Harry Lochhead

This article was written by Chris Rainey

If you never heard of Harry Lochhead, that is very understandable. The shortstop’s big-league career was brief and his statistics mostly unimpressive, though he led the hapless 1899 Cleveland Spiders with 148 games played and played briefly as the keystone partner of Nap Lajoie in 1901. Harry would have had some dazzling tales for his friends and family had he lived that long — but he died in 1909, aged just 33.

For decades his name appeared in baseball publications as Lockhead. The Cleveland Plain Dealer never spelled his name correctly. The Cleveland Press erred more egregiously, initially calling him Morehead.1The family even appears in early census records as Lockhead.2 His father was from Scotland and the Scottish pronunciation of “loch” sounds like “lock,” which undoubtedly created the confusion.

Andrew Finley Lochhead was born in 1838 in Glasgow. He traveled to the States and made his away across the country to California where he took an Irish lass named Ellen Walsh as his wife in January 1865. The couple would welcome five children — a daughter and four sons. Robert Henry Lochhead joined the family on March 29, 1876. His father passed away in 1878, leaving his mother to raise the family while working as a housekeeper.

Lochhead attended the Weber school in Stockton through the eighth grade. He went on to graduate from Stockton High School. Harry grew to be 5-feet-11 and weighed in around 170 pounds. Writers described him as “a strapping big fellow.”3 Both a right-handed batter and thrower, he was not a speedster but demonstrated a quickness unusual for a man his size.

Lochhead learned the game in Stockton and became a pitcher/shortstop. When the town sponsored a team in the 1896 California Baseball League, manager George Campbell was quick to sign him.4 Harry was given the honor of pitching the team’s first game in San Francisco against the eventual champion Imperials. He was handled rudely by his rivals and surrendered eight hits and nine runs in the second inning on the way to a 23-5 defeat.5 He tossed a complete game and had two hits which led to two runs scored.

Lochhead took his talents north the following season and played with the independent Sacramento Gilt Edges. The following season the Gilt Edges entered the Pacific Coast League (aka Pacific States League.)6 There were eight teams in the league surrounding the San Francisco area. Games were played on Sundays and holidays and scheduled from late March to late November.

The Gilt Edges were managed by Ed Kripp, who came under criticism before the season was even a month old. It was not an issue of how he handled the games, but rather the pay for the players. In April a player named James Denny (aka Dennie) sounded off to the local newspaper after Lochhead left the team to play with Stockton. Denny complained that the last three Sundays the men had received $5.05, $3.85, and $4.90 — an average of $4.60 a game. At that rate the men would earn less than $250 for the season.7Denny further mentioned that four of the players had no other outside income and were disgruntled. One of those four, third baseman William Peeples, was offered a job for $2 a day in Kripp’s cigar store but refused because there was not work for all his teammates.

Kripp responded immediately through the press and deposited $100 in gold with the Sacramento Bee to be paid to a charity if Denny’s charges could be substantiated. He threatened to release Denny immediately, but then relented.  Kripp must have rectified the situation because Lochhead returned from Stockton to play with the Gilt Edges.8

Over the next two months the team gained the fancy of the fans. The local papers took to nicknaming every member. Lochhead was “Pop.” Zaza Harvey was dubbed “Noisy” while others were Pony, Old Hoss, Hutch, etc. In June Lochhead again left the team for an independent squad in Grass Valley, California, about 60 miles northwest of Sacramento. The small-town team paid much better than the Gilt Edges did because their local merchants contributed year-round to a salary fund.9

Lochhead missed three games before returning to the Gilt Edges for the July 10 match. From there the Gilt Edges played strong ball and captured the league title despite steady competition from Santa Cruz and Oakland. Lochhead batted .283, second on the team behind Harvey. Never much of a power hitter, he had just one home run, three triples and two doubles. He had the third highest fielding percentage for league shortstops.10

Lochhead was recommended to the St. Louis Perfectos by pitcher Jay Hughes, the Sacramento native who would star for Brooklyn in 1899. Lochhead signed his first contract with St. Louis despite some interest from other clubs.

