Bunny Fabrique

This article was written by David Krell


Bunny FabriqueIt’s a common tale.

A major-league prospect falters after being celebrated as a highly significant addition to the team. So goes the story of Albert LaVerne “Bunny” Fabrique, who played in 27 games for the Brooklyn Robins in 1916-1917 and enjoyed a reported, though improbable, familial lineage to King Louis XVI.1

In 1917 spring training reports blared Fabrique’s association with the team — quite an honor, considering that the Brooklyn nine had won the 1916 National League pennant. Fabrique’s arrival forced manager Wilbert Robinson to do some rearranging; he moved Ivy Olson from shortstop to third base.2 In turn, Brooklynites savored his arrival. “The doings of Fabrique have awakened more interest in fandom than even the good showing against the World’s Champions [Boston Red Sox],” reported the Brooklyn Citizen. “It is so long since the Brooklyn Club has had a good shortstop that the fans won’t believe that Fabrique is as good as they say until they are convinced by their own eyes.”3 The New York Herald compared the 150-pound Fabrique, also a champion pool player, to Brooklyn stalwart Bill Dahlen4 — 2012 recipient of SABR’s Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legends.

But it was not to be. Three weeks into June, the switch-hitting Fabrique’s major-league tenure ended: two games in 1916, 25 in 1917.

Born in Clinton, Michigan, to Charles and Mabel Fabrique on December 23, 1887, Albert grew up with nearly enough family members to field a team: three brothers (Charles, Harry, Frank) and one sister (Ethel). Their mother died on August 2, 1890, at the age of 29 or 30.5 Charles remarried, to Nellie Jane Embler, whom Bunny designated as a beneficiary if he died during his World War I military service.6

Tragedy struck in 1898 when Nellie gave birth prematurely; the baby died the same day’7 Later, Bunny’s half-sister, Arville Marie, was born. The 1900 U.S. Census shows Fabrique’s name as “Lawrence” and living with his paternal grandmother Cynthia, along with siblings Ethel and Harry.8 Charles was listed as a machinist; no occupation was given for Nellie.9

The 5-foot-6 ¾ Fabrique honed his skills on a baseball diamond on North Jackson Street in Clinton and began his professional baseball career 30 miles from home with the Jackson Convicts in the Class D Southern Michigan League. From 1908 to 1910, he hit with consistency: .218, .219, and .218. But in 1911 he boosted his average to .300. On defense, though generally believed to be a decent fielder, he was often more subpar than skillful. “Fabrique with his five errors on Wednesday last, set a league record for the season,” reported the Detroit Free Press.10

After the 1911 season, Fabrique indulged his other passion — hunting — with a late-September expedition in northern Michigan organized by Convicts manager Charles Fox, teammate Ernie Baxter, and Harry McNellis of the Lansing Senators.11 A few days later Fox sold Fabrique to the Fort Wayne Railroaders in the Class B Central League.12 Fort Wayne catcher Harry Martin said, “He is fast and has a powerful arm and is better on balls to his extreme right than any infielder I have ever seen work, because of the confidence he has in his whip.”13

Fabrique’s batting was expected to silence skeptics, but he batted only .241 in 1912. His base running ability was another matter. Although no official figures were available at the time, he was estimated to have 40 stolen bases by mid-season and expected to lead the league.14 Fort Wayne won the Central League pennant. Fabrique was drafted by the Providence Grays of the International League at the end of September, but they returned him the following spring.

With a new focus, Fabrique proved himself an effective leadoff hitter. By early June, he had reached first base safely a dozen out of 20 at-bats. Batting .285 by mid-June, he was among the top ten in runs scored and stolen bases. More impressive than his play was his character; Fabrique would step up and admit an error.15 His fielding was praised, too, though he had a weakness reported as “going back on pop flies into short left, but he is rapidly overcoming this.”16

In August 1913 he was hitting .302 when the Detroit Tigers acquired him, but he didn’t see any time in a Detroit uniform; they sent him to Providence, where he hit .259 in 35 games.

