Hoge Workman

This article was written by Bill Nowlin

A glance at databases in midsummer 2014 revealed that Harry Hallworth Workman had a professional career of only three months – he pitched in 11 games for the Boston Red Sox between June 27 and September 1, 1924, followed by four games in September with the Mobile Bears of the Class-A Southern Association.

The Red Sox signed Workman directly off the campus of Ohio State University. Sure, the Red Sox had been a last-place team the two prior years (and would be for the six years after 1924), but to hire an inexperienced pitcher with only 25 college games under his belt and hope that he would help you, well, maybe that was a bit much.

The story couldn't be that simple, could it?

Workman was born on September 25, 1899, in Huntington, West Virginia. His father Albert Harrison Workman was a carpenter and his mother Clella Adrian Neff bore eight children. Their first-born died in infancy, and Henry was the fifth in the sequence of the family’s surviving children: Olive, Janie, Bradley, Noel, Henry, Fenimore (Tommy), and Maxwell.

A decade later, Albert Workman was a car builder in the car shops in Huntington, working on railroad cars. Huntington was a river port and a rail hub of some significance. By 1920, Mr. Workman was an inspector on the railroad.

Harry was “known as ‘Hoge’ in college athletic circles” and he made a name for himself at Ohio State University, “as good a looking pitcher as the [Western] conference boasts.”1 He was, however, better known for his football, the New York Times noted, writing that his “greatest claim is on the gridiron.”2 Ohio State won the Western Conference championship in 1920, with Workman as quarterback. He was the captain of the baseball team, and led it to spring training in the South (for the first time) in 1924. He’d only come out for baseball for the first time in 1923, so had just two seasons under his belt when he was beckoned to Boston.

There was some precedent for ballplayers from Huntington going straight from Ohio State to the major leagues (“direct from the campus to the big time”), informed the Chicago Tribune. Rusty Wright and Johnny Stuart had both done so. Apparently, Workman already had “a number of major league offers” by early February 1924.3

There was a story behind the nickname, however, that suggested he might have been thinking about baseball as early as age 3. Ford Sawyer of the Boston Globe explained: the police arrived to break up a game of boys playing ball in a Huntington street. The boys started to scatter but young Workman said he wasn't going to leave and give up the ball. “I’d hoge it and teep it,” he said (meaning he'd hold it and keep it.) Harry was first called “Hogit” and just “Hoge.”4

Sawyer wrote that Workman had been a four-letter athlete in high school and in 1917 completed 28 of 31 forward passes during the state championship game against Charleston High. His older brother Noel was a recipient of a number of his passes, both at Huntington High and at Ohio State. Younger brother Tommy took over as high school quarterback when Hoge went to college.5 There was a story that “Pa” Workman told his sons that they had to earn their school letter at football before they'd be allowed to wear long pants.6

In baseball for Ohio State, he was 13–2 in 1923 and won eight of his 10 games in 1924. He was also president of the senior class. And even worked as a sportswriter for the Huntington newspaper during the summertime, while playing local town ball.7

There was a hiccup, however, in June 1921 when he was suspended for a year for alleged cheating in mid-term exams, along with 30 other students.8 When he returned in the fall of 1922, he mostly played halfback. It was in April 1923 that he first began to pitch for the Buckeyes. Within three months, he was being described as a “pitching star” and one who was working out with the St. Louis Cardinals in July.9 In the fall of 1923, it was back to quarterback. Although Ohio State had a mediocre season (1–4 in the conference, 3–4–1 overall), Workman was selected to the All-American team.

He was apparently not interested in playing football professionally. “It is against his principles” [whatever that meant], wrote the Evansville Courier and Press, the paper adding, “Besides, there is not enough in it.”10

In December, the Rockford Morning Star declared him “a corking good pitcher” and “one of the two or three best flingers in the Big Ten.”11

Compared to the buildup that new prospects get in the 21st century, Workman joining the Boston Red Sox got little ink; the Boston Globe devoted 12 words to the subject: “Hoge Workman, Ohio State University pitcher, joined the Sox party this morning.”12 Was there a lengthy profile that ran in the next day or two? There was not. The next mention of Workman was his inclusion, by last name only, 11 days later, in a list of 16 Red Sox players who attended a “smoker and entertainment” at the Elks Lodge in Wakefield, Massachusetts on the evening of June 26.13

Those who may have attended the June 27 doubleheader would have sat through a bit of drizzle in the first few innings and then seen the Yankees beat Boston twice, 12–7 and 10–5. They also would have seen the major-league debut of Hoge Workman. He pitched in both games, and gave up two runs in each game – the final two runs in both. One of the runs in the first game was unearned. Two days later in Washington, he pitched two innings without a run.

