Left-handed pitcher Charlie Boardman was one of many forgettable ballplayers who had a “cup of coffee” in the major leagues. Boardman pitched in just seven major-league games, with two different teams over three seasons (1913-1915). There is nothing remarkable about Charlie’s major-league record. But like so many other ballplayers, he had a long and colorful career that involved fines, ejections, suspensions, salary disputes, and even a couple of lawsuits. After his professional career ended, Charlie was the most sought-after pitcher among independent teams in North Dakota in the 1920s, and is still considered one of the best ever in the state.
Charles Louis Boardman was born on March 27, 1893, in Seneca Falls, New York, to William H. and Maud Boardman.i He had a brother, Henry, three years older. Little additional information could be found about Charlie’s early childhood years. He must have caught the attention of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization as a teenager, because in 1911 he attended school at the Mynderse Academy in his hometown, and according to a Bismarck (North Dakota) Tribune interview with him in 1928, his expenses were paid by the Pittsburgh club.ii One report mentioned that he kept himself in shape in the offseason by bowling and setting fenceposts on his father’s farm.iii Boardman was big for the era; his height was listed at between 6-feet and 6-feet-2 and his weight at between 195 and 200 pounds. In game accounts, he was often referred to as the “the big left-hander” or the “big portsider.”
Numerous sources provide Boardman’s known major- and minor-league playing record. Baseball-reference.com lists five other players with the surname of Boardman, but with no first name. Those Boardmans played with Guelph, Ontario, in the Canadian League in 1912; St. Boniface (Northern League) in 1915; Sioux City (Western League) and Fargo-Moorhead (Northern League) in 1916; and Kansas City of the American Association in 1922. Documentation uncovered recently shows that each of these other five players was the same Charlie Boardman.
The first of the players named Boardman with no first name given played in 1912 with the Guelph Maple Leafs in the Class C Canadian League. A newspaper article in 1914 said, “Two Canadian Leaguers are now with the Mackmen. … (T)he second … with the world champions is Boardman, who did good box work for Guelph in 1912. … (T)he correspondents with the Athletics speak well of his work and he will likely be carried.”iv Since Boardman played for Connie Mack with Philadelphia in 1914, the Guelph player with the surname of Boardman is clearly the same man. Charlie pitched 55 innings in ten games with Guelph in 1912, posting a record of four wins and five losses. He also pitched in at least one game for Syracuse in the New York State League in 1912.
In December 1912 several newspapersv carried an article saying that the National Commission had ruled that the Pittsburgh National League club owed a player named Charles L. Boardman $226.61 in salary. The article said Boardman had played successively at Youngstown, Alliance, and Kalamazoo before being released by Pittsburgh on June 8. Charlie Boardman never played for the Pirates, but a 1916 newspaper story reported, “Four years ago he [Boardman] was tried out by the Pittsburgh Pirates, but Fred Clarke turned him back at the close of the training trip.”vi
There is no evidence of Boardman playing for the Alliance-Sebring club in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League in 1912. But on February 12, 1912, the manager of the Youngstown (Ohio) Central League team announced that a pitcher named Boardman had been signed for the coming season.vii A photograph of the 1912 Youngstown team printed in the March 31, 1978, issue of the Youngstown Vindicator does not mention Boardman, so it is unclear whether he played for Youngstown that season. A player named Boardman did appear in at least one box score as a pitcher for Kalamazoo in a Southern Michigan League game in June of that year.viii This is another of the occasions in which Boardman made an appearance in Organized Baseball that was not previously known.
It is known that Boardman began the 1913 season with Waterbury, Connecticut, in the Class B Eastern Association, compiling a record of 18 wins and 9 losses in 35 games. He was drafted from Waterbury by the Philadelphia Athletics on September 13 and was called up to the big leagues by Connie Mack.ix Boardman got his first major-league start on September 26 and lasted just one inning in a 10-4 loss to Boston. He got one more start and pitched a complete game in a 3-0 loss to Washington on September 30.
Boardman began the 1914 season with Philadelphia, but after two appearances was shipped off to St. Paul of the American Association. He appeared in nine games for the Apostles before being farmed out to Duluth of the Northern League. Duluth owner H.A. Blume was reported to be “delighted over the acquisition of Boardman”x but after Charlie got roughed up in two of this three starts, he was shipped back to St. Paul a week later. Blume commented that Boardman “will hardly do for the Northern League at the salary he is forced to pay.”xi
In 1915 a player with the last name of Boardman pitched for St. Boniface, Manitoba, in the Northern League. There was no doubt this was Charlie Boardman, whose 19-9 record caught the attention of St. Louis Cardinals scouts. Still the property of St. Paul, he was sold to the Cardinals in August. (Boardman claimed to have roomed with Rogers Hornsby, as both players joined the Cardinals at about the same time.)xii Charlie won his first start, beating the Brooklyn Superbas and Rube Marquard 4-3 on September 14.xiii He pitched in relief in two other games. The next season he was again the property of St. Paul.
