SABR

Ferd Eunick

This article was written by Chris Rainey.

Ferd Eunick made the jump from Class D ball to the Cleveland Indians to get a “look-see” in 1917. The third baseman drew the Tribe’s interest because Joe Evans, the regular at third, was hitting under .200. It also helped that Ferd played for Marshalltown, Iowa, the birthplace of Indians owner James Dunn. Eunick never got much of a chance to show his stuff. In 1918, he was sent back to the minors from spring training. The Central Association folded because of World War One and Ferd chose to give up his dream of professional baseball and follow the advice of his future-father-in-law by marrying Elizabeth M. Ely.1

Ferd’s branch of the Eunick family were longtime Baltimore residents. His father, Charles M., and mother, Lillie M. Bonsall, were wed on September 6, 1888.Ferd joined the couple and older brother Thomas on April 22, 1892. Charles changed vocations over the years. As a younger man, he was a waggoner. He turned to painting and was listed in census reports as a “penciler,” a vocation where one penciled draft sketches for various publications. Lillie brought in additional income as a dressmaker. Eunick attended school through the eighth grade and then went to work as a painter. He played sandlot baseball in the area, quite possibly facing fellow Baltimorean George Herman Ruth in the amateur ranks. The Baltimore Sun did mention such a match-up in the fall of 1915 after Ferd had a year of professional play.

The Baltimore area was a hotbed for amateur baseball when Ferd was growing up. Dozens of teams competed in leagues like the Inter-Club, Suburban, Commercial, and Prince George’s County and played independently. The Baltimore Sun carried rosters and box scores on weekends. Ferd won his first crown as a member of the St. Gerard’s YMAA (Young Men’s Athletic Association) team in 1912. They were the amateur champions of the city. Eunick played third base for both Lee-Lo Cigar Co. and Archer’s Laundry in 1913 and for the Frederick Athletic Club in 1914.There are indications that he had a tryout with the local Orioles in 1914, but was not invited to their spring training in Fayetteville, North Carolina. However, he was summoned to Hamilton, Ontario and played ten games for the Hams batting a robust .394.

Eunick was spotted by scout Don Curtis of the Dallas Giants (Class B Texas League) who arranged for him to go south in 1915. In spring training Ferd battled Art Schwind for the shortstop job. A three hit performance in the March 31 exhibition secured the job for Eunick. He started the first two games of the season at shortstop going 2 for 7 and committing one error. He did not start after that, making just one more appearance as a pinch-hitter (a walk). By the second week of the season, Jewel Enz had won the shortstop job and Ferd was released.

He was unemployed for about two weeks before signing with Muskogee, Oklahoma of the Western Association (Class D). Eunick saw his first action on April 25 in McAlester, Texas, when he was installed as the everyday second baseman. The Muskogee Times-Democrat published league stats on June 5 that showed Ferd with a .294 average (37 for 126). On June 28 versus Sherman, Ferd went 4 for 4 with a home run. He would stay with the Mets until July 8 when he was released because of player limits and salary restraints.2 On July 12, Eunick took over the third base job for Oklahoma City, also in the Western Association. He saw his first action in a doubleheader in Muskogee where his homer in the nightcap helped Oklahoma City complete a sweep. Later, on September 1, he exacted further revenge upon Muskogee when he blasted three homers in a game. For the season, Eunick played 120 games and hit .269 with 29 doubles and 7 homers.

The Class D Central Association had a “five veterans” rule for 1916. No team could employ more than five players with a specified amount of experience above Class D. Manager Frank Boyle of the Marshalltown Ansons ( named after Cap Anson, who was born in Marshalltown) issued a “casting call” for young players and looked at 28 aspiring players in mid-April. Because Eunick had a year of Class D ball under his belt, he was viewed as a potential star. The Marshalltown Times-Republican remarked that he was the center of attention at his first workout.3 Marshalltown and Eunick both got off to cold starts. Manager Boyle stuck with Ferd while tweaking the pitching staff and by mid-June, the Ansons were in the pennant race.

