This article was written by Bill Nowlin
On July 27, 1917, Cliff Brady was involved in an automobile accident that could have ended his career. Two cars smashed into each other shortly after 11 PM at the intersection of Third and Cheyenne in Tulsa. Ticket seller Eddie Quigley’s leg was broken; Brady’s knee was hurt but not to the point he required hospitalization, though shortly afterward he sued the owner of the Packard that had crashed into them for $6,200, claiming permanent leg damage.1 How he fared in the lawsuit we don’t know, but if the damage was permanent it was of the sort that permitted him to play minor-league ball from 1918 through 1928, with a foray into the big leagues with the Boston Red Sox in 1920.
Clifford Brady was born in St. Louis and grew up there. He was born on March 6, 1897, to steam railroad conductor Thomas Brady and Mary (Gilsimn) Brady. All four of Clifford’s grandparents were Irish immigrants, though both of his parents were born in America. In both the 1900 and 1910 censuses, he was listed as Francis C. Brady, but thereafter as Clifford Francis Brady.
He attended St. Mark’s elementary school for eight years and one year of high school at St. Mark’s. He played in the same St. Louis high school league as Muddy Ruel, and in 1914 for the semipro Wabadas, “the most famous amateur team in the middle West.”2 Indeed, Brady was a true baseball prodigy and actually signed with the St. Louis Cardinals that year when he was still 17 years old.3 The youngest player in the league, his job was only to beat manager Miller Huggins out of the second-base job.4
He married young, and – it would appear – to a relative with the same family name as his mother’s maiden name, Cora Cecelia Gilsinn, on October 15, 1915.5 A brief note in his Hall of Fame player file indicates that he attended Christian Brothers College, though no years of attendance is indicated.
Brady’s pro baseball career began in the Western Association, playing for the Tulsa Producers. It was a Class D league. Brady played 99 games in 1915 and 138 games in 1916, hitting .239 and .247 respectively. Second base was his position. He was small in stature, 5-foot-5 in height and weighing in at 140 pounds.
When new manager LigeWooley took over in December 1916, he announced that everyone on the team was for sale, except for second baseman Brady.6 Clearly, Brady was on the Tulsa team in 1917 as well, but we do not have statistics for that year. Wooley was just the first of three managers for Tulsa in 1917.
Brady was with Louisville briefly in the spring of 1918, but played for New London (Eastern League) in 55 games, batting .204. Bizarrely, he was involved in three forfeits within an eight-day period in June, New London forfeiting the first one and Bridgeport forfeiting the next two due to a “wild riot” on the field.7 The 1918 season ended early because of the first world war, but the season ended in triumph for New London, the pennant winner by just one game over second-place Bridgeport – the difference arguably coming in the number of forfeits. Brady worked at the M. F. Plant in New London. He was married with two children, Clifford and Allen.
The New London ballclub was transferred to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in 1919 and Brady played for the Pittsfield Hillies that year and in the beginning of 1920; he hit .258 in 1919 and .318 in the first 62 games of 1920. Pittsfield won the Eastern League pennant in 1919. He was the team captain for the Hillies in 1920. Brady had fractured his finger, but nonetheless, on July 15, manager Ed Barrow announced that the Boston Red Sox had purchased Brady’s contract for cash – though the Red Sox agreed to loan Pittsfield Hob Hiller and Paddy Smith.8 Pittsfield finished sixth in 1920.
The Red Sox team doctor looked after his finger and Brady appeared in his first game on August 8 and played pretty much every game from that point forward – appearing in 53 games with an even 200 plate appearances. He’d debuted for the Red Sox in his native St. Louis, and before his second game was honored by local fans with a “Cliff Brady Day.” He collected his first major-league hit, a single. He hit .228 with a .284 on-base percentage. Brady drove in 12 runs and scored 16. He lacked a home run but would likely have had one on August 16, his first game at Fenway Park, except for falling down rounding third and having to settle for a two-run triple in the fifth inning. He’d singled in the first inning, and was robbed of another extra-base hit in the sixth.
After the Red Sox acquired Del Pratt, Brady looked to be ticketed for Indianapolis in 1921. He was the second-string second baseman at Hot Springs during spring training, but found himself bound for Jersey City. Manager Patsy Donovan of the club announced he’d been released to Jersey City by the Red Sox on April 5, and Brady reported on April 10. The Jersey Journal occasionally called him “little Brady” – due to his being one of the smallest players in the game. He hit an even .300 in 150 games. He was a patient batter at the plate and often recorded on-base percentages which were 80 to 100 points higher than his batting average; in 1921 his on-base percentage was .401.
