Jacob Reisigl (pronounced like ‘bicycle’) was born on December 12, 1887, in Brooklyn, New York. He was the third of six children born to Florense Reisigl, a German-born tailor who emigrated to the United States in 1868, and Mary Reisigl, born in New York. His siblings were Florense Jr., Charles, Caroline, William, and Rosa. Not much is known of young Jacob’s primary years in Brooklyn. In 1906 and 1907, he pitched for the Seminole (New York) Athletic Club. The next year, he pitched for the Maujer X semipro team in New York City, which faced the Colored Iona Giants,1 and later for the Brooklyn Athletic Association squad.2 His B.A.C. teammate Andy Herbst, a pitcher for the New Haven (Connecticut) Blues of the Class B Connecticut State League, recommended Reisigl to Blues’ owner George Cameron.
In early 1909, 21-year-old Jacob married 19-year-old Louise Reuss. Soon, Jacob headed out to play with New Haven (now called the Black Crows) and manager George Bone. Jacob was indefinitely suspended by New Haven in June, with reports claiming, “Jack has been acting badly for a week, and he has been talking as bad as he has acted. He is useless to the team in his present condition and he will be allowed to sober off. He started well but has been in rank form for a fortnight.”3
Upon his return, Jacob was not admired by his teammates, who physically beat him up on August 5. As the story went, Reisigl “grinned with delight” when the other pitchers on the team were being pounded. He was thusly given a “wholesome punching.”4 Later in the season before a contest against Holyoke, captain Elmer Zacher caught Reisigl fraternizing in Holyoke’s dressing room just before a game in which Reisigl was starting on the mound. After the game, teammates “went in search of him. They saw him and he ran and they could not catch him.”5 After these incidents, newspaper reports started to refer to him as “Bugs” Reisigl. Jacob’s brother Charles also was a pitcher on the 1909 New Haven team, but was released in August.6
Reisigl posted an 11-18 record for New Haven, but was singled out by league umpire Mike O’Brien as the best pitcher in the Connecticut League for 1909: “When Bill Carrick [incoming New Haven manager] takes hold of young Reisigl and puts on the finishing touches you will have a wonder in the Brooklyn boy. He is bound to improve and will surely show much class next season.”7
However, Reisigl was traded before the season to the Davenport (Iowa) Prodigals of the Three-I League for George Reitz.8 Reitz, though, retired, so the trade was voided and Reisigl remained with New Haven. The relationship between Reisigl and manager Carrick was rocky. In June 1910, Bugs was suspended for insubordination.9 Reisigl failed to show up on a road trip to Hartford, and did not offer an acceptable explanation. It was stated that Carrick “has experienced considerable trouble recently with Reisigl. He gave him several chances to brace up, but ‘Bugs’ seemed to pay no attention to the several warnings.”10 Upon his return later in the month, Bugs struck out 14 against Bridgeport, being “as happy as a kid with a stick of candy going to the hotel on a trolley.”11 New Haven’s shortstop was a 19-year-old named Roger Peckinpaugh. Reisigl ended with a 15-13 mark in 1910. In the fall, he was drafted by the Brooklyn Superbas, who quickly turned him over to the Rochester Bronchos of the Class A Eastern League.12 Rochester, in turn, returned Reisigl to New Haven (now called the Murlins) for the 1911 season, now managed by Pop Foster.
By June, Chicago Cubs scout Stan Yerkes was sizing up Murlin pitchers Reisigl and Eddie Dent.13 The next week, Reisigl threw a one-hit shutout against Hartford.14 In mid-August, the “eccentric twirler” was sold by New Haven to the Cleveland Naps for $2,000.15 Over 342 innings, Reisigl finished 20-14 for New Haven, one behind teammate Dent’s 21 wins for the league lead. In one of his last starts for New Haven, Reisigl, “who is the chosen prophet to lead the Cleveland team into the Promised Land, was swept off the mound like a chaff before wind” in a blowout loss to league-winning Bridgeport.16 He joined the Naps in Boston on September 18.
