Mid-1880s outfielder Ed Glenn had various skills needed for an extended stay at the major league level. In the field, he was an exceptional defender, a ground-covering, sure-handed flycatcher with an excellent throwing arm. On the base paths, he was a fleet-footed, intelligent runner. And in the clubhouse, he was a positive presence, a quiet and affable man, well-liked by teammates, the sporting press, and baseball fans. In addition, Glenn’s serious work habits and reliable sobriety made him a favorite of club management. His only shortcoming was a familiar one, but seemingly insurmountable: he could not hit top-quality pitching.
When a non-productive bat prompted Glenn’s release by the Boston Beaneaters in 1888, it marked the third time that he had been let go by a big league club. Undiscouraged, he returned to the minors and posted career-best numbers in the Western Association. Glenn was therefore hopeful of getting yet another chance to play at the game’s highest echelon when his performance abruptly deteriorated. Soon thereafter, it was discovered that he had contracted consumption. Some months later, Ed Glenn was dead at age 31. The story of this sadly abbreviated life follows.
Our subject’s birth name was Edward C. Glinn. He was born in Richmond, Virginia, on June 15, 1860, the youngest of 12 children born to bricklayer and Confederate Army veteran Peter Dabney Glinn (1814-1878) and his wife Mary Elizabeth (née Patman, 1820-1894), both native Virginians.1 Little is known about Ed’s formative years, but the surname Glenn became attached to him when, as a teenager, his involvement in the Richmond baseball scene was noted in local newsprint.2 From then on, he was known on the sports page as Glenn. But away from the game, Ed retained the last name Glinn,3 as would his wife, the former Margaret Dugan, and his only child, daughter Mary Virginia, born in September 1883.
As with most ballplayers of his generation, Glenn began playing baseball on local sandlots before advancing to amateur nines. By 1879, the youngster, who batted and threw right-handed, had become the backstop for the Richmond Virginians, a highly regarded independent professional club.4 The following year, he moved to left field, the position that he would play almost permanently thereafter. Ed remained with the Virginians during the ensuing seasons, the club reportedly turning down a handsome cash offer for Glenn and teammate Billy Nash tendered by the St. Louis Browns of the major league American Association in 1883.5 Recently married and with a child on the way, that was fine with Glenn, who preferred to remain home in Richmond where he also had regular offseason employment, initially as a laborer, then as a shoemaker.6
In 1884, the Richmond Virginians became members of the Eastern League, a newly formed minor league. In 61 games, leadoff batter Glenn posted a respectable .264 batting average, with 12 extra-base hits including three homers. He also scored 67 runs and played first-rate defense in left field. The Virginians, however, were a mediocrity, struggling to stay above the .500 mark in EL play. Notwithstanding that, fate in the form of the collapse of the American Association franchise placed in the nation’s capital intervened. With their record standing at a dismal 12-51 (.190) and hemorrhaging red ink, the Washington Nationals disbanded on August 2. Desperate for a replacement club, AA brass quickly tabbed the willing and nearby Richmond Virginians to assume Washington’s schedule.7 And with that, Glenn and his teammates became major leaguers overnight.
On August 5, 1884, Ed Glenn made his major league debut, going 1-for-4 off Philadelphia Athletics ace Bobby Mathews. Glenn’s single, however, was one of only five harmless base hits garnered by Richmond in a 14-0 drubbing. That outcome was a portent of things to come, as the AA’s new entry was only marginally more competitive than the hapless outfit which it had replaced. The Virginians managed only 12 victories in 42 games and were dropped from the American Association at season’s end. Left fielder Ed Glenn’s offensive contribution, a .246 batting average in 175 at bats, was above the team norm (.222) but without power, featuring only seven extra-base hits. Nor was his .833 fielding average impressive.8
With its player roster essentially intact, the Richmond Virginians returned to the Eastern League for the 1885 season and finished a strong (67-26, .720) second behind the reconstituted Washington Nationals (70-25, .736). Hampered by injuries both early (ankle) and late (hand), Glenn missed considerable playing time that season, and his batting seemed to regress. In 83 games, he hit only .232.9 But his defensive play drew constant raves in the hometown press.10 Out-of-town newspapers echoed the praise, the Norfolk Virginian once observing, “Glenn, who always plays his part in left field in perfect style, covered himself with fresh laurels on two running catches away down near the fence.”11 More important, Glenn’s play attracted the attention of Horace Phillips, field leader of the AA Pittsburgh Alleghenies. That November, Phillips signed him for the oncoming season.12
In April 1886, the Pittsburg Daily Gazette introduced the Alleghenies’ new left fielder to local fans, informing them that “Glenn has been hunting all winter. … He is in good shape and a valuable acquisition.” The Gazette article then described Glenn as “a very quiet and unassuming little gentleman, never has much to say, but a great favorite with every man on the team.”13 Then early in the season, the Pittsburg Times declared, “Eddie Glenn may not be as big and strong and dashing as many other left-fielders, but he takes a back seat to none in the Association.”14 Although otherwise accurate, the categorization of Glenn as undersized was mistaken. At 5-feet-10 and 160 pounds, he was a slightly above average-sized ballplayer for the 1880s.15 Yet Glenn in person must have conveyed, somehow, the impression of being diminutive, as the descriptive little or small would periodically be affixed to him in future.
