Right-hander Bill Yerrick pitched in a total of five games for the late nineteenth-century Boston Beaneaters. He was 1-0 for the team in 1895 but didn’t see his surname in a newspaper story or box score because he earned his first and only major league win as an “experimental pitcher” playing under the pseudonym “Banks.” Yerrick was signed by the Beaneaters and went 0-3 the following year. After two more seasons in the Class A Eastern League, he left the historical record of baseball, becoming a mill worker and raising a family.
William John Yerrick was born on February 26, 1874, in Danville, Pennsylvania, about 65 miles north of Harrisburg. His father Alfred was a brick mason. His mother Margaret was listed in the 1880 census as “keeping home” There were five children in the family – Matilda, Alfred, Henry, William, and George.
Listed at 5-foot-11 and 150 pounds, Yerrick pitched for several local clubs near his home town.1 The first one may have been an amateur team in Berwick, Pennsylvania, in 1890, when he was 16. He was a second baseman, who was also “somewhat of a success as a pitcher that year.”2 In 1891, he began pitching full time. Two years later, he pitched for the “Bloomsburg team of the River league in Pennsylvania, and in 1894 he joined the Lock Havens, then the strongest amateur team in Pennsylvania.”3
Yerrick began 1895 with the Salem (Massachusetts) club of the Class B independent New England Association. He had come to the attention of the Salem club through a recommendation to manager Frank Leonard.4 The Boston Herald’s line score of Salem’s home exhibition on April 20 shows Yerrick winning, 11-0, over the John P. Lowell team. “Their pitcher was a puzzle,” the paper simply wrote after he tossed a four-hit, 19-5, victory in the regular season opener at Haverhill.5
On May 6, Yerrick tripled against visiting Haverhill, but nine Salem errors helped turn a 15-1 lead into a 27-26 defeat after a four-run, ninth-inning rally fell short. With Lawrence –the association’s champions that season—in town two days later, Yerrick drew some attention by hurling a two-hitter and striking out eight in a 10-1 win.6 On May 17, he held visiting Lowell to three singles in a victory, prompting the Boston Globe headline: “Yerrick Does It.” He struck out only three, but hit three batters (and was plunked twice himself by the opposing pitcher, Hawley) and collected a base hit.7 After throwing a four-hit 19-0 shutout against Haverhill on June 12, the Herald reported, “Some think that in Yerrick Salem has the best pitcher in the New England Association. He has a most puzzling delivery.”8
On July 7, Haverhill manager Frank Leonard joined the Portland, Maine, team in the Class-B New England League, which was owned by former ballplayer Tim Murnane. Leonard brought three players with him—Woods, Shaffer and Yerrick. “Yerrick is a star pitcher, too,” declared the Portland Daily Press on July 26, after he allowed just five singles in an 8-3 victory over Bangor.9 But there was a sense of disappointment as well, the Boston Herald said. “Yerrick has not done the work in Portland that was expected from the showing he made before he joined the club.”10 Nevertheless, on August 13 in New Bedford, he threw “the best game witnessed here this season…holding the home team down to two little singles, one in the second and one in the eighth, and shutting New Bedford out.”11 At some point, Frank Leonard recommended him to Boston Beaneaters manager Frank Selee, saying that he considered him a better pitcher than the Senators’ Win Mercer, a hurler he had “brought out” who’d won 17 games for Washington as an 1894 rookie.12
Listed as an “experimental pitcher,” Yerrick made his major league debut on September 27, 1895, a ladies’ day game at National Park in Washington, DC. Oddly, when the contest began, Boston pitcher Kid Nichols was in the lineup, and he notched a base hit in the Beaneaters’ 12-run top of the first. Perhaps after seeing his team leap out to such a lead, Selee decided it was a good time to start the untested young pitcher, so Nichols was taken out of the game and Yerrick was put in.13 Yerrick worked the full seven-inning complete game, allowing seven base hits, walking four, and striking out four and allowing only single runs in the first and fifth – both unearned. He was 0-for-3 at the plate, striking out twice, but the 12 runs the Beaneaters scored in the top of the first inning were more than enough for a 14-2 win. An astonishing 12 of Boston’s runs were unearned.
