SABR

Bob Connery

This article was written by Steve Steinberg.

Over the course of three decades in the early 20th century, Robert Joseph Connery was a major-league scout and minor-league player, manager, and owner. He was the closest friend of Hall of Fame manager Miller Huggins, and was Huggins’s scout with both the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Yankees. Best known as the scout who “discovered” Rogers Hornsby, Connery bought the St. Paul Saints of the American Association in 1925. At that time, a local sportswriter called him Huggins’s “right-hand man,” though his hand “seldom appears on the surface.” He was, the St. Paul newspaper article continued, “one of the most shadowy and least known figures in baseball.”1

Bob Connery was born in St. Louis on March 20 or March 28, 1880.2 He was the youngest of three children of stonecutter Lawrence Connery, born in Ireland, and Mary (Grant) Connery, who was born in New Orleans shortly after her parents arrived from Ireland.3 A practicing Catholic all his life, Connery grew up in north St. Louis’s Kerry Patch, a tough Irish neighborhood that produced a number of major-league ballplayers in the early 20th century.

The 1900 census lists Connery as working in the St. Louis telegraph office with his sister, Marguaretta, with whom he lived.4 He played baseball in the city’s Kerry Patch and Goose Hill areas, with the older Jimmy Burke and the younger Solly Hofman, Lefty Leifield, and Bobby Byrne – all of whom had meaningful major-league careers. Connery, who was a muscular man more than 6 feet tall, in 1903 advanced to the St. Louis Trolley League, all of whose towns could be reached by trolley, and which was also known as the Missouri-Illinois League. Connery and Hofman played for the East St. Louis team that year; one preseason report called Connery “the best young first baseman in St. Louis.”5 He began his professional career in 1904 with the Des Moines Prohibitionists of the Western League.6

Connery stayed in St. Louis the following year, when his mother died.7 He played for Henry Kulage’s White Seals and coached the Smith Academy high-school baseball team that year.8 In 1906 he played for Dick Kinsella’s Springfield Senators of the Three-I League. Kinsella would go on to a scouting career, primarily for John McGraw’s New York Giants. In 1907 or 1908, Connery joined the Hartford Senators of the Connecticut State League.9 A career .241 hitter, he had his most productive seasons as a player in 1908 and 1909, when he hit .262 and .267, respectively. First base continued to be his regular position.

During the 1908 season, Bob became the club’s manager as well, a position he would hold through 1912. He replaced Tommy Dowd, who “could not resist the temptation of the flowing bowl,” according to one account.10 Wealthy Hartford businessman Mickey Lambert had recommended Bob to the team’s owner, Jim Clarkin.11 Connery and Lambert became lifelong friends.

While he was often described as reticent, shy, and retiring, Connery was suspended a few times as a manager for umpire-baiting.12 His Senators won the 1909 league pennant, on the strength of Ray Fisher’s 24-win season. He found time to coach the Trinity College (Hartford) baseball team in the spring of 1910.13 In June of that year, Connery was severely injured in an auto accident, which was expected to end his playing career.14 But after appearing in only 25 games in 1910, he returned to play in 119 the following year. He then played on Cardinals’ first baseman Ed Konetchy’s indoor baseball team in St. Louis after the 1911 season.15

Connery was able to sell one of his 1912 stars, Hugh High (who had hit .327 for Hartford that season) to the Detroit Tigers for $3,000, a nice price for a “B” League to secure from a player sale. High later played for the Yankees, including his final games early in the 1918 season, after Bob had joined the New York club.

Connery continued to live in St. Louis in the offseason. He enjoyed hunting everything from bear to wild turkeys in the Ozarks. He was often referred to as “Tom” before 1913, and it is not clear why. “Tom J. Connery, alias Bob Connery, or Bob, alias Tom. In the East it is Tom; at home [St. Louis] it is Bob. Take your pick.”16

When Miller Huggins became the player-manager of the St. Louis Cardinals after the 1912 season, he hired Connery as his scout, at almost twice his Hartford salary. The club’s former scouts, Dick Kinsella and Bill Armour, had quit in the wake of the firing of Huggins’s predecessor, Roger Bresnahan. Connery had gained a reputation for developing players in Hartford, including pitcher Lefty Leverenz and outfielders High and Benny Kauff.

