Bob Poser

Bob Poser

This article was written by Henry Berman

Bob PoserFewer than 30 major-league players have gone on to be physicians; half of those were pitchers. Several had noteworthy accomplishments. John Lee Richmond pitched the first perfect game in professional baseball history, in 1880; and Hub Pruett faced Babe Ruth on 30 occasions between 1922 and 1924, striking him out 11 or 12 times.1

Richmond had an unusual career. He graduated from Brown University four days after his perfect game and finished his first year with a won-lost record of 32-32 and an ERA of 2.15. [He was the first left-hander to win 30 games.] In both 1881 and 1882 he pitched over 400 innings. In 1883 he experienced arm problems and was primarily an outfielder. He then retired. Pruett, on the other hand, seems to have struggled except when he faced Ruth. He won 29 and lost 48 with an ERA of 4.63.

The careers of most of the pitchers who became physicians were similar to that of Pruett – 75 percent had losing records. The best of them is Doc Medich; he won 124 and lost 105 with an ERA of 3.78 and a WAR of 19.6 At the other end of the spectrum is Bob Poser. Poser pitched two-thirds of an inning in 1932 (with an ERA of 27.00) and another 13⅔ innings in 1935 (with an ERA of 9.22).

Baseball proved to be a very small part of Poser’s life.

John Falk “Bob” Poser was born in Columbus, Wisconsin, on March 16, 1910. His father, Eduard, originally a pharmacist, had graduated from Rush Medical School in 1895. He then moved to Columbus to establish the Poser Clinic. Bob’s mother, Adele, daughter of a pharmacist, had four boys on her hands – three future doctors, and one future lawyer.

In 1932, after graduating from the University of Wisconsin, where he had led his team to the Big Ten championship with a league-leading .432 batting average, Bob made his debut with the Chicago White Sox. He had negotiated with both the owner of the White Sox, Charles Comiskey, and his finance officer, Harry Grabiner, for a signing bonus of $1,500 and a salary of $500 per month.2 Luke Appling, a future Hall of Famer, was his roommate on the road.

Poser’s White Sox pitching career consisted of only two-thirds of an inning, in 1932; he gave up two runs on three hits and two walks. The commentary accompanying the box score noted, “In the eighth, Poser and (Archie) McKain were reached for seven hits and as many runs as 13 Indians went to the plate.”3 Poser also played one inning in the outfield and pinch-hit four times, with three outs and one walk. In one of the games he pinch-hit for future Hall of Fame pitcher Red Faber. His minimal appearances are likely secondary to his suffering a severe hamstring injury in spring training that interfered with his hitting, leading to him switching to pitching.

Bob then spent several years in the minor leagues. He went from the White Sox to Double-A Toronto, in the International League, where he was in 23 games, with 11 hits in 64 at-bats, for a .172 average, with four RBIs. He pitched in five of those games – two of them complete games. In 23 innings, he gave up 19 runs on 31 hits and eight walks. Poser finished the year at Double-A4 Minneapolis, in the American Association, where he had three at-bats with no hits.

Bob began the 1933 season at Minneapolis, where had no hits in six at-bats. As a pitcher he appeared in four games, throwing nine innings and giving up 12 runs, all earned, on 18 hits and two walks. He struck out one batter. He was interviewed about his 1933 teammate, Joe Hauser, in Voices from the Pastime.5 His interviewer said: “Joseph John Hauser hit more than 60 home runs in two minor-league seasons with the Minneapolis Millers. His best season was in 1933 when he hit 69 home runs, drove in 182 runs, and batted .332. Prior to that phenomenal feat he hit 63 round-trippers in 1930. Bob Poser (AL pitcher, 1932 and 1935) remembers Hauser from their days playing in the minor leagues. ‘He was one of the first power hitters I had ever seen who used a lightweight bat,’ he said. ‘Joe used a 31 oz. bat, which was unusual back then. Just as a reference, Babe Ruth used [a] 52 oz. bat before August, then switched to a 49 oz. bat late in the season.’”6

Poser then played for Des Moines of the Class-A Western League, where he hit in 12 games, going 13-for-28, for a batting average of .464. In a 1996 interview with Rick Bradley of the SABR Oral History Committee, he said, “I hit a double my first time up. I hadn’t played ball, and hadn’t run bases, and I got my feet mixed up and didn’t touch first base or I would have hit .500 – 14 for 28.”7 He was 3-1 as a pitcher there, with an RA9 (runs average per 9 innings; no ERA is listed in Baseball Reference) of 4.06. Poser also spent 1934 with Des Moines, playing in 54 games with a batting of .289 and a 3-5 record as a pitcher, with an RA9 of 5.74.

