Tom Ryder

This article was written by Paul Winter

Tom Ryder (BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM)In 1884, Henry Lucas upset the baseball world with the Union Association, a self-proclaimed major league he established to challenge the reserve rules of the times, as well as to get himself the major-league franchise he was unable to secure in one of the existing leagues. His club, the St. Louis Maroons, were easily the best club in the new league, winning their first 20 games and 44 of their first 50 to establish a 14-game lead by July 12. By July 22, the club was 46-8, with a 12-game lead. That was the day Tom Ryder made his major-league debut at the age of 21 for the Maroons in a 6-4 win over the Cincinnati Outlaw Reds in Cincinnati. He was 2-for-3 with one run scored, along with two putouts and one error in left field.

It was a promising start to what would be a short big-league career. Ryder got into just seven more games, all with the Maroons. The last came on August 6.

Thomas H. Ryder was born in Dubuque, Iowa, on May 9, 1863, to Irish immigrants Joseph and Catherine (McCloskey) Ryder.1 Catherine arrived in the United States in 1850, while Joseph arrived in 1852. The two were married in New York City in 1855 before moving to Dubuque later that year. Tom was the third of three sons, all born in Dubuque. His father died in 1870, when Tom was just seven years old. He completed the eighth grade at St. Raphael’s Cathedral School in Dubuque. By the age of 16, he was working as an apprentice at Thomas Connelly Carriages, where his older brothers worked. In 1882, at age 19, he was playing baseball with the independent Dubuque club, alongside Australian-turned-Dubuquer Joe Quinn and future baseball legend Charlie Comiskey.

In January 1883, the Dubuque Times reported that Ryder and Quinn signed with Quincy, Illinois, which was to play in the Northwestern League.2 Neither wound up playing there. Tom signed with the independent club in Indianapolis for the salary of $75 per month.3 It appears that he spent only a short time with Indianapolis. After the home opener against the Chicago White Stockings on April 18, Ryder’s name disappears from what box scores can be found for Indianapolis.4 He went 1-for-5 that day against Fred Goldsmith and Larry Corcoran. He also made two errors, and the Indianapolis paper stated “Andrews and Rider [sic] were decidedly off.”5 There is no record of when or why he was released from the club.

In 1884, Ryder was back with the Dubuque club, while his former teammate Joe Quinn was off to St. Louis to join the Maroons. In mid-July, Buttercup Dickerson, the Maroons’ left fielder, disappeared during a series in Baltimore.6 Following Dickerson’s last game with the club (July 12 in Baltimore), the Maroons played a four-game series in Boston. Ryder was signed on July 14, and he left for St. Louis that afternoon.7

Two days later, the St. Louis Globe Democrat observed, “Tom Ryder, who is to play in the outfield for the St. Louis Unions, arrived here yesterday. He is a left-handed batsman and has already faced such twirlers as Goldsmith and Corcoran. He batted against them while a member of Dan O’Leary’s Indianapolis club.”8 In its issue of July 23, Sporting Life described Ryder as “a heavy left-handed batsman” and added that he would play center field while the regular in center, Dave Rowe, was pitching.9 As it turned out, Rowe took the mound just once for the Maroons, and that had come previously, on July 1.

While in St. Louis, Ryder made an appearance in a benefit game for the Woman’s Exchange. “One of the interesting features in the game will be the first appearance in St. Louis of Tom Ryder, the St. Louis Union’s new man, who will play left field for the [Union] Blues,” a club that played at Union Grounds when the Maroons were out of town.10 A few days later, he joined the Maroons at the start of a series in Cincinnati, where he made his major-league debut on July 22, 1884.

Over the next month, Ryder played in seven more games for the Maroons before being released on August 19 after the Maroons signed Frank Bell.11 In 28 at-bats he got seven hits. One of those went for extra bases: a double off Barney McLaughlin in a 10-0 win over the Kansas City Cowboys on August 2.12 He also drew two walks with four runs scored. He recorded 10 putouts and three assists, but rocky fielding may have been what caused his release – he also made seven errors. He returned to Dubuque after being dropped.

It is not clear if Ryder continued to play professional baseball after his stint with the Maroons. In March 1885, he joined the Dubuque fire department, where by July he had already made an impact. “Tom Ryder, stoker for the Sol. Truck engine, has manufactured a lawn force pump which is quite an ingenious device.”13

In July 1886, the Dubuque city council appointed a committee to investigate insubordination and a lack of discipline in the Dubuque fire department.14 In September, the committee released a report of its findings, which included finding “Thomas Ryder, stoker of the same company, is guilty of like insubordination in denying the authority of his captain in refusing to obey his orders, thereby destroying of his captain the authority and injuring the discipline of the company.” Ryder resigned in November over the affair and went back to work for Thomas Connelly.

