It was a small story in a national publication, and it suggested the possibility of a baseball first.
Under the headline “Brothers Constitute a Battery,” the May 28, 1914, issue of Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly wrote, “The Boston Nationals have a battery this season composed of brothers, George and Fred Tyler. It is said that this is the first time in the history of modern baseball that such a combination has been seen in fast company. George Tyler, the pitcher, is a great left-handed twirler, but catchers who have worked with him declare his delivery is one of the hardest to handle. Manager Stallings, seeking for a means to remedy this condition, asked George with what backstop he worked best. ‘My brother Fred catches me better than anyone I ever had’ was the reply. Immediately the absent brother was summoned to camp, and though lacking experience, he is being whipped into shape to take his place behind the plate when his brother goes on the mound.”
It was a wonderful story about a family with New England baseball roots, but by the time the story was published, Fred had been optioned out by the Braves, and the anticipated brother-battery never occurred at the major-league level. George “Lefty” Tyler would enjoy a 12-year major-league career, winning 127 games and pitching in the 1914 and 1918 World Series. But other than for a brief four-day period, Fred Tyler’s professional career would be primarily characterized by the gritty old mill towns of New England in which he played.
Fred “Clancy” Tyler knew something about old mill towns. He was born in Derry, New Hampshire, on December 16, 1891, the third son of John F. and Martha McCannon Tyler. John, like his father, worked in the shoe industry, an industry that dominated Derry life in the latter half of the 19th century and well into the new century.
A prime source of local civic pride and entertainment at the time was the Derry Athletic Association, which was founded in 1904. The club’s baseball team was a southern New Hampshire powerhouse, and in time included a number of players answering to the last name Tyler.1
Fred debuted with the association’s team on the Fourth of July 1907 in the second game of a doubleheader against the Newburyport Athletic Club. Brother George had taken the mound in the morning game, losing 6-1, with oldest brother Arthur playing first base and contributing a 1-for-4 performance at the plate while scoring Derry’s lone run. In the afternoon encounter, Fred caught and got one single in four at-bats as Derry won, 4-3. Interestingly, the umpire for the afternoon game was also named Tyler.2
Fred dropped out of school after the eighth grade, and while working at a local shoe factory, became a mainstay of the Derry squad.3 Brother George departed for Lowell of the New England League in 1909, and was purchased in 1910 by the Boston Doves, with whom he finished the season. In 1911, while Fred was having a trial with Lynn and semipro ball, George became a regular in the Boston pitching rotation (the team known as the Rustlers for 1911 was re-christened the Braves in 1912), but returned in October 1913 to Derry for the Athletic Association’s last game of the season, against the Manchester All-Stars. Now more commonly known as Lefty Tyler, he dominated the overmatched All-Stars, 16-4, a game that included brothers Arthur, Fred, and William.4
The Braves had finished 31½ games (yet still in fifth place) behind the National League champion New York Giants in 1913, and with the 1914 season approaching, the Boston Globe reported on February 22 that the team would begin spring training on March 3. The Globe added, “The New England contingent of Braves (are) scheduled to leave for training camp in Macon, Georgia, on February 28, on the midnight train to New York. The Boston party (includes) Walter Maranville, Tom Griffith, Leslie Mann, George Tyler, and Fred F. Tyler, George’s brother, who is to be tried as a catcher.”5
Later that week, the Globe reported, “The catching department will have Bert Whaling who is at present at Hot Springs taking the baths, and Harry Gowdy for the regular men to start the spring training, and there are also three youngsters who are eager to make good as backstops, Dick Lewis, Walter Kenefick, and Fred Tyler.”6
With spring training set to begin, the Globe’s J.C. O’Leary wrote, “The rookies are all husky young fellows. Fred Tyler, a brother of George, whom manager Stallings is going to give a trial behind the bat, is a fine physical specimen, being a heavier man than his brother and having the physique of an ideal catcher.”7 For Tyler, who stood 5-feet-10½ and weighed 180 pounds, the future looked bright.
The weather was good that spring, the players losing only two full days during their five-week Southern stay. “Manager Stallings is well satisfied with the way the men have come along. He has hardened them gradually and has been careful not to over work them,” reported the Globe.8
The paper added, “Fred Tyler the young catcher, a brother of George, is being carried along, which would make it appear that Stallings thinks there are some possibilities in him. He is getting some valuable experience and is a willing worker. The coaching he is receiving, together with his natural aptitude, should make a ball player of him, and the longer he stays with Stallings the better it will be for him. … Stallings has a lot of work cut out for the boys when they reach home, early in May, after the opening series with the other Eastern clubs. Then he will further develop team work, and get his team playing what he describes as “organized ball.” He says he will have a very different team the latter part of May, so far as efficiency goes, from what he has now, and it certainly is no weakling at the present time.”
With the season set to begin, an April 12 Globe story headlined “New Faces With Braves” failed to mention Tyler, and on May 6, as the team prepared to leave on a four-week road trip, it was announced that catcher Fred Tyler, having yet to play in any games, would be left behind.