A search of box scores in the next day’s newspapers, though, turns up no mention of Yerrick. The winning pitcher was listed as “Banks.” No first name was provided. He was described in the Globe as “a tall, slender youth, with excellent speed, good command of the ball, and his exhibition was highly gratifying to his new-found comrades.” A subhead for the article read: “Banks is Given a Trial and Pitches Very Well.”14 The Washington Post called him “a new man named Banks, who comes from Sunbury, Pa.”15 The Sporting News box score showed him as Banks.16
The Boston Journal reported, “The new find created a favorable impression, and his drop curve was very tantalizing. Selee smiled as he noted his effective work.”17 The Evening Star in Washington bemoaned, with some humor, that the game was over even before the home team came to bat. Of the new man for Boston, it simply said, “Banks pitched for the Beaneaters and did it right well.”18 In October, Tim Murnane wrote a column saying that Selee had informed him that Banks “was no less a person than William Yerrick, the young man who has done so well this season with the Portland club.” Murnane said that Selee recommended him to Boston club president Arthur Soden, and that the Portland club would receive compensation of $500. He added that Yerrick was “perhaps, the poorest batsman in the business, as his average last season was only .112.”19 The Washington Post wrote that Yerrick “was on the boat and consented to pitch on trial. In order to conceal his identity, he pitched in Washington under the name of Banks, and the youngster succeeded in making a splendid impression.” He was indeed young — 21 years old. Retrosheet reports that Yerrick was formally drafted by the Beaneaters from Portland on October 12.20
Yerrick met the Beaneaters in Charlottesville for spring training in 1896, though he arrived a little late because the train ticket that had been sent to him did not show up at first.21 He threw a couple of innings on March 26 and another the next day. “Yerrick Pitches Well and Seems A Good One” ran a subhead in the Boston Globe.22 Murnane’s appraisal the next day: “Yerrick is a loose young fellow that takes things easy, but uses his think tank when pitching. He gives promise of doing well and is now in fine shape.”23
It was said to come down to a choice between keeping him or Willard Mains on the team. Yerrick showed well on April 8 against Norfolk, scattering three singles over five innings, and hitting a home run.24 His first appearance of the 1896 season came in Baltimore on April 21. He was simply “unable to locate the plate.”25 He walked six, hit a batter, and gave up 15 hits, including three triples and four doubles. Oddly, for someone who had never hit that well, he was 3-for-4 at the plate against Orioles pitcher Bill Hoffer. The Orioles won the game, 14-2. Murnane said that Selee might have done better to pitch himself, adding that the manager had “a queer habit of trying weak pitchers against fast clubs.”26
Yerrick also pitched in an exhibition game at Fall River on April 29 and gave up 12 hits, Fall River winning, 4-3. When the team left Boston for a lengthy road trip after the game on May 2, he was left behind to work out at the South End Grounds. Farmed out to the Eastern League’s Wilkes-Barre Coal Barons, he won his first start, against the Springfield Ponies, 13-3, giving up eight hits.27 He lost a close 3-2 game, but as Wilkes-Barre was hammered for 22 runs on June 4 he was pulled during a nine-run sixth inning “for indifferent work.”28
There were reports of dissatisfaction among the ballplayers with manager John C. “Jack” Chapman’s leadership, but Yerrick was among 13 players who signed a statement for the Wilkes Barre Times stating that any such rumors came from outsiders.29
On June 9, Yerrick shut out Buffalo, 11-0, allowing seven hits and walking two. He allowed Syracuse six hits on June 15, and won, 3-2. Toronto clobbered Wilkes-Barre on June 22, 19-4, “but for rank support Yerrick would have made a good record.”30 His team committed 13 errors (three of them were Yerrick’s.) He threw a two-hitter against Buffalo on the 25th, but “became so wild that he was taken out” during a 21-5 loss to Scranton on July 2.31 Another poor game or two followed and he was released on July 30.32
Yerrick made his way back to New England. He appeared in a game at Laconia, New Hampshire on August 8, and pitched for the South Bostons in a win over the Everett A.A. team on August 15. He was under contract to the Beaneaters, just keeping in shape.
