This article was written by Ray Anselmo
It would be hard to spend time studying the American League’s first decade without running into the brawny and brawling figure of left fielder Patsy Dougherty. A powerfully built (6’2″, 190 pounds, large for his day) second-generation Irish-American with a moon face and cleft chin, Dougherty was a major contributor to the first two AL world champions and three other pennant contenders in his ten-year career. While never the best of flycatchers, he made up for his defensive deficiencies with hard work, fighting spirit, plenty of stolen bases and uncanny left-handed clutch hitting. In his decade in the bigs, his red-hot bat was matched only by his curly red hair and the shamed faces of opposing pitchers whose bids for no-hitters he denied.
Patrick Henry Dougherty was born on October 27, 1876 in Andover, New York, the seventh of eight children. His father, Michael Dougherty, had emigrated from Ireland during the Great Famine and settled in Allegany County in southwestern New York, where he managed to parlay a small farm into a small fortune during the 1880s oil boom in the region. By the 1890s, the family had moved to Bolivar, another town in the area, where Patsy’s older brother Francis helped establish the State Bank of Bolivar. There Patsy played high school baseball with Frank Gannett (who later founded the Gannett newspaper chain that now includes USA Today), and later joined a town team.
From 1896 to 1901 Dougherty took a Cook’s tour of minor league ball clubs in the Northeast: Bristol, Connecticut; Dayton, Ohio; Canandaigua, New York; Homestead, Pennsylvania; and finally three years with Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he would live for over a decade. Starting out as a pitcher who played the outfield on off days, his hitting and speed soon made him more valuable as an outfielder (who occasionally pitched). After the 1901 season he headed west to chase flies, pitch and bat leadoff for the Columbias, a Los Angeles-based winter league team. The Columbias’ manager was Jimmy Collins, skipper and third baseman of Boston in the American League, who thought enough of Dougherty’s hitting to bring him east as Boston’s new left fielder.
On April 19, 1902, Dougherty made his first appearance in a Boston Americans box score. Although he would miss almost thirty games that season to minor injuries, he was in the lineup enough to lead the Hub nine in batting (.342, fourth in the AL) and on-base percentage (.407, second in the league), and to keep the team in the pennant race despite losing Collins, catcher Lou Criger and pitcher George Winter for long periods. Defense was his one weakness, as he compiled an .899 fielding percentage, worst of any regular major league outfielder.
Coming into 1903, therefore, expectations for Dougherty were high, and he responded with his finest year, leading the American League with 107 runs scored and 195 hits, and the pennant-winning Boston squad with 35 stolen bases and a .331 batting average (both third in the AL). In the first modern World Series that October against National League champion Pittsburgh, he hit homers in the first and sixth innings in game 2, then contributed two triples, a single and three RBI in game 5, leading Boston to the first two of its five victories on the way to a world championship.
But trouble was brewing behind the curtain of a brand-new pennant. After the 1903 season, American League president Ban Johnson transferred ownership of the Boston club to Boston Globe publisher Charles Taylor, who turned it over to his business-failure of a son John I. Taylor. Dougherty and Taylor soon were at odds over how much a third-year man who had led his team twice in batting should get paid. They eventually settled, but the relationship was permanently soured.
There was one remaining time of glory for Dougherty in Boston. On May 2, 1904 in Philadelphia, he led off the fourth inning with an infield single off the Athletics’ Rube Waddell. It was the last baserunner Waddell allowed that day, as the Rube defeated Jesse Tannehill and Boston 3-0 on a one-hitter. But Waddell made a grave error: taunting Cy Young to pitch against him the next time he was scheduled. On May 5, Dougherty would crash into the left field fence in Boston’s Huntington Avenue Grounds to catch a seventh-inning foul fly–aiding Cy Young’s perfect game against Waddell and the A’s.
On June 17, Dougherty was shipped to the New York Highlanders for utility man Bob Unglaub, who at the time of the deal was hospitalized with alcohol poisoning and would play only nine games for Boston. Though it was never proven, the deal may have been part of Ban Johnson’s ongoing project to strengthen the young league’s base in New York City; earlier he had engineered the transfers of shortstop Kid Elberfeld and pitcher Long Tom Hughes to the Highlanders, and Taylor may have seen Johnson’s plan as a way to jettison a player who was in his doghouse. Taylor, for his part, maintained that Dougherty was dealt because of his poor defense, and The Sporting News reported that “his traits as an individual made him unpopular with Manager Collins and his team mates. He refused to obey instructions and… became involved in quarrels with his fellow players.”
