George Stueland (Courtesy of the author)

George Stueland

This article was written by Terry Bohn

George Stueland (Courtesy of the author)Righthander George Stueland won more than 20 games in each of his first two professional seasons in Class D. The Chicago Cubs took notice and brought him to the major leagues at age 22, where he was tutored by teammate Grover Cleveland Alexander. Ahead of the 1922 season, his manager, Bill Killefer, said, “he [Stueland] has developed faster than any pitcher I have ever seen … I look to him to be a star in our league.”1

But those predictions were unfulfilled. The 6-foot-1, 174-pound switch-hitter possessed great natural ability and a strong work ethic. However, he suffered from wildness, inactivity, inexperience, and unrealistic expectations too early in his career, along with illness and injuries. The combination limited Stueland to 45 games in parts of four seasons with the Cubs.

George Anton Stueland was born March 2, 1899, in Algona, Iowa2, a small town in the north-central part of the state. By the time of the 1910 US Census, the family was living in Lyon, another small town near Algona. His parents, Swen and Thruda (Espe), were both children of emigrants from Norway. Swen, a native of Wisconsin, worked as a railroad foreman. Thruda grew up in Iowa. George had a sister named Bertha and four brothers: Clarence, Trueman, Earl, and Harold.

Nothing is known of Stueland’s childhood but presumably he attended local schools3 and began playing baseball on area teams as a teenager. In May 1917, just after George turned age 18, he enlisted in the US Navy and served as a Coxswain, Seaman Second Class. Stueland underwent training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Chicago. While there, he ran into Tubby Clemons, a catcher with the St. Louis Cardinals, who advised him “in major league hurling methods.”4 While in the service, George married Eleanor Mikkelsen in April 1918. They had one son, George Jr., born later that year. Stueland never shipped overseas and was discharged in December 1918.

The first press reports of Stueland pitching were from 1919, when he was with an independent team in Homer, Nebraska. The report noted that Stueland had “plenty of smoke and good curves that are big enough to wrap around your neck.”5 He began his professional career in 1920 with the Sioux Falls Soos of the Class D South Dakota League.6 Stueland led the league in wins (22-9), innings pitched, and strikeouts (212) – but as a harbinger of the control problems that would plague him the rest of his career, he also led the league in walks, with 152.7

Part of Stueland’s success can be attributed to guidance from his Sioux Falls manager, former major-league catcher Fred Carisch. Stueland was drafted by Minneapolis of the American Association after the season but returned to Sioux Falls in 1921. He got off to another strong start and when a Chicago Cub scout saw him pitch in June, he was signed with the understanding that he would report to Chicago at the conclusion of the Dakota League season.8 No sale price was announced.

He repeated his record of 22-9 with Sioux Falls; improved control (walks reduced to 103 in 291 innings) helped his ERA drop to 2.69 from 4.12. In September he reported to Chicago.

Stueland made his major-league debut against the Philadelphia Phillies in Chicago on September 15. First-game jitters caused him to surrender three walks, four hits, and five runs in the first inning. He then settled down, allowing just two hits over the next three innings, but was charged with the 6-3 loss. Despite the rough start, player-manager Bill Killefer deemed Stueland “a likely recruit and worthy of further consideration and training.”9 A former Sioux Falls pitcher, who had become a neighbor of Chicago President Bill Veeck, said that Veeck was also impressed with Stueland’s showing.10

Stueland spent the winter back in Sioux Falls, where he took a job in a box factory. He found an empty building and an old mattress. He then painted a target to resemble a strike zone on the mattress, fastened it to a wall, and marked off a distance of 60 feet. During his brief time with the Cubs, it was discovered that Stueland was tipping his curveball, so all winter he practiced his curve with a new, more deceptive, grip shown to him by Killefer and Cub teammate Grover Alexander.11 Practicing relentlessly four or five nights a week, Stueland went to spring training at Catalina Island in southern California anticipating a successful 1922 season.

Over the first six weeks of the season Stueland made just three scoreless relief appearances. On May 30 he was inserted into the starting rotation and pitched a 4-1 complete-game victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. He tossed another complete game for his second win, a 15-2 win over the Robins in Brooklyn on June 14. However, after two rough outings a couple of weeks later (eight earned runs in 5 1/3 innings), he was sent back to the bullpen and made just four more starts all year. In 35 games, 11 of them starts, Stueland finished the 1922 season with a record of 9-4, including four complete games. However, he also finished with more walks than strikeouts, and more hits than innings pitched, contributing to a 5.81 ERA.

