Supplanting a future Hall of Famer (if only for a spell), a stalwart of the New Orleans semipro circuit, and a historically poor major-league fielder, Larry Pezold is an intriguing figure in the Cleveland Naps history.
Lorenz (Larry) Johannes (John) Pezold was born June 22, 1893, in New Orleans, Louisiana, the youngest of eight children born to Lorenzo (1838-1929), a Bavarian-born cabinet maker, and Eleonora (Harting) Pezold (1846-1930).
As a 17-year-old, Larry began playing in 1911 on New Orleans-based semipro teams such as the Lions of the Suburban Winter League, then Bowskys, and Feurst & Kraemers in the 1912 summer Mercantile League. Later, in the fall the right-hander hit a homer for the Eddys team, only to be overshadowed by two from opponent and ex-Phillie Paul Sentell.1 Larry then played for the Trianons with future major leaguer John Martina (at this time referred to as Joe).2 He also had a spell with the Braquets and Carrolltons during the winter of 1912-13.
By the spring of 1913, Pezold shuffled northeast a few hundred miles to the new Georgia-Alabama League, playing for Gadsden (Alabama). Every business except the post office and banks in this cotton town shut down for the inaugural game,3 in which Pezold earned a starting spot in left field for the Steel Makers. He “featured with the willow for the visitors driving two from the park” — two homers being a rarity in the GAL — on May 21 in an 18-4 trouncing of LaGrange (Georgia).4 Pezold “saved the game by a sensational catch against the left field fence” in the ninth inning to preserve the Steel Makers 3-1 win over the Talladega Indians on July 21.5 His game-winning RBI single on July 26 handed Gadsden a 1-0 victory over LaGrange.6 By late July, he was leading the GAL with 23 stolen bases.7 On August 6, Larry hit a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 11th, giving Gadsden the victory over Newnan.8 He hit .304 for pennant-winning Gadsden in 1913, and was named to the writer-chosen all-star team.9
After the GAL season, Pezold headed back to New Orleans, playing semipro ball in September for the Schwartz Stars alongside former Chicago Cubs and Boston Braves pitcher Orlie Weaver against former Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Jimmy Dygert and the Natchez Panmures.10 Later in the fall and winter he played for the Buckhorns, then went back with the Carrolltons.11
Heading into 1914, Pezold, who played at 5’9” and 175 pounds, was the first Gadsden player ever sold, purchased by his New Orleans Pelicans of the Southern Association in February.12 During the Pelicans spring training, however, he was plucked by player-manager Lee Fohl to play for the Waterbury (Connecticut) Frolickers in the Eastern Association, and left for their spring training camp in Americus, Georgia.13 Before the season began, however, Pezold was on the move again, being farmed by Waterbury to Ironton in the Ohio State League.14 Larry didn’t crack the Opening Day starting lineup for the Nailers,15 but a month later, Pezold was batting cleanup.16
However adept was Pezold’s hitting prowess (he hit .324 for Ironton in 1914), his fielding was just as inept. He cost Ironton a June game against Chillicothe with his multiple wild throws from third base. The writeup noted that in the seventh inning “it was only with the greatest good fortune that (first baseman) Smith pulled down the (Pezold) wild throw.”17 In the eighth inning “he was even worse than previously.”18 In that inning, he “finally threw to second. The ball struck the ground several feet away and bouncing, hit (sic) Nesser at second.”19 To cap it off, the runners scored “on the next play, when Pezold threw the ball into the bleachers while attempting to catch Houtz at first.”20 Another writeup declared “Pezold’s errors started a series of poor plays that allowed the champs to send four runs across.”21
Ironton owned a winning record after two months, but would not make it through the season. They, along with the Paris club, would fold up shop in early July, dropping the OSL to six teams.22 As part of the player dispersal from the two teams, Pezold, along with pitchers Harley Dillinger and Hugh Haggerty, were all selected by the Cleveland Bearcats of the American Association.23 Larry played third base for the Bearcats on July 15 against St. Paul, replacing the ill John Knight,24 going 1-for-3 with a double, while committing an error.