Reisigl made his major league debut on September 20, 1911, against the New York Highlanders at Hilltop Park. He started and took the complete-game loss, 5-4, to Ray Caldwell in the seven-inning nightcap of a doubleheader, called on account of darkness. Reisigl allowed five runs on five hits, including a Hal Chase homer, two walks, and four strikeouts.17 Nonetheless, reports stated that “Reisigl outpitched Caldwell,” with Chase’s homer being the only extra-base hit.18 Both games of the doubleheader were attended by Vice President of the United States James Sherman.
In Reisigl’s only other major league appearance on September 28, he pitched six innings in relief of starter Gene Krapp against the Philadelphia Athletics at Shibe Park. Reisigl allowed four runs on eight hits and a walk with two strikeouts. After the season, he pitched for the Connecticut State Leaguers All-Stars in a Sunday October game against Walter Johnson’s barnstorming gang.19 Then it was “back to the bushes” for Bugs; he was returned to New Haven.20 In the off-season he worked as a motorman for the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company.
Even while re-acquiring Reisigl for $1,500, New Haven owner George Cameron made “no great effort to keep the erratic one.I wasn’t surprised when I learned that the Naps were ready to dicker with me for the return of Reisigl. He is a good pitcher. But everything he has is brought out in his name. He is ‘Bugs.’ He is too eccentric. If I get a chance to sell him, I will sell him. And then again I may keep him.”21
Reisigl likewise wasn’t overly enamored with playing a fourth season for Cameron: “I wouldn’t sign a contract for Cameron for a salary of $500 per month, as I know that he would suspend me and get it all back again, that is why I call him the cheapest manager for whom I ever played ball. I have been pitching the best ball I know for him and he only wants to pay me $175 per month. Do you call that a salary? I asked him for $225 per month. This will be my fourth year and during that time, after working faithful, he only gave me an advance $50 in the four years. I would like to pitch for the New Haven fans, but not while a man like Cameron is behind them.”22
Nonetheless, there was Reisigl pitching for New Haven in a win over Yale University in the annual April exhibition game between the two teams.23 All Bugs did in 1912 was lead the CSL with 21 wins. Reisigl’s tenure in New Haven was chronicled a quarter century later by sportswriter Clyde Waters of the Hartford Courant, reminiscing of when “’Bugs’ Reisigl persuaded several Savin Rock residents to donate various edibles for each game he won and after each victory, setting forth with a market basket on either arm to collect the week’s groceries.”24
After the season, Reisigl was selected by the Providence Grays of the International League in the Class A draft.25 Now commonly referred to as “Jake,” he won five of his first six games for the Grays.26 He even surprised at the plate, with one report stating: “Local fans who remember Pitcher Reisigl’s behavior while at bat will be shocked to learn the joke swatsmith got two hits yesterday, one of them a triple.”27 In July 1913, Reisigl, although still with Providence, struck out 16 for the local semipro Elks team, yet lost to Buffalo’s star amateur team the First Wards in city league action.28 Bugs was admonished by the league office, but allowed to stay with the Greys. He finished with a 14-15 record in 1913 for second-place Providence. Jake, “the curved-legged twirler” of the Greys, got “in bad” with his teammates after his balk allowed the only run to score in a September loss to the first-place Newark Indians.29 In October, Reisigl formed his own all-star squad with Brooklyn-area minor leaguers, and faced a squad headed by fellow International League pitcher Johnny Enzmann.30
In March 1914, he was loaned by Providence to Savannah for the day to face the Chicago Cubs in exhibition ball.31 In May, Providence sent Reisigl to the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Class A Southern Association, with the report asserting that he “couldn’t get into shape this season.”32 In his first game, against Birmingham, he surrendered nine runs in six relief innings.33 He lost his Lookouts starting debut, 2-1, on May 27 to Rube Kisinger and New Orleans.34 He was released after seven games with Chattanooga.