In Pittsburgh, Glenn’s problem was not his size. It was the fact that he still could not hit major league pitching. Manager Phillips later observed, “It’s a pity. Eddie always hits the ball, but can’t get it safe.”16 In 71 games, Glenn posted a woeful .191/.241/.249 slash line, and was let go in mid-August. In the estimation of Sporting Life’s Pittsburgh correspondent, the departed Glenn “was a splendid left fielder but very weak with the stick and for that reason he was released.”17
Shortly thereafter, it was widely reported that Glenn had been scooped up by another major league club, the National League’s Kansas City Cowboys.18 But as it turned out, his next berth was actually with the Syracuse Stars of the minor International League.19 Glenn performed decently for his new team, batting .280 in seven games, but was released by Syracuse before the season was out.20 That December, he completed his 1886 odyssey by signing with the Charleston (South Carolina) Sea Gulls of the Southern League.21
Because 1887 is a statistical outlier — for that season only, a base on balls was treated as a base hit for batting average purposes — it is unclear what value should be placed upon Glenn’s gaudy .373 BA for Charleston. Two other ordinarily light-hitting Sea Gulls (Fred Carl, .377, and Jim Powell, .375) posted even higher numbers.22 But Glenn’s 126 runs scored in only 103 games was impressive under any circumstance, and his defensive work received by-then customary plaudits. Meanwhile, fan appreciation was demonstrated in early August by the mid-game presentation of a “fine gold-headed cane” to the popular Sea Gulls left fielder.23 In the estimation of one observer, the Charleston outfield of Glenn, Carl, and Charlie Williams was “rather light as batters, but as fielders, their equal has never been seen in the south.”24 The locals were, therefore, pleased when Glenn re-signed with Charleston for the 1888 campaign.25
The Southern League contracted to four clubs and began the 1888 season on shaky financial ground. Batting statistics returned to normal levels. In the case of Ed Glenn, that translated into a .247 batting average through 47 games, but with an eye-catching 46 runs scored and 33 stolen bases. On July 4, the circuit disbanded, making Glenn and other abandoned SL players free agents. Happily for him, there was interest in acquiring his services, with the National League Boston Beaneaters perceived as lead suitor. But having played previously in the rival American Association, Glenn chose to return there, signing with Kansas City, now an AA member.26
As tartly observed in a wire service report, “Glenn is, by no means, a colt, as he has played for several AA clubs. … He was only a fair hitter then, but his two years’ experience in the south has improved his batting wonderfully.”27 Except it hadn’t. In a three-game audition, Glenn went 0-for-8 for Kansas City, striking out four times and making an error in left field. Once he was given his walking papers, former minor league teammates Billy Nash, Pop Tate, and Dick Johnston lobbied for Glenn’s engagement by their current employer, the Boston Beaneaters.28 With injured outfielder Joe Hornung shelved indefinitely, Boston signed Glenn, who performed as expected in 20 late-season contests. His work in left field — still barehanded — roused the customary press applause.29 But he didn’t hit a lick, posting a meager .154 batting average.
Glenn’s release by Boston at season’s end brought his time as a major leaguer to a close. In parts of three seasons with four big league clubs, he had batted a tepid (106-for-525) .202, with only 20 extra-base hits in 137 games played. What kept Glenn in the bigs even that long was his superior defense, a congenial, low-key personality, and exemplary work habits. Had he only been able to hit, Ed Glenn would likely have enjoyed prolonged tenure in the major leagues of his time.
