SABR

Emil Haberer

This article was written by Chris Rainey.

In the early 1900s the fledgling automobile industry sought out connections to the national pastime. The Chalmers Motor Company presented a car to the most valuable player. Ty Cobb considered opening a Hupmobile dealership. According to a newspaper ad, “ ‘Hans’ Wagner, ‘Ty’ Cobb, Sam Crawford and other ball players ride in their own machines (automobiles), but Emil Haberer makes them by the dozen.”1 Haberer was a talented semipro catcher in Cincinnati who played in 16 games with the Cincinnati Reds in the first decade of the 1900s. After the death of his father in late 1903, Emil decided “to devote all his time to the family carriage business”2 and gave up any notion of a professional baseball career.

Carriage building sprouted in Cincinnati in the 1880s. It flourished for 25 years before succumbing to the popularity of the automobile. At its peak, the carriage-building trade in Cincinnati employed 6,000 and turned out 100,000 units a year. One of the leading manufacturers was the Haberer & Co. Carriage Manufacturing Company, founded by German immigrant Jacob Haberer and specializing in carriage woodwork and gears. Jacob and his wife, Sophia, raised five boys. Emil was the middle son, born on February 2, 1878. He attended St. Michael’s school from 1884 1o 1892. (Later in life he attended the Waters Business College in Cincinnati.)

Cincinnati was a hotbed of baseball. Its residents embraced their professional teams, but also closely supported amateurs and semipros. The semipros played in the highly competitive Saturday Afternoon League. There were also numerous independent teams on both sides of the Ohio River. The most famous and longest-lasting of these teams was the Cincinnati Shamrocks. Emil Haberer was playing with the Shamrocks by the age of 20. He was primarily a catcher but occasionally played a corner infield position. An imposing figure at 6-feet-1 and 204 pounds, and described as “clever” or “a crack player,” Emil soon drew the attention of the professionals. In 1900 he played for the Shamrocks and the All-Kentuckians, and during a break from the factory he went on a Southern road trip (Rome, Georgia, and Selma, Alabama) with the All-Professionals.

Haberer was torn between dedication to family and the work ethic he was raised with and his baseball career. He dearly loved baseball, playing it for love, not money, because he earned a good income in the family business. After the tour with the All-Professionals, he remarked, “I have received so many offers that I fear my resolutions not to go out will be broken ere long.”3 The winter of 1900-1901, Haberer kept active by taking up the new craze of indoor baseball. He played with the Tourists in Price Hill, on the west side of Cincinnati.

In 1901 Haberer was recruited by a team from Richmond, Indiana, called the Entre Nous. He played with them on Sunday as well as playing in the Saturday Afternoon League. This arrangement lasted only a few months and in early June Haberer left the Richmond roster, tired of the travel. Soon after, the Reds signed him to be workout catcher for Amos Rusie. The future Hall of Famer had been out of baseball for a couple of seasons with arm trouble and the Reds were hoping to coax him back into the game. Haberer helped Rusie get his arm ready, but the experiment failed when Rusie posted an 8.59 ERA in three games. Meanwhile the Reds were struck with a rash of injuries and they signed Haberer to a player contract. He debuted at first base in place of Jake Beckley on July 9 in a game against the Giants. A finger injury to Heinie Peitz and Harry Steinfeldt’s illness forced the Reds to play Haberer at third base the next day, and he blasted a triple. He played third again the next day. On the 15th Haberer took advantage of a day off and caught for a team in Covington, Kentucky (across the Ohio River from Cincinnati), pounding a double and triple. Haberer’s final appearance in the Reds’ homestand came against the Philadelphia Phillies on July 18. He committed three errors at third base. The Cincinnati Post reported that Haberer “declined to sub any longer in the infield.”4 He was willing to catch, but Bill Bergen was doing yeoman work and meanwhile Peitz’s finger had mended. Haberer returned to the sandlots and his work at the factory.

After the season Haberer was visited by Charles Frank, manager of Memphis of the Southern Association. Frank had seen Haberer play and wanted him to turn professional on a full-time basis. Haberer weighed his options, but in the end opted to stay with the family business and play baseball as a sideline.5 He played in the Saturday League and with the Shamrocks. In August 1903, catcher Bill Bergen took a foul off the bat of Frank Chance and was sidelined. The Reds were preparing for a road trip and needed a second catcher quickly. Manager Frank Behle of the Shamrocks worked out an arrangement for Haberer to join the Reds. He played in games in Chicago, St. Louis, Boston, and New York, and in exhibition games in Piqua, Ohio; Wapakoneta, Ohio; Charleston, West Virginia; and Atlantic City, New Jersey. Cincinnati sportswriter Ren Mulford Jr., who took a liking to him, proclaimed that “Haberer is better than 95 percent of minor leaguers.”6 In Atlantic City, where the Reds played a series of games, Haberer pounded a long home run in one of them. Back in Cincinnati, he told Mulford, “It was fortunate I was able to break away for a few weeks during the dull season, but I couldn’t entertain the thought of joining the regulars.”7 On August 27, when the Reds left for a series in Chicago, Haberer was no longer with the team because he was on a business trip to the South.