In 1934 Poser left baseball and returned to the University of Wisconsin Medical School, joining his brother, Chub (whose given name was Rolf. He was a chubby baby and got stuck with that name); while in school Bob coached the university’s baseball team. In August of 1935 Poser learned that Rogers Hornsby, the manager of the St. Louis Browns, was looking for a relief pitcher. Hornsby signed him for $1,650. While with the Browns, he pitched right-handed (and batted left-handed).8

Poser’s record with the Browns consisted of pitching in four games, a total of 13⅔ innings, giving up 15 runs (14 earned) on 26 hits and four walks (and just one strikeout) for an ERA of 9.22. His six plate appearances garnered one walk, one sacrifice, one strikeout, and only one base hit, a single in the first game of an August 27 doubleheader against the visiting Washington Senators. Combining both the White Sox and Browns, his career ERA was 10.05 with a batting average of .143.

A post in the Pecan Park Eagle read, “In these 52 annual attendance figures from Baseball Almanac, pay special notice to how bad things got during the Great Depression years. 1935 was their worst year. The Browns drew only 80,922 fans for the season in 1935. To say the least, their per game average of 1,044 fans was both abysmal and unsustainable by today’s financial needs. The Browns’ fans had little to cheer in the 1930s.”9

This chart shows why:



































The New York Times obituary (February 28, 2017) of Ned Garver – one of the best pitchers in the history of the Browns franchise – included Garver’s famous comment: “The crowd didn’t dare boo us,” Garver once said of his nearly five seasons with the lowly Browns before sparse crowds at Sportsman’s Park, which they shared with the popular Cardinals. “The players had them outnumbered.”

Sam Poser, Bob’s nephew, noted that his uncle’s only starting-pitcher assignment came on August 20, 1935, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox.10 His fellow pitchers noticed that Boston was starting Lefty Grove – considered by most the best lefty in history.11 Bob’s teammates were kind enough to suggest to Hornsby that it would be best to start the rookie, Bob Poser, against one of best pitchers of all time, and he did. Bob got the 7-3 loss, his only loss in the majors. He pitched two innings, giving up four runs, all earned, on six hits. The commentary accompanying the box score for the game states: “Hornsby started his recruit, Bob Poser, in the second game against Grove, but erratic support handicapped the youngster, and he was driven out in the third.”12

All in all, Bob Poser played with three future Hall of Famers, and against teams with another 12.13

He also had a brief interchange with another future Hall of Famer: Babe Ruth. “I had been writing to Babe Ruth since I was 10 years old. He never answered me because he probably got 1,000 letters a day. But I said I’ll meet him, and the Sox always had a dozen or two baseballs the players could take and give for autographs. I took one out and Babe Ruth came in and there was a seat next to him and I sat down next to him and I said, ‘Babe, would you please autograph this ball for me?’ And he said, ‘Sure, kid.’ (I was just a kid to him. I was 22.) So he did. I had my own pen – as I remember I had green ink in one of these fountain pens. He talked to me; I shook hands with him; I brought the ball home. It was sitting in a vase on my mantel from 1932 to at least 1945. When I came back out of the Army it was gone.”14

Bob Poser’s father, Eduard, had been a standout second baseman for his medical school team – he was given a tryout by the Chicago Cubs in 1892. In 1895, after completing medical school at Rush Medical School, he moved to Columbus, Wisconsin (population 2,350 at the time, now 5,000) to open a practice – the Poser Clinic. His office was on the second floor, above the Sharrow drugstore. After more than 50 years his sons, Bob and Chub, built the present Poser Clinic.