On August 19 he started against the visiting Cincinnati Reds. The Daily Advertiser said that he “did well enough” despite having been kept on the bench against weaker teams and “though batted hard kept the hits well scattered.”33 That may have been generous – he walked four, threw a wild pitch, hit a batter, and allowed 12 base hits in the 9-7 loss. It was Yerrick’s first loss in the majors, bringing him to 1-1.
Yerrick relieved in the August 25 game against the visiting Pittsburg Pirates, but was batted out of the box. Boston ultimately won the game, 11-9. He started and lost a 7-5 game on September 1 against Louisville in the second game of a doubleheader, relieved by Sullivan. Apparently the crowd started yelling for him to be replaced, shouting “Klobedanz! Klobedanz!” (They were calling for pitcher Fred Klobedanz to pitch in Yerrick’s stead.) A subhead in the Boston Globe said, “Loses Second Game and Gets His Release From Selee.”34 A September 4 Cleveland newspaper reported that Yerrick had been given his “ten days’ notice of release.”35 On December 31, several newspapers reported that he had been signed for 1897 by Rochester in the Eastern League.36
Pitching for Rochester (which moved to Montreal in mid-July), he appeared in 38 Eastern League games with a 17-17 record.37 He returned in 1898, but was released on May 17 because he had “shown bad form instead of the good work that was expected from him.”38 He later umpired in the Susquehanna League.39
The 1900 census shows Yerrick married to the former Emma Catherine Gerringer, and living in Mahoning Township in Western Pennsylvania with their two children: Isabella (born October 1897) and Allan (born June 1899). He was employed as a mill laborer. Ten years later, the family was back in Danville where he was employed as a roller in a roller mill. Two more daughters joined the family – Elizabeth and Marion. Emma Yerrick died in February 1916 at home at age 38, of what may have been a miscarriage. Her death certificate reports her death as of abortion with profuse hemorrhage.
When Bill Yerrick registered for the military draft in 1918, his nearest relative was listed as Isabella. He was employed at that time by the Reading Iron Co. in Danville, working as a “linerman on bar mill.” A search of the 1920 census failed to turn him up, but Yerrick (listed as John W. Yerrick) is found as a laborer in an iron mill, living with his married daughter Elizabeth in the household of her husband, Edward Kear, a grocery store manager.
Yerrick developed heart problems and came under medical care in May 1934, diagnosed at some point with myocarditis. His death in Danville on September 8, 1936, was due to angina pectoris. He had been living in the same Mulberry Street home that he had lived in back in 1880. He is buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery at Danville.
Sources and Acknowledgments
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com, Retrosheet.org, and Lloyd Johnson and Miles Wolff, Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball third edition (Durham, North Carolina: Baseball America, 2007). Thanks to Dr. Stephen Boren and Bill Carle.
This biography was reviewed by Malcolm Allen and Norman Macht and fact-checked by Carl Riechers.
1 “Boston’s New Pitcher,” Boston Herald, October 13, 1895: 24.
2 “Boston’s New Men,” Evansville Courier and Press (Evansville, Indiana), March 17, 1896: 2.
3 “Boston’s New Men.”
4 “Boston’s New Pitcher.”
5 “Salem, 19; Haverhill, 5,” Boston Herald, May 2, 1895: 9. Yerrick also had two hits in the game. Three days later, he delivered two more hits –one a triple—and beat Lawrence, 16-6. Although he was tagged for 13 hits, three of the runs he allowed were unearned. Despite losing twice to Lawrence within three days in late May, Yerrick was said to have pitched well. His teammates made eight errors in one of the defeats, three by catcher, Richard Linehan. See “Lawrence Again,” Boston Globe, May 24, 1895: 5.
6 “Hammer Two,” Boston Globe, May 9, 1895: 5. The Salem club relocated to Haverhill, Massachusetts on June 20.
7 “Yerrick Does It,” Boston Globe, May 18, 1895: 5.
8 “Caught on the Fly,” Boston Herald, June 14, 1895: 14.
9 “Baseball Notes,” Portland Daily Press, July 8, 1895: 3. The paper had named him as a third baseman the day before. In his first game, he was “very wild,” losing to Brockton, 10-5, while walking nine batters. See “John Irwin As a Mascot,” Boston Herald, July 11, 1895: 10.
