Charlie Dorman (

Charlie Dorman

This article was written by Darren Gibson

Charlie Dorman ( catcher Charlie “Legs” Dorman played in his lone major-league game on May 14, 1923, for the Chicago White Sox only after the starting catcher was removed and the backup split his finger open on a foul ball. Dorman took quite the circuitous route to his one moment on the big stage: from a San Francisco sandlot star, to being “rediscovered” in the stands as a fill-in during a Pacific Coast League game, to being temporarily barred from Organized Baseball after signing professional contracts with two different organizations. After becoming a Bay Area policeman later in life, Dorman tragically died of complications resulting from a serious leg injury suffered while catching during a Bay Area Shriners charity ball game in 1928.

Charles William Dorman was born on April 23, 1898, in San Francisco, California, the third of four sons of Charles Milton Dorman, a shipping clerk and later a butcher shop porter, and Margaret May (Howell) Dorman, who was born in Ohio.1

Little is known about Charles’ early years in the Bay Area. His older brother Lester, a patrolman, had a tryout with the Oakland Oaks in 1915, and pitched against Duster Mails in a police-fire charity game that December. The same year, Charlie caught for a neighborhood Noe Valley semipro team in San Francisco, then later for a Bay Point squad. He soon latched on with the San Francisco Union Iron Works team of the Shipyard League, with whom he played for three years. In 1918, Dorman had Hack Miller as a teammate.2

In one particularly poor effort, it was said that young Dorman “catches like an old woman chopping wood.”3 However, he soon earned a reputation in Northern California as a solid receiver with a cannon of an arm.

Charlie (also listed interchangeably as “Charley” in many newspaper clippings) was a tall and slender brown-haired lad, standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 185 pounds. He worked as a pipefitter, according to his June 1918 war draft card. The same month, the San Francisco Examiner listed all local men draft eligible, showing Dorman at #165 in the draft in the city’s Fifth District.4 No records have surfaced of Dorman ever being called to duty.

By early 1919, the peppy sandlot product Dorman, nicknamed “Legs” early on in the papers, due undoubtedly to his height, received publicity playing for Ossie Vitt’s Grays team in the Bay Counties Midwinter League: “No young catcher was ever applauded for his work by the fans as was young Dorman. It was the wonderful throwing to bases, and the sparkling catches of high fouls and infield flies that more than a half dozen times caused the fans to wonder how it was that Vitt was able to hold such a fine prospect on his team.”5

Dorman signed with the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League in late February and was invited to their training camp in Crockett, California.6 During camp, the Oregon Daily Journal reported that “this rangy San Francisco youngster is going to be heard from. A year in Texas or the Central Association will do Dorman a world of good.”7 He was cut by the Beavers and latched on with the Halton-Didier semipro team in Alameda, and later the Fruitvale Native Sons squad, forming a formidable local battery with pitcher George “Russ” Ellison.8

In late September 1919, the Oakland Oaks of the PCL signed Dorman, “a young San Francisco semi-pro catcher…. well known to local bush fans, having played with several local clubs.”9 On October 3, Dorman played in his first professional game for the sixth-place Oaks against the Salt Lake Bees, coincidentally in San Francisco. The San Francisco Examiner reported that “‘Legs’ Dorman did some swell throwing to cut off runners, and he also did some very bad throwing,” resulting in two errors.10 After the PCL season, Dorman plied his trade for the Mayrose Butters in Bay Area winter ball.

Dorman broke camp in 1920 with Oakland, but, along with Dinty Gearin, was soon farmed out.11 Sent to the Sioux City Packers of the Western League, Dorman played “such sensational ball” that Oakland manager Del Howard recalled him in late June.12 When interviewed, the youngster knew he was still green: “Aw, quit kidding me. Maybe I might get a chance when I know something, but I’ll be better off if I try to learn the fine points of the game instead of dreaming of the big leagues.”13 Unfortunately, Dorman ended the PCL season with the league’s lowest batting average (.193) for players with over 150 at bats.