Reisigl hitched up with the Topeka Jayhawks of the Class A Western League in early June. He shut out Des Moines and George Mogridge, 1-0, in September.35 “Reisigl was as good a pitcher as the Western League boasted” in 1914.36 He finished 17-13 in 36 games for seventh-place Topeka, with a 2.64 ERA, good for second place among starters in the league behind Jim Scoggins of Lincoln.
In early January. Reisigl had become property of the Detroit Tigers. A report stated that “he has a fine curve ball but on account of his erratic temperament has shown a tendency to blow up in critical situations.”37 By late January, Detroit traded Reisigl to the San Francisco Seals of the Class A Pacific Coast League, managed by Harry Wolverton. Reisigl was relegated to umpiring the Seals’ loss to Santa Clara University in a late March exhibition, making “a good indicator man at that.”38 Reisigl played only sparingly. Still, the Vernon Tigers were said to be after him and Jim Thorpe in August.39 Bugs was eventually given his five-day release notice from San Francisco in early September, for “not being in condition,”40 alluding to his continued battle with the bottle. Under terms of the release, he was paid for five days beyond the date of the release notice. He ended with a 4-10 record in 27 games41 for the pennant-winning Seals. He moseyed on down the coast to Hollister, California, winning a semipro Mission League pennant with a shutout over the Monterey Packing Company Barracudas. He even pulled off a “grandstand stunt in the ninth inning,” allowing a potential shutout-breaking runner to waltz to third base, before striking out the final two batters to complete the whitewash.42
For the 1916 season, he signed with the Salt Lake City Bees, also in the PCL. Reisigl only participated in three games with Salt Lake City before being released; Bees manager Cliff Blankenship was “sore at the way Reisigl has been taking care of himself.”43 When word got back to hometown Brooklyn, the local Daily Eagle opined about his next adventure, “Jakie Reisigl has been let out by the Salt Lake club. Since leaving Brooklyn, Reisigl has drifted through several big and little leagues, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and it will not surprise his friends here to find him again pitching semi-pro ball.”44
Reisigl wired manager Walt McCredle of the PCL Portland Beavers, who was looking for arms, but he heard no response.45 Instead of heading back to New York, Bugs returned to the West Coast and Hollister, facing squads such as Salinas, Monterey, and the Pichetti Brothers Prune Pickers squad of San Jose.46 Reports surfaced in May 1916 that Bugs had signed with the Spokane Indians of the Class B Northwestern League.47 He was to meet his new team in Seattle for a series, but wired manager Nick Williams that he would report the next week. In the meantime, Spokane secured Oscar Harstad, and informed Reisigl not to bother.48
Rebuffed, Reisigl returned to semipro ball in central California, where in October he “twirled a good game and kidded the fans until they liked him.”49 Jake became a storekeeper at Columbia Steel Co. in Pittsburg, California, and managed their club. His June 1917 draft card showed him as married with three children, daughter Edna (1910) and sons John (1913) and Earl (1917). There is no record of war service for Reisigl. He threw a 1918 no-hitter for Pittsburg of the Bay Cities League against Fruitvale.50
In August 1919, the Sporting News erroneously reported Reisigl’s death in an obituary. The Oakland Tribune quipped that “just because ‘Bugs’ Reisigl’s pitching arm is dead as two doornails is no reason why the St. Louis Sporting News should inter the Pittsburg player and give his life history.”51
A fellow pitcher in the league, ex-Cleveland Indian Bill Steen, chided Reisigl: “‘Bugs,’ you’re dead and you don’t know it. Here you are taking dough from the steel company and pitching ball and everything, when as a matter of fact you cashed is your chips in Brooklyn. What’s the idea of you running around here pretending to be a live one when you are dead? You sure got\ a lot of nerve.”52
