Newspapers across the nation carried a story in 1908 about a young lady who proclaimed to the handsome, square-jawed, southpaw pitcher of the Dayton Vets, “If you strike him out, I’ll marry you.” The pitcher was Earl Yingling, in his second year of professional ball, the young lady was Georgeana Florine Sausser from Lebanon, Ohio. Whether the event actually occurred is irrelevant, it made great press, even finding its way into Sporting Life. The local paper had a different take on the couple’s beginnings: “The romance had its conception when Miss Sausser saw (Yingling) tear down the gridiron for Lebanon University last fall.”1
Earl Hershey Yingling, born October 29, 1888, in Chillicothe, Ohio was the oldest child of Jacob Elmer and Anna L. (McNinch) Yingling. His parents were native Ohioans from Preble County. A sister, Mae, was born in November, 1893. The elder Yingling was a minister with the United Brethren Church and traveled Ohio supervising the construction of churches for various congregations. He oversaw work on nine buildings before his death in 1921. The younger Yingling attended elementary school in Cincinnati and then went to Steele High School in Dayton. He drew attention as an athlete at Steele and also pitched for National Cash Register teams. Upon graduation he went to National Normal University (aka Lebanon University) for two years.2
Yingling made his professional debut with the Class B Central League Dayton Vets on September 20, 1906, while still in high school. He threw a complete game, one-hitter against Canton and won 2-0. A follow-up appearance on September 24 was cancelled because he had to attend classes.3 In 1907, the lefty hurler was the youngest member of the pitching staff and made his debut on April 27 in Wheeling versus the Stogies. He toiled for 13 innings before dropping the game 3-2. Later in the season he went 11 innings with Wheeling only to have the game end in a 1-1 tie because of darkness. In June, he found himself seeing time in the outfield. He also was elevated to batting sixth in the order when he was pitching. For the season he posted a 12-18 record while hitting .211. The Vets finished fifth in the eight-team league and retained rights to Yingling for 1908.
Yingling fully intended to play with Dayton in 1908, but contract talks ran nearly into April. He finally signed for a “considerable increase” in salary and the stipulation that he not be forced to play on Sundays.4 The pennant race was hotly contested from the outset. Ft. Wayne was undefeated after two weeks, but Dayton and Grand Rapids were hot on the trail. By late May Grand Rapids was in first, and Dayton was playing a home series with Ft. Wayne. On Friday, May 29 in Dayton, Yingling beat Ft. Wayne 3-1. The next day the Vets were victorious 11-5 and after the game Yingling left for Lebanon and his wedding to Florine. Nuptials were held at 7:30 in the bride’s home and then the couple left on their honeymoon, a road trip to South Bend, where Yingling lost 4-0 on June 2. From there, the team, and the young couple, went on to Grand Rapids. Yingling took the mound on June 9 and held on for a 2-1 victory. The couple returned home to Dayton. The three team race between Dayton, Ft. Wayne, and Grand Rapids dissolved soon after that. Evansville and South Bend took over as the hot teams, with Evansville winning the pennant. Dayton finished fourth, seven games back.
The 1908 pitching staff featured Jack Rowan, Ollie Johns and Yingling. Both Johns and Rowan had brief major league experience. Rowan would join Cincinnati for the close of the 1908 season and remain with them for 5 years. Yingling was 17-15 in 249 innings and hit .230 including a little time in the outfield again. The 1909 Veterans did not duplicate the talent of the previous year. Yingling became the ace of the pitching staff at age 20 and posted a 14-13 record for a team that finished in last place, 21 games below .500. He also posted a .333 batting average, but saw much less action in the outfield than in the past. He was acquired by the Toledo Mudhens for the 1910 season. He, Florine, and their young son, George, took up residence for the season in Toledo. The family would follow the same routine in coming years, spending the summers in whichever city Yingling played and then wintering at the Sausser farm near Lebanon.