St. Louis owner Frank Robison also owned the Cleveland franchise. He shifted players between the two squads, loading the St. Louis roster with talent and leaving little for the Cleveland fans. Lochhead’s contract was transferred to Cleveland in late March. The Cleveland contingent was so feeble that they acquired the nickname “Misfits” almost from the first day of the season.

Both Hughes and Lochhead played with Sacramento until April 10 and then headed east. Joining the Spiders in chilly Terre Haute, Lochhead found himself with a rag-tag group that featured a pitching staff that was out of shape and mostly over the hill. Ironically (or perhaps diabolically), the Spiders opened the season on April 15 in St. Louis. Totally overmatched, they lost, 10-1, as Lochhead watched from the bench. The following day he was at shortstop and laced a double in the ninth before scoring the final run in a 6-5 loss.

From St. Louis the team traveled to Louisville and dropped the first two in the series. On April 22, the Spiders won the first game of a doubleheader. Lochhead missed the latter part of that game because he’d gotten into a fight with Fred Clarke and the pair were ejected after Lochhead landed a left hook. Harry had two hits and raised his average to .400 before his banishment.

 In the nightcap, the Colonels jumped out to a 13-1 lead in the fifth. At that point, “Lockhead volunteered to finish out the game and after he went in nobody tried or cared.”11 According to the box score, he allowed four hits and two unearned runs while walking three and tossing a wild pitch.12 He also went 0-for-5 and made two errors. From there the team traveled to Cincinnati where he “surprised the small crowd by his wonderful throwing and quick movements in the field.”13

The season was less than two weeks old and Lochhead had cemented his spot in the lineup. Coming from the west coast, where he had played only on weekends and holidays, the daily grind and travel in the National League must have been a physical burden on Harry. Yet he played day after day on a losing team and showed hustle at the plate and in the field. He stole 23 bases, which was second on the team. He also beat out his fair share of bunts and slow rollers.

Part of the issue was that Cleveland had such a thin roster that there really was no relief for Lochhead. Sport McAllister, Suter Sullivan, and Charlie Ziegler spelled him on the rare occasions he did not start. When he was pulled from a game for rest or minor injury he was twice replaced with pitchers.

Other than playing for the lowly Spiders, Harry’s first season was much like that of hundreds of other rookies over the decades. He had memorable days, like May 30, with three hits in a 6-2 win over Boston and Kid Nichols. About a month later he again had three hits, including a double, in another win over Boston.

His only home run came against Bill Dinneen and Washington in a losing cause on September 18. He waited until the end of the season for his only triple, which made little difference in a 16-1 loss to Cincinnati.

In the field there were days he would like to forget. Perhaps his worst was June 13 against Pittsburgh. He made four errors, causing the Plain Dealer scribe to deadpan that he “had a particularly bad day.”14 On a more positive note, he was part of a triple play against the champion Brooklyn Superbas on August 18. It was the second of three the Superbas would hit into in the season.

With only 20 victories, the few wins must have stayed in his mind. A May 21 victory over Louisville was certainly memorable because the Colonels had Fred Clarke on third and Honus Wagner on second in the ninth inning with only one out. Cleveland was up by a run. The next batter popped up to Lochhead and for reasons unknown Wagner streaked towards third, where he was an easy final out.

Lochhead closed out the year with a .238 batting average, which even on the Spiders was lackluster. Only two teammates with 100 or more at-bats were lower. He posted a .909 fielding percentage, which tied him with Monte Cross and George Magoon; only two league shortstops in the top 14 of innings played were lower. Only Cross made more errors.

Harry returned to the west coast and found plenty of baseball action with an all-star contingent. This group featured California natives who had made it to the majors, like George Van Haltren and Phil Knell. They played against the coast teams during the winter (November and December).