Soon thereafter, Pezold was promoted to the American League Cleveland Naps squad. On July 27, with the last-place Naps 27 games out of first place, and nine games even from seventh place, player-manager Joe Birmingham inserted Pezold into the lineup at third base. Larry would thus replace another ‘Larry,’ that being one of the nicknames for the slumping incumbent second baseman Nap Lajoie.25 Shifting from third base to second base was Ivy Olson initially (later to be Terry Turner).26 Lajoie, batting .221 at the time, did not play in the field for two and a half weeks.27 The report on Pezold’s debut was that he “put up a great game,”28 even though Boston’s Dutch Leonard shut out the Naps, 3-0. In the 6th inning of his debut, Pezold “made a one-handed stab of a high bounding grounder and tossed Janvrin out at first. It was dandy play, and shows the lad tries for everything that comes his way.”29 Another observation during Pezold’s first week was that he “shows plenty of life, something the Naps need.”30
Unfortunately, in his first 16 days in the majors, spanning 19 games, Pezold committed ELEVEN ERRORS at third base. In four of those starts, he had two errors. By comparison, teammate Turner (.963 FA) committed only 14 errors between third and second base in 104 starts.
Pezold did have three hits off the Senators’ Jim Boehling on August 4th, and collected his one extra-base hit the next day, a memorable triple against Walter Johnson. Pezold tallied four RBIs in his first 75 plate appearances, posting a .246 batting average. However, two more Pezold errors in the first game of a doubleheader on August 11 were almost certainly the last straw for Manager Birmingham. The newspapers had a field day:
Poor Pezold, he is still up to his old tricks. With the Cleveland club he is showing the fault that so often drove Manager Smith, of the (Ironton) Nailers, to the very verge of distraction…if Pezold could only hit as far as he can throw, he would soon be leading the extra base sluggers in the league. But for all his wild heaves past first base, the fans like the youngster, who is always trying and who now and then makes a brilliant pick up.31
The next day, Tracy Turner replaced the “brilliant, but erratic” Pezold at third base.32 Pezold was loaned out to Crestline, a member of the four-team semipro Central Ohio League, for a month to reset and get regular reps. He last played on September 13 for Crestline,33 returning the next day to the Naps. Larry would see action in only four more games the rest of the season: pinch-hitting appearances on September 14 and 16; one inning in right field on September 21; and one final start at third base on September 30. In this final start (and major-league game), Pezold went hitless, and committed two more errors, before being pinch-hit for by Shoeless Joe Jackson. Pezold’s 13 errors translated into a woeful .827 fielding percentage, by far the lowest of any fielder with 50 or more chances in the American League in 1914. He ended the season with a .225 batting average for Cleveland.
The scribes were scathing: “The scout who dug up Pezold and (Bill) Wambsganss must have had a difficult time getting his courage up to the point of signing the men, because the names do not look like those of ball players.”34 One of these two players (Wambsganss) ended up having a 13-year major-league career; the other (Pezold) would never play another major-league game.
But Pezold had one more game with a handful of the Naps players. On the Tuesday after the end of the regular season, the Central Ohio League teams, including the Crestline team that Pezold played for in August, participated in a one-day tournament, fortifying their roster with big-league talent. Playing for Crestline alongside Pezold would be fellow Naps Jackson, Bill Steen, Doc Johnston, Jay Kirke, Elmer Smith, and Willie Mitchell,35 but they would surprisingly lose in the semifinals.36
Larry continued his eventful October and, less than three weeks later, married Becenter Gerber (1890-1938), daughter of a policeman, on October 28, 1914, in New Orleans.
Pezold was still on the 1915 Cleveland Naps (soon to be renamed the Indians) reserve list as of November 29, 1914.37 On March 23, 1915, though, he reported to his former American Association Cleveland team, now renamed the Spiders, at their minor-league training camp in Thomasville, Georgia, with the expectation that he “will be the regular third sacker.”38 Larry was even dangled as trade bait to Portland of the Pacific Coast League, but he was “not at this time considered big league material.”39 He lost the third base battle to Joe Evans.40 Pezold pinch-hit for the Spiders in an Opening Day loss to Indianapolis,41 but only played sparingly in the first four weeks. On May 14, Pezold was released by the Spiders to cut to the 16-player limit, allowing him to return home to New Orleans to be near his ill mother, and to play for the local Pelicans.42 Upon arrival, he immediately batted third and started in center field for New Orleans, which won the 1915 Southern Association pennant.
