This article was written by Chris Rainey
In 1912, with only 40 games of professional experience, Lee Dashner was recruited by the Cincinnati Invaders franchise of the newly formed United States Baseball League. Franchises in eight cities hoped to create a third major league playing a 126-game season.1 Dashner made at least six appearances, including a winning relief stint against Pittsburgh and Deacon Phillippe, before the league folded in early June. The Cincinnati players had the foresight to file suit against team president John J. Ryan over unpaid salary just before the team was disbanded. In mid-September the players were all granted a favorable settlement and Dashner received his $86.50 paycheck for the last part of the season.2
Lee Clair Dashner was born on April 25, 1887, in Renault, Illinois. He was the third child born to Clarence E. and Martha E. Dashner. He had two older brothers, Charles and Lou, and a younger sister, Mary. All the children were born in Illinois, but by the time Lee was ready for school the family had moved to Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Clarence Dashner was a successful gunsmith and the family lived comfortably. Lee graduated from the local high school and worked as a laborer and played baseball in the area. A left-hander, he became a talented pitcher and also played outfield. His first notable experience with the professional game came on October 12, 1909, when he traveled to Gallipolis, Ohio, to pitch for the town team against the Cincinnati Reds in an exhibition. Matched against Cincinnati ace Art Fromme, Dashner “had the Reds guessing for six innings.” The Reds won 11-5 with seven late runs. Dashner also showed some talent at bat with a single and a double.3
In 1910 Dashner was invited to join the Decatur (Illinois) Commodores in the Class C Northern Association. The Commodores opened their season with six exhibition games. Dashner never took the mound, but he did play center field on a day when the squad was split to play a game at home and one at Lincoln, Illinois. He was given his first start on May 14 and he shut out Kankakee on a five-hitter despite walking seven. On May 20 Dashner was called into a game against Kankakee after seven consecutive hits had led to four runs. He hit the first batter he faced, then surrendered a double and finally gave up a single to Casey Stengel to score the seventh run of the frame. The local paper announced that “two Commodore pitchers lost their jobs yesterday.”4 Dashner was released and returned to Point Pleasant to play in the Class D Virginia Valley League. Wasting no time, he made his first appearance on May 26. From available records he had at least a 9-7 record in a season marred by numerous rainouts and even a June cancellation for cold weather.
Dashner remained with the Point Pleasant-Gallipolis franchise in the newly named Class D Mountain States League. The team struggled in the first half of the season both with talent and attendance. Mired in last place, the franchise moved upriver to Pomeroy-Middleport late in the first half of the season. The second half started on July 14 with Dashner facing first-half champ Huntington. He dropped a 15-inning 1-0 game. But fortunes soon changed as Huntington lost some talent and cooled off. Pomeroy moved into first place on August 6 when Dashner beat Ashland-Catlettsburg, 8-1. On August 24 Pomeroy beat Huntington 2-1 behind Dashner’s arm. During the contest Dashner also squared off against manager Nagel of the Blue Sox. (Details of the fisticuffs are lacking.) After a brief slump that allowed Montgomery (West Virginia) to close the gap, Pomeroy took the lead and held on, at least on paper, with a 36-21 second-half mark against Montgomery’s 36-22. Both Montgomery and Pomeroy-Middleport filed protests at season’s end. Montgomery charged that a Pomeroy-Middleport victory should not count. Earlier, a Montgomery win by forfeit had been protested.5 The squabble could not be resolved and resulted in the cancellation of a playoff between the first-half and second-half winners. Later, the protests were reviewed and Montgomery was awarded the second-half title.6 Dashner had issues with inconsistency and led the circuit in walks while posting a workhorse 17-16 record.
After the collapse of the United States League, Dashner was recruited by the Columbia (South Carolina) Comers in the Class C South Atlantic League. The last-place Comers went through three managers, none of whom could coax much offense out of the squad. Dashner, usually a decent batter, went 4-for-67 at bat and turned in an equally dismal 6-19 mound record. In 1913 Charleston, South Carolina, replaced the Columbia franchise and Dashner started the season there. He went the distance in a 4-0 loss to Albany on April 18.7 Four days later Dashner was released and went north to join the Maysville, Kentucky, team in the Class D Ohio State League. He turned in a 9-9 record before he was acquired by the Cleveland Naps on July 22 along with Portsmouth’s Billy Southworth. The Naps also acquired catcher Ernie Krueger from Toledo at that time.