Mike Kelley, the manager of the St. Paul Saints and Huggins’s friend and manager there in 1902 and 1903, had recommended Connery to Huggins.17 Just when Connery and Kelley got to know each other is not known, but the three men – Connery, Kelley, and Huggins – became close friends for the rest of their lives.18 Less than two years later, the three attempted to buy the Buffalo Bisons of the International League.19

Shortly after Connery joined the Cardinals, he commented on his new profession. “Scouting for some of the clubs is nothing short of detective work. … Scouting on some of those Class D leagues is like scraping the back yard with a fine-tooth comb. … The principal thing I look for is nerve. … Is he a fighter?”20

Two years later, in the spring of 1915, Connery came across a gangly young ballplayer who had that nerve –he called it “a world of pep” – playing for Denison, Texas, a Class D team. “I stayed away from the larger leagues,” Bob later explained, “and tried to find talent in the smaller circuits which were passed up by scouts from the more opulent clubs.”21 Connery and Huggins “worked wonders with the little cash they had at their disposal,” Fred Lieb wrote in his history of the Cardinals.22 The Cardinals signed the youngster, Rogers Hornsby for only $600 later that year.

“I’ve got to be honest,” the Cards’ scout later explained, “I didn’t recognize his budding genius. … He was just a good prospect, a lad who had a chance.”23 Miller Huggins later stated that Connery “deserved all the credit” for discovering Hornsby.24

Connery once explained that he “placed much importance on a player’s disposition; whether he was temperamental or easy to handle, and whether he loved to play baseball.”25 Huggins also spoke often of the importance of “disposition.” Ironically, their most famous “find” during their years in St. Louis, Rogers Hornsby, would gain a reputation for surliness.

Perhaps equally important for the emergence of Hornsby was the time Connery spent with his young recruit the following spring. Hornsby had been a “choke and crouch” hitter; Connery had him move away from the plate and swing from the end of the bat. Years later, the man whose career batting average of .358 is second highest in baseball history, “No man ever worked harder with a youngster than Bob [Connery] did with me on that training trip.”26

Another of Connery’s significant signings was the bespectacled pitcher Lee Meadows, acquired for $500.27 “Meadows possesses the meanest curve ball I have ever seen in a recruit,” Bob said. “He’s intensely ambitious, a student of baseball, well-behaved and wise.”28

Huggins was upset by the signing. “Can you imagine that Irish so and so! Buying me a pitcher with glasses. … Why, they may kill the guy, and I’ll be held for murder,” he reportedly said.29 Hornsby and Meadows led the Cardinals to a surprise third-place finish in 1917, Huggins’s second such finish as manager of the club.

Connery also signed infielder Zinn Beck, who went on to a long scouting career of his own. When Beck died in 1981 at the age of 95, he was still an active scout, for the Washington Senators.

When the New York Yankees hired Miller Huggins as manager after the 1917 season, he insisted on bringing Connery with him. Bob joined scouts Joe Kelley and Bob Gilks. Sporting News columnist John Sheridan credited Connery for “a lot of the harmony” on Huggins’s St. Louis club.30

Two of Connery’s first scouting recommendations for the Yankees did not help the club, for very different reasons. He recommended that the Yankees sign a former top pitcher, Babe Adams. Star of the 1909 World Series (when he won three games for Pittsburgh), Adams had developed shoulder trouble and was released by the Pirates in 1916. He won 20 games in the Western League in 1917 (for St. Joseph and Hutchinson) and went 14-3 for Kansas City the following year. The Yankees did not act on Connery’s advice, for an unknown reason. The Pirates re-signed the 36-year-old, who went on to win another 81 games for Pittsburgh.

Bob was excited about another prospect the Yankees did sign who was being hailed as “a wonder by the experts.”31 He made his major-league debut for the Yankees in early May 1919, but played his final game just two months later. The youngster hit only .091 for the 1919 Yankees and later made Chicagoans take notice. George Halas went on to a National Football League Hall of Fame career as player, coach, and owner of the Chicago Bears.

When Ed Barrow joined the Yankees as business manager after the 1920 season, he brought along his coach, Paul Krichell, who joined the Yankees’ scouting staff and focused on the college ranks. Eventually, Krichell would rise to oversee the club’s scouting department for more than 30 years. But in the early 1920s, the Yankees’ scouts probably all reported directly to Barrow.

One collegian Krichell was impressed with played for Columbia University. Krichell saw him play against Rutgers in the spring of 1923 and was so impressed that he told Barrow, “I think I’ve just seen another Babe Ruth.”32 Krichell returned with Bob Connery a couple of days later for a Columbia-NYU game, in which Lou Gehrig hit a long home run. “Well, what are you waiting for?” Connery said to his fellow scout, and the Yankees soon signed Gehrig.

Connery played a key role in securing Bob Meusel for New York. The lanky future Yankee was playing for Vernon of the Pacific Coast League in the late Teens. The club was managed by Bill Essick, who would become a Yankees scout himself in 1926. Connery scouted and then signed Meusel for the Yankees in the summer of 1919, a season in which he hit .337 with 39 doubles and 14 triples. Connery later was instrumental in acquiring another starting outfielder for the Yankees, Earle Combs. After he hit .380 with 46 doubles and 15 triples for Louisville of the American Association in 1923, New York purchased him for $50,000 and aging outfielder Elmer Smith, whose 1924 season (.334, 45 doubles, 28 home runs) was almost as good as that of Combs the previous year.