Still only 28 years old as a new season approached, the ever-hopeful Glenn signed with the Sioux City (Iowa) Cornhuskers of the Western Association and turned in the one truly standout year of his professional career. He accomplished this despite a harrowing incident that almost brought an abrupt end to his season. In the seventh inning of a July 1 game against Milwaukee, Glenn and shortstop Bob Burks collided while pursuing a pop fly to short left. Glenn was knocked unconscious and taken from the field on a stretcher. He did not reawaken until the following morning, and was believed to have suffered serious internal injuries.30 The widespread prediction was that he would not play again that year.31 But before July was out, Glenn was back on the field, and remarkably suffered no lingering effects from the collision. “Since Glenn got back on his feet again, he has done better work than ever and everybody likes him,” reported a Sioux City scribe.32 In 105 games, Ed batted .331 with 123 runs scored, and posted professional career-highs in virtually every other offensive category, including extra-base hits (43), doubles (23), triples (11), home runs (9), slugging (.490), total bases (222), and steals (47).
That September, Glenn re-signed with Sioux City for the 1890 season. But soon thereafter, the arrival of the Players League depleted the ranks of major league clubs and presumably inspired hopes in Glenn for yet another shot in the top echelon. After all, he was an established defensive standout, a cordial and stabilizing force in the clubhouse, and coming off a season that suggested that batting talent had finally blossomed. Regrettably, it was not to be. Sioux City was the final stop in the professional playing career of Ed Glenn.
There was the occasional bright spot — particularly a game in late July against Minneapolis. In this “phenomenal” performance,33 Glenn made seven putouts in left, had three hits, scored five runs, and stole three bases. Overall, though, he could not get untracked in 1890. Playing in only 90 games, his batting average nosedived to .203.34 Still, a Minneapolis sportswriter designated Glenn the left fielder on his post-season WA All-Star nine,35 and Sioux City reserved him for the 1891 season.36
Ed spent the offseason at home in Richmond, keeping in shape and raising hunting dogs.37 He reported to Sioux City’s spring training camp the following spring, but was released almost immediately.38 By late May, it was being reported that Glenn had contracted consumption (tuberculosis), a scourge of late-19th century baseball.39 His condition, however, was not yet so bad that he could not play an occasional game for a Richmond semipro club that summer.40
Over the winter, Glenn’s health continued to decline. But his passing was still unexpected by family and friends when he died in his Richmond residence on the morning of February 10, 1892.41 The official cause of death was pulmonary tuberculosis.42 Edward C. Glenn, né Glinn, was only 31. Following funeral services, his remains were interred in the Glinn family plot at Shockoe Hill Cemetery, Richmond. Survivors included wife Margaret Dugan Glinn, daughter Mary Virginia Glinn, and four of his siblings: Celeste Frayser, Elizabeth Saunders, Sallie Winn, and Robert Glinn.
This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and Norman Macht and checked for accuracy by SABR’s fact-checking team.
Sources for the biographical info provided above include the Ed Glenn file maintained at the Giamatti Research Center, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, New York; the Glenn profile in Major League Player Profiles, 1871-1900, Vol. 1, David Nemec, ed. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011); US Census and Glinn family data accessed via Ancestry.com; and certain of the newspaper articles cited in the endnotes. Unless otherwise noted, stats have been taken from Baseball-Reference.
1 By the time of Ed’s birth, four of the Glinn children, Maria Louisa (1839-1857), Oscar (1841-1843), Adelaide (1843-1850), and Corrie (1854-1857) were already deceased. His surviving siblings were Mary Alice (born 1844), twins Celeste and Robert (1846), Sallie (1849), Elizabeth (1851), Kate (1855), and Adolph (1856).
2 See e.g., “Base-Ball,” Richmond Dispatch, August 7, 1878: 1.
3 Both his death certificate and cemetery headstone identify the deceased as Edward C. Glinn, not Glenn.
4 Per “Glenn’s Record,” Sporting Life, February 27, 1892: 10.
5 Per the Ed Glenn entry by early baseball scholar David Nemec in Major League Player Profiles, 1871-1900, Vol. 1, Nemec, ed. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011), 545, citing the National Police Gazette.
6 As reflected in the 1880 US Census and the 1881 and 1882 Richmond city directories, all of which list his surname as Glinn.
7 As reported in the Richmond Dispatch, August 5, 1884: 1.
8 Based on his subpar-by-modern-standards fielding stats, David Nemec concluded that Glenn was not “a great outfielder.” Major League Player Profiles, 545. But contemporary observers of the barehanded flycatcher likely would not agree with that assessment. A sample of the praise regularly accorded Glenn’s defensive play appears later in the text above.
9 Per “The Eastern League,” Sporting Life, November 4, 1885: 4. Baseball-Reference has no stats for Glenn in 1885.
10 See e.g., Richmond Dispatch game accounts published on July 4, August 11, August 27, and September 16, 1885.
11 “Baseball,” Norfolk (Virginia) Virginian, September 18, 1885: 1.