In 1887, he was nominated by Alderman Thomas Kennealy (later his father-in-law) to fill a vacancy in the fire department, along with the active volunteer who was currently filling the position (“long experience and a good man”) and a third gentleman, William Brennan, who was “a Knights of Labor, party worker, out of a job, and a little inj— sic; meaning unclear.” Brennan got the job, although it took eight ballots for the aldermen to reach a decision.15

Tom Ryder married Julia Kennealy on June 14, 1888. Julia’s father, Thomas, was a police officer with Thomas’ uncle Patrick prior to becoming an alderman. Tom and Julia grew up in the same neighborhood in Dubuque. Family legend says that Julia dated Comiskey prior to his marriage in 1882. Tom and Julia’s first daughter, Hazel, was born in 1889; Alberta, born in 1891, rounded out the family. (Tom’s older brother, Joseph Jr., married Julia’s younger sister, Mary, in 1891.)

By 1894, Ryder was back with the fire department, a job he would hold for the next 25 years, until his retirement from the department on December 31, 1918, at the age of 55. He worked at engine house No. 2 for the entire stretch as engineer. “Engineer Ryder, through a genial temperament and likable personality, has won the regard of every other man identified with the fire department.”16

Following his retirement, Ryder remained in Dubuque. The 1920 Census lists him as a laborer at a shipyard, living with Julia and his daughter Hazel and her husband Bert Carpender. In June 1929, he participated in the dedication of Comiskey Field in Dubuque, on the site of the ballpark used by the Dubuque Rabbits (of which Comiskey was a member) in their championship season of 1879. In the 1930 Census, he and Julia were shown as living alone; he was working as a janitor with the gas company.

Thomas Ryder died of pneumonia on July 18, 1935, at his home after five weeks of illness. He was aged 72. There was a funeral service at St. Columbkille Church, and he was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Key West, Iowa. He was survived by his wife Julia, both daughters, and three grandsons. (Hazel and Bert had two sons, John and Thomas, both of whom became priests. Alberta and her husband, Joseph Callaghan, had one son, William.) Julia lived to be 92, dying in 1955. Hazel died in 1939 and Alberta died in 1965. All three are buried in Mount Olivet as well.



Thanks to John Flaherty, a great-great-nephew of Tom Ryder, for providing the impetus for the SABR BioProject to produce this biography, which was reviewed by Bill Lamb and Rory Costello and fact-checked by Evan Katz.



US Census data was accessed through and, and other family information was found at and Stats and records were collected from Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted. Articles cited in this biography were typically accessed through and/or Street guides were accessed through Some information was provided by living members of the Ryder family, including John Flaherty.



1 The middle initial H. comes from a Social Security Applications and Claims Index identified as his by his spouse (Julia Kenneally). Index entry from The US Census records continually suggest he was born in 1864 (based on the ages reported, but explicitly in the 1900 Census), but his obituary and his death certificate list May 9, 1863, as his date of birth.

2 “Base-Ball,” Dubuque Times, January 30, 1883: 5.

3 “Personal,” Dubuque Times, April 15, 1883: 8.

4 The term “home opener” was often used to refer to the first game of the season at the home park, not necessarily the first home game in league competition. The game against Chicago was an exhibition game.

5 “The Base-Ball Season,” Indianapolis Journal, April 19, 1883: 9. Over the next several games, different players played in left field (Ryder’s position) for Indianapolis, and on May 1, the Indianapolis Journal reported that several new players were arriving over the next few days, including Peltz (John Peltz?), who would be playing left field and change catcher (“Baseball Matters,” May 1, 1883: 9).

6 It was generally thought that Dickerson “yielded to his inclination for strong drink and fell by the wayside,” as it was put in the St. Louis Globe Democrat, July 25, 1884: 8. He joined the Baltimore club towards the end of July.

7 “Base Ball. Tom Ryder Goes to St. Louis,” Dubuque Herald, July 15: 1884: 3.

8 “Diamond Dust,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 16, 1884: 8.

9 Sporting Life, July 23, 1884: 7.

10 “To-Day’s Game,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 19, 1884: 7.

11 “Diamond Dust,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 20, 1884: 8. Catcher Frank Bell, described as “a St. Louis boy,” never appeared in a game for the Maroons. Two months later, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that “Frank E. Bell, an old Cincinnati boy, is playing great ball with the Fort Worth semi-professional nine. He is said to have been signed by Mr. Lucas for next year’s St. Louis Union nine” (“Diamond Chips,” October 6, 1884: 7). It is not clear if this is these are the same person.

12 Sporting Life, August 13, 1884: 5.

13 “Caught on the Fly,” Dubuque Herald, July 10, 1885: 4.

14 “The City Council,” Dubuque Herald, September 24, 1886: 4.

15 “An Injustice,” Dubuque Herald, July 9, 1887: 4.

16 “Two City Employees Retire on Pensions,” Dubuque Telegraph Herald, January 1, 1918: 9.

Full Name

Thomas Ryder


May 9, 1863 at Dubuque, IA (USA)


July 18, 1935 at Dubuque, IA (USA)

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