Bugs was far from dead, even in the professional ball ranks. He attended the 1921 spring training for the Dallas Submarines in the Class A Texas League, facing the Cleveland Indians and making the opening day roster. In April, the Wichita Spudders “took kindly to Reisigl’s offerings” in a victory,53 and after three games, he was released. He played for a short spell with Joplin (Missouri) Miners of the Class A Western League,54 then in six June games with the Pittsburg (Kansas) Pirates of the Class D Southwestern League. He capped the summer pitching in nine games for the Evansville (Indiana) Black Sox of the Three-I League, posting a 3-3 mark.55 In one of those games, he hurled “splendid ball” over Bloomington with Connie Mack, father of Moline manager Earle Mack, in attendance.56 In August, back in Kansas, the Reisigls welcomed their fourth child, a son, Donald.57
By 1930, Jake, Louise, and all four kids lived in Amsterdam, New York, with Jake as a salesman at Niagara Mohawk Power and Light and Edna a bookkeeper at a department store. Jake later worked as a lineman and then a collector for Niagara; his wife was a cutter as a glass shop. In 1943, Louise passed away. Jake remarried on June 3, 1946, to Margaret Geraldine Hyatt, who had two daughters and a son. In 1947, Jake pitched for Amsterdam in the Greater Troy Area Senior League.58 He retired from Niagara in 1952, before working as a special policeman and traffic officer at an elementary school in Amsterdam in the mid-1950s, and volunteering as umpire-in-chief for Amsterdam Little League.59
Jacob “Jake” Reisigl died on February 24, 1957, in Amsterdam, New York, after a 12-day hospital stay, and is buried at St. Mary Cemetery in Fort Johnson, New York. He was survived by wife Margaret; sons John and Donald; daughter Edna; and brother William.
This biography was reviewed by Bill Lamb and Norman Macht and fact-checked by David Bilmes.
In addition to the sources shown in the Notes, the author used Baseball-Reference.com, StatsCrew.com, MyHeritage.com
1 “Notes” (Brooklyn) Times Union, May 7, 1908: 8.
2 “Hawthorne Team Wins Another Game” Brooklyn Eagle, June 28, 1908: 22.
3 “Jack Reisigl is Suspended,” Record-Journal (Meriden, Connecticut), June 14, 1909: 7.
4 “Bone’s Players Beat Up Reisigl” Hartford Courant, August 6, 1909: 12.
5 Same as above.
6 “Notes,” Journal (Meriden, Connecticut), August 28, 1909: 8.
7 “Epistle for Dear George,” Hartford Courant, December 29, 1909: 14.
8 “Reitz is Traded for a Pitcher” Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa), December 28, 1909: 6.
9 “Bugs Reisigl Suspended,” Hartford Courant, June 6, 1910: 11.
10 Same as above.
11 “’Bugs’ Beat Bridgeports,” Bridgeport (Connecticut) Times, June 30, 1910: 7.
12 “Notes” Bridgeport Times, January 21, 1911: 4.
13 “Scout Watching Dent and Reisigl,” Bridgeport (Connecticut) Evening Farmer, June 5, 1911: 8.
14 “But One Hit Off ‘Bugs’ Reisigl,” Hartford Courant, June 13, 1911: 15.
15 “Bugs Reisigl is Sold to Cleveland,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, August 14, 1911: 8.
16 “McCann’s Men Give Reisigl Bad Beating and Also Slaughter Chalky Clunn” Bridgeport Times, September 2, 1911: 7.
17 “Chase Gets Home Run Off Reisigl,” Hartford Courant, September 21, 1911: 19.
18 “Reisigl is Defeated by Chace’s (sic) Hit,” Bridgeport Times, September 21, 1911: 7.
19 “Notes,” Bridgeport Times, October 19, 1911: 7.
20 “Back to the Bushes for Bugs Reisigl” Hartford Courant, December 11, 1911: 16.
21 “Bugs Reisigl to Rejoin New Haven” Bridgeport Times, December 11, 1911: 7.
22 “Bugs Reisigl Denounces Cameron and Says He Won’t Joing New Haven,” Bridgeport Times, March 21, 1912: 7.
23 “New Haven Beats Yale,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 24, 1912: 10.
