Tragedy and controversy characterized the career of pitcher Kurt “Casey” Hageman. In the closing days of the 1909 season, he killed an opposing player with a pitched ball, the tragedy changing the path of his minor-league career. During the 1912 season, Hageman challenged a minor-league assignment. The ensuing court case was essentially an early challenge of baseball's reserve clause. These two events had a profound effect on a promising baseball career. There were also happier moments in his career. Hageman threw no-hitters on the same date in consecutive years, and won the first game played at Fenway Park.
Kurt Moritz Hageman was the youngest of 13 children of German immigrants. His mother Elizabeth Paul was born in October of 1843. In the fall of 1857, she left Hamburg on the Rudolph and became a naturalized U. S. citizen in 1867. Little is known of Kurt’s father August Hageman, except that he died sometime before 1900. The Hageman family settled in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh. Kurt was born in Mount Olive (now part of Pittsburgh) on May 12, 1887 but grew up in the town of Beaver Falls. By 1900, Elizabeth was widowed and living in the city's first ward. Two older sisters were milliners and an older brother was a barber. Kurt was still in school.
Nicknamed “Casey”, Hageman began playing baseball seriously in 1904 with an independent professional team in Wampum, Pennsylvania. He spent 1905 and the first part of 1906 with teams in Beaver Falls and Rochester, Pennsylvania.
In the spring of 1906, Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania supported two minor leagues. The larger towns in the region participated in the Class C Ohio-Pennsylvania League. Pittsburgh sportswriter Richard Guy organized several of the smaller towns into the Class D Pennsylvania-Ohio-Maryland (POM) League, which had a tumultuous two-year existence. Waynesburg was noted for natural gas production in 1906, but the baseball team was struggling at midseason. One player picked up to try and improve the team was Casey Hageman.
His name was often spelled Hagerman in contemporary game accounts, but as a pitcher he was effective from the beginning. An early August account in the Steubenville Herald-Star described him: “A curly headed youth bearing a fantastic twist (curve ball) was on the mound for Waynesburg and he did just as he pleased with the Stubs. He applied his foolers to good advantage and for nine innings held the Stubs to six hits.”
The POM League had several weaknesses, one of them statistics. A later article in the Herald-Star credited Hageman with a 13-4 record with two ties in 19 appearances in about six weeks with the team. Casey was reserved by Waynesburg that fall, but spent 1907 pitching for another POM team. Despite the league name, there was no Maryland team in the league, and Waynesburg failed to field a team, so Hageman began the season back in Beaver Falls. He appeared in an April exhibition game at Steubenville as a member of his hometown team, but soon received a chance with the defending champions from Uniontown, a team variously known as the Coal Barons and the Champs, and managed by former major-league pitcher Alex Pearson. Hageman and Pearson were among four 1907 Uniontown pitchers to reach the major leagues.
Hageman made his season debut on May 2 in the team's third game of a season-opening series at Steubenville. The Herald Star said he “was all O.K. For a few innings against the Stubs but when they found him they throwed the hooks into him...” He walked four and threw a wild pitch in an 8-3 loss.
Uniontown and Hageman recovered from the slow start to have a strong 1907 season. In early June, Casey allowed three hits in a 4-2 win at East Liverpool. The win undoubtedly impressed an East Liverpool expert who selected Hageman as one of five pitchers for an unofficial league all-star team. Later in the month, he starred on the mound and at the plate in a game at Zanesville. The Zanesville Courier observed that Casey “had our men guessing. When the boys did hit his offering the fielders by good work took care of the bingles. Hagerman appears to be a hitting pitcher. Four times up yesterday he secured three hits.” In July, he shut out Zanesville on two hits, striking out seven.
Uniontown and Zanesville spent most of the season challenging Steubenville. According to reports the Steubenville club's payroll was at least double the league’s supposed $1,800 a month salary limit. By season's end Uniontown was 7 ½ games behind Steubenville, but a half-game ahead of third-place Zanesville. Record keeping was spotty in the circuit and official pitching records were not published. A report in the Herald Star credits Hageman with a 14-9 won/loss record.
