During a fifteen-year major-league career that spanned the Deadball and Lively Ball Eras, Jack Fournier was one of the premier power hitters in baseball. His batting accomplishments were impressive: While compiling a lifetime .313 batting average, he led the National League in home runs once; led the American League in slugging percentage once; hit three home runs in one game and went 6-for-6 in another; and for three consecutive years amassed over 300 total bases and slugged better than .500. And yet, while Fournier in his prime was often mentioned as a hitter in the same breath with such contemporaries as Ruth and Hornsby, he was equally renowned for a much more dubious distinction: He was one of the worst fielders in the game.
In his day, Jack’s difficulties with a glove were well chronicled. Perhaps no single story, however, more accurately conveyed the dichotomy of his skills than one that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on April 12, 1916. While assessing the coming season, sportswriter Harry A. Williams wrote of the Chicago White Sox, Fournier’s team at the time, that “with Fournier at first, Collins at second and Jackson in the outfield, the Sox start the season with more hitting than ever before.” That was more often than not the kind of offensive synopsis a team could expect when Fournier was in the lineup. But later in the article, Williams presented the other side of the coin, when he cautioned that “[t]he only weak defensive point in the infield is at first base,” where “Fournier will again try his hand at playing that position. For every run that he lets in,” suggested Williams, “he will drive in another, making it a so-so proposition.”
And so went the career of John Frank Fournier.
In Michigan, where the AuSable (pronounced awe sob bull) River enters Lake Huron, lie the twin communities of AuSable, Jack’s birthplace, and Oscoda; AuSable is situated on the southern side of the river and Oscoda on the other. As an unincorporated community, AuSable has no legal status as a municipality; today it is a Census-designated place, used only for statistical purposes. In the late 19th century, however, both coastlines of the AuSable River were filled with forests, now long since harvested, and logging camps dotted the landscape. It was in one such camp that Jack Fournier was born, on September 28, 1889. At least, that’s the date that historians seem to have settled on. Throughout his career his true age was often questioned; in fact, for many years his birthdate was acknowledged as 1892. Eventually, though, 1889 was deemed to be his birth year, and today it is accepted as the correct one. (According to the AuSable-Oscoda Historical Society, the twin towns burned to the ground in 1911, and today there are no birth records).
While Michigan can lay claim to Fournier’s birthplace, it was the upper Northwest that became his lifelong home. When the future slugger was 3 years old, the Fourniers relocated from AuSable to Aberdeen, Washington, one of three cities situated on Gray’s Harbor. The first lumber mill had been built there in 1884 and the move undoubtedly indicates that the family were lumber people, because Aberdeen was totally dependent upon the timber industry for its economy. Over the next 10 years Jack grew up in Aberdeen, yet he appears never to have considered lumbering as a profession. In fact, during an interview he gave in 1916, Fournier said that although “I’ve lived nearly all my life in the Northwest where the big trees offer employment for thousands of French Canadians … I never tried my hand at that sort of work.” Instead, he explained of his youth, “before breaking into baseball I was a railway express messenger, having graduated from the leading livery stable in Aberdeen,” and further clarified how he had started in baseball, explaining that “Aberdeen lost the best buggy worker that ever manicured a hoss [sic] when I started fooling around with the town boys who had organized a baseball team.” They paid him $5 to bat and play catcher, and it was the only money he ever made until he began his professional career.
Around 1905 the Fourniers moved again. They had little choice. In 1903, when Jack was a young teenager, a massive fire had devastated Aberdeen’s commercial district, destroying 140 buildings and resulting in four deaths, and that almost certainly affected the Fourniers’ livelihood. As a result, the family relocated to Tacoma, 32 miles southwest of Seattle, and it was there, in the place that was called the City of Destiny, that Jack grew to adulthood. He came to love the region, and for the rest of his life, whenever he had the chance, returned to Tacoma, to hunt and fish and get away from the life of a baseball player.
As it turned out, City of Destiny proved to be the perfect appellation for Jack’s future, because by this time he appeared destined to be a ballplayer. After cutting his teeth playing for the local Aberdeen club, in Tacoma he stepped up in competition, playing high-school ball for two years. It was an important period in his development: Not only did the high-school team play a local scholastic schedule, but it also occasionally played exhibition games against neighboring minor-league teams, and Fournier had the chance to bat against tougher competition. By all accounts he was equal to the challenge, because he “hit the professional pitchers as easily as he did the school talent.”
