When he died in 1979, Charlie Deal was the last surviving member of the 1914 Miracle Braves. A third baseman, he played in 89 games for the 1913 and 1914 squads, and jumped to the Federal League in 1915 after a salary dispute. It wasn’t the first time Deal and the baseball establishment clashed over money.
Charles Albert Deal was born in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, part of the Pittsburgh metropolitan complex, on October 30, 1891. He was the fifth of six children of Alice Deal and Joseph Deal, a carpenter. He started playing baseball on the sandlots of Wilkinsburg. “That’s where I learned almost all the baseball I know,” he said in 1915 … Ever since I was able to throw bricks at a lamppost I have been playing ball.” 1
In 1910 the teenage Deal was working as a fitter for an electric company and playing baseball as a second baseman for semipro clubs in the area. The next season Howard Mitlinger of the Huntington club persuaded him to move to third base. While playing at the hot corner, Deal was spotted by a scout for the Philadelphia Phillies, who signed him for $200 a month. However, when he reported to Philadelphia, he was assigned to Lancaster of the Class B Tri-State League, where he was to receive only one-half the stipulated salary. Charlie protested and carried his case to the National Commission, baseball’s governing body at the time, which ruled that any player who signed with a major-league club would be restored to free agent status if the club did not pay him the salary specified in the contract or assign him to a minor-league club with no reduction in salary.
His free agency regained, Charlie joined the Bay City club in the Southern Michigan League. After a month he was sold to the Jackson club of the same league, where he was paid $125 a month. The third sacker hit .370 in 68 games, and was purchased by the Detroit Tigers for a reported $2,500. Deal complained that the Tigers had promised him half of the purchase price, but delivered only $300 of the amount. Once again he thought club owners were treating him unfairly. It was not to be the last time he entertained that opinion.
Deal made his major-league debut with the Tigers on July 19, 1912, at the age of 20. The right-hander was listed as 6 feet tall and weighing 160 pounds. (As he matured, his frame filled out. By 1915, he said he weighed 172 pounds.) He was paid $200 a month by Detroit in 1912 and signed for $1,200 for the 1913 season. After one of his early big-league games, a sportswriter penned these lines: “Charlie Deal was the three star special on the infield. He had eight chances and most of them were tough, particularly a one-handed stab of Wagner’s high bounder in the ninth. His throwing was a marvel of speed and accuracy, every ball going right into Onslow’s pocket.” 2 Despite his fielding exploits, Deal did not hit well enough to stick with the Tigers. On June 2, 1913, they released him to Providence of the International League. In 99 games with the Grays, he hit .312. On September 15 he was acquired by the Boston Braves in the post-season draft.
In 1914 Deal opened the season as the Braves’ regular third baseman. However, he did not hit well and was demoted to the bench in favor of Red Smith, whom the Braves had acquired from the Brooklyn Robins on August 10. On the final day of the regular season, Smith broke his leg, and Charlie was pressed into service as the third sacker in the World Series against the Philadelphia Athletics. He got off to a tough start. In the first game, at Philadephia, he hit into double plays three times in succession. (One of them was on a pop-fly bunt.) Fortunately for the Braves, they scored enough runs to win the game easily, 7-1, despite Deal’s lack of productivity.
In the second game of the Series, Charlie did not produce through the first eight innings. Three times with runners on base, he hit into force outs. Eddie Plank, the future Hall of Fame hurler for the Mackmen, was holding the Braves scoreless. Bill James was doing the same against the Athletics for Boston. The game went into the ninth inning tied 0-0. In the top of the ninth, with one out, the weak-hitting Deal came to the plate. To everyone’s surprise, he lined a drive over Amos Strunk’s head. The center fielder had perhaps been playing too shallow, but the ball was well struck. It might have gone for a triple, but Strunk made a remarkable recovery and throw to hold Charlie to two bases. The next batter, James, fanned for the second out of the inning. The A’s catcher, Wally Schang, tried to catch Deal off the base. Schang threw to second base, and Charlie took off for third, beating the relay by shortstop Jack Barry. From third, Deal scored on Les Mann’s scratch hit off the glove of second baseman Eddie Collins. James set down Philadelphia in the bottom of the ninth, and the Braves were well on their way to a sweep of the defending world champions. During the Series, Charlie Deal made only two hits in 16 times at bat, but by his daring base running the Braves had scored a decisive tally.