In December, Charlie received terrible news. His older brother, Lester, who’d become a detective for the city of San Francisco, was killed in Santa Rosa in a shooting by gangsters.14

In 1921, Dorman attended Oakland camp, but was optioned out to the Vancouver Beavers of the Class D Pacific Coast International League, with whom Oakland had a working relationship.15 In an April exhibition loss against the visiting New York Colored Giants, Dorman “made a great hit with the local baseball hounds. His all-round work, capped by a bullet-like peg, placed the stamp of approval upon his candidacy.”16 However, Dorman contended, and other players from California corroborated, that Vancouver manager Billy Purtell didn’t give them a chance to prove themselves.17 In early May, Dorman was transferred within the PIL from Vancouver to the Victoria Bees.18 Instead, he returned to California and was released by Oakland. He later participated in summer games for the Dinuba Sunmaids in the semipro San Joaquin Valley League, usually the batterymate for “Toots” Schultz. League fans were impressed that Dorman’s “peg to second is like a rifle shot and he kept the local players glued to the bases throughout the game.”19

In June 1921, Dorman’s father, Charles, died of a heart attack at the age of 50.20 On July 27, Dorman sat as a spectator in San Francisco, watching the local Seals of the Pacific Coast League play the Salt Lake Bees. Salt Lake’s catcher Butch Byler was ejected in the fourth inning, and with their two other receivers injured, the Bees were without a backstop. The Bees’ 40-year-old manager, Gavvy Cravath, a veteran outfielder, initially attempted to don the catcher’s gear, but after a fumble and an error, he looked to the stands to summon help.21 The local San Francisco Examiner’s Ed Hughes wrote: “Charley Dorman acted like a regular hero in a dime novel, going from the stand to the clubhouse, putting on a suit in a hurry and stepping into the breach and catching like a major leaguer. He also won the game for Salt Lake when he busted a double in the fourth inning, helping mightily in the manufacture of those three runs.”22

Dorman also caught the full game for the Bees the next day. Washington Senators scout Joe Engel happened to be in the stands. As a result, Dorman was signed by the Senators.23 Or so Engel thought.

Washington and the Chicago White Sox were battling it out for the catcher’s services.24 White Sox scout Dan Long claimed Dorman had also signed with them before he had signed with Washington, which was true.25 As a penalty for the unethical behavior, baseball commissioner Judge Kenesaw Landis suspended Dorman from Organized Baseball in September 1921.26 He was barred for five years yet awarded as property of the White Sox.27 Dorman was unable to even play in Bay Area winter exhibitions involving minor-league teams affiliated with Organized Baseball.28 Instead, he played semipro ball with the Santa Rosa Rosebuds in 1922.

Baseball commissioner Landis reinstated Dorman in February 1923.29 He subsequently attended camp with the White Sox in Marlin, Texas, and made manager Kid Gleason’s opening day roster. He beat out Jimmie Long for the third-string catcher position, available mostly “for ‘bull pen’ duty.”30 It was reported of Dorman that “he has much to learn, but if he watches Ray Schalk, which he has done every day since joining the Hose, he should grab the fine points of the game.”31

Dorman was one of six California players on the squad, including Harry Hooper and Dorman’s Bay Area golfing buddy, fellow rookie Willie Kamm.32 Dorman’s only major-league game occurred on May 14 against the Philadelphia Athletics. Starting receiver Schalk was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fourth inning with the White Sox already down, 5-0. In the sixth inning, his replacement, backup catcher Roy Graham (also from the Bay Area and playing his first game of the season behind the dish) “received a foul tip on the end of his finger splitting the nail and forcing him to retire. Charlie Dorman, rookie, then made his major league debut.”33 Dorman singled in the seventh off Athletics starter Bob Hasty, before popping out to shortstop to end the game and preserve Hasty’s 9-0 shutout. The A’s also stole four bases off Dorman.

Dorman never played on a major-league field again. By July, he was shipped to the Muskegon (Michigan) Anglers of the Class B Michigan-Ontario League, as the Sox obtained “Buck” Crouse in exchange.34 After finishing the year with the Anglers, Dorman returned home, playing in October for a Vallejo, California team, catching Willie Ludolph.