Defensively, though, in what would prove a preview of things to come, he struggled. As he had been since his introduction to the game, Jack was a catcher, and “not a particularly good one.” Yet despite his deficiencies behind the plate, it remained his position throughout his amateur and minor-league days, until he got his start with the White Sox.
Fournier’s professional career began in 1908, with Seattle in the Northwestern League, but he didn’t stay there very long. After watching him try out for two weeks, management determined that the would-be slugger was “out of his class,” and Jack was quickly released. Soon thereafter he was picked up by Aberdeen, his old hometown, and he played well enough there to finish the year with the team.
For the next two years, as he continued to try to make good, Fournier’s efforts were mostly futile. During stops in Portland, Oregon (in two different leagues); Sacramento, California; Aberdeen, again; and Vancouver, BC, he failed to make much of an impression (he posted batting averages of .228 one year, and .214 the next), and one has to wonder if he ever thought of quitting. Yet he didn’t. Fournier always knew he could hit, and throughout his career always maintained a steadfast belief in his abilities. Several years later, when he had made it to the big leagues but was enduring slumps and showing little improvement, teammates would kid him about the possibility of his failing and being returned to the minors. Smiling, Jack would simply respond, “I can hit,” and would just get back in the batter’s box and work even harder.
In 1911 Fournier was finally rewarded for his determination. That year, it all came together. Who knows what prompted him to finally emerge as a hitter? Perhaps he had found some mechanical flaw in his swing, or had taken advice from some hitting guru. Regardless, in 1911 Jack had a brilliant season. It began in June. Having endured yet another release (by Vancouver), that month he was signed by the colorfully named Moose Jaw Robin Hoods, a Class D team in the Western Canada League, and from virtually his first at-bat put on a hitting clinic. When the season ended Jack had played in 109 games (all but two of the team’s schedule) and was the league leader in batting average (.377), runs, hits, doubles, and triples, and had also stolen 33 bases. Having quickly become a fan favorite, he had finally changed positions, too, making all of his appearances at first base. After all the years of hard work, it appeared Jack had finally arrived, and as consummate proof, by the time the season was ended he had signed a major-league contract.
A veteran scout named Ted Sullivan had seen Fournier play during a game at Calgary and recommended Jack to his employer, the Boston Red Sox. Boston “kn[ew] little of [Fournier’s] other abilities,” but “[his .377] average sufficiently impressed the Red Sox to give the young [slugger] a trial.” Accordingly, they told him to report to the team in the fall. Curiously, though, Jack “neglect[ed] to do so” and the Red Sox had second thoughts. Apparently unwilling to gamble on Fournier sight unseen, they sold his contract to the Chicago White Sox, and it was with that team that he began his major-league career.
He signed with Chicago on February 24, 1912, and joined the team in spring training the following week. Interestingly, though, in announcing Fournier’s acquisition, White Sox manager Nixie Callahan suggested that he “probably will be tried at second base, the big hole in … the infield.” Where Callahan got the idea that Fournier could possibly play that position is anyone’s guess, but it certainly suggests that he must have been largely an unknown quantity. At any rate, several weeks later, after Callahan had seen Fournier in action at spring training, in Waco, Texas, he had clearly changed his mind, telling the press that “Jacques Fournier … is a possibility as a first baseman.” By then, Fournier had “been pounding the leather with surprising skill,” and the press reported that “Manager Callahan thinks he is a real find.” (Note: Throughout his career Fournier was frequently referred to variously in the press as Jacques or Jules [for obvious ethnic reasons] in addition to the more common Jack.)
After a good spring, Jack made the team. Yet he saw action in only 35 games, 17 as a first baseman, and batted only .192, which prompted his release. On August 1 he was signed by Montreal of the International League, where he regained his batting stroke and finished the season with a .309 average in 60 games.
He returned to the White Sox in 1913. In March, after a winter of hard work, Fournier accompanied Chicago’s second squad on a trip to face the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League in a series of exhibitions. Given the headlines, which proclaimed, “Jack’s Batting Amazes Western Fans,” he was much improved from a year ago, and was feeling more comfortable at the plate. Indeed, the press noted further that Fournier’s “hitting has been the biggest feature of the series,” and that “the fans are all anxious to see him come to the plate.”
