Grant Thatcher

This article was written by Darren Gibson

Grant Thatcher (BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM)Grant Thatcher packed a lot into his five-game career with the Brooklyn Superbas in 1903 and 1904. He won his first three appearances with complete-game victories. His only major league loss was a four-inning complete game. Thatcher’s fourth and final career win occurred in his last outing, a nine-inning relief outing when the starting pitcher was arrested after two pitches.

Ulysses Grant Thatcher was born on February 23, 1877, in Maytown, Pennsylvania, roughly 90 miles west of Philadelphia. He was the fifth of 10 children born to George Washington Thatcher, a laborer, and Esther Jane Thatcher.1 Young Grant’s first documented newspaper reference was the 14-year-old described as a “mischievous fellow,” being sued by the owner of a team of horses, alleging Thatcher tried to get the animals to start while unattended by the owner. Thatcher was brought up on misconduct charges in front of a local alderman.2

By 1896, Thatcher was manning second base in the summer for an amateur team from Parkesburg, east of his new hometown of Lancaster.3 In Lancaster that summer, he and two accomplices were charged with larceny.4 They stole a mule from a brickyard, sold it for a dollar, then bought a keg of beer.5 But the charges were eventually nol prossed (no longer processed).6 The next spring, he was charged with disorderly conduct after a Saturday night brawl that lasted over two hours. Those charges were later dismissed.7

Thatcher spent the summer of 1897 playing on amateur teams including Crescent and the Kennett Mohicans. On September 16, Thatcher was given a one-game late-season trial with the Lancaster Maroons, who had just clinched the Class B Atlantic League title. He faced second place Newark and pitched well early before giving up five runs in the seventh and final inning of a 9-8 defeat. His debut earned praise for “the excellent work of Thatcher in the box. In spite of the ragged support accorded him, he displayed great coolness, with plenty of speed and a variety of curves that should develop excellent results.”8

In December, Thatcher, “an amateur pitcher of some note,” signed with the Brockton (Massachusetts) Shoemakers of the Class B New England League.9 He had been recommended by Charlie “Togey” Pittinger,10 who saw Thatcher in local amateur ball. In 1898, Thatcher proceeded to win eight straight games in June and July.11 Reports were that he led the league with a winning percentage of .917, based on an 11-1 record, although it was later amended to 10-2.12 Unfortunately, the league disbanded on July 5 with Brockton in first place. Thatcher moved to the Palmyra Mormons of the New York State League. In August, six Palmyra players, including Thatcher, jumped to an independent Johnstown team,13 which soon replaced the Palmyra franchise before disbanding two weeks later. On August 11, Thatcher, now with a Gloversville (New York) squad, took the loss in a 10-7, 16-inning game to the colored Cuban X Giants out of Trenton, New Jersey.14 In November, the Detroit Tigers of the Class A Western League put in a claim on him.15

Thatcher started 1899 with the Reading Coal Heavers of the Atlantic League, now a Class A circuit, reuniting with former Lancaster manager Frank Rinn. In the last game of Reading’s season on August 5, Thatcher shut out Richmond, 9-0. Then he latched on with the Bristol (Connecticut) Bell Makers to finish the year in the Class F Connecticut State League. For 1900, Thatcher returned to the Class C New York State League and signed with the Troy Washerwomen.16 There were no league pitching stats published that season, but he recorded a four-hit shutout over Syracuse on August 7.17

Prior to the 1901 professional season, Thatcher and his brother David, a center fielder, played for the Lancaster-based Alert Base Ball Club.18 Next, Grant signed with the Ilion Typewriters of the New York State League. Ilion finished deep in last place in 1901 with a woeful 23-82 mark – including 11 straight losses to end the season – a full 44 games behind the Albany Senators. Nonetheless, Thatcher returned for 1902, and Ilion improved to third place. Thatcher and his teammates narrowly escaped death that July when their band wagon was hit by an oncoming Erie Railroad train in Lestershire, New York, killing their driver and horses.19 Within the week, Thatcher and the other players not seriously injured were paid out settlements by the railroad ranging from $25-$500.20