In the 1996 interview with Rick Bradley for the SABR oral history project, Bob explained why he was named John, but was always called Bob. His mother loved curly hair (the way Shirley Temple’s hair looked 18 years later). So she did not cut his hair for two or three years. When Bob ran – he always ran – his hair bobbed, earning him the nickname Bobby.15

Bob’s wife, Libby, said that he was fearless. His first day of kindergarten he said to his teacher, “I’m not afraid of tigers, I’m not afraid of lions, and I’m not afraid of you.”16

In a 1999 interview with a local journalist, Poser stated: “I started getting interested in baseball … (and) at age ten or eleven, I started writing different ballplayers … I still have the letters that they wrote back to me.”17 Some of the players did more than write back, some even visited Columbus to see the young fan who had written them. “Gabby Hartnett was the catcher for the Cubs. He was the best catcher in baseball without a doubt, at that time at least, and he called me up one night after I had written him,” Poser explained. “I thought it was my brother Pody at first because he was interning there in Chicago at the time. I remember Gabby said, in a loud voice, ‘Hi, yeah I’m Gabby, want me to come up to Columbus to visit?’ I was a bit tongue-tied, but I said ‘yes.’

“They had a night train at 11:00 P.M. and I went down to the station to meet him. The train eased to a stop. I could not believe it when he actually got off the train – he stayed with us for a couple of days.” Years later, Gabby returned and the two of them played golf at Maple Bluff Country Club in Madison. Poser remembered, “When we got done with our game, everybody swarmed around him, even Oscar Mayer.”18

Poser and Hartnett developed a close relationship over the years. In August of 1924, Hartnett responded to a letter he had received from Poser by telling him that if he came to Chicago, he would like to meet him – an admirer. A year or two later Hartnett responded to another letter from Poser that promised him (whom he now addressed as Bobby) that he had sent him a baseball autographed by all the Cubs players – and in the future he would send him “all the baseballs he would want.”19

Later, Hartnett gave Poser inspiration and winning advice. “Gabby told me that I was a pretty good ballplayer for a kid and he gave me some pointers like putting the thumb underneath the fingers in the catcher’s mitt and keeping the throwing hand near the catching hand. Gabby was real good. He had a powerful arm so they had trouble hanging on to the ball when he threw it.”

In 1935, when Poser was playing for the Browns, he went through Chicago and spent some time in Hartnett’s apartment. “Gabby talked about when he was playing the Yankees in the 1932 World Series and the Yankees beat the Cubs. That was when Babe Ruth was supposed to have ‘pointed’ a home run. He didn’t. He was pointing at Root, who was pitching. What he meant was, ‘Two strikes, Root. I can hit one yet.’ And the crowd wanted to say he was pointing to the center field bleachers.

“Gabby told me he didn’t. (He) was sitting there. ‘No, he didn’t (point to the bleachers).’ He was just saying I got two strikes, but nobody can ever believe it because people want to say he pointed for a home run. Babe Ruth never denied it, but he couldn’t really. It’s a good story. He didn’t say he did though, either. But Gabby did tell me and I told some people – a statistician, and they said we know that, too, but you can’t change the public’s mind. One of the photographers who gave me a lot of pictures of my big-league life was sitting from here to the door to take pictures. He was sort of in the batter’s box and he said, ‘I didn’t hear Babe Ruth say that and I heard him talking.’”20

Hartnett followed Poser’s career closely. Poser later said, “I was proud of the fact that I was a good hitter. We beat Northwestern once there. A big score and I got four hits and four runs at four times at bat and I was tickled because I knew Gabby Hartnett would see the score and, sure enough, I called him that day (we were pretty good friends) and he said, ‘Pretty good day, huh?’”21

When Bob was a junior in medical school, he became the University of Wisconsin baseball coach. “I was head coach at UW while in med school, for $1,000 a year. We would have won the Big Ten but we went to Peoria and I wanted three pitchers to pitch. My brother was a junior, and he had been pitching, but he quit because he said he had a sore arm. He didn’t really because he went to play softball instead. I think he didn’t like me coaching him.”22