But in truth, he still had a way to go as a hitter. Throughout the train ride back from California, coach Kid Gleason “kept after him” about his hitting, expressing his dissatisfaction with Jack’s performance. Further, when the season got under way, Fournier was typically a “disappointment every time he was [given] a chance to bat.” Still, he continued to work hard, and as the season progressed he gradually improved. That year he spent the whole season with the White Sox, playing at both first base and in the outfield, and appeared in 68 games, finishing the year with a batting average of .233 and stroking his first major-league home run. If he wasn’t yet a polished hitter, at least he had made strides, and when the season ended it looked as if Jack had finally made it to the major leagues to stay.
After that season, the White Sox and New York Giants were scheduled to make an around-the-world exhibition trip. Initially, Fournier told the press that “I promised (the White Sox) that I’d go around the world with the team,” after first taking care of some personal business back in Tacoma. As it turned out, that business was marriage: Jack married Helen L. Cummings on November 27, 1913. Unfortunately, Helen was not in good health, so in the end Jack did not accompany the team around the world. Instead, he remained in Tacoma, to care for his wife and prepare for the coming season.
The next year opened for Jack with exciting news. On January 29 it was announced in the press that he had received a telegram from Joe Tinker, the famed shortstop, offering Jack a three-year contract to join the upstart Federal League. Clearly the offer must have intrigued the slugger, because “Fournier said the salary offered was such that he probably would accept.” (It’s unclear how much Jack was offered, but his teammate Eddie Cicotte was also offered a three-year deal, totaling $25,000.) Ultimately, though, Fournier rejected the offer, for in March he again joined the Sox for spring training in California.
Throughout that spring, he continued to work on his hitting. If Fournier appeared to have been born with the ability to hit a baseball, still he had to learn to harness his talents. Jack was a big (6 feet tall, 195 pounds), strong left-handed hitter whose natural inclination was to swing as hard as he could in an attempt to “hit it a mile.” Therefore, as had been the case the previous spring, coach Gleason “spent hour after hour trying to get Fournier to cut out his wild swinging at bat.” Gradually, the two made progress. As the season progressed Jack began to be more selective at the plate, more patient. Indeed, many years later, in the final season of his career, it would be written of Fournier, the veteran hitter, that “he has never had any set style. He ‘likes’ anything he can reach, but he won’t reach at anything unless it is in the right place.” Almost invariably, too, once he selected just the right pitch to hit, he would drive it on a line to right field, because he always remained primarily a dead pull-hitter.
Over the next two seasons, Fournier finally realized his potential. For the first time he became both a .300 hitter and a slugger. In 1914, given a chance to play regularly at first base when Hal Chase left the White Sox in midseason to play in the Federal League, Jack finished the season with a batting average of .311 and a .443 slugging mark. The next season, he improved upon those numbers, batting .322 and slugging a league-leading .491. To opposing pitchers, Fournier had become by this time one of the most feared batters in the American League. Even the great Walter Johnson was victimized by Jack’s outbursts of power: In 1914, in consecutive games against the Big Train, Fournier delivered two of his most impressive offensive displays: On August 29, in a 2-1 Chicago victory, Fournier, batting four times against the Washington ace, delivered two triples and a single. The next game, when Johnson came on in relief in the eighth inning, trying to protect a 3-2 Senators lead, Jack hit the first Johnson pitch for a game-tying home run. Two innings later, with Johnson still on the mound and the score still tied, Fournier hit another home run, to give Chicago yet another victory, 4-3. (In Johnson’s illustrious career, it was the first time the right-hander had ever allowed two home runs by the same batter in the same game.) As an offensive threat, Jack Fournier had finally arrived.
Yet he remained abysmal in the field. Anchored at first base, Jack had very little range moving from the bag. Typically he would catch the ball only when it was thrown right at him, yet even then he often struggled. In 1914, playing only 97 games at first base after Chase departed, Fournier committed an astounding 25 errors, with two more as an outfielder. While the next season he showed some improvement as a first baseman, with “only” 10 errors in 65 games, his performance in the outfield grew worse, as he committed seven more errors there, in only 57 games. It’s hard to know how many of his miscues may have contributed to Chicago defeats, but clearly the White Sox were growing frustrated with his inept glovework.