Yingling always demonstrated a good fastball, a sharp curve and the ability to keep his cool in tight situations. He allowed better than a base runner per inning, but had a knack for keeping the opponent from scoring. In the 1910 American Association race, Toledo finished a distant second to Minneapolis. Yingling had his finest season with a 22-9 record and a 1.063 WHIP, but was overshadowed by Long Tom Hughes. The Cleveland Naps purchased Grover Land and Yingling from Toledo for the 1911 season. They joined other rookies like Joe Jackson, Vean Gregg, and Roger Peckinpaugh at spring training. Yingling earned a spot on the pitching staff and went north with the Naps. Manager Deacon McGuire put him into action on April 12 in the season opener at the St. Louis Browns. He was sent into the game in the fourth with two men on and one out. Jimmy Austin sent a grounder back to him, which he fumbled to load the bases. Yingling then allowed a single, two walks, and a double to plate 3 more runs. The only out he recorded was a pick-off of Austin at third base. Vean Gregg was summoned from the bullpen to finish the inning. The Browns triumphed 12-3.
Yingling did not see action for 10 games before he was given his first start in the majors. McGuire had noticed the Tigers were having trouble with left-handed pitchers. He sent Yingling to the hill on April 26 in Detroit. Once again he struggled against major league bats, allowing 8 hits and 3 runs in three and two-thirds innings. He did not get a decision in the game won 9-6 by Detroit. Yingling pitched again on May 8, once again in St. Louis. This time he was in top form. He scattered 8 hits over 12 innings and held the Browns to 2 runs. The Naps won the game in the top of the twelfth when Yingling got one of his two hits and helped load the bases before Joe Jackson unleashed a blast to centerfield. The speedy Jackson rounded the bases to clinch the 6-2 win. This performance earned another start in Boston on May 11. Yingling went six and two-thirds innings in a game the Red Sox won 7-6 in 10 innings. That would be Yingling’s last pitching performance, all on the road, for the Naps. He was pressed into service May 23 to play centerfield against the Athletics at home. On June 5 he and Pat Paige were sent to Toledo. The 1911 Mud Hens did not field nearly the talent they had in 1910 and dropped to sixth place with a 78-86 record. Nevertheless, Yingling posted an 18-11 mark and hit .230. Scout Larry Sutton of the Brooklyn Dodgers liked what he saw and pushed the brass to draft Yingling. On September 1, Yingling and Pat Paige were both drafted by the Dodgers.
The Dodgers were a perennial second-division club when Yingling joined them in 1912. Nap Rucker was the staff ace and the hitters were paced by Jake Daubert and Zack Wheat. The rest of the talent was in a constant state of flux. Yingling pitched in 25 games, 16 of them starts. He tossed 12 complete games and had a 6-11 record with a 3.59 ERA. The next season He dropped his ERA to 2.58, well below the league average of 3.20. He finished 8-8. Manager Bill Dahlen used him as a pinch-hitter and Yingling posted a .383 average (23-for-60), the highest in the league. In November, the Dodgers assembled 12 players under the leadership of Jake Daubert to play a series in Cuba versus the best Cuban teams. The Dodgers left workhorse Nap Rucker in the states which made Yingling the lone southpaw. The Dodgers played 15 games and won 10. Yingling pitched in six games and posted a 3-2 mark with a relief appearance that today would have warranted a save. He also appeared in the outfield. Each of the players received $600 for their efforts. The Dodgers inked him to a three-year contract for “a fancy salary”5
Inexplicably, in January he was placed on waivers and claimed by Cincinnati which had finished 3 games behind Brooklyn in 1913 and was destined for last place in 1914. The Reds got off to a tremendous and unexpected start, much of it thanks to Yingling’s brilliant pitching. He dropped his first start of the season, but after his June 1 start he was 8-2 and had 3 shutouts. This marked the high point of the season as the Reds were 26-15. They would win only 34 more games the rest of the season. Yingling would end the year with a 9-13 record. In September manager Buck Herzog moved Yingling to outfield and announced to writers that his days as a pitcher were over in Cincinnati. On September 19, Yingling broke up a no-hit bid by Jeff Pfeffer with a two-out single in the eighth. He hit his only major league homer on October 4 off Al Mamaux. He closed out the year with a .192 average.