Workman appeared in 11 games – the three June games, five in July, two in August, and one in September. The Red Sox lost every one of them – perhaps not surprising in the 1920s, though 1924 was the only year from 1922 through 1930 that they didn't finish in last place. They finished a half-game ahead of the last-place White Sox.

Workman worked a total of 18 innings and had an ERA of 8.50. He walked 11 and struck out seven. He gave up two home runs – to Joe Hauser and Wally Pipp. As a relief pitcher, he didn’t get to bat much. He was 0-for-2 at bat. He handled six chances in the field and recorded two putouts and four assists.

The Boston Globe observed his debut day thus: “Workman, who got into both games, is from Ohio State University, where he starred as a football player as well as on the diamond.”14

His last game was on September 1 – giving up two hits and two walks in 1 1/3 innings. One of the hits was Pipp’s solo home run. Then he was sent to Mobile. His first start there was a disaster – he was knocked out of the box after pitching only one-third of an inning against visiting Birmingham on September 6. Undaunted, Mobile threw him against Birmingham again the very next day, and he couldn't have started off better. He shut out the Barons through eight innings and held a 3–0 lead heading into the ninth, when he gave up four runs and lost the game.

On September 11, Workman came on in relief in the second inning and worked the final 7 2/3 innings with no decision in Mobile’s 11–5 loss. He pitched a complete game in his last start on September 18, losing 5–1 to New Orleans. Workman’s record in his short four-game stint at Mobile was 0–3.

There was no further career in baseball for Workman of which we are aware.

But Workman did have a change of heart after the end of the baseball season -- apparently deciding football wasn’t against his principles – and signed with the Cleveland Bulldogs of the National Football League. The Bulldogs were league champions with a 7–1–1 record, and Hoge led the league with eight touchdown passes (out of only 27 pass attempts) and was selected to the Second Team All-NFL squad by Collyers Eye Magazine. He was a pretty good placekicker as well kicking three field goals and 16 extra points.

He married the former Mary L. Zoller on November 24, 1924 – the day after the Bulldogs’ 7–0 win over the Columbus Tigers, and three days before their last regular-season game. The couple moved to Redlands, California in 1925, where Hoge became the head football coach and athletic director at the University of Redlands. Then, in 1926 Hoge’s older brother, Noel, who’d been the football coach and athletic director at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, took the job as head football coach at Iowa State College, and Hoge was hired as his replacement.

Workman returned to pro football in 1931 as player-coach for the 2–8 Cleveland Indians. He played one game in 1932 for the New York Giants before retiring from the sport.

In the 1940 US Census the family is listed in Guayandot, a neighborhood of Huntington, where he worked as a clerk for an oil company. In 1960, living in Kenton, Ohio, Workman worked as an inspector for the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

Workman died in Fort Myers, Florida on May 20, 1972. His widow reported his cause of death as “heart.”15

 

Sources

Johnson, Lloyd and Miles Wolff, ed. The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball (Durham, North Carolina, Baseball America, 1997).

Maxymuk, John, A History and Statistical Analysis of the Professional Quarterback (Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland & Company, 2008).

New York Times.

The Sporting News.

2014 Ohio State Football Media Guide.

Baseball-reference.com.

Pro-football-reference.com.

Baseball Hall of Fame Library, player file for Hoge Workman.

US Census Bureau: 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 US Censuses.

 

Notes

1 Chicago Tribune, May 18, 1923.

2 New York Times, December 25, 1923.

3 Chicago Tribune, February 10, 1924.

4 Boston Globe, July 7, 1924.

5 Elkhart Truth, November 8, 1920.

6 Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 14, 1920.

7 Boston Globe, July 7, 1924.

8 Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 23, 1921.

9 The Repository (Canton, Ohio), July 25, 1923.

10 Evansville Courier and Press, December 12, 1923.

11 Rockford Morning Star, December 30, 1923.

12  Boston Globe, June 16, 1924.

13 Boston Globe, June 27, 1924.

14 Boston Globe, June 28, 1924.

15  Player questionnaire from the National Baseball Hall of Fame.