Outfielder Charlie Frisbee was a switch-hitter who threw right-handed. His first year in the minors was as a catcher, but then he took up work in the outfield. He played two seasons in the majors, in the National League for the Boston Beaneaters in 1899 and for the New York Giants in 1900. After leaving baseball, he worked in a number of occupations.
Charles Augustus Frisbee was born in Otisville, Franklin County, Iowa on February 2, 1874. His parents were both from the Eastern part of the country: His mother, Ellen (Young) Frisbee, was from New York and his father, Francis “Frank” Frisbee, was from either New York or, possibly, Pennsylvania. They had married in February 1871.
Frank Frisbee became a physician, after graduating from the Iowa College of Physicians and Surgeons at Keokuk in 1880. Charles was the oldest of their two children; daughter Laura Hannah Frisbee was born a few years later.
Charlie attended Grinnell College in Iowa and was a catcher for the team. In March 1896, it was announced that he had signed a contract to play in Oregon for the Portland baseball team in the four-team New Pacific League. Manager Bob Glenalvin was reportedly “very much tickled now because he signed Frisbee, his catcher, of whom he hears most flattering accounts. Frisbee bears the reputation in Iowa Falls, whence he hails, of being remarkably fast on the path. … Frisbee is said to be a fine specimen of muscular development.”1 He was 5-feet-9 and listed at 175 pounds.
The Portland Gladiators finished first in the standings with a record of 19-9, but the league disbanded on June 15. Frisbee’s record shows him playing in every game, batting .339 (40-for-118) with one home run, one triple, and eight doubles.
In 1897, Frisbee played right field, typically leading off, for the Quincy Little Giants of the Western Association, though he caught in 11 games. In 122 games, he hit .309 and the Quincy Journal reported that he might well be drafted by one of the National League clubs.2
Manager Jim Manning of the Kansas City Blues of the Western League had his eyes on Frisbee and on February 5, 1898, it was reported that he had acquired Frisbee from Quincy.3 Frisbee played left field for the Blues, and had another excellent season. Portland had been ranked a Class-C team, Quincy in Class B, and Kansas City as Class A.
In May, Frisbee earned himself a small feature news story thanks to another effort. Members of the Kansas City team were standing outside the Mercer Hotel in Omaha around 7 P.M. when two horse-drawn carriages collided with each other. One of the horses spooked and bolted, a wheel collapsing and the phaeton overturning. Dr. Robinson’s wife was trapped in the top, being dragged straight toward a telephone pole. Frisbee grabbed the reins with one hand and the saddle with another. Even though he couldn’t get the horse to stop, he caused it to veer away from slamming into the pole and Mrs. Robinson was extricated uninjured. “Her nerve and Frisbee’s clever work were both the subject of laudatory comment.”4
Frisbee’s season had indeed been a good one. In 138 games for the Blues, he hit for a .315 batting average in 549 at-bats. Kansas City finished in first place. Frisbee’s average ranked him ninth in the league. In addition to his 173 base hits (quite a few of which were bunts for base hits), he sacrificed 32 times and stole 28 bases.5
It was understood that Frisbee would receive a trial during spring training (“ante-season practice”) and would be returned to Kansas City if he proved “too inexperienced for such fast company.” The Boston Globe story said, “He is very popular, as well as being good in the field and at the bat. He is especially clever at sacrificing.”7 One of the considerations in Selee’s mind was that Frisbee had experience in catching, and thus, if he made the grade, Boston would need to carry only Marty Bergen and George Yeager on the roster, freeing up room for another player.8
In March, Frisbee was assigned to the Worcester Farmers of the Class-A Eastern League. The Washington Post said the Worcester team “will be a genuine farm this year” and that Frisbee (and Yeager, also assigned there) “will be within easy call during the season.”9 But on March 22, the “dapper and trim outfielder” Frisbee reported to Beaneaters captain Hugh Duffy at Washington’s Normandie Hotel. Selee said, “He’s an athletic-looking youngster, and I know he’s fast on his feet. That’s what we want. Speed is becoming more of a factor in baseball every day.”10 When the season opened, however, Frisbee was with Worcester. He played very well and was not only hitting over .400 by May 23 but showed some remarkable fielding. A Worcester Telegram dispatch reported on two tie games against Montreal and said, “According to all accounts, it was Frisbee who saved each game by making a marvelous catch, once turning a complete somerset by tripping over a rope after getting the ball. But though Frisbee fell he did not drop the ball.”11
On June 2, with the score tied 7-7 in the ninth inning Frisbee hit a long home run to deep center to beat Springfield at Worcester. On June 21, Selee sent a telegram summoning Frisbee to join the team at Pittsburgh – having come to the conclusion that the further usefulness of injured outfielder Billy Hamilton was in question. Frisbee was “considered the star all-round outfielder in the Eastern League”12
In his major-league debut, on June 22, Frisbee was 1-for-3 and played a good center field. Boston beat Chicago, 5-1, in Chicago. “Showed Up Well at the Bat and in the Field” read a Boston Globe subhead.13 On July 13, it was reported that Hamilton was probably out for the season, “unable to put on a uniform. Meanwhile Frisbee is putting up a splendid game.”14
Be that as it may, Hamilton did return and in early August, Frisbee was back with Worcester, on loan. He stayed with the team until the final day of the Eastern League season, September 5, having himself a four-hit game with a double and a home run (and a stolen base) in the final game. His .362 batting average led the Eastern League.
