Chappie Geygan

This article was written by Bill Nowlin

Some of Boston’s more prolific exports over the years have been the priests and nuns, and sometimes those emissaries of the Catholic Church sent word back to Boston. Priests and nuns from the New England area were often quite fervent baseball fans, and Father Hyacinth L. Martin of Aquinas College – a prep school in Columbus, Ohio – was apparently one such fan. Father Martin came from Boston, and when he spotted a prospect in Aquinas athletics, he urged Red Sox owner Robert Quinn to sign up young James Geygan. He was known as “Chappie” at Aquinas and the 1925 yearbook, The Aquinian, featured two pages on him after he’d made the grade with Boston.

Playing for the Green and Gold, the yearbook said, Geygan showed “the speed of a lightning flash and the grace of a woodland nymph.” Geygan was the team’s highest scorer at basketball for two years and was named an All-State forward. He played half back and end for one year on the football team. He’d intended to go to Notre Dame and eventually take up work in the law. In baseball, he always played shortstop – though he’d tried to work as a catcher in grammar school, he simply didn’t like the position. While at Aquinas, he made some money on the side playing independent Sunday baseball.[1]

“From the time I knew what baseball was,” Geygan told Boston sportswriter John Drohan, “I was either playing, watching it or talking it. I guess I was a baseball bug. In Columbus, which is a member of the American Association, the management used to allow the schoolboys into the game. I never passed up any chance to be right on the job at the ball park.”[2]

Quinn announced the signing of Geygan on December 21, 1923. After school let out for the summer, Geygan took a position as a clerk for the Pennsylvania Railroad and played on the company team as part of the job. Geygan was a shortstop and third baseman already attracting attention of other big-league scouts, but having a Boston baseball fan inside the Dominican order helped Quinn. When the Boston magnate was visiting Father Martin and a Father Mulvey at Aquinas, they both raved about the shortstop who’d been playing with them.

The Boston Globe said that Geygan was, according to all accounts, “a remarkably good player,” adding that he would be able to arrange with the school that he could attend spring training with the Red Sox in the springtime. [3]

There was a strong Columbus connection in that Quinn was a native of the Ohio capital and former president of the Ohio State League. He headed up a syndicate of businessmen from Columbus which purchased the Red Sox from Harry Frazee earlier in 1923. Quinn owned the Red Sox until selling to Tom Yawkey a decade later, in 1933. From 1917 through 1922, he had been general manager of the St. Louis Browns, so much was expected of the Quinn presidency in Boston. Unfortunately, the group’s leading financier, Palmer Winslow, died almost immediately after the purchase and Quinn never had access to sufficient funds to build a strong team. That’s another story, but sets a bit of the background for the acquisition of Geygan from the Columbus school, where he was highly regarded. The Sporting News noted that Quinn “speaks as if he really was convinced that Geygan will be a corking asset to his team. Ordinarily, a player does not hop right out from a small college to a big league training camp. But it seems that Geygan is a top notch-looking youngster, with natural ability, speed and cleverness, and, what is more important, the ability to hit hard and often.” [4]

There was really no question that Geygan needed experience playing professional baseball. He trained with the Boston ballclub that spring, and “looked so good in the South” [5] Geygan got a taste of the majors by suiting up with the Red Sox while at home for the first month of the 1924 season, and working out under coach Hugh Duffy, but never appearing in a game. He then was optioned to the Waterbury Brasscos of the Eastern League and appeared in 24 games for manager Kitty Bransfield and the Connecticut ballclub (batting .254). In early July, Red Sox shortstop Dud Lee suffered an injury to his elbow, and then he did some serious damage to it when adjusting the way he threw the ball. X-rays showed no fracture to the elbow, but he was to be unable to play for some period of time, at which point his arm became infected. Howie Shanks filled in for a few days, but Quinn sent for Geygan.

The day he arrived, he made his debut, July 16, playing both games of a Fenway doubleheader against Detroit. Geygan played short and batted eighth and was 0-for-3 in the first game, and doubled in four at-bats in the second game. The Red Sox lost both games, but it was winning that was a surprise for the 1920s Red Sox. The losses were numbers four and five in a nine-game losing streak. Geygan appeared in 33 games for Boston as the season unwound. He hit .256 (marginally better than Lee’s .253), and scored seven runs. All four of the runs he drove in came in a three-game stretch from August 9-13 (the Sox lost two of the three games.) Geygan had gotten off to a slow start; Burt Whitman wrote in The Sporting News that he had been “pretty rough and raw at short the first few days…but he acquired polish and confidence gradually.” [6] Boston Globe sports columnist Ford Sawyer looked back on the season and wrote that, after Lee’s injury, Geygan had “plugged the gap most acceptably at times” and “will be back to display his wares once more.”[7]

Three new infielders joined the Red Sox in New Orleans in the spring of 1925, looking to win a job: Ewell Gross, Billy Rogell, and Doc Prothro. Dud Lee was still out, and not expected to rejoin the team until at least three weeks into the season. Bud Connolly had looked good, but injured his finger early on, “so right now the hopes are pinned on Jimmy Geygan. This youngster is dead game and thoroughly in earnest. So much so that perhaps he is trying too hard right now.” [8] Geygan made the big league roster was 2-for-6 in the first game he played, but then was 0-for-4 and James C. O’Leary of the Globe said he “appears to be over-anxious, which, or, possibly, the lack of work, affects his play both at bat and in the field.” [9] Manager Lee Fohl perhaps agreed. Geygan was sat down and only appeared in one more game, on May 2; he pinch hit and struck out. On May 6, he was sent on option to Mobile, to play in the Southern Association.