Fabrique was a fixture in Providence in 1914, batting .243 in 147 games for the International League champions. One of his teammates was a 19-year-old pitcher who became baseball’s preeminent slugger — Babe Ruth. Before the 1917 season, Fabrique praised his former teammates: “This chap [Carl] Mays knows a whole lot about the pitching game and he knows that he knows it. Ruth has everything a pitcher could have but doesn’t seem to know it, and if he lacks anything it is complete confidence in his own ability to baffle the opposition.” 17 His offseason pursuits of hunting and fishing were highlighted by the Providence Daily Journal in January with a picture of Fabrique accompanied by the caption “Shortstop, Who is Hunting and Fishing in Florida. Will Train With Chicago Cubs Until Time to Report at Hot Springs With Providence Squad.”18

Returning to Providence for the 1915 season, Fabrique jumped his average to .261 in 137 games. His .312 BA in 1916 caught the attention of the Brooklyn Robins, the 1916 National League champs, who drafted him.

He played in two games for Brooklyn at the end of the season and seemed destined for the 1917 lineup when he drew plaudits for his work in exhibition games against the world champion Red Sox. Umpire Silk O’Loughlin said, “I have never seen a more likely-looking shortstop in all my days in the big league.” 19 He got off to a great start in his first game, going 2-for-4 with infield hits, followed by a single and a double in an 11-3 loss to the Phillies, and two hits in a loss to the Giants. “[A]s the days roll on Fabrique is going to be a big factor in the score making,”20 reported the Brooklyn Standard Union.

His first errors came the next day against the Giants. More errors followed. Brooklyn manager Wilbert Robinson cared not about Fabrique’s stumbles, though, preferring to lean instead on the intangible value of attitude. “For years he has been fired with ambition to get into the big show. Now that the opportunity has come to him after he has matured he will not likely forget anything that the chance implies. I think that before the end of the season Fabrique will earn his place among the great shortstops of the game.”21

Fabrique, in a show of maturity, did not let the headlines or the hype get to his head. “I’ve had nine years to study my job. Of course, I am far from satisfied that I have made good. I’ll make good, though, if hustling and application count.”22

By April 23, Fabrique was batting .400. But by early May, disappointment prevailed among the rooters. “The Brooklyn fans are beginning to find fault with Shortstop Bunny Fabrique. The Frenchman started like a whirlwind, but the fans have discovered that he gets all mixed up covering second base and that he can’t work with [George] Cutshaw.”23

With America involved in World War I, Fabrique and several teammates, including Zack Wheat and Casey Stengel, signed draft papers on May 26 at Ebbets Field.24 A month later, Brooklyn shipped Fabrique to Toledo in the American Association, where he hit .299 in 84 games. Fabrique’s time in the major leagues was over with a .205 BA for his 25 games in 1917.

Fabrique enrolled in the Naval Reserve Force on May 10, 1918, and was assigned to Newport, Rhode Island, where he played on the unit’s baseball team. A Machinist Mate, First Class, he served from May 13, 1918, to February 12, 1919, when he requested inactive duty because of “an aged mother [44 years old] dependent upon me for support.”25 A month before he had enlisted, he had been hired by the Chino Copper Company in Santa Rita, New Mexico. In line with its policy of keeping jobs open for men in wartime service, the mining company had a slot waiting for him. He intended to become a mining engineer. But complete abandonment of baseball eluded him. He played for a semipro team in Santa Rita and opened the 1919 season with the Seattle Rainiers in the Class AA Pacific Coast League. Called “a husky boost” by the Seattle Star,26 he gave Seattle fans something to cheer about with two great defensive plays in his first game.27

The Seattle stint only lasted a couple of months; Fabrique was fired in early June and signed with the Los Angeles Angels. “Bunny Fabrique of the Angels is not a star by any means, but he is so good that it would be difficult to replace him,”28 praised the San Francisco Examiner.

The Los Angeles front office didn’t quite see it that way and traded Fabrique and first baseman Jack Fournier to the St. Louis Cardinals in February, 1920, for four players. In a bit of circular logic, the deal prompted a theory in Seattle that the infielders would return because St. Louis had a prior deal for “a couple of players” to send to Seattle.29 Instead, the Cardinals kept Fournier and sent Fabrique to the Kansas City Blues for cash.