Tyler spent the summer of 1914 with the Jersey City Skeeters of the Double-A International League. Playing in 74 games, he batted .251 with one home run. Meanwhile, the Braves, having endured a horrible start that had them mired in the National League cellar on July 4, staged a miraculous finish, assuming first place on September 8 and clinching the National League pennant on September 30.
Having clinched the pennant, the Braves still had eight National League games to play in the last week before they would face Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series. As the season wound down into its final days, it was apparent that the Braves’ regular catching duo of Gowdy and Whaling were in need of some rest. While acknowledging that Whaling missed much of the season on account of injuries, the Globe said that “Gowdy and Whaling are two good catchers; the former has developed into a star, and has become so good behind the bat, and is so strong as a batsman that he has been doing the bulk of the work this season, although he probably would not have been worked so hard, except for the injuries Whaling has suffered. Whaling is a fine backstop and a good sticker.”9
After the Braves’ 7-6 victory over the NewYork Giants on October 1, under a subheadline titled “Gowdy Somewhat Crippled,” the Globe had reported that “ ‘Hank’ Gowdy is somewhat “bunged up.” His throwing this afternoon was off the mark and gave the Giants some of their runs. He undoubtedly will be all right for the big series. His injuries have all been caused by foul tips.”10
The Braves lost 11-5 to the Giants on the 2nd, and with three doubleheaders remaining to close out the season, a new yet familiar name was about to appear in the lineup. On the 3rd Fred Tyler made his major-league debut. He had finished his season with Jersey City (batting .251) and planned to return to Derry and play out the year with the Derry Athletic Association, when the call from Boston was received. He caught both games of the October 3 doubleheader, batting eighth, going 0-for-4 in a 4-1 victory, and then 0-for-3 against the Giants’ future Hall of Fame pitcher Rube Marquard in a 1-0 loss.
The Braves then moved to Brooklyn for a pair of doubleheaders against the Dodgers. On October 5 Tyler knocked his first major-league base hit, going 1-for-4 in the day’s first game, a 15-2 Braves victory. He added a second hit with a 1-for-3 second game, a 9-5 win. The season ended the next day with the teams splitting a doubleheader, Tyler going a combined 0-for-5 but throwing out future Hall of Famer Zack Wheat on an attempted steal. Tyler threw out five of ten attempted basestealers during his brief stay. He had caught three consecutive season-ending doubleheaders and collected two hits in 19 at-bats for a .105 batting average.
The World Series began in Philadelphia on October 9. With Hank Gowdy back behind the plate, the Braves swept the Athletics, the winning game being played at Fenway Park on October 13. George Tyler pitched ten innings with no decision in Game Three. Brother Fred did not appear in the Series.
The battery of brothers George and Fred Tyler finally appeared together in 1914, after they traveled back to Derry in late October to join brothers Bill and Arthur in a 3-2 Derry Athletic Association victory over the All-Stars of the Manchester Manufacturers League.
Before the start of the new season, Fred and George visited Braves President James Gaffney in late January 1915. The visit was to “show how life on a farm agrees with ball players,” reported the Globe, adding, “Fred will go south with the Braves and work out with the catchers, as he is a fair catcher.”11
Fair catcher or not, the major-league career of Fred Tyler was over. He was sold on February 27 to Rochester of the International League and then released to Newark, before landing with the Syracuse Stars of the Class B New York State League, where he batted .301. In April 1916 he was sold to the Worcester Busters of the newly formed Eastern League. A headline in the Worcester Telegram blared, “Hamilton Buys Tyler From Syracuse Club – Worcester Manager Makes Deal For Hard Hitting Catcher and Brother of Boston Braves’ Crack Southpaw Twirler.”12 The Worcester manager was future Hall of Famer Sliding Billy Hamilton, for whom Tyler toiled in the first of his four modest seasons for the Busters. Tyler batted .237 in 1916 and .271 in 1917, before serving in the US Army during World War I as a sergeant in the 151st Depot Brigade. He returned to Worcester to bat .316 in 1919 and .229 in 1920, by which time he had married a woman more than five years his elder. He followed with seasons of .268 and .291 for the Eastern League’s Waterbury Brasscos. He later played for Lawrence before retiring as a player.
After retiring, Fred returned to Derry, and worked for the rest of his life in the shoe industry, returning to the occupation that long before baseball had been the means by which his family had subsisted. He died at the age of 53 on October 14, 1945, of complications caused by a perforated stomach ulcer. He was survived by his wife, Marion Corson Tyler. They had no children. He is buried at Forest Hill Cemetery in East Derry, New Hampshire.
This biography is included in "The Miracle Braves of 1914: Boston's Original Worst-to-First World Series Champions" (SABR, 2014), edited by Bill Nowlin.
In addition to the sources in the endnotes, the author also consulted Ancestry.com, Baseball-Reference.com, and Baseball-almanac.com
Photo courtesy of Rick Holmes, The Derry Museum.
1 Richard Holmes, The Road to Derry: A Brief History (Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2009).
2 Derry News, July 12, 1907
5 Boston Globe, February 22, 1914
6 Boston Globe, March 2, 1914
7 Boston Globe, April 6, 1914
9 Boston Globe, October 4, 1914
10 Boston Globe, October 2, 1914
11 Boston Globe, January 25, 1915
12 Worcester Telegram, April 6, 1916