SABR

Cal Broughton

This article was written by David Stalker.

Cecil Calvert Broughton, one of just a handful of Wisconsin natives in the major leagues when he broke in, was born on December 28, 1860, in the township of Magnolia, in the southern part of the state not far from the Illinois state line. His parents, Aaron and Lynda Broughton, were natives of New York, married in Wisconsin on October 20, 1847. Calvert had two older brothers, Norman Francis (Frank) and Arthur, and two sisters, Mary Emma and Lillian.

All three sons were involved in baseball, playing for various local teams. Cal was the only brother to make it to the major-league level. In 1880 he was the catcher for the Evansville (Wisconsin) Mutuals. His brother Arthur was on the team as a substitute. The following year he signed with the Janesville Mutuals for a salary of $5.00 per game. After the season, on December 14, he and Harriet (Hattie) Chase were married in a double ceremony with another couple in the Old Grand Hotel in Janesville. After a wedding trip to Milwaukee, the couple settled on the Broughton family farm.

Abner Dalrymple was the first Wisconsin-born major leaguer, signing with the Milwaukee Grays of the National League in 1878. By then, however, he had moved with his family to Warren, Illinois, where he attended grade school. John Morrissy, from Janesville, played for the Buffalo Bisons in 1881 but died of tuberculosis in 1884 at the age of 27. Joe Straub, a Milwaukee native, played for the Troy Trojans in 1880, the Philadelphia Athletics (American Association) in 1882 and the Columbus Buckeyes (AA) in 1883, but finished his life in Colorado.

Because Cal Broughton and Tom Morrissy played baseball in Wisconsin, before, during and after their major-league careers, it may be easy to consider them the “forefathers” of major-league baseball in Wisconsin. The two played together in 1884 and 1887 with Milwaukee, and on local teams after their major-league careers. Both began and ended their lives in the state.

Cal played for a Janesville-Beloit combination team in 1882, before beginning his major-league career in 1883 with the Cleveland Blues, making his debut on May 2. Family records indicate that he may have been the first left-handed catcher in the major leagues, as does his obituary from The Sporting News in 1939. Various other baseball sources have him right-handed. Wearing his St. Paul uniform, on his N172 Old Judge baseball cards, he has a glove on his left hand.

With Cleveland, Broughton did not see much playing time, playing in only four games as a backup for Doc Bushong. Bushong would not have been a stranger to Broughton, having played for Janesville in 1877, along with John Montgomery Ward. On July 15 the Blues sold Broughton to Baltimore of the American Association, for whom he got into nine games as the third-string catcher.

For 1884 Broughton joined Milwaukee of the Northwestern League. At the end of the season he became a major leaguer again as Milwaukee joined the Union Association, a one-year major league. Milwaukee played 12 games in the Union Association and Cal played in 11 of them. Tom Morrissy was also on the team. One of Cal’s games was a no-hitter thrown by Ed Cushman against Washington on September 28. In 1885 he began the season with St. Louis of the American Association, signing for a salary of $1,800 for the season. Once again he was a backup to Doc Bushong, and played in only four games. On August 1 he was sold to the New York Metropolitans, where he was reunited with Ed Cushman. He played in 11 games before being released on September 9.

In 1886 Broughton headed south, joining the Memphis Grays of the Southern Association. He caught and played the outfield in 82 of the team’s 89 games. The Albany Journal  quoted a Memphis newspaper as stating, “There was no better catcher in the south and … he was a prime favorite with the crowds.” Near the end of the season Broughton was presented with a gold medal engraved with his name and the inscription “Efficiency, Faithfulness – From his legion of Memphis friends for services behind the bat and in the field. 1886.” Still, on September 4 Broughton was sent away by Memphis, sold to the Syracuse Stars of the International League. With the Stars, he wrapped up his season playing in five games.

On January 20, 1887, the Albany (Wisconsin) Vindicator reported that Broughton was to receive $1,500 from the Milwaukee Cream Citys of the Northwestern League for the 1887 season. Other than taking some time off in July to nurse a sore thumb, Broughton enjoyed a fine season, playing in 105 games and batting a very respectable.303. His teammates included Tom Morrissy and Ed Cushman.

In November 1887 Broughton signed with the Detroit Wolverines of the National League for the 1888 season at a reported salary of $2,100. He suffered a broken finger and played in just one game for the Wolverines, on April 21. It was Broughton’s last major-league game. He was sold to the Minneapolis Millers of the Western Association and remained with them until August. The team played its last game on August 18 the franchise was sold to Davenport, which also had a team in the Central Inter-State League. Broughton finished the year with St. Paul of the Western Association, and also played for St. Paul in 1889 and most of 1890. In 1889 Broughton was awarded a bronze medal for throwing a ball 350 feet in a competition in St. Paul.

On September 4, 1890, Broughton was sold by the St. Paul club to Seattle of the Northern Pacific League. Broughton’s last year in professional baseball was 1891, when, at the age of 30 he played for Lowell of the New England League. Before the season ended he returned home and completed the season with a team in Edgerton, Wisconsin.

In 1895 Cal rented out the farm and he and Harriet moved to Evansville. (The farm remained a Broughton property until 1937.) In October of 1895 Cal purchased a billiard parlor in Evansville. He continued to play baseball, and was captain of the Evansville team.

