Situated between UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and the much larger Allegheny Cemetery is a patch of land that feels out of sync with the rest of modernity. With large stone walls at its entrance and brick roads, St. Mary Catholic Cemetery harks back to the late 19th or early 20th century. Along one of these winding brick roads sits a single grave by the curb. Askew, and weathered, the grave of Robert J. “Bobby” Cargo is all but forgotten, like the man it memorializes.1 He played just two games at shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates in October 1892.2 However, Cargo had a long career in the minor leagues that was cut short by his death from pneumonia in 1904.3
Cargo was born on October 1, 1868, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Robert Markel Cargo and Martha Denison Cargo.4 He was one of 11 or 12 siblings, depending on the source.5 His paternal side of the family can be traced back to Ireland. His grandfather, James Cargo, and grandmother, Mary Claney Cargo, both came from the Emerald Isle.6 On his maternal side, both of Bobby’s grandparents, William Denison and Elizabeth Wells Denison, were natives of Pennsylvania.7 Bobby’s father served with Company C, 155th Regiment, 5th Pennsylvania Infantry during the American Civil War.8 After the war, Robert M. Cargo held various positions from salesclerk in 1870,9 to stock dealer in 1880,10 to day laborer in 1900.11 His mother is listed as “Keeping House” in all the records save 1900.12
Details about Bobby Cargo’s youth are nonexistent – he left no diary or writings. He had no grandchildren because his only daughter never married and died childless.13 What we do know is that he was born to a family that had baseball in its blood. Seven of his brothers had all been involved in the game at one time and at various levels.14 Bobby joined them in the year 1887, playing for the Steubenville (Ohio) Stubs. He played a total of two games for them, with one hit in seven at-bats.
Also in 1887, Cargo married Agnes Wandless.15 His occupation was listed as “driver.”16 Later documentation would list his occupation as a “streetcar” or “electric car” driver/operator.17 It is unknown when this marriage came to an end. In later articles, there is no mention of a first marriage and Agnes’ death certificate makes no mention of being married to anyone. The details have been lost to time.
Cargo re-enters the historical baseball record in October 1890 playing for a semipro team, the Acmes (Pittsburgh), against the National League Pittsburgh Alleghenys at Recreation Park.18 Cargo, a righty both at bat and throwing, “pitched a steady game” and scored one run. However, that wasn’t enough to beat the Alleghenys, who defeated the Acmes 16-2. He also played for the Easton team in the Eastern Interstate League.
During the 1891 season, Cargo played for the East End Gym Club of Pittsburgh.19 Also known as the East End Gyms, this team competed in the County League (Allegheny County).20 No complete statistical record of Cargo’s time on the team can be located at this time (if it exists at all). However, we can glean some insight into his play from the game writeups and box scores found in various publications. For example, on August 12, 1891, Cargo hit a home run against the Bridgeville team, driving in two runs ahead of him. This article also called him the “champion batter of the County League.”21
In the offseason, Cargo worked for an electric railway company in East Liverpool, Ohio. An article written posthumously about him stated that in 1891 he discovered the big fire that destroyed a large swath of retail in the Diamond Historic District. The article went on to say that after taking the first car out of the barn that morning, he saw the fire, left the car, sounded the alarm, and fought the flames until noon.22
As the year 1892 dawned, Cargo was still listed as playing for the East End Gyms.23 However, by May he signed with the Pittsburgh team that was competing in the state league.24 There he gained immediate praise from team president Barr in the press.25 Throughout June, the press reported that Cargo was putting up National League numbers.26 However, his time with the team would come to an abrupt end when it moved across the state to Wilkes-Barre. Cargo ended up with a .333 batting average before breaking his contract and jumping to an outlaw team in Missoula, Montana.27
Cargo’s time out west was also limited, and he was back in East Liverpool, by the end of July, looking to get his job back on the electric car line.28 In August, Cargo was back on his old team, the East End Gyms, playing against other local teams. On August 7, the Gyms played against the Sewickley’s; the box score shows that Cargo scored three runs.29 As the sun was setting on another season, a once-in-a-lifetime chance loomed for the 23-year-old. With the suspension of Frank Shugart came an opening for a shortstop on the Pittsburgh Pirates. “Little” Bobby Cargo was called up to the majors.30
On October 6, the papers reported that Pirates manager Al Buckenburger had lots of requests to give Cargo a tryout because he was a local favorite and people spoke so well of him.31 Cargo’s first appearance in the majors came during the second game of a doubleheader against St. Louis. He was hitless in one at-bat.32
Cargo’s second and final game with the Pirates came a day later against Chicago. During the second inning, he was put in at shortstop alongside Doggie Miller at third.33 His final game went better than the first; he went 1-for-3, thus giving him a career .250 batting average in the majors.