With a number of scouts, the Yankees had the luxury of getting more than one evaluation for a top (and costly) prospect. They could also get a scout to visit and, if need be, sign a man quickly. This team approach served them well; one writer called it “an elaborate system.”33

Before the Yankees acquired Tony Lazzeri from Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League in the summer of 1925, Ed Barrow insisted that Connery check out the youngster, even though Bob was no longer working for the Yankees. (Sportswriter Dan Daniel wrote that Connery first told Barrow about Lazzeri when he was still a Yankees scout, before Lazzeri’s breakout season of 1925.34) His report back to Barrow was both succinct and dramatic. “I don’t care what he’s got. [The Yankees had recently learned that Lazzeri suffered from epilepsy.] He’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.”35 The Yankees also paid $50,000 for Lazzeri (plus some players), during a season in which he hit .355 with 60 home runs for Salt Lake.

One prospect who “got away” from Connery and the Yankees was Jimmy O’Connell, who hit .337 for the San Francisco Seals in 1921, the first season that Bob tried to sign him.36 Perhaps it was during Connery’s scouting trips out west that year that Seals part-owner Charlie Graham got to know the Yankees scout. When Graham retired as the club’s manager after that season, he offered the position to Connery at “a fancy salary.”37 Ironically, the Seals then hired Dots Miller, the Cardinals infielder and informal team leader for the Huggins teams of 1914-1917, as manager. Miller led the 1922 Seals to the PCL pennant, before dying of tuberculosis the following year.

Connery remained with the Yankees, where he handled spring-training duties, including managing some of their rookie squads. In spring of 1922, when the Yankees fined pitcher Carl Mays for violating club discipline, he declared that Miller Huggins was merely a “mouthpiece” for the team’s real manager, Bob Connery.38 Yet it was as a key member of the club’s “brain trust” that Bob quietly made his mark. That same spring, a Sporting News photo of owner Jacob Ruppert, Barrow, and Huggins pointedly noted that Connery was missing from the picture, “too modest to sit in” and complete it.39

On New Year’s Day 1925, newspapers in New York City and St. Paul, Minnesota, announced that Connery had purchased the St. Paul Saints from John W. Norton. He probably saw a financial opportunity and was tiring of the peripatetic life of a scout. Connery said that he was severing all ties with the Yankees; he would become the president and public face of the club. If they wanted to buy a Saints player, he told the press, “They will have to give our club what we want, just the same as any other club.”40 Yet that very day, another St. Paul daily reported that the Yankees and the Saints would make an “alliance” that would be an “unbeatable combination.”41

Connery was buying one of the best clubs in the minor leagues. The Saints had won the American Association pennant in 1919, 1920, 1922, and 1924. They had averaged more than 200,000 fans in each of the past six seasons. Two of their clubs (1920 and 1922) are ranked among the 100 greatest minor-league teams ever (as were the 1923 Saints, who won 111 games, but not the pennant).42 And Connery paid a premium for that recent success: he purchased the team for between $175,000 and $200,000, the highest price ever paid for an American Association club up to that time.43 The purchase did not even include Lexington Park, which Norton retained; the team continued to play there through 1956.

Connery refused to name his partners in the ownership group; only one was reported in the press, St. Louis banker Leo Daly.44 What was not disclosed – and would not become public knowledge until September 1929 – was that Yankees manager Miller Huggins was a silent partner, a one-third owner of the Saints.45 There is confirmation of Huggins’s St. Paul stake: a January 8, 1925, stock certificate conveying 50 shares in the Saints to him, signed by both Connery and Huggins.46 There is also a January 10, 1925, letter from Huggins to Connery in which he explained his investment in the Saints.47

When the Yankees bought St. Paul players, Huggins benefited as a Saints owner, regardless of whether the player performed well for the Yankees.

Did Huggins have a conflict of interest? When Ruppert wrote Connery, wishing him well in his new venture, he made no mention of Huggins. “I am very sorry to lose your services. … I have always considered you a most efficient and valued member of our organization and am very sorry indeed to lose you,” Ruppert wrote to his departing scout. “You may always look upon me as a friend.”48 Perhaps Huggins kept his role private to avoid the possible wrath of baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Landis, who probably would have vetoed the arrangement.

Because of his close relationship with Jacob Ruppert, Huggins probably informed the Colonel of his St. Paul stake, though there is no record he did so. An example of Huggins’s scruples in the teams’ relationship was revealed in the Yankees’ August 1928 purchase of Saints pitcher Fred Heimach. The Yankees were reeling at the time and in need of pitching; their huge lead over the Philadelphia Athletics was evaporating.

