Emil Verban

This article was written by Steven Schmitt

Emil Verban (TRADING CARD DB)For decades, Emil Verban was remembered as an obscure minor-league infielder who made the majors because of depleted wartime rosters, then played for losing teams and hit one home run in 2,911 times at bat. But more than 20 years after his retirement, Verban won a measure of fame as the namesake of the Emil Verban Memorial Society — a group of long-suffering Cub fans — because the founder saw him as the symbol of their longtime futility.

At 5-feet-11 and 165 pounds, Verban was not a big bopper. His more powerful teammates got the headlines. He played on two minor-league champions in the talent-rich St. Louis Cardinals chain. Sportswriters described his infield play as everything from graceful to sensational and called him “Antelope.” As a rookie for the 1944 St. Louis Cardinals, Verban got the hit that won the World Series. He was a three-time All-Star and never missed a game in two of those seasons. A lifetime .272 hitter, Verban was one of the toughest outs in the game. He struck out once in every 39 at-bats and set the major-league record for fewest strikeouts by a right-handed batter in a single season with just 8 in 1947.

Emil Matthew Verban was born in Lincoln, Illinois, on August 27, 1915. His father was Michael Verban, an immigrant from what was then the Kingdom of Croatia. (The family’s original name was Vrban.) Michael came to America in 1901 at age 18 and worked as a coal miner.1 When he had saved enough money, he sent to Croatia for Manda Zupan, whom he married on June 22, 1907 (the couple continued to speak their native language). Their first child, Katherine, was born in 1910. Steven came in 1912, followed by Emil and his twin sister Frances Marian. The youngest, Mary, was born in 1919.2

While Manda ran the household, Michael worked for the Deer Creek Coal Company.3 For several years after that, Michael owned a grocery and meat business. He later became president of Central Shale & Excavating Co. in Lincoln, where Emil and his brother Steve worked.4

Emil Verban graduated from Lincoln Community High School, where he played basketball. There was no baseball team, so he played on youth teams along with Frances. “She was a pretty good ballplayer,” he recalled in 1944, when Frances chose not to play for Max Carey’s Milwaukee Chicks of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League because of weak ankles from playing local baseball.5

At age 20, Verban worked out with the Decatur team in the Three-I (Illinois-Indiana-Iowa) League and impressed league president L. J Wylie as a shortstop. “He (Wylie) tried to place me in the Cardinal organization in 1936,” Verban recalled, “but they didn’t seem to want me.” 6

Verban started in the low minors and worked his way into the Cardinals’ chain. He became a prospect later on as major-leaguers were drafted to serve in World War II. In 1936, he signed with the Cincinnati Reds organization and started with the Class D Paducah Indians in the Kitty (Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee) League. Released at the end of spring training, Verban played 70 games with the Class D Fremont Reds of the Ohio State League (OHSL).7 Released in August, Verban joined the Tiffin Mud Hens and batted .330 the following season.

In 1938, Verban finally joined the Cardinals organization, playing for Class D Alexandria (Louisiana) in the Evangeline League and then moving up to the Class B Decatur Commodores in mid-season. He batted .320 in 75 games for Decatur. The Commodores went on to win the Three-I championship. 8

Verban returned to the Commodores in 1939 but they did not repeat as champions. On August 10, his season came to a sudden and painful end.9 The Cardinals big club came to Decatur for an exhibition game that drew 5,146 fans, including Verban’s mother and four siblings.10 In the bottom of the eighth inning, a Paul Dean curve ball struck Verban high in the back of the head. He was rushed to St. Mary’s Hospital. “A sudden hush came over the noisy crowd when Emil fell to the ground,” wrote George Kreker of the Decatur Herald and Review. “It threw a somber shadow all over Fans’ Field Thursday.” Dean was visibly shaken as players carried Verban to the clubhouse, from where he was rushed to the hospital. X-rays showed no fracture but Verban was out for the season, having batted .272 in 92 games. The Commodores lost in the first playoff round to Springfield. 11

In 1940, Decatur traded Verban to Class B Asheville (North Carolina) of the Piedmont League for second baseman Russ Wein.12 On August 31, Verban got three hits in Ken Burkhart’s 20th win at Richmond that put Asheville a half-game behind Colts, but he suffered a season-ending knee injury sliding into home plate. 13 The Tourists finished second and lost in the playoffs14

In 1941, Verban spent the first month of spring training with the Class AA Rochester (New York) Red Wings of the International League learning to play third base. He returned to the Tourists and played second base after all. “(The) mild-mannered second sacker (is) a regular chatterbox on the field,” the Asheville Citizen reported. “He can go all ways in good fashion and his arm is excellent.”15 Verban later moved to shortstop in a lineup shuffle. “(His) play has been of such high caliber that he may remain there for the rest of the season,” observed beat writer Paul Jones.16 Verban played 124 games at shortstop and made the Piedmont All-League team. 17

By the spring of 1942, America was at war. Verban registered for the draft in October 1940 but was declared 4-F because of a punctured eardrum and periodic dizzy spells and headaches suffered from the beaning in 1939.18 Promoted to the Class AA Houston Buffaloes of the Texas League, Verban played every infield position and batted .303. The Buffaloes lost on the season’s last day and missed the playoffs. 19 Thirteen days later, Miss Annetta Marie Cosby passed up her senior year at Marquette University and married Verban at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Elkhart, Illinois.20

