Charlie Hanford

This article was written by Joel Rippel

Charles Hanford (Bain Collection, Library of Congress)England has contributed 33 players to major-league baseball. About two-thirds of them played in the late nineteenth century and first decade of the twentieth century.

Charles Joseph Hanford, who made his major-league debut in 1914 at the age of 31, is one of a minority of English-born major leaguers who made his major-league debut after 1910. Only nine players born in England have played in the major leagues since Hanford.

Hanford was born to William and Mary Handford on June 3, 1882, in Tunstall, England — a village in the West Midlands region about 170 miles northwest of London.

William Handford, who was born in England, and Mary Handford, who was born in Ireland, were married in 1880. In 1885 the family moved to New Jersey. By trade, William Handford was a potter. According to the 1900 US census, Charles was the second oldest of six children living at home.1

Growing up in Trenton, New Jersey, Hanford was “one of the outstanding players in Trenton. He began playing as a catcher with the Extons and Hopewell teams. Later he switched to the outfield.”2

Hanford, who was listed at 5-feet-6½ and 145 pounds, spent the first five seasons of his professional career with the Jersey City Skeeters of the Class-A Eastern League. He made his professional debut in 1906 at the age of 23.

Hanford got off to a good start in his rookie season, hitting .312 in his first 16 games. For the season he hit .252 in 116 games for the Skeeters, who finished second in the eight-team league with an 80-57 record (3½ games behind first-place Buffalo).

In 1907 he hit .249 in 137 games for the Skeeters, who finished in a tie with Newark for fifth place.

In a preview of the 1908 season, Hanford’s third with the Skeeters, he was referred to as “the old reliable” who again would hold down the right-field spot.3

Hanford improved to .268 in 110 games in 1908, but the Skeeters slumped to 58-79 and finished in seventh place. On September 23, three days after the Eastern League season ended, Hanford’s contract was sold to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Hanford joined the Phillies in Philadelphia on February 26, 1909, for the train trip to their spring-training home in Savannah, Georgia. The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote of him:

Hanford, “the former Y.M.C.A. boy and who made good for Jersey City … is a hard-hitting right hand batsman, and should, according to (manager Billy) Murray give both (Fred) Osborn and (Otto) Deininger a close run for the center field position.”4

For much of spring training, Hanford was a regular in the Phillies lineup. But as the team broke camp in late March to return north, it was reported that Deininger had been shifted to the “first squad” and that “Hanford, who has played on the Regulars in the Southern games, was relegated to the Yanigans. Whether the deposition of Hanford is intended to be permanent or not is not yet known.”5

Another report said, “Hanford is a handy little man, but hardly as valuable all around as Deininger.”6

In early April Hanford was returned to Jersey City. In 1909, his fourth season with the Skeeters, he batted .237 in 143 games as the Skeeters finished in last place with a 63-87 record.

After he batted .243 in 133 games in 1910 with the Skeeters, who finished in seventh place, Hanford’s contract was sold to the Montreal Royals of the Eastern League in January of 1911.

“The change of scenery will please Hanford,” a sportswriter commented. “He is not a favorite with the Jersey City fans. Hanford is a good ballplayer. The toughest that was ever said about him was that he starved himself when the team was at home and had the gout from overeating on the road.”7

Hanford got off to a good start with the Royals, hitting .367 (11-for-30) in their first nine games. For the season, he hit a career-high .284. In 156 games, he had 26 doubles, 18 triples, and 11 home runs and had a .475 slugging percentage. In 1912 he batted .303 for the Royals.8

In April of 1913, it was reported that Hanford was “still holding out on the Montreal club.”9

Hanford eventually joined the Royals but got off to a slow start. By mid-June he was hitting only .165 (13 for 84) with one home run in 23 games. On June 13 Montreal traded Hanford to Buffalo for Deininger. Deininger, who was born in Germany and appeared in 55 games with the Phillies in 1909, was hitting .236 for the Bisons.

