Tillar “Pug” Cavet won 302 games in a career that spanned two decades. He won 11 games in the majors, with the 1914-15 Detroit Tigers, and 291 in the minors. He was a four-time 20-game winner, with Mobile in 1913, Nashville in 1917, and Indianapolis in 1919 and 1921.
The 6-foot-3, 175-pound southpaw pitched side-arm with a “beautiful easy delivery.”1 In his twirling windup, he showed his back to the batter.2 He had a “world of speed”3 and “threw inshoots, outs, drops and had a fine change of pace.”4
Tillar Cavet was born on December 26, 1889, in McGregor, Texas, near Waco. He had no middle name.5 His last name was pronounced as in “cavity” (and not like “duvet”).6 As a child he was nicknamed “Pug” for his pug nose; he did not mind the nickname7 which stuck with him throughout his life. His nose was shaped by a kick from a horse, according to one story.8
Tillar was the eldest of seven children born to Henry Jackson Cavet and Emma (Cobb) Cavet. The family lived on a farm near McGregor until moving in 1901 to Canyon City, near Amarillo.9 Henry worked for a clothing store there and later became an insurance salesman.10
In 1907 and 1908, Tillar pitched for local semipro teams.11 In 1909, with Muskogee, Oklahoma, of the Class C Western Association, he compiled a 13-16 record with 232 strikeouts in 295 innings.12 The Detroit Tigers acquired him from Muskogee and optioned him to Rock Island, Illinois, in the Class B Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League.
In Rock Island’s home opener, the first game of a doubleheader on May 8, 1910, Cavet pitched all 17 innings and allowed only six hits as the Islanders nipped Waterloo, Iowa, 2-1.13 Using a deceptive pickoff move, he caught three men off first base.14 On August 31, he went the distance in a 19-inning, 4-2 loss to Dubuque, Iowa. In that marathon he struck out 23 batters.15 In 316 innings pitched for Rock Island, he posted an 18-15 record and led the league with 248 strikeouts.16
After seeing Cavet’s smooth delivery at spring training with the Tigers in 1911, sportswriter Paul Hale Bruske of the Detroit Times declared that Cavet is “the most graceful left-hander” he had ever seen.17 Tigers pitching coach Joe Sugden marveled at Cavet’s live fastball, which had as much movement as the prospect’s curveball.18 The “peculiar hop” on Cavet’s fastball reminded Tigers catcher Henry Beckendorf of Walter Johnson’s fastball.19
In a leap from Class B, Cavet made his major-league debut on April 25, 1911, against the St. Louis Browns. He started and worked four innings and allowed five runs (two earned) on six hits. The Tigers won, 11-9. Detroit manager Hughie Jennings said Cavet “grooved many a ball squarely over the middle” of the plate. “Had he worked the corners, he had the speed and curve to shut the Browns out indefinitely.”20 The club decided that the 21-year-old left-hander needed further seasoning and optioned him to the Minneapolis Millers of the Class A American Association. It would be three years before he returned to the Tigers.
Cavet achieved a 14-6 record for the 1911 Millers. The following spring, after a brief stint with Providence in the International League, he was sent by the Tigers to Mobile, Alabama, in the Class A Southern Association. He shined with Mobile, earning a 14-7 record in 1912 and a 23-12 mark in 1913. Batters averaged .205 against him in 1913.21 During these years, Cavet suffered occasionally from iritis, an inflammation of the eye, and sometimes wore an eyeshade when he pitched.22 He had impaired vision in one eye from a childhood accident (a dynamite cap explosion, according to one source).23
Cavet spent the 1914 season with the Tigers. He was used as both a starter and reliever. In the first 80 games of the season (through July 10), he appeared in only 11 games and his performance was disappointing: an 0-4 record and 4.42 ERA. But in the second half of the season, he excelled, with a 7-3 mark and 1.68 ERA.24
In Detroit on August 2, 1914, Cavet pitched a complete game and earned his first major-league victory as the Tigers defeated the New York Yankees, 4-3. He had “a good curve ball and excellent control.”25 In Boston on August 28, he delivered his only major-league shutout. Ty Cobb drove in two runs as Cavet blanked the Red Sox, 3-0.
