This article was written by Bill Nowlin
Jack Perrin’s major-league playing career lasted just two days, but he got four games in. Perrin played right field for the Boston Red Sox, debuting on July 11, 1921 and finished his playing time on July 12 – appearing in both halves of back-to-back doubleheaders. He was 3-for-13 at the plate, all singles, and never walked. That gave him a .231 batting average, a .231 on-base percentage, and a .231 slugging percentage. He did drive in one run and he scored three times — each time he got on base, he scored.
In right, he had all of one chance in the four games, but he handled it successfully, recording a putout.
Perrin played these four games in major-league baseball. He later played six games in the National Football League.
He was born in Escanaba, Michigan, graduated from the public schools there, and then played both baseball and football (as halfback) for three years at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
Jack’s father was Levi Perrin, who worked as a ticket agent for a railroad at the time of the 1900 census. Levi’s son was born as John Stephenson Perrin on February 4, 1898, to Margaret (Stephenson) Perrin, Levi’s wife. John was the fifth child of six – Laura, Andrew, Levi, George, John, and Marshal. Being a ticket agent may have been a lucrative position; the Perrins had a live-in servant from Wisconsin, Carrie Conrad.
Jack’s grandparents came from Vermont and Wisconsin on his father’s side and Ireland and English-speaking Canada on his mother’s side. Both parents died while he was a child, Levi in 1902 and Margaret in 1907. The 1920 census shows John and his brothers Andrew, George, and Marshal living with their uncle, Fred Stephenson, a mail carrier in Escanaba.
Perrin served briefly in the United States Navy at the very tail end of World War I, from September to December 1918.
Perrin got his chance in baseball because of a beanball. On July 10, 1921, when the Red Sox were playing the Tigers in Detroit, right fielder John “Shano” Collins was hit in the head by a pitch thrown by pitcher Jim Middleton. It was the top of the fourth inning and a curveball came in and hit him above the left ear, knocking him unconscious. “For a moment the hushed stands feared a repetition of the [Ray] Chapman tragedy, as first efforts to revive the stricken ball player were fruitless. He finally recovered, however, and was assisted to the clubhouse.”1
It’s not clear who took over in right field that day, because the game was rained out in the top of the fifth and thus no box score exists. The Red Sox were leading, 4-1, when the game was called.
Manager Hugh Duffy decided to be cautious and keep Collins out of the lineup for at least a couple of days. Second baseman Del Pratt had recommended Perrin; Pratt coached the Michigan baseball team. Ann Arbor wasn’t far away, and the Red Sox had fortuitously signed Perrin just a couple of days earlier. When Pratt had left Michigan to join the Red Sox in spring training, he had predicted that Perrin had “good prospects of making good in fast company.”2
The Boston Globe reported that Perrin was said to be a “clever outfielder and … a hard hitter.”3 The signing wasn’t unexpected; a couple of months earlier, Michigan’s Bay City Times had predicted there was a good chance he would go to the majors after graduation from college. “Perrin is the best hitter on the Wolverine squad, in addition to being the best defensive outfielder.”4
The Red Sox won both games on July 11, by scores of 6-1 and 7-3. There were two University of Michigan player debuts that day; Slicker Parks played his first game, pitching one inning for the Tigers.
Perrin was 2-for-5 in his first game. He singled in the top of the first and scored on Stuffy McInnis’s triple. In the fourth inning, Boston pitcher Herb Pennock doubled and, two batters later, Perrin hit a Texas Leaguer into center field for his run batted in. Ernie Neitzke started in right during the second game, but Perrin pinch hit for him in the top of the ninth. He “bounced the ball so high in the air that he reached first before [Howard] Ehmke gathered it in.”5 He scored on a hit by Everett Scott, one of four Red Sox to score in the top of the ninth.
The Red Sox traveled to Cleveland and played another doubleheader on July 12; this time, they were the team that was swept, 7-1 and 6-4. Perrin was 0-for-4 in the first game and after going 0-for-3 in the second game was pinch-hit for.