Early in 1916, Pezold was released by New Orleans and sent to the Fort Worth Panthers of the Texas League under an option agreement.43 Larry made his Lone Star State debut on May 4, playing center field and getting “his finger in the pie”44 with two hits “right on the nose.”45 Manager and former White Sox second baseman Jake Atz, a personal friend of Pezold’s from New Orleans,46 asserted that Pezold was “one of the niftiest fielders ever seen in these parts.”47 Alas, Pezold’s fielding woes would crop up again, as he let a ground ball single go through his legs in center field for the deciding run in a loss to Houston in May.48
A mere six weeks after his first Fort Worth contest, Pezold “jumped” the team at a critical juncture, claiming he was homesick “for dear old New Orleans.”49 The Panthers were “crippled by a bit of babyishness on the part of Larry Pezold.”50 Pezold was suspended. Less than a month later, the hometown Pelicans became desperate for an outfielder. Thus, they reached out to the jilted Texas squad. Even though Pezold treated Fort Worth “shabbily,” Panthers team secretary Paul LaGrave magnanimously reinstated Pezold, and Larry was allowed to play for the Pelicans.51 The press, however, was not quite as forgiving: “These days the deserting player always seems to get better berth as reward for his bad conduct.”52
During spring training of 1917, Pezold was traded from New Orleans to Southern Association-rival Nashville for pitcher Rube Kroh.53 A day later, Pezold sent a telegram to Nashville declaring: “Will (only) report to Nashville to play second base or outfield. Please respond immediately.”54 He eventually reported, but claimed he had to play either of those two positions because “he doesn’t figure he can throw from third base.”55 It was originally thought that he would “occupy Art Kores’ station,” namely third base,56 but Pezold instead ended up beating out Tommy Sheehan for the second base job.57 However, Pezold ended up starting at shortstop for Nashville on Opening Day on April 12th, due to manager Roy Ellam’s injury, which ended the skipper and shortstop’s streak of over 3,500 consecutive innings played.58 Pezold’s hold on shortstop would not even last one night though, as he, even without committing an error, was moved to second base during the opener. Pezold went 4-for-10 over the first three days for Nashville.
However, Larry had far different plans. He “voiced his intentions of jumping the team and going to New Mexico where he will work in a copper mine and play in the fast semipro circuit.”59 Then, after those three games with Nashville, he followed through on his stated intentions.60 The scoop from Nashville, conversely, was that Pezold quit Nashville due to “Tennessee’s bone dry law,” shopping for more relaxed Prohibition-era surroundings akin to his hometown of New Orleans, which is “wet as the Gulf of Mexico. Larry was afraid of a long drouth.”61
Larry and his spouse uprooted themselves and moved to the “new” state of New Mexico. According to Pezold’s June 1917 draft registration, he was an electrician for Chino Copper in Santa Rita. He also claimed a draft exemption to a care for a dependent, his sick wife Becenter. Not surprisingly, Pezold soon found his way to a ball field. He played third base for Santa Rita of the Chino Copper League. Santa Rita won the MacNeill Cup title, awarded to the Copper League champions, for the fifth straight season over Hurley in August.62
Pezold would stay with Chino Copper, now as a powderman, to begin 1918. His Santa Rita team, dotted with multiple ex-major leaguers, played a memorable exhibition on April 5, 1918, against the Chicago Cubs, who were heading east via train after their preparations on Catalina Island. The Ritas knocked Grover Cleveland Alexander out of the box in the third inning, and defeated the eventual National League champs, 6-5, in ten innings.63 Thereafter, Larry lingered with Santa Rita until at least July.64
For 1919, Pezold played for Galveston in the Texas League, where he reunited with teammate Danny Clark from the Gadsden team of 1913. Pezold, “a veteran of the American, Southern, and International Leagues,”65 started at third base to begin the season against San Antonio,66 but was quickly released on May 28.67 Soon thereafter, Pezold was back in Louisiana, playing with the Standard Oil Company of Louisiana’s semipro team the Stancolas.68
In 1922, Pezold played for Hazlehurst (Mississippi) in the semipro Trucking Belt League, alongside teams such as Brookhaven, McComb, and Crystal Springs.69 Fast forward to 1925, and Larry was back with the Stancolas, losing in the state semipro championship to the Louisiana Oil and Refining Corp. team out of Shreveport, with Governor Henry Fuqua and over 5,000 in attendance.70
Two weeks later, and out of the blue, the Pelicans once again came calling. New Orleans, desperate for a fielder due to the injury to rookie sensation shortstop Buddy Myer, asked Standard to “borrow” Pezold for a week, even though Pezold hadn’t played a professional ball game in over six years. A temporary leave of absence was granted by Standard.71 Pezold rapped out two hits while playing shortstop in his Pelicans “debut,”72 and he played for nearly two weeks.