After finishing school and his stint with the Browns, Poser attended St Luke’s Hospital in Chicago as an intern, went back to the University of Wisconsin for two years of general surgery, and then transferred to Chicago’s Cook County Hospital to finish general surgery. When he could, he pitched batting practice for both the White Sox and the Cubs – where Gabby Hartnett was the manager. “Gabby later became manager of the Cubs, and when I was interning at St. Luke’s in Chicago, I had every fourth afternoon off; if the Cubs were in town I’d pitch batting practice for them. I’d put on a Cubs suit; same thing for the Sox. And all those Cubs and Sox players were my friends. That was quite a way to grow up. I think I could have gone back with the Sox after internship, pitching, but I didn’t. I went home and practiced medicine.”23

With 1½ years left in his surgical program at Cook County, he was drafted into the Army as a captain and was sent to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, for basic training during World War II. Although he expected to be sent to Europe, by the time he finished his training the military had concluded that the war in Europe would be won soon, and there was a greater need for physicians to treat wounded veterans who had returned from the war. Poser was assigned to Kellogg Hospital, in Battle Creek, Michigan, treating vets with peripheral nerve injuries; he was subsequently transferred to Atlanta to care for vets with paraplegia.

Poser explained, “In Atlanta, I was stationed at Lawson General Hospital. … They had 3,000 patients; I had 60 of them to take care of. And Luke Appling, my best friend – along with Ted Lyons – when I was with the White Sox, was my sergeant in charge of those 60 patients. Luke and I played ball – they had a good ballclub down there. They knew I played ball and asked if I’d come out, so Luke and I played on the same Army team. I hit .384 and Luke hit 392. I used to kid him about how I could outhit him, but he wrote me, “Here are the averages,” and said, “Bob, I can out hit YOU!”24

When he was a resident, Bob met his future wife, Ibby, on a blind date – she was a junior at the University of Wisconsin. She said she really fell for him, so much so that she even adopted the nickname Libby. Bob had misunderstood her real name, Ibby, but she didn’t want to correct him. They were married in 1945.

After the war ended, Poser returned to Cook County to complete his surgical training, and, with Libby pregnant, then moved to her Edgerton, Wisconsin, home with a doctor father who delivered their son, John. After finishing at Cook County in 1946, Bob and Libby moved to Bob’s hometown of Columbus to join his father, along with his older brother, Eduard (“Pody”), an ear, eye, nose, and throat doctor, and his younger brother, Chub, an internist at the Poser Clinic. There Bob cared for a wide range of patients, doing everything from setting broken bones to delivering babies. He would invite a University of Wisconsin doctor to Columbus for more difficult cases. Poser saw a number of patients who were injured while riding motorcycles; he would take his children with him when he was called in to see an injured rider so that they themselves would never ride a motorcycle.

Ann Poser recalled, “When I was 8 or 10 years old, Dad wanted me to work at the hospital. He wanted me to wash bloody surgical gloves for ten cents a pair. (There were, of course, no disposable gloves then.) I remember being all alone in a sterile-looking room after one of the nuns who ran the hospital (St. Mary’s) showed me what to do. I lasted one day.

“Also, he loved sports so much that even during our Thanksgiving dinners he would turn the big heavy TV toward the dining room so that he could watch the game while we ate.”

Bob’s wife and daughter agreed that “[h]e never got irritated with patients. The strongest word he would say was ‘Christmas.’”

Bob Poser practiced medicine at the Poser Clinic for 45 years.

Interviews with his wife and daughter create a picture of a man who was both fearless and engaging: “In 1936, he and a friend traveled to Berlin, for the Olympics. As Hitler drove by, the crowd, including his friend, saluted him. Bob did not.

“He enjoyed talking with everyone. One time, while we were in Atlanta, he learned that Jimmy Dorsey (brother of Tommy Dorsey, and a big-band leader in his own right), was staying in a nearby hotel. He called Dorsey up. Jimmy invited him to his room, where they talked for hours. Bob then invited Jimmy for breakfast, promising that his wife would serve him her special oatmeal. Dorsey said it was the best oatmeal he had ever had.” The two women agreed about another characteristic of Bob’s: “He loved baseball; he could talk about stats all night.”25

