Harry Imlay

This article was written by Bill Lamb

Harry Imlay (NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME LIBRARY)A three-year pitching mainstay for the University of Pennsylvania, right-hander Harry Imlay was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in June 1913.1 Three months and nine ineffectual relief appearances later, he was jettisoned by the Phils, sold to a minor league club. But rather than report, Imlay abandoned Organized Baseball, opting to pursue the calling that he had trained for in college: dentistry. Apart from some weekend pitching for area semipro clubs, he left baseball behind. For the next 35 years, Dr. Harry M. Imlay was a pillar of smalltown central New Jersey life: respected local dentist, civic leader, and solid family man. He was still in his professional and civic prime when felled by a heart attack in October 1948. The ensuing paragraphs recall this now long-deceased pitching dentist.

Harry Miller Imlay was born on January 12, 1889, in Allentown, New Jersey, a semi-rural borough located about 40 miles northeast of Philadelphia. He was the only child born to hotel proprietor Henry P. Imlay (1860-1901) and his wife, the former Sallie (Sarah) Miller (1856-1933), both descended from families that traced their roots to colonial New Jersey.2 When Harry was only 12 years old, his father died unexpectedly.3 Thereafter, Harry was raised by well-heeled relations of his mother. He attended school in Allentown through the eighth grade, and occasionally appeared in amateur theatricals as a teenager.4

Given the local prominence of the Imlay and Miller clans, Harry’s name began appearing in the social news columns of the Allentown Messenger before he was 15.5 Newsprint mention of his name expanded dramatically after September 1906 when Harry was enrolled in Pennington Seminary, a Methodist Church-affiliated prep school located outside Trenton. There, Imlay’s artistic, academic, and athletic achievements were often recognized in the Trenton Evening News.6 A four-sport athlete – football, basketball, gymnastics, and baseball – at Pennington, Imlay garnered the most press attention for his work on the diamond. By his senior year, Harry was the school’s star pitcher, with his photograph appearing alongside a news account of a three-hit victory that he posted over Seton Hall in April 1909.7

Upon graduating with honors from Pennington, Imlay matriculated to the University of Pennsylvania, an elite academic institution located in center-city Philadelphia, entering the dental school in September 1909. At Penn, Harry confined his athletic endeavors to baseball, pitching for the freshman team in 1910, then moving up to the varsity. At 5-foot-11, 168 pounds, he had above-average size for his era but did not throw exceptionally hard. Rather, he relied on good control of an assortment of stuff and used a spitball as his out pitch.

Early in his second year, Imlay got a taste of what pitching to major league batsmen might be like, facing the Philadelphia Phillies in a preseason game. “The pitching of Imlay and [Walton] Clark for the collegians was good and effective, but poor support made run getting easy for the big leaguers,” reported the Philadelphia Inquirer on the Phillies’ 14-2 win.8 Some two weeks later, Harry fared better against collegiate opposition, striking out 14 during a two-hit victory over Columbia, 8-1.9 Thereafter, he settled in behind Walton Clark as Penn’s number two starter, posting a 5-5 record for the Quakers in his initial varsity campaign.10

The following spring, Imlay encored as second starter, going 5-4 (with three saves) for new coach Roy Thomas and a 20-7-1 Penn team.11 Harry fulfilled academic requirements at the dental school and was awarded his Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) degree by the University of Pennsylvania in June 1912.12 That fall, however, he returned to campus for a year of post-graduate dental study. He also had a year of college baseball eligibility left. Over the winter, Imlay was appointed to the baseball committee of the university athletic association,13 and in spring 1913 he donned the Red and Blue for a third varsity season.

Imlay assumed the roles of team captain and staff ace, and got off to a good start with a 5-4 win over Yale in late March. In early May, he struck out 11 and allowed only two hits in setting down Princeton, 2-0. He completed the Quakers’ 17-12 season with a 1-0 victory over Michigan, outdueling Wolverine ace George Sisler.14 In all, both starting and relieving, Imlay posted a 10-7 record in his final Penn campaign.15

Although his college numbers were unspectacular, Imlay attracted major league interest and had a standing contract offer from the Boston Red Sox.16 But with the University of Pennsylvania being a Philadelphia school and Penn coach Roy Thomas a Phillies alumnus, the Phillies had the inside track on Imlay. And even before Penn completed its season, it was announced that Phillies catcher-manager Red Dooin had secured the pitcher’s services.17 But before he reported for duty, Imlay sat for the exams that he needed to pass in order to practice dentistry in his home state of New Jersey.18

Harry Imlay made his major league debut on July 7, 1913, coming on in relief in the top of the eighth inning with the Phillies trailing the Boston Braves, 10-4. The 24-year-old got through the frame unscathed but was roughed up in the ninth. Two singles, a pair of doubles, and a three-run homer by Silent John Titus capped a five-run Braves outburst against the newcomer, and put the game out of reach despite a seven-run Phillies rally in their last at-bat.19 Called upon two days later to hold Pittsburgh to a late-game 3-0 lead, Imlay walked his first batter, wild-pitched him to second, and was thereupon yanked by manager Dooin. Thereafter, he was used sparingly and only in lost-cause games.

