Paul Wachtel (

Paul Wachtel

This article was written by Darren Gibson

The “Iron Man” of the Texas League1

“A spitter jumping like a West Texas jackrabbit”2


Paul Wachtel ( history is quite familiar with Burleigh Grimes, the last legal spitball pitcher in the major leagues; and maybe Urban “Red” Faber, the final American Leaguer. But what about minor-league pitchers who were grandfathered in? Enter Paul Wachtel (WAH-tell), who had pitched in two September games for the seventh-place 1917 Brooklyn Robins. Wachtel was barred from using the spitball in the majors in 1920 as he was not on a major-league roster at the time.

Allowed to continue to expectorate in the Class B (later Class A) Texas League even after the circuit’s prohibition of the pitch, Wachtel finished with a Texas League career-best 231 wins, 216 with the Fort Worth Panthers, the dominant league franchise of the decade. He recorded 20 wins six times over a seven-year span (with 19 in the other year) and still was throwing the saliva ball as a 42-year-old as late as 1930.

Paul Horine Wachtel was born on April 30, 1888, in Myersville, Frederick County, Maryland, the seventh of nine children born to Daniel Joshua Wachtel, a stone mason; and Annie Malonza Horine Wachtel. The family attended St. Paul’s Lutheran church in town.

By August 1908 Paul pitched for a top area amateur team in Boonsboro, Maryland, striking out 13 over 11 innings in a victory over Shepherdstown, West Virginia.3 Three days later, now pitching for his local Myersville Athletic Club squad, Wachtel lost a 1–0, 11-inning contest against Sharpsburg, Maryland, his team being no-hit by the opposition. Wachtel’s brothers Charles (left field), Harry (center field), and George (right field) manned the outer garden for him, with Harry’s critical error in the 11th inning bringing home the winning tally.4 The story went that Paul Wachtel “in one inning called in the Myersville fielders, and with no support back of him he retired the Sharpsburg nine without a run.”5 Wachtel returned to Myersville for 1909, and the Baltimore Sun reported that he possessed “a high ball that couldn’t be hit.”6

Wachtel played outfield and pitched for St. John’s College of Annapolis, Maryland, in 1910. On April 12 in his first collegiate pitching appearance, the right-hander (eight innings) combined with team ace Jim Stevens (five innings) for a 13-inning no-hitter in a 4–3 victory over Mount St. Joseph’s of Baltimore. St. John’s tallied 16 hits in the same game.7 John Wilson was another pitcher for St. John’s that season, and all three hurlers would later briefly taste the majors.8

In May 1911 Wachtel threw a two-hitter, striking out 15, for a Connecticut state hospital asylum team based in Middletown.9 By July he joined the Brattleboro Islanders in the integrated Twin State League, where he was known as a “husky youngster” who was “a valuable fielder and hitter as well.”10 Wachtel pitched a shutout and drove in the only run in the 10th inning to beat Bellows Falls on August 31.11 Known as “Oom Paul” Wachtel defeated Keene, 2–0, a week later as Battleboro clinched the Twin State League. Wachtel recorded a 7-2 mark.12 After the season he returned to Maryland.13

Wachtel, at 5’11” and 175 pounds, was recruited in spring 1912 for the Green Bay Bays of the Class C Wisconsin-Illinois League by new manager Jim Garry, who in 1911 had managed a semipro Pittsfield, Massachusetts, squad not far from Brattleboro. Wachtel posted a 14-14 record on the season and hit .293 for the sixth-place Bays. The Brooklyn Robins secured an option on Wachtel, but they never exercised it. In mid-August Wachtel and Earl Smith were purchased by the Milwaukee Brewers of the Class AA American Association.14 Milwaukee’s Hugh Duffy worked with Wachtel on a “different method of delivery.”15

By March 1913 Wachtel and Smith had signed with the Milwaukee Creams entry in the Wisconsin-Illinois League, which shared the Brewers’ home field and conducted training camp in Oconomowoc.16 The franchise moved to Fond du Lac in late June. Wachtel went 15-15 on the year and belted five home runs. After the season Wachtel was sold to the Dayton Veterans of the Class B Central League.

Wachtel started off 7-1 for Dayton in 1914. On July 7 Wachtel combined with Pete Fahrer on a 10-inning no-hitter in an exhibition loss, 2–1, to the Cincinnati Reds. Wachtel fell to 11-9, however, by late August, losing his last four decisions. Reports on Wachtel were that “a ligament in his elbow is out of place and bothers him, when he throws a curve ball” and that he “needs a winter’s rest to put his arm back in shape.”17 Back with the Veterans in 1915, Wachtel pitched poorly, finishing with an 8-19 record. Dayton jettisoned Wachtel in May 1916 to get down to the 13-player limit, sending the pitcher to the Muskegon Reds within the Central League.18 In 1916, Wachtel notched his third .500 campaign in five years, at 14-14.