Huggins insisted that Ruppert and Barrow send their scouts to St. Paul, rather than simply taking his recommendation. They did so, were impressed with Heimach and purchased him for $20,000. He won two key games down the stretch for New York, as the Yankees held off the PhiladelphiA Athletics and won their third straight pennant. Sportswriter Bill Slocum told this story after Huggins’s death. “Huggins’ high sense of propriety would not permit him to recommend a deal in which he might share financially, even with a pennant at stake,” Slocum wrote.49

Huggins drew a much larger salary as Yankees manager than Connery did as their scout. How did Bob come up with the cash to make the purchase? He used to tell family members that Jacob Ruppert lent him the money, with the understanding that his Yankees would get the first shot at St. Paul prospects.50

The first such prospect was shortstop Mark Koenig, who had starred in the 1924 Little World Series, in which the Saints beat the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles of the International league. He reportedly had drawn interest from seven minor-league teams. The 1925 Yankees were floundering; middle infielders Everett Scott and Aaron Ward were not playing well. In mid-May Huggins and Ed Barrow went to St. Paul, to confer with Connery.51 Two weeks later the Yankees acquired Koenig for $50,000 and three players, though they let him finish the season in St. Paul, where he hit.308. Koenig would be a starter for New York the next four seasons (he led AL shortstops in errors two of those years and was second another year), but he never became the star his purchase price had suggested.

In the next few years, a steady stream of players made their way between the two teams. “Curiously, virtually all the ballplayers sold by St. Paul to the Yankees experienced only modest success – at best – in the majors. The same was true of almost all the players New York sent down to St. Paul for seasoning.”53 Historian Dan Levitt has calculated that the Yankees spent around $300,000 on St. Paul prospects, a relationship that “benefited Connery much more than the Yankees.”54

Shortly after he bought the club, Connery re-signed the Saints’ 1924 manager, Nick Allen, who had played for the Saints since 1921. He took over as player-manager in 1923, when longtime manager Mike Kelley moved across the river and took over the Minneapolis Millers. Kelley would manage there through 1931. Minor-league historian Bill O’Neal has noted that “no sports rivalry was more bitterly contested over a longer period of time” than that between the clubs of the Twin Cities.55 Kelley and Connery, two close friends, faced off for years in that competition.

Connery was welcomed in St. Paul; fans appreciated that their club had been purchased by an astute baseball man. He made St. Paul his home, but that home was – and would be, for the rest of his life – the St. Paul Athletic Club. He served for many years on the club’s board of directors.56

For the 1929 season, Connery decided a managerial change was in order and brought in veteran National League catcher Bubbles Hargrave to manage and catch for the Saints.57 (Hargrave had played for the club from 1918 to 1920.) Hargrave played so well – he hit .369 – that the Yankees called him up the following year.58 In his first six years as the Saints owner and president, Connery did not win a single American Association pennant, though he did finish second in 1929 and 1930.

On September 20, 1929, Connery’s close friend, Yankees manager Miller Huggins, entered a New York City hospital with an infection under his eye. It quickly spread throughout his body, and Huggins slipped into unconsciousness. The New York Times reported that “in his delirium,” Huggins called out for Connery, who rushed to New York from the Midwest.59 When Huggins died on September 25, Bob was at his bedside, and he accompanied the body back to Huggins’s hometown of Cincinnati, where he was laid to rest.

In the aftermath of Huggins’s death, sportswriters discussed his ownership stake in the Saints, as if it were common knowledge, though that was not the case. St. Paul sportswriter Dick Meade put it this way: “It is well, though not widely known that Miller Huggins is the owner of 25 [sic] per cent of the stock of the Saints.”60

Jacob Ruppert and then Ed Barrow conducted a search for a new manager. Connery’s name figured prominently in the speculation because of both his experience and the respect he commanded from the Yankees’ “leadership.” But as a writer for the New York Sun pointed out, Connery already had a good job and would probably be of more value to the Yankees in St. Paul, as a “discoverer and developer of new talent.”61 Yankees coach Art Fletcher and veteran Athletics second baseman Eddie Collins turned down the job, and New York eventually hired their former pitcher and pitching coach, Bob Shawkey.

One of Shawkey’s first moves as manager was for him and Barrow to meet with Connery and review Saints prospects Ben Chapman (who hit .336 in 1929) and Dusty Cooke (.358 in 1929). Both were in the Yankees’ Opening Day lineup on April 15, 1930.