While attending Wisconsin, Bob had also played basketball, guarding John Wooden (later Hall of Fame coach of UCLA). John Poser said, “As I got older as a resident in surgery, my phone would ring and it would be Johnny Wooden, who would say, ‘Your dad said I should call you to see how you’re doing.’ Following these conversations with Johnny, now in recent years, I would fly out to see him with my good friend Ted Kellner whom I played basketball with in Wisconsin, [and who in 2020 is a billionaire and part-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks] and then on another trip out to Las Vegas we stopped to see Johnny in his apartment. We became good friends.”26

Bob’s son John tells the following anecdote: “While I was living in Gainesville, Florida, Johnny came to the University of Florida when the president, an intern at UCLA under Johnny, invited him out for a talk. I sat in front of his daughter and she turned around and said, ‘He wants to see you.’ So, I jumped up on stage and went backstage and I walked up behind him and I heard him say, ‘Do you know where Dr. John [Bob’s birth name] Poser is?’ to my great surprise, reflecting the fact of what a good friend he was with my dad and myself.”27

Bob also got to know Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi. Tom Poser (Bob’s youngest son) wrote, “I did see a newspaper column about Dad playing [golf] with Lombardi. Dad sank a very long putt and Lombardi said ‘What a competitor, what a competitor (in his Brooklyn accent).’ When I was about 10, Dad took my friend, Bob Sullivan, and me to a Packers pregame in Milwaukee. Dad asked if we wanted to go into the locker before the game. [I’m sure Dad dropped Vince’s name]. … My football hero was Jim Taylor. Sure enough, we all went in and there was Lombardi talking to Taylor while Jim was getting taped up for the game.

“Unbelievable! Bob and I were so gobsmacked, absolutely nothing came out of our mouths. I believe Marie Lombardi would come down from Green Bay to go to the Poser Clinic. I think she saw Chub (Bob’s brother) and not Dad.”28

In Bob’s later years he was interviewed by Eddie Poser, Pody’s son. Their discussion provides some valuable information and perspective.

“Who was inspirational in your life?”

“Well, a couple of doctors have been great. You do the best you can, and go as far as you can in medicine. But I had to inspire myself. Since I was a kid I wanted to be a big-league ballplayer. I thought I was going to be. I never doubted it. And while I had some good years as a college boy, I had even better years as a kid. I was good and I gotta brag about it. Batting practice would only be twice a week maybe. I’d get some kids to pitch to me out at the park. I kept hitting but I should have turned and hit both ways. I didn’t know at the time you could. I hit left-handed but I threw right-handed. A lot of guys did.”

“So how did you start hitting left-handed?”

“It’s th way you pick up the bat and want to do it. I felt probably stronger with this arm. This was a pusher and that’s the way it felt good, I suppose, since I was 3 years old. A lot of guys can hit left-handed but they have to learn how to hit the other way. I think my right eye was stronger, but they were both 20/10. You know I had such good vision: I could read the spin on a curveball – I could read which way it was spinning; I could tell if it was a curve or a fastball the minute it left the pitcher’s hand. By the time it got out of the pitcher’s hand, of course, it was a tenth of a second. By the time the ball left the pitcher’s hand I could see the spin on the ball.”

“It looks like today’s pitchers are a lot better, don’t you think?”

“They have more big pitchers. The guys didn’t grow as big [in the old days]. You know what made them grow? World War II. You know why? People started eating more fresh fruit. When I was a kid, if we saw an orange, it was something. They didn’t even sell them in grocery stores. You’d get a pack of them from your aunt who was wintering in Florida. They’d send up a box of oranges, and so there was a vitamin shortage until World War II.”

“Baseball has been a big piece of your life …”

“It taught me a lot. I knew when I was in it that wasn’t my future because $5,000 a year isn’t much to live on. As you get older as a ballplayer, there are a lot of ballplayers running gas stations and so forth – and a lot of them do pretty well.”

“What value do you have that you want to pass on to your kids?”

“I won’t give up on anything. If I don’t think I’m gonna do it, I wouldn’t start it.”

Bob and Libby lived in same house for 54 years. He was a member of the American College of Surgeons and a highly regarded member of the Columbus community. Bob served as city health officer for 34 years. In that role, he signed birth and death certificates, reporting cases of communicable diseases and “reports of nuisances,” from 1953 to 1987.

Bob Poser died on May 21, 2002, in Columbus, of a heart attack.