He put in a good season with the Mobile Bears, batting .282 and homering four times over the course of 111 ballgames. On September 16, he was one of six players officially recalled to the Red Sox from several minor-league clubs, but stayed with Mobile to finish out the season.

In 1926, Geygan opened the year with the Red Sox, pinch-hitting on Opening Day against the Yankees at Fenway Park. He struck out, and the Yankees won, 12-11. He also played in three games in early May. With a 2-for-2 day in his final game (May 10) he brought his season average up to .300, but he didn’t figure in the Red Sox’ plans, and they traded him and Emmett McCann to Columbus a few days later for Bill Regan, who became the team’s primary second baseman for the rest of the 1926 season.

The trade to Columbus brought Geygan back home. He’d been born in Ironton, Ohio, about 120 miles south of Columbus. His paternal grandmother was an Irish immigrant; his father John L. Geygan was a machinist in an iron company, by 1920 an “assembler” in manufacturing. James was born to John and Ethel Geygan on June 3, 1903. He was the eldest of three children. He attended Sacred Heart School for his first eight years of education, then attended and graduated from Aquinas.

Geygan himself took up residence in Columbus, and in 1930 lived there with his wife Margaret Jane Geygan (they had married in October 1927) and their daughter Patricia.

He was a right-hander, 5-feet-11 and weighing 170 pounds, but when the Red Sox traded him to Columbus, his major-league career was over. Geygan played the next three-plus seasons for the Columbus Senators. In 1925, the team had finished in last place in the eight-team American Association, with a 61-106 record. They did even worse in 1926, winning only 39 games and losing 125, more than 30 games behind seventh-place Minneapolis. Geygan batted .278 and played in 78 of those games. There were a number of decent batting averages; the problem was with the pitching. Columbus finished last again in 1927; Geygan hit .282 in 115 games, and his contribution to the team was noted in The Sporting News at midseason. “Had it not been for the versatility shown by Chappie Geygan, utility man, the Bucks would have been in a bad place indeed.” [10] Only in 1928, when Geygan played under the fifth manager he’d seen with the Senators – Nemo Leibold – did they reach seventh place. He played in 145 games, but his average slipped to .265.

Geygan played most of 1929 with Columbus, too, 138 games. He hit .289, and hit for more power, too – nine home runs being more than double the four he’d hit in each of the two preceding years. Near the end of the season, he was moved twice, first to Louisville and then to Milwaukee.

Dropping one rung on the ladder to Single A saw a boost in his stats; Chappie hit .330 for the Wichita Falls Spudders in the Texas League in 51 games in 1930, though he lost almost 100 points in average the following year, to .239 in 149 games, splitting the 1931 season with the Spudders and then the Shreveport Sailors.

For the next four years, Geygan was perhaps out of organized baseball. He was on the Sailors’ reserve list for 1932. There was a Geygan who played for Rock Island, and then for Hazleton and Harrisburg, hitting a combined .264 in 97 games. Given that Wichita Falls and Shreveport, and Rock Island, were all affiliates of the St. Louis Browns makes it likely this was our man.

In 1936, the Sandusky club (the Sandusky Sailors) in the Ohio State League signed Geygan as manager of their Class D club. He was a player-manager and appeared in 91 games each year, batting .352 and .368 respectively. The club came in second in the six-team league both years, then moved to Marion, Ohio and became the Marion Presidents on June 22, 1937. The league shrank to four teams by 1938 and Chappie managed the Fremont Reds (who changed their name to the Green Sox during the season). They finished second, but swept the best-of-five playoffs over Fostoria. Two more teams came in for ’39, but Fremont missed the playoffs on a coin toss (they’d come in tied for second.) Geygan apparently played each year, but we have been unable to locate records. In 1940, he played his final season, batting .281 in 49 Northern League games (also Class D) while managing the Superior Blues – a Brooklyn farm club based in Superior, Wisconsin. The Blues placed third.

There was one final season, as manager only. He’d signed to manage the Grand Rapids team, but then decided not to do so after he purchased a restaurant in Fremont. He retired from the game to run his restaurant. [11] He was soon enticed into managing the Green Sox once more and had a very successful season, winning first place in each half of a split season. There were no playoffs. By 1942, there was a contraction in the number of teams fielded nationally, because the Second World War was underway.

Geygan’s obituary in The Sporting News noted that for 17 years he had been the maitre d’ at the Jai Lai restaurant in Columbus; more recently he had been working for the Green Meadows Inn. He died on March 15, 1966, of a pulmonary embolism said to have been prompted by diabetes and heart disease. He’d remarried in November 1960, to Ada Louise Geygan.


In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Geygan’s player file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the online SABR Encyclopedia,, and Thanks also to John F. Cross of Aquinas.

[1] Notes by Boston sportswriter Ford Sawyer, and undated article by Sawyer found in Geygan’s player file at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

[2]  Undated article by John Drohan found in Geygan’s player file at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

[3] Boston Globe, December 22, 1923

[4]  Sporting News, January 3, 1924

[5]  Boston Globe, July 16, 1924

[6]  The Sporting News, August 21, 1924

[7]  Boston Globe, February 6, 1925

[8]  Boston Globe, April 23, 1925

[9]  Boston Globe, April 24, 1925

[10]  The Sporting News, July 7, 1927. The Senators were also sometimes called the Battling Bucks.

[11]  The Sporting News, February 6, 1941

Full Name

James Edward Geygan


June 3, 1903 at Ironton, OH (USA)


March 15, 1966 at Columbus, OH (USA)

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