Thatcher signed with the Portland (Oregon) Browns of the independent Pacific Coast League for the 1903 season.21 Shortly after the Browns lost their first eight games, Thatcher was let go, with Portland president J.P. Marshall citing “his inability to get down to business.”22 Later it was reported that Thatcher actually owed the franchise $350 in advances, but he “showed so poorly” that Beavers manager Sammy Vigneux chalked it up as a loss and released him. Thatcher reached out to manager Charlie Reilly of the Los Angeles squad from the rival Class A Pacific National League, who paid his debt to land his services.23 Two days later, Thatcher defeated Azusa University in an exhibition in southern California. He ended April with a 1-0 shutout over the San Francisco Pirates, striking out nine and knocking in the game’s only run.24 In 30 games for Los Angeles, Thatcher posted a solid 17-11 mark, second on the team in wins to Elmer Stricklett. Despite finishing in first place, Los Angeles – along with San Francisco – disbanded on August 21. Curiously, both franchises were owned by Harry Hart, a San Franciscan. Thatcher returned home to Lancaster.

An erroneous report claimed that “Grant is home on account of a weak arm.”25 Instead, upon his return, Thatcher fanned 16 in a win for Lancaster’s semipros over Ephrata in the county championship, where “his experience on the Pacific coast evidently taught him a few tricks.”26 His brother David played shortstop, with ex-heavyweight champ John L. Sullivan, “attired in a jockey cap, a red sweater and blue pantaloons,” serving as the celebrity umpire.27 Thatcher soon joined an Akron, Ohio squad, throwing a no-hitter over a Highlands team from Philadelphia on September 3.28 The next day, Thatcher, “the best pitcher Lancaster ever turned out,” was signed by the Brooklyn Superbas.29 The 5-foot-10, 180 pound righthander was introduced in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle as “a burly young man, very much a ringer for Hans (Honus) Wagner, whom he resembles in looks and build.”30 Thatcher would join a staff led by former Lancaster Maroons pitcher Henry Schmidt.

Thatcher made an “auspicious debut” for manager Ned Hanlon in Brooklyn’s home finale on September 9. He won the eight-inning nightcap of a doubleheader, 4-1, against the Boston Beaneaters by pitching “a really artistic article of ball.”31 The appreciative fans applauded Thatcher “vociferously every time he walked from the slab to the bench. Hanlon was well pleased with the new twirler’s good showing.”32 Two homers from Jimmy Sheckard, also from the Lancaster area, helped supply the offense. Boston’s top starter, Togie Pittinger, lost his 20th decision. Coincidentally, Pittinger had recommended Thatcher for the Brockton team in 1898.

Thatcher accompanied the Superbas on their 16-game, season-ending road trip. In his second effort on September 17, he took a shutout into the ninth inning and beat rookie Mordecai “Three-Finger” Brown, 3-1, in St. Louis with a complete-game.33

On September 21, Thatcher won again. This time it was a six-inning, 7-3 triumph in a second game of a doubleheader in Pittsburgh. The Pirates had already clinched the National League flag and losing pitcher Lew Moren was making his major league debut.34 The game provided Thatcher “an opportunity to add to his reputation, the Los Angeles find winning his third straight victory since he joined the Superbas.” The Brooklyn Citizen commented that Thatcher was “mowing down the Pittsburg batters.”35 Thatcher even lashed out a double, his first major-league hit, to help his own cause.

Thatcher and Brooklyn’s last game of the 1903 campaign was the nightcap of a doubleheader in Cincinnati, He collected a two-run single off southpaw Noodles Hahn, but Cincinnati “waded into young Thatcher for four runs” in the fourth inning. The Reds beat Brooklyn, 7-6, in a four-and-a-half inning game shortened by darkness.36 After beginning his career with a perfect 3-0 record, Thatcher tasted his first defeat. But after the season, he was reserved by Brooklyn for 1904.37

Thatcher broke camp with the Superbas in 1904, but he saw no action until the ninth game, against the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday, April 24, in Brooklyn,38 which was noteworthy because New York City prohibited charging admission for Sunday games. Although Brooklyn had hosted the Boston Beaneaters one week earlier, New York Police Captain White declared “there was no violation of the law, that no admission was charged.”39 Even after blowback from Brooklyn clergy, Washington Park prepared for a massive crowd for the second Sunday game.40 More than 14,000 attended this test case of the Sunday gaming law.

