Thesaurus.com has dozens of synonyms for the term “clubhouse lawyer” ranging from advisor to kibitzer to buttinski. Joe Garagiola was more precise in his depiction. “A clubhouse lawyer is a .210 hitter who isn’t playing. He gripes about everything … and he’s a perpetual second-guesser.”1 But what happens when a player is actually a law-school graduate and has been admitted to the bar? Such was the case of infielder Charlie Ziegler, who had a brief professional career from 1898 to 1903 and more than his share of legal issues revolving around his career.
Ziegler attended Ohio State University and graduated with a law degree. He was admitted to the bar soon after. He put his law career on hold and played baseball in 1897-98 for his hometown, Canton, Ohio, team. The team was formed as the Canton Base Ball Association and was a cooperative with the 12 players as stockholders. In 1897 the team played an independent schedule mostly against teams that would form the Ohio State League in 1898.
In late September of 1897 six of the players signed a secret agreement for a lease of the ballpark. When the 1898 season approached, Ferd Drumm and his contingent announced themselves as the true Canton team and revealed their new lease. Six other players, including Ziegler, quickly filed for an injunction.2 Ziegler did not act as the group’s attorney; they hired the former mayor for that. It took about a week before the matter was resolved in favor of Ziegler and his mates. Four of the splinter group rejoined Ziegler’s crew.3
The Canton team found themselves in legal trouble later in the year. A citizen named Thomas J. Raber signed an affidavit charging nine men, including Ziegler, with illegally playing baseball on Sunday, July 31. The players waived a jury trial and had the case heard before a judge. Oddly, Raber did not attend the game but had received information mysteriously from an anonymous source. Ziegler did not act as an attorney in the case. The judge found the players guilty and fined them each $1 plus costs.4
The following year Ziegler joined the Wheeling Stogies in the Class B Interstate League. He was released to the Springfield team in the same league, but the Stogies withheld his final paycheck. Ziegler filed an affidavit with the court in Wheeling and on August 27 constables in Wheeling attached the club’s share of the gate receipts. Ziegler wanted the $12.50 he was owed paid out of the confiscated funds. He received his back pay and the Stogies paid an additional $10 in costs.5
In 1858 Henry D. Ziegler married Mary Hollwig and settled near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He served with the 93rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. After the war, the family moved to Canton, Ohio, where Henry worked as a coachmaker and later a liveryman. The couple welcomed seven children into the world but only three lived to see the twentieth century. Charles Wallace Ziegler was born on January 13, 1875.6
Ziegler was a member of the graduating class of 1893 from Canton High School. A talented, hard-working student, he delivered an oration on the study of astronomy at the graduation ceremony. Little is known about Ziegler’s early baseball schooling. Having older brothers and growing up in an area where minor-league ball was prevalent certainly fed his interest. He reportedly played baseball at Ohio State.7 A shortstop in his early years, he attracted the attention of the team in Rockford, Illinois, and went to camp with them in 1897. A hand injury kept him from making the squad.
Ziegler joined his hometown team, playing shortstop and batting third in the lineup. Statistics published in the local paper gave him a .278 batting average and an .850 fielding average in the team’s home games.8 He later claimed to have hit .345 and fielded .873 for the entire season.9 The highlight of his season came on September 26 when the Canton team hosted Cap Anson and the Chicago Colts. Facing Clark Griffith, Ziegler poked three hits and impressed Anson with his fielding. In January Sporting Life listed him as “secured” by Chicago. Whether that means he was drafted or signed is uncertain.
In early April 1898, Ziegler boarded the train for Dubuque, Iowa. Whether this assignment was arranged by Chicago is unknown. He earned the Opening Day spot at third base for the Tigers in the Class B Western Association. His position was far from permanent because the team was hoping for the return of Harry Wolverton, who starred for them in 1897. Ziegler batted ninth and slapped a single, stole a base, and erred on his only fielding chance. The local paper announced his release two days later. Wolverton never rejoined the team and their season ended after less than 50 games.
Ziegler returned to open the season with Canton in the Ohio State League. When the team fractured, he played with the Zanesville squad of the same circuit for a short while. The Ohio State League dissolved while the court case in Canton was going on in early June. Ziegler then helped to organize the Canton team into an independent club that played all comers. He closed out the season with a three-hit performance against Sam Leever and the Pittsburgh Pirates in an October exhibition.
The following year found Ziegler opening the season with Chatham in the Class D Canadian League, where he teamed with a teenage Sam Crawford. The Chatham team disbanded on July 4. Crawford batted a robust .370; Charlie limped in at .167 but did lead the squad in stolen bases. He joined the Wheeling Stogies about a week later and then hooked on with the last-place Springfield Wanderers.