There was another player named Boardman with no first name given, this one playing for the Fargo-Moorhead Graingrowers in the Northern League in 1916. Based on newspaper accounts and box scores, this, too, was Charlie Boardman. St. Paul manager Mike Kelly had sent Boardman to Sioux City in the Western League to start the season. After posting a 0-2 record in three games, he was returned to St. Paul in June and immediately sent to Fargo, where he won 18 games and was considered the best pitcher in the Northern League that season. He had a league record 34-inning scoreless streak and had a no-hit, no-run performance in July against Duluth, though the game ended in a 0-0 tie as both teams had to catch a train out of town.xiv On August 6 Boardman threw shutouts in both games of a doubleheader against Superior. (The second game was limited to five innings.) When not pitching, Charlie was apparently something of a bench jockey; in a June game at Fort William he “was fined ten dollars and sent from the grounds by umpire Landry.”xv
Boardman’s departure from St. Boniface to St. Louis in 1915 had been delayed a few days as he was trying to collect bonus and salary money due him from the manager of the club, Charles Moll. According to the terms of his contract, Boardman was due a $100 bonus if he won two-thirds of his games (his winning percentage was .679 based on his 19-9 record) and his final week’s salary was $30. The money still had not been paid a year later, and in September 1916 Boardman retained attorneys and filed suit against Moll in district court in Cass County, North Dakota. Before his case went to trial, Boardman agreed to a settlement of $125.16.xvi
Boardman was involved in still more litigation in 1916. While pitching for Fargo-Moorhead in a Northern League playoff game on September 11, he hit Winnipeg catcher Berger with a pitch. Berger charged the mound and “wielded his bat on Boardman’s back in vigorous style, precipitating a riot which attained serious proportions for some time.” The next day Boardman filed criminal assault charges against Berger, but the two players met a short time later and Berger apologized. The charges were dropped as things were “smoothed over.”xvii
Sometime in 1917 Boardman registered for the draft in Cass County, but there is no record of his having served on active duty during World War I. He began the 1917 season with Fargo-Moorhead again, but because of the war the Northern League ended play in early July. Boardman’s name was not included in final Northern League batting, pitching, or fielding records printed in The Sporting News and newspapers in league cities. A review of box scores shows that Boardman started 16 games for the Graingrowers – all complete games – and he won 13 and lost 3. (He pitched one-third of an inning in relief on June 2, striking out the only man he faced.) Boardman surrendered just 104 hits in 139? innings pitched, striking out 139 and walking at least 57. (Walk totals were not given for one of his pitching appearances.) Earned runs were not recorded in box scores, but just 43 runs were scored by opponents in his 17 games.
Besides pitching, Boardman played in the field, usually the outfield, in 21 games in 1917. He batted .321 (43-for-134) with 24 runs scored. Always considered a dangerous hitter, Boardman hit nine doubles, a triple, and two home runs. (This is the first time Boardman’s pitching and hitting statistics from his time with Fargo-Moorhead in 1917 have been compiled and published.)
After the Northern League shut down, Boardman and his Fargo catcher, Louis Bachant, signed on with Minneapolis and Boardman had a record of seven wins and ten losses in 24 games for the Millers during the rest of 1917. During the offseason he was traded to Omaha of the American Association,xviii then was claimed off waivers by Louisville in April,xix then went to Toledo, where he stayed for the rest of the season. No record of the transaction could be found, but on July 18, the Toledo News-Bee reported “(W)e had our first peak at Charley Boardman, our new left hander, left here … by the Colonels.”
Boardman was out of Organized Baseball between 1919 and 1921. In May 1919 the Grand Forks (North Dakota) Herald reported that he had signed with a semipro team in Moorhead. In 1920 and 1921, he continued to play with a semipro team, the Fargo Athleticsxx, and on at least one occasion pitched in a game for a team in Valley City, North Dakota.xxi As a testament to the quality of semipro baseball in Fargo, Boardman lost an exhibition game to the visiting Minneapolis Millers by a score of just 5-4 on September 2, 1921. His decision to remain in the Fargo-Moorhead area rather than pursue his career elsewhere may have been prompted by his marriage to Nell M. Kinney of Fargo in December 1916.xxii
By 1922 Boardman was back in Organized Ball with the Valley City Hiliners in the Dakota League. He is listed as a manager onlyxxiii but also took his regular turn on the mound for the Hiliners. Depending on one’s point of view, in mid-July Boardman either resigned as manager or was asked to resign by team management. A 20-3 loss to Wahpeton-Breckenridge on June 10, in which his Valley City team committed 16 errors, may have sealed Boardman’s decision to give up managing. He quickly signed on again with Minneapolis, and on June 22 he made his first pitching appearance for the Millers.
