SABR

Scotty Ingerton

This article was written by Mark Sternman.

With a major-league record of a single subpar season for one of the worst teams of the 20th century, Scotty Ingerton might seem like an obscure one-year blunder. While hitting, however, Ingerton showcased first-class power over parts of two seasons, suggesting that he might have prospered had he more quickly escaped the clutches of the early-20th-century minor-league system and received the kind of patient management at the big-league level that many young players require.

Born in Peninsula, Ohio, on April 19, 1886, William John Ingerton remains the only major leaguer from his tiny town, which lies about 15 miles from Akron and 25 miles from Cleveland. Known as Scotty because as a child he liked butterscotch candy,1 Ingerton as an adult bittersweetly intersected with future baseball immortals, reached glorious heights, haggled over salaries, and failed to get a second chance to rise above the minors.

This pattern began after misfortune struck the star of his hometown squad. After leading the American League in batting average in 1903 and 1904, in 1905 Cleveland “manager and second baseman [Napoleon] Lajoie, the king-pin of the aggregation, was stricken with blood poisoning, which prostrated him for weeks, and kept him on the bench for [the] balance of the season even after his recovery.”2

With Lajoie out, Cleveland posted a losing record for the first time since its debut in the American League in 1901 and sought insurance in the offseason in case its leader did not fully recover: “Preparing for an emergency, the Cleveland Club … signed Scott Ingerton, who played second base for the Ashtabula Trolley League team last season. He will be tried out in the spring, and will be used at second base in case Lajoie is unable to play.”3

The teenage Ingerton reported to camp, but Lajoie’s recovery resulted in Ingerton’s playing second base and shortstop for Marion of the Ohio-Pennsylvania League in 1906, when he hit .256. Cleveland then swapped him and $1,200 for Jake Daubert, who a decade after Lajoie had done so, would win consecutive batting crowns, albeit for Brooklyn in the National League.4

Lajoie was not the only future Hall of Famer to note Ingerton. Pittsburgh owner Barney Dreyfuss said an unnamed team had “covered up Ingerton,”5 and American League President Ban Johnson concurred: “It is plain to be seen that this man has been a victim of a very bad practice, which we are now trying to eliminate from Professional Ball. We cannot permit such injustice to a player, and will, in my judgment, be obliged to take some action to give him relief.”6

Thanks to Johnson and the National Commission, Ingerton would retain the salary that he had earned before Cleveland had “shifted him from one minor-league team to another in a lower classification in order to use him as the pawn in a three-cornered trade, with the understanding that Ingerton would continue to receive the same salary”7 before that club went to a different circuit with a lower wage scale, which would have cost Ingerton. While his protest secured his salary in the short term, Ingerton moved no closer to the majors and may in fact have gained a longer-term reputation as a troublemaker.8

Whether due to or in spite of the attention he received, Ingerton had an erratic minor-league career with frequent position switches and salary beefs. He played first and third base in 1908 for Albany, which had bought him from Marion for $600.9 Ingerton led the New York League in sacrifices with 39,10 but hit in the low .220s, a slight drop from his average in the low .230s in 1907. From this weak negotiating position, Ingerton again nevertheless argued over money.11

After dropping again to .217 in 1909 while playing third base, Ingerton showed the first flashes of pull-hitting power in 1910 that he would display a year later in the majors. Remaining at third base, Ingerton led the Tri-State League in home runs with 10. “Ingerton, Altoona’s big third baseman, promises to be the fence wrecker of the Rams. He has already been clubbing the ball over the center-field fence at Columbia Park, while it is a commonplace occurrence for him to hit the ball on a line to the far left-field section,” Sporting Life commented.12

Even in the Deadball Era, leading the circuit in sacrifices did not represent a ticket to the bigs, but now that Ingerton hit with power, rumors of his imminent promotion spread, with a quartet of clubs pursuing the now 24-year-old.