In his fourth year in the Central League, 1917, Wachtel performed much better, going 19-11 to lead Muskegon in wins, with both his 176 strikeouts and 95 walks leading the league.19 Wachtel no-hit Richmond, 2–0, on August 26.20 He was “known to have the most effective spit-ball now in the minor leagues.”21

Jimmy Hamilton, Muskegon skipper and occasional scout, recommended Wachtel to his friend, Wilbert Robinson, manager of the Brooklyn Robins.22 Wachtel was sold to Brooklyn for $2,500,23 with $1,000 of it refundable if Wachtel didn’t stick.24

After winning seven of his final eight games for Muskegon, Wachtel reported to Brooklyn. He worked in an exhibition game against Coshocton, Ohio, on September 17. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle asserted that Wachtel “showed remarkable quickness in his delivery, getting the ball away with an excellent overhand motion. As he had not worked for two weeks, he used only straight balls.”25 Wachtel made his major-league debut the next day in St. Louis against the Cardinals. Relieving after Larry Cheney had surrendered 10 runs, Wachtel gave up two more runs in his three innings of work in the 12–4 defeat in the nightcap of a doubleheader.

Wachtel’s only other major-league game was on September 27 in front of 400 fans at Forbes Field against the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates. The “youngster was bombarded furiously in the seventh”26 for four runs, giving up five total on six hits over the final three innings of a 10–2 defeat. Wachtel earned his lone major-league hit though, off Wilbur Cooper, a two-out single to center field in the top of the ninth inning.

After the season, Brooklyn returned Wachtel to Muskegon, even though Robinson surmised that “the lad had many promising signs, including a good curve and a spitter.” However, the rationale followed that during wartime, teams were wary of “the expense of taking chances on developing latent talent in youngsters.”27

Muskegon was soon to disband, so Muskegon sold Wachtel in March 1918 to the Fort Worth Panthers of the Class B Texas League.28 It was the beginning of an 11-year engagement. On May 18 he threw a 2–0 no-hitter against Dallas, with “a spitter jumping like a West Texas jackrabbit.”29 Wachtel started off with seven wins in his first eight decisions for manager Jakie Atz, good for the best league winning percentage as of the end of May. However, by June Wachtel had enlisted in the war effort as a gunsmith and repairman,30 training at Camp Meade in Maryland.

Wachtel re-signed with the Panthers after being discharged in February 1919. The soldier lamented, “we were one sore bunch when the captain lined us up and told us there was nothing doing. Believe me I am going to take it out on the batters in the Texas League this year.”31

Wachtel ended up with a 21-14 record, second on the team to Bill Whittaker’s 24 victories. Wachtel defeated the Shreveport Gassers, 2–1, in Game Four of the Panthers’ postseason series on September 28 to avert a sweep, but the Gassers beat the Panthers in six games for the league crown. In the offseason, Wachtel returned to his old job at a shipyard back in Maryland.

In 1920, Wachtel posted a superb 26-10 record for Fort Worth, tying teammate Joe Pate (26-8) for the league lead in wins. Teammate Whittaker was third in the league at 24-6. Dick Robertson made it a quartet of Panthers with at least 20 wins, going 20-7. The Panthers faced Southern Association champ Little Rock in the inaugural Dixie Series, winning four games to two, with one tie, with Wachtel winning Game Five, 6–0, on a four-hitter.

Paul married Elizabeth “Bessie” Lena Womack, on May 14, 1921, at her family home in Tarrant County, Texas. Ancestry records show this as Bessie’s fourth marriage. On the dirt Wachtel went 23-12 in 1921, as Fort Worth overcame Wichita Falls in September to win the pennant. The Panthers beat Memphis four games to two to repeat as Dixie Series champions. During the series, the spitball was allowed by all in Fort Worth as the Texas League allowed the pitch, while only Wachtel could use the spitter in Memphis as the Southern Association had prohibited it.32

Wachtel registered a 26-7 mark in 1922, arguably his best Texas League campaign. He led the league in wins and had five shutouts. Wachtel, the “master of the spit ball delivery,”33 beat Mobile, 3–1, in the second game of the Dixie Series, but Mobile knocked off the Panthers in six games. Wachtel went 19-12 in 1923, his only non-20-win season over an incredible seven-year stretch. He won both games of a doubleheader on August 12 against Wichita Falls, including a 10-0 seven-inning shutout in the nightcap.34 Fort Worth again won the Dixie Series, this time four games to two, with one tie, over New Orleans.