The pennant race in 1916 was a tight affair amongst Marshalltown, Clinton and Muscatine. It took a bizarre turn on September 1 when a judge ruled that Muscatine had violated the league’s “5 vet” rule. League President M.E. Justice then issued a decision on September 3 that Muscatine had actually violated the rule in 36 games, not the 24 times the court judge had declared. President Justice then declared that the Muscatine games would be “disregarded.” Suddenly in the standings, Muscatine was only credited with 84 games. They fell to the middle of the pack. While games for Muscatine were not counted, opponents converted losses into wins. Consequently, on the final day of the season, Labor Day September 4, Clinton was in first-place with a half game lead over Marshalltown.4

The “Baseball Gods” work in mysterious ways; in this case, it was pitting Clinton versus Marshalltown in a holiday double-header. Approximately, 1700 fans, mostly rooting for the hometown Ansons, filled the park. Eunick gave them plenty to cheer about as he went 3 for 5 with a triple and led the way to an 8-3 win in the opener. In the nightcap, Ferd scored the go ahead run in the eighth, only to see Clinton tie the game at 4-4 in the ninth. In the bottom half of the inning, catcher Clifford Lee reached first and advanced to third. With the game and the season on the line, Lee was given the steal sign and stole home for a 5-4 win. No post-season games were scheduled so Ferd left the next day for Baltimore to work over the winter.5

The owners of the Central Association scrapped the “five vet” rule in favor of a “youngster rule” for the 1917 season. Each team had to carry seven players with no more than 30 games experience above Class D. When spring practice began in mid-April, there were only four holdovers from the 1916 team. Eunick, Lee, Pitcher Chet Torkelson and Outfielder George LeBeau. The 1917 season mirrored the previous one. Marshalltown took a couple of weeks to reach the top of the standings and then had a tight race with Mason City and Clinton. Ferd had a better start and by June 1 was hitting .261. While the team was still the “Ansons,” it was common for the paper and the fans to call them “Champions” instead. In mid-June, the team reeled-off a five-game winning streak and took over first place. Eunick was spiked on June 28 and missed three games. It proved the only time he was out of the lineup while playing for Marshalltown.

Financial issues were causing tension for the league. On July 11, the owners met and decided to split the season into two halves. They declared that the second half would begin the following Sunday. Marshalltown won the first half with a 47-26 record. Within days, Clinton and LaCrosse dropped out of the league, and the Cedar Rapids franchise moved to Clear Lake. The six-team league played on with Marshalltown and Mason City battling for first. When Fort Dodge announced plans to leave the league, the Central Association disbanded on August 7. Marshalltown had a 17-8 second-half record, besting Mason City’s 16-8 mark. Eunick recorded a .253 average. A rumored eight-game post-season series with Waterloo was scrapped and the August 8 Times-Republican opined that Torkelson, Lee and Eunick would probably join Cleveland shortly, with Ferd the most sought after of the trio. Marshalltown businessman Bill Strickler, a childhood friend of Jim Dunn, accompanied Torkelson and Eunick to Cleveland. Outfielder Lee did not fit into the Tribe’s plans and was not signed. Why Eunick was called up to Cleveland after a brief, unspectacular minor league career, low minors at that, can only be speculated. President Dunn was not afraid to make moves that would help the club. He had brought in Tris Speaker and Chick Gandil and improved the pitching, but third base was an obvious area of concern that was not solved until Larry Gardner was added in1919. Undoubtedly a combination of Stickler’s friendship with Dunn, third baseman Evans subpar season (he hit .190) and at that late stage of the season Cleveland, being well out of the pennant race led the way for Eunick to be promoted.

Ferd and Torkelson went into action on August 29 in the top of the sixth inning after the Tigers built a 9-1 lead. Ferd grounded out in both his plate appearances; Torkelson surrendered the rest of the runs in a 15-1 loss, their worst drubbing of the year. In the field, Ferd handled only one chance, a ninth-inning grounder by Donie Bush. Eunick made one more appearance in a September 5 exhibition versus Akron. He went 0 for 3 and made two errors in eight chances. Despite a large number of exhibitions with Pittsburgh, Toronto and Cincinnati, Ferd saw no more action, but was invited to spring training in 1918.