Regardless, though, Jack had become a much sought-after player. Despite his defensive shortcomings, teams seemed more than willing to find a place for him in their lineup if they could pry him away from the White Sox. And teams tried. The first overtures made to Chicago owner Charles Comiskey came at the baseball’s 1915 winter meetings, in Chicago. There, Comiskey and new White Sox manager Pants Rowland huddled to consider offers from Washington manager Clark Griffith, who was willing to trade his own first baseman, Chick Gandil; and from Branch Rickey of the St. Louis Browns, who refused to divulge to the press what player he had offered in exchange for Fournier. Having experienced first-hand Jack’s struggles in the field Comiskey seriously considered the offers, but ultimately rejected both. For the time being, he would keep the slugging first baseman.
Fournier’s future with the team was certainly questionable, though. As the New Year arrived, even the public shared in the debate. On January 16, 1916, while Jack was back in Tacoma preparing for the coming season, the Chicago Daily Tribune, beneath a headline that proclaimed, “Fournier White Sox Puzzle” and questioned, “Will He Be Regular In 1916?,” recounted how Jack, during the previous season, had grown “self-conscious about his fielding,” and become “so nervous that (it) became even worse, so bad that finally he was taken out so that he might gain peace of mind.” To some, the Tribune offered, Fournier’s defense had become a liability that outweighed his batting, and it was suggested that perhaps “the Sox would be better off to keep him out of the game, except as a pinch-hitter.”
Despite his critics, however, Fournier began 1916 as the White Sox’ starting first baseman. But his status in the lineup didn’t last very long. If Jack wasn’t hitting, his inability to play good defense made his value to the club practically nil, and that year, inexplicably, Jack had a miserable season at the plate. Almost overnight he seemed to lose the ability to hit. Whatever the cause, his batting average plummeted to .240 and his slugging mark to .367. Moreover, during 85 games at first base, he again played his customary horrible defense, committing 22 errors and finishing with a fielding average of just .976. If White Sox management had previously been undecided about what to do with Jack, the slugger’s dismal offensive showing certainly must have made a final decision a little easier, and during the season Comiskey finally made a move.
Yet it seemed a relatively questionable one. Whether or not Comiskey pursued any trades for Fournier is unclear; in any event, Jack ended the year with the team. In May,however, the White Sox began using a then (and still) little-known player named Jack Ness to platoon at first base with Fournier, and Ness seemed emphatically a minor addition. In 1911 he had played 12 games with the Detroit Tigers, and at the time he joined the Sox that remained Ness’s only major-league experience. For the much of the season, however, the two men split the first base duties, Fournier playing only against right-handers and Ness exclusively against southpaws. (Ness wound up playing 75 games in 1916 and batted .267 over that span. In the field, however, Ness committed 15 errors and fielded just .979, not much of an improvement over Fournier’s .976). Given Fournier’s offensive dominance the past several years, the platoon must have been particularly discouraging.
As it turned out, that marked the end of Jack’s White Sox career. Although he went north with the team for the 1917 season, during the winter Chicago had acquired Chick Gandil and immediately installed him as the everyday first baseman. Jack became expendable. Accordingly, after striking out as a pinch-hitter in his lone plate appearance, on May 5 Fournier was placed on waivers, and when no team claimed him (although the Indians and Athletics reportedly showed interest), his contract was sold to the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League. Surprisingly, after 444 games in the major leagues and a career batting average of .282, Fournier was going back to the minors.
He wasted little time in getting his career back on track. Whatever Jack’s frame of mind was after being sent down, the change of scenery rejuvenated him and probably saved his career. Once again, he found his batting eye: In 1917, playing 144 games at first base for the Angels, Fournier batted .305, slugged .426, and also improved defensively, committing only 17 errors and fielding a respectable .989. (If Jack was driven that year to avenge his perceived ill treatment at the hands of Charles Comiskey, perhaps he was motivated too by the addition in July of pitcher Tom Seaton, who was purchased from the Chicago Cubs. Seaton was Jack’s brother-in-law and had wanted to play alongside Fournier for quite some time, and the two made a formidable pitcher-hitter duo that year). In 1918 Fournier was even better, with a .325 batting mark and .485 slugging; and in 1919 he finished with a .328 average, 209 hits, 108 runs scored and also 44 stolen bases.