But the Beantown fans and press weren’t buying it, instead citing the contract problems and making aspersions as to John I. Taylor’s intelligence or lack thereof. “That President Taylor has made a great mistake is the way I dope it out,” The Sporting News‘s Boston correspondent, Johnny Hallahan, averred. “If we admit that Pat Dougherty is not a crack outfielder, that he has fallen off with the stick considerably, that he has shown some sign of indifference, that, it seems to us, covers all that can possibly be said against him….Dougherty’s weakness in the field never did the team any harm, and if his batting was a good cause for considering a deal, it seems to me to be a very poor excuse.” As a side note, the Boston Herald reporting the deal, ran the headline “DOUGHERTY AS A YANKEE”–the first instance in print of the New York AL team being referenced with that nickname.
Dougherty wasted no time in making sure Taylor–and Taylor’s team–regretted the move. On June 25, in his first game against his old mates, he nailed Cy Young for three hits as the Highlanders won 5-3. New York won again two days later, 8-4, with Dougherty tattooing Tannehill for three more safeties. The teams met again on July 11 as Dougherty had a four-hit game to help New York beat Taylor’s nine 10-1.
On Friday, October 7 in New York, with Boston leading New York in the AL pennant race by one-half game, Dougherty made the Hub nine pay once again, with a fifth-inning double, a seventh-frame bunt single and two runs scored as the Highlanders won 3-2 and regained the league lead. But then the scene shifted to Boston, because New York owner Frank Farrell (who hadn’t thought his team would be in contention in October) had months earlier rented Hilltop Park out to Columbia University for a football match on the 8th. The oversight proved deadly, as Boston won both ends of a doubleheader in their own park, 13-2 and 1-0. The Highlanders lost the pennant in a doubleheader back in New York on October 10.
Despite the mid-season trade and last-day disappointment, Dougherty had put together another strong year, leading the league in runs scored again (with 113, he was the only big leaguer to crack 100) and contributing 181 hits and 21 steals between the two cities. While he didn’t hit .300 again (his average for the year was .280), it was more a result of a league-wide drop in offense that any slump.
The real slump came in 1905, when not only did the AL’s batting average keep falling, but the Highlanders slid to a sixth-place finish. Dougherty hit only .263 with 56 runs that year, and fielded below .900 for the second time (.898). The troubles continued into 1906, as he not only ended up in a protracted contract wrangle with Highlanders manager Clark Griffith, but got into a fistfight with him as well. (Contemporary reports assessed the blame for the fisticuffs equally, “the Old Fox” having been known to lose his cool on occasion.) With his batting average at .192 and his relationship with his skipper a shambles, he jumped the team after twelve games, joined Lancaster, Pennsylvania, of the outlaw Tri-State League, and was subsequently suspended by Ban Johnson.
Chicago manager Fielder Jones, in desperate need of another bat for his “Hitless Wonders,” purchased Dougherty’s contract from New York on July 6 and smoothed things out with Johnson to allow the jumper’s return to the AL. While Dougherty suffered the worst offensive season of his career, his .233 average with Chicago was still higher than the team’s .230 overall mark. He also fielded a robust .987 for the year, making only two errors after committing 21 the previous season. In fourth place in early August, the White Sox rode Dougherty, Ed Hahn and young hurler Ed Walsh to a 19-game winning streak (a league record until it was broken by the 2002 Oakland A’s) and into first, ironically taking the pennant away from the Highlanders in the process. Dougherty had only two hits (in 20 at bats) in the White Sox’s World Series upset of the crosstown Cubs, but he had one of only two hits off Three Fingered Brown in a 1-0 loss in Game 4.