On September 11, Frisbee was back with Boston, and with Hamilton out due to a lame leg, he played center field again for the Beaneaters.
By season’s end, he had played in 42 major-league games, with a batting average of .329 (the team average was .287). He showed some speed on the basepaths with 10 stolen bases. He scored 22 runs and drove in 20. His fielding left a lot to be desired, however; he made 11 errors in 88 chances (.875).
The year-end figures from the Eastern League showed Frisbee third in the league, with a .362 batting average in 71 games. The two men above him, however, had played in only 18 and 16 games respectively and thus the title was Frisbee’s.15
At this point in Frisbee’s career, something cropped up which the “Baseball Notes” writer for the Washington Post deemed an injustice to Frisbee, an injustice in the farming of ballplayers by “grasping magnates” in the game. “Frisbee was turned over to Tom Loftus, of the Grand Rapids team in the Western League, along with $1,000, in the deal for Backstop Sullivan.”16 This was catcher Billy Sullivan, who had hit .306 in 83 games for Grand Rapids in 1899 and ultimately caught in 88 games for Boston in 1900. A deal had been struck in September. The “Notes” writer continued: “This exchange of dollars and one human being for a likely player gave Frisbee a right to file a large and vociferous wail, and he is backed in his grievance by Major league managers, who are desirous of signing so promising a player as the athlete who was relegated to the Grand Rapids farm. In other words, the Boston club handicaps the future of a player for the sake of experimenting with another, in the obscurity of a minor league. Frisbee may run to seed and his hopes of a future be blasted by the selfishness of grasping magnates.”17
The Boston Herald was also highly critical of baseball’s reserve system, calling it “tortured and twisted beyond endurance.” Frisbee could have earned more on the free market than the $150 a month he was paid under the deal bringing him from Kansas City. Boston upped his pay to $200 when it sent him to Worcester, but “now he is farmed out to Grand Rapids without being consulted in the least. He must go to that place and must take just whatever amount of salary the Boston club chooses to pay him. The player is traded for and bartered just like a piece of merchandise. He does not receive a cent of the purchase price. …”18
Between 1899 and 1900, the National League planned to contract by four teams, from 12 to eight. One might think this would provide a surplus of available talent, because there was at the time no other league deemed a major league. Nonetheless, there were any number of contractual details to be attended to in ensuring equity and competitive strength for each of the teams. Even as late as mid-March, however, the formal work of consolidating into a league of eight teams had not yet been completed and an article referring to the New York Giants in the March 20 New York Times noted, “Nothing has yet been done to strengthen the New York team. The local club has not accepted the offer of the Boston Club to release Outfielder Frisbee and Pitcher Charlie] Hickman. … [Giants manager Buck] Ewing spoke well of Frisbee, who he believes will develop into a good man, and his services will be accepted if better players are not forthcoming.”19 Had Frisbee not become Grand Rapids property?