In summary, his son, John, wrote, “My dad was a specialist in fulfilling the doctor’s dream in the movie Field of Dreams. He was a true professional, a doctor, and a friend’s best friend, with characteristics much like his good friend, Johnny Wooden, and later good friend, Vince Lombardi who, after a golf game, called Bob ‘a great competitor.’ He loved life, family, people, patients, and sports, and was kind and giving to all.”



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author relied on and He interviewed Bob Poser’s wife, Libby; his daughter, Ann; his sons, John and Tom; and his nephews, Sam and Eddie.



1 The questionable strikeout may, or may not, have occurred on July 8,1923.

2 According to the contract card that had been filed with the AL president’s office, Poser was promised an additional $500 bonus if the team finished in third place or better. (They did not.)

3 May 1, 1932, at Cleveland. The Indians won the game, 11-1.

4 Double A then was the equivalent of Triple A today.

5 Nick Wilson, Voices from the Pastime. Oral Histories of Surviving Major Leaguers, Negro Leaguers, Cuban Leaguers and Writers. 1920-1934 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2000), 186. Hauser had a number of good seasons in the majors from 1922 to 1929, the highlight being 1924, with 27 home runs and 115 RBIs. He then played minor-league baseball for the rest of his career – hitting more than 60 home runs in two of the seasons.

6 Wilson.

7 Interview with Bob Poser conducted by Rick Bradley, September 28, 1996, for the SABR Oral History Committee.

8 Sam Poser, communication with author, September 2018.


10 Sam Poser, communication with author, September 2018.

11 There has been little disagreement that the best lefties in baseball history (not including active pitchers) are Grove, Randy Johnson, and Sandy Koufax. Modern analytics all measure Grove as the best. A number of years ago, Bill James wrote that the two best lefties of all time were Grove and Koufax. He concluded with, “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between them, but I put my nickel on Grove.” See:

12 A copy of the box score of the game, played at St. Louis on August 20, 1935, includes this commentary. See The Sporting News, August 22, 1935: 6.

13 Poser played with Ted Lyons, Luke Appling, and Red Faber. He played against teams that included Charlie Gehringer, Earl Averill, Rick Ferrell, Earle Combs, Bill Dickey, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Red Ruffing, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, and Joe Cronin.

14 Taped interview by Eddie Poser, Bob’s nephew, circa 1990.

15 Sam Poser interview, September 2018.

16 Telephone interview, July 17, 2018.

17 J.J. Rafield-Edgar, “Local Retired Surgeon and Baseball Great Shares Fond Memories of Columbus Blues,” Columbus (Wisconsin) Journal Republican, May 8, 1999.

18 Bob’s son, John, in a written communication with the author in the summer of 2018, described the visit with Hartnett much differently: “Young Bobby noticed that Gabby had a hand injury and invited him to take the train from Chicago to Columbus to see his dad. Gabby got on the train and had his consult, and hit fly balls to Bobby.”

19 Letters supplied by John Poser, May 12, 2019.

20 From taped interview by Eddie Poser, circa 1990.

21 Interview by Eddie Poser.

22 Interview by Eddie Poser.

23 Sam Poser interview, September 2018.

24 Email from son John, May 20, 2019: “Luke would call often to the house and my dad would order me to go to the phone and order Luke Appling to tell me who was the best hitter that Luke Appling had ever seen and he would go ‘You, Bob, you were the best hitter, you, Bob.’”

25 Telephone interview with author on July 17, 2018.

26 John Poser interview, September 2018.

27 John provided another story about John Wooden. “In 1976 the Final Four, famous sportswriter for Milwaukee Journal, Earl Gillespie, was pounding on the door but no one would let him in. My dad walks through with his camera, knocks on the door, the policeman opens the door and he said, “This is Dr. Bob, tell Johnny,” next the door reopens, and we go in and there’s Gail Goodrich and Lew Alcindor putting on their shoes as my dad talks to Johnny Wooden.” Email communication with the author, May 20, 2019.

28 Written material submitted to author, May 12, 2019.

Full Name

John Falk Poser


March 16, 1910 at Columbus, WI (USA)


May 21, 2002 at Columbus, WI (USA)

If you can help us improve this player’s biography, contact us.