In 1943, Verban became a champion again with the Class AA Columbus Red Birds of the American Association, playing in all 151 games, 121 at second base and 30 at shortstop. Verban starred in the playoffs, with three hits in the opening-game win at Milwaukee, two RBIs in game three, and two hits in the clincher.21 After Columbus’ opening victory in the finals at Indianapolis, the parent club in St. Louis bought Verban’s contract. The Red Birds swept International League champion Syracuse in the Little World Series; Verban batted .333 with 14 putouts and 16 assists.22

St. Louis had won the National League pennant in 1943. However, two of the Cards’ previous starters at second base — Frank “Creepy” Crespi and Jimmy Brown — were in the Army. Another, Lou Klein, was serving in the U.S. Coast Guard. Also facing a shortage of players because of the World War II draft, Philadelphia Athletics owner-manager Connie Mack made a “handsome cash offer” for Verban in the fall of 1943 that the Cardinals refused.23

In the winter of ’44, Ohio State Journal sportswriter Bob Hooey nicknamed Verban “Antelope” while describing him as a “graceful and polished performer.” Hooey added, “Verban moves to his right or left with almost perfect rhythm.”24

Verban proceeded to win the second base job for St. Louis in 1944. The only newcomer to the Cardinals’ starting lineup was impressive in spring training. “The young man is really clever with a bounding ball,” wrote J. Roy Stockton of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He glides over the infield terrain and bad bounces don’t bother him too much,” adding that Verban “took all hops, short, long and ragtime with impressive ease.”25 Manager Billy Southworth said, “He knows how to run the bases. He may not match Klein in power hitting but otherwise we’re even in that position.”26

Early that season, Southworth called Verban “a natural,” who needed to learn how to play certain hitters. “But in the three games he’s played for us so far he shows that he knows what he’s doing and where he’s going. The kid’s all right.”27

In May, a one-for-21 slump and a broken tip of his right index finger — injured in an off-day workout — dropped Verban from the leadoff spot to eighth and he missed five games. Though Verban raised his batting average from .240 to .272 in the eighth spot, the Cardinals increasingly pinch-hit for him in the late innings. His average fell to .257 but he fielded brilliantly (.968), leading National League second baseman with 105 double plays.

In the World Series victory over the St. Louis Browns, Verban batted .412 overall while recording 15 putouts and seven assists with no errors.28 Verban’s fighting spirit over a ticket snafu ignited his stellar play. The Browns led two games to one and hosted the middle games at Sportsman’s Park. When Verban learned that his wife Annetta’s seat was behind a post, he asked Browns owner Don Barnes for better seats. Barnes refused and chided, “You ought to be sitting behind a post. Ha! Ha!” He was referring to the Browns’ lead and Verban’s one-for-12 start.29 Verban got five hits in the final three games, including the Series winner in the fourth inning of Game Six.

After the deciding game, Verban snapped at Barnes, “Now you can sit behind a post!”30 A cartoon appeared in The Sporting News of Verban getting a hit that said, “Moral — Never Get a Yugo-Slav Mad!” Barnes later said that the Cardinals were responsible for the players’ seat assignments. Alas for Barnes and the Browns, Verban — the “ugly duckling of the batting order” — took home a winner’s share of $4,626.01.31

Three days into 1945, the Verbans celebrated the birth of their first child, Suzanne Marie.32 Two and a half months later, Verban reported for spring training at Cotter Field in Cairo, Illinois. “We know Verban can handle the second base job,” Southworth said. “He is a great defensive player and I think he’s going to improve his hitting.” 33

Earning his first All-Star selection, Verban played in all 155 games and led National League second basemen with a .978 fielding percentage, turning 95 double plays. Sportswriter Fred Lieb wrote that Verban had “fielded with the grace and precision of a Charley (sic) Gehringer.”34 Verban also set career highs for doubles (22), triples (8) and RBIs (72) and batted .278. St. Louis won 16 of 22 games with the Cubs and had a winning record against every National League team but finished three games behind Chicago in second place.

With World War II ended, 47 players crowded into the Cardinals’ spring training site at St. Petersburg, Florida in 1946. Verban competed with Crespi, Klein and 1945 rookie sensation Albert “Red” Schoendienst (who’d played outfield the previous year) for the second base job. Verban signed his 1946 contract in February but reported to camp ten pounds overweight. He wore basketball shoes to toughen his feet for wearing baseball shoes. Verban and Schoendienst did mass calisthenics, played pepper games and shagged flies to strengthen their legs.35 Klein outhit Verban in exhibition games, .328 to 206, and won the starting job, but then bolted to the Mexican League. Schoendienst took over and had the first of 10 All-Star seasons.36

Meanwhile, Verban played just once in the season’s first month. On May 1, the Cardinals traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies, who also paid St. Louis a reported $40,000. To make room for Verban, the Phillies sold Danny Murtaugh to Rochester.37 In his debut, Verban walked, stole second, and scored on Johnny Wyrostek’s single to beat the Reds, 1-0.38 “Emil Verban immediately captivated fans with his clever fielding,” wrote Sporting News correspondent Stan Baumgartner, adding that “if you put it to a vote of the pitchers, they will say that the most valuable man on the team is Verban — with a big assist to (shortstop) Skeeter Newsome.”39 Baumgartner believed that one good infield play equaled three hits. “Verban makes the stop that cuts away the power of three hits. The pitchers get out of holes that would mean runs for the opposition.”40 By late June, the Phillies had improved from 8-24 to 26-30. Verban capped the winning splurge with a leaping, one-handed grab of Stan Musial’s line drive.41

