Through the 2017 season, 603 men born in the state of Missouri have appeared in the major leagues. That total is exceeded only by the states of California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas, all states with substantially higher populations than Missouri. Of the 603, Fred Boardman was the first to appear in a game played in the concept of a fully professional league. His professional major-league career is microscopically short (one game) but he did play a game contested under the auspices of the National Association of Base Ball Players.
Frederick Stanley Boardman was born on February 18, 1851, in St. Joseph, Missouri. The eastern end of the Pony Express, St. Joseph was incorporated in 1845 and started growing rapidly in 1848 when the Gold Rush in California got started. His father, Henry, was a saloonkeeper and his mother, Nancy, was a dressmaker in St. Joseph. Fred was the second of four children, the others being William, Lee, and Emma.
Sometime between 1860 and 1863, Boardman’s family relocated to Chicago and his father took a job as a bookkeeper for the Salt Company of Onondaga. Boardman started working as a young man. In 1863 he was an entry clerk for Rawson and Bartlett’s Boots and Shoes in Chicago. In 1864 he was a messenger for the 4th National Bank. By 1869 he was clerking for the Beardslee Brothers and in 1870 he performed bookkeeping duties for Biddle and Hunt.1
By 1873 Boardman reported his occupation as salesman. At some point he became associated with the Chicago White Stockings organization. Boardman was a practice player for the White Stockings.2 He also served as an umpire. On May 6, 7, and 8, 1874, Boardman umpired three preseason games between the Chicago White Stockings (today’s Cubs) and the St. Louis Red Stockings. The May 7 game was 26-1 in favor of the Whites, so his umpiring didn’t figure in to the decision. Boardman umpired seven more NA games in 1875, according to Retrosheet.com.
Boardman was never able to break into the starting roster of the Whites, never appearing for them in an official National Association game. However, on August 29, 1874, the call came. The Baltimore Canaries were in town to face the White Stockings. The Canaries were not a good team – their league record coming into the game was a woeful 6-24 and they would go on to finish the season 9-38. For their second game against the Whites, they needed an outfielder. And Boardman was the player selected to help out the lowly Canaries.
The Canaries batted Boardman ninth and placed him in right field, similar to what a modern little league team will do with the weakest player. The game started 30 minutes early due to threatening weather. The newspaper reporters and many of the 1,200 spectators were not privy to this decision. The reporters didn’t arrive until four innings had been played and many of the spectators also missed the early innings. The White Stockings defeated the Canaries 4-0, holding the visitors to six hits, including a single by Boardman. One can imagine the 1,200 faithful cheering heartily as the local boy got a chance to play in an official game and came through with a safety! He played all nine innings in right field and didn’t get an official chance. No putouts. No assists. No errors. And that was that for his major-league career. The game was pretty nondescript but the Chicago Tribune opined about the Chicago defense, “The fielding of the Whites was exceedingly brilliant, however, and occasioned considerable well-merited applause. (Levi) Meyerle and (Davy) Force were especially proficient in that branch of play. …”3
Boardman’s business career advanced. In the late 1890s he was listed as a “Commercial Traveler” in the Chicago city directory. In 1898, the 47-year-old Boardman married Minnie Elizabeth Bailly, 23 years his junior. Minnie had a 6-year-old son, John Francis Bailly, which was the extent of their immediate family. They would not have any more children.
In 1920 Boardman, then 69 years old, received an offer to move to Indianapolis and work for the Kahn Tailoring Company.4 The business started as a small, family-owned tailoring shop in 1886 but had expanded into a large facility that made men’s and women’s suits. Boardman was a purchasing agent and his stepson also joined the company, eventually working as a credit manager. He never retired, continuing to work for Kahn until his death of throat cancer on April 12, 1941, at age 90. He lived in a modest single-family home at 4401 Guilford Avenue the entire time in Indianapolis and his stepson, John Bailly, and his family also stayed in this house until Bailly’s death in 1951.
Boardman’s wife, Minnie, died on February 11, 1937.5
Fred’s obituary noted that he was sick the last six months of his life but stayed active until six weeks before his death.6 It also noted that he was thought to be the oldest member of the Elks in Indianapolis. He is interred in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis and will forever be known as the first Missouri-born major leaguer.7
This biography was reviewed by Len Levin and verified for accuracy by the BioProject fact-checking team.
1 Chicago City Directories for 1863, 1864, 1869, and 1970, accessed through Ancestry.com.
2 David Nemec, The Rank and File of 19th Century Major League Baseball (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland),220.
3 “The White Stockings Again Vanquish the Baltimores 4-0,” Chicago Tribune, August 30, 1874: 16.
4 “F.S. Boardman Dies in His Home,” Indianapolis Star, April 14, 1941: 13.
5 “Death Notices,” Indianapolis Star, February 14, 1937: 32.
6 Indianapolis Star, April 14, 1941: 13.