During the summer of 1977, I made the acquaintance of an elderly resident of the Brockton, Massachusetts, Veterans Administration Hospital named Charlie Gill. Charlie was a Harvard man, class of 1917. One Saturday afternoon Charlie and I were watching a Dodgers game on television. Actually, I was watching the game and Charlie was asleep in the chair next to me. Several innings into the game, Charlie woke up and said, “My brother Haddie used to pitch for the Dodgers.” I had my doubts but Charlie was adamant. Later that night I checked my Macmillan encyclopedia and found an entry for Harold Gill. The major league Gill was born in Brockton in 1899 and died there in 1932. His nickname was Haddie and his major league career consisted of one inning for the Cincinnati Reds, not the Dodgers, in 1923. I tried to pump Charlie for more information, but all he would say was that his brother had died a long time ago.
I started my file on Haddie Gill that summer and over the years I added bits and pieces when I found them. In the mid-1980s I located a Gill nephew who let me borrow Haddie’s scrapbook.
Gill’s diamond prowess showed early. He pitched for Brockton High School and Phillips Exeter Academy before matriculating at Holy Cross in the class of 1923. Playing baseball for Holy Cross between the World Wars was the collegiate equivalent of playing for the New York Yankees at the height of their dynasty. College baseball in New England in the 1920’s had a special aura. While the Red Sox and Braves fielded some miserable teams in those years, Holy Cross did not.
From 1917 through 1922, the Holy Cross baseball team was a combined 141-19. Haddie’s mark from 1920 through 1922 was 18-1 despite a sore arm that prevented him from pitching during his senior year. Haddie’s senior year also coincided with the arrival of Owen Carroll. While Christy Mathewson and Tom Seaver were the greatest major leaguer pitchers who attended college, Carroll, based on his Holy Cross record of 49-2 (or, depending on the source, 50-2), was the greatest college pitcher of all time. But that’s a story in itself.
On April 22, 1922, Holy Cross played Boston University at Holy Cross’s Fitton Field. Besides Gill, three other Holy Cross players from that game–Chick Gagnon, Freddie Maguire and Doc Gautreau–were future major leaguers. The Holy Cross right and left fielders, twins Len and Leo Dugan, were Jumping Joe’s younger brothers, and both later played professionally. Boston University’s leadoff man and left fielder, Mickey Cochrane, opened the game with a base hit After being sacrificed to second, he tried to score on a single to right but was thrown out at the plate by Leo Dugan. Those were the only two hits Gill allowed in recording one of his five Holy Cross shutouts.
On June 24, 1923, Gill pitched a game against the Boston Red Sox in Thompsonville, Connecticut. Gill was playing for the All-Collegians, an Independent touring team made up mostly of Holy Cross players. Gill pitched into the seventh inning and then, after being relieved with the score 2-2, went to the outfield. The Red Sox had the game won, 4-2, with two outs in the ninth before Gill started a bases-empty rally with his second hit of the day off Boston pitcher Lefty O’Doul. The college boys won the game, 5-4, in ten innings.
Three days later the All-Collegians met the New York Yankees at Haverhill Stadium in Haverhill, Massachusetts. The Yankees were expected to field their regular, predominantly lefthanded hitting lineup, and Gill, a lefty, was expected to oppose them. Instead, Gill split the game between right and center fields. The game was a corker. The Yankees scored eight runs in the last two innings to overcome the All-Collegians’ 9-4 lead. Babe Ruth had three singles and a double in five at-bats. He played the first six innings at first base and then pitched the final three frames. Haddie came to the plate four times, He doubled off Pipgras in the second, reached on a fielder’s choice in the fifth, and then took a Ruth offering in the seventh, best described by the Haverhill Gazette, “towards the gridiron bleachers but Witt ran nearly to the steps and jumping into the air hauled the ball down backhanded with his glove, a sensational stab.” Ruth walked him in the eighth.