The Cleveland Spiders recruited Ziegler to play in late September. He joined the team on the road and played in a September 23 doubleheader in Pittsburgh. In the opener he played second base and went hitless. While he handled four chances without an error, the local writer noted that he had limited range and “failed to pick up several warm grounders.” He played shortstop in the second game and “did pretty well.” At the plate he went 2-for-4. It is uncertain if he accompanied the team to St. Louis and Cincinnati after that because he saw no more action.10 Manager Joe Quinn at second base and Harry Lochhead at shortstop played the most games of any Cleveland infielders. Ziegler’s short stay gave each of them a brief rest.
Ziegler’s baseball odyssey took him east in 1900. He went to spring training with the Phillies in Charlotte, North Carolina. He had some impressive performances including a 5-for-5 day in an intrasquad matchup. In another game against the regulars, he sent a bounder between short and third that ended up in a “pond in left field.” The speedy Ziegler rounded the bases before the ball could be retrieved.11The Phillies did not retain him coming out of camp, instead he joined the Philadelphia Athletics in the Atlantic League. He mainly played shortstop for the Athletics.
In June the Phillies signed Ziegler because Harry Wolverton had suffered a finger injury. The Phillies were in first place and hosting third-place Pittsburgh when he joined the club. Ziegler made three appearances at third base on June 4, 5, and 6. Pittsburgh took two of the three matches to pull within 2½ games. Charlie had a single in each of the games and handled nine chances with one error.
The Phillies gave Ziegler his walking papers and his next stop was with the Syracuse Stars in the Eastern League. He played shortstop for the team on June 19 in Springfield, Massachusetts. He went hitless in the 13-inning affair won by Springfield. On June 22 he debuted with the Albany Senators in the Class C New York State League, splitting time between third base and shortstop. According to the 1901 Reach Baseball Guide, Ziegler played in 58 games and batted .273 for the fifth-place team.
Ziegler opened the 1901 season with the St. Paul Saints in the Class A Western League. He played third base the first two games of the season and made two errors and had one hit. He was replaced in the lineup by Dave Brain. Ziegler went west from St. Paul and landed in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where he played for the town’s independent team. The Aberdeen squad traveled widely through the neighboring states and played the other five South Dakota teams. In July finances became an issue and three of the team’s opponents disbanded.
Ziegler had received an offer from Seattle and chose to jump ship in Aberdeen and head to the West Coast.12 He crossed the country and joined the Seattle Clamdiggers in the Class D Pacific Northwest League, making his debut on July 23. The Clamdiggers finished well below .500. Charlie played 57 games, mostly at third, and batted .250.
Seattle made numerous changes to its roster for 1902 and Ziegler found himself looking for a new team. He was named captain of the Pendleton, Oregon, Indians in the Class D Inland Empire League. He took his new title seriously and arrived early in April to help secure housing and part-time jobs for his teammates.
Ziegler played second and third for the Indians in their brief season. The league folded but Ziegler liked eastern Oregon enough that he determined he would eventually settle down there. His long-range plan was to open a law office in Pendleton. After the collapse of the Inland Empire League, he was signed by the Portland Webfoots in the Pacific Northwest League to play third base. Portland hovered near the .500 mark most of the season. Ziegler played 52 games and batted .298.
Ziegler remained in the Northwest and opened the 1903 season with the Seattle Siwashes in the PCL. In early July he was released and joined the Helena, Montana, Senators in the Pacific National League. He played 110 games in the two leagues and hit a lowly.198. Over the winter he returned to the family home in Canton.
Ziegler’s father had died earlier in the year and Charlie joined his grieving mother and two brothers. He planned to play with the Sioux City, Iowa, team in the Class A Western League in 1904. In late March Ziegler ate some tainted food and it led to typhoid fever. He was hospitalized at Aultman hospital in Canton. He died there on April 18, 1904. His family held the funeral at their home, and he was buried with other family members in Canton’s West Lawn Cemetery, just down the hill from the resting place of President William McKinley.
Contemporary articles about Ziegler depict him as a modest man with a brilliant speaking voice and an impressive vocabulary. They further reveal that in college he was a member of Phi Delta Phi, the law fraternity. In 1902 he joined the Elks Lodge in Pendleton. But these same sources give us no insight into his stature or whether he batted right- or left-handed.
This biography was reviewed by Len Levin and fact-checked by Alan Cohen.
2 “A Receiver,” Canton Repository, May 31, 1898: 1.
3 “Troubles Over,” Canton Repository, June 7, 1898: 5.
4 “Found Guilty,” Canton Repository, August 11, 1898: 5.
5 “Pay That $12.50,” Canton Repository, August 28, 1899: 4.
6 Some sources list the birth as July 16, 1874, and a picture of the gravestone on find-a-grave.com shows the dates 1874-1904.
7 Available Columbus Dispatch box scores do not show him.
8 “Good Record,” Canton Repository, September 26, 1897: 6.
9 W.A. Phelan Jr., “Chicago Gleanings,” Sporting Life, December 18, 1897: 6.
10 “The Normal Result,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 24, 1899: 13.
11 “Lajoie Puts Up a Perfect Game,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 5, 1900: 6.
12 “Two Teams Disband,” Aberdeen (South Dakota) Daily News, July 20, 1901: 3.