With Chicago, Dougherty moved from the leadoff spot to sixth in the batting order, and in 1907 he led the Sox in batting (.270) and slugging (.315) as well as steals (33), and kept the team in contention into the final week of the season. But the still-Hitless Wonders were unable to catch the bats of Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford, and Chicago finished 5 1/2 games behind Detroit in third place. This set the stage for the wild 1908 race, as Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland battled into the season’s last weekend before the Tigers clawed out a bare half-game winning margin over the Indians. The White Sox were again third, but only a game and a half back. Dougherty, now batting third in the order, finished the season with a team-best .278 batting average, .326 slugging percentage, and .367 on base percentage. His 47 stolen bases led the entire league.
Throughout the last weeks of the 1908 race, Dougherty made his presence known to opposing pitchers, both at bat and on the bases. On September 24 his seventh-inning single was the only hit off New York’s Joe Lake, the second no-hitter he prevented in his career. (He would make a habit of this, also swatting the only safeties off Washington’s Dolly Gray on August 28, 1909 in a 6-4 Chicago win–Gray giving up Patsy’s single and eight walks in a bizarre second inning for all six Sox runs–and off Detroit’s Ed Summers on July 29, 1910.) On October 4 he kept the Tigers from clinching with his heads-up baserunning. With runners on second and third in the first inning, he grounded to second base, but the throw was botched by Detroit first baseman Claude Rossman, allowing the lead runner to score and Dougherty to reach first. Later that same inning, he scored the third run on a double steal when Tiger second baseman Red Downs muffed a throw from the catcher. The rally provided all the runs in Chicago’s 3-1 victory.
In 1909, Dougherty more or less was the Sox offense, leading the South Side nine in batting (.285), slugging (.391), runs (71), RBI (55), doubles (23), triples (13), hits (140), steals (36), walks (51) and homers (1, in a four-way tie). But only one other regular batted over .240, and Chicago slipped to fourth, 20 games out of the lead.
In 1910 the White Sox attempted a full-fledged youth movement in preparation for the opening of Comiskey Park in July, leaving the 33-year-old Dougherty as the oldest regular. Once again he proved to be the club’s steadiest offensive contributor, leading the team with a .248 batting average, 43 RBI and 110 hits. But the season was an overall disappointment for Patsy, who lost over 20 games to “malarial attacks” and saw the Sox (with a team .211 average) sink to a distant sixth. His health problems continued into 1911, holding him to 76 games, though he was able to take advantage of the new cork-centered baseball to rap out a .289 average.
Dougherty, seeing that his time on the field was more or less up due to his health, decided to retire following the 1911 season. According to the Chicago Tribune, he was “reported to be one of the wealthiest players in the game,” having invested in oil wells back in Allegany County and business properties in Bolivar in addition to general thriftiness; he had kept playing ball for love of the game. He had a job lined up as well, as clerk at the State Bank of Bolivar, still presided over by his older brother Frank.
Dougherty let no dust collect on him in his post-flychasing years. He worked for almost thirty years at the bank, eventually rising to the post of assistant cashier. He and his wife, Florence (whom he had married in 1904) had five children, though the last, William, died in infancy. In 1916 he returned to the game when he was elected president of the class D Inter-State League, an eight-team circuit of New York and Pennsylvania squads, including one in nearby Olean, New York. But the league was on shaky ground; three of the teams (including Olean) folded in mid-year, and the league closed up at season’s end, not to be revived until 1932.
By the late 1930s Dougherty was a grandfather, and in failing health. He soldiered on at the bank, but the end came with a fatal heart attack on April 30, 1940. A lifelong devout Catholic, he was buried at Saint Mary Catholic Cemetery in Bolivar.
This biography originally appeared in David Jones, ed., Deadball Stars of the American League (Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, Inc., 2006).
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Cemetery records – www.findagrave.com
Highlights of Dougherty’s career – www.baseballlibrary.com
Patsy Dougherty page, AL Series HR page at Baseball Almanac – www.baseball-almanac.com
History of Boston losses, collapses, et al., 1900-09 – www.soxsuck.com
Red Sox cycle-hitting information – www.sportsecyclopedia.com/al/bosox/redsox.html
1903 Boston AL timeline – www.worldseries.neu.edu/timeline.html
Discovery of The Ghost of Patsy Dougherty – www.sonsofsamhorn.com
US Census records for 1870, 1910 and 1920 – persi.heritagequestonline.com
Genealogical records – www.rootsweb.com/~nyallega/index.html