At first Herzog planned to keep Yingling for 1915, but had a change of mind and President Garry Herrmann offered to send Yingling to Salt Lake City at his major league pay level.6Florine objected to the move- George was now of school age, the season in the Pacific Coast League was longer than anywhere else, and she had been spoiled by a year at home while Yingling commuted the 25 miles to the Reds. Yingling refused the move. Herrmann held onto Yingling’s rights until April 27 when he was sent to the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association. With the champion Millers, Yingling turned in a 19-13 record and toiled 291 innings. The next season he took over as staff ace from Mutt Williams and won 24 games in 323 innings. The Millers finished third to Louisville. Late in the season the Washington Senators acquired his rights. Family matters, most notably the health of Florine’s mother, caused Yingling to write the Senators and announce his retirement in 1917. The Senators placed him on the suspended list so they could retain his rights.
The family spent 1917 in Lebanon with Yingling playing on the Norwoods semi-pro squad. Over the winter he had a change of heart and appealed for reinstatement. The National Commission granted his request and he went to spring training with the Senators. He saw action in 5 games before the Warren County, Ohio draft board called his name for induction. Yingling appealed the notice, citing that he had failed to check the box about exemptions. The Board turned down his appeal and he was sent to Camp Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky with the 5th Battalion.7 While in basic training he was allowed to pitch for the American Association Colonels on July 3. He took the hill in game 2 against Columbus and shut them out 5-0. Later that month he and Bill Wambsganss were part of a group sent to Officers’ Training in Virginia. From there Yingling was sent to Camp Upton where he joined the football team that played Princeton University on November 15 at the Polo Grounds. Yingling scored the lone military touchdown in a 28-7 loss. Discharge came a month later and he took a job in Dayton, Ohio.
Sandlot ball did not satisfy Yingling’s baseball passions and, over Florine’s objections, he joined the Minneapolis Millers again in 1921. He had a 6-3 record on the hill and hit .388 (19-for-49). Moving to Mt. Vernon, Ohio, he took the job as football coach at Fredericktown high school. He returned to the Millers in 1922. Used as a starter and a reliever he was second on the staff with 173 innings pitched. He hit .254 (17-for-67) and posted a 12-11 record. He returned in 1923 and saw action in 6 games before leaving the team with a 2-0 record. Not quite through with baseball, he coached and pitched for the local Mt. Vernon team in 1923-4. The family moved to Delaware, Ohio where he took a job with the Frigidaire Company. This would lead to a move to Columbus, Ohio where he became a salesman for the company. He passed away on October 2, 1962 in the Ohio State Medical Center. He was buried in the Lebanon Cemetery.
Baseball-reference.com mentions that Yingling had the nickname of “Chink”. In my research this nickname was never used in any game stories or articles about him that I read. The Encyclopedia of Minor Leagues uses the nickname in their 1993 edition for the 1915 season. I reached out to SABR member Stew Thornley, who is highly knowledgeable about Minneapolis baseball. He had never seen the name in use and checked the 1915 season without finding any usage. I did find one article poking fun that Yingling and Siglin (Paddy) sounded like a menu item in a Chinese restaurant.
Thanks to SABR member Jack Carlson for his help with details about the early years in Dayton. Further thanks to the Fredericktown, Ohio Historical Society that helped with details of Yingling’s brief coaching career.
Online sources used include Baseball-Reference.com, ancestry.com, and heritagequest.com
Newspapers consulted and not otherwise listed:
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Coshocton (Ohio) Tribune
The Evening Review (East Liverpool,Ohio)
Evansville (Indiana) Courier and Press
Ft. Wayne (Indiana) Journal
Hamilton (Ohio) Evening Journal
Mt. Vernon ( Ohio) Democratic Banner
New York Times
Salt Lake Tribune
The Sporting Life
The Sporting News
1 Lebanon Western Star, June 4, 1908. 5
2 Yingling’s Hall of Fame questionnaire covered his schooling.
3 Canton Repository,September 21, 1906. 11
4 Evansville Courier, March 27, 1908. 7
5 Boston Sunday Post, March 28, 1915. 17
6 Cincinnati Enquirer, February 4, 1915. 6
7 Lebanon Western Star, articles appeared from April thru June about Yingling. Never was the exact nature of the appeal discussed. It may have been a family issue or possibly religious.