Wachtel no-hit Shreveport on July 10, 1924, part of a 22-10 season. He also won two games against Memphis in the Dixie Series, won by Fort Worth four games to three, with one tie. The 1924 edition of the Panthers were selected as the fourth-best minor-league team of all time in a 2001 ranking.35

In 1925 Wachtel again led the Panther staff, with his 23 wins (23-7, 3.88 ERA) topping the Texas League for the third time in six years,36 The Panthers swept Dallas in the playoffs, with Wachtel winning Game One, 5–0, by tossing a two-hit shutout and Game Three, to claim their sixth straight Texas League title. They then beat the Atlanta Crackers four games to two in the Dixie Series, their fifth victory in the six years of the event.37 Wachtel then played winter ball in Miami.38

Wachtel scuffled to a 16-19 mark in 1926, then went 17-14 in 1927, both nonplayoff years for Fort Worth. The “‘Iron Man’ of the Texas League”39 started hot in 1928, winning his first eight starts heading into June,40 before finishing at 16-14.

After 11 seasons, Fort Worth traded Wachtel in February 1929 to the Houston Buffaloes within the Texas League, for Dick Whitworth and Carl Littlejohn. Wachtel went 12-13 for Houston in 1929. Released after the season, he latched on with Dallas, then Waco in June 1929 after being released by Dallas.

The 42-year-old Wachtel fought back Father Time in shutting out his former Fort Worth squad, 6–0, on six hits on July 13. He was fighting for his professional baseball life at the time. Waco had already asked waivers, and Wachtel knew that if he failed to win, he might be gone. “Wachtel was pitching for his job. He hasn’t done much this season and the Cubs have asked waivers on the veteran spitballer. When he went to the hill Sunday, he knew that if he failed to win, his days in organized baseball were numbered. It was the jumping off place for the spitballer but he refused to jump.”41 Wachtel won and added three hits and three RBIs to help his own cause.

If he walked away after that performance, it would have made for a fitting exit. Unfortunately, not all good stories end triumphantly, and Wachtel got pummeled, 12–1, by Dallas in his last start four days later, giving up 14 hits.42 Wachtel was released, coincidentally the same week his ex-Panther rotation mainstay Joe Pate was given his walking papers by Birmingham. Wachtel was one of the last spitballers in the Texas League as Cuban Oscar Tuero and career minor-leaguer Tom Estell lasted in the Texas League until 1932.

Paul Wachtel finished as the Texas League career leader in wins (231), complete games (242), shutouts (32), and total innings pitched (3,177), despite missing official data for complete games and shutouts for 1918 and 1919.43 In total, Wachtel notched 312 minor-league victories.44

The 1930 census showed Paul, Bess, and Paul’s 19-year-old stepson Marvin living in San Antonio. Later in the 1930s, Wachtel was identified as selling paint and later marketing a popular brand of meat sauce. He painted city housing projects in San’tone in the 1940s, then later worked as a housing official.

Paul Wachtel died of a heart attack on December 15, 1964, in San Antonio, Texas, and was buried at Sunset Memorial Park in town. He was survived by his wife, Bess; brother Harry; and sister Emma.45



This biography was reviewed by Bill Lamb and Will Christensen and fact-checked by Tony Oliver.



In addition to the sources shown in the Notes, the author used,, and



1 Homer L. Holliday, “Mouths Water as Panther Fans Scent Delayed Feast,” The Sporting News, March 15, 1928: 5.

2 “Wachtel Enters Hall of Fame When He Lets Subs Down Without Hit or Run; Sears Hits a $50 Three-Bagger,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 19: 1918: 20.

3 “Boonsboro Takes Another,” Baltimore Sun, August 16, 1908: 10.

4 “Close Game at Sharpsburg,” Baltimore Sun, August 19, 1908: 9.

5 “Winding Up of Season,” The News (Frederick, MD), September 2, 1908: 5.

6 “Baseball,” Shepherdstown (WV) Register, August 5, 1909: 3; also, “Myersville Lands One,” Baltimore Sun, August 3, 1909: 9.

7 “An Unlucky Thirteenth,” Baltimore Sun, April 13, 1910: 10; “St. John’s in Thirteenth,” Washington (D.C.) Herald, April 13, 1910: 8.