So thought Loftus. Shown the story in the Times, he said, “[Arthur] Soden is getting liberal giving away my players. Frisbee belongs to the Grand Rapids club, and will go with the club to Cleveland.”20 That there actually was no longer a Grand Rapids club was a further confusing element; Cleveland was the successor club. Loftus had worked a deal to place Frisbee with the Cleveland club (formerly of the National League, now becoming part of the American League). President Ban Johnson of the new American League was in the process of “arranging to transfer Frisbee to Cleveland with the rest of his Grand Rapids team, and if Boston wishes a clear title to Frisbee Loftus will have to be consulted.”21
Two days later, the Chicago Tribune reported, “From Boston comes the report that Frisbee and Hickman will play in New York this season, President Soden having accepted [New York Giants principal owner Andrew] Freedman’s offer, the amount of which is not given out.”22
Not so fast, said Tom Loftus. He wrote a “scorching letter” declaring that he owned Frisbee and that Soden had no right to make any deal involving him, and demanded that either Frisbee or Sullivan be returned at once to the Cleveland club.23 The Sporting News backed up Loftus’s claim, writing, “The rights of a minor-league club do not cease with a change of base.”24
Frisbee’s signed contract with New York was received, and he intended to play there. Soden said that Frisbee had only been loaned to Grand Rapids, and was not Loftus’s property.25 On April 7, Frisbee played center field in an intrasquad exhibition game at the Polo Grounds.
On April 12, a meeting of the American League owners was held in Chicago and all league business was concluded in just the one day. The Frisbee matter, however, was “discussed at great length” and all the correspondence reviewed. Their decision was that Frisbee was Cleveland property, and Cleveland agreed to pay the salary he was being given by New York. Ban Johnson was to take up the matter with Boston.26 Frisbee played for New York in an April 14 exhibition game against Manhattan College, leading off and playing right field.
On Opening Day, Frisbee batted third and played in right during a 3-2 loss to Brooklyn. He singled in the game and was said to be “every bit the batter he is cracked up to be. He is good on bunt hits, and also showed himself capable of ‘lining ’em out.’”27 He didn’t play much for New York, however, his final statistics showing him in only four games, 2-for-13 (.154), with three RBIs. His fielding was atrocious; he committed three errors in five chances, two of them on fly balls while New York was in Chicago.
But Ban Johnson hadn’t given up on getting Frisbee for the American League, issuing another statement to that effect in mid-May.28 His case was placed before the National Board of Arbitration. On June 16, the Cleveland Plain Dealer announced that the board had decided in favor of Cleveland. Frisbee played in 60 games for the Cleveland Lake Shores, but hit for only a .232 batting average – by far his worst season.
A knee injury in 1900 kept Frisbee out for the entire 1901 season. He was on the roster of the Rochester club but was simply unable to play “and remained quietly at home all the season, recuperating from his bad knee.”29 He spent the offseason working as a clerk in a general store in Alden, Iowa. A month before the season began, he quit work and devoted full time to training, dropping weight, and getting in shape.30
In 1902, Frisbee returned to Worcester. He definitely had his game back, batting .323 in 115 games. His fielding attracted some comment in the press: “Charlie Frisbee worked two more errors into his fat list of bungles. Fris foozles too often. After one year in private life, Fris has not been as emphatic a success as formerly, but there are other seasons ahead.”31
Frisbee started the season with Worcester again in 1903, but became so ill in Toronto that he had to be hospitalized. His record for 1903 shows him batting .247 in 20 games for a combination of Worcester/Montreal, the team having moved to Montreal on June 21. On June 24, his contract was sold to New Orleans. There he joined the sick list once more; he played in 25 games, but hit only .202.
Charlie and Luella Florence (Catlin) Frisbee married on December 31, 1903, at Alden, Iowa.
In 1904, Frisbee signed with the Toledo Mud Hens. He played a full season, appearing in 149 games, and hit for a respectable.278 average. He played for Colorado Springs/Pueblo in 1905, but he moved on to Des Moines and then, in early July, the Denver Post said he had been named to manage the Burlington (Iowa) Flint Hills, in the Iowa League, giving him the opportunity to be closer to home.32 He was the third of three managers; the team finished in last place. In 1906, Frisbee was named manager of the Waterloo team. Another controversy arose, with Burlington claiming him.33 A lot was expected of Waterloo in 1906, but it was Burlington that finished first while Waterloo – Frisbee no longer at the helm – finished seventh.
To some degree, we are able to use census information to track Charlie Frisbee’s career after baseball. He had lost both parents in 1905, his father dying on May 20 and his mother on November 17. At the time of the 1910 census, he and Luella were living in Alden, where he worked as a retail merchant in a lumber yard. The Frisbees had two children of their own, Nellie Naoma Frisbee (1905-2001) and Frank (1906-1985).