Cavet started the third game of the 1915 season, on April 16, and fared poorly, allowing seven earned runs in seven innings in the Tigers’ 9-6 loss to the Cleveland Indians. He looked much better in his second appearance, on April 25 against the Indians, when he allowed two hits in six scoreless innings of relief.
In July, carrying a lackluster 4.06 ERA in 71 innings, Cavet became the odd man out on a Tigers pitching staff that featured aces Harry Coveleski and Hooks Dauss. Cavet was traded to the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, a demotion that ended his major-league career. In 226 1/3 innings pitched in the majors, he compiled an 11-9 record and 2.98 ERA. In San Francisco, he met Albertin May “Mazie” Steele, a vaudeville dancer, whom he married in 1917.26
Cavet returned to Mobile in 1916 and pitched better than his 14-23 record indicates. The last-place Mobile team scored an average of 2.79 runs per game, well below the 3.85 average of the seven other teams in the Southern Association.27 On June 18, 1916, Cavet pitched a one-hit shutout against Nashville,28 and in the offseason Nashville purchased him from Mobile.29
Cavet thrived in Nashville, achieving a 21-13 mark in 1917 with a 2.67 ERA in 286 innings. He was reacquired by Mobile before the 1918 season and then sold in June of that year to the Indianapolis Indians of the Class AA American Association.30
For the 1919 Indians, Cavet compiled a 28-16 record in 359 innings. His win total and number of innings were league highs and his career highs. His 2.26 ERA ranked fourth in the league.31 In a doubleheader at Kansas City on June 8, 1919, he pitched two complete games, winning the first, 1-0, and losing the second, 6-1.32 He was a workhorse. From 1919 to 1921, he pitched 1,007 innings for Indianapolis, an average of 336 innings per season.
Cavet’s 23-16 record in 1921 included an 11-game winning streak from April to June.33 In an exhibition game on March 30, 1921, against the defending NL champion Brooklyn Dodgers, he pitched six scoreless innings and made several Brooklyn batters “look foolish with his change of pace.”34 Among his strikeout victims was Zack Wheat, the Dodgers’ leading hitter.35
The Kansas City Times called Cavet “masterful and cunning.” It went on to describe, “He kept the ball high or he put it low, he cut an outside corner or he slipped one along the inside edge.” There were “no fat ones” over the middle of the plate.36 He painted the corners yet averaged less than two walks per nine innings.
Cavet was a left-handed batter. In 1923, his final season with Indians, he hit well (.299 in 77 at-bats) but his pitching fell off: a 7-15 record and 5.35 ERA in 180 innings. At Washington Park in Indianapolis on May 4, 1923, he belted a three-run home run off Harry Weaver of the Columbus Senators. It was a “Ruthian” clout that flew “over the high right field fence” and “into the railroad yards.”37 But the Senators won, 11-4, and Cavet was the losing pitcher. On September 8, in the first game of a doubleheader at Columbus, he homered twice over the right-field fence, yet he was again the losing pitcher.38
Cavet revived his career with the 1924 New Orleans Pelicans of the Southern Association. In 268 innings, he posted a 19-14 record and a league-leading 2.65 ERA. He pitched in southern California during the winters of 1924-25 and 1925-26. Helped by Babe Herman’s three-run home run, he was victorious on November 2, 1924, as Pirrone’s All-Stars edged the Los Angeles White Sox, a Black team, 6-5.39 The White Sox responded with an 11-10 victory over the All-Stars on November 30. In that one, White Sox shortstop Dobie Moore feasted on Cavet’s offerings by slugging two home runs and a double.40
Perhaps worn out from a winter of pitching, Cavet was ineffective in the spring of 1925, and New Orleans let him go on waivers to the Atlanta Crackers in June.41 The Pelicans would regret this decision.
The Crackers were in first place, one game ahead of the Pelicans, when the teams met in Atlanta for a four-game series, September 9 to 12, 1925. There was a frenzy of interest in the series. The total paid attendance of 40,620 was said to be, at the time, a minor-league record for a four-game set.42 The Crackers won three of the four games, and Cavet, the “Pelican cast-off,”43 was the winning pitcher in two of them.