The National League pared down from 12 teams to 8 in 1900. Lochhead was one of many who lost a major league job. Unemployment was not a concern for him — the local Stockton Wasps were quick to ink him for the 1900 California League season. The Wasps were facing Oakland on April 8 when Lochhead went to chase down a fly ball behind third base. He managed to snag the ball but then collided violently with his left fielder. Harry “fell in a heap, writhed in agony for many minutes, and was finally carried away in an ambulance.”15

An ankle injury cost him a month of action and when he returned, he played at first base for a few games. He returned earlier than expected and may not have given the injury enough time to heal properly. There was a noticeable drop-off in his quickness and range for the remainder of his career. Nevertheless, he returned to shortstop for the Wasps. He revisited the injured list in early July when a batted ball blackened and bruised his face.

Lochhead returned to action a few weeks later, but in September he heard the siren’s song offering money in Montana. Like many other coast players, he made the trip east and joined the Butte Smoke Eaters in the Montana State League. He left California behind after appearing in 38 games for Stockton. The Wasps had three hitters in the league’s top 10. Lochhead finished way behind them with a .234 average.16

In Butte he ran afoul of a league rule pertaining to major leaguers. Lochhead had been sold to the Detroit Tigers but did not report because of the ankle injury. He remained Tigers property. This made him ineligible by league rules and an opposing club, Anaconda, demanded that the first two games he appeared in be forfeited.17 The communication lines burned between Butte and Detroit. Ultimately the Tigers sent word that Lochhead was on loan to Butte, ending the controversy.18 Failing to catch Great Falls, Butte missed the playoffs and Harry headed back to Stockton. For his brief time with the Smoke Eaters, he batted .382 in 34 at bats. His fielding percentage was a lowly .800.19

The following spring Lochhead reported to the Tigers at Ypsilanti, Michigan, for training camp. Aboard the train he struck up a conversation with a man in the smoking car and found out that it was Kid Nance from Fort Worth, Texas, who was also reporting to camp. Detroit had Kid Elberfeld at short, so Lochhead saw the bulk of his action at second base in the preseason. He was kept on the opening day squad as an extra infielder, joining his Spiders teammate Sport McAllister on the bench.

Lochhead saw action in only one regular-season game for Detroit, on April 28, when he faced Pete Dowling and the Milwaukee Brewers. Batting sixth, he fouled off eight pitches in his second-inning at bat before singling for the first hit off Dowling. The Tigers battled back from an 11-5 deficit and won, 12-11. Harry poked another single and scored twice.20

After the game he was told to pack his bags to join the Philadelphia Athletics. His “loan” to Butte the previous season was construed as a convenient story to avoid a possible forfeit. Joining the Athletics was also referred to as a “loan” by the press. The speculation was that Connie Mack was worried about the court case involving Nap Lajoie’s contract. Fearful that he would lose the Frenchman to the National League, Mack needed a backup plan at second base.21

Lochhead was immediately tried at shortstop by Mack on April 30 against Cy Young and Boston. He went 1-for-4 and split a finger, which kept him out of the lineup for a week. He returned to action on May 6 against Baltimore. In the seventh inning he singled to drive in a run and then came around to score, helping the A’s to victory. He played the next six games at shortstop without getting a hit.

 On May 15 he saw his final action in the majors. He singled in a loss to Baltimore and made two errors. His short time in Philadelphia resulted in a weak .088 batting average and an equally unimpressive .757 fielding percentage. He joined the Syracuse Stars in the Class A Eastern League. He spent less than three weeks with them, much of it on the bench with an ankle injury. When in the lineup he played both short and second.

When the Stars released him, he quickly hooked on with the New Orleans Pelicans in the Class B Southern Association. The Pelicans were in last place and sent him into action at shortstop and batting clean-up on June 17. The Pelicans continued their losing ways and Lochhead did not provide the offense or defense they were hoping for. He was released on July 5 after 13 games. He had a .213 batting average.22

From the Big Easy he moved west to Beaumont, Texas. The local team was in an independent league known as the Rice and Lumber League. He played short, first, and pitched while batting all over the order. He returned to Beaumont the following season. The team had entered the independent Sunset League with teams from Lake Charles and Crowley, Louisiana, as well as Houston. Lochhead was a pitcher/outfielder until his release in early June.

