SABR

Mose Eggert

This article was written by Bill Nowlin.

How is it that someone who weighed 160 pounds and stood five feet, 8 1/2 inches tall attracted the nickname “Moose”?

It’s not as though he came from northern Wisconsin or near the northwest Maine/Canadian border. Elmer Albert Eggert was born and died in Rochester, New York – born on January 29, 1902 to parents of German ancestry. His mother Theresa Felgner Eggert had been born in Rochester, and his father Fred was born in New York City to two German parents. Elmer was the third of five children. Fred Eggert worked as a wood finisher at the time of the 1910 and 1930 censuses; in 1920, he worked as a laborer in an optical factory. At that time – 1920 – Elmer was 18, a high school graduate of Rochester’s East High, and employed as a tailor in a clothing factory.

In reality, he was never called Moose. Someone, at some point along the way, misspelled his actual nickname – “Mose” – and it stuck in the record books. Family members contacted in 2010 were amused at the notion of Eggert as “Moose.” He was widely known as “Mose” – never Elmer – even entering the name himself on his player questionnaire for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.[1]

Elmer’s professional career began in 1925 with the Dover Dobbins of the Eastern Shore League, a Class D team which changed its name to the Senators in time for Eggert’s second season. He hit .302 (with 10 homers) in 68 games in his first year, and .311 (with nine homers) in 81 games in 1926. The Boston Red Sox secured rights to his contract and brought him to the majors the very next year. It was in 1927 that George Eggert, Elmer’s younger brother (by two years), played second base in the Eastern Shore League for the Crisfield Crabbers, hitting .287 in 88 games. George appeared in two 1928 games for the Rochester Red Wings but then disappeared from baseball’s historical record.

On February 26, 1927, Red Sox manager Bill Carrigan set out from Boston for spring training in New Orleans. The only player to travel with him out of South Station was Danny MacFayden, who lived in the Boston area. Elmer Eggert was one of six prospects expected to join the party as the train passed through Cincinnati. While training in the Crescent City, the Red Sox party put up at the Bienville Hotel and trained at Heinemann Park. Eggert was one of the scrubs, envisioned as backing up Topper Rigney at short or Fred Haney at third base. He was slow to get started, as Mel Webb of the Boston Globe, noted: “He was not impressive when first in camp, but is picking up speed all the time, and no other infielder gets the ball away faster or more accurately.” [2] Just four days later, Webb wrote, “Eggert is flashing.” The Sox planned to carry seven infielders, and the final spot appeared to be a competition between Eggert and Billy Rogell.

Eggert started the season with the big-league ballclub, making his debut on April 27 by pinch-hitting for relief pitcher Rudy Sommers in the bottom of the ninth during a 4-1 loss to the visiting Philadelphia Athletics. Eggert struck out.  Carrigan soon determined that Eggert didn’t have what he needed, but wanted to keep him relatively nearby and so placed him in Portland, Maine, where he played Class B ball in the New England League with the Portland Eskimos. Eggert played second base and third base, and, according to frequent news stories, began to earn considerable comment for his fielding - sometimes costly, sometimes exceptional. Over the course of 96 games, Eggert hit for a .309 average. After the New England League season ended, Eggert was elevated back to the big leagues and appeared in four more games for the Red Sox.

His first opportunity was in the first of two September 20 ballgames; he pinch-hit for reliever Frank Bennett and singled. It proved to be his only major-league hit. On September 26, he pinch-hit again and drew a base on balls. On September 28 and October 1’s first game, he played twice more, both times in vain. In the first game, he briefly played second base. In the second game, he pinch-ran. He never crossed the plate and never drove in a run, but he still sports a .400 on-base percentage, based on the walk and single in five plate appearances.