Pezold played in the Mozark League in 1928 for Rolla (Missouri), winning the league title. Newspaper accounts from 1930 show him dabbling in umpiring for the Opelousas semipro team around Lafayette, Louisiana.73 The census from that year places Pezold in Baton Rouge as a laborer at an oil refinery. His beloved wife Becenter passed away in 1938. Larry later re-married, to the former Ivy Brooks. Larry Pezold passed away due to pneumonia on October 22, 1957, at age 64 in East Baton Rouge, and is buried in Greenoaks Memorial Park in Baton Rouge.
This biography was reviewed by Bill Lamb and Phil Williams, and fact-checked by Chris Rainey.
MyHeritage.com Birth, Death and Census Records
1 “Lighters Defeat Eddys; Paul Sentell Features” Times-Democrat (New Orleans), September 9, 1912: 7.
2 “Sweets Win One; Griffins Another” Times-Democrat (New Orleans) October 7, 1912: 11.
3 “Ready for Opening Game” Montgomery Advertiser, May 4, 1913: 15.
4 “Gadsden Scores 18 Runs on 17 Hits” Montgomery Advertiser, May 22, 1913: 11.
5 “Gadsden 3, Talladega 1” Atlanta Constitution, July 22, 1913: 8.
6 “Gadsden Shuts Out LaGrange” Montgomery Advertiser, July 27, 1913: 10.
7 “Randall Leads Georgia-Alabama” Atlanta Constitution July 20, 1913: 10.
8 “Pezold’s Home Run Wins Game” Montgomery Advertiser August 7, 1913: 8.
9 “Gadsden Cinches Pennant in the Southeastern League (sic)” Chattanooga Times, August 14, 1913: 10.
10 “Panmures Take Game; Defeat Schwartz Stars by Score of Four to Two.” Natchez (Louisiana) Democrat, September 4, 1913: 2.
11 “Winter Baseball Furnishes Sport” Times-Democrat (New Orleans) December 22, 1913: 13.
12 “Ballplayer Sold” Birmingham News, February 25, 1914: 7.
13 “Local Players Go To Join Teams” Times-Democrat (New Orleans) April 1, 1914: 11.
14 “Russell Says Feds Are Offered Money to Desert” Bridgeport (CT) Times and Evening Farmer, April 23, 1914: 10.
15 “Nailers are Ready for Those Magic Words—‘Play Ball’ “ Portsmouth (Ohio) Daily Times, April 28, 1914: 10.
16 “Up-River Town Gets Revenge” Portsmouth (Ohio) Daily Times, May 28, 1914: 10.
17 “Wednesday’s Game” Chillicothe (Ohio) Gazette, June 11, 1914: 6.
18 Chillicothe (Ohio) Gazette, June 11, 1914: 6.
19 Chillicothe (Ohio) Gazette, June 11, 1914: 6.
20 Chillicothe (Ohio) Gazette, June 11, 1914: 6.
21 “Infielders Blow It” Cincinnati Enquirer, June 11, 1914: 7.
22 “Lots of Bingling” Cincinnati Enquirer, July 16, 1914: 6.
23 “Sports Notes” Chillicothe Gazette, July 6, 1914: 7.
24 “Scouts Outslug Saints” Indianapolis Star, July 16, 1914: 4.
25 “Larry Lajoie Benched but Cleveland Loses” Anaconda (Montana) Standard, July 28, 1914: 2.
26 “Baseball Notes” Pittsburgh Press, July 28, 1914: 20.
27 David L. Fleitz, Napoleon Lajoie, King of the Ballplayers (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2003), 217.
28 “Sports Notes” Chillicothe Gazette, July 26, 1914: 7.
29 “Larry Pezold A Coming Star” Los Angeles Times, August 12, 1914: 24.
30 “Here Are Some Baseball Jots Gathered from Everywhere” Washington Times, July 30, 1914: 12.
31 “Sports Notes” Chillicothe Gazette, August 12, 1914: 6.
32 “Lajoie Gets into Line-Up” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, August 13, 1911: 6.