Dorman followed his late brother in joining the San Francisco police department in 1924 and played shortstop for his Richmond precinct team.35 The same year, he played more semipro ball for a J.H. Newbauer team out of Santa Rosa.36 In 1925 Dorman was asked to play on a Bay Area team organized by Jimmy O’Connell, which included pitcher Carl Holling.37 By 1927, Dorman was playing with the Drury Hatters, winners of the Bay Area winter league. He then joined San Anselmo, where he went 6-for-6 in a September matchup.

Dorman married a young lady named Virginia Hayes in June 1928, in a private ceremony, “to prevent intrusion by practical jokers of the detective bureau.”38 Dorman had also, by this time, been assigned to special duty with the robbery detail as an inspector. Still playing ball, he caught for a team representing the Olympic Club of San Francisco in April, for a Fruitvale (an Oakland community) W.O.W. squad in May, and for a semipro San Jose Consolidated team in July.39 He also played for Morrow Garage in the Oakland Winter League.

On October 21, 1928, Dorman played catcher for a local Shriners team in an exhibition against the Elks Lodge at Recreation Park in San Francisco. During the game, Dorman suffered a triple left-leg fracture while chasing a baserunner back to third base.40 He spent over three weeks in the hospital trying to recover. Sad to relate, Charlie Dorman died on November 15, 1928, at the age of 30, in San Francisco,41 from pneumonia attributed to an infection in the fractured leg from the October game.42 His Morrow Garage winter team postponed their next game in honor of their fallen man, while two other teams in the league stood collectively on the third base line and held a midgame moment of silence.43

Dorman was survived by his spouse, Virginia, mother, Margaret, and brothers, Emmett and Milton. He is buried at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Colma, California.



This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and Jake Bell and checked for accuracy by members of SABR’s fact-checking team.



In addition to the sources shown in the Notes, the author utilized,, and



1 lists Dorman’s birthdate as October 3, 1900, and Dorman’s war registration and the 1900 census saying his birthyear was 1897. Dorman’s player card from The Sporting News refers to him incorrectly as Charles Frederick “Dutch” Dorman.

2 Eddie Murphy, “George Gibson Features Win of S.F. Squad,” Oakland Tribune, June 16, 1918: 44.

3 Al C. Joy, “San Francisco Iron Works Team Tastes Defeat Again,” San Francisco Examiner, July 29, 1918: 11.

4 “Second Great Army Lottery Draws Youth of City,” San Francisco Examiner, June 28, 1918: 6.

5 Eddie Murphy, “Catcher Dorman Stars in Game Lost by Vitts Grays to Halton-Didiers at Alameda Ball Yard,” Oakland Tribune, January 13, 1919: 7. Dorman’s nickname was “Legs,” not “Slats” as listed on

6 “Charlie Dorman Signed by Beavers,” Oakland Tribune, February 26, 1919: 14.

7 R.A. Cronin, “Crocket Training Camp Shortstops,” Oregon Daily Journal (Portland), March 24, 1919: 10.

8 “Ellison to Hurl for Natives, Who Play at Fruitvale,” Oakland Tribune, August 3, 1919: 14.

9 “Oaks Sign Catcher Chas. ‘Legs’ Dorman,” Oakland Tribune, September 29, 1919: 15.

10 Al C. Joy, “Salt Lakers Swat Arlett for Easy Win,” San Francisco Examiner, October 3, 1919: 16.

11 Eddie Murphy, “Pitcher Gearin and Catcher Dorman are Released,” Oakland Tribune, May 1, 1920: 8. only lists him as “Dorman” with Sioux City for 18 games in 1920.

12 “Baseball,” Oregon Daily Journal (Portland), June 30, 1920: 12.

13 “Charley Dorman, of Oakland Club, Knows He is Still Green,” Sacramento Star, September 8, 1920: 8.

14 “Three Officers Killed in Surprise Attack by Gunman,” San Francisco Examiner, December 6, 1920: 2.

