Warren Hilton Shanabrook’s obituary noted that “he was a man of diversified interests.”1 In his early life he showed talent as a baseball and basketball player in Massillon, Ohio. By 1905 he had earned a reputation as the best third baseman in the area. Offers to play baseball professionally came from many directions. Blessed with savvy and an outgoing personality, he had procured a well-paying job at the Massillon State Hospital. Ultimately he was faced with the decision of pursuing his baseball career or holding onto his employment. He choose to make baseball just one of his many interests, rather than his primary occupation.
Shanabrook was the sixth of seven children born to Andrew Jackson Shanabrook and Magdelena (Pider) Shanabrook.2 He was born on November 30, 1880, in Massillon. His father was of Irish descent and “Lana” was of German heritage. Andrew worked as a day laborer for many years before becoming a full-time cooper, or barrel maker. Warren attended school through the eighth grade and then found employment. When he was 20 he listed himself as a mechanic on census records, but soon after became the head of the laundry department at the State Hospital. He held that position for 15 years until the Firestone Rubber Company hired him to do similar work at its Club House.
The Canton-Massillon area is well known in professional football circles as the birthplace of the professional leagues. The area also has a rich baseball history. In the years after Shanabrook’s brief career, Massillon turned out major leaguers Tommy Henrich, Mike Hershberger, and Joe Sparma. Shanabrook played for the State Hospital team for many summers. From 1903 to 1906 Massillon fielded a team in the Protective Association. (The Association was a loosely formed semipro league with teams from 10 to 15 Ohio and Pennsylvania cities extending from the Pittsburgh area south and west as far as Newark, Ohio.) Shanabrook was the star of the team, batting fourth and showing power and speed. As with many semipro players he also played for teams in other towns, most often Alliance with a teammate from the Massillon squad. In October of 1904 he accepted an invitation to spring training with the Grand Rapids Orphans of the Central League. He was cut before seeing action in 1905. In 1906 Shanabrook spent three weeks of spring training with Troy, New York, but once again he failed to make the roster.
The 1906 Washington Senators, led by second-year manager Jake Stahl, had high expectations for the season. The death of shortstop Joe Cassidy demoralized the team and contributed to a seventh-place finish. On July 25 the squad left on an extended Western swing. Injuries set in and third baseman Lave Cross was sidelined. On Sunday, August 12, the team scheduled an exhibition against Shanabrook and the Massillon team. In warm-ups Rabbit Nill, who was playing third in place of Cross, injured his finger and had to sit out. Stahl juggled his lineup and put outfielder Joe Stanley at third. The Senators came away with a hard-fought 3-1 win. Stahl was very impressed with Shanabrook, who doubled and scored the local’s only run and fielded sensationally.3 With the injuries to his third basemen, Stahl offered Shanabrook a spot on the team. Shanabrook took his two-week vacation from the hospital and suited up with the Senators on Monday, August 13, in Cleveland.
Cleveland sent Earl Moore to the mound and he pitched a masterful five-hitter to win, 3-1. For his part, Shanabrook put the ball in play only once in four trips to the plate. He had a sacrifice, a walk, and two strikeouts. In the field he had only one chance, which he handled cleanly. The Plain Dealer account noted that shortstop Dave Altizer snagged a couple of popups in Shanabrook’s territory.4 The Senators lost the next day with Nill back at third before finally returning to Washington. Stahl saw potential in Shanabrook and tried to arrange to farm him out. Shanabrook chose instead to return to his regular job.5
Shanabrook had married Josephine Ryan6 (an ancestry.com family tree suggests Rhine) in 1903 and they had a son, Hilton, born in 1904. Family was important to Shanabrook and weighed in his decisions about baseball. A daughter, Irene, joined the family in 1912 but died in 1918, possibly a victim of the influenza epidemic. Hilton grew up to be a dentist and practiced in Akron, Ohio, most of his career. Content with family and career, Warren Shanabrook played baseball in the summer and fall and then played basketball for the hospital team in the winter. He also began raising Black Orpingtons, a show chicken known for its easygoing nature. He won many awards and was an officer in the local Poultry Association.
In 1918 Shanabrook took the position with the Firestone Country Club. The family moved to Akron, curtailing the poultry showing. He and Josephine would eventually move to Summit County, Ohio, near Uniontown. There he had room to raise racing pigeons and prize-winning dahlias. Josephine died early in 1950 and Shanabrook was remarried in December, to Catherine Eberwine. The couple continued to reside in the Uniontown area. In 1964 Shanabrook became ill and after four weeks in the hospital he was transferred to a nursing home in North Canton. He died there on March 10, 1964, and was buried in the Massillon Cemetery. Shanabrook was survived by his wife, son, daughter-in-law, two grandsons, and five great-grandchildren.
1 Evening Independent (Massillon, Ohio), March 10, 1964: 6.
2 The surname also appears as Schoenbruch, Shannabrook, Shanabruck, and Shanebrook.
3 Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 13, 1906: 6.
4 Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 14, 1906: 6.
5 Canton Morning News, August 24, 1906: 12.
6 Canton Repository, October 10, 1935: 12 (obituary for John Ryan, father of Josephine Ryan Shanabrook).