On July 9, Verban played in his first All-Star Game at Boston’s Fenway Park. Batting against Boston’s Jack Kramer in the ninth inning, Verban popped out to catcher Hal Wagner.42 After the All-Star break, Verban used a heavier bat and had four singles and a double, scoring three runs in Ken Raffensberger’s 8-2 victory at Cincinnati.43 On August 2, “Emil Verban then sent hats sailing and cowbells ringing with a single to center that pushed (Andy) Seminick home with the first run and scored the winner on Wyrostek’s bases loaded bunt single.”44 Verban batted .278 for the fifth-place Phils but relinquished his fielding title, making 28 errors.

In 1947, Verban became a holdout. The previous year, general manager Herb Pennock learned that Verban was unhappy about being traded from the Cardinals to the Phillies. So Pennock tore up Verban’s $7,500 contract and gave him a raise to $10,000, in part to make up for the loss of a World Series share. Though Verban had warned that he expected “plenty more” next time, Pennock fumed, “Verban is not entitled to a kick.”45 On February 13, “one of the more recalcitrant dissenters” agreed to undisclosed terms. Pennock said, “We both gave and took a little and we are both satisfied.”46

Verban had an excellent camp and got off to a sizzling start. On May 9 at Shibe Park, Verban’s double off Hugh Casey scored Seminick with the winning run in a 6-5 victory over Brooklyn. “Verban hit the ball with a resounding smack and it sizzled out to center field with (Pete) Reiser in vain pursuit.”47 This was also Jackie Robinson’s first visit to Philadelphia after receiving threatening letters because he had broken baseball’s color line. Before the series with the Dodgers, Verban’s teammates sought his signature on a petition not to play if Robinson was in the Brooklyn lineup.48 Verban refused. “He said it took him too long to get to the big leagues to refuse to play,” Emil Verban Jr. recalled.49

Meanwhile Verban’s .337 average became “the talk of the league.” He told coach Benny Bengough, “I’m not hitting over my head. I’m just breaking out of a 10-year slump.” Verban had been choking up on the bat two or three inches and punching the ball to all fields.50 He also compiled a 31-game errorless streak and handled 18 errorless chances in an extra-inning game, four shy of the National League record.51 Verban topped two local All-Star polls and won the official Chicago Tribune All-Star balloting at second base. 52

On July 6, Verban, All-Stars Harry Walker and Preacher Roe, Phillies manager and National League third base coach Ben Chapman, and Pennock boarded a train for New York, en route to Chicago. The next day, their westbound Shenandoah car collided with a switch engine pulling empty Pere Marquette coaches about 400 yards from Grand Central Station. Verban‘s back struck the side of a seat and he reported numbness in his legs. His wife suffered shock and bruises.53 In the game at Wrigley Field, Verban played five innings and went hitless in two at-bats.54

On August 1, the Phillies traveled to Sportsman’s Park, where the Cardinals held an Emil Verban Night to honor their former star, with his twin sister Frances and 1,000 fans from Logan County, Illinois — including 300 teenagers seeing their first game — watching the game from a reserved section in the right field pavilion. The Emil Verban Special, a seven-coach, air-conditioned train with a special baggage car brought the group to St. Louis. An American Legion band and a professional clown provided entertainment on the 120-mile trip. “Verban is the first youngster from Lincoln or from Logan County who ever put the town and county on the map for his athletic renown,” Baumgartner wrote. Verban received a travel bag, a golf bag, a movie camera and a rifle from representatives of the Lincoln, Atlanta and Elkhart Rotary Clubs of Southern Illinois.55

Verban was one to give back to his fans. In May, he, left fielder Del Ennis, and pitchers Schoolboy Rowe and Blix Donnelly presented a baseball with all the Phillies’ signatures to 14-year-old Henry Goebel, son of a Philadelphia firefighter bedridden for four years after suffering a hip injury while sledding.56 In August, Verban appeared on WFIL’s “Sports Clinic” quiz show and met 14-year-old Jeanne Pennypacker, who became famous for correctly answering baseball trivia questions from the audience. She had become a Phillies fan and Verban was her favorite player. “When I wrote and asked him for his autograph, he sent me a nice note and thanked me for asking him,” said Pennypacker, who started “collecting Verban” in a scrapbook containing every picture of him that she could find. “I also keep all the write-ups about him,” she said, “and I keep his batting average from day to day.”57

In 1947, Verban batted .285, his major-league best as a full-time regular, and equaled his major league-best eight triples. He struck out only eight times in 573 plate appearances that season, setting a major-league record for right-handed batters that still stands.58

In 1948, Verban ended a brief holdout when his wife and Mrs. Del Ennis — wife of Verban’s roommate — decided that they would share a house for $300 a month. Fifteen minutes later, Verban called team president Robert M. Carpenter Jr., to settle his contract.59 The Phillies believed Verban and newly acquired shortstop Eddie Miller could potentially be the best keystone combination in the league. When reporters asked Miller and Verban, “Who’s the Boss?”, they pointed at each other in glee. In a newspaper advertisement for season tickets, the bold type read: “Best in Baseball,” say experts who forecast a great season for sharp-fielding Verban and Miller.”60