“Hanford’s hitting record in no way compares with that of Deininger’s,” the Buffalo Enquirer noted. “However on (the) bases he is a fiend. His fielding average too is almost perfect. He has wanted to come to Buffalo for some time.”10

After arriving in Buffalo in the morning of June 14, Hanford reported to the ballpark for Buffalo’s doubleheader with Rochester. Hanford made an immediate impression in the first game, in front of “one of the largest Saturday crowds in the history of baseball in this city.”11

In his second at-bat, with Buffalo trailing 3-1 in the third inning, Hanford hit a grand slam that “was among the most sensational ever pulled off here.”12

Buffalo went on to win the game 9-3, and Hanford was a mainstay in the Buffalo lineup the rest of the season. He recovered from his unproductive first two months to hit .284 for the season. In 123 games, he had 22 doubles, 7 triples, and 6 home runs.

After the season Montreal returned Deininger to Buffalo and Hanford was returned to Montreal. The trade had officially been a “loan.” The two outfielders swapped cities again in March when Montreal purchased Deininger’s contract. Several days later, Hanford informed the Montreal team that he had signed a contract with the Buffalo Buffeds of the upstart Federal League.

“Fortune dealt the already much-afflicted Montreal club a staggering blow when Charlie Hanford jumped to the Buffalo outlaws,” the Buffalo Times wrote. “Hanford was given a salary apparently at his own terms and his defection, as the common saying is, was a wrench to Owner (Sam) Lichtenhein and Manager (Kitty) Bransfield of the Canadian team.”13

After eight seasons in the minor leaguers, Hanford’s major-league debut would be memorable for several reasons.

The Federal League opened its 1914 season on April 13 in Baltimore. The game between the Buffeds and Baltimore Terrapins was the only Federal League game scheduled for Opening Day. The American League and National League weren’t scheduled to open their season until the next day.

“Not since the organization of the American League has there been such an upheaval in the baseball world caused by the organization of the Federal League,” observed a Buffalo newspaper.14

A crowd of nearly 28,000 jammed Baltimore’s Terrapin Park, which was located “directly opposite Oriole Park, the home of the Baltimore Internationals,” to witness the debut of the third major league.15

Hanford, playing center field, led off for the visiting Buffeds against veteran pitcher Jack Quinn, a native of Stefurov, Austria-Hungary, who pitched in the major leagues from 1909 to 1933. Hanford took a called strike on the first pitch of the season. He lined the second pitch to right field for the first hit in Federal League history.

After Baltimore scored three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 3-0 lead, Hanford drove in two runs in the top of the fifth with a single to center. Quinn shut down the Buffeds the rest of the way as the Terrapins held on for a 3-2 victory.

Hanford went on to have an outstanding season for the Buffeds. With two weeks left in the regular season, one Buffalo newspaper raved about Hanford’s performance:

“Charlie Hanford, the hard-hitting Buffalo Federal outfielder, is playing a sensational game this season with the Buffs. Hanford started the season hitting close to the .400 mark and for a time led the league. He ran into a slump later, however, but is still feared by the Federal League pitchers. Although he is not hitting an average to place himself among the league leaders, he is still the same Hanford of the early season when it comes to putting over a bingle in a pinch. He is in a class by himself in this respect. It is just this kind of work on the part of Charlie Hanford that has made him one of the most popular players on the Buffalo Federal club roster.”16

Hanford, who opened the season hitting .390 over the first 14 games, played in all 155 games for the Buffeds. For the season, he batted .291 while leading the team with 28 doubles, 13 triples, 12 home runs, 90 RBIs, and 37 stolen bases. He had an on-base percentage of .332 and a slugging percentage of .442. The right-handed-hitting Hanford batted .387 against left-handers.

Hanford’s 597 at-bats were second-most in the league (behind Harry Swacina of Baltimore, who had 617) and his 12 home runs were tied for third in the league as the Buffeds finished in fourth place in the standings with an 80-71-4 record, seven games behind the champion Indianapolis Hoosiers (88-65-4).