On July 4, 1895, the Evansville team traveled to Edgerton to play the latder town’s team as part of the holiday celebration. Almost half of the Evansville team was a Broughton: Cal as the catcher, Arthur at shortstop, Frank at first base, and Ray (Frank’s son) at third base. Evansville won the game, 10-7. (The catcher for Edgerton was a young Billy Sullivan, Sr., before he made the major leagues.) Later, Evansville and Edgerton faced off in a very competitive series. Each team won one game and they decided to play a final game on neutral grounds, Athletic Park in Janesville. Baseball enthusiasts from Evansville, Edgerton, and elsewhere came to see the game.

Evansville, called the All Americans in the box score, won 9-5. Broughton sealed the victory in the ninth with his second home run of the game. According to the Wisconsin Tobacco Reporter,a newspaper in Edgerton, half of the farmers in Green County ran on to the field and shook hands with Broughton.

When Evansville opened its 1896 season, against the Sharon team, Broughton’s old Milwaukee teammate Tom Morrissy, from Janesville, was in the Evansville lineup, and together they helped Evansville in a 10-1 victory. The news later that season was not so good. On July 2 the Evansville Review reported that Broughton had mangled and dislocated his thumb severely while playing a game in Durand, Illinois. Cal was unable to catch, but played briefly in right field.

Broughton continued to captain the Evansville team and guided it to the Wisconsin State League championship and victory over the Northern champion, Wausau. In 1897 Broughton played with several Wisconsin teams, including Evansville, Sharon, and Janesville. In a couple of July games he traveled as a member of the Janesville team to Waupun to face the hard-throwing Doc Adkins of the Prison City team. Waupun easily won both games, 12-5 and 14-0. Throughout the season the Waupun newspaper complained about the behavior of opposing players and fans, but wrote that “Happy Cal” Broughton captured the favor of the spectators by his genial manner. (His obituary in The Sporting News said, “Broughton was the idol of the youngsters in all the cities he played, and he always had a bunch of them following him from the park, as he often bought them candy and made them his pals.”)

In October 1897 Evansville played host at its home grounds, Drivers Park, to an African American team, the Chicago Unions, before a crowd of 1,200. The Unions won, 9-8. Broughton caught for the home team and had two singles.

Harriet Broughton opened a restaurant in downtown Evansville in 1898. The following year, Cal was elected as Evansville’s first police chief. He held the position for 17 years. His baseball teammate Fred Gilliam was his assistant. Together they chased and captured criminals, often intercepting them coming through town on the train. Gilliam succeeded Broughton as police chief in 1917, when Cal went to work for the D.E. Wood Butter Company. In 1927 he returned to police work, this time acting as an assistant to Gilliam.

Broughton continued to play baseball during his time as police chief. On October 14, 1906, at the age of 45, he reunited with Billy Sullivan in Edgerton, this time as teammates. This was shortly after Sullivan’s Chicago White Sox team called the Hitless Wonders had beat the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. The White Sox played Edgerton but Sullivan played for the local team. He was the catcher, and Cal moved to first base. In front of a crowd of more than 2,000 the White Sox won, 13-2.

In 1925, at the age of 64, Broughton competed in the Evansville Twilight League. The younger players marveled that he could still catch and send the ball for a ride. Only as a base runner did he lose his ability, calling for a pinch-runner. But he said he was now done playing the game.

The Broughtons celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1931. Three years later Harriet died. Two years after the death of his wife, Cal suffered a stroke and became an invalid, spending the last few years of his life in bed at the home of a nephew, Orville Jones. His great-niece, Arlene Broughton Ferguson, said she remembered visiting him and recalled how crooked his fingers were from catching way too many baseballs without a mitt.

Roundy Coughlin, a sportswriter for the Wisconsin State Journal, of Madison, and some friends visited Cal at the Jones home. Among them were former teammates and friends, several of whom played on the 1896 Evansville state champion team. Broughton told the visitors how he and Charles “Decker” Newman played some postseason exhibition games. In one of the games, at Monroe, Newman, who was an outfielder in his brief major-league career, threw out a record seven men at home plate, firing rifle-shot pegs right into Cal’s mitt.

Broughton was always willing to share baseball stories with anyone who visited. He told of receiving a letter from a former teammate and later an umpire, Bob Emslie. It was the first communication between them in nearly 50 years. The two had played together in 1883 with Baltimore. Emslie was a pitcher before spending 33 years as a National League umpire.

For years Cal read every issue of The Sporting News and, with a radio near his bed, he continued to follow baseball closely. Days before his death he asked if a native of Evansville, Stanley Sperry, had begun spring training with the Philadelphia Athletics. Broughton died on March 15, 1939. His funeral was held at the Advent Church in Magnolia, Wisconsin. He is buried at Maple Hill Cemetery in Evansville. (Sperry, who died in 1962, is also buried there.) As of 2013 plans were being made to erect a monument to Broughton in Wisconsin.

 

Sources

Books

Kathleen Broughton U’Ren, From Eight Generations of Broughton in America. Lake Mills, Wisconsin: Leader Printing Company, 1999.

Newspapers

Albany (Wisconsin) Journal

Albany (Wisconsin) Vindicator

Janesville (Wisconsin) Gazette

The Sporting News, March 23, 1939

Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wisconsin)

Wisconsin Tobacco Reporter (Edgerton, Wisconsin)

Online sources

Ruth Ann Montgomery, “Evansville’s First Professional Baseball Player” and “Evansville’s First Police Chief,” evansvillehistory.net

Baseball-Reference.com

Archives

Milton (Wisconsin) Historical Society

Rock County (Wisconsin) Historical Society (newspaper clippings)

Personal correspondence

Arlene Broughton Ferguson (Interview November 2012)

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.