15 “Dorman on Way to Job in Major Leagues,” San Francisco Examiner, July 30, 1921: 12.

16 “Beavers Thrill Fans When Colored Giants Appear in Rival Role,” Vancouver Sun, April 23, 1921: 4.

17 Eddie Murphy, “Local Players Back from Vancouver Tell Long Tales of Woe,” Oakland Tribune, May 16, 1921: 10.

18 “Beavers Go on Another Batting Spree and Win,” Victoria Daily Times, May 5, 1921: 10.

19 Luke Halcomb, “Hard Hitting is Feature of 4-2 Driller Victory,” Bakersfield (California) Morning Echo, July 5, 1921: 6.

20 “Funeral Arranged for Charles Dorman,” Oakland Tribune, June 16, 1921: 32; “Father of Slain Detective Dies,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 11, 1921: 6.

21 Jack James, “Drafted Spectator Wins Ball Game for Salt Lake,” San Francisco Examiner, July 28, 1921: 14; “Bromley Pitches Bees to Victory in Slick Fashion,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 28, 1921: 8.

22 Ed. R. Hughes, “Jack Bromley Breaks the Winning Streak of Seals by Pitching Great Ball,” San Francisco Examiner, July 28, 1921: 10.

23 “Hops from Grandstand, Wins Game – Also Place in Majors,” Salt Lake Telegram, August 5, 1921: 4.

24 “Chicago and Wash. at Odds Over Dorman,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 9, 1921: 18; “Charley Dorman is Back; Two Clubs Fighting for Him,” San Francisco Chronicle, August 29, 1921: 10.

25 “Two Big League Clubs Now Claim Charley Dorman,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 31, 1921: 1.

26 “Santa Rosa Management Awaits Reply from Charles Dorman, Catcher,” Santa Rosa Republican, January 28, 1922: 11.

27 Charlie Dorman on ‘In Bad’ List,” Vancouver Sun, January 17, 1922: 8.

28 “Dorman Not Yet Certain for Seals,” Santa Rosa Republican, February 18, 1922: 1.

29 Ed. R. Hughes, “President of the Portland Club Feeling Fit, Despite Edict of Judge Landis,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 8, 1923: 1

30 “Woodworth Back to Bloomington,” Dispatch (Moline, Illinois), March 30, 1923: 30.

31 “Woodworth Back to Bloomington.”

32 “’No-Hit Bobby’ Holdout as Sox Arrive at Camp,” Chicago Daily Tribune, March 1, 1923: 25.

33 “Old Babe Adams Uses His Brains to Baffle Giants,” Alton (Illinois) Evening Telegraph, May 15, 1923: 10.

34 “White Sox Have Released Three of Their Players,” Altoona (Pennsylvania) Tribune, July 26, 1923: 8.

35 Douglas 20, Police Journal, City of San Francisco Police Department, Volume 3, November 1924.

36 “Charlie Dorman Will Catch for J.H. Newbauers,” Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, California), April 18, 1924: 5.

37 “O’Connell’s Stars Play Zinggs Today,” Oakland Tribune, May 31, 1925: 26.

38 “Sleuth Covers Up Clew to Wedding,” San Francisco Examiner, June 9, 1928: 3.

39 John J. Peri, “Chance at Pennant is Stake When Wows Play San Jose Here Tomorrow,” Stockton (California) Daily Evening Record, July 7, 1928: 33. Other teams in this Northern California league were the San Francisco Stockyards, Napa, Stockton, San Mateo, Oakland, Vallejo, and Modesto.

40 “Charley Dorman Has Triple Leg Fracture,” Oakland Tribune, October 26, 1928: 49.

41 “Called Out by Great Umpire,” Santa Cruz Evening News, November 17, 1928: 10.

42 “Funeral Arranged for Charles Dorman,” Oakland Tribune, November 16, 1928: 32.

43 “Boss of Road Takes Lead in Winter League,” San Francisco Examiner, November 19, 1928: 37.

Full Name

Charles William Dorman


April 23, 1898 at San Francisco, CA (USA)


November 15, 1928 at San Francisco, CA (USA)

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