12 As reported in “From the Smoky City,” Sporting Life, November 18, 1885: 1.
13 “Alleghenies in the South,” Pittsburg Gazette, April 10, 1886: 1.
14 As quoted in the Lancaster (Pennsylvania) Intelligencer, July 10, 1886: 4.
15 In March 1887, a non-bylined article published in a Georgia newspaper listed Ed Glenn as 5’9”/163 lb., making his physique the norm for a 14-player Charleston Sea Gulls player roster that averaged 5’9”/162½ lb. See “Charleston Chronicles,” Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle, March 26, 1887: 3. The putative nickname Mouse assigned to him by modern baseball reference works, meanwhile, finds no discovered support in the newsprint published during Glenn’s lifetime.
16 See “Base Ball Gossip,” Wheeling (West Virginia) Sunday Register, February 14, 1892: 4.
17 Natural Gas, “From the Smoky City,” Sporting Life, August 25, 1886: 1. As he did elsewhere, Glenn “made a great many fans” while in Pittsburgh.
18 As reported in the Wheeling Sunday Register, August 22, 1886: 4; Cleveland Leader, August 25, 1886: 3; and elsewhere.
19 Glenn’s signing with Syracuse was reported in “Base Ball Notes,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 21, 1886: 4; “Around the Bases,” Watertown (New York) Times, August 31, 1886: 4; and elsewhere.
20 As reported in “The Stars’ New Men,” The Sporting News, September 20, 1886: 1.
21 As reported in “Southern Breezes,” The Sporting News, December 18, 1886: 5.
22 In 1888, Carl registered a .258 BA for Charleston, while Powell hit .250.
23 Per “Charleston Notes,” Augusta Chronicle, August 6, 1887: 3.
24 “The Charleston Club,” Sporting Life, December 28, 1887: 2.
25 Per “Notes and Comments,” Sporting Life, November 30, 1887: 5.
26 As reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 2, 1888: 5; Boston Herald, August 6, 1888: 8, and elsewhere.
27 See e.g., “Base Hits,” Canton (Ohio) Repository, August 14, 1888: 3.
28 See “New Outfielder for Boston,” Sporting Life, August 22, 1888: 7.
29 See e.g., praise for Glenn’s outfield play published in the Boston Journal, August 25, 1888: 6, and Boston Herald, August 27, 1888: 8. His career-high .957 FA would have ranked Glenn fourth among National League outfielders had he played enough games to qualify for statistical consideration.
30 As related in “Between the Bases,” Boston Herald, July 7, 1889: 4; “Eddie Glenn Injured,” Richmond Dispatch, July 10, 1889: 1; and elsewhere.
31 See e.g., “Glenn Must Quit Work,” St. Paul Globe, July 3, 1889: 6; “Flashes from the Diamond,” Omaha Bee, July 14, 1889: 11.
32 “Sioux City Will Stay,” Sporting Life, September 18, 1889: 3.
33 The descriptive employed to describe his play in “Glenn Was on Deck,” (Denver) Rocky Mountain News, July 28, 1890: 7.
34 Per Western Association stats published in the St. Paul Globe, October 19, 1890: 7. Baseball-Reference provides no data for Glenn’s 1890 season.
35 See “The Western Association: Wants To Be In,” Sporting Life, September 13, 1890: 6.
36 As reported in the Omaha World-Herald, October 19, 1890: 6.
37 Per “Santa Claus Whiskers,” Sporting Life, December 20, 1890: 6.
38 As reported in “News, Gossip and Comment,” Sporting Life, March 21, 1891: 3.
39 As revealed in “New, Gossip and Comment,” Sporting Life, May 30, 1891: 2; “Diamond Dust,” Rocky Mountain News, June 11, 1891: 3; and elsewhere. The recent deaths of major league standouts Jim Whitney and Jimmy Fogarty, both consumption casualties, were duly noted.
40 As mentioned in “Notes of the Diamond,” Richmond Times, July 19, 1891: 3, and “To Play Ball,” Richmond Times, August 5, 1891: 6. See also, Richmond Dispatch, August 5, 1891: 2.
41 Per “Death of Eddie Glenn,” Richmond Dispatch, February 11, 1892: 2.
42 According to Virginia death records contained in the Glenn file at the Giamatti Research Center. Certain news accounts erroneously attributed Glenn’s demise to “injuries received in colliding with a comrade” during a Sioux City game. See “Glenn’s Record,” Sporting Life, February 27, 1892: 10. See also, “Virginia News,” Alexandria (Virginia) Gazette, February 11, 1892: 3.