Because he left Valley City in midseason for the American Association, Boardman was not included in final 1922 Dakota League statistics. But from available box scores, it appears he pitched in 12 games and had a record of six wins and two losses. This is consistent with a report stating that at the time of his departure from Valley City, he was hitting .425 and had won six games, nearly all the team had won. (Valley’s City’s record when he resigned was 7-21.)xxiv
In 1923, after the Bismarck Capitals of the newly formed Class D North Dakota League lost their opening four-game series at home, they announced that they had signed Boardman for the remainder of the season. In his first start for Bismarck, in the first game of a doubleheader, Boardman was ejected in the seventh inning for talking back to the umpire and was fined $10. Team officials quickly paid the fine and Boardman started the second game and shut out Jamestown on two hits. In perhaps his most notable performance in the early part of the season, he and Minot pitcher Wally Walters each pitched all 18 innings of a June 23 doubleheader.
Controversy continued to follow Boardman. Despite his 9-4 pitching record and league-leading leading .364 batting average, later in the season he was suspended without pay by his club, which cited “indifferent playing in the field.” Boardman claimed to be suffering from a leg injury and threatened to take the matter up with the National Association, the governing body of the minor leagues. The Bismarck management said it would reduce his suspension if he agreed to join the Valley City club, which needed pitchers because two of its left-handers had been injured in an auto accident and lost for the season. Boardman finished the 1923 season with Valley City, posting a 3-5 record.
That season was Boardman’s last in Organized Baseball, but he played for nearly another decade on independent and semipro teams in North Dakota. He mostly pitched with the Bismarck team, but would pitch for anyone, anywhere, if the money was right. In 1924 he signed with the Bismarck Independents and in October pitched and played center field in a game against the touring Brooklyn Dodgers, whose players in the game included Jack Fournier, Dutch Reuther, and Burleigh Grimes.xxv
In 1925 Boardman pitched for a team from Scobey, Montana, beating the Fargo All-Stars, and in 1927 he helped Fargo-Moorhead win a Red River Valley tournament. In 1928 his Bismarck team hosted the Union Giants, a colored team from Chicago, in two games. Boardman didn’t pitch, playing outfield in both games, but cracked a triple over a string of automobiles in the outfield. The next year, still with the independent Bismarck team, Boardman faced the Cuban House of David team and its noted pitcher from Minneapolis, John Donaldson.
Finally, on June 7, 1932, still suiting up for Bismarck, the 39-year-old Boardman struck out five batters in three innings of work against neighboring Mandan, North Dakota, in his last known pitching appearance.
Little is known of Boardman’s post-baseball life. At some point he moved to California, where he worked as a car salesman in Sacramento for 23 years. He died of a heart attack on August 10, 1968, and was cremated.xxvi
ii Bismarck (North Dakota) Tribune, June 9, 1928.
iii Toronto Sunday World, March 24, 1915.
iv Toronto Sunday World, April 8, 1914.
v Among them the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Journal-Gazette, December 24, 1912.
vi Winnipeg Free Press, February 16, 1916.
vii Charleroi (Pennsylvania) Mail, February 22, 1912.
viii Adrian (Michigan) Daily Telegraph, June 4, 1912.
x Duluth (Minnesota) News Tribune, July 1, 1914.
xi Duluth News Tribune, July 7, 1914.
xii Bismarck Tribune, June 9, 1928.
xiii Winnipeg (Manitoba) Free Press, September 15, 1915.
xiv Grand Forks (North Dakota) Herald, July 7, 1916.
xv Winnipeg Free Press, June 21, 1916.
xvi Grand Forks Herald, September 2 and September 13, 1916
xvii Grand Forks Herald, September 13, 1916.
xviii Omaha (Nebraska) World Herald, February 22, 1918.
xix The Sporting News, June 13, 20, and 27 and July 4, 11, and 18, 1918.
xx Aberdeen (South Dakota) Journal, May 1, 1922.
xxi Bismarck Tribune, June 17, 1921.
xxii Syracuse (New York) Herald, January 3, 1917.
xxiv Aberdeen Journal, June 17, 1922.
xxv Bismarck Tribune, October 14, 1924.