Cleveland was in the pennant race and did not rush the rookies into action. In Dashner’s case, he had to be brought along gingerly. The Maysville management overworked him his last week there, knowing he was going to be gone, by pitching him four times in seven days. When he reached Cleveland, he had pain in his forearm and trainer George Kuhles ordered him to rest. Dashner’s most strenuous activity was shagging flies in warm-ups to keep his legs in shape.8 The Naps were on a winning streak when they ran up against the Philadelphia Athletics and rookie pitcher Bob Shawkey on August 4. The Naps pitchers were hit hard. Dashner was summoned to pitch in the seventh with the Naps trailing 6-1. He inherited runners on second and third with one out. Krueger was sent in as his catcher. Facing Stuffy McInnis, Dashner unleashed a wild pitch to allow the final run. “But thereafter he was master and though furnishing comedy… by the ridiculous length of time it took him to make up his mind to throw the ball, he showed a lot of stuff and managed to escape disaster,” a Cleveland newspaper said.9 Sportswriter Henry Edwards suggested that Dashner was slower to deliver the ball than Clark Griffith or Slow Joe Doyle. “Fans knowing either was to pitch, ordered late dinners. With Dashner working, you want to cut out dinner altogether and get an early breakfast.”10 In the eighth inning, Dashner recorded two strikeouts. His game line was five batters faced, five outs recorded and a 5.40 ERA. By today’s standards he would have an unblemished ERA, but under the scoring rules of the day, allowing an inherited runner to score counted against him.11
The next week, Cleveland optioned Dashner to Toledo in the American Association. He saw action in 11 games with the Mud Hens and posted a 1-3 mark. In 1914, after a stretch in spring training with the Cleveland Bearcats of the American Association, Dashner was optioned to Ironton in the Ohio State League. He appeared in 20 games with the Nailers before they disbanded on July 4. He had a 7-10 record and batted .158, according to league statistics that appeared in the December 25 Cincinnati Enquirer. On July 12 Topeka of the Class A Western League got his contract from Cleveland. In his first action he pitched eight innings of relief to win in the 10th. He also had a single and an RBI. Dashner went on to post an 8-10 record in 136 innings coupled with his finest season at bat, a .288 mark.
Dashner returned to Topeka in 1915 and took his place at the back of the rotation. The season started slowly for him and reached its low point on May 30 and 31 when he was knocked from the box in consecutive games by Des Moines. He salvaged the week on June 3 when he wed Mamie Jones, a waitress at a restaurant the players frequented. They were wed by a judge at around noon. Dashner returned to the ballpark, hoping to pitch. His wife returned to the restaurant. (Manager Jimmie Jackson did not pitch Dashner until Saturday, when he beat Sioux City, 4-3.) Mrs. Dashner worked her shift until 7 P.M., serving the players, including her new hubby, after the game.12 One local writer worried that marriage would make Dashner less reliable. It had exactly the opposite effect. The 1915 campaign was his best season. He went 16-14 with an ERA of 2.58. Topeka finished a distant third to Des Moines.
Dashner returned to the Jayhawks in 1916, but got off to a dismal start as he struggled with his control and speed. Topeka optioned him to Galveston in the Texas League on June 11. He made seven appearances for the Pirates. In his final appearance he surrendered 10 hits, five walks, and nine earned runs in four-plus innings of relief. Given his release, he signed with Fort Dodge in the Class D Central Association. (Before joining Fort Dodge, he pitched for St. Joseph of the Western League on June 27. He left the game after three innings and did not figure in the decision, a loss.) In September Dashner was called upon one last time by Topeka and lost to St. Joseph. After a 1917 spring tryout with Wichita, Dashner left the professional ranks and became an oilfield worker. He also pitched for the Empire Oil and Gas team in Augusta, Kansas.
The couple settled in Kansas. Dashner rose from roustabout to pumper to oil refinery worker. The couple welcomed a daughter, Virginia, in 1925. Dashner died on December 16, 1959, and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Augusta. Like so many “cup of coffee” players, he was not included in the Sporting News Guide necrology, nor did he have an obituary in The Sporting News.
Johnson, Lloyd, and Miles Wolff, eds. Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, First Edition (Durham, North Carolina: Baseball America, Inc., 1993).
Various Sporting News and Reach guides.
Arkansas City (Kansas) Daily Traveler.
Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Evening Gazette.
Decatur (Illinois) Daily Herald.
El Paso Herald.
Lincoln (Nebraska) Star.
The Sporting News.
Topeka (Kansas) State Capital.
Waco Morning News.
Wichita Daily Eagle.
1 United States Baseball League, at usbleague.weebly.com.
2 Cincinnati Post, September 16, 1912, 6.
3 Cincinnati Enquirer, October 13, 1909, 9.
4 The Daily Review (Decatur, Illinois), May 21, 1910, 3.
5 Various notes in the Cincinnati Enquirer, September 9-19.
6 Baseball-Reference gives Montgomery a 37-22 mark and Pomeroy-Middleport a 35-21 record. Both appeals were settled in favor of Montgomery.
7 Atlanta Constitution , April 19, 1913, 9.
8 Evening Review (East Liverpool, Ohio), August 1, 1913, 11.
9 Cleveland Leader, August 5, 1913, 10.
10 Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 5, 1913, 7.
11 John Thorn, “Why is the National Association Not a Major League and Other Record Issues,” Our Game, May 4, 2015. Also thanks to Lyle Spatz and Tom Ruane for clarification of ERA scoring.
12 Parsons (Kansas) Daily Sun, June 5, 1915, 1.