During the First World War, Charlie registered for the military draft. At the time he was working for the State Savings Bank in Goodell, Iowa. At the time of the 1930 census, the Frisbees lived in Concord Township, Hancock County, where Charlie was the postmaster. Naoma had left the home, but Frank – then 21 – was employed as a laborer in an oil station. The family had two female lodgers, a stenographer and a public-school teacher.
In 1940, the Frisbees lived in Garner, Iowa, where Charlie had his own real-estate firm. Frank had left the home, too, but Alfred Thompson, age 40, a sales clerk in a local drugstore, was a lodger in the home.
Luella Frisbee died in 1950. Charlie died on November 7, 1954, in Iowa Falls. He is buried in Alden Cemetery.
Last revised: May 7, 2021 (zp)
In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com.
1 “Mr. Chapman Goes Home,” The Oregonian (Portland), March 13, 1896: 6.
2 As reported in “Sporting Notes,” Daily Register-Gazette (Rockford, Illinois), October 4, 1897: 3.
3 “Meet Next Tuesday,” Daily Register-Gazette, February 5, 1898: 3.
4 “Caught by Fielder Frisbee,” Omaha World-Herald, May 11, 1898: 2.
5 See “Boston Has Drafted Frisbee,” Kansas City Star, November 2, 1898: 3, for comment on Frisbee bunting for base hits, and for Manning’s regret that Boston had drafted Frisbee. If major-league fielders were more on the lookout for bunts, he felt, Frisbee might not fare as well. Manning felt Frisbee could benefit from more development.
6 “Selee Drafts Two Players,” Boston Herald, October 28, 1898: 3.
7 “Selee Has Drafted Frisbee,” Boston Globe, November 3, 1898: 7.
8 “Tried to Get Farrell,” Washington Post, February 17, 1899: 8.
9 “Experts on Worcester Team,” Washington Post, March 16, 1899: 8.
10 “Beaneaters in Shape,” Washington Post, March 23, 1899: 8. The Rockford (Illinois) Republic had said he was the state sprinting champion in Iowa. “Baseball Briefs,” Rockford Republic, April 17, 1897: 2.
11 “Baseball Notes,” Boston Globe, May 24, 1899: 5.
12 “Boston Needs Fielder Frisbee,” Washington Post, June 22, 1899: 8.
13 “More Like It,” Boston Globe, June 23, 1899: 5.
14 “Hamilton Out of the Game,” Washington Post, July 14, 1899: 8.
15 “Records of the Players,” Hartford Courant, January 12, 1900: 4.
16 “Baseball Notes,” Washington Post, November 20, 1899: 8.
18 “Baseball Monopoly’s Doom,” Boston Herald, January 7, 1900: 20.
19 “That Baseball Snarl,” New York Times, March 20, 1900: 9.
20 “Orphans Will Start South Today,” Chicago Tribune, March 21, 1900: 9.
21 “Alliance to Be Binding,” Chicago Tribune, March 21, 1900: 9.
22 “Freedman Serves Legal Notice,” Chicago Tribune, March 23, 1900: 9.
23 “Manager Loftus Accuses Soden,” Chicago Tribune, March 26, 1900: 4.
24 “Soden Criticised,” Boston Herald, April 2, 1900: 8.
25 “Loftus Sends Protest to Soden,” Chicago Tribune, March 29, 1900: 4.
26 “Magnates Quick Work,” Chicago Tribune, April 13, 1900: 4. There may have been an assumption that Loftus would simply accommodate the wishes of the major-league clubs. See “Placating Freedman,” Boston Herald, March 19, 1900: 6, in which it was suggested, for reasons unspecified, that Loftus “would doubtless relax his grip to accommodate the New York club.”
27 “League Baseball Season Is Opened,” New York Times, April 21, 1900: 9.
28 “Good Boy, Bob,” Boston Globe, May 16, 1900: 5.
29 “Frisbee Again for Worcester,” Worcester Daily Spy, March 21, 1902: 2.
30 “Frisbee With Friends Again,” Worcester Daily Spy, April 9, 1902: 1.
31 “Sporting Notes,” Worcester Daily Spy, September 1, 1902: 3.
32 “Frisbee’s New Job,” Denver Post, July 7, 1905: 11.
33 “Iowa League Affairs,” Daily Nonpareil (Council Bluffs, Iowa), February 19, 1906: 8.