Imlay’s most successful outing came during the first game of an August 23 doubleheader against Pittsburgh. He threw four and one-third innings of scoreless relief in a 10-5 Philadelphia setback. The appearance was Imlay’s third scoreless one in a row. But he could not keep it going in the nightcap, being touched for three runs in a single inning of relief work in a 13-8 loss. Four days later, Imlay allowed only an unearned run in a three-inning relief stint against the St. Louis Cardinals. He then sat idle for a month.

On September 27, Imlay was called in to pitch with the Phillies trailing Boston going into the eighth, 6-0. One inning later, the score was 9-0, with three walks, a single, and an outfielder’s throwing error doing the damage. The appearance was Imlay’s final one as a major leaguer. That December, his contract was sold to the Montreal Royals of the Class AA International League.20 In his three-month tour of duty, Imlay had appeared in nine games – all Philadelphia losses, but none charged to him. Accompanying his 0-0 record was an unsightly 7.24 ERA, 1.902 WHIP, and .358 OBA. In 13 2/3 innings, Harry allowed 19 base hits and walked seven, while striking out seven.

Having obtained his dentistry license, Imlay set up practice in his mother’s large home in Bordentown, a central New Jersey town located not far from where Harry had grown up. He lived and worked in Bordentown for the rest of his life. When Imlay did not report to spring camp in March 1914, Montreal suspended him and placed his name on the ineligible list.21 It remained there through the 1916 season. Not that Harry cared; he had abandoned professional baseball and thereafter confined himself to pitching on weekends for local semipro clubs.

During 1914, Imlay pitched on Saturday afternoons in the Delaware County (Pennsylvania) League. While doing so, the Doc nickname that modern reference works attach to him first appeared, published in the Chester (Pennsylvania) Times, May 18, 1914. But for the most part, he was still called Harry Imlay on local sports pages that year. The use of the Doc nickname became more widespread the following summer when Imlay pitched in the four-club Delaware River (New Jersey) League. That August, the Trenton Evening Times informed readers that “‘Doc’ Harry Imlay who is pitching for the American Bridge club [of Trenton] … while attending to the care of his patients’ teeth in Bordentown … must be considered the leading hurler in the league.”22 The pitching dentist, however, shortened his season to take a bride. On September 8, 1915, Dr. Harry M. Imlay and Adele Goodwin were united in matrimony at Christ Episcopal Church, Bordentown.23 After the honeymoon, the couple settled into the Bordentown house where the groom maintained his dental practice. They remained there for the next 33 years, joined in time by sons Dean (born 1921) and John (1933).

As his practice flourished, Imlay’s roots grew deeper in the community. In November 1915, he was honored by the county dental society.24 In March 1917, he was elected to the board of directors of a Bordentown yacht club.25 During World War I, Imlay chaired the United War Work Fund of Bordentown. All the while, he continued pitching on weekends in various local semipro circuits. He finally hung up the spikes in 1925. In August 1930, Imlay was installed on the board of directors of the Bordentown Banking Company.26 He also served on the Bordentown sinking fund committee. He even played basketball for the Bordentown Military Academy’s adult five.27

For more than 30 years, Imlay immersed himself in the civic, business, and social life of his adopted hometown. But all that came to an abrupt end on the morning of October 7, 1948, when his wife found him dead in his bed. He had silently succumbed to a heart attack.28 Dr. Harry Miller Imlay was 59. Following funeral services conducted at the Imlay home, the deceased was laid to rest in Christ Episcopal Church Cemetery, Bordentown. Survivors included his widow and two sons.



This biography was reviewed by Darren Gibson and Norman Macht and checked for accuracy by SABR’s fact-checking team.



Sources for the biographical information imparted herein include the Imlay file at the Giamatti Research Center, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Library, Cooperstown, New York; US and New Jersey state census reports accessed via ancestry.com; and certain of the newspaper articles cited in the endnotes. Unless otherwise specified, stats have been taken from Baseball-Reference.