The forecast was wrong. Hobbled with a pulled leg muscle, Verban batted .183 in his first 16 games and Miller suffered a foot injury. On May 29, a Thornton Lee pitch struck Verban on the right foot. “Limping in apparent agony,” he took off his shoe and sock to show umpire Babe Pinelli, who simply grinned, looked toward the stands and bellowed, “Ball two!” Verban walked but the Phillies lost, 7-1. 61 Granny Hamner — who had filled in for Miller — took over at second base on May 31.62 Verban did not start again until June 27 and injured his knee six days later. On August 3, the Cubs acquired Verban on waivers for $10,000. 63

Though former Cub manager Gabby Hartnett had previously said Verban “couldn’t hit his grandmother with a broom,” the new second baseman and leadoff hitter went 14-for- 27 in his first six games.64 The Cardinals and Dodgers had wanted to claim Verban, whom St. Louis manager Eddie Dyer called “a brilliant defensive player, excellent at the double play — and a pesky hitter.” Dodger president Branch Rickey said, “I was with St. Louis when Emil came to the Cardinals and always have regarded him as a highly capable performer.”65

Two memorable events marked Verban’s 1948 season. One was the garbage riot incited at Wrigley Field on August 26 when Phil Cavarretta scored Verban on a double against the left field wall. The baseball got stuck in the ivy. “Only Verban’s run counts,” ruled umpire Bill Stewart, who sent Hal Jeffcoat back to third base and held Cavarretta at second. Fans bombarded Boston left fielder Jeff Heath with “badly-aimed bottles from the left field seats. Bottles, beer cans, peaches, apples and hundreds of pounds of paper came cascading down on the field.” Public address announcer “Pat” Pieper pleaded with fans to stop or the Cubs could forfeit the game. When play resumed, the Braves walked Andy Pafko to fill the bases. With debris still on the field, Peanuts Lowrey tripled and Cubs won, 5-2.66

On September 6 at Cincinnati, Verban hit his only major-league home run. His seventh-inning blast off Johnny Vander Meer tied the score, 1-1, but the Cubs lost, 3-1, on Hank Sauer’s homer. Verban batted .294 in two months with the Cubs and helped stabilize the middle infield. “Verban is a great hustler,” said Cavarretta. “He spent a lot of time coaching (Roy) Smalley (who) improved tremendously in the latter part of the season.”67

Verban got off to another hot start in 1949, batting .357 as of June 2.68 In the second game of a June 7 doubleheader against the Reds at Wrigley Field, Verban, Cavarretta, and Jeffcoat combined for six singles in one inning, tying a team record set in 1883.69 However, when Frankie Frisch took over as Cubs manager on June 13, Verban became a spare part on a last-place team. On July 22, he bruised his hand sliding into a base and was out two weeks.70 Frisch chose Wayne Terwilliger as his new second baseman and leadoff man after the rookie collected eight consecutive hits in mid-August.71

Verban finished with his highest major-league average (.289) and struck out only twice in 363 plate appearances. On September 16, he batted out of order and got away with it. With runners on second and third in the 10th inning, Mickey Owen was supposed to bat for pitcher Bob Rush. Instead, Verban rushed up to the batter’s box, and walked. Owen followed with a game-winning single.72 Maybe Verban had reason to be anxious. Four days earlier, Annetta Verban gave birth to Emil Jr. at Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago.73

Verban’s final major-league season was a nightmare. He played in only 45 games for Chicago, starting just six behind Terwilliger, and batted .108; he was used mostly as a pinch-runner or pinch-hitter. His only RBI of the season came on a bases-loaded walk that beat Brooklyn.74 On September 13, 1950, the Cubs sold Verban to the Boston Braves. He appeared in his last four games in the majors for Boston, going 0-for-5.

To complete a deal for Seattle Rainiers pitcher Jim Wilson, Boston sent Verban and pitcher Mickey Haefner to Seattle after the season.75 The Rainiers released Verban after 37 games and he became the second baseman for the Springfield (Massachusetts) Cubs. He finished the season at .263 with a career-best 30 doubles. 76 In 1952, Verban played 138 games for Springfield, batting .239 and fielding .974, collecting 20 doubles, seven triples and one home run.

On November 5, 1952, Steven J. Verban, the family’s third child, was born. Two months later, Emil Verban announced his retirement as a baseball player and the family settled in Elkhart. Verban and his brother Steve worked for their father at the Central Shale & Excavating Company in Lincoln.77 In 1954, Emil and twin sister Frances applied and eventually got a patent for an invention that improved support and discharge of paste tube dispensers.78 During the 1950s, Verban worked for the Lincoln Collection Agency, then started his own Professional Service, Inc.