He briefly returned to the majors during his Los Angeles tenure, too. During 1918, as America participated in World War I, Yankees’ first baseman Wally Pipp left New York to join the naval aviation service, and the Yankees acquired Jack to replace him. In 27 games Fournier batted .350 and posted a slugging mark of .430. Despite that impressive performance, though, the Yankees felt that as a first baseman Fournier didn’t “think quick enough,” and elected not to bring him back the next season.
Yet that performance ignited a struggle. Having watched from afar as Fournier regained his batting stroke, Charles Comiskey contended that he still belonged to the White Sox, and he wanted the lefty slugger to rejoin the big-league club for the 1919 season. Los Angeles owner Johnny Powers disagreed, stating his assurance that Fournier’s services reverted to the Angels from the Yankees. With the teams at an impasse, the matter was sent to the three-man National Commission for resolution.
Throughout the winter both teams awaited a decision. Yet by March, the commission had failed to act. So on March 12, firmly believing the White Sox had no claim to Fournier’s services, as evidenced by their failure (so Los Angeles thought) to tender him a contract, Powers sent the slugger a telegram telling him to immediately report to training camp. Six days later Jack arrived, and that afternoon signed a contract to play the 1919 season in Los Angeles.
The episode was not without irony, though. As it turned out, the White Sox had indeed offered Jack a contract. However, while the contract had been dated February 1, Fournier claimed that the envelope had actually been dated February 3. Since “baseball law [stated] in order to retain title to a player, [a team] must mail (author’s italics) him a contract not later than February 1,” Jack, who preferred to remain on the West Coast, ignored it, and returned instead to Los Angeles.
And that was the end of Fournier’s dealings with Charles Comiskey.
By the close of the 1919 season, Jack had resuscitated his baseball career, and the press noted his hard work. During his three years with the Angels, wrote the Los Angeles Times, Fournier “jumped into his work with more ambition than he ever displayed before, determined to prove he was an athlete of major league skills.” Ironically, it was his fielding, which had “progressed with leaps and bounds,” that had shown the most improvement. And yet, just as his performance proved Fournier could still play, it appeared that perhaps his interest in the game might be waning.
Jack had become a businessman. During his days with the White Sox, he had developed a friendship with a teammate, Jim Scott, a pitcher, who also now played on the West Coast, with San Francisco. Apparently the two shared common interests beyond baseball, because on December 30, 1919, the Atlanta Constitution reported that they “are serious in their intention to quit their baseball careers … and engage in the lubricating oil business in Seattle.” Fournier and Scott had purchased from a Pennsylvania concern, the Peerless Oil and Refining Company, the oil distribution rights in Washington (state) and Alaska, with an option for an additional state. It was noted further that should the pair “make the success of the enterprise that they anticipate,” they would need to bring in another partner, reported to be Buck Weaver, the current Chicago third baseman soon to be immersed in the Black Sox scandal. The next day another report appeared, this time in the Los Angeles Times, that “Jim Scott and Jack Fournier have quit baseball . … they will be oil merchants in Seattle.”
Surprising. Perhaps the two players had tired of the game and truly wanted to start new careers. Of course, the talk of retirement may also have been nothing more than a ploy to get them closer to home. In fact, in the same Constitution article that announced the men’s intentions to retire was also the caveat “unless arrangements can be made for them to play with the Seattle ball club for the home games of the Rainiers …”; and still another reported succinctly, “Jack Fournier let it be known (he) would like to play in Seattle next season.” Regardless of the motivation, one thing was clear: Jack was no longer interested in playing baseball in Los Angeles. As things turned out, though, his baseball career was far from finished.
