SABR

Ben Beville

This article was written by Bill Nowlin.

Clarence Benjamin Beville was a pitcher on the first-year team of Boston’s American League franchise. A native Californian, Beville was born in Colusa township on August 28, 1877. His father, William T. Beville, was a bookkeeper in the tax collector’s office, and later in the sheriff’s office. William’s wife, Luta Beville, looked after three children at home: Virginia (9 at the time of the 1880 Census), Willie May (age 6), and young Clarence. William had come from Virginia and his wife from Missouri, both of them having parents from two different states as well. They both had arrived early enough in the area that on Ben Beville’s passing, the Colusa Daily Times obituary referred to his parents as “pioneer Colusans.”1

William Beville was a Confederate soldier who had served in the 8th Virginia Cavalry, but made his way to California after the Civil War. He was named Deputy County Clerk in Colusa County in 1868 and served as Under-Sheriff from 1870 for a number of years, interrupted only by a four-year term as County Assessor. In 1886, he was elected Colusa County Sheriff. He and Lutie also owned a 20-acre apricot and peach orchard.2

Ben himself is said to have been a Spanish American War veteran.3

In the 1900 Census, William was listed as a clerk and Clarence as a laborer. It was in 1900 that he began his brief baseball career. Controversy preceded him to Boston.

Beville first played in 1900 for the Oakland Oaks (California League), but the Los Angeles Times on February 2 described the right-hander as a “star twirler of the Oaklands, but is now debarred from the California League for jumping his contract and signing with the Montana aggregation” – by which the newspaper referred to the Butte Smoke Eaters of the Montana State League.

He played some right field for San Bernardino in the winter league, in February 1901, and some left field in March, batting .162 at the end of the Southern California Baseball League season, which ended in March. He also pitched for the San Bernardino team. In April, he pitched for Lagoon, Utah, in the Inter-Mountain League, though posting a disappointing 0-3 record.

He was signed by Detroit, though saw no action with the Tigers because manager George Stallings “didn’t have any room for him” and he was released on May 7 to the Boston Americans.4 The Chicago Tribune picked up on the story after he joined Boston and ran the headline “Collins Gets New Pitcher” saying he was “at least ten pounds overweight and will not be in form for some days.”5 He’s officially listed as standing 5-feet-9 and weighing 190 pounds.

The Boston Herald had told readers that “Connie Mack tried to get him” and right after he reported, the Herald declared him a “likely looking chap.”6 Beville debuted for manager Jimmy Collins on May 24, and he pitched acceptably, but the Bostons were shut out by the Tigers in Detroit, 3-0. Beville “did pretty good work,” declared the Globe. He allowed three runs in three different innings on seven hits and five walks, and hit a batter, but suffered as much as anything on account of absent-minded play and three errors by the Boston defense. The Globe said he was “not hit hard, but was as wild as a hawk.” At the plate, he was hitless in four at-bats. The Herald called him a “comer” and said he was “a strapping big fellow, with plenty of speed and a fine drop ball, and he kept the Detroits guessing throughout, but the errors behind him and Miller’s fine pitching gave the Tigers a rather easy victory.”7

Six days later, on May 30, Beville started again in the morning game of a Memorial Day doubleheader in Chicago. He walked the first two batters but escaped further damage in the first. An error behind him gave the White Sox a baserunner to lead off the second. There followed a walk and then a double down the third-base line past Collins. “Beville lost his bearings completely here,” reported the Chicago Tribune. He threw eight straight balls, and was yanked from the game in favor of Cuppy. The Boston Globe wasn’t any kinder, offering a subhead “Beville Goes to Pieces Almost at Start of First Game.” Boston lost, 8-3.