In 1961, he became an independent realtor specializing in commercial and farm properties. That December, Emil and brother Steve started Land of Lincoln Shelters, Inc. They sold fallout shelters, providing sand to fill the hollow walls in homes or apartments.79 Meanwhile the family grew with the births of son Michael C. in 1960 and daughter Barbara in 1962. While continuing his commercial realty business, Verban co-founded the Elkhart Community Bank in December 1971 and served as chairman of the board. He helped raise the flag when the bank opened on April 23, 1972. As of 2020, the United Community Bank-Elkhart operates at the same location.80

Verban remained active in baseball for more than 30 years after retiring as a player. In the mid-1960s, he served as president of the Lincoln franchise in the summer Central Illinois Collegiate League (CIC). 81 On August 9, 1964, he played in the Old Timers Reunion Game between the 1944 Cardinals and Browns at Busch Stadium and the 1945 “phantom” All-Star Game at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium July 23, 1965. In 1970, he drove in the only run in the 1970 Phillies-Athletics Old-Timers Game. In 1985, he was on the National League squad for the Cracker Jack All-Star Game in Washington, D.C.82

By then, Verban had become a celebrity of sorts. In 1975, Bruce C. Ladd, a congressional lobbyist and vice-president of government relations for Motorola, formed a Washington, D.C.-based Chicago Cubs fan club called the Emil Verban Memorial Society. Members joined by invitation only and had to be a “life-long, long-suffering, die-hard follower of the Chicago Cubs and be willing to accept misfortune and misery as your inevitable fate as a baseball fan.” There were no dues, meetings or money trails to follow.

Ladd chose Verban’s name because he was an “old, trustworthy, loyal, dedicated, plodding Cubs player,” admitting that the Society helped him make lobbying contacts in Washington. 83 At first, Verban took the use of his name as offensive, a downgrading of his ability. But things started to change in the succeeding decade. Beginning in 1980, the Society held a luncheon every two years. Then it took a quantum leap when President Ronald Reagan came aboard in 1981.84 “When Reagan became the Society’s 144th member, things really caught fire,” Verban recalled. On NBC’s “Today Show,” columnist George Will said that Verban was a better than average player. “Ned Potter and CBS came to my house on April 15,” Verban recalled in 1982. “That was exciting. The whole thing has been impressive.” From then on, Verban appreciated the Society as a group of dedicated Cubs fans designed to create enthusiasm.85

In 1984, the Society flew Verban and his wife Annetta to the White House to meet President Reagan. At the 1984 luncheon, White House Press Secretary James Brady won the Society’s Ernie Banks Positivism Award and the Harry Chiti Look-Alike Contest. The Illinois U.S. Senator Alan Dixon, another member, presented Verban with a $500 check so that handicapped children could attend games at Wrigley Field.86

The 1984 Cubs’ drive to a division title posed the question: what if the Cubs win the pennant? “It will spoil everything,” Dixon said. “We might have to disband the Society.” That eventually happened in 2010, by which time there were 700 members. The rolls also included former Vice President Dick Cheney, former First Lady Hillary Clinton, Supreme Court Justices Harry Blackmun and John Paul Stevens, and columnists Will and David Broder.

The Cubs won the National League East in 1989 but Verban did not live to see it happen. In early June, he went to Blessing Hospital in Quincy, Illinois to have a neurocyst removed from the same ear that was hit by a pitch 50 years before. Verban suffered a stroke afterwards and died on June 8, 1989. An avid sportsman, Verban was a member of the Protective Order of Elks Lodge 914 and the Logan County Farm Bureau.87 He is buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Lincoln, Illinois, along with his wife Annetta, who died on March 12, 1999. Their five children gave them eight grandchildren.88

Two sons played collegiate and professional baseball. Emil Jr. and Steve both starred at Lewis College in Lockport, Illinois. Emil’s team finished third in the 1971 N.A.I.A. tournament while Steve’s team won the 1974 championship. Emil, Jr. signed with the Phillies and played two minor-league seasons before knee injuries ended his career. He has practiced dentistry since 1976 in Bloomington, Illinois, patenting a drill stop device in 2011 that increases safety and accuracy in dental implant surgery.89 Steve played five years in the Cubs organization (1974-78). Now retired in Lincoln, he worked 20 years for the Lincoln Center for developmentally disabled children. 90

“He taught me the ins and outs of baseball,” Steve said of his father in 2020. “He had played with (1944 MVP) Marty Marion. He led the league in fielding, he led the league in (turning) double plays. He was an All-Star. Who else can say that?”91 “If he’d played today,” said Emil Jr. in 2020, “I’d have a trust fund. He was a very good ballplayer.”92



This biography was reviewed by Warren Corbett and Rory Costello and was fact checked by Bill Lamb.



In addition to newspaper and interview material cited in the endnotes, the author used the following on line sources:






1 Ancestry.com, “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,” Lincoln, Illinois, 1926: 201.

2 Russ Dodge, Emil Verban, findagrave.com/memorial/19698; Ancestry.com. Michael Verban.

3 Ancestry.com, “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,” Lincoln, Illinois, 1926: 201.

4 Ancestry.com, “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,” Lincoln, Illinois, 1952: 91.

5 Frederick G. Lieb, “Verban Trailing Boyhood Idol Frisch; Rookie Fills Frankie’s Card Keystone Post,” The Sporting News, April 27, 1944: 3; “Lincoln Girl Unable to Play,” The Pantagraph, May 22, 1944: 7.

6 Lieb, ““Verban Trailing Boyhood Idol Frisch.”

7 “Tincup Trims His Squad As Indians Go to Belleville,” Paducah Sun-Democrat,” May 14, 1936: 12.