Cavet’s victory over the Birmingham Barons on September 17 clinched the pennant.44 The Pelicans finished in second place, a game and a half behind the Atlantans. In the postseason Dixie Series versus the Texas League champion Fort Worth Panthers, Cavet pitched in two games and won both.45 They were the only games won by the Crackers, who lost the series four games to two.
With records of 16-10 in 1925 and 15-8 in 1926, Cavet was going strong. In Atlanta’s home opener on April 14, 1927, in front of 15,040 fans, he blanked Chattanooga with a five-hit shutout.46 But his performance declined in 1927, and the Crackers released him in August of that year.47
Cavet latched on, in turn, with the 1927 Peoria (Illinois) Tractors, 1928 Macon (Georgia) Peaches, 1928 Columbus (Georgia) Foxes, and the 1929 Hollywood (California) Stars. He managed the Tucson Cowboys of the Class D Arizona State League, a Hollywood farm club, in 1929 and 1930. He pitched occasionally for the Cowboys, relying on “his slow ball tricks.”48
In July 1930, at the age of 40, Cavet resigned from the Cowboys.49 He had pitched nearly 5,000 innings in 22 seasons of professional baseball and compiled a career won-lost record of 302-252.
Cavet and his wife Mazie had no children. She was his biggest fan and followed him as he moved from one team to the next. He umpired in the Arizona-Texas League, 1931-32, and managed a golf course in Tucson in the 1930s. The couple moved to a beachfront home in Cayucos, California, in 1948, and he worked as a warehouseman for the Army National Guard at Camp San Luis Obispo.50
On August 4, 1966, Cavet died at age 76 of circulatory failure at General Hospital in San Luis Obispo.51 He was interred at nearby San Luis Cemetery.52 Mazie outlived him by 30 years; she died in 1996 at the age of 105.53
This biography was reviewed by Gregory H. Wolf and Rory Costello and fact-checked by Terry Bohn.
Photo credit: Author’s collection.
In addition to the sources shown in the Notes, the author used Ancestry.com, Baseball-reference.com, and Retrosheet.org, accessed July 2023, and:
McNeil, William F. The California Winter League: America’s First Integrated Professional Baseball League (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2002).
1 E.A. Batchelor, “‘Too Many Cooks’ Likely to Hamper Boston Club,” Detroit Free Press, January 12, 1912: 11.
2 “Cavet Hides the Ball by Turning His Back Squarely to the Batter,” Detroit Times, March 19, 1914: 6.
3 “New Twirlers Show Class in Practice,” Davenport (Iowa) Times, March 30, 1910: 12.
4 “Cavet Whiffs 23 in 19 Inning Game,” Davenport Times, September 1, 1910: 10.
5 World War I and II draft registrations.
6 Al C. Joy, “The Boys Are Marching, Once More Beavers Lose to Our Seals,” San Francisco Examiner, September 2, 1915: 13.
7 Paul Hale Bruske, “Short Lengths,” Detroit Times, March 8, 1911: 4.
8 “May Use Knife on ‘Pug’ Cavet’s Flat Proboscis,” Detroit Times, April 5, 1911: 11.
9 Canyon City (Texas) Stayer, October 3, 1901: 3.
10 “H.J. Cavet & Co.,” Canyon City (Texas) News, June 29, 1906: 11.
11 “Account of the Canyon Series,” Amarillo (Texas) Herald, May 2, 1907: 3; “Old Players to Return,” Amarillo Herald, June 25, 1908: 5. A pitcher named Cavett, probably Tillar, appeared in two games for the 1908 Dallas Giants (Sporting Life, November 14, 1908: 11).
12 SABR, Minor League Baseball Stars, Volume II (Manhattan, Kansas: Ag Press, 1985), 134, 135.
13 “Fight 41 Rounds to Win a Game,” Rock Island (Illinois) Argus, May 9, 1910: 3.
14 “Notes of the Game,” Davenport Times, May 9, 1910: 12.
15 “Cavet Whiffs 23 in 19 Inning Game.”
16 Francis C. Richter, ed., The Reach Official American League Base Ball Guide for 1911 (Philadelphia: A.J. Reach Co., 1911), 357, 358.