Like Dreyfuss before him, Connie Mack reportedly wanted Ingerton, even though Philadelphia, like Cleveland five years earlier, seemed well set at Ingerton’s position, manned more than capably by Frank Baker. “It is the talk of the members of the ‘inner circle’ that ‘Scotty’ Ingerton, the Rams’ giant third-sacker, has won the favor of Connie Mack, and that he will be numbered with the Mackites at the end of the Tri-State season,” Sporting Life noted.13

A little more than a month later, Washington, a more logical destination given its poor record and 35-year-old third baseman Kid Elberfeld, emerged: Said Sporting Life: “It is stated positively that Washington has an option on Scott Ingerton, third baseman of the Altoona Club … who is said to be leading the circuit in batting. Ingerton is also a wonderful fielder and very fast.”14

But Washington backed off its option after scout Mike Kahoe persuaded the club not to sign him. Two others, the Tigers and the Cubs, had interest, and Chicago, with the 32-year-old Harry Steinfeldt near the end of his career, bought Ingerton for $1,500.15

Freed from the shackles of Cleveland and shadow of the great Lajoie, Ingerton remained Chicago property for just half a year before moving to Boston of the National League with pitcher Big Jeff Pfeffer in exchange for infielder Dave Shean. Managed by Fred Tenney, a slick first baseman at the end of a solid playing career but with a horrible helming record, Ingerton at last had a real opportunity to play with no prominent incumbent blocking his way.

Ingerton initially prospered. In a preseason exhibition, he “did so well that … Manager Tenney … cannot understand why [Cubs owner] Charles Murphy should have parted with such a valuable asset as this lad is proving himself to be. His way of handling ground balls, his throwing with the ease of a [future Hall of Famer Jimmy] Collins, and his all-around playing are causing favorable comment.”16

The beginning of Ingerton’s lone regular season justified the hyperbole of spring training. With Ingerton playing third base and batting fifth, where he went 1-for-3 with a double, Boston beat Brooklyn 2-1 to open the season. Observed the Globe: “Ingerton … worked mightily well on the balls hit to him and managed to make some fine plays.”17

In the third game of the season, Boston lost 15-2 to Brooklyn, the most runs that Brooklyn, would score all year. The team finished 22 games under .500 in 1911 yet still outpaced Boston by 20½ games as the Doves went 44-107. Despite the shellacking, Ingerton went 4-for-4 with three singles and a double.

In Ingerton’s fourth game, future Hall of Famer Pete Alexander made his major-league debut. Ingerton went hitless against Alexander, who would lead the National League with 28 wins during his spectacular rookie campaign.

The same reporter who had compared Ingerton to Collins criticized Ingerton’s fielding as “bush-league” and “pitiable” after a 10-2 loss to Philadelphia.18 Ingerton got hot at the bat, however, and in a ten-game stretch in May hit all five of his major-league home runs, three in back-to-back games against the New York Giants, the eventual 1911 NL pennant winners.

Ingerton hit two round-trippers on May 6, and after a Sunday off-day unloaded again on May 8 with a “record-breaking home run” that earned him the sobriquet “Home Run” Scotty. “Ingerton, having hit a couple of circuit drives on Saturday, recorded his usual clout in a way that will be remembered for some time. The ball went into the left field section of the centre field bleachers, and it was the first ever hit into those stands,” wrote the New York Times.19 “It was a mighty wallop and would have been good for a home run on any ground,” the Boston Globe exulted.20 Ingerton later doubled in the eighth inning and scored the winning run.

As in 1910, when Ingerton’s slugging attracted the attention of four teams, his slugging in 1911 caused teams to position their players differently out of respect for his power: “It is a good compliment to ‘Scotty’ Ingerton’s long-range hitting ability that [Cincinnati outfielder] Bob Bescher practically stood with his back up against the left-field bleachers when he spoiled that smash in the ninth. … Ingerton can hit the ball as hard as any one in the business today,” the Globe wrote.21 “The fans will expect ‘Scotty’ to do this into-the-bleachers stunt every day if he makes many more homers.”22

The fans would not have to wait much longer. With his team trailing 6-4 in the bottom of the tenth against the Pirates on May 17, Ingerton hit a two-run homer to left to tie a game that Boston went on to lose in 12 innings and, as a result, drop into last place for the rest of the season.

A little more than one month into the season after this defeat, Ingerton had a batting average of .315, an on-base percentage of .392, and a slugging percentage of .618. He had played third base exclusively and, after opening the season by batting fifth for the first six games, had settled into the cleanup slot for 17 straight games. As demonstrated by its spot in the basement, Boston had problems, but the rookie Ingerton represented a rare bright spot.