8 Kreker, “Locals Get Five Runs in Sixth,” Decatur Herald, September 7, 1938: 6. “Springfield Gains Edge in Series,” Decatur Herald, September 9, 1938: 13; “Decatur Commies Beat Springfield; Final is Tonight,” Decatur Herald, September 12, 1938: 1.; Millard, “Clubs Clash Tonight in Final Game,” Decatur Herald, September 12, 1938: 5; Kreker, “Decatur Wins, 8 to 1; Moline Here Tonight,” Decatur Herald, September 13, 1938: 1.

9 “I.I.I. Averages,” Decatur Herald and Review, August 6, 1939: 11.

10 Millard, “Emil Verban Hit on Head With Pitched Ball,” Decatur Review, August 11, 1939: 10; Millard, “Bait for Bugs,” Decatur Review, August 11, 1939: 10.

11 Kreker, “Fans’ Fare,” Decatur Herald, September 12, 1939: 6.

12 West and Rice to Greet 21 Players at Columbus Camp; Two Players Still Unsigned,” Asheville Citizen-Times, March 24, 1940: 9.

13 “Beers Hits Batter To Force In Lone Run of Second Tilt; Lowery Captures Opener,” Asheville Citizen-Times, August 30, 1940: 18; “Box Score,” Asheville Citizen-Times, August 31, 1940: 1; “Triumph Leaves Tourists Half-Game Behind Mustangs; Rain Halts Tilt in Eighth,” Asheville Citizen-Times, September 1, 1940: 25; Jones, “2nd Baseman Verban Out of Lineup With Hurt Knee; Game Starts At 8 O’Clock.” Asheville Citizen-Times, September 4, 1940: 11. Asheville Opens Playoff Series With Rocky Mount Club Here Tomorrow Night,” Asheville Citizen-Times, September 3, 1940: 14.

14 Westmen Turn in Mediocre Performance In Wind Up Game,” Asheville Citizen-Times, September 10, 1940: 10;

15 “New Skipper may Be Out for 2 Months,” Asheville Citizen-Times, April 11, 1941: 18; “Meet Your 1941 Tourists,” Asheville Citizen, April 16, 1941: 14.

16 Jones, “Verban Drives In Winning Marker in Eighth Inning; Twin Bill Is Set For Today,” Asheville Citizen-Times, May 30, 1941: 18; “Asheville Averages,” August 1, 1941: 18.

17 “Bulls Lead Poll Wirth Five Stars Given Positions,” Asheville Citizen-Times, August 31: 1941.11; Jones, “Speculatin’ On Sports,” Asheville Citizen-Times, September 7, 1941: 26.

18 “Registration Card, Serial No. 1327, Order No. 2063,” U. S. World War II Draft Records, Young Men, Ancestry.com; Jones, “Speculatin’ On Sports,” Asheville Citizen-Times, September 7, 1941: 26.

19 “Kleine Shades Chambers, 1-0,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 30, 1942: 10; “Buffs Defeat Oilers Again,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 31, 1942: 4; Flem Hall, “Houston Climbs Into Tie For Hot Fourth Playoff Spot,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, September 2, 1942: 10; “Sports Split With Houston,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, September 7, 1942: 5.

20 Findagrave.com/memorial/19698.

21 “Clarke Annexes A.A. Bat Crown,” Indianapolis Star, September 26, 1943: 36; “Columbus Raps Milwaukee Club,” Indianapolis Star, September 22, 1943: 15; Red Birds Trounce A.A. Champions,” Indianapolis Star, September 24, 1943: 15; “Birds Shut Out Brewers, 7-0,” Indianapolis Star, September 25, 1943. 11..

22 Fritz Howell, “Birds Win Little World Series for 3d Year in Row,” Indianapolis Star, October 9, 1943: 11; Junior World Series Averages,” The Sporting News, October 14, 1943: 11.

23 Stan Baumgartner, “Look to Lefties to Keep Phillies on Track,” The Sporting News, November 25, 1943: 12.

24 Hooey, “Scouts Verbose Over Verban, Cardinals’ New Keystone Kid,” The Sporting News, January 13, 1944: 13.

25 Stockton, “Cardinal Infielders Need Work,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 25, 1944.6.

26 “Runners Remain Key Men,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 30, 1944: 19.

27 “Brecheen Yields Only Four Hits in Hurling Birds to 3d Triumph,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 22, 1944: 6.

28 Paul A. Rickart, “Batting, Fielding and Pitching Records of ’44 Series,” The Sporting News, October 12, 1944: 3.

29 Lieb, “Irked by Wife’s Series Seat, Verban Turned on Hitting Heat to Push Browns ‘Behind Post,’” The Sporting News, October 19, 1944: 3.

30 “One Sour Note,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 10, 1944: 12.

31 Cartoon, The Sporting News, October 19, 1944: 3; “Barnes Heckled When Wife of Cardinal Had Bad Seat,” The Sporting News, November 29, 1961: 18; Paul A. Rickart, “40 Players Batted .400 or Better in Fall Classic,” The Sporting News, October 23, 1946: 9; “$4,626 for Each Cardinal Regular; $2,743 for Browns, Official Series Data Shows,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 21, 1944: 6.

32 “Major Flashes,” The Sporting News, January 11, 1945: 16.

33 Stockton, “Strong Bid Being Made by Mallory,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 1945: 20; “Marion and Breadon Talk — No Agreement,” Ibid., 20; Harold Tuthill, “Five Men Battle for 3 Positions,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 3, 1945: 8.