In the fifth inning of a game on June 2 in Milwaukee, umpire Haskell banished both Jimmy Collins and Buck Freeman, so Dowd was brought in from left field to play third and two pitchers were inserted as fielders – Cuppy in left and Beville at first base. Ben came through well enough at the plate, with a 2-for-3 game, though he made an error in the field. With the score 4-2 in favor of Boston after eight innings, Beville kicked off a two-out rally in the ninth with a double into the crowd in left field. Parent hit a home run, and the hits just kept coming. Beville came up a second time and doubled again. They were the only two hits he ever had – and in the process he set a record that still stands today for the most doubles in an inning. It’s been tied by several others, including six other Boston batters. Before the third out could be secured, Milwaukee had given up nine runs. Earlier in the game, in the sixth, Beville had walked and come around to score. Not a bad day at all – but he was released on June 10 when Boston prepared to bring in George Winter, whose debut on the 15th was the first of 213 appearances for Boston.

Beville finished his major-league career with an 0-2 record and a 4.00 earned-run average. His teammate Cy Young was 33-10 for Boston in 1901.

By July 1, Beville was found pitching in Lewiston, Maine, for the New England League’s Lowell Tigers. He pitched in 18 games, but appeared in 44 – his .282 bat perhaps more productive than his pitching. He did have his moments, though, such as the one-hitter he threw against Nashua on July 16.

His last year in Organized Baseball was 1902, when he played for both Lowell and the Haverhill Hustlers, with a 3-2 record.

There was another Beville – Monte Beville – who played around the same time (1903 and 1904 for the Highlanders and Tigers), but he was a catcher and first baseman from Indiana and the two were not related.

The 1910 Census shows Beville still living at home with his parents, his father a bookkeeper in the tax collector’s office but Ben (still listed as Clarence) at age 32 as a laborer doing general work. By 1920, he was himself working as a bookkeeper in a law office, and still living with his parents on Fremont Street in Colusa. At some point, Beville worked as an agent for the I.R.S.

A bit embarrassing for someone working in a law office was his arrest in 1924. Beville (listed in the newspaper as a former internal revenue service agent) pled guilty in U. S. District Court on conspiring with three others to pose as Federal officers and “raided” the house of H. H. “Happy” Sanders, removing 324 cases of liquor from the Sanders home. Judge Frank H. Kerrigan dubbed taxicab George Miller the “master mind of the outfit” and sentenced him to two years in the Federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, saying that he wished the law permitted him to impose a longer sentence. The other two conspirators were Joseph Udell and Jack Romain, known as the “New York kid.” All four impersonated government officers. Udell was sentenced to 20 months, while Romain got 15 months at McNeill’s Island. Both Romain and Beville served as government witnesses.8

In 1930, despite his guilty plea in 1924, Beville was working as a police officer in a steel works in the Pittsburg area of California’s Contra Costa County. Bill Lee’s Baseball Necrology says that Beville worked for a number of years for the government at Pittsburg and that he died from alcoholic poisoning on January 5, 1937, in the Veterans Hospital at Yountville.

 

This biography can be found in "New Century, New Team: The 1901 Boston Americans" (SABR, 2013), edited by Bill Nowlin. To order the book, click here.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources cited in Beville’s biography, the author consulted the online SABR Encyclopedia, retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com. Thanks to Dan Desrochers, Charles Yerxa, Joe Williamson, and Joe and John Morton.

 

Notes

1 Colusa Daily Times, January 8, 1937.

2 E-mail from Joe Williamson to Charles Yerxa, December 18, 2012.

3 Colusa Daily Times, January 8, 1937.

4 San Diego Union, May 24, 1901 and Cleveland Leader, May 8, 1901.

5 Chicago Tribune, May 16, 1901.

6 Boston Herald, May 8 and May 22, 1901.

7 Boston Herald, May 25, 1901.

8 Woodland Daily Democrat, October 8, 1924.

Individual Memberships start at just $45/year

Become A Member Today

When you join SABR you are making a statement of support for baseball history. You are joining a worldwide community of people who love to read about, talk about and write about baseball.