After two pitches, Brooklyn starting pitcher Ed Poole, catcher Fred Jacklitsch and Philadelphia’s Frank Roth, were all arrested for breaking Section 265 of the city code, which prohibited charging for “racing, gaming and other public sports on Sunday.”41 Roth, a second-string catcher, was listed as the seventh-place hitter, but Philadelphia manager Hugh Duffy sent him up to lead off out of order. After Roth was arrested, the manager himself – the actual leadoff batter – assumed the 2-0 count. Thatcher, along with Brooklyn’s backup catcher Lew Ritter, were summoned to the field by Hanlon, and home plate umpire Bob Emslie commenced the game without further incident.42 Thatcher fell behind, 6-0, but he worked nine innings and the offense picked him up, pulling out an 8-6 victory.

After making no appearances on Brooklyn’s subsequent 22-game road trip, Thatcher was released in late May “much to the amazement of most fans, who regarded the lanky twirler as a comer.”43 Thatcher soon landed with the Savannah Pathfinders of the Class C South Atlantic League, where his catcher was fellow Lancaster native Andy Roth. Thatcher went 14-9 on the year.

It was reported in December 1904 that Thatcher had been drafted by the Memphis Egyptians of the Class A Southern Association.44 He refused to sign his initial Memphis contract, however, because it was for less than what he had earned in Savannah, which violated the organized baseball rules in effect at the time. After he agreed to terms in March 1905, Thatcher’s Lancaster-area friends threw him a send-off luncheon, replete with a friend’s Edison phonograph concert performance.45 Thatcher won his Memphis debut but was then blown out by Montgomery on May 24.46 He was released by month’s end. In 1906, Thatcher spent time with the Williamsport Millionaires47 and the Johnstown Johnnies of the independent Tri-State League,48 the last stops on his professional baseball journey.

In 1907, Thatcher was listed as a bartender in Lancaster, where he played more ball with his brother David. The following year, Grant worked as a single packer at a tobacco warehouse. He was arrested for felony assault and battery in November 1910 for a neighborhood altercation with noisy neighbors.49 Thatcher’s right eye was closed, and he had been hit by a brick during the fight.50

Thatcher listed himself as a bar clerk on his September 1918 war draft registration. In 1920, he worked in a warehouse. Thatcher married a local woman named Ester in October 1921, and they had one daughter, Blanche. Ester, who claimed to have studied palmistry, or amateur fortune telling, for 25 years, gave a tutorial in a local paper in 1922.51 They lived in Harrisburg in 1927, where Thatcher was a cigar maker.

The couple separated in January 1930. In March, Thatcher was ordered to pay $5 a week in spousal support.52 In October, two days after their ninth wedding anniversary, Ester L. Thatcher filed for divorce, alleging cruelty.53

In 1931, Thatcher was charged with “wantonly pointing firearms,” though the chargers were eventually dropped.54 Later that year, he served five days in jail for “failure to comply with orders to support [his wife].”55

Grant Thatcher died on March 17, 1936, in Lancaster from “complication of diseases after two weeks’ illness.”56 He was 59. He is buried in the Woodward Hill Cemetery in Lancaster.



This biography was reviewed by Malcolm Allen and Jake Bell and fact-checked by David Kritzler.



In addition to the sources shown in the Notes, the author used,, and



1 Grant’s siblings were Harry, William (Irvin), Jacob, Mary, Margaret, David, Elmer, Benjamin, Elsie, and Nancy.

2 “A Mischievous Fellow,” Lancaster (Pennsylvania) New Era, December 29, 1891: 1.

3 “Normal School, 12; Parkesburg, 8,” Philadelphia Times, June 28, 1896: 3.

4 “Grand Jury Return,” Lancaster Intelligencer, August 22, 1896: 2.

5 “Stole a Mule,” News-Journal (Lancaster, Pennsylvania), June 18, 1896: 4.

6 “Lederman Not Guilty,” Lancaster Examiner, October 28, 1896: 3.

7 “They Were Noisy at Night,” Intelligencer Journal (Lancaster, Pennsylvania), May 11, 1897: 1.

8 “Newark Won It Out,” Intelligencer Journal, September 17, 1897: 1.

9 “Will Play in the New England League,” News-Journal, December 10, 1897: 4.

10 “Baseball Gossip,” Fall River (Massachusetts) Globe, March 29, 1898: 6.

11 “Baseball Gossip,” Fall River Globe, July 20, 1898: 6.

12 “Work of Pitchers,” Fall River (Massachusetts) Globe, October 11, 1898: 6.

13 “Jumped Contracts,” Buffalo (New York) Times, August 3, 1898: 6.

14 “Base Ball Notes,” News-Journal, August 13, 1898: 4.