34 Lieb, “Keystone Bag to be Crowded at Card Camp,” The Sporting News, November 1, 1945: 10.

35 Broeg, “New Group to Bring Cardinal Squad to 47,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 28, 1946: 20; Broeg, “Beazley Reports Lameness,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 1, 1946: 28.

36 W. Vernon Tietjen, “Hitting Puts Klein in Line for Card Starting Berth,” The Sporting News, March 21, 1946: 8; .Tietjen, “Redhot Tussles Raging for Five Redbird Berths,” The Sporting News, March 28, 1946: 6; Broeg, “Cards Make 19 Hits in Routing Red Sox, 9-2,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 30, 1946: 8; W. Vernon Tietjen, “Kurowski Wins Pay Fight, Now Faces Battle for Job,” The Sporting News, April 11, 1946: 13.

37 Art Morrow, “Phils Victors, 8-0; Obtain Verban; A’s Win 3-2 On Chapman’s Hit, “Philadelphia Inquirer, May 2, 1946: 24; Morrow, “Phils Bow, 8-3, To Bucs; Judd, Mulcahy Hurl,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 3, 1946: 28; Baumgartner, “Flaming Phils Steam Up Fans in Quaker City,” The Sporting News, June 26, 1946: 2.

38 “White Sox Rally Beats A’s, 8-5; Phils’ Jurisich Halts Reds, 1-0,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 4, 1946: 14; Baumgartner, “Flaming Phils Steam Up Fans in Quaker City,” The Sporting News, June 26, 1946: 2.

39 Stan Baumgartner, “Two-Way Task for McCosky, With Athletics,” The Sporting News, May 23, 1946: 6.

40 Baumgartner, “Phils Turn Corner on Verban’s Fine Defensive Play,” The Sporting News, June 26, 1946: 10.

41 Baumgartner, “36,356 See Phils Win 5th In Row; Beat Cards, 5-3, for 18th in 24,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 26, 1946: 28.

42 Baumgartner, “Williams Hits 2 Homers, 2 Singles in Series’ Most Decisive Victory,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 10. 1946: 26.

43 “Phils Win, 8-2, After 3-0 Defeat; A’s Top White Sox 5-4; Lose, 4-3,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 15, 1946: 21.

44 Baumgartner, “Phils Score 3 in 7th to Defeat Cards, 3-2,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 3, 1946: 14.

45 Baumgartner, “Verban Added to Phils’ Holduts,” Philadelphia Inquirer, January 25, 1947: 12.

46 Baumgartner, “Verban Signs Phillies Pact,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 14, 1947: 32; Baumgartner, “Rowe Climbs on Phil Train as Pennock Steams Up Over Holdouts,” The Sporting News, February 19, 1947: 15.

47 Baumgartner, “Phils Beat Dodgers in 11th, 6-5; 22,680 See Verban’s Hit Win,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 10, 1947: 14.

48 “Robinson Received Letters Threatening Him — Rickey,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 10, 1947: 14.

49 Interview, Emil Verban, Jr, September 13, 2020.

50 Baumgartner, “Phils’ Leonard Wins 6th, 6-3,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 18, 1947: 34; Baumgartner, “Cards Beaten by Blue Jays, 6-3 and 1-0,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 19, 1947: 23; Frank Brookhouser, “It’s Happening Here,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 9, 1947: 17; Baumgartner, “Phils Plugging Versatile Verban for Second Base Vote as All-Star,” The Sporting News, June 11, 1947: 11. .

51 “Phils Win 2d in 15th, 2-1, After Bowing to Cards, 4-2,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 10, 1947: 25.

52 Allen Lewis, “Verban, H. Walker, Rosar Lead Local All-Star Poll,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 15, 1947: 36; “Verban Favorite Among Phila. Fans,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 25, 1947: 32; “H. Walker, Verban, Rosar on All-Stars,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 29, 1947: 31; “Final All-Star Tabulation,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 29, 1947: 35.

53 “6 in Phils’ Group in Train Accident,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 8, 1947: 22.

54 Baumgartner, “Spence’s Pinch Hit Decides,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 9, 1947: 30.

55 Baumgartner, “Home Town to Honor Phils’ Verban,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 20, 1947: 36; Baumgartner, “Cards Beat Phils; Kurowski Hits 2,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 2, 1947: 14.

56 Four Phillies Visit Ailing Kid,” The Sporting News, May 21, 1947.18; Theodocia Bird, “Queen of the Diamond,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 10, 1947: 126.

57 Theodocia Bird, “Queen of the Diamond,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 10, 1947: 126.

58 “Strikeout Records for Hitters,” Baseball Almanac (https://www.baseball-almanac.com/recbooks/rb_strike1.shtml)

59 Baumgartner, “Verban Agrees to Phils’ Terms,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 29, 1948: 33,34.

60 Baumgartner, “Phils Start Drills Today,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 1, 1948: 22; Baumgartner, “Miller’s Spirit Impresses Phils’ Pilot,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 9, 1948: 27; “Best in Baseball,”(season and single-ticket promotion and order blank),” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 18, 1948: 35. .