There was more offseason uncertainty for Hageman the following winter. The POM league was dissolved and a general realignment of teams in the Ohio/Pennsylvania region occurred. Winter rumors had Casey headed for East Liverpool or Akron, but former major-league star Bobby Lowe, manager of Grand Rapids of the Class B Central League, signed him when it appeared that Uniontown would not field a team.
Casey's career at Grand Rapids almost ended before it began. Uniontown joined a new league late, and National Association Secretary John Farrell ruled that Hageman and several other players belonged to Uniontown, forcing Lowe to purchase his contract in late April. There may have been some doubt on Lowe's part, as Hageman was unimpressive in his first couple of starts.
Though effective, he was often the losing pitcher during the first half of the 1908 season. The Herald noted after a June loss to Dayton: “Hageman is showing symptoms of being the prize hard luck pitcher of the team. It is the second time he has been beaten in which opponents have gotten but five hits, while he has lost another game in which he allowed but two hits. Curt had the Vets breaking their backs reaching for some of his benders and he forced nine of them to strike out. He was steady as clock work, not granting a base on balls or hitting a batter.” The Herald sportswriter was also impressed with Hageman's assortment of pitches. “When it comes to flinging a slow ball, Hageman has a deceptive one that gets the other fellows going, and the best of it is he can mix it with plenty of speed, and other variety of deceptives.”
He opened July with a three-hit shutout win over Evansville, but did even better in his next start. A South Bend account published in the Herald described his July 5 gem. “The Grand Rapids man was simply invincible and mowed down the Bender swatters with telling effect. For five innings not a man reached first base. Hageman was simply ‘it’. Only one man, [Leon] Foy, got anything that looked like a hit and then Ike Francis saved the laurels of Hageman by pulling down his stinging line drive.” After the no-hitter, the Herald also commented: “around the circuit he is mentioned as the speediest pitcher in the league, and he seems to be able to hold that record.”
Later in July, the Hageman and the team nearly went on strike over non-payment of salary. The crisis was averted and Hageman finished the month the same way he started it, with a shutout over Evansville. A local report read: “The class of curves that Casey Hageman dished up was altogether too much for the local ball tossers. Four bingles were secured off Hageman, but they were so well scattered that there was no possible chance for the locals to get a run.”
When Hageman shut out Wheeling in August, a major-league owner saw the game. The Herald reported: “Casey had Barney Dreyfuss owner of the Pittsburg Pirates watching him as he struck out six of his opponents.”
The rest of the season was unlucky for Hageman. Hard luck losses on the mound and then a late-season injury described as a “strain” proved more serious than expected and ended his season early. Casey Hageman finished his first season in the Central League with a 14-14 record, pitching better than his record would indicate. He allowed 6.8 hits and 3.0 walks per nine innings on the season. After the season Casey went back to Beaver Falls working as a designer for the Ingram Richardson Manufacturing Company.
Grand Rapids had a new manager, Joe Raidy, for 1909. Hageman was dissatisfied with the initial contract offered but soon came to terms. The season was one of triumph and tragedy for the young pitcher. After losing his first two starts, Hageman pitched 13 shutout innings against Evansville. Unfortunately, Grand Rapids also went scoreless.
He was even better in early June against Fort Wayne. The Herald said; “A rare exhibition was this pitching duel and the only possible fault that could be found was the bad second inning for Fort Wayne. Will one run win the game was the question asked. It most assuredly would, for there was nothing doing with Casey Hageman. He had speed, control and everything need to turn him into a winner, and used it.” He struck out nine and walked one.
His record was just 7-6 when he faced South Bend on July 5, the first anniversary of his no-hitter. The score of the game was 1-0, and the Herald reported on the historic coincidence. “When Casey Hageman is sent to the mound on July 5, he's sure he's going to win with a very strong chance of a no-hit-no-run sort of a battle. There wasn't a drive counted that looked anything like a hit, not one of his teammates being called upon to make even a really sensational play to keep him from having a hit charged against him. During the first part of the game the speed that the twirler was showing was causing comment. For six innings but 18 men faced him. Eight of these were laid away on strikes.” He walked four batters and hit another in the last three innings but kept South Bend off the scoreboard.