No New York sportswriter, including Tom Meany and Frank Graham in the Yankee team histories they wrote in the 1940s, mentioned that Bob Connery had been offered the Yankees’ managerial position. Yet Bob’s close friend, Hartford businessman Mickey Lambert, who had been called “chief of the Saints board of strategy” and often spent time with the club each spring, gave such an account.62

Lambert told a remarkable story to a Hartford reporter a few months after Shawkey was hired. He said that Connery had been offered the Yankees’ job; Jacob Ruppert had told him to fill in his salary figure in a contract, and the Yankees would take the Saints off his hands. Connery turned down the offer, said Lambert, because he wanted to remain the “boss” and because he did not want to have to deal with Babe Ruth or get into arguments with Ed Barrow.63

Connery hired his boyhood friend and former Des Moines teammate of a quarter-century earlier, Lefty Leifield, to manage the Saints in 1930.64 In his second season at the helm, Leifield rewarded Bob with his first (and what would be his only) American Association pennant in 1931. That year the club was also helped by the coaching and substitute catching of Frank Snyder, who had grown close to Bob when they were both with Huggins’s Cardinals.

Since 1925, Connery’s Saints had drawn an annual attendance of between 163,000 and 197,000 fans. Those numbers were respectable, but in four of the previous five seasons (1920 and 1924), the Saints had drawn more than 200,000 fans. And during Bob’s seven seasons in St. Paul, there were 15 “team seasons” with attendance of more than 200,000, including five above 300,000.65 But the revenue from player sales to the Yankees made the Saints a profitable venture. In the last major St. Paul deal with New York, on June 27, 1931, the Yankees acquired pitcher Johnny Murphy and outfielder Jack Saltzgaver.

After the 1931 season, Jacob Ruppert decided to embark on owning and running minor-league farm teams, following in the footsteps of Branch Rickey and the St. Louis Cardinals. Ruppert had become increasingly frustrated by the large sums of money he was spending on minor-league players who did not “pan out.” The purchase that most upset him had nothing to do with St. Paul. The Yankees had paid $125,000 to Oakland of the Pacific Coast League for prospects Jimmy Reese and Lyn Lary. New York eventually gave up on Reese after the 1931 season, when they sent him to the Saints.

Ed Barrow recommended that the Yankees hire Connery to head the nascent farm system. “He is the perfect choice,” he told Ruppert.66 But the owner demurred; he had apparently soured on Connery. As Barrow’s biographer Dan Levitt wrote, “The relationship [between the Yankees and the Saints] benefited Connery much more than the Yankees; New York paid him huge prices for his players, and none became top stars.”67 Ruppert conducted his own search and eventually hired George Weiss, who had run the New Haven and Baltimore minor-league clubs.

Sometimes a Saints prospect did not work out because of bad breaks such as injuries. This was the case with Dusty Cooke, of whom Paul Krichell had said, “When I saw him, I knew he was the ballplayer I had been dreaming about. He had everything.”68 Cooke hit .358 with 39 doubles and 33 home runs for Connery’s Saints in 1929. The Sporting News said the Yankees had sent Dusty to St. Paul for “seasoning under Bob Connery’s warm incubator of baseball embryos.”69 But a serious shoulder injury (torn ligaments) and a broken leg with the Yankees in 1931 derailed his career.

In 1932 the Saints’ attendance collapsed to about 85,000. The nation’s economic depression was taking its toll, but a fall-off of 34 wins and a 70-97 record had an impact too. Bob often told his family that St. Paul fans turned against his Saints because the Yankees would always take their best players.70

Yet the reality was quite different. First, the Yankees rarely called up a player during the Saints’ season. And when a top prospect was not quite ready for the Yankees, they sent him to St. Paul for seasoning. Typical was Lefty Gomez, whom New York had bought from San Francisco in 1929. He spent much of the 1930 season in St. Paul. (Baseball researcher Frank Phelps has credited Connery with the Yankees’ signing of Gomez.71) Finally, starting in 1932, Connery no longer had the free-spending Yankees buying his players. They were now developing their own men, and he had lost a prime source of income.

By 1934 Bob was desperate and explored moving the Saints to another city.72 By late spring he had chosen Peoria, Illinois, as his club’s new home. He held off, The Sporting News reported, “with the promise of more cooperation on the part of the St. Paul citizens in supporting his club.”73 By the end of the season, with attendance less than 75,000 (fewer than 1,000 fans a game), a move was imminent.

At the eleventh hour, the St. Paul Pioneer Press put together a syndicate that bought the club from Connery. Veteran sports reporter Lou McKenna took over as business manager. Local refrigeration businessman Walter Seeger was the lead investor and eventually acquired a controlling interest.74 The club hired Bob Connery for a couple of years as an adviser and began working closely with the Chicago White Sox.