61 Verban Emphatic, But So’s Umpire,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 30, 1948: 23.

62 Philadelphia Inquirer, May 5, 1948: 45.

63 Baumgartner, “Roberts Takes 2d Game as Ennis Hits 3-Run Homer,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 28. 1948: 20; Baumgartner, “Phils Sell Verban to Cubs; Game With Bucs Off,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 4, 1948: 30; “Phillies Buy Russ Meyer in Third Deal With Cubs,” The Sporting News, October 20, 1948: 24.

64Edward Burns, “Cholly Happy — Cubs Back to Market,” Chicago Tribune, August 11, 1948: 13, 29.

65 Bob Broeg, “Cardinals Tried to Get Verban Back, But Cubs Beat ‘Em to Waiver Punch,” The Sporting News, August 11, 1948: 6; Arch Ward, “In the Wake of the News,” Chicago Tribune, August 12, 1948: 33.

66 Roger Birtwell, “Ball Lodges in Vines and Row Flares; Fans Litter Garden With Fruit, Paper,” The Sporting News, September 8, 1948: 5.

67 Cubs Win, 6-2, After Losing to Reds in 1st,” Chicago Tribune, September 7, 1948: 59.

68 “N. L. Averages,” The Sporting News, May 4, 1949: 21 “Major League Averages,” Chicago Tribune, June 12, 1949: 67; “Marshall Pads Plate Mark to .368 for Circuit Lead,” The Sporting News, June 1, 1949: 17; “Major League Averages,” Chicago Tribune, June 5, 1949; 72. .

69 Source: “Reds String Zeros For Cubs,” The Sporting News, June 8, 1949: 44.

70 Irving Vaughan, “ Schmitz Greets Pirates Today,” Chicago Tribune, August 9, 1949: 23.

71 “Cubs Rookie Terwiliger Socks Eight Hits in Row,” The Sporting News, August 31, 1949: 19.

72 Irving Vaughan, “Cubs Use New Formula; Top Giants, 5-4,” Chicago Tribune, September 17, 1949: 20.

73 Major League Flashes,” National League, The Sporting News, September 21, 1949: 25; Interview, Emil Verban, Jr., June 2, 2020.

74 Vaughan, “Frisch Mound and Defense Units Buckle,” Chicago Tribune, June 8, 1950: 67; Vaughan, “Verban Walks to Force in Decisive Run,” Chicago Tribune, June 7, 1950: 45.

75 “Seattle Rainiers Big Problem is Pitching Corps,” Sacramento Bee, March 23, 1951: 24.

76 “International League,” The Sporting News, September 5, 1951: 24.

77 Ancestry.com., “U.S. City Directories, 1922-1995,”:91.

78 United States Patent Office, “Official Gazette,” March 19, 1957: 644.

79 Interview, Emil Verban, Jr., June 2, 2020; “Young’s Yarns,” The Pantagraph, July 18, 1961: 12; “Lincoln Shelter Builders Incorporate,” The Pantagraph, December 17,1961: 22.

80 Interview, employee of the bank, June 3, 2020.

81 Ed Alsene, “College Loop Opens With Fancy Flinging,” The Sporting News, July 6, 1963: 35; “Caught On The Fly,” The Sporting News, May 1, 1965: 42; “Caught On The Fly, “The Sporting News, February 26, 1966: 36.

82 Neal Russo, “Like Old Times in St. Louis: ’44 Browns, Cards Reunion,” The Sporting News, August 22, 1964: 12; Lou Hatter, “N.L. Stars Win ‘Laugher,’ 1-0,” Baltimore Sun, July 25, 1965: 29, 30; “Young’s Yarns,” The Pantagraph, July 28, 1970.14.

Alan Goldstein, “NL Old Timers win with four home runs,” Baltimore Sun, July 2, 1985: 20.

83 Peterson, 2009; Scott Allen, “D.C. Invite-Only Chicago Cubs fan club: Part nostalgia trip, part ‘lobbying gimmick,” DC Sports Bog, June 15, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dc-sports-bog/wp/2016/06/15/d-c-s-invite-only-chicago-cubs-fan-club-part-nostalgia-trip-part-lobbying-gimmick/.

84 Ivan Maisel, “In Washington, Even Ronald Reagan is on the Emil Verban Bandwagon,” May 24, 1982, vault. si.com.

85 Mark Ambrogi, “Society Brings New Attention to Emil Verban,” Decatur Herald and Review, April 14, 1982: 32.

86 Glen Elsasser, Lea Donosky, “Politics is off base as former Cub is honored,” Chicago Tribune, April 13, 1984: 4.

87 “Baseball player, banker Emil Verban dies at 73,” The Pantagraph, June 10, 1989: 27.

88 “Annetta M. Verban,” The Pantagraph, March 14, 1999: 8.

89 Emil Verban, Jr., U.S. Baseball Questionnaires, 1945-2005, Ancestry.com; “Paul Swiech, “You know the drill — But local dentists’ invention limits depth of bit,” The Pantagraph, March 4, 2011.27, 28.

90 Steve J. Verban, U.S. Baseball Questionnaires, 1945-2005, Ancestry.com; Interview, Steve J. Verban, August 25, 2020.

91 Steven J Verban, August 25, 2020.

92 Emil Verban, Jr., June 2, 2020.

Full Name

Emil Matthew Verban


August 27, 1915 at Lincoln, IL (USA)


June 8, 1989 at Quincy, IL (USA)

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