In his next start, Hageman threw his sixth shutout of the season in a 2-0 seven-inning victory over Evansville. The win ran his scoreless inning streak to 31.
During the latter part of July and the beginning of August, both Hageman and the Grand Rapids team struggled. Rumors had the team moving to various cities in Ohio before the ownership situation stabilized. Hageman regained effectiveness while the rest of the team's pitching staff was wearing down. The Herald commented on Hageman's September 5 pitching feat against South Bend. “In the winning Casey Hageman worked the iron man stunt. Both contests did Casey work. The second session was cut to seven innings by mutual agreement. Therefore Hageman worked 16 innings. In this period he allowed but eight hits four to the game. There was one run counted. That was in the second inning of the second game. In other words the Benders had little or no chance.”
Two days later, Hageman pitched both games of a doubleheader against Dayton, winning the first but losing the second contest. The Stags then left for their last two series of the season at South Bend and Dayton.
Charles Pinkney was a year younger than Hageman, and like Casey, began his professional career in 1906. Midway in the 1908 season, he was released by the New Castle PA team and signed by Newark, Ohio. When Newark's team ran into financial difficulties, Pinkney was sold to Dayton and soon became a fan favorite. Pinkney led off the first game of the September 14 doubleheader with his only home run of the season, off Hageman. Casey allowed four runs and was removed in the second inning of Dayton's 10-0 win. As was common in the Deadball Era, Hageman returned to start the second game. Charles Pinkney Sr. arrived at Fairview Park in the fifth inning and between innings briefly visited with his son on the field. By that time it was rapidly growing dark, and the Dayton Journal's Julian Behr commented the game should have been called after five. It was decided the seventh would be the last inning. Grand Rapids led 5-3. Hageman walked the first batter and retired the next, bringing Pinkney to the plate. As the Journal described it, “Pitcher Hageman threw three balls to Pinkney and the fourth appeared to be a ball which would entitle the batter to his base. It was a swift shoot, which approached the home plate like a swift shot from a rifle. It was growing very dark and before Pinkney could dodge, the ball had hit him square in the head just back of and above the left ear. The report was so loud it was heard by practically all present. The athlete fell to the ground like one shot.”
Charles Pinkney died the next day in Dayton's St. Elizabeth Hospital. The Herald described the effect of the tragedy on the Grand Rapids pitcher. “Kurt Hageman is inconsolable. He locked himself in his room at the Hotel Beckel this morning refusing to see even his teammates, although everyone absolves him from all blame in the accident. From early in the morning he kept the phone to the hospital in constant use, asking particulars of Pinkney's condition. When he learned the second baseman was dead his grief knew no bounds. He had splendid control this season and this accident was the first that has ever befallen him. Next to the death of Pinkney nothing could be sadder than the grief of Hageman.”
Hageman finished the season with just 2.9 walks per 9 innings, finishing with an 18-16 record. Determined to never pitch in Dayton again, Hageman refused a return to Grand Rapids and was sold to Denver of the Class A Western League.
Denver manager Jack Hendricks had managed at Fort Wayne in 1908 and 1909 and was familiar with Hageman. One report said Casey might have retired from the game if not for Hendricks. Hageman's first season with the Grizzlies was a disappointment. Inconsistency, especially with control was a problem. Overshadowed by most of the Denver pitching staff, Hageman struggled to an 11-10 record for a second-place club, walking 102 batters on the season. One source said “all season he was afraid to put a fast one near the plate.” Part of the problem may have been similar to those faced by Colorado Rockies pitchers years later: the altitude. A 1912 article in Baseball Magazine said the “‘mile high’ climate at Denver has a big effect on the game. Twirlers who have plenty of ‘stuff’ in a lower altitude have to work harder to get the same ‘break’ to a ball than they do in lower altitudes.” 1
Casey Hageman's second season in Denver was much better than his first. Denver began April hosting a team on a protracted spring trip, the Boston Red Sox. According to The Great Red Sox Spring Training Tour of 1911, Hageman pitched very well against the Red Sox Colts (or B) team. On April 2, Casey held Boston scoreless through seven allowing just one hit over the first five innings. Boston also optioned young pitcher Buck O'Brien to Denver; the performance of the Denver team would be watched by Boston.
