Walt Tragesser (Birmingham Age-Herald, June 12, 1914)

Walt Tragesser

This article was written by Kurt Blumenau

Walt Tragesser (Birmingham Age-Herald, June 12, 1914)Walt Tragesser’s career could be defined by the things he missed out on. A Boston Brave in 1913 and 1915, Tragesser did not play for the 1914 “Miracle Braves” that upset the heavily favored Philadelphia Athletics to win the World Series and enter baseball legend. And he missed the chance to catch a no-hitter thrown by Tom Hughes on June 16, 1916. Given a rare start, Tragesser was knocked out of that game by injury in the first inning; Hank Gowdy caught nearly the entire game.1

On the other hand, Tragesser could take pride in his career. He spent parts of seven seasons in the majors with the Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. Tragesser took the place of Gowdy when the Braves’ starting catcher became the first active major-leaguer to enlist in the military during World War I.2 He also missed time for his own military service. Tragesser even landed, improbably, on the list of top 10 home-run hitters in the National League in his final season, 1920, after hitting no round-trippers at all in his first six campaigns. For a player who didn’t collect his first major-league hit until he was a month shy of 29 years old, Tragesser could be said to have made much of his opportunities, even if some achievements eluded him.

The story of Walter Joseph Tragesser begins and ends in Lafayette, Indiana, a city about 60 miles northwest of Indianapolis. Tragesser was born June 14, 1887, one of three children of Joseph Tragesser and the former Mary Lammers.3 His ancestry was German on his father’s side and Dutch on his mother’s.4 Joseph Tragesser, a saloonkeeper, died a few weeks after Walter’s first birthday.5

Mary subsequently remarried to Marine Broeder; their blended family listing in the 1900 US Census describes 13-year-old Walter as “at school.”6 The school in question may have been Saint Joseph’s orphanage, a facility on the outskirts of Lafayette. The orphanage had a locally well-known baseball team called the Dwenger Bluffers – named for Dwenger Bluff, a nearby landmark – and news stories decades later named Tragesser as a former member of the team.7

By 1910, Tragesser’s mother and stepfather had divorced. Despite that upheaval, other aspects of his life stabilized in this period. The address listed for Mary and her children in the 1910 Census – 1514 South Street, Lafayette – remained Tragesser’s home for the rest of his life.8

After playing varsity baseball at Lafayette High School,9 Tragesser crossed the Wabash River to West Lafayette to study electrical engineering at Purdue University.10 Three major-leaguers had attended Purdue before Tragesser arrived, including Red Killefer, a seven-year big-leaguer who was active with the Detroit Tigers and Washington Nationals while Tragesser was in college and later played against him in the National League.11

Tragesser started for the Boilermakers’ baseball team at first base in 1908 and catcher in 1909, earning varsity letters both years.12 The 1909 team claimed both the championship of the Big Nine conference and the unofficial title of “Champions of the West,” and Tragesser was to have been Purdue’s baseball captain in 1910.13 But by March of that year, he had left Purdue; in April he signed with a team in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in the Class C Wisconsin-Illinois League.14 (The 1910 Census reported that Tragesser was living at home with his mother and siblings and working as an electrician. This information may have been gathered before his contract signing.15)

A description in the 1910 Purdue Debris yearbook provides personal insight on the young ballplayer. Tragesser was described as “the biggest rowdy on the team,” fond of pranks, but possessed of a “genial disposition” and a healthy appetite. The yearbook also noted that Tragesser “tried to pull through school on too little studying, which cost him dearly in the end.” “Tragesser was a valuable man to lose,” the blurb concluded, “and his position is going to be a hard one to fill as he filled it.” The yearbook also noted the nicknames of “Trigger” and “Trag,” which continued to pop up throughout Tragesser’s baseball journey.16

Tragesser is not mentioned in news accounts of the 1910 Green Bay team, which suggests that the team released him before the season started.17 He briefly played that May for a semipro team in La Crosse, Wisconsin.18 Released after an injury, he caught on with another team in Grand Rapids, Wisconsin, where he missed a week of play in July and August after being hit by a bat.19