After the death of his father in late 1903, Haberer confined himself to local games and limited travel with the Shamrocks. On February 22, 1904, he married Ella Oral Mahoney. Their home, in a fancy section of Cincinnati, was described as a showplace residence when it was sold in 1913. The Haberers had two boys, Emil (born 1911) and Robert (1915).

The carriage business went into a decline because of the increased popularity of the automobile. The Haberers decided to commit to the modern trend and converted to making auto bodies. In 1909 they introduced their own automobile model, the CinO Limousine, and purchased land to build a $200,000, six-story factory. The auto business flourished briefly and took much of Haberer’s attention. He was officially listed as a “buyer,” but his duties included sales and publicity too.

The 1909 season was Haberer’s last hurrah in baseball; he made his final appearances with the Shamrocks and Reds. He played a final season in the Saturday League, with the College Hill team. Haberer was recruited to play in a pair of night games at League Park under a lighting system created by George F. Cahill. The first game was played on June 18 before a crowd of more than 3,000. A team from Newport, Kentucky, faced a Cincinnati contingent with Haberer as catcher. The lighting system featured “14 flaming arc lamps,” positioned so that “very few outfield balls were lost in the darkness.”8 Haberer blasted a ball in the seventh with two runners on that was beyond the illumination. The homer accounted for the winning margin. In the second game, on June 30, the Shamrocks faced a Saturday team from Avondale. Smoke from a nearby brick factory settled in over the field during the game so that “after the third inning it was nearly impossible to see a ball hit to the outfield.”9 Helped by the haze, Haberer hit two doubles and a triple. In the two night games he rang up six hits, but when asked he said he preferred to play in the daytime.

In September the Reds were faced with a six-game series in Philadelphia that included three consecutive doubleheaders on September 1, 2, and 3. Catcher Frank Roth was battling a nose abscess and the Reds again reached out to Haberer for emergency help. The call-up became more important when catcher Tom Clarke turned an ankle on August 31. Haberer was in the starting lineup September 1 and delivered an RBI single before splitting the nail on a finger and having to leave the game. Clarke and Roth were used to finish the game, but Haberer was back behind the plate in the second of the twin bill. The next day he caught both games “with a digit that looks like a sausage.”10 The Reds picked up the contract of Si Pauxtius from Altoona and he came to the rescue of the beleaguered catching corps. Haberer ended his major-league career with a .149 batting average in 16 games.

Many of the cars on Cincinnati’s hilly streets by 1909 were high-class machines with larger engines. Haberer & Co.’s CinO fit into that category with a powerful six-cylinder engine. The advertisements for the new model proclaimed that it had been tested on 40,000 miles of Ohio and Kentucky hills. It was priced at $2,250. Emil found himself making trips to car shows around the country, with an emphasis on the Midwest. In 1910 the CinO took part in the American Automobile Association’s annual Glidden Trophy road race, which started in Cincinnati. The 2,800-mile route went to Nashville, then onto Dallas and then north to Chicago. Nineteen cars started the 16-day race, Emil’s brother William rode in the CinO and sent dispatches back to the Cincinnati newspapers. The CinO was one of six cars to complete the journey.

In addition to the road race model, the company also produced a race car for track races. According to JalopyJournal.com, the car won 32 prizes in 44 starts. Its biggest success came in 1912 when legendary driver Barney Oldfield purchased one and at North Randall Park, outside Cleveland, set a speed record by finishing a five-mile race in 4 minutes, 59.56 seconds.11 The company also produced a light delivery truck that proved popular with farmers.

In late March of 1913, a massive flood brought production at the Haberer factory to a standstill. Soon after, the company halted production of the CinO. In 1916 a fire caused between $40,000 and $60,000 in damage. Eventually the company ceased making vehicles and produced only truck bodies for Ford and Chevrolet. Emil Haberer took a smaller role in the business and, according to the 1920 census, was an oil broker, though he kept the title of secretary of Haberer & Company. The company closed in 1932, after the start of the Great Depression. Ella’s father had been a farmer in Indiana and Emil and his family moved to Milan, Indiana. A few years later they relocated to Campbell, Indiana. Emil worked the farm and the sons took jobs as machine operators. Ella died in 1942, and Emil relocated to Louisville. He was stricken with rectal cancer and died on October 19, 1951, at the age of 73. He was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati.

 

Sources

Sources not otherwise cited include Baseball-Reference.com, ancestry.com, material from Haberer’s file at the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Richmond (Indiana) Daily Palladium, the Boston Herald, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune

Files at the Cincinnati Historical Society provided background on the Haberer factory. Various city directories for Cincinnati were consulted.

 

Notes

1 Cincinnati Enquirer, October 3, 1909.

2 Cincinnati Enquirer, January 3, 1904.

3 Cincinnati Enquirer, July 26, 1900.

4 Cincinnati Post, July 20, 1901.

5 Cincinnati Enquirer, January 16, 1902.

6 Sporting Life, August 22, 1903.

7 Sporting Life, August 22, 1903.

8 Cincinnati Enquirer, June 19, 1909.

9 Cincinnati Enquirer, July 1, 1909.

10 Cincinnati Post, September 3, 1909.

11 Cleveland Leader, September 3, 1912.

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