On New Year’s Day 1915, the Buffalo club announced that it had signed outfielder Jack Dalton, who had batted. 319 for the Brooklyn Robins of the National League in 1914.

A Buffalo newspaper applauded the move: “Dalton will materially boost the local team. Its outfield needed bolstering. With Dalton playing one of the fields, (Frank) Gilhooley another and with Joe Agler, Charlie Hanford and (Tex) McDonald in battle for the third position there promises to be some lively outer garden gamboling here next year.”17

A little over a month later, Buffalo sold Hanford to the Chicago Whales. The move caught Buffalo fans off-guard.

“Baseball fans of Buffalo were greatly surprised one day last week when they read in local newspapers a Chicago dispatch to the effect that Charlie Hanford, who had covered center field for the Buf-feds last season, had been sold to the Chicago Whales,” reported Sporting Life. “They immediately began to ask various questions as to the cause of the sale of the gardener, who at the opening of the season, displayed extraordinary fence-bursting propensities, but the management of the local Feds assured all inquisitors that an understanding had been reached and an arrangement made whereby Buffalo would benefit by the exchange as well as Chicago. Hanford’s batting fell off somewhat during the latter part of the season, although occasionally he would whale the pill for a three-bagger or a circuit trip.”18

Two days after acquiring Hanford, the Whales signed outfielder Les Mann, who had played for the World Series champion Boston Braves in 1914.

The Whales held their spring training in Shreveport, Louisiana, and early reports indicated that Whales manager Joe Tinker was planning on platooning his outfielders: “The addition of Leslie Mann and Charlie Hanford, outfielders, has supplied the north siders with reserve strength to spare. With Mann and Hanford, both strong right-handed hitters, Tinker expects to use two sets of outfielders.”19

In late March, Tinker announced that Hanford would be in the lineup against left-handed pitching.

Hanford got off to a slow start with just two hits in his first 13 at-bats. But he quickly warmed up. On April 16 his pinch-hit single in the bottom of the ninth inning lifted the Whales to a 4-3 victory over the visiting Pittsburgh Rebels.

On April 26, two days after Whales club President Charles Weeghman offered the St. Louis team its choice of Hanford, Mann, or Leo Kavanagh, Hanford went 3-for-4 in the Whales’ 7-0 victory over Kansas City. On April 28 Hanford was 3-for-6 with two triples and a single in the Whales’ 13-1 victory over the Packers.

The Whales, who had finished in second place in 1914 with an 87-67-3 record, played .500 ball for the first two months of the season. After a loss to the Kansas City Packers in the first game of a doubleheader on June 13, the Whales were 25-25. At the close of play on June 13, they were in sixth place. A 4-1 victory in St. Louis on July 14 — the Whales’ 19th victory in 26 games — moved them into a tie for first place.

After a doubleheader split with the visiting Brooklyn Tip-Tops on July 17, the Whales remained in first place, which created a unique milestone in Chicago. At the close of play on July 17, as described in a 2015 article:

“The American League’s Chicago White Sox led the league by 1½ games, the Federal League’s Chicago Whales had a half-game lead, and the National League’s Chicago Cubs were tied for first. The feat of one city having three first-place teams has not since been repeated, since there have not been three major leagues since that season. (This statement, of course, assumes not counting Brooklyn as part of New York City.)”20

On August 12 Hanford helped the Whales pull out a victory in unique fashion. With the score tied 1-1 in the top of the ninth, Mann tripled. Hanford, pinch-hitting, drove him in with a squeeze bunt. What made that unusual was that Hanford “had been ‘ejected’ two innings earlier ‘because Umpire (Barry) McCormick’s sensitive ear was offended. [Under Federal League rules] a player ousted merely from the bench, who has not been in the game, may return any time his manager desires, so Tinker was able to recall … Hanford … from exile.’”21

The Whales went on to win the Federal League pennant with an 86-66 record. Hanford batted .240 with 22 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 77 games.