Rather than keep his young player comfortable, Manager Tenney made a vagabond out of Ingerton the rest of the season. First, Tenney on May 18 moved Ingerton to left field (where he would stay in part to make way for the aging veteran Steinfeldt, acquired from the Cubs on May 25) and then, on May 20, dropped Ingerton to fifth in the batting order. For the rest of the season, Ingerton hit anywhere from first to sixth in the order, played every infield position, and spent time in both left and right fields. Not surprisingly, he never again hit as well as he had when he had settled spots on both offense and defense. “Ingerton thinks he can hit better when playing the infield, because he says he is keyed up all the time, as compared with only occasional activity in the outfield,” wrote the Chicago Tribune.23

Tenney, managing and playing for the final time in the majors 1911 as a 39-year-old, gave too much time to past-their-prime veterans like Mike Donlin, Johnny Kling, Steinfeldt, Tenney himself, and Cy Young rather than develop youngsters for the future. Only Hank Gowdy and Lefty Tyler from the 1911 team would remain with Boston just three years later when the Miracle Braves won the 1914 World Series.

In addition to getting the chance to room with the 44-year-old Young during the hurler’s major-league swan song, Ingerton did have some bright moments over the season’s final four bleak months. On May 30 he had a walk-off sacrifice fly and outfield assists in both the eighth and ninth innings in a 5-4 win over Brooklyn. Ingerton again had a pair of outfield assists in an 8-7 win over New York on June 22.

On September 7 Ingerton and his roommate Young fell 1-0 to Alexander and Philadelphia in a memorable pitching duel between one right-handed pitching great at the end of his career and a counterpart at the beginning of his. Ingerton went 0-for-4 that day as part of an overall 0-for-19 career against Alexander, his worst record against any pitcher.

Ingerton did exact a measure of revenge against Philadelphia on October 9, his last day playing in the bigs. Starting at shortstop for the first time, Ingerton started “an easy triple play”24 by catching a line drive during an attempted double steal.

Boston’s dismal season notwithstanding, Ingerton must not have realized that he had played his last game in the majors. After all, in his rookie year he had finished third on the team in plate appearances and had shown versatility afield. Ingerton “did not set the world afire as an infielder but he gave excellent satisfaction as an outfielder”25 according to Baseball Magazine. Ingerton himself apparently wanted to play first base in 1912 and, as he had before the 1909 season, held out for more money.26

Ingerton finally reported and played shortstop in spring training. On March 27 his inexperience at the position showed, and his error led to the game’s only two runs in a 2-0 defeat pitched by Cy Young, who, like Ingerton, would not play in the big leagues again. The error led to a win by Buffalo, managed by 1914 Boston skipper George Stallings.

“Ingerton’s play and attitude suggest that Boston say little point in keeping him,” wrote Sporting Life’s correspondent. “Ingerton’s case is puzzling to those who have watched this player’s work. It is true he started off last season batting like a whirlwind, but it didn’t take … pitchers long to discover his weakness and he hit next to nothing the last part of the season, though his average for the season was fair. He did not shine at any position in the field. Ingerton was lavishly praised by the newspapers early in the season of 1911, and it is thought that he has that in mind while he is holding out. The management does not seem to be worried over the Ingerton situation. They have several fair men for any position Scotty can fill.27

A few days before the 1912 season opened, the New York Times reported that Ingerton on Opening Day would bat sixth and play shortstop,28 but Boston ownership, possibly without the consent of new manager Johnny Kling,29 instead on April 25 sold him to Indianapolis of the American Association, where he would hit .301 with just one homer.

Ingerton went from Indianapolis to Louisville and hit .301 again in 1913 but without any homers. He “is a great pinch hitter, but was regarded as too slow by Indianapolis as a regular,” said the Boston Globe.30 Sporting Life observed, “It is reported that Louisville gave up $3,000 for Ingerton, who was one of the heaviest hitters in the Association last year.”31

Although included in a poem entitled “The Names We Forget,”32 Ingerton did not forget that the Cleveland organization had treated him like chattel. With prospects of his return to the major leagues fading and unlikely to be helped by agitating for player rights, Ingerton nevertheless admirably stood up for his colleagues while in Louisville by serving as one of 17 committee men in the ill-fated Ball Players’ Fraternity headed by David L. Fultz.33 Jake Daubert, for whom Ingerton was once swapped, was one of three vice presidents of the organization.

While Daubert took the second batting crown of his career in 1914, Ingerton’s career began to come to a close. After hitting .254 for Louisville in 1914, he did not play in 1915 before finishing his professional career at the age of 30 with Newport News and Ridgway in 1916.