There was talk of signing Cargo for the following season if the Pirates couldn’t sign Jack Glasscock or someone else of that caliber.34 Ultimately, it was not meant to be. Cargo did play with the Pirates one last time at a benefit game for Pud Galvin on October 17, 1892. One writeup stated that he did exceptionally well.35
Cargo returned to East Liverpool and went back to work, driving one of Al Johnson’s electric cars.36 There is documentation that he played for the Eclipse Baseball Club out of East Liverpool. However, no compilation of his stats can be located at this time.37
With no major-league contract, Cargo began to bounce around the minors. During the 1893 season he played for the Buffalo (New York) Bisons of the Eastern League for five games. He then moved to the Pennsylvania State League. With the Johnstown (Pennsylvania) Terror, he posted career-best numbers: a .370 batting average and 87 total bases in 36 games. Later that season he moved to the Altoona (Pennsylvania) Mud Turtles, where he put up a .315 batting average with 16 doubles. Cargo also received the first of many injuries to come during a game between Altoona and Easton. He dislocated a kneecap in a collision with another player.38
In 1894, Cargo played for Oil City (Pennsylvania) in the Iron and Oil League. Though records are scant, one paper states that on May 7, 1894, Cargo knocked two home runs.39 The team also took the championship that season.40 Near the end of the year, he received an offer from the Lancaster (Pennsylvania) Chicks, back in the Pennsylvania State League.41 That led him to meet his soon-to-be second wife, Nora McElligott of Lancaster.
In February 1895, Cargo signed to play second for the Chicks.42 By April, Lancaster was in Norfolk warming up for the season. Cargo was doing well in right field.43 As the season progressed, he was put back at shortstop.44 On Wednesday, June 26, Cargo hit the longest home run of the season at Lancaster’s home grounds, a shot to left-center that bounced off the fence.45 On August 14, he made a brilliant one-hand catch in a game against Hazelton.46
Just a few days later, though, he was injured again. A source indicated that it was the fourth time that season that he had been hurt, but the three previous problems and their exact nature could not be located.47 Cargo’s time with the Chicks was up by early September, when he was traded to the Carbondale (Pennsylvania) Anthracites. There he finished out the season.48
Spring 1896 brought a strange case of legal trouble for Bobby Cargo. On the morning of March 27, Cargo was arrested and charged with larceny. The trouble began when he and a man named Herbert Jones (or James, depending on the source) went drinking the previous night. Cargo helped Jones back to his room, where Jones later alleged that Cargo took $25 from him. Cargo was given bail and went before a Lancaster alderman on Monday, March 30. Jones’s story started out with him saying he thought someone else stole the money. He swore out a warrant against that unknown person. That warrant was later dropped for lack of evidence. He then accused Cargo of taking the money. The case fell apart later when Jones admitted he was drunk and had no idea what happened to the money. The charges against Cargo were dismissed.49
With his brush with the legal system behind him, Cargo was ready to play ball. He played for five teams in the 1896 season. The first was the Carbondale Anthracites, for whom he played a total of 39 games. He married Nora on May 28 and had a short honeymoon in Harrisburg before returning to play.50 That season, Cargo also appeared for Pottsville (Pennsylvania) in the Pennsylvania State League; Millville in the South New Jersey League; the Wilmington (Delaware) Peaches of the Atlantic League, where he played 15 games and hit .241 in 54 at-bats; and the Newark (New Jersey) Colts, also in the Atlantic League, where in three games he had a .250 batting average.
