cause of death was glandular cancer that had its onset about two years earlier.

He left behind his wife, Edith, an honors graduate of the University of Cincinnati, who taught school for 37 years and sent both of their children, Laurence and Joy, to college during the Depression. Young Laurence went on to teach at Fresno State in California. Edith lived into her 90s. Larry Pape is buried at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati.

 

Sources

Larry Pape player file in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

http://www.baseball-reference.com

Sporting Life

Baseball Magazine

Boston Globe

Chicago Daily Tribune

Christian Science Monitor

Los Angeles Times

New York Times

Washington Post

Rex Hamann and the American Association Almanac

http://sonsofsamhorn.net

http://en.wikipedia.org

http://www.sabr.org

Scott Rosner and Kenneth L. Shropshire, The Business of Sports, found on http://books.google.com/

 

Notes

1 Sporting Life, March 4, 1911

2 Washington Post, May 4, 1911

3 See Joe S. Jackson’s column in the January 11, 1911, Washington Post.

4 Boston Globe, January 5, 1911

5 Chicago Daily Tribune, October 6, 1912

6 Boston Globe, January 15, 1913

7 Washington Post, January 21, 1913

8 Los Angeles Times, May 10, 1914

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