17 Paul Hale Bruske, “Second Session Early Practice Pleases,” Detroit Times, March 1, 1911: 13.
18 Bruske, “Second Session Early Practice Pleases.”
19 “A Physical Freak Is Pitcher Cavet,” Buffalo News, April 5, 1912: 18.
20 “Jennings Not Yet Ready to Sentence Colt Pitchers,” Detroit Times, April 27, 1911: 6.
21 Francis C. Richter, ed., The Reach Official American League Base Ball Guide for 1914 (Philadelphia: A.J. Reach Co., 1914), 276.
22 Victor T. Loewenstein, “Mobile Fans in a Daze,” Sporting Life, September 27, 1913: 23.
23 The Sporting News, August 20, 1966: 40.
25 E.A. Batchelor, “Veach Is Big Noise in Victory,” Detroit Free Press, August 3, 1914: 8.
26 Jerry Bunin, “Vaudeville Dancer ‘Mazie’ Cavet Dead at 105,” San Luis Obispo County (California) Telegram-Tribune, November 19, 1996: B-1.
27 Francis C. Richter, ed., The Reach Official American League Base Ball Guide for 1917 (Philadelphia: A.J. Reach Co., 1917), 145.
28 “Vols Gives Wierd [sic] Exhibition and Are Blanked by Gulls, 5-0,” Nashville Tennessean, June 19, 1916: 8.
29 Bob Pigue, “Pug Cavet Bought Outright by Champion Vols,” Nashville Banner, December 6, 1916: 12.
30 “Bears Getting Rid of Players,” Nashville Banner, June 19, 1918: 8.
31 Francis C. Richter, ed., The Reach Official American League Base Ball Guide for 1920 (Philadelphia: A.J. Reach Co., 1920), 293, 294.
32 C.E. McBride, “Cavet Tries to Hurl Both but Wins Only One,” Indianapolis Star, June 9, 1919: 12.
33 “Washington Park Gossip,” Indiana Times (Indianapolis), June 15, 1921: 6.
34 Eddie Ash, “Indians Take Another Whirl with Dodgers,” Indiana Times, March 31, 1921: 6.
35 “Hoosiers Trim Superbas, 4 to 3,” Muncie (Indiana) Star Press, March 31, 1921: 11.
36 “Blues in a Great Rally,” Kansas City Times, August 16, 1922: 8.
37 “Hendricks Tries Another Change in Tribe Roster,” Indianapolis Times, May 5, 1923: 9.
38 “Tribe Loses, 7 to 5, Wins, 6-2, in Twin Bill at Columbus,” Indianapolis Star, September 9, 1923: 37.
39 “Pirrone’s Stars in Win over White Sox,” Los Angeles Times, November 3, 1924: 12.
40 “White Sox Make It Three Wins in Row,” Los Angeles Times, December 1, 1924: 11.
41 “Wins First Start for Atlanta,” Atlanta Constitution, June 7, 1925: 1C.
42 Ed Danforth, “Pug Cavet and Cullop Again Beat Pelicans,” Birmingham (Alabama) News, September 13, 1925: Sports, 6.
43 “Cullop’s Bat Helps Crackers Take Opener from Pels 5-3,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, September 10, 1925: 13.
44 Zipp Newman, “Cavet Hurls Mates to Victory over Barons,” Birmingham News, September 18, 1925: 20.
45 Zipp Newman, “Crackers Even Series with Fort Worth Cats,” Birmingham News, September 28, 1925: 16.
46 Guy Butler, “Great Crowd Sees Niehoff, Rhiel and Others Shine,” Atlanta Journal, April 15, 1927: 37, 38.
47 “Crackers Buy Gardner from Augusta Club and Release Cavet,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, August 19, 1927: 15.
48 “Cowboys Hand Victory to Bees on Costly Errors,” Arizona Republican (Phoenix), September 2, 1929: 7.
49 “Pug Cavet Resigns as Manager of Tucson Cowboy Baseball Club,” Arizona Star (Tucson), July 15, 1930: 4.
50 “Obituaries,” San Luis Obispo County (California) Telegram-Tribune, August 5, 1966: 9.
51 California death certificate.
52 Findagrave.com, accessed August 2023.
53 Bunin, “Vaudeville Dancer ‘Mazie’ Cavet Dead at 105.”