Though his 1.000 fielding percentage looks good today in his stats line, his play on the field left a lot to be desired. The special dispatch to the Boston Globe reported that he “had a tough time with the right field fence here today. He never was where the ball bounded and several hits went for doubles that would have been singles with a trained fence operator in right field.”6
Perrin actually stuck with the club for two more weeks, during which time he got married (on July 18, to Narcissa Elizabeth Merkel), but on July 26 was released to the Waterbury Brasscos for the remainder of the season. He played well for the Eastern League team, batting .299 in 71 games, hitting ten doubles and ten triples but no home runs. It seemed like he might have a good future in the game.
Perrin batted left-handed and threw with his right arm; he is listed at 5-feet-9 and 160 pounds.
This Jack Perrin should not be confused with another Jack Perrin, also a Michigan native (from Three Rivers), who became an actor and starred in a number of what we now call “B-Westerns.” He was often billed as “Jack Perrin and his trusty steed Starlight the Wonder Horse.”
The ballplayer Perrin was tendered a contract for 1922 and the Red Sox had hoped for him to join them for spring training at Hot Springs, but on March 10 they mailed him his unconditional release. “Too much money demanded was the reason cited,” reported the Chicago Tribune.7 The Cleveland Plain Dealer was a bit more scathing: “He had an idea he should get a star’s salary this year, objected to being sent back to the minors, etc., so Manager Duffy handed him an unconditional release. As a free agent he may catch on, provided he can tip himself off to the fact that there are a lot of youngsters on the lots just as good as anything that comes out of the seats of learning.”8
Perrin set out in mid-April to play for Waterbury, but he does not turn up in available club statistics. He did play for an alumni team against the Michigan varsity in a special game at Ann Arbor on June 16 (and was 4-for-4). On October 12, the Perrins welcomed John Jr. to the family, born at Maplehurst Hospital in Ann Arbor.
Other than those two notes, Perrin shows up neither in the press nor in minor-league stats until 1925, with Waco in the Texas League. There he played outfield in 85 games and hit for a .291 average.
In 1926, he played with three ballclubs, starting with the Pittsfield (Massachusetts) Hillies in the Eastern League. He played 44 games with Pittsfield, then in 63 games with the Waynesboro (Pennsylvania) Villagers in the Blue Ridge League. We have no batting statistics to cite. In 1927, he started the season as Waynesboro’s manager but was replaced by John Ebert and went to finish the season with the Hagerstown (Maryland) Hubs, in the same Class D league. To the best of our knowledge, that was the end of his time in professional baseball.
In October 1926, however, he joined the Hartford Blues to play professional football in the National Football League. The Hartford Courant article announcing his first practice session with the team said he had coached in Detroit and Southwestern, and that he had played professionally in Chicago and Gary, Indiana. He was the same athlete who had “gained a baseball reputation as an outfielder.”9 He started two games and played in six as a blocking back. His only scoring was one field goal made for three points in the November 21 game against Dayton.
Though it may seem very unusual for a major-league baseball player to have also played in the NFL, some 68 players have done so.10
Perrin married again on October 4, 1941, to Leola Belle White and worked as a salesman of maintenance supplies, living in Detroit. He began to suffer from heart disease in April 1969 and died of a heart attack on June 24, 1969, in Detroit. He was survived by his wife Leola. Perrin was buried in Escanaba.
In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Perrin’s player file and player questionnaire from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, Baseball-Reference.com, and Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Thanks to Don Hammack.
1 Boston Globe, July 11, 1921.
2 Ann Arbor News, July 8, 1921.
3 Boston Globe, July 11, 1921.
4 Bay City Times, April 23, 1921.
5 Boston Globe, July 12, 1921
6 Boston Globe, July 13, 1921.
7 Chicago Tribune, March 11, 1922.
8 Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 2, 1922.
9 Hartford Courant, October 9, 1926.