In 1922, Brady played for Rochester (and for manager George Stallings). During spring training, Stallings had excused him from preparatory work for long enough to return to St. Louis and play a soccer game. In the offseasons, Brady had played for the Scullin Steel Football Club of St. Louis and, as it happened, in March 1922 the team was up to play in the national championship competition against Todds Ship Yard of Brooklyn. The Boston Herald explained, “Brady is a star forward on the Scullin team and has received permission from George Stallings to return to St. Louis for that game. Stallings evidently figures that it will be a good chance for Brady to get all the boots out of his system before returning to baseball.”9Scullin won, 3-2, in St. Louis on March 19, starting the game in heavy rain but in front of 9,000 fans. Todds leapt out to a 2-0 lead, but Brady scored one goal just before the end of the first half. Elmer Schwartz kicked in the tying and winning goals. Brady was thus a national champion for the only time in his sports career.
Back with the Rochester Tribe, he played in 167 games, batting .312 (.421 on-base percentage.) On September 14, his contract was sold to the Detroit Tigers – but several days later, Brady broke his leg in an exhibition game at the end of the season.
Ty Cobb of the Tigers looked Brady over in the springtime of 1923, but was concerned that his broken leg “would slow him up” and so sent him back to Rochester. By mid-June, though, Brady was among the league leaders in the International League again, hitting over .300, with no sign that he was hampered at any way in his fielding or on the basepaths.10 He had no problem with stamina, playing in 157 games, but his batting average fell off a bit to .271. And though he played five more years, that .271 was the highest he’d hit until the end of his career.
Seattle was his home club for four years in a row, from 1924 through 1927, and the Pacific Coast League seasons were long ones. In 1924, Brady – the “midget secondsacker” – played in 194 games, hitting .261(with a .351 on-base percentage), but for the third time was on a pennant-winning team.It was the last pennant he won. The fewest number of games in which he played during those four seasons with Seattle was 166 games in 1926.
On January 18, 1928, Seattle traded him to the Minneapolis Millers – for a manager. To acquire Jim Middleton as skipper, Seattle sent Brady and “other valuable considerations” to the Millers. He played 61 games in the American Association, batting .269. Surprisingly, Middleton was just one of four Millers who left the ranks to become managers that year – first baseman Bert Ellison went to Dallas, infielder Jimmy McAuley went to Des Moines, and catcher Ernie Krueger went to Peoria.11 Near the end of the 1928 season, Brady began to play for Peoria in the Three-I League; he got into 34 games and hit .324.
In 1929, Brady followed Ernie Krueger and became manager of the Peoria Tractors. He was named the second baseman on the league all-star team, but the ballclub finished in sixth place. Brady had hit .278 and had a .953 fielding percentage in 131 games. For Brady, it became his final season as a ballplayer, even though he was only 32. At the time of the 1930 census, he still listed his profession as “ballplayer, commercial sport.” Brady likely was the second baseman named Brady who played for Harrisburg in 41 games in 1930, batting .321. His obituary in The Sporting News has him managing the Harrisburg club.12 It also says he managed the Springfield, Illinois, ballclub, though this is not verified.
He and his wife Cora had two more children, Mark Katherine and Angelo (named for Cora’s father.)
A decade later, in 1940, Cliff Brady worked as a clerk-weighmaster at Scullin Steel Company in St. Louis, a post he held into at least the early 1960s.
Cliff Brady died of a heart ailment on September 25, 1974, in Belleville, Illinois.
In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Brady’s player file and player questionnaire from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Baseball Necrology, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com.
1Tulsa World, July 28 and August 9, 1917.
2Springfield Republican, October 22, 1917.
3Colorado Springs Gazette, April 27, 1919.
4Sporting Life, August 22, 1914.
5Player questionnaire completed by Brady for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
6Tulsa World, December 29, 1916.
7Boston Globe, June 23, 1918.
8Boston Herald, July 16, 1920.
9Boston Herald, March 14, 1922.
10Hartford Courant, June 19, 1923.
11Washington Post, January 10, 1928.
12The Sporting News, October 12, 1974.