Eunick’s stay in training camp at New Orleans was short-lived. He was released on March 9. The Plain Dealer said that Ferd was reassigned to Marshalltown. The war curtailed most minor leagues including the Central Association. Ferd took family advice and married Elizabeth. The couple lived with Ferd’s parents for the next few years before getting their own residence. Elizabeth and Ferd lived in Baltimore until the late 1930’s when they moved to Catonsville, Maryland. They had three children. Edward was born in 1919, Margaret in 1921, and Charles in 1934. Over the years, Ferd, like his father, would hold a number of different jobs outside of baseball. Besides the family paint business, he was a salesman, plumber and finally turned to mechanic/electrician for the Western Maryland Dairy. When age set in and playing ball was no longer an option, Ferd turned his attention to fishing and hunting. He even served as a vice-president in the Patapsco Game and Fish Association.

Love may have taken Ferd from the professional ranks, but it did nothing to dampen his passion for the game. In 1918, he worked in the Baltimore Dry Docks and played for the Dry Docks baseball team. The next year he played for Towson in the Interclub League. In the 1920s it seemed that every team he played for won a league or city title. First, it was Style Plus. The next year he moved on to the Semi-Pro League and played third for East Brooklyn, which took the title. From 1923 to 1925, he played for two teams, Dundalk and Eastern Rolling Mills. He even added pitcher to his duties and helped Eastern Rolling Mills to the semi-final round of the National Class A championship.6 In 1925 he joined the Fairfield Farms team for a four year stint which included a couple of titles. He also played with Bethlehem Steele in the Industrial League. When Easton, Maryland manager and fellow Baltimorean Buck Herzog needed to fill a vacancy, Ferd returned to the professional ranks for 13 games in the Eastern Shore League. In 1926, Eunick returned to the semi-pro game with Fairfield Farms. His incredibly successful career earned him the recognition and admiration of his peers and resulted in his induction into the Maryland Professional Ballplayers Association. Eunick was attending one of their Old-Timers gatherings when he was struck with a massive heart attack. He died at Johns Hopkins Hospital on December 9, 1959. Burial was at the Loudon Park Burial Grounds. Elizabeth joined him there in 1974. Eunick may have only played one game in the major leagues, but his love of the game proved a lifelong passion.

Author's note

Baseball Reference lists Eunick as Fred and says his nickname was Dutch. When a first name was used in articles, it was Ferd except in the Muskogee paper that chose to call him “Biff” for some unknown reason. I saw no use of the nickname Dutch, even in the Class A coverage by the Sun. The first name Fernandes is also found spelled Fernandas.

BR also uses a photo of Eunick lifted from an old-timers get-together. For a nice picture in uniform, go to the Baltimore Sun on September 10, 1923, p.11.

 

Sources

Lloyd Johnson & Miles Wolff eds. The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball. Durham: Baseball America, 1993.

Baltimore Sun

Baseball-Reference.com

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Marshalltown Times-Republican

Muskogee Times-Democrat

The Sporting News

Additional newspapers from Dallas, Texas, and Frederick, Maryland.

Ancestry.com

Correspondence with SABR researcher Jimmy Keenan, who provided info on amateur leagues. Keenan’s grandfather Jimmy Lyston was an early member of the Maryland Ballplayers Association.

  • 1. A researcher on Ancestry.com sent an article posted on another unnamed site that had information from granddaughter Kim Eunick Hay. The family history states that Elizabeth’s father told Ferd to marry her “before she got away.” Otherwise, this bit of family oral history has a few factual errors on dates and locations pertaining to baseball. 
  • 2. The Muskogee Times-Democrat of July 8, 1915, mentioned that pitcher Webber Long had been purchased for $800 and Ed Synek came in to play shortstop. It is unknown which of these moves bumped Eunick.
  • 3. Marshalltown Times-Republican, April 20, 1916, p.8.
  • 4. Information from the Times-Republican. The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball notes under the 1916 season that the National Commission later overturned this decision.
  • 5. Marshalltown Times-Republican, September 6, 1916, p. 8.
  • 6. Class A ball is a loose combination of amateurs and former professionals. The leagues were (and still are) prevalent in cities throughout the country. In Eunick’s day, others referred to them as “semi-pro” by some and “sandlot” by others.
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