10 “Thrown Out,” Boston Herald, July 28, 1895: 50.
11 “Portland 3, New Bedford 0,” Boston Globe, August 14, 1895: 3.
12 “Boston’s New Pitcher.”
13 “Boston’s Easy Victory,” Boston Journal, September 28, 1895: 3.
14 “Enough In First,” Boston Globe, September 28, 1895: 3.
15 “Beaten in the First,” Washington Post, September 28, 1895: 4.
16 “League-Association,” The Sporting News, October 5, 1895: 3. Two encyclopedias handled the name issue in different ways. Hy Turkin and S. C. Thompson, The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball Tenth Revised Edition (New York: A. S. Barnes, 1979) lists his baseball statistics and birth and death dates under the name William John Banks on page 87, but has a note on page 482 which reads: “William John Banks (real name William John Yerrick).” In its 2004 edition, Total Baseball (John Thorn, Phil Birnbaum, Bill Deane, eds. (Toronto: Sport Classic Books) has no mention of Yerrick, despite the fact that all four of the games in which he appeared in 1896 were as Yerrick. It presents the record of Bill Banks on page 1784, with birth and death dates. Neither Baseball-Reference.com nor Retrosheet.org have any mention of Banks, but present his full record under Yerrick.
17 “Boston’s Easy Victory.”
18 “Twelve Unearned Runs,” Evening Star (Washington DC), July 29, 1895: 18.
19 T. H. Murnane, “Boston’s New Pitcher,” Boston Globe, October 13, 1895: 17.
20 https://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/B/Pbankb102.htm. It is interesting to note that the player ID embraces the letters “bankb.” The BR.com identifier https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/banksbi01.shtml has “banksbi” in it.
21 “The Boston’s First Game,” Boston Herald, March 22, 1896: 4.
22 “Collins A Star,” Boston Globe, March 28, 1896: 9.
23 T. H. Murnane. “Getting Into Shape,” Boston Globe, March 29, 1896: 6.
24 T. H. Murnane, “Erase the Blot,” Boston Globe, April 9, 1896: 2.
25 “Tables Turned,” Boston Journal, April 22, 1896: 3. The Journal suggested that once Yerrick’s pitches began to find home plate, “The Birds took most kindly to them and sent them out into the high grass for the Boston outfielders to chase.”
26 T.H. Murnane, “Alas, Yerrick!” Boston Globe, April 22, 1896: 9.
27 He was sent to Wilkes-Barre rather than someplace closer because “the New England League does not allow its clubs to play farmed-out players.” See “Baseball Notes,” Boston Globe, May 21, 1896: 9.
28 “Base Ball,” Wilkes-Barre Times, June 5, 1896: 3.
29 See “Base Ball Trouble,” Wilkes-Barre Times, June 6, 1896: 5. For the signed statement, see “No Dissatisfaction,” Wilkes-Barre Times, June 6, 1896: 7. The player statement also ran three days later in the Scranton Tribune.
30 “Yerrick’s Rank Support,” Scranton Tribune, June 23, 1896:
31 “Scranton 21, Wilkesbarre 5,” Providence Evening Bulletin, July 3, 1896: 4.
32 “Yerrick Released,” Boston Daily Advertiser, July 31, 1896: 8.
33 “Boston Outbatted,” Boston Daily Advertiser, August 20, 1896: 8. Murnane reiterated the same argument, one he had made earlier, asking why he hadn’t pitched the day before against a weaker opponent. T. H. Murnane, “Just Suited the Reds,” Boston Globe, August 20, 1896: 3.
34 T. H. Murnane, “Half and Half,” Boston Globe, September 2, 1896: 4.
35 “Base Ball Notes,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 4, 1896: 4. Retrosheet gives the formal release date as September 1, 1896.
36 “Base Ball chat,” Colombian (Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania), December 31, 1896: 4.
37 There were similar ups and downs that had characterized his career. Playing in Toronto on August 20, Yerrick gave up 20 base hits and Montreal lost, 17-1. On September 9, he limited Providence to six hits in a 12-3 win.
38 “Notes of the Game,” Gazette (Montreal), May 17,1899: 2.
39 “Former League Pitcher Dies at Age 61 Years,” Danville Morning News, September 9, 1936: 1.