24 Clyde M. Waters, “Calling ‘Em Right,” Hartford Courant, April 4, 1937: 44.
25 “Bugs Reisigl and Vann are Drafted” Bridgeport Times, September 24, 1912: 2.
26 “Baseball Notes” Rutland (Vermont) Herald, May 21, 1913: 6.
27 “Notes” Buffalo Enquirer, June 4, 1913: 6.
28 “First Ward Team Shuts Elks Out,” Buffalo Times, July 28, 1913: 9.
29 “Jake Reisigl is ‘in Bad,’” Buffalo Courier, September 20, 1913: 8.
30 “Jack Reisigl’s Team to Play at Arctic Park,” (Brooklyn) Standard Union, October 22, 1913: 12.
31 “Cubs Have Batting Bee,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 20, 1914: 11.
32 “Pitcher Reisigl Goes to Chattanooga Club for More Seasoning” Bridgeport Times, May 8, 1914: 10.
33 “Barons Whip Lookouts” Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser, May 15, 1914: 11.
34 “Rube Winner over Reisigl” Chattanooga (Tennessee) Times, May 28, 1914: 8.
35 Jay House “Kaws Come Back; Shut Out Izzies” Topeka (Kansas) Capital, September 10, 1914: 2.
36 “Notes” Topeka (Kansas) State Journal, January 27, 1915: 3.
37 “Reisigl, Old New Haven Star to Get Trial with Detroit” Bridgeport Times, December 29, 1914: 8.
38 “Seals Beaten by Santa Clara, Score 5 to 1,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 26, 1915: 11.
39 “Vernon After Jim Thorpe and Bugs Reisigl,” Evening Mail (Stockton, California), August 31, 1915: 6.
40 “Schmidt a Pirate,” Salt Lake Tribune, September 12, 1915: 38.
41 “Bugs Reisigl Given 5-Day Release Note” Los Angeles Evening Express, September 3, 1915: 22.
42 “Hollister Wins Pennant,” Oakland Tribune, September 26, 1915: 40.
43 “Blank Cuts Strings on Pitchers Mullins and ‘Bugs’ Reisigl” Salt Lake Herald-Republican, April 26, 1916: 13.
44 “Notes” Brooklyn Eagle, May 8, 1916: 20.
45 “Reisigl Would Be Beaver” (Portland) Oregon Journal, April 26, 1916: 11.
46 “Stage is Set for Baseball Struggle” Monterey (California) Cypress, May 14, 1916: 1.
47 “’Bugs’ Reisigl Signed” Bakersfield (California) Californian, May 24, 1916: 8.
48 “Manager Williams Releases Reisigl, Frisco Pitcher Prospect” Spokane (Washington) Chronicle, May 29, 1916: 12.
49 “Sperry Flour Best by Test” Stockton (California) Evening Record, October 9, 1916: 5.
50 “Reisigl Twirls No-Hit, No-Run for Pittsburg,” San Francisco Examiner, February 11, 1918: 11.
51 “’Bugs’ Reisigl is Dead but He Won’t Admit It” Oakland Tribune, August 24, 1919: 31.
52 Oakland Tribune, August 24, 1919: 31.
53 “Spudders Easily Defeat Marines,” Galveston (Texas) News, April 18, 1921: 4.
54 “Western League,” Hutchinson (Kansas) News, May 7, 1921: 3.
55 “Moline Holds Many Honors,” Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), July 30, 1921: 12.
56 “Reisigl Hurls Splendid Ball to Annex Game,” Evansville (Indiana) Journal, July 23, 1921: 6.
57 “Notes,” Pittsburg (Kansas) Headlight, August 22, 1921: 3.
58 “Mahar Veterans Chalk Up Win,” Times Record (Troy, New York), July 24, 1947: 34.
59 “Jacob Reisigl, Prominent Local Sports Figure, Succumbs at 69,” unidentified Brooklyn newspaper clipping contained in Reisigl file at the Baseball Hall of Fame.