“Jack Fournier, formerly of the White Sox, is here playing first base for the St. Louis Cardinals,” reported the press from Chicago on April 29, 1920. Following Jack’s success in Los Angeles, Branch Rickey had taken “a chance” and purchased the slugger’s contract, installing Fournier as the Cardinals’ starting first baseman for the 1920 season. It proved a prescient move. Over the next eight years, with the advent of the livelier ball, Jack reached his zenith as a power hitter and “really had a field day at the plate.” In three seasons with St. Louis, he averaged .317 and slugged .472 (while also leading National League first basemen in errors in 1920, with 25); then, traded to Brooklyn after the 1922 season, to make room for future Hall of Famer Jim Bottomley, he was even better over the next three seasons, batting .345 and slugging .564, while amassing 71 home runs and 348 runs batted in. In 1923 Jack finished second in the National League in home runs, with 22 (he again led the league in errors); in 1924 he drove out a league-leading 27 home runs, while also finishing second in walks and RBIs; and in 1925 he finished second to Rogers Hornsby with 130 runs batted in. By 1925, at the age of 35, Fournier was a slugger “only a step behind the great Ruth himself.” But it turned out to be his last productive year. By the next season, seemingly overnight, Fournier’s skills clearly started to fade.
While Fournier gained renown during those years as a slugger at the plate, he also displayed an alarming propensity to slug with his fists. Several times he found trouble with authority. In January 1924, found guilty of assaulting a stranger who claimed Fournier hit him on the jaw while the man waited to retrieve a coat from a checkout counter, Jack was fined $25 in Criminal Court in St. Louis. Several years later, in March 1927, Jack, who by then was in his final season, with the Boston Braves, was accused in Sarasota, Florida, of striking a deputy sheriff who was attempting to serve him with papers related to a civil suit. In that case, Braves’ manager Dave Bancroft posted $1,000 bond and guaranteed Jack’s appearance before the court.
Fournier also found trouble on the field. On April 15, 1925, against the Phillies at Ebbets Field, batting with the bases loaded, he grounded into an inning-ending double play. As he walked to take his defensive position at first, “suddenly Fournier threw down his glove and rushed at [coach] Benny Meyer, who was coaching from the first base line … swung his right, then his left, against Myers’s jaw” before “another right landed against Myers’s jaw and the coach moved back a few steps to swing a few blows himself.” For that altercation, Jack drew a five-day suspension and $100 fine from National League president John Heydler, who was at the game and witnessed the fight. Fournier said after the game that the coach had been “riding” him all afternoon and called him names that “won’t be found in the dictionary.”
Over his career Fournier undoubtedly grew sensitive to criticism, particularly when his fielding was questioned. Perhaps this led to his volatility. As the 1925 season wound down, however, Fournier’s tolerance seems finally to have reached a limit. In September, during a series in Pittsburgh, he shared with reporters how “vile and obscene language by the fans at Ebbets Field” had made him determined “never to play in Brooklyn again.” “During recent [home] games,” he admitted, “I was called the vilest kind of names,” words that were “shameful” and “unprintable.” (Fournier had earlier dropped an easy throw at first base and cost Brooklyn a game.) Indeed, he continued, “it became so bad that I refused to allow Mrs. Fournier and my personal friends to come to the park.” The slugger’s salary that season was $12,500, a contract he deemed “satisfactory,” but “I would have to lower my dignity to play in Brooklyn another year,” he lamented, “and I’m not going to do so. … I am not going to play (the contract) through … not for $50,000 a year.” The next time the team played at Ebbets Field, however, Fournier came up and the fans “cheered and clapped and whistled,” and Jack was “touched by the reception” and “decided to stay.”
He was clearly near the end of his career, though, when the 1926 season ended. Playing in only 87 games, the slugger was “still a hard hitter,” posting respectable averages of .284 batting and .473 slugging, but “in the field and on the bases he was slow and cumbersome.” Jack finished the year with 11 home runs, highlighted in July when he hit three in a game in St. Louis, but when the season ended he asked Brooklyn for his release, and in November he was granted waivers.
That winter the New York Times reported that Jack had “a wonderful opportunity to manage a ballclub,” rumored to be the Boston Red Sox. “More reliable information,” however, “indicated he was going to partner with (former Brooklyn Robins player) Milton Stock in ownership of the Mobile club of the Southern Association.” Stock had become manager of that club the previous season and the two expressed interest now in buying the club; Stock would handle the business affairs, and Jack would manage and play first base. The plans were credible. The former teammates had been business partners for several years, and each was “known to have put aside a comfortable sum for a rainy day.” In the end, though, Jack instead signed to play first base in 1927 for the Boston Braves, who had reportedly given the slugger a “contract calling for close to $10,000.”