Tragesser returned to semipro ball in Wisconsin in 1911, starring behind the plate for a team in Stevens Point. He made a big jump to the pros in mid-August, signing with the St. Paul Saints of the Class A American Association – then the highest level of affiliated minor-league ball – and playing a few games there in September.20 A timely display of skill gave Tragesser his professional opportunity. A rival team playing against Stevens Point had imported St. Paul pitcher Louis Leroy as a ringer. Tragesser collected several hits off Leroy, and the impressed pitcher recommended him to St. Paul manager Mike Kelley.21

“Many who are acquainted with baseball have said repeatedly that he was too good a man to be playing in what is termed ‘bush leagues,’” the Stevens Point Daily Journal declared. “He has at all times been a heady, conscientious player and hitter, and understands the game from start to finish.”22 However, the catcher’s fondness for the nightlife offset his skills on the field. St. Paul manager Kelley sent him to Zanesville, Ohio, in May 1912. The same Stevens Point newspaper reported: “The slap on the wrist [Tragesser] just received may serve to demonstrate to him that he can’t burn the midnight oil and play the national game, as it ought to be played, at one and the same time.”23

Tragesser played on Zanesville teams that appeared in two different Class B circuits – the Central League in 1912 and the Interstate League in 1913. Tragesser hit .253 with one home run in 53 games in 1912, and while he reportedly got off to a rocky start, he began to show talent later in the season.24

In 1913, his play at bat and behind the plate quickly earned positive notice.25 By June, the local paper was noting: “It is becoming more apparent daily that Tragesser will be called to higher company before the season is over.”26 John McGraw and the New York Giants played an exhibition in Zanesville on June 15, and the future Hall of Fame manager was expected to check out Tragesser’s performance.27

It wasn’t McGraw who finally came calling, though. The Braves purchased his contract from Zanesville on June 29, elevating the catcher to the big leagues about a week and a half after his 26th birthday. According to a Boston news report, Tragesser was hitting .323 at the time of purchase and was considered a better thrower than any catcher in his league.28 Tragesser, whose playing height and weight were listed at 6 feet and 175 pounds, might have owed his promotion to more than just talent. The Zanesville team was financially struggling and sold four other players at around the same time, for a reported net gain of $2,350.29

Braves manager George Stallings gave Tragesser only two opportunities to play that season, both as a late-inning substitute. (Tragesser later recalled that he spent his first two months in the bullpen, warming up pitchers.30) Tragesser made his debut on July 30 in a blowout 9-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, and also appeared on September 11 in a 12-11 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.31 In the latter game, Stallings called on Lefty Tyler to pinch-hit for Tragesser in the midst of a ninth-inning rally that almost saw Boston tie the game.32

The catcher’s only statistics for the season were two games played, one putout, and one passed ball in the game against Cincinnati. Tragesser also played in an exhibition game in Rhode Island in August.33

The Braves farmed him out to Buffalo of the Class A International League about a week after his second appearance. In December, Tragesser was reported to be the property of the Birmingham team of the Southern Association, also a Class A loop.34 While Boston throbbed with Braves pennant fever in 1914, Tragesser spent the entire season in Birmingham, hitting .255 in 99 games. The season was not without its rewards. The Barons edged out Mobile to win the pennant, and Tragesser took part in a postseason barnstorming trip to Cuba, where he was reported to be an enthusiastic amateur photographer.35

Tragesser was described as “one of the best young catchers in the Southern League,”36 and coverage of the Cuban trip indicated that he was on his way back to the Braves in 1915.37 Instead, he spent much of that season with Jersey City in the Double-A International League, hitting .248 in 53 games.