Ingerton returned to Ohio, where he worked in law enforcement as a deputy county sheriff and in business as a tavern owner. Survived by his sister, Scotty Ingerton died at the age of 70 in Fairview Park Hospital in Cleveland on June 15, 1956.34

 

Notes

1 Harvey J. Woodruff, “Youngsters Making Good in Major Leagues,” Chicago Tribune, August 13, 1911, C2.

2 “Review of the Race,” Sporting Life, October 14, 1905, 12.

3 “American League Notes,” Sporting Life, November 4, 1905, 10.

4 “National League News in Short Metre,” Sporting Life, February 10, 1912, 8. F.C. Lane, “Jake Daubert, the Hal Chase of the National League,” Baseball Magazine, July 1912, 47.

5 A.R. Cratty, “In Pittsburg,” Sporting Life, March 7, 1908, 9.

6 Harold Seymour, Baseball: The Golden Age (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), 181.

7 Harold Seymour, Baseball: The Golden Age, 181.

8 Ingerton’s education may have explained his unwillingness to accept the fiscal status quo. “He attended business college after his graduation from high school” according to Harvey J. Woodruff, “Youngsters Making Good in Major Leagues,” Chicago Tribune, August 13, 1911, C2.

9 National League News in Short Metre,” Sporting Life, February 10, 1912, 8.

10 “New York League,” Sporting Life, January 16, 1909, 10.

11 “Ingerton, Albany’s third baseman, has at last signed a contract,” “News Notes,” Sporting Life, April 10, 1909, 6.

12 “Altoona in High Humor,” Sporting Life, May 28, 1910, 23.

13 “Ramsey’s Rambunctious Rams,” Sporting Life, July 9, 1910, 17.

14 Paul W. Eaton, “From the Capital,” Sporting Life, August 20, 1910, 2.

15 Steinfeldt would play his last season as Ingerton’s teammate with Boston in 1911. Paul W. Eaton, “From the Capital,” Sporting Life, August 27, 1910, 7.

16 “Fine Showing by Ingerton,” Boston Daily Globe, March 11, 1911, 7.

17 Melville E. Webb, Jr., “Good Start by Tenney’s Lads,” Boston Daily Globe, April 13, 1911, 6.

18 Melville E. Webb, Jr., “Phillies Make It a Runaway, 10-2,” Boston Daily Globe, April 18, 1911, 6.

19 “Ingerton’s Hitting Wins for Boston,” New York Times, May 9, 1911.

20 “Stick to It and Win in the End,” Boston Daily Globe, May 9, 1911, 6.

21 Sportsman, “Live Tips and Topics,” Boston Daily Globe, May 11, 1911, 5.

22 Sportsman, “Live Tips and Topics,” Boston Daily Globe, May 12, 1911, 15.

23 Harvey J. Woodruff, “Youngsters Making Good in Major Leagues,” Chicago Tribune, August 13, 1911, C2.

24 “Boston Drives Toots Shultz From Box Early in First Game,” Philadelphia Evening Times, October 9, 1911.

25 J.C. Morse, “Changes in the World of Baseball,” Baseball Magazine, September 1911, 41.

26 A.H.C. Mitchell, “Boston Briefs,” Sporting Life, March 16, 1912, 5.

27 A.H.C. Mitchell, “Boston Briefs,” Sporting Life, March 30, 1912, 17.

28 “New Players in Boston,” New York Times, April 8, 1912.

29 T.H. Murnane, in “Red Sox here to Tame Tigers,” Boston Daily Globe, May 7, 1912, 7, wrote: “Patsy Flaherty, the ex-Boston National League player … volunteered the information that there was a smoldering volcano in the path of Pres John M. Ward over the suspension of Bridwell, the release of Ingerton without consulting Manager Kling, the ordering of Houser off first base and the treatment of Cy Young.”

30 “Baseball Notes,” Boston Daily Globe, May 20, 1913, 7.

31 “American Association Affairs,” Sporting Life, May 24, 1913, 15.

32 Ingerton appears in the second stanza: Remember Ganley? and Corcoran, too? / How about Ferguson, Jap Barbeau? / Alperman, Ingerton – only a few – / Theodore Breitenstein, Ritchey and Lowe; / Slapnicka, Zmich, Abbattichio, too, / Quaint-sounding three of “Who Used-to-be Who.”“The Names We Forget,” Baseball Magazine, November 1913, 90.

33 “The Baseball Players’ Fraternity,” Baseball Magazine, May 1914, 65.

34 “Obituary,” The Sporting News, June 27, 1956, 36.

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