It turned out to be Fournier’s final year in the major leagues, and as he had said all along, he could hit. Although it was judged that Fournier had “lost his eye for a low curve — the kind he used to ‘pull’ into right field and over the fences,” Jack was productive to the end. Appearing in 122 games, the slugger stroked his final 10 home runs, drove in 53 runs, slugged .422, and batted .283, then he retired. Although Fournier “had never hinted that he would like to try his hand at managing,” it was rumored that Braves’ owner Emil Fuchs considered Jack to replace Dave Bancroft as manager, but that opportunity never materialized. In October, Fournier was in the stands at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh to watch the Pirates and Yankees in the World Series.
In 1928, Walter Johnson became the manager at Newark of the International League, and Jack joined the Big Train’s team as a first baseman that year, his final as a professional player. He hit .288, with 22 homes runs and 91 RBIs. Then Fournier left baseball … for a while, at least.
In early 1929, it was announced that Jack had begun a lucrative insurance business in St. Louis, and planned “to hang with it.” By 1932 he had relocated to Los Angeles and was a “successful special representative for a life insurance company.” But two years later, in 1934, Fournier returned to the game, as head baseball coach at UCLA. During his tenure at the school it was stated that he “deserves a cheer for the fine work he has done coaching the Bruins, who are making a game fight for first honors in the California Intercollegiate League.” Indeed, he might have won a championship were it not for “a bunch of bad breaks with injuries to his players.” That experience marked the beginning of a lengthy administrative baseball career. (Jack also found time that year to appear in an MGM movie, billed as a “baseball mystery narrative,” called Death on a Diamond, in which he joined fellow ex-big leaguers Bob and Irish Meusel, Ping Bodie, Dick Cox, and Red Berger in the “big game.”).
Though still residing in Los Angeles, in 1936 Fournier returned to St. Louis in search of a position in the major leagues. Preferring to join the Cardinals or Browns in some capacity, in March 1937 he was named manager of the Browns’ Johnstown club in the Class C Middle Atlantic League. That position was short-lived, however; the next year he returned to the Browns as a member of their scouting team, a position he held until the start of the 1942 season, when the Browns trimmed their scouting staff for financial reasons.
For the 1943 season, Jack returned to managing, leading the Browns’ American Association affiliate, the Toledo Mud Hens, to a .500 season. After that season, he returned to the Browns’ scouting ranks for six years, serving as chief scout in 1948. His relationship with the Browns lasted through the end of 1949.
In 1950, Fournier signed as a scout with the Chicago Cubs, to cover the Pacific Coast and Northwest area. He worked for the Cubs until 1957, before ending his scouting career with Detroit in 1960, and Cincinnati (1961-62).
Jack Fournier died in a Tacoma, Washington, nursing home on September 5, 1973.
Fournier never made it to Cooperstown. In 1997, four years after Jack died, columnist Jim Hamilton of the Oneonta Star made a case for the slugger’s enshrinement. Recalling how Charles Comiskey had seemingly “panicked” by getting rid of Fournier in 1916, after one bad season, Hamilton noted that Fournier has “both the highest career batting average (for at least 4,000 at bats) and the highest sabermetric Total Baseball Ranking of any first baseman, living or dead, who is eligible for the Hall and not yet a member.”
Fournier was posthumously elected to the Tacoma-Pierce County (Washington) Hall of Fame in 1979.
Au Sable-Oscoda Historical Society
Okrent, Daniel, and Harris Lewine, eds. The Ultimate Baseball Book. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1991.
Atlanta Constitution, January 30, 1914; December 30, 1919; December 23, 1922.
Boston Daily Globe, December 16, 1915.
Chicago Daily Tribune, March 10, 1913; September 28, 1913; October 15, 1913; March 11, 1914; April 11, 1914; April 24, 1915; December 14, 1915; January 16, 1916; July 13, 1916; May 27, 1917; July 18, 1917.
Los Angeles Times, April 12, 1916; August 27, 1917; October 28, 1917; January 23, 1919; February 15, 1919; March 13, 1919; March 19, 1919; April 5, 1919; December 10, 1919; December 30, 1919; April 30, 1920; May 30, 1920; December 29, 1922.
New York Times, April 28, 1923.
Washington Post, July 23, 1912; May 5, 1917.