In 1903 he returned to Texas with the Fort Worth Panthers in the Class D Texas League (aka North Texas League). He was accompanied by a Stockton native named James Dewey who played center field and was a backup pitcher. Lochhead did everything that was asked of him in the Texas heat. He led the pitching staff in wins and complete games. In the field he played second, third, and the outfield. When an umpire resigned before game time on July 5, Harry took the field in that role. His services as ump would be requested a few more times during the year, and in future years he did some officiating in the Stockton area. He posted a .241 batting average and had a 16-19 pitching record, including shutout wins over Dallas and Corsicana.

Before returning to the coast, Harry joined the independent El Paso Remnants and pitched for them. He made three or four starts before heading home. He confined his baseball to semi-pro games in the Stockton/Sacramento area after that.

For the next few years, Lochhead lived with his mother while working as an attendant in the state hospital in Stockton. He then moved to Sacramento where he worked as a bartender.

Around 1908 he came down with a liver ailment and returned to the family home in Stockton. The nature of his illness is disputed. Family members suggest it was hepatitis. Author Frank Russo, who uncovered Lochhead’s death certificate, cites cirrhosis of the liver. Russo wrote that Lochhead “was a good friend of John Barleycorn well before joining Cleveland.”23 In the summer of 1909, he and friends went for an outing near Bakersfield and they became lost. The torrid summer sun “greatly aggravated” his health issues. He died on August 22, 1909, at age 33.24

He was laid to rest in the Rural Cemetery of Stockton with other family members. The name of his resting place is a misnomer. In most people’s minds, a rural cemetery is small and out-of-the-way. This cemetery is quite large, lies within the city limits and hosts the remains of a state governor, at least three congressmen and a civil war general.

As mentioned earlier, Lochhead’s name was often misspelled. In 1993 the MacMillan Baseball Encyclopedia finally used the correct spelling.

 

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Montana baseball guru Jeremy Watterson for help with the 1900 season.

This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and Norman Macht and fact-checked by BioProject fact-checking team.

 

Notes

1 J. Thomas Hetrick, MISFITS! Baseball’s Worst Ever Team (Clifton, Virginia: Pocol Press, 1999), 7.

2 1880 census, Ancestry.com. Last accessed March 20, 2019.

3 “Players Faithful,” The Sporting Life, April 13, 1901: 4. The same phrase appeared in other sources during his career.

4 Ibid.

5 “Stockton Badly Beaten,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 12, 1896: 5.

6 “Baseball Campaign of ’98,” Sacramento Daily Union, March 21, 1898: 4.

7 “What Denny Has to Say,” Sacramento Bee, April 21, 1898: 8.

8 “Kripp Puts Up Gold,” Sacramento Bee, April 22, 1898: 5.

9 “Tempting Baits for Baseballists,” Sacramento Bee, June 25, 1898: 3.

10 “Coast League Averages,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 19, 1898: 8.

11 “The Misfits Win a Game,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 23, 1899: 14.

12 “The Second Game,” Louisville Courier-Journal, April 23, 1899: 9.

13 “The Players Were Game,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 27, 1899: 8.

14 “A Decidedly Off Day,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 14, 1899: 6.

15 “League Teams on Even Terms,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 9, 1900: 8.

16 “Baseball Averages for the Entire Season,” San Francisco Call, December 23, 1900: 25.

17 “Base Ball Gossip,” Butte Miner (Butte, Montana), September 12, 1900: 5.

18 “Lockhead Will Stay,” Butte Miner, September 13, 1900: 5.

19 “Figures for the Fans,” Butte Miner, December 22, 1900: 10.

20 “Made it Four in a Row,” Detroit Free Press, April 29, 1901: 8.

21 “Have Signed Jennings,” Scranton Republican, April 30, 1901: 5.

22 “Official Batting Averages,” New Orleans Item, July 21, 1901: 8.

23 Frank Russo and Gene Racz, Bury My Heart at Cooperstown (Chicago: Triumph Books, 2006), 199. Lochhead’s death certificate may be viewed at https://www.thedeadballera.com/DeathCertificates/Certificates_L/Lochhead.Harry.DC.pdf

24 “Harry Lochhead, Noted Ball Player is Dead,” San Francisco Call, August 24, 1909: 10.