In recalling the 1914 season, Deal said: “We were a misfit bunch. There were a lot of old-timers and kids mixed in, guys other clubs had given up on. (Manager George) Stallings did a wonderful job with us. He was a great manager who suffered with every play. One minute he’d be playing and the next minute cursing. How that man could curse!” 3
After leaving the Braves in a salary dispute, Charlie was asked about Stallings. “Do you figure Stallings was lucky, had excellent material, or is he really a miracle man?” a reporter queried.
“Yes, I guess you could call him a miracle man.” Deal replied. “Why did I leave him? Because he answered my request for more money by reciting that ancient and honorable piece about a promising young man with a bright future, lots of time for more money and valuable experience and the balance of that bunky-doodle guff. I’m in it for business, and that’s why I jumped, and that’s why I never drink, smoke, or chew. I am married and love my home.” 4
For his part in winning the World Series, Charlie thought he deserved a $500 raise. The club refused to part with the additional money. Once again Deal thought he was being treated unfairly. He jumped to the St. Louis Terriers of the upstart Federal League, signing with the Feds on January 29, 1915. St. Louis gave him far more than the amount of the raise he had requested from the Braves. His salary went from $2,400 to $4,500, plus a $3,500 bonus.
During the summer of 1915 Charlie was hospitalized for several weeks with typhoid fever. He was able to play only 65 games for the Terriers, but hit a very respectable .323, his best average ever in the major leagues.
When the Federal League folded, Deal joined the St. Louis Browns of the American League in the spring of 1916. Fully recovered from typhoid, Deal expected to give Jimmy Austin a battle to be the guardian of the hot corner. However, he was unable to hit well, and Austin secured the position. On June 2, the Browns sold Deal to the Chicago Cubs. He spent most of the 1916 season with the Kansas City Blues of the American Association, where he hit .317 in 118 games. In the spring of 1917, Deal beat out Herb Hunter and Rollie Zeider for the third-base position with the Cubs. For the next five seasons he played for the Cubs, emerging as one of the best-fielding third basemen in the league. In 1917 he led the NL in sacrifices. Although he usually hit only around .250, Deal established a reputation for being a hard man to strike out. In his entire big-league career he fanned only 121 times in 851 games. In 1918, he appeared in the World Series again, as the Cubs lost to the Boston Red Sox in six games. He did not repeat his heroics of the 1914 series and went only 3-for-17. After the Series, in response to Secretary of War Newton Baker’s work-or-fight order, Deal worked at the Allegheny Steel Company plant in Brackenridge, Pennsylvania. He returned to the Cubs in 1919 for three more seasons. In May 1921 he was hit on the nose by a batted ball and missed several days.
Deal played his final major-league game on October 2, 1921, at the age of 29. In April 1922 he was sent to Los Angeles of the Pacific Coast League to complete a multiplayer deal made the previous December. He played for Los Angeles, Vernon, and Portland in the PCL from 1922 through 1925. In 1926 and 1927 Deal was with the New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern Association. Apparently, minor-league pitching was more to his liking than the major-league variety, for he hit better than.300 in six of his seven seasons in Class A and Double-A ball.
While at Providence in 1913, Deal married a Rhode Island woman named Mary. They had no children. The couple lived in his native Wilkinsburg until about 1920, when they moved to Pasadena, California. After his retirement from baseball, Deal’s occupation was listed variously as salesman, realtor, collector, and storeroom keeper. He kept an interest in baseball into his old age. After the major leagues voted to expand to 12 teams each for 1969, Deal wrote to the National Baseball Hall of Fame: “I hope these changes being made are for the betterment of Base Ball, but I have some doubt. Too many clubs and not enough Big League Players. Cut the Pitchers box to 10” high and gloves to size we used in our day.” 5
Charles Albert Deal died in a rest home in Covina, California, on September 16, 1979, at the age of 87. He is interred at the Pasadena Mausoleum.
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.
Charlie Deal player file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
1 St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 20, 1915.
2 Anaconda Standard, August 25, 1912.
3 The Sporting News, October 6, 1979.
4 St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 20, 1915.
5 Letter from Charles A. Deal to National Baseball Hall of Fame, August 26, 1968.