Cargo returned to Newark to start the 1897 season. His best streak with the Colts came when he hit two home runs in three games in May.51 He later moved on to the New York State League, playing for the Canandaigua Rustlers. By the end of the season, Cargo had played 59 games with the club and had a batting average of .307.52 Another source says he played 66 games, made 87 hits, and had a .303 batting average.53
Cargo’s nomadic life began to slow down in the years 1898-1901. Though he played for three different teams, he didn’t play with more than one in any of those seasons. In 1898 he suited up again for the Canandaigua Rustlers; one paper claimed that he led the shortstops of the New York League in fielding with an average of .925.54 Cargo spent the next two seasons with the New Castle (Pennsylvania) Quakers in the Interstate League. No complete stats exist for Cargo’s 1899 season. In 1900, he played a total of 125 games, with four doubles and three triples, finishing with a .265 average. In 1901, seeking more money, Cargo jumped to the Western League with the Toledo (Ohio) Swamp Angels.55 He stayed just one season with the Swamp Angels, hitting .250 in 138 games.
During the 1902 season, Cargo went south to play with the Nashville (Tennessee) Volunteers in the Southern Association alongside future Pirate Ed Abbaticchio. He posted a solid a .285 batting average. At the close of the season, he went back to Pittsburgh and made a living as a “paper-hanger,” which he stated was much nicer in the winter than his old occupation of bridge-building.
For the final full season of Cargo’s career, 1903, he returned to the Volunteers. He had to be taken out of a game on March 27, owing to illness.56 He bounced back quickly, though, and doubled on April 1.57 He was injured again when he broke a blood vessel trying to steal second on July 8.58 He came back on July 17.59 Less, then a month later, though, on August 10, a charley horse took him out of action once more.60
By the end of the season, it was clear that Cargo was not in top form and his batting was beginning to slump.61 In 114 games, he compiled a .256 batting average. That December, Cargo was sold to another Southern Association club, the Atlanta Crackers, for $600 along with Wild Bill Johnson.62
Cargo resisted going to Atlanta at first. He wanted a share of the $600 that was made off his sale.63 However, by February 1904, Cargo had signed with the Crackers.64 There was even talk about Cargo’s four-year-old daughter, Martha, being a good luck charm for the team in the coming season.65 Cargo had sold all his furniture and was planning to make Atlanta his new home.66
Sadly, none of this came to pass. Bobby Cargo contracted pneumonia and died on April 27, 1904. The press speculated that he had a heavy cold when he left Pittsburgh. Upon arriving in Atlanta, he went on a short trip to Florida to play in the warm weather. He then went back to Atlanta, where the temperature dropped. The constant temperature fluctuation exacerbated his cold and turned it into pneumonia.67 Cargo left behind a wife and child with his sudden demise. The Nashville and Atlanta teams later played a benefit game for his widow Cargo and little Martha on June 27.68 The sum of $500 was raised. 69
On April 27, Cargo’s body was escorted to the train station with members of both the Nashville and Atlanta teams acting as honor guards.70 His remains were brought back to Pittsburgh and were interred at St. Mary Catholic Cemetery. Nora (who later remarried and lived until 1955) commissioned a marker reading “My Husband, Robert J. Cargo.” It rests atop a single grave, by the curb, along a winding brick road.
Last revised: January 24, 2022 (zp)
This biography was reviewed by Bill Lamb and Rory Costello and fact-checked by Kevin Larkin.
In addition to the sources shown in the notes, the author used Baseball-Reference.com and the following.
Nemec, David, The Rank and File of 19th Century Major League Baseball: Biographies of 1,084 Players, Owners, Managers and Umpires. (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2012).