Most box scores of the first game on October 1 show him pitching the top of the ninth inning, giving up two hits but no runs in one full inning, but current databases don’t show him ever pitching in the big leagues. The same box scores who list him as pitching often show his position in the field as second base, but batting ninth. The Boston Herald’s account – a special dispatch – added a bit of text which backs up the box score: “Francis Bennett started on the mound for the Hosemen and lasted only five innings. Lundgren and Eggert followed to no avail.” The game was in Philadelphia and neither the Philadelphia Inquirer box score nor game account show Eggert on the mound at all. It has him batting fourth in the order, seemingly taking Regan’s place at shortstop. [3] It’s difficult to make a compelling case for Eggert to be accorded credit for having pitched an inning for Boston, but he may have done so.

In early December, the Red Sox pulled off a major trade with Mobile, sending the Bears four players: Wally Shaner, Tony Welzer, Bill Moore, and Eggert, in exchange for Ed Morris, Merle Settlemire, and Danny Williams. The Globe’s James C. O’Leary said, “Moore and Eggert failed to show that they are yet big leaguers and more seasoning in the Southern Association undoubtedly will be of benefit to them as, apparently, it was to Williams.” [4]

The rest of his professional career took place in Single A baseball. Mobile secured a steady third baseman in Eggert, who played 133 games in 1928 and 140 games in 1929, batting .288 and .285. He began 1930 with the Dallas Steers, then shifted to Des Moines. In 1930, once arriving in Des Moines, he alternated between second and third base, hitting .263 for the Demons.   In 1931, he was one of the few holdovers on manager Bill Rodgers’ squad, though he’d also briefly been a holdout at the start of spring training. [5] He had his best season in 1931, hitting .316 for Des Moines and, later, the Topeka Senators in a combined 541 at-bats. Des Moines won the Western League flag, and the playoffs, but unfortunately Eggert had been shifted during the season.

Eggert experienced a similar situation in 1932, albeit in reverse and with a happier ending. He started the season in the Southern Association with the Nashville Volunteers (.286 in 40 games) but wound up back in the Western League with Art Griggs’ Tulsa Oilers for his final 99 games (hitting .306). Tulsa had run away with the first half, but then faltered, only to recover, and win the playoffs over Oklahoma City in four straight games. Oklahoma had salvaged a bit of satisfaction in having beaten Tulsa, 2-1, in a playoff to see which team would hold the honors of the second-half title.

Entering 1933, Eggert wrote The Sporting News that he had kept in shape by being active in bowling over the offseason in Rochester. [6] In shape he may have been, but it proved to be pretty much the end of the line for the 31-year-old third baseman. He played briefly with the Oklahoma City Indians, but also with Tulsa again, playing in 121 games while batting only .217. In the spring of 1934, he was released by Tulsa.

For many years he played semipro softball around Rochester, sometimes matching up against the city’s most famous softballer, Harold “Shifty” Gears – the first inductee into the Softball Hall of Fame. Eggert played for Dawes Drug and some other firms and likely picked up a little extra cash on the side.[7]

After baseball, Eggert – who, like his sister Elsie, never married -- became a letter carrier for the United States Post Office, the same position his older brother Clarence held. After the Second World War broke out, Eggert – despite being 40 years old – volunteered for service, enlisted in the Army Air Force on September 30, 1942 for the duration, remaining Stateside and working with radios.

He died at age 69 on April 7, 1971, in his hometown of Rochester of acute and chronic alcoholism or, as his nephew put it, “John Barleycorn.”

Sources

In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Eggert’s player file from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com. Thanks to Sean Lahman and to Jen McGovern. Eggert’s obituaries appear in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and the Rochester Times-Union.






[1] Interviews with nephew Richard Eggert and grand-nephew Fred Eggert on July 28, 2010. The player questionnaire was completed by Elmer Eggert for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Why Mose? That remains unknown.


[2] Boston Globe, March 19, 1927


[3] SABR member Jen McGovern, who offered to help track down coverage in Philadelphia, reports, “The only other paper available is the Evening Bulletin but it did not publish a Sunday edition in 1927. The Saturday doubleheader was not covered in Monday’s paper.”


[4] Boston Globe, December 8, 1927


[5] The Sporting News, March 19 and April 9, 1931


[6] The Sporting News, February 16, 1933


[7] Interviews with Richard Eggert and with Fred Eggert on July 28, 2010
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