The Braves gave Tragesser a handful of opportunities in mid-May. He appeared in seven games between May 21 and May 31, including his first two starts. Although he scored a run during this brief stint, he went hitless in seven at-bats and also committed his first major-league error. He also again played in an exhibition game, this time against the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs.38 Meanwhile, the Braves failed to match their magical 1914 results, going 83-6939 to finish second.

Tragesser finally stuck in the majors for a full season in 1916, competing with Earl Blackburn for time as Gowdy’s backup. Of Tragesser’s 41 game appearances, only 12 were starts, and he logged only 61 plate appearances, hitting .204. This was the season in which an injury knocked him out of Hughes’s no-hitter – specifically, a foul tip off the bat of the game’s third batter, future Hall of Famer Honus Wagner.40 Another misadventure took place in the second game of a doubleheader against St. Louis on July 31, when Tragesser and pitcher Frank Allen collided in pursuit of a chopped ground ball. Allen’s knee struck Tragesser with enough force to knock him unconscious, and the catcher had to be helped off the field.41

More positively, Tragesser picked up his first big-league hit on May 20, a pinch-single off the Reds’ Clarence Mitchell. He also collected his first four major-league RBIs, with the first two coming in a June 7 game against the Cardinals. On August 17, the Braves played an exhibition in Tragesser’s hometown of Lafayette, and the catcher was given a gold watch, a chain, and a charm.42

In 1917, Gowdy appeared in only 49 games for the Braves before entering the military, the last on June 26. This created an opportunity for Tragesser, who played more games that season than any other Braves catcher and set career highs in games played (98), at-bats (297), and hits (66). The latter two categories, however, amounted to only a .222 average, with no home runs and 25 RBIs. Tragesser also recorded three of his four career ejections in 1917, being thumbed from games on May 2, June 22, and June 30.43

This period of regular work gives us some insight into Tragesser’s defensive capabilities. The veteran backstop ranked third among NL catchers in putouts and double plays, and fourth in fielding percentage, assists, and caught stealing. He also placed highly in rankings for range factor. On the flip side, he was second among NL catchers in stolen bases allowed, errors committed, and passed balls.

Gowdy was absent in military service for the entire 1918 season. This, however, did not create an opportunity for Tragesser, whose draft status was reclassified that January as 1A – in other words, fit for military duty – even though he listed himself on his draft card as his mother’s sole source of support.44 The catcher had been rejected from an Army physical the previous year because of a stiff thumb, broken five times on the field.45

Tragesser encountered further problems after being hit on the jaw by a thrown ball in spring training. The injury caused abscesses at the roots of three teeth, which had to be removed in early May. At month’s end Tragesser was on the “hospital list” and resting at home.46

Tragesser appeared in only seven games in 1918, all in substitute roles. He had only one hitless at-bat before enlisting in the US Naval Reserve on July 3 and reporting to Newport, Rhode Island, ending his season.47 (Or, at least, ending his major-league season. He caught for a naval team in Newport.48) Yeoman Third Class Tragesser remained a naval reservist until his discharge in September 1921.49

His acquiescence to military service led to an unexpected honor. Upon Gowdy’s return to Boston in May 1919, the Braves posted a bronze tablet outside Braves Field with the names of the 14 Braves players who had served in the military during World War I. Tragesser’s name, in alphabetical order, was listed last.50

The 1919 season dawned with the 31-year-old Tragesser once again gathering dust in the role of backup catcher. Although Gowdy didn’t return to Boston until late May, Stallings tapped Art Wilson as his starting backstop to begin the season. Through July 14, Tragesser had played 20 games, including eight starts, and was hitting .175 in 40 at-bats. One of his last duties as a Brave was to play in another exhibition on July 13 against a semipro team in Meriden, Connecticut.51 The Braves sold him to the Phillies two days later for an undisclosed sum.52

Manager Gavvy Cravath, who had taken over from Jack Coombs less than a week before, expanded Tragesser’s workload, installing him as the starting catcher between August 2 and September 11. In 114 at-bats over 35 games in Philadelphia, Tragesser hit .237, the best sustained offensive performance of his career. The Phillies didn’t play particularly well with him in the lineup – they were 11-22 in August – but, given that they ended the season with a 47-90 record,53 Tragesser bore only limited blame for their struggles.