Later in the month, Denver team President James McGill organized an ambitious spring training trip covering an estimated 3,500 miles through Texas and Oklahoma. Casey continued to pitch well there, allowing seven hits and striking out 11 in a 6-0 shutout of Dallas on April 11.
The success continued into the regular season. Later in the month he held defending league champion Sioux City scoreless through seven in a 10-3 win. In early June, Boston purchased his contract for a reported $5,000 with the understanding that he'd finish the season in Denver. He pitched in 23 games for the Grizzlies in 1911, posting a 14-7 record. He was a better pitcher the first half of the Western League season, perhaps struggling after another errant pitch beaned Sioux City’s Fred Stem.
Casey Hageman joined Boston during the second week of September, and made his major-league debut at Boston on September 18. Cleveland starter George “Krum” Kahler allowed just one run on four hits, but Boston Globe thought Hageman showed ability: “Hageman....made his first appearance in the box here and pitched a pretty good game. It was apparent he was over-anxious and for that reason was unable to do himself justice. He looks as if he had the goods and will probably be able to demonstrate this fact when he strikes his natural gait. In any event he will bear watching for awhile.” Cleveland won, 4-1; Hageman allowed nine hits, struck out five, and walked two. Just one of the Cleveland runs was earned.
He made one more start in 1911, losing 4-2 to Chicago in one of the last games played at Boston's Huntington Avenue Grounds. Again, shaky defense hurt Hageman. Just one of the four runs was earned. In eight innings he gave up seven hits, struck out three, and walked three. He finished the season at 0-2, but with a solid 2.12 earned run average. It looked as though he'd be in Boston's plans for 1912.
Heading into 1912, it looked like Boston had pitching openings. A couple of veterans and rookies Hageman, O'Brien, Jack Bushelman, and Hugh Bedient were competing for two or three spots on the staff. O'Brien probably had an edge for one job, but Hageman's chances appeared strong. Coming north with the team, he still seemed to have a chance to be the fifth man on Boston's staff.
On April 9, the first game was played at brand new Fenway Park and Casey Hageman was the starting pitcher. It was an exhibition game against Harvard. According to Red Sox Threads, “4,500 hardy souls braved the elements watching in a cold 'fit to test the courage of any football crowd, with a little snow on the side for good measure of discomfort.' Hageman took the mound for Boston, squaring off against Harvard's third baseman Dana Wingate. The first batter ever to step into the box at Fenway Park took a pitch for ball one.” After throwing that first ball, Hageman struck out Wingate for another first. Casey was the star that day both offensively and on the mound. He surrendered just one hit on the afternoon, that to Harvard second baseman Bob Potter. He walked three. At the plate, Casey drove in the first two runs in Fenway history. In the second inning after a couple of walks and an error, Hageman drove in shortstop Marty Krug with a single. In the fifth, the mighty Casey drove in Larry Gardner with a hard-hit single to center.
Hageman got a start against the Yankees (Highlanders) in the third game of a season-opening series at New York. It was a disaster. Casey struck out one batter, the only one he retired that day. He also walked three and gave up a pair of hits and four runs, all earned. He got one more chance in relief for Boston and was again unimpressive, giving up three hits and an unearned run. On May 21, Hageman was sent to Jersey City of the Eastern League on option. He was unimpressive with Jersey City, posting a 2-5 record in 11 games. He allowed 71 hits and walked 37 in 59 2/3 innings. On June 23, Jersey City sent him back to Boston and the Red Sox sold him back to Denver for $1,500. This began a controversy that would overshadow the rest of Hageman's career.