A review of correspondence relating to the sale shows that Connery and his partners took a tremendous loss.75 In a December 1934 letter, Connery acknowledged that he was selling the club for $67,500, a team he had bought a decade earlier for $175,000. Byron Clark, a Wall Street lawyer who was the executor of Miller Huggins’s estate, agreed with the plan to sell. “It would take a considerable amount of time for values ever to come back,” he wrote Connery. That same day, Clark wrote to Myrtle Huggins, Miller’s sister, who had inherited his estate, “It is best for us to accept Bob’s judgment in the matter. Personally, I do not see much future for the club.”

In the months after Connery sold the Saints, there were stories he would resurface in a baseball position – as a White Sox scout, executive with the Yankees, or with the St. Louis Browns, when his friend Rogers Hornsby was managing.76 Connery never returned to work in baseball.

Bob spent his later years dabbling in the stock market, playing gin rummy at the St. Paul Athletic Club, and hunting. He was a regular at Saints games. He also made twice-a-year trips to Mineral Wells, Texas, where he enjoyed the mineral baths. He always stopped in St. Louis to visit his sisters.77

In his later life, Bob suffered from heart disease. He spent the last year of his life in Dallas, Texas, where he died of heart disease on January 28, 1967. He is buried in St. Louis’s Calvary Cemetery, alongside his parents and spinster sister Margaret.

Shortly before Connery’s death, his family received a surprise phone call from a woman in Dallas who identified herself as his daughter, a daughter they never knew or knew of. Kathleen Reynolds had two children of her own, Bob’s grandchildren. Whether Bob had been married is not known; he never spoke of a wife or children. The woman who had been in his life had passed away a few years before he died, her daughter said.

Bob’s sister Mary, who was in her 90s when he died, told her family that she had always suspected he had a woman and child. She recalled the cute married woman who followed him everywhere in St. Louis decades earlier but did not know if they had ever married. While Bob’s death certificate states he was widowed, this information was supplied by his daughter.

Over the course of his career, Bob Connery had established a reputation for honesty and integrity. “Bob’s spoken word was every bit as his penmanship,” The Sporting News wrote in 1928, “and small deals and those of moment could be closed over the coffee cup.”78

 

Acknowledgments

The author wants to thank Tom Bourke of St. Petersburg, Florida, for his genealogical expertise and both Dan Levitt of Minneapolis and Irv Goldfarb of Union City, New Jersey, for their assistance in pulling newspaper articles. Also, Stew Thornley’s book, Baseball in Minnesota: A Definitive History (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2006), provided an excellent overview of the Minnesota period of Connery’s baseball life.

 

Notes

1 “Buys St. Paul Club,” St. Paul Press, January 1, 1925.

2 Bob listed his date of birth as March 28 on his World War I draft registration draft card, but his death certificate and the Social Security Death index show March 20.

3 Bob had two sisters, Mary (1870-1973) and Margaret (1876 or 1878-1956). Mary had two children; Margaret never married.

4 He was still living with her in the 1910 census. By 1920, they were living in the home of their other sister, Mary, and her husband, Dr. John Bradley.

5 “The Trolley League Will Enforce the Reserve Rule,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 13, 1903.

6 The Sporting News noted that Connery, Hofman, Leifield, and Byrne all signed their contracts when the minor leagues held their annual convention in St. Louis late in 1903. “St. Louis Grew Many Stars in Old Kerry Patch,” July 10, 1957.

7 Connery’s father had died in 1902, followed by his mother in 1905.

8 Sporting Life, July 5, 1905.

9 There are a number of references to his joining Hartford in 1907, but his statistics there start in 1908.

10 “Calling ‘Em Right with Albert Keane,” Hartford Courant, May 5, 1930.

11 Ibid.

12 See, for example, Sporting Life, June 26, 1909, and September 3, 1910.

13 “Manager Connery Looks Over Plant,” Sporting Life, February 12, 1910.

14 Sporting Life, June 25, 1910.

15 Hartford Courant, December 18, 1911.

16 “Connery Scouting Job,” Hartford Courant, January 17, 1913.

17 Kansas City Star, May 18, 1930.

18 Kelley died on June 6, 1955.

19 Sporting Life, December 19, 1914. The Cardinals’ owners, the Brittons, were going to help finance the deal, and Buffalo was to function as a farm club of the Cardinals. The deal did not come together.

20 “Here’s a Good Scout: Connery Will Sign No Recruits Unless They Can Make Good,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 26, 1913.

21 Frederick G. Lieb, The St. Louis Cardinals (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1944), 55-56.

22 Lieb, 55.

23 Lieb, 56.

24 Miller Huggins, “Serialized Story of His Baseball Career, San Francisco Chronicle, March 31, 1924.

25 George A. Barton, “Sportographs: Connery Tells Scouting Secrets,” Minneapolis Tribune, June 9, 1941.

26 “Sore Arm Lets Hornsby Have First Chance,” Montana Standard, January 17, 1929.