1870 US Census
1880 US Census
1 Findagrave entry for Bobby Cargo (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/42917917/robert-j-cargo)
2 “Ehret Was Pounded All Over the Lot – Bobby Cargo Made His Debut at Short,” (Chicago) Inter Ocean, October 8, 1892: 6. “Sporting,” Pittsburg Press, October 18, 1892: 5
3 “Piatt Administers Bitter Pill – Russell the Doctor To-Day – Bobby Cargo Seriously Ill,” Nashville Banner, April 26, 1904: 6
4 1870 census (http://exhibit.library.pitt.edu/census/). Findagrave entry for Robert Cargo (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/90813502/robert-markel-cargo). Findagrave entry for Martha Cargo (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/90813501/martha-cargo)
5 Findagrave entry for Martha Cargo (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/90813501/martha-cargo). 1870 census (http://exhibit.library.pitt.edu/census/)
6 1900 census (Ancestry.com). Findagrave entry for Mary Cargo (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/51592432/mary-cargo)
7 1900 census (Ancestry.com). Findagrave entry for William Denison (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/90844525/william-denison). Findagrave entry for Elizabeth Denison (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/153895603/elizabeth-denison)
8 Roster for the 155th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers Company C (http://www.pa-roots.com/pacw/infantry/155th/155thcoc.html). Findagrave entry for Robert Cargo (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/90813502/robert-markel-cargo)
14 “Ball Playing Family,” (Elmira, New York) Gazette and Free Press, July 7, 1903: 3.
17 “Bobby Cargo Was a Great Favorite,” (East Liverpool, Ohio) Evening News Review, April 28, 1904: 1. “Base Ball Gossip from the Local and Other Fields,” Pittsburg Press, April 3, 1892: 6.
18 “The Alleghenys and the Patched-Up Acmes Have a Friendly Bout,” Pittsburgh Post, October 16, 1890: 6
19 Nemec, David, The Rank and File of 19th Century Major League Baseball: Biographies of 1,084 Players, Owners, Managers and Umpires. (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2012), 195.
20 “Two Games at Bridgeville To-Day – Hot Contest All Around,” Pittsburgh Post, July 11, 1891: 6.
21 “The Gyms Are Victorious,” Pittsburgh Post, August 13, 1891: 6.
22 “Bobby Cargo Was a Great Favorite,” Evening News Review, April 28, 1904: 1.
23 “The County League Schedule Committee Appointed To-Day,” Pittsburg Press, January 7, 1892: 6.
24 “Bobby Cargo Goes with the Pittsburg Team – Other Players Signed,” Pittsburg Dispatch, May 8, 1892: 6. Nemec, David. The Rank and File of 19th Century Major League Baseball: Biographies of 1,084 Players, Owners, Managers and Umpires. (Jefferson, North Carolina & London: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2012), 195.39
25 “Base Ball Notes,” Pittsburgh Post, June 8, 1892: 3.
26 Nemec, 39.
27 “Yesterday’s Big League Games,” Pittsburgh Press, June 15, 1892: 5. “The East End Gyms Defeat the Sewickleys with Little Trouble,” Pittsburg Dispatch, August 7, 1892: 6.
28 “McKeever and Cargo Back From the Wild West,” Pittsburgh Post, August 1, 1892: 6.
29 “The East End Gyms Defeat the Sewickleys With Little Trouble,” Pittsburg Dispatch, August 7, 1892: 6.
30 “Bobby Cargo Will Be Given a Trial at Short,” Pittsburgh Post, October 6, 1892: 6. Baseball references do not have data on Cargo’s height and weight.
31 “Bobby Cargo Will Be Tried and Glasscock May Not Come Here,” Pittsburg Dispatch, October 6, 1892: 8.
32 “Base Ball Briefs,” Pittsburg Press, October 7, 1892: 5.
33 “Ehret Was Pounded All Over the Lot – Bobby Cargo Made His Debut at Short,” (Chicago) Inter Ocean, October 8, 1892: 6.
34 “Young Shugart Left for His Home Last Evening,” Pittsburg Press, October 8, 1892: 1.
35 “Sporting,” Pittsburg Press, October 18, 1892: 5.