After playing in 25 games, Fabrique left Kansas City with pitcher Bill Evans for Oil City, Pennsylvania with an offer to play semipro baseball that they “just couldn’t turn down.”30 There were three others in the American Association who had jumped because of the industrial leagues doling greenbacks, an opportunity created in western Pennsylvania because of postwar prosperity in the region’s business troika — petroleum, banking, glass.

Fabrique excelled for the Oil City Independents in the semipro “Two-Team League” against rival Franklin, batting .316 in 108 games. Oil City’s brethren also found out that the former major leaguer was a great shot. An item in the Oil City Derrick highlighted his outstanding performance at the city’s Trapshooters’ Club.31

Independents fans anticipated Fabrique’s return in 1921. He was on the Pacific Coast for the winter, but the Derrick reported that a letter from Fabrique “states that he is in great shape and feeling fine, but he don’t [sic] seem to realize that we are getting anxious.”32 Fabrique returned, but it was a short-lived tenure. He went back to the West Coast in late July to play for the Dinuba Sun Maids in the San Joaquin Valley League just before the Two-Team League disbanded for financial reasons, ending an Oil City-Franklin baseball rivalry that went back more than 50 years.

In 1922 Fabrique was a gold standard at the age of 34, leading the league’s second half with a .431 average. His defensive skills were still sharp. In a 1923 game for Hanford, he made a “circus stop” on a ground ball and got the batter out “by a close decision.”33

Though his time in the major leagues was short, it was still enough to make him big news in smaller cities. In 1924, the Journal Times in Racine ran a story with a larger-than-normal headline about the Industrials, a team in the semipro Midwest League: “Ball Team Angles For Bunny Fabrique, Former Major Star.”34 He only lasted till early June.

Fabrique found work with the Petroleum Midways in a six-team, Southern California semipro league in 1925, but appeared in only two of the 14 games. Now 37, he went back to the minors to play second base with the Springfield Senators in the Class B Illinois-Indiana-Iowa (III) League. Age mattered not; he batted .283 in 89 games. The Senators were a new ball club; January articles in the Illinois State Journal implored fans to open their wallets for financial support as the city’s government considered becoming a professional baseball locale. Bunny was released in late April. The Journal opined that he “doubtless will line up with some league in short order.”35 Indeed, probably unbeknownst to the newspaper’s scribes, Fabrique was already looking 620 miles southward to take over the helm of the Vicksburg Hillbillies in the Class D Cotton States League.

Fabrique played in 109 games and hit .277.36 He stayed on for 1927 but left after 39 games and a .272 average. That appears to be the end of Bunny Fabrique’s baseball career. The Vicksburg Evening Post lauded him despite the team’s last-place standing at the time: “Fabrique has made many friends here who will regret to learn of his leaving. It is likely he will return to his home in Springfield.”37

Additionally, it noted that Fabrique’s tenure began at the second half of the 1925 season and “turned a hopeless tail end club into a first-place aggregation and finished the season in first place.”38

Fabrique had been married twice — to Ella Hastings of Michigan39 and Lois Manning of Rhode Island.40 The marriage to Lois, daughter of Francis Manning and Marry [sic] Manning née Walsh took place on March 11, 1919.41 Since Lois’s death in 1925 of tuberculosis,42 he had lived with his sister, Ethel Ward, in Clinton.43

Like his father, a machinist for forty years who died in 1927, Bunny Fabrique was a machinist in Dearborn for Ford and the Clinton Machine Company,44 retiring in 1957. Though Clinton was his home, Rhode Island’s 1935 state census shows that Fabrique was a gas station proprietor and lived next to Rhode Island Sound.45

The ex-ballplayer who had a dalliance with the major leagues died at Veterans Hospital in Ann Arbor on January 11, 1960.46 The cause of death was Laennec’s Cirrhosis.47 His brothers had predeceased him.

Bunny Fabrique’s headstone has no indication that he played baseball. But his military service is noted.

 

Acknowledgments

The author thanks Doris Eckel at the Venango County Historical Society (Pennsylvania), the sports department at The Derrick (Oil City, Pennsylvania), and Sharon Scott of The Historical Society of Clinton, Michigan, for their invaluable research assistance. In addition, Jane Richard-Lerma, the granddaughter of Bunny’s half-sister, provided terrific support for this biography, which was reviewed by Bill Nowlin and Norman Macht and fact-checked by Kevin Larkin.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.