Sporting Life stated Denver offered Hageman “$1,500 for the season and he refused to report. Other clubs offered Hageman a position, agreeing to pay him $2,400 [the amount of his Boston contract], but President [Jimmy] McAleer, of Boston, would not consent. Hageman offered to buy his release, and McAleer said: 'You'll play ball with Denver or you'll quit baseball.' About this time a major-league club offered to assume Hageman’s $2,400 contract, offering more money for the pitcher's release than Denver, but McAleer refused. Hageman was Boston's property; he must obey orders or get out of the business which gave him a living. Hageman reported at the Boston grounds daily, but after June 23 drew no money.” 2
Casey pitched no more in 1912, and on May 31, 1913, the Base Ball Players Fraternity sued the Red Sox on behalf of Hageman. Initial judgment was against Hageman and the union, but the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court reversed the ruling in early 1915. The case continued in the courts until February 19, 1918 when Boston settled out of court, paying Base Ball Players Fraternity President Dave Fultz $2,385.19 on behalf of Hageman.
Meanwhile Hageman played two more seasons of professional baseball. He finally went to Denver in 1913 and had another solid season. There were rumors that he was being scouted by several major-league teams. The Topeka Daily Capital quoted Cubs owner Charles Webb Murphy as saying he would not acquire Hageman no matter how well he pitched. Ironically, Hageman was pitching for the Cubs a year later and Murphy was out of baseball. That September the St. Louis Cardinals drafted Hageman from Denver, and got another chance at the major leagues.
Casey Hageman pitched well enough during the spring to secure a spot in the Cardinals rotation. During the preseason series with the cross-town rival Browns, Sporting Life offered comment on Hageman's potential. “Another prize shown by the Cardinals in the spring series is pitcher Hageman. Hageman gave a good exhibition in his first game Thursday until he became rattled with the continued objections of Branch Rickey. However Hageman and [Walton] Cruise are two of the choicest youngsters who have joined the Cardinals in some time.” 3
Unfortunately, once the season began strong performances were few and far between. Typical was an April 23 loss to Pittsburgh. In that game, “Hageman was wild. Aside from hitting a man and walking two more in the fourth, he had three wild pitches during the game.” 4 Soon pitching his way out of the rotation, his best performance for St. Louis was his last. On July 1, He pitched a complete-game 5-1 victory over the Pirates. He allowed five hits, struck out four and walked three. “Until the ninth inning only two men reached second base.” 5
Five days later he was sold to the Chicago Cubs for the waiver price. Casey Hageman pitched almost exclusively in relief for the Cubs. His lone win for Chicago was a game he later remembered as one of his best. On the afternoon of August 18, the Cubs were hosting Brooklyn, allowing the visitors to jump out to a 5-0 lead after two innings. Entering in the third, Casey allowed one run on six hits over the last seven innings, striking out four batters. He also went 4-for-4 at the plate with a double and two runs scored.
On the season, Hageman was 2-4 with St. Louis and 1-1 for Chicago. In 28 appearances including eight starts, he compiled a 2.91 ERA in 102 innings, striking out 38 and walking 32. That winter there was another contract dispute involving Hageman and the Cubs. His 1914 contract with the Cardinals had called for a $240 bonus. In April of 1915 he was awarded the bonus by the National Commission and the Cubs were also instructed to offer a 1915 contract including the bonus. Evidently this contract was not offered, or other terms were unsatisfactory, and Casey Hageman left Organized Baseball.
He initially stayed in Chicago, briefly pitching for the Logan Squares semipro team. Later in 1915, Casey Hageman married Helen Geitzen and bought the Youngstown (Ohio) New Agency, selling and distributing newspapers and magazines. He stayed in baseball around Youngstown. He pitched for and managed the McElroys and Tellings clubs in Youngstown.
Although Youngstown's semipro teams generally competed at a lower level than rivals in Massillon and Canton, the 1918 and 1919 teams were noteworthy. In August of 1918, Hageman had one of the all time greats in his lineup for at least a few games. According to the Massillon Evening Independent, “Manager Casey Hageman was the most surprised man in baseball when he was paid a visit the other day by Wagner and Honus importuned him to 'give him a chance' with the McElroys. Hageman lost no time coming to terms with the 'Flying Dutchman' and Honus expressed himself as well pleased with the arrangements. It is reported Wagner will collect $100 after every game.” 6
The 1919 McElroys started the season with a strong roster. In addition to Hageman, Earl Moseley, and Elmer Knetzer pitched for the team and Catcher Frank Mills was a former member of the Indians. Except for Mills and Hageman, none of the others remained in Youngstown for long.