1 Modern baseball reference works like Baseball-Reference and Retrosheet list our subject as Doc Imlay, a nickname coined after Imlay’s time in Organized Baseball was past. The text here will refer to Imlay by the first name that he was known by during his high school, college, and professional ball playing days: Harry.

2 Located less than five miles from our subject’s birthplace is Imlaystown,, an historic central New Jersey enclave founded by paternal forebearers in 1690.

3 See “Henry P. Imlay,” Red Bank (New Jersey) Register, July 17, 1901: 5.

4 In The Turn of the Tide, or Wrecked in Port,” the role of pirate Sling Shot Rube was assayed by 16-year-old Harry Imlay. See the advertisement placed in the Allentown (New Jersey) Messenger, March 15, 1906: 2. The two performances of the play were staged to benefit the Allentown Athletic Association.

5 See e.g., “Around Home,” Allentown Messenger, October 6, 1904: 3.

6 See e.g., “Increase Shown in Seminary Roll,” Trenton Evening Times, April 17, 1909: 5; “Philo Fraternity Elects Officers,” Trenton Evening News, March 9, 1909: 5; “Pen. Sem. Awards Varsity Letters,” Trenton Evening Times, June 10, 1907: 12.

7 See “Imlay Allowed Only Three Hits,” Trenton Evening Times, April 19, 1909: 14.

8 “Penn Scores Two in Last Inning,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 12, 1911: 10.

9 Per “Imlay Ties Up Columbia Batters,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 27, 1911: 10.

10 As calculated by the writer from box/line scores published in Philadelphia newspapers. Imlay also saved two games with relief work for a Penn nine that finished the 1911 season with a 17-11 record.

11 Again, as calculated by the writer from newspaper box/line scores. Coach Thomas, an 1894 University of Pennsylvania graduate, had just completed an outstanding 13-season major league career, almost all of which had been spent with the Phillies.

12 See “950 Diplomas Are Awarded by U. of P.,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 20, 1912: 5. Imlay’s dental school graduation was also noted with hometown pride by the Allentown Messenger, June 27, 1912: 5.

13 As reported in the Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Telegraph, December 13, 1912: 24, and Wilmington (Delaware) Morning News, December 13, 1912: 9.

14 See “Penn Gets Away with Final Game,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 26, 1913: 10.

15 As calculated by the writer from 1913 newspaper box/line scores.

16 See “Imlay May Don a Red Sox Uniform,” Syracuse Herald, June 10, 1913: 13.

17 As reported in “Phillies Get Harry Imlay,” Washington (DC) Post, June 15, 1913: S1; “Penn’s Twirler to Play with Dooin,” Washington (DC) Times, June 15, 1913: 16. See also, “Penn’s Crack Hurler Signs with Phillies,” Hearst’s A Sunday American (Atlanta), July 13, 1913: 8D.

18 Per “Local Jottings,” Sporting Life, July 12, 1913: 7.

19 See Jim Nasium, “Phils Made Game Effort to Win Out,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 8, 1913: 10.

20 As reported in the Providence Evening Bulletin, December 13, 1913: 14; (Brooklyn) Standard Union, December 11, 1913: 10; Buffalo Evening News, December 10, 1913: 14; and elsewhere.

21 As reflected in Imlay’s TSN contract card.

22 See “Delaware River League Notables, No. 18: ‘Doc’ Harry Imlay,” Trenton Evening Times, August 11, 1915: 11.

23 Per “Miss Adele Goodwin Bride of Dr. Imlay in Church Wedding,” Trenton Evening Times, September 9, 1915: 5.

24 See “Dentists Gather in Annual Dinner,” Trenton Evening Times, November 7, 1915: 2.

25 See “Yapwi Club Elects,” Trenton Evening Times, March 26, 1917: 13. See also, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 25, 1917: 20.

26 See “Dr. Imlay Named as Bank Director,” Trenton Evening Times, August 23, 1930: 2. See also, Allentown Messenger, August 28, 1930: 4.

27 Dr. Imlay’s son Dean was a BMI student.

28 As reported in “Dr. Imlay Succumbs, Former Penn Hurler,” Camden (New Jersey) Courier-Post, October 8, 1948: 24; “Dr. Imlay Dies, Ex-Penn Pitcher,” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 7, 1948: D12; “Dr. Imlay Dies of Heart Attack,” Trenton Evening Times, October 7, 1948: 4. Coronary occlusion as a result of hypertension was listed as the official cause on the Imlay death certificate.

Full Name

Harry Miller Imlay


January 12, 1889 at Allentown, NJ (USA)


October 7, 1948 at Bordentown, NJ (USA)

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