 

Notes

1 “If Louis XVI. had possessed the nerve and steel of his descendant there is a possibility that France would be a kingdom today.” “Royal Blood In Views Of Fabrique, The Fort Wayne Infielder,” Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, March 19, 1912: 6.

2 “Fabrique covers lots of ground at short, being equally fast and sure to his right or left. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 9, 1917: 20.

3 “Through The Sportiscope,” Brooklyn Citizen, April 2, 1917: 4.

4 New York Herald, March 20, 1917: 15.

5 “Mabel M. Carpenter Fabrique,” Find A Grave,” https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/78029263/mabel-m.-fabrique.

6 Albert Laverne Fabrique File, National Personnel Records Center, National Archives, St. Louis, Missouri.

7 Baby Boy Fabrique, Certificate and Record of Death, Michigan, Department of State — Division of Vital Statistics, May 6, 1898, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/101405911/baby_boy-fabrique.

8United States Census, 1900, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1MS9S-VHN:, Lawrence Fabrique in household of Cynthia Fabrique, Clinton township Clinton village, Lenawee, Michigan, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 42, sheet 2A, family 38, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.). FHL microfilm 1,240,725.

9 1900 United States Federal Census, Ancestry.com,

10 Detroit Free Press, September 18, 1910: 18.

11 Lansing State Journal, September 27, 1911: 3.

12 Lansing State Journal, September 29, 1911: 13.

13 South Bend Tribune, January 22, 1912: 8.

14 Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, July 28, 1912: 16.

15 Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, August 2, 1913: 6.

16 Fort Wayne Daily News, August 5, 1913: 3.

17 The Tennessean (Nashville), March 4, 1917: 18.

18 Providence Journal, January 27, 1915: 6.

19 Brooklyn Daily Times, March 19, 1917: 7.

20 Standard Union (Brooklyn), April 17, 1917: 10.

21New-York Tribune, May 6, 1917: 22.

22 Tribune

23 Binghamton Press, May 5, 1917: 14.

24 Brooklyn Daily Times, May 26, 1917: 1.

25 Albert Laverne Fabrique File, National Personnel Records Center, National Archives, St. Louis, Missouri.

26 Leo H. Lassen, Seattle Star, March 10, 1919: 11.

27 San Francisco Examiner, April 9, 1919: 10.

28 Examiner, December 10, 1919: 16.

29 Seattle Star, February 10, 1920: 10.

30 Topeka Daily State Journal, May 17, 1920: 5.

31 Oil City Derrick, September 15, 1920: 12.

32 Derrick, April 5, 1921: 12.

33 P. E. Ritcha, “Sports,” Visalia Daily Times, September 24, 1923: 4.

34 Journal-News (Racine, WI), March 5, 1924: 14.

35 Illinois State Journal, April 29, 1926: 12.

36 Daily Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, MS), July 2, 1926: 7.

37 Vicksburg Evening Post, June 7, 1927: 7.

38 Post

39 Find A Grave, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/190785492/ella-i_-fabrique.

40 Find A Grave, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/131697712/lois-catherine-fabrique.

41 Michigan Marriages, 1868-1925, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N3YH-D9Z:L 15 January 2019, Albert L Fabrique and Lois Manning, 1919.

42 Lois Catherine Fabrique, Certificate of Death, Rhode Island Public Health Commission.

43 Ellen L. Rants, Ann Arbor News to Joseph E. Simenic, Plain Dealer (Cleveland), October 18, 1962, Bunny Fabrique File, Giamatti Research Center, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The letter does not mention Ward’s husband or her marital status.

44 Clinton Michigan] Local, January 11, 1960: 1.

45 Rhode Island State Census, 1935, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MPR4-1ZDL: 11 March 2018), Albert L Fabrique, Kent, Rhode Island, United States; State Archives, Providence; FHL microfilm 1,712,069.

46 Oakland Tribune, January 11, 1960: 36.

47 Certificate of Death, Michigan Department of Health.

Full Name

Albert LaVerne Fabrique

Born

December 23, 1887 at Clinton, MI (USA)

Died

January 10, 1960 at Ann Arbor, MI (USA)

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