8 Bill Lamar and Dick Porter were the two most prominent players to come from the school.

9 “Victory for Asylum Team,” Hartford Courant, May 19, 1911: 15.

10 “Excitement in Twin State League,” Brattleboro (VT) Reformer, July 7, 1911: 1.

11 “A Memorable Encounter,” Brattleboro (VT) Reformer, September 1, 1911: 2.

12 “Win State League; Championship is Ours,” Brattleboro (VT) Reformer, September 8, 1911: 3.

13 “Sporting,” Vermont Phoenix (Brattleboro, VT), October 6, 1911: 8.

14 “Wachtel and Smith Go to the Brewers,” Green Bay Press-Gazette, August 15, 1912: 3.

15 “Wound Up with Victory,” Vermont Phoenix (Brattleboro, VT), September 13, 1912: 2.

16 “Milwaukee Manager is Now in Charge,” Green Bay Press-Gazette, April 16, 1913: 7.

17 “Martin’s Waynes Open Next to Final Local Series with Soldiers,” Dayton Daily News, August 22, 1914: 10.

18 Bud Bains, “Three Pitchers are Cast Adrift by Vets,” Dayton Herald, May 15, 1916: 10.

19 “The Reapers Sparkle in Playing End,” Springfield (OH) News-Sun, September 22, 1917: 5.

20 Don Warfel, “Fans are Given Money’s Worth at Last Game,” Palladium-Item (Richmond, IN), August 27, 1917: 5.

21 “Superbas Claim Catcher Kreuger,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 7, 1917: 14.

22 “Superbas Claim Catcher Kreuger.”

23 “Wachtel First in Central to Grant No-Hits,” Richmond (IN) Item, August 28, 1917: 7.

24 “Wachtel Wins Honors in Pitchers’ Battle,” Springfield (OH) News-Sun, August 12, 1917: 25.

25 “Robbie’s Cripples Growing Apace,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 18, 1917: 24.

26 Ed F. Ballinger, “Corsairs Crush Superbas to Tune of 10-2,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, September 28, 1917: 8.

27 “Pitcher Wachtel Sent Back to Muskegon,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 10, 1917: 24.

28 A.M. ‘Kike’ Keisker, “Crack Players are Signed by La Grave to Help the Panthers Grab Gonfalon in Approaching Baseball Melee,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, March 3, 1918: 18. Sportswriter Keisker would be named president of the new Class D Texas-Oklahoma League in 1921.

29 “Wachtel Enters Hall of Fame When He Lets Subs Down Without Hit or Run; Sears Hits a $50 Three-Bagger.”

30 “Ten More Leave Frederick,” Baltimore Sun, June 4, 1918: 7.

31 “Wachtel Signs to Pitch for Panther Crew,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, February 26, 1919: 16.

32 Herbert Caldwell, “Dixie Series to Open in Ft. Worth on Wednesday; Friday Will Be an Off Day,” Shreveport Times, September 15, 1921: 8.

33 “Dixie Series,” The Sporting News, September 28, 1922: 8.

34 “Wachtel Wins Two,” Shreveport Times, August 13, 1923: 8.

35 Bill Weiss and Marshall Wright, “1924 Fort Worth Panthers,” Five of the six Panther squads from 1920-1925 were ranked among the top 50 minor-league teams of all time.

36 Bill Weiss and Marshall Wright, “1925 Fort Worth Panthers,”

37 Vern Luse, “The 1920-1925 Fort Worth Panthers,” in 1977 Baseball Research Journal,

38 “Play Ball!,” Miami News, November 29, 1925: 29.

39 “Mouths Water as Panther Fans Scent Delayed Feast.”

40 “Wachtel of Fort Worth Has Won All Eight Starts on Hill,” Corsicana Daily Sun, June 2, 1928: 9.

41 Ned C. Record, “Former Panther Hurler Defeats Cats for Waco,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 14, 1930: 6.

42 “Steers 12, Cubs 1,” Austin American, July 18, 1930: 13.

43 “1925 Fort Worth Panthers,”

44 shows 295 wins, not counting Wachtel’s 14 with Dayton and Muskegon in 1916 and 3 with Dallas and Waco in 1930.

45 “Funeral Tomorrow for Famous Hurler,” San Antonio Express, December 17, 1964: 41.

Full Name

Paul Horine Wachtel


April 30, 1888 at Myersville, MD (USA)


December 15, 1964 at San Antonio, TX (USA)

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