His two seasons in the Federal League showed a .280 average with 12 home runs, 112 RBIs, and 47 stolen bases in 232 games. The 1914 and 1915 seasons were his only major-league experience.

After the Federal League folded, Hanford bounced around the minor leagues for the next three seasons. He split the 1916 season with three teams, Kansas City (American Association), Mobile (Southern), and Peoria (Illinois). For the season, he hit a combined .306 in 119 games. In 85 games with Peoria he batted .329.

In 1917 he returned to the International League, playing in 125 games with Richmond. He batted .254 with 12 home runs. His final season in professional baseball was 1918, when at the age of 36, he hit .255 in 51 games with Omaha of the Western League. He had a career batting average of .265 in 11 minor-league seasons.

After retiring as a professional player, Hanford continued to play baseball, helping the J.N. Barbers team ofTrenton win the Delaware River League title in 1921 at the age of 39.

Hanford initially worked as a foreman at a shipbuilding company in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, before going to work for Trenton Transit. He eventually became the superintendent of Trenton Transit.

He died on July 19, 1963, in Trenton at the age of 81. At the time of his death, he was survived by Lillian, his wife of 55 years, son Charles Jr., a sister and two brothers.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted baseball-almanac.com, Baseball-Reference.com, findagrave.com, Newspapers.com, and Retrosheet.org.

 

Notes

1 According to the 1900 US Census, the family name was spelled Handford. During Charles Hanford’s playing career his name was occasionally spelled “Handford” in box scores and newspaper accounts. His name is spelled Hanford on baseball-reference.com and retrosheet.org. Hanford’s obituary on findagrave.com and in newspapers said a surviving son was Charles Hanford Jr.

2 “Charles Hanford, Star Athlete, Bus Official,” Trenton Times, July 21, 1963.

3 “Baseball Boom at Jersey City,” Buffalo Express, January 28, 1908: 11.

4 “Advance Guard of Phillies in Town,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 27, 1909: 6.

5 “Deininger Is a Regular,” Altoona Tribune, April 2, 1909: 10.

6 Jim Nasium, “Jim Nasium Gives Some Inside Tips about Them and Gives a Line on the Athletics and Phillies’ Teams,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 28, 1909: 6.

7 “Jack Ryan Sells Hanford,” Buffalo Enquirer, January 28, 1911: 8.

8 The Eastern League had rebranded itself as the Double-A International League.

9 “News Notes,” Sporting Life, April 5, 1913: P12.

10 “Deininger Leaves Us,” Buffalo Enquirer, June 14, 1913: 6.

11 “Hanford Hero of Sensational Game; 11,194 Fans at Grounds,” Buffalo Times, June 15, 1913: 61.

12 Ibid.

13 “Bill Clymer Can See a Pennant,” Buffalo Times, April 3, 1914: 16.

14 “Order Prevailed,” Buffalo Express, April 13, 1914: 4.

15 “Close Game Lost by Buf Feds in Season Opening,” Buffalo Enquirer, April 14, 1914: 9.

16 “Charlie Hanford a Star With the Buffalo Feds,” Buffalo Evening News, September 26, 1914: 6.

17 “Dalton Signed by Buf-Feds, Report Today,” Buffalo Evening News, January 2, 1915: 8.

18 Edward Tranter, “Buffalo Budget,” Sporting Life, February 20, 1915: 10.

19 James Crusinberry, “Whales to Face Stovall’s Gang,” Chicago Tribune, March 14, 1915: Part 3, 1.

20 Mark S. Sternman, “The Last Best Day: When Chicago Had Three First-Place teams,” The National Pastime (SABR, 2015).

21 Ibid.

Full Name

Charles Joseph Hanford

Born

June 3, 1882 at Tunstall, England (United Kingdom)

Died

July 19, 1963 at Trenton, NJ (USA)

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