The Cubs labeled Stueland a disappointment.12 Nonetheless, he entered the 1923 season full of confidence. He’d had his tonsils removed the previous fall and spent the offseason in California working on renovations to the Cubs’ spring training ballpark on Catalina Island. He’d also developed a change of pace and screwball to add to his fastball and curve. Hall of Fame shortstop Bobby Wallace saw him pitch in an exhibition game in San Francisco that spring and declared, “This man Stueland, in my judgment, is going to be a star pitcher. He has a good fastball and a most magnificent curve. Heretofore he has lacked control, but he is improving in that respect and if nothing happens, he ought to win us a great many games this season.”13

Stueland could not crack the Cubs’ starting rotation of Alexander, Vic Aldredge, Tony Kaufmann, and Tiny Osborne. Thus, he was relegated to just five relief appearances over the first two months of the season. Citing inexperience and lack of control, Chicago sent him in mid-June to the Wichita Falls Spudders14 of the Texas League under an option agreement. One report noted that an ankle injury may have been a factor in his ineffectiveness.15 The Chicago Tribune was blunter in its assessment, stating, “Stueland has been of little use to the Cubs this season, lacking control.”16

Stueland continued to struggle with his control in Wichita Falls, walking 43 in 84 innings, and as a result stumbled to a 2-7 record in 16 games.17 Nevertheless, he was recalled to Chicago in mid-August. The Cubs were out of the pennant race but were in a fight with Pittsburgh for a finish in the National League’s first division, so Stueland rode the bench. He got into just one more game that season, surrendering four hits and three runs in two innings in a 13-6 loss to the league-leading Giants on September 17.

That December, Killefer worked out a deal with the Seattle Indians of the Pacific Coast Legue (where his brother Wade “Red” Killefer was managing). Stueland and left-handed pitcher Percy Jones went to Seattle in exchange for righty pitchers Elmer Jacobs and Fred “Sheriff” Blake. An undisclosed amount of cash, a third player, second baseman Cliff Brady, and a “catcher to be named later” were also included in the deal.18 Blake had a fine career for the Cubs and helped Chicago to the 1929 National League pennant.

Stueland continued to walk batters at a rate of about one every two innings, nearly the same rate as with the Cubs and in two previous minor-league stops in Sioux Falls and Wichita Falls.19 However, he had better run support and recorded an 18-13 record in 51 games for the Indians in 1924. On August 3, in front of Chicago scout Jack Doyle, Stueland pitched complete-game victories in both ends of a doubleheader against the Salt Lake City Bees.20

A feature of the transaction that brought him to Seattle that spring was then reported. Chicago retained an option on Stueland, but he would become property of Seattle if the Cubs did not recall him by September 15.21 If Seattle retained him, however, he would be subject to the draft that fall.22 How that was resolved was not reported, but he finished the season in Seattle, helping the club to the PCL pennant., He was recalled by the Cubs after the season but did not appear in any games.

Stueland again spent the offseason working as a groundskeeper, this time at Wrigley Field23, the home of the PCL’s Los Angeles Angels and the Cubs’ spring training base. He trained with the Cubs in the spring of 1925, but Red Killefer expected him to be returned to Seattle at roster cutdown time. Instead, the Cubs tried one last time to harness his natural ability and put him on their Opening Day roster. He pitched one relief inning in the team’s fifth game of the season and made one more appearance after sitting on the bench for five weeks. The Cubs finally cut ties with Stueland on May 26 when they traded him, along with outfielder C. L. Taylor and $25,00024 in cash, to Columbus (Ohio) of the American Association for outfielder Mandy Brooks.25

Continued wildness (97 walks in 197 innings) led to a dismal 3-18 record and an earned run average near six runs per game (5.94). He returned to Columbus in 1926. No statistics for Stueland’s brief time there were published, but through games of May 20 he had a record of 0-3).26 In early June he was sold to another Western League club, the Lincoln (Nebraska) Links.27 He went 8-9 over the rest of the season.

Stueland returned to Lincoln in 1927 and was named the team’s Opening Day starter. However, he was soon on the move again. In June, Lincoln traded him to the Wichita (Kansas) Larks for right-handed pitcher Wallace Carney.28 Stueland went 9-15 combined with both teams.

He started 1928 with Wichita, but in early June the Larks sent him to Amarillo, his third Western League team, in a four-player deal.29 Stueland lasted a little over a month in Amarillo before being released on July 13.30 No final statistics were published but Stueland had a 7-11 pitching record, combined with both teams, in games played through July 26.31

Stueland returned to his home in Onawa, Iowa, a small town just east of Decatur, Nebraska. He put out the word put that he would entertain offers from area semipro teams.32 It is known that he played for teams in Sloan and Moorhead, Iowa later in 1928; with Moville, Iowa the following year; and with local clubs in and around Onawa for a few years after that. By the time of the 1930 US Census, he and his wife and son were living in Onawa. George listed his occupation as the manager of a state park. His wife Eleanor’s obituary noted that she and George managed the Blue Lake Shelter House and Concession Stand. Later they operated Stueland’s Boarding House and Snack Shop at Lewis and Clark State Park.33, 34

George and Eleanor moved to Fullerton, California, sometime in the 1950s but returned to Onawa in 1963. George died of pulmonary emphysema at Burgess Memorial Hospital in Onawa on September 9, 1964, at the age of 65. He was survived by his wife Eleanor, son George Jr., and two grandchildren, and was buried at the Onawa City Cemetery. After George’s death, Eleanor and George, Jr. partnered to operate the Red and White Grocery Store in Onawa for 10 years.