Tragesser and Cravath both returned to the Phillies in 1920, and the manager installed a catcher-by-committee system. The team’s most frequent backstop, Mack Wheat, caught just 74 games, while Tragesser caught in 51 and Frank Withrow in 49.54 This arrangement received some sour reviews: Years later, one Pennsylvania newspaper summarized, “The Phils had the world’s worst catching staff in Mack Wheat, Walter Tragresser [sic] and Al Withrow.”55

Tragesser had the poor fortune to suffer a broken nose in an on-field accident near the end of spring training.56 He hit just .210 in 176 at-bats but reached career highs in doubles (11) and RBIs (26) – beating out his performance in 1917, when he’d appeared in 36 more games.

Most notable, however, was his power output: Tragesser exploded for six home runs in 1920. All were hit at the Phillies’ home park, Baker Bowl, and all were hit to left field – the pull field for Tragesser, who batted right-handed. Though Baker Bowl is remembered as a bandbox, left field there was a respectable 341 feet down the line; it was the park’s right field that was famously shallow, with a 280-foot foul line and a 60-foot-high fence. So Tragesser’s power outburst in Philadelphia was not, on its face, the result of a short field.

He hit the first four of his homers in a 10-day period between June 10 and June 19. Tragesser’s third home run, a third-inning solo shot off Doak on June 18, was especially meaningful: It accounted for the only run in a 1-0 Phillies victory.

The full reasons for Tragesser’s power surge can only be guessed.57 However, whatever pop was in his bat was insufficient to carry out of his previous home park, cavernous Braves Field, which park measured 402 feet down the left-field line when Tragesser played there. The first over-the-fence home run to left field at that park was not hit until 1925, 10 years after it opened.58 Offense across the major leagues also began to increase in 1920 for a variety of reasons, including the banning of spitballs and “freak” deliveries.59

At season’s end, Tragesser was one of four players tied for 10th place in the NL in home runs. Others in the top 10 included future Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby, George Kelly, Casey Stengel, Ross Youngs, and Zack Wheat (brother of teammate Mack).60 He also received a hometown tribute on October 7, when he was honored at an exhibition game in Lafayette between a traveling team of NL All-Stars led by Stengel and a squad of local players.61 Stengel, for a time, had been Tragesser’s road roommate with the Braves.62

But, with Tragesser past his 33rd birthday, a smattering of late-onset power was not enough to keep his big-league job. In January 1921, the Phillies sent him to Buffalo of the International League in exchange for a slightly younger catcher, Frank Bruggy, who had competed with Tragesser for a job on the Braves in 1915.63 Tragesser completed his big-league career with an average of .215, an on-base percentage of .260, and a slugging average of .295.

Tragesser played two more seasons in the IL, with Buffalo in 1921 and Reading in 1922. The latter season was marked by still another significant on-field injury. On July 4, 1922, in Baltimore, Tragesser – filling in at first base for an injured teammate – was hit in the head by a throw during pregame warmups, knocked unconscious, and taken to a hospital. He returned to the team about two weeks later.64

Tragesser went home to Lafayette for good in 1923, going to work for the Northern Indiana Gas and Light Company65 and playing on the company baseball team.66 Not surprisingly, he lit up pitchers in the city’s commercial baseball league for a .500 average that fall.67 In a headline-winning performance, Tragesser’s home run gave the gas company team a victory over a local machine shop in the first game of the commercial league’s championship playoffs.68 He also served as an assistant coach for Purdue’s baseball team from the mid-1920s until the early 1930s.69

In his early years with the gas company, Tragesser’s job duties included responding to emergencies, ranging from a garage attendant accidentally overcome by gas fumes while taking a bath to a divorcée who tried to take her own life.70 The 1930, 1940, and 1950 Censuses reported his job title as superintendent, and a series of classified ads in the Lafayette newspaper in 1947 urged aspiring Service Department clerks to apply to “W. Tragesser.”71 He retired from the company in 1953.72