The historical significance of that game came in the top of the seventh when Lou Gehrig hit a towering home run over Haddie’s head into the center field stands. This appears to be the first home run Gehrig hit as a Yankee. He signed with the Yankees on June 11. Between then and the end of July, when he was sent to Hartford in the Eastern League, Gehrig appeared in seven official American League games, four as a defensive replacement for Wally Pipp and three as a pinchhitter. His lone big league hit during that time period was a single. From June 11 through the June 27 game in Haverhill, the Yankees played two other exhibition games, one in Albany, New York, on June 21, a 9-4 loss to the Brooklyn Dodgers for which no known boxscore exists, and one in New Haven, Connecticut, on June 24 in which Gehrig did not play.
On June 28 Gill joined the Cincinnati Reds after accepting, as reported in The Sporting News issue of July 5 and the Boston Globe edition of July 9, a signing bonus of more than $15,000. The Reds, relying on a strong pitching staff that boasted three 20-game winners, finished second to the Giants that summer. Gill pitched batting practice and exhibition games. His lone major league appearance came closing out a 7-1 loss to New York on August 16. In addition to his regular season salary and his signing bonus, Gill was voted a full share of the Reds second place money, an additional $1,076. For his one major league inning, Haddie pocketed close to $20,000, a huge sum for the time, especially when contrasted to the eight White Sox players who threw the 1919 World Series for individual gains of just one quarter to one half that amount.
Cincinnati planned to farm Gill out to Springfield in the Eastern League in 1924, but the minors held no interest for Haddie. By the time the 1924 World Series ended Gill was in Egypt, where he joined his two older brothers, the previously mentioned Charlie, and Henry, also a 1917 Harvard graduate.
Henry Gill’s Harvard 25th Anniversary Report stated that he was with the Military Intelligence Division of the United States War Department during World War I. In June of 1918, he went to Europe, going to England, France, and Italy, before finally landing in Egypt, where he served as assistant to the United States military attaché until September, 1919.
Henry Gill formed several business firms in Egypt and lived there until 1933. He traveled throughout Europe and the Near East, crossing the Atlantic sixteen times. While in Egypt he lived in Alexandria, where he and his brothers ran an import-export business.
Less is known about Haddie’s life in Egypt, but it appears that he lived there from 1924-1927. On his trips home the Brockton Times would write about his Egyptian wanderings, and his name could usually be found in box scores of local baseball games. By the end of the 1920s, Haddie was home to stay. His health was failing and he died in 1932 from complications following surgery for appendicitis. His death certificate stated that he had suffered from tuberculosis since 1918.
Henry Gill returned home the year after his brother’s death. He practiced law in Brockton until his own death in 1974.
In May of 1941, in one of the stranger events of World War II, Rudolf Hess, the deputy Fuehrer of Nazi Germany, parachuted from a plane into Scotland. He eventually was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Nuremberg war trials and remained incarcerated until his death in 1987.
Hess was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1894. His grandfather founded an import-export business there in 1865. Hess’s father ran that business at least until the start of World War I. The Gill brothers started their business there shortly after that time. What exactly the Gill’s connection to Rudolf Hess is remains unclear, but Henry Gill knew Hess. Gill stated in his Harvard 25th Anniversary Report that, “Last summer the Boston Globe carried my picture on the front page as an old friend of Rudolf Hess, and some people have ever since viewed me with suspicion.”
Unfortunately, despite reviewing microfilm of the Boston Globe from May to August of 1941, I was unable to locate the Gill-Hess story. Was the import-export business in Egypt the link between the two or did Henry Gill know or meet Hess in some other capacity? Did Haddie Gill also know Hess? It doesn’t really matter as Haddie’s death came long before the horrors of the Second World War. But for a cup-of-coffee ball player, Haddie Gill sure got around.
This article was originally published in SABR’s National Pastime (Volume 17, 1997). In addition to the author’s conversations with Charlie Gill, he also borrowed a scrapbook from a nephew of Haddie Gill. SABR member Bob Kane (deceased), who was the leading sports authority in the city of Brockton, was also very helpful. The author also used the Brockton Enterprise and the Brockton Times.