This biography was reviewed by Darren Gibson and Rory Costello and fact-checked by Jeff Findley.



Unless otherwise noted, statistics from Stueland’s playing career are taken from and genealogical and family history was obtained from The author also used information from clippings in Stueland’s file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.



1 “Here He Is – Cubs Claim Find of 1922,” New Orleans Item, March 23, 1922: 16.

2 Stueland’s marriage record indicates a birthplace of Renwick, Iowa, and in the 1900 US Census his family was living in Jewell, Iowa. Renwick and Jewel are small towns near Algona. He was probably born at home because his maternal grandmother was a midwife.

3 Census records indicate that he was a high school graduate.

4 “Stueland Gets Good Story in a Coast Paper,” Sioux Falls (South Dakota) Argus Leader, March 3, 1922: 9.

5 “Homer Wins First Game,” Homer (Nebraska) Star, May 15, 1919: 1

6 Several sources noted that Stueland’s first professional engagement was with Sioux City of the Western League in 1920. No contemporary source could be found to verify that. Likely Sioux Falls was confused with Sioux City.

7 “Wilkus Leading Pitcher in S. D. State League; Stueland Won 22, Lost 9,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, October 4, 1920: 4.

8 “Stueland Sold to Cubs Today,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, June 21, 1921: 4.

9 “Stueland Has Tough Start,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, September 16, 1921: 3.

10 “Hurst Says Stueland Made Good Showing,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, September 24, 1921: 4.

11 “Rookie Hurler of Cubs Drills Nights on Curve,” Chicago Tribune, January 6, 1922: 20.

12 “Stueland Is Disappointment,” Chicago Daily News, September 11, 1922: 17.

13 “Stueland Given High Praise by Veteran Bobby Wallace,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, April 2, 1923: 7.

14 A Wichita Falls contract is noted on Stueland’s TSN contract card but this season is not shown on his overall record in Baseball-Reference. A “Steuland” (with the “u” and “e” reversed) is shown on the Wichita Falls roster, obviously the same man. The author has sent documentation to Baseball-Reference to add the record to that of George Stueland.

15 “Chicago Keeps String on Old Soo Mound Ace,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, June 21, 1923: 9.

16 “Cubs Send Stueland to Wichita Falls Club,” Chicago Tribune, June 21, 1923: 19.

17 Record of “Steuland”:

18 “George Stueland Goes with 3 Players, Cash, for 2 Seattle Stars,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, December 14, 1923: 9.

19 Stueland’s walks-to-innings and walks-per-nine innings ratios: Sioux Falls: 255/549, 4.2, Chicago: 61/132, 4.2, Wichita Falls: 43/8,4 4.6, Seattle: 138/261, 4.8.

20 “George Stueland Wins Two Games for Indians.” Seattle Star, August 4, 1924: 11.

21 “Cubs Have to Recall Stueland by September 15,” Seattle Star, August 9, 1924: 6.

22 “Both Jones and Stueland are Subject to Draft,” Seattle Star, August 26, 1924: 13.

23 “Stueland Won’t Have Far to Go,’ The Sporting News, January 15, 1925: 2.

24 Stueland’s Baseball-Reference page reports the figure as $35,000.

25 “Cub Notes,” Chicago Tribune, May 27, 1925: 27.

26 “Pitchers’ Records,” Milwaukee Journal, May 23, 1926: 31.

27 “Columbus and Indianapolis Clubs Figure in Flurry of Player Deals,” Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, June 8, 1926: 26.

28 “Links Get Wano, Carney for Bliss and Geo. Stueland,” Lincoln (Nebraska) State Journal, June 15, 1927: 9.

29 “Sanders Comes Here When Stueland and Payne Leave,” Wichita (Kansas) Eagle, June 5, 1928: 8.

30 “Allen Releases Two,” Denver Post, July 13, 1928: 21.

31 “Pitchers’ Records,” Denver Post, July 29, 1928: 67.

32 “Pitcher Wants Work,” Sioux City (Iowa) Journal, July 22, 1928: 16.

33 “Eleanor ‘Ma’ Stueland,” Sioux City Journal, October 26, 1983: 27.

34 Lewis and Clark State Park is located on Blue Lake, a few miles outside of Onawa.

Full Name

George Anton Stueland


March 2, 1899 at Algona, IA (USA)


September 9, 1964 at Onawa, IA (USA)

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