By 1924, Hageman was helping to organize a club in Youngstown sponsored by General Tire. By that time, Youngstown no longer had the resources or talent to compete with the top independent teams. Casey continued to run the newsstand moving to New Bedford, Pennsylvania in 1951, but continuing to commute to Youngstown to run the News Agency until his retirement five years later. Casey and Helen had no children, and Helen was considered an invalid by the 1940's. Kurt Moritz Hageman died at his home in New Bedford of a heart ailment on the morning of April 1, 1964. He is buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Grand Rapids.
Steubenville (Ohio) Herald Star 1906-09.
East Liverpool, (Ohio) Tribune 1906.
Zanesville (Ohio) Courier 1907.
Zanesville, (Ohio) Signal 1907.
Fort Wayne (Indiana) News 1908-09.
Fort Wayne (Indiana) Sentinel 1908-09.
Grand Rapids (Michigan) Herald 1908-09.
Dayton, (Ohio) Journal 1909.
Des Moines (Iowa) News 1910-11
Waterloo (Iowa) Evening Courier 1911.
Boston Globe 1911-12.
Washington Post 1911-12.
Sporting Life 1912-15.
Topeka (Kansas) Daily Capital 1913.
Massillon (Ohio) Evening Independent 1915-24.
Youngstown (Ohio) Vindicator 1964.
“Baseball Above the Clouds” Baseball Magazine 1912.
“The Baseball Player's Fraternity” Baseball Magazine April 1915.
SABR BioProject biography of Charles Pinkney.
Bill Nowlin. The Great Red Sox Spring Training Tour of 1911 (Jefferson NC: McFarland, 2010).
1 Russell F. Norton, “Baseball Above the Clouds”, Baseball Magazine, February 1912, 32
2 Sporting Life, November 16, 1912, 10. The ruling reported more of the particulars of the assignment in an article reprinted in Baseball Magazine:
“Stahl said, 'If you must sign a contract be absolutely sure that the terms are just the same as the contract you signed with us,' and thereupon and on the same day he went to Jersey City and reported to the Jersey City club for duty and was required to sign a 'regular International League contract,' of which he did not receive a copy, by which he was to receive a salary in the same amount as he was receiving from the defendant.’
“Hageman afterwards testified that he understood he was released by the defendant to the Jersey City Club under an 'optional release'; that no period was specified in the contract which he signed with the Jersey City Club. Hageman further testified that he played with the Jersey City club until the evening of June 23, 1912, when the secretary of the club delivered to him a check for his services and made a statement to him, which was not received in evidence but which evidently related to his transfer to the Denver Club, for he wired McAleer regarding his transfer to that club, and received a telegram from McAleer in reply as follows: 'Jersey City did not want you so have given Denver option on you. You will have to make your terms with Denver.'”
Offered $250 a month, he “wired the Denver Club that the terms were unreasonable and that he could not accept them, and he received a reply from the president of the club as follows: 'Best proposition I will make you is two fifty per month when you are ready to report wire me for transportation and will send same or you can furnish your own and we will refund. You are hereby notified that you are suspended until you accept terms and report to us.'” The opinion of the court went on to state that McAleer offered to let Hageman buy his release and then reneged on the offer after which “Hageman then informed McAleer that he would remain there and report for duty and hold defendant to its contract, to which McAleer replied, 'You are foolish, my boy, you won't get a cent.' Hageman reported to the club daily for duty until the close of the season, and subsequently assigned his claim for services to the plaintiff, and this action was brought.” Baseball Magazine, April 1915
3 Sporting Life, April 25, 1914, 6
4 Sporting Life, May 2, 1914, 5
5 Sporting Life, July 11, 1914, 5
6 Massillon Evening Independent, August 5, 1918