27 Lieb, 58. Meadows caught Connery’s eye when he won 40 games for Durham in 1913-1914. In one of the worst trades Branch Rickey ever made, he sent Meadows and Gene Paulette to the Phillies for Doug Baird, Elmer Jacobs, and Frank Woodward in 1919. Meadows went on to win 136 games for the Phils and, later, the Pirates.

28 W.J. O’Connor, “Meadows and Betzel Are Two Reasons for Cardinals’ Climb,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 21, 1915.

29 Lieb, 58.

30 John B. Sheridan, “Behind the Home Plate,” The Sporting News, October 6, 1921.

31 “New Yankee Player Hailed as Wonder by the Experts,” New York Tribune, February 9, 1919. Halas later said that he caught Connery’s attention because of his .350 batting average in his three seasons at the University of Illinois. “He Slid Into Football via Third Base,” Oakland Tribune, January 23, 1967.

32 Ray Robinson, Iron Horse: Lou Gehrig in His Time (New York: Harper Perennial, 1990), 58.

33 “Yanks Ivory Hunters Keep Club Posted,” Billings Gazette, September 3, 1927.

34 Dan Daniel, New York Evening Telegram, July 9, 1926.

35 Paul Votano, Tony Lazzeri, A Baseball Biography (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Publishing, 2005), 19-20.

36 “Majors Bid in Vain to Land Coast League ‘Babe Ruth,’” Bisbee Daily Review, July 28, 1921.

37 “Connery Spurns Job as Western Manager,” Hartford Courant, November 30, 1921.

38 “Col. Huston Rushes to Save Yanks as Players Quarrel With Huggins,” St. Louis Times, April 6, 1922.

39 The Sporting News, March 10, 1922.

40 “Owner of Saints Denies New York Baseball Stories,” St. Paul Dispatch, January 20, 1925.

41 “Connery in New York to Form Alliance With Yanks,” St. Paul Press, January 20, 1925.

42 Bill Weiss and Marshall Wright, “100 Best Minor League Teams,” milb.com/milb/history/top100.jsp.

43 New York Evening Telegram, January 2, 1925, and St. Paul Press, January 1, 1925. The price may have been inflated by pitcher Walter Johnson’s interest in buying the Saints. St. Louis Post Dispatch, November 24, 1924.

44 One article reported that Norton’s club secretary, W.P. McMicking, had bought stock in Connery’s club and would remain as secretary. “New Club Owner Will Be Honored at Public Meeting,” January 3, 1925, article in Bob Connery bio file, St. Paul Public Library. Another article in that file noted that Connery was a member of the St. Louis investment banking firm Daly Seddon Company.

45 Steve Steinberg, “The St. Paul-New York Underground Railroad,” The National Pastime (Phoenix: Society for American Baseball Research, 2012), 38.

46 This certificate and copies of it have surfaced in auctions in recent years. They seem to contradict reports that Huggins’s sister, Myrtle, held the stock in her name.

47 Ken Willey, Baseball’s Golden Half Century, 1910-1959 (City of Industry, California: Glenleaf Publishing, 2007), 82-83.

48 Willey, 208.

49 Bill Slocum, “Miller Huggins, as I Knew Him,” New York American, October 4, 1929. When the Yankees acquired Heimach on August 6, 1928, their 13½-game lead had shrunk to 3½ games.

50 Phone conversations with William Stude, Bob Connery’s grandnephew, St. Louis, May 19 and 20, 2014.

51 “General Shakeup,” Hartford Courant, May 14, 1925. The Yankees had a 7-15 record the morning that meeting was reported.

52 Table from Steve Steinberg, “The St. Paul-New York Underground Railroad,” The National Pastime. Society for American Baseball Research, 2012, 40.

53 Steve Steinberg, “The St. Paul-New York Underground Railroad,” 41.

54 Daniel R. Levitt, Ed Barrow: The Bulldog Who Built the Yankees’ First Dynasty (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2012), 277, 224.

55 Bill O’Neal, The American Association: A Baseball History, 1902-1991 (Austin: Eakin Press, 1992), 63.

56 George A. Barton, My Lifetime in Sports (Minneapolis: Olympic Press, 1957), 190.

57 The Saints sent pitcher Paul Zahniser, who had won 33 games for the 1927-1928 Saints, to Cincinnati to secure Hargrave. He did not win a game for the Reds, or any other major-league team, after the trade.

58 The Yankees sent three members of their 1927 team, pitcher Wilcy Moore, catcher John Grabowski, and utility outfielder Ben Paschal, to the Saints in return.

59 “Huggins Reported in Grave Condition,” New York Times, September 24, 1929.

60 Dick Meade, “Huggins Fights with Courage,” unsourced St. Paul newspaper, September 25, 1929.

61 Will Wedge, New York Sun, October 16, 1929.

62 “St. Paul Agrees to Connery’s Opinion,” The Sporting News, May 3, 1928.