15 “That Eastern Muddle,” Detroit Free Press, November 20, 1898: 6.

16 “Thatcher Was the Hero,” Post-Standard (Syracuse, New York), July 22, 1900: 3.

17 “Ilion 4-2, Syracuse 0-1,” Buffalo Courier, August 8, 1902: 11.

18 “Base Ball Club Organized,” Lancaster New Era, April 17, 1901: 1.

19 “Terrible Accident,” Altoona (Pennsylvania) Tribune, July 31, 1902: 1.

20 “Messrs. Hess Have Not Settled,” Wilkes-Barre (Pennsylvania) Times, August 4, 1902: 5.

21 “Grant Thatcher Signed,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 3, 1902: 13.

22 “Thatcher is Out,” Oregon Daily Journal (Portland), April 2, 1903: 7.

23 “Young Jumps Back to the Senators,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 8, 1903: 4.

24 “Los Angeles Beats ‘Frisco,” Los Angeles Times, April 29, 1903: 3.

25 “Lancaster Club Wins,” Intelligencer Journal, August 28, 1903: 4.

26 “County Championship Settled,” New Era (Lancaster, Pennsylvania), August 29, 1903: 2.

27 “Lancaster Club Wins.”

28 “Grant Thatcher Did Not Allow the Highlands One Hit,” Intelligencer Journal, September 4, 1903: 4.

29 “Bunts,” York (Pennsylvania) Dispatch, September 5, 1903: 3.

30 “New Brooklyn Pitcher May Be Tried To-Day,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 9, 1903: 11.

31 “Honors Even in Last Game on Home Grounds,” Times Union (Brooklyn), September 9, 1903: 8.

32 “Honors Even in Last Game on Home Grounds.”

33 “Thatcher Wins Again, Fools St. Louis Batsmen,” Brooklyn Citizen, September 18, 1903: 6.

34 “Grant Thatcher a Promising Pitcher,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 22, 1903: 7.

35 “Brooklyn Has a Chance of Beating Out Reds,” Brooklyn Citizen, September 22, 1903: 6.

36 “De Armond,” Cincinnati Enquirer, September 28, 1903: 3.

37 “The Players Announced,” Pittsburgh Press, September 30, 1903: 14.

38 “Great Batting Rally Won a Grand Victory,” Brooklyn Citizen, April 25, 1904: 4.

39 “M’Adoo’s Reports are Not Against Baseball,” Times Union, April 18, 1904: 4. However, “those who desired seats purchased score cards at 75, 50, and 25 cents.” “Sunday Baseball a Fact, 12,000 See First Game,” Brooklyn (New York) Citizen, April 18, 1904: 4.

40 “Clergy Hot About Sunday Baseball,” Brooklyn Citizen, April 23, 1904: 1.

41 “Ball Players Held in $200 Bail,” Standard Union (Brooklyn), April 25, 1904: 1.

42 “M’Adoo Orders Test of Sunday Baseball,” New York Times, April 25, 1904: 14.

43 “Topics Discussed in World of Athletics,” Times Union, May 28, 1904: 4.

44 “Will Play at Memphis,” New Era, December 13, 1904: 2.

45 “Thatcher Goes to Memphis,” Lancaster New Era, March 22, 1905: 2.

46 “Montgomery 9; Memphis 1,” Chattanooga Daily Times, May 25, 1905: 4.

47 “Lumbermen Move Up in Standing,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 26, 1906: 10.

48 “Tri-State League,” New Era, May 30, 1906: 3.

49 “An Early Morning Fracas,” New Era, November 8, 1910: 2.

50 “Fierce Street Fight, Two Men in Hospital,” Lancaster Intelligencer, November 9, 1910: 1.

51 “Lesson No.9: The Line of Fortune,” York (Pennsylvania) Daily Record, September 18, 1922: 4.

52 “Nonsupport Orders,” Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Telegraph, March 28, 1930: 11.

53 “Applies for Divorce,” Evening News (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), October 24, 1930: 5.

54 “Charges Against 3 Dropped by Jury,” Harrisburg Telegraph, January 21, 1931: 9.

55 “Five-Month Term on Disorderly House Charge,” Evening News, October 31, 1931: 11.

56 “U. Grant Thatcher,” Intelligencer Journal, March 18, 1936: 2.

Full Name

Ulysses Grant Thatcher


February 23, 1877 at Maytown, PA (USA)


March 17, 1936 at Lancaster, PA (USA)

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