This article was written by Bill Nowlin
Hal Deviney’s major-league debut came on July 30, 1920. Deviney’s last major-league game was on July 30, 1920. He’d been with the Boston Red Sox for more than the one day and the one hour and 50 minutes the game took to play, but that was the only action he saw – the last three innings of a game in Cleveland, maybe half an hour of work in the big leagues.
He was born as Harold John Deviney in the Boston suburb of Newton on April 11, 1893, to Sarah (Minahan) and Michael Deviney. Michael was a teamster who had come to the United States in 1880 from his native Ireland. Sarah was Bay State-born, to two Irish parents. The couple lived in Westwood by the time they turn up in the 1910 census, and then had eight children: Leo (19), Harold (17), Raymond (14), Edgar (12), Alfred (9), Florence (6), William (4), and George (20 months). A decade later, Michael was working as a foreman for a private estate. Hal was a professional baseball player, and both Raymond and Edgar were working in a bindery.
Hal was a right-hander, but we do not have either his height or weight. It is conceivable he was actually born on the same date in 1894; that is the year he provided when he registered for the draft at the time of the First World War.
Deviney first turns up in a Boston Globe box score in July 1914, pitching for New Bedford (Colonial League) with a 14-9 record. He pitched for New Bedford the following year, too, and was 11-14. In 1916 he played for two teams – Albany first (even starting both games of a July 14 doubleheader), and then Reading. And then Reading again in 1917. He worked for the Buffalo Bisons of the International League in 1918 and in 1919, throwing a three-hitter against Newark on “Pat Donovan’s Day” in 1919. The former Red Sox manager (Patsy Donovan) had worked for the team as a scout, and it could well have been he who recommended Deviney to Boston.
On May 4, 1920, Buffalo gave Deviney his release before the new season began. He pitched for a while for the Toronto Maple Leafs, such as a June 1 game in Akron where he “twirled good ball for Toronto in the pinches.”1
On June 30 the Red Sox signed Deviney. He traveled with the team but didn’t get his first entry into a game until July 30, 1920, at Cleveland’s Dunn Field. Bullet Joe Bush, the Boston starter, gave up three runs in the second inning and five more in the fifth. It was 8-0 in favor of the Indians so manager Ed Barrow probably felt it would be nice to give the new pitcher a look-see. Deviney came in and pitched the last three innings of the game. The first batter he faced, Charlie Jamieson, singled, but then he retired Ray Chapman on a foul ball to the catcher and got Jack Graney on a popup to second base; then Jamieson was cut down attempting to seal second base. Deviney gave up seven hits in all (just as Bush had) and five more runs (two in the seventh and three in the eighth). The Indians “hit him at will.”2 He walked two and struck out none, but did finish the game, which was, not surprisingly, an Indians win, 13-4.
Deviney might have fared better as a batter. He singled to right field his first time up, in the eighth inning, and came around to score. He tripled in the ninth, driving in catcher Roxy Walters, but was left stranded on third. His 2-for-2 at the plate left him with a 1.000 batting average and a 2.000 slugging average as counterpoint to his 15.00 ERA. In the three full innings he worked, he never had a fielding chance.
The fielding gems of the game were turned by Cleveland shortstop Ray Chapman. A note in the Boston Globe said Chapman’s “arm was in rare form, the Cleveland shortfielder whipping the ball to first like a shot.”3 Less than three weeks later, Chapman was dead, killed on August 17 by a Carl Mays fastball that struck him in the head.
It was the third win in a row for Cleveland against the visiting Red Sox. More than 2,000 women took advantage of a “ladies day” promotion and attended the game.
Deviney never got another shot, though he kept playing baseball for years. He pitched for Greenville in the South Atlantic League (17-13) in 1921 and then had back-to-back seasons for the Galveston Sand Crabs in the Texas League in 1922 and 1923. He pitched five consecutive years in the Texas League, moving from Galveston to Houston during the 1924 season, and then from Houston to Beaumont during 1925. Deviney spent all of the 1926 season with the Beaumont Exporters. Throughout, he worked a good number of innings but rarely benefited from a good earned-run average and only in 1922 did he have a winning record (18-13).
Deviney pitched for the Bridgeport Bears in the Eastern League (0-2) in the early part of 1928, then was optioned on May 18 to the Salem, Massachusetts team of the New England League. Deviney was 0-1 for the 1928 Salem Witches, a team considered by some to be the first farm team in the Red Sox system, but he never got another look with Boston.
By late in 1928, there was a Deviney pitching semipro ball in the Greater Boston area for the Dedham A.A. ballclub. Dedham, a town bordering Westwood, had a Deviney who shows up in a 1929 box score playing right field, and a Deviney playing first base in 1930 for the St. Mary’s Holy Name Society ball team. We don’t know if these were all the same Deviney, or perhaps one of Hal’s brothers. We do know that Hal listed himself as a professional ballplayer in the 1930 census, but he had basically disappeared from the historical record.
Deviney was single. He died on January 4, 1933 (January 5, according to his Boston Globe obituary), at his home at 54 High Rock Street in Westwood, only 39 years old. He had been working for Martin Sorensen, a tree warden. His death was sudden and unexpected, a cerebral hemorrhage.
In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Deviney’s player file from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Baseball Necrology, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com. Thanks to Margaret Reucroft of the Westwood Public Library.
1 Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 2, 1920.
2 Boston Globe, July 31, 1920.
3 Boston Globe, July 31, 1920.