About a year before his retirement from the gas company, Tragesser sat down for an interview with Purdue’s student paper, the Exponent. Tragesser said that the quality of play had improved since his day and that baseball had become “a gentleman’s game” – a change he viewed as all for the better. The interviewer, upon shaking Tragesser’s right hand, made note of a “strangely distorted thumb” and correctly guessed he had been a catcher.73

Tragesser’s mother, Mary, had died in November 1939 at the family home on South Street.74 In his final decade, the old catcher lost his siblings as well. Brother Harry died in March 1960.75 Sister Mary or “Mae,” who had shared the family home with Walt, died in August 1970 after a lengthy illness.76 Harry was the only one of the siblings to marry;77 his widow, Clara, also died in Lafayette in June 1970, perhaps deepening Walt’s season of grief.78

On Thanksgiving morning, November 26, 1970, it was Walt’s turn to be taken to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Lafayette; he suffered an apparent broken hip in a fall at home.79 He never left the hospital, dying there in the early morning of December 14, 1970. He was 83.80 Following a funeral Mass in St. Mary’s Cathedral, he was buried at St. Boniface Cemetery in Lafayette.81



This story was reviewed by Gregory H. Wolf and Rory Costello and checked for accuracy by members of SABR’s fact-checking team.


Sources and photo credit

In addition to the sources credited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org for background information on players, teams, and seasons.

The author thanks the Giamatti Research Center of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Scott Ellis of the Boston University athletic communications department, and members of the Boston Braves Historical Association for research assistance.

Photo from the Birmingham (Alabama) Age-Herald, June 12, 1914: 8.



1 As of March 2024, Wikipedia’s list of major-league no-hitters incorrectly credited Tragesser alone as Hughes’s catcher. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Major_League_Baseball_no-hitters.

2 Carol McMains and Frank Ceresi, “Hank Gowdy,” SABR Biography Project, accessed March 2024. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/hank-gowdy/.

3 Tragesser’s death certificate, included in his clip file at the Giamatti Research Center of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, confirms his birthdate and his parents’ names. The number of Joseph and Mary Tragesser’s children is confirmed by US Census listings, including the 1910 US Census cited below.

4 The 1880 US Census listing for Joseph and Mary Tragesser reports that Joseph’s parents were born in Germany and Mary’s in “Holland.” Accessed via FamilySearch.org in March 2024. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MHSN-V8G.

5 Joseph Tragesser entry on FindAGrave.com, accessed March 2024. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/108781204/joseph-tragesser.

6 1900 US Census entry for Walter Tragesser and family, accessed via FamilySearch.org in March 2024. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M994-D81.

7 “Gala Day at Orphanage Will Recall Former Baseball Team,” Lafayette (Indiana) Journal and Courier, September 9, 1936: 11; Robert Kriebel, “Dwenger Bluffers – No Bluffers,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, January 29, 1955: 10.

8 The 1910 US Census entry for Mary Broeder describes her as divorced and also provides the family’s address. Accessed via FamilySearch.org in March 2024. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MK5B-N2M. The 1514 South Street address is also given in Tragesser’s obituary: “Ex-Major Leaguer Dies Here,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, December 14, 1970: 6.

9 “Walter Tengen Pitching Good Ball for Augusta in Southern League,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, June 20, 1922: 9.

10 Warren Davis, “Say, Whatever Became of Walter Tragesser?,” Purdue Exponent, March 26, 1952: 3. The Purdue Exponent is Purdue University’s campus newspaper.

11 According to Killefer’s SABR biography, written by Charlie Weatherby, Killefer attended three colleges – Purdue, Kalamazoo College, and the University of Michigan. Killefer and Tragesser played against each other a few times in 1915 and 1916, when Killefer was with the Cincinnati Reds and New York Giants and Tragesser with the Braves. The other two big-leaguers who attended Purdue before Tragesser’s arrival were Clyde Goodwin and R.B. “Speed” Kelly.