63 “Calling ’Em Right with Albert Keane,” Hartford Courant, May 5, 1930.

64 After a 12-year career as a major-league pitcher, Leifield had coached and scouted for the St. Louis Browns. Most recently, he had managed the Oklahoma City club of the Western League.

65 Frank Haraway, ed., All-Time Records and Highlights of the American Association, 1970, 52.

66 Dan Daniel, “Over the Fence,” The Sporting News, January 18, 1961.

67 Levitt, 224.

68 Frank Graham, “Graham’s Corner,” New York Journal-American, January 18 or 19, 1946.

69 The Sporting News, November 3, 1932.

70 Phone conversations with William Stude, Bob Connery’s grandnephew, St. Louis, May 19 and 20, 2014.

71 baseballlibrary.com/ballplayers/player.php?name=Bob_Connery.

72 “Three Cities Bidding for Team Franchise,” Steubenville Herald-Star, June 7, 1934. Connery also considered Fort Wayne and Gary, Indiana. Peoria and Fort Wayne both had teams in the lower (B-level) Central League.

73 “The A.A. Remains Intact,” Editorial, The Sporting News, July 12, 1934.

74 Drafter by Saints to Keep Club, Prexy Buys Controlling Interest,” The Sporting News, January 16, 1941.

75 Miller Huggins Estate documents relating to the sale of the St. Paul Saints, 1934-35, Steve Steinberg Collection (Huggins and Scott April 10, 2014, auction).

76 The Sporting News, October 11, 1934; November 29, 1934; and October 31, 1935.

77 His oldest sister, Mary, lived to age 102. The 1940 census listed Bob as living in Mineral Wells.

78 “Baseball Alphabet No Puzzle to Connery,” The Sporting News, March 15, 1928.

 


Players Transferred Between St. Paul and New York

(StP is the St. Paul Saints, and NY-A is the New York Americans, the Yankees. DNP=Did Not Play)

Player St. Paul N.Y. Yankees Notes
Walter Beall 1927 1924-27  
Ben Chapman 1929 1930-36  
Roy Chesterfield 1928 DNP in Majors  
Pat Collins 1925 1926-28 8/30/25: Traded by St. Paul to NY-A for $25K, Wanninger & 2 players
Dusty Cooke 1929 1930-32  
Nick Cullop 1926 1926  
Leo Durocher 1927 1925, 28-29  
Curtis Fullerton 1925 DNP in Majors 10/9/25: Drafted by NY-A. 3/23/26: Sent to Salt Lake City in Lazzeri deal
Elias Funk 1927-28 1929  
Joe Giard 1928-29 1927  
John Grabowski 1930 1927-29  
Fred Heimach 1927-28, 34 1928-29 8/6/28: Traded by StP to NY-A for $20K & player
Fred Hofmann 1917, 25-26 1919-25 5/29/25: Traded by NY-A to StP with Oscar Roettger, Ernie Johnson & $50K for Mark Koenig
Ernie Johnson DNP for StP 1923-25 5/29/25: Sent to StP with Roettger, Hofmann & $50K in Koenig deal
Hank Johnson 1926 1925-26, 28-32  
Mark Koenig 1921-22, 24-25 1925-30 5/29/25: Sent to NY-A for Hofmann, Roettger, E. Johnson & $50K
Cliff Markle 1923-25 1915-16, 24 6/16/24: Traded by StP to NY-A for Roettger. 7/22/24: Purchased by StP from NY-A
Herb McQuaid 1924-25, 27-28 1926 9/14/25: Traded by StP to NY-A for undisclosed players
Wilcy Moore 1930 1927-29, 32-33 9/30/30: Drafted by Red Sox from StP
Ray Morehart 1928-29 1927  
Henie Odom 1925-27 1925  
Ben Paschal 1930-33 1924-29  
George Pipgras 1926 1923-24, 27-33  
Gene Robertson 1927 1928-29 8/8/27: Traded by StP to NY-A for $20K & PTBNL
Oscar Roettger 1924-31 1923-24 6/16/24: Traded by NY-A to StP for Cliff Markle. 5/29/25: Traded by NY-A with Hofmann, E. Johnson & $50K to StP for Koenig
Jack Saltzgaver 1930-31 1932, 34-37 6/27/31: Traded by StP with Johnny Murphy, 2 players & cash to NY-A for Jimmie Reese
Al Shealy 1927-1929 1928  
Pee-Wee Wanninger 1926-32 1925 12/16/25: Sent by NY-A to StP to complete 8/30/25 Pat Collins deal. NY sent Wanninger, 2 others & $25K for Collins
Jules Wera 1924, 26, 28 1927, 29 12/21/26: Traded by StP to NY-A for $40K & 2 players

 

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