36 “Late Sporting Notes,” Pittsburg Press, November 8, 1892: 7.
37 East Liverpool Historical Society (http://www.eastliverpoolhistoricalsociety.org/OPbaseball.htm). “Bobby Cargo Was a Great Favorite,” Evening News Review, April 28, 1904: 1
38 “Bobby Cargo Painfully Injured,” (Altoona, Pennsylvania) Morning Tribune, July 17, 1893: 4.
39 “Baseball Brevities,” Pittsburg Press, May 8, 1894: 5.
40 “Baseball Gossip,” Pittsburg Press, October 25, 1899: 5.
41 “Base Ball Notes,” (Franklin, Pennsylvania) Evening News, December 12, 1894: 2.
42 “Big League Notes,” Gazette and Free Press, February 20, 1895: 6.
43 “Sporting Notes,” Pittsburg Post, April 5, 1895: 6.
44 “Base Hits,” (Missoula, Montana) Missoulian, May 9, 1895: 1.
45 “Carbondale Was Beaten Without Much Difficulty by a Score of 10 to 5,” (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) New Era, June 27, 1895: 4.
46 “Lancaster Was Not in the Game at Hazleton Yesterday,” (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) Intelligencer Journal, August 15, 1895: 1.
47 “Base Ball Notes,” Intelligencer Journal, August 22, 1895: 6.
48 “About Sports in General,” Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Telegraph, September 4, 1895: 1.
49 “A Ball Player in Trouble,” (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) Morning News, March 28, 1896: 1. “No Evidence Against Him,” New Era, March 31, 1896: 1. “The Case Dismissed,” Morning News, March 31, 1896: 4
50 “Signed a Matrimonial Contract,” Morning News, May 29, 1896: 4. Death certificate for Nora Cargo Watson (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/5164/images/42410_2421406271_1025-03873?treeid=&personid=&hintid=&queryId=31e0f8e256cddbca3ecd5785958b0a2d&usePUB=true&_phsrc=qgq432&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true&_ga=2.144694069.1438511686.1632103105-1756356071.1615436633&pId=6615566)
51 “Notes,” New Era, May 13, 1897: 3.
52 “Our Winnie Is Fourth,” Evening News Review, September 18, 1897: 7.
53 “Sporting Notes,” Pittsburgh Post, November 27, 1897: 6.
54 “No Truth in a Tale,” Evening News Review, December 17, 1898.
55 “Cargo and Graffius, of New Castle, Sign with Toledo,” Pittsburgh Post, March 10, 1901: 14.
56 “Nashville’s Second,” Nashville American, March 28, 1903: 6.
57 “Sporting Notes,” Pittsburgh Post, April 2, 1903: 8.
58 “Newt Will Let Loose the Coin,” Nashville Banner, July 9, 1903: 2.
59 “Base Ball Gossip,” Nashville American, July 17, 1903: 6.
60 “Montgomery To-Day,” Nashville American, August 10, 1903: 3.
61 “Players Contrasted,” Nashville Banner, September 21, 1903: 2.
62 “Fisher Sells Bobby Cargo,” Nashville Banner, December 17, 1903: 9.
63 “Base Ball Notes,” (Washington DC) Evening Star, January 20, 1904: 9.
64 “Sporting Notes,” Pittsburgh Post, February 25, 1904: 8.
65 “Sporting Gossip,” Atlanta Constitution, March 20, 1904: 9.
66 “Sporting Gossip,” Atlanta Constitution, March 21, 1904: 10.
67 “Robert Cargo Died Yesterday,” Atlanta Constitution, April 28, 1904: 4. “Cargo is Seriously Ill,” Atlanta Constitution, April 27, 1904: 14
68 “Around the Bases,” Nashville Banner, June 27, 1904: 6.
69 The Reach: Official American League Baseball Guide 1905. (Philadelphia: A.J. Reach Company, 1905), 283.
70 “Fishermen Didn’t Play, Escort Remains of Bobby Cargo to Depot,” Nashville Banner, April 28, 1904: 6.