33 “Crestline Won” Bucyrus (OH) Evening Telegraph, September 14, 1914: 6.
34 “Notes of the Diamond” Watonga (OK) Herald, October 1, 1914: 7.
35 “Crestline Loads Up With Big League Stars” News-Journal (Mansfield, OH), October 1, 1914: 12.
36 David L. Fleitz, Shoeless: The Life and Times of Joe Jackson (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2001), 93.
37 “Cleveland Naps to Have Local Flavor” Portsmouth (OH) Daily Times, November 30, 1914: 10.
38 “Pezold Reports” Portsmouth Daily Times, March 24, 1915: 15.
39 “Cleveland Offers Manager McCredie A Pair of Players” Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, OR), April 21, 1915: 8.
40 “Teams Are Ready for Start in the American Association” Owensboro (Kentucky) Messenger, April 11, 1915: 4.
41 “All-Round Play Marks Tribe’s First Game” Indianapolis Star, April 16, 1915: 12.
42 “Larry Pezold Released” Green Bay (Wisconsin) Press-Gazette, May 15, 1915: 2.
43 “Pezold Released” Atlanta Constitution, April 12, 1916: 8.
44 Keisker, A.M. “Kike’s Komment” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 4, 1916: 14.
45 Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 4, 1916: 14.
46 Keisker, A.M. “Pezold Coming, Nutt Has Gone, Murphy Going” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 4, 1916: 12.
47 Keisker, A.M. “Dope on Daily Doings” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 12, 1916: 14.
48 “Larry’s Boot Gives Buffs Winning Edge” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 18, 1916: 12.
49 Keisker, A.M. “Three Teams Look Best as Texas Clubs Go on Parade” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 18, 1916: 38.
50 Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 18, 1916: 38.
51 “Pezold’s Jump Hurts” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 19, 1916: 12.
52 “Baseball Notes” Evening Star (Washington, D.C.) August 19, 1916: 6.
53 “Larry Pezold Traded to Nashville to Kroh” Tampa Tribune, March 22, 1917: 8.
54 Pigue, Bob. “Larry Pezold Send Peculiar Telegram to Vol Magnates” Nashville Banner, March 22, 1917: 10.
55 Pigue, Bob. “The Sportsgraph” Nashville Banner, March 27, 1917: 10.
56 Horn, Blinkey. “Larry Pezold, Secured from Pelicans, Reaches Camp” The Tennessean (Nashville), March 26, 1917: 23.
57 “Knoxville Off to a Bad Start” Knoxville Sentinel, April 19, 1917: 14.
58 “Roy Ellam Not in Vols Lineup” Knoxville Sentinel, April 12, 1917: 14.
59 Vance, Henry C. “On the Level” Birmingham News, April 12, 1917, p.12.
60 Vance, Henry C. “Honors Again Go to Moley’s Men” Birmingham News, April 16, 1917, p.5.
61 “On the Hop” Daily Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock, AR), April 22, 1917: 24.
62 “Santa Ritans Win Cup and Pennant of Chino” El Paso Times, August 28, 1917: 8.
63 White, Majorite. “Old Timers Still Recall Great Day; Santa Rita Beats Chicago Cubs” El Paso Times, April 3, 1966: 64.
64 “Duddy Starts It with Clean Single to Center” El Paso Times, July 14, 1918: 16.
65 “Five Hits Account for Four Runs and Victory for Houston in Ninth” Houston Post, May 4, 1919: 17.
66 Houston Post, May 4, 1919: 17.
67 “Baseball Notes” Reading (Pennsylvania) Times, May 27th, 1919: 8
68 “Stancolas and Lafayette Divide Doubleheader; More Players Coming Here” The Daily Advertiser (Lafayette, LA), June 23, 1919: 1.
69 Dull, W.L. “Hazelhurst is Beaten by Brookhaven in Short Session” Jackson (Mississippi) Daily News, July 28, 1922: 5.
70 Kelly, Pat. “Baton Rouge Team Loses to City Champions” The Times (Shreveport, Louisiana) July 5, 1925: 8.
71 “Loaned to Pelicans” Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, MI) August 14, 1925: 7.
72 Digby, Fred. “Pels Out for First Time Since Late May” Birmingham News, August 18, 1925: 15.
73 “Baseball Team of Opelousas Was Honored” Daily Advertiser (Lafayette, Louisiana) August 13, 1930: 10.