12 2022 Purdue University baseball record book, accessed online March 2024: 84 and 98. https://purduesports.com/documents/2022/2/15/2022_Record_Book_LR.pdf?id=26722.

13 “Purdue Sets Claim to Baseball Title,” Indianapolis Star, June 6, 1909: 3; “Western College Baseball Champions, Season ‘09,” Muncie (Indiana) Sunday Star, June 6, 1909: 10.

14 “Purdue After Diamond Title,” Decatur (Illinois) Daily Review, March 21, 1910: 4; “Purdue Man Signed, a Valuable Player,” Green Bay (Wisconsin) Semi-Weekly Gazette, April 13, 1910: 5.

15 1910 US Census entry for Mary Broeder and her children, cited above. A Newspapers.com search in March 2024 for Tragesser and an alternate spelling, Tregesser, did not turn up any reference to Tragesser playing professionally during the 1910 season.

16 1910 Purdue University Debris yearbook: 202. https://earchives.lib.purdue.edu/digital/collection/debris/id/7489/rec/23.

17 A Newspapers.com search of the Green Bay Semi-Weekly Gazette and Green Bay Press-Gazette conducted in March 2024 found that Tragesser was last named in either paper on May 4, in an article about the team preparing for the start of the season. “Ball Players Will Come Here Monday,” Green Bay Semi-Weekly Gazette, May 4, 1910: 3. As of March 2024, Baseball-Reference did not have statistics for Tragesser from any professional season prior to 1912.

18 “Outcasts Get a Star College Man,” La Crosse (Wisconsin) Tribune, May 9, 1910: 8; “Catcher Tragesser Gets His Release,” La Crosse Tribune, May 24, 1910: 6.

19 “Is Getting Better,” Wood County Reporter (Grand Rapids, Wisconsin), July 28, 1910: 4; “Locals Take Two from Oshkosh,” Wood County Reporter, August 4, 1910: 1.

20 Two game roundups that mention Tragesser playing for St. Paul include “American Association,” Louisville-St. Paul line score, Lincoln (Nebraska) Daily Star, September 18, 1911: 7; and “Indians Back in Tie for Top Division,” Fort Wayne (Indiana) Journal-Gazette, September 24, 1911: Sports, 1. As of the time this story was written in March 2024, Baseball-Reference did not have a statistical line for Tragesser’s appearances with St. Paul in 1911.

21 “Indian on the Warpath Picks Up Tragesser in Wisconsin,” Zanesville Times Recorder, April 25, 1913: 9.

22 “Tragesser Joins St. Paul,” Stevens Point (Wisconsin) Daily Journal, August 14, 1911: 1.

23 “Back to the Bushes,” Stevens Point Daily Journal, May 25, 1912: 1.

24 “Hogan Admires Young Athletics,” Zanesville (Ohio) Times Recorder, January 13, 1913: 6.

25 “Coming Here to See Jones Pitch,” Zanesville Times Recorder, May 10, 1913: 6; “Zanesville Won Final Game; Tragesser’s Great Slugging,” Zanesville Times Recorder, May 19, 1913: 6.

26 “Greatest Crowds in Fans’ History at Sunday’s Game,” Zanesville Times Recorder, June 14, 1913: 1.

27 “Fans of Other Cities Greatly Interested in the Giants’ Game,” Zanesville Times Recorder, June 12, 1913: 6.

28 “Braves Buy Catcher,” Boston Globe, June 30, 1913: 6.

29 “League Takes Up Local Franchise, Gives Fans Chance,” Zanesville Times Recorder, July 8, 1913: 1.

30 Davis, “Say, Whatever Became of Walter Tragesser?”

31 Curiously, an Indiana newspaper ran a story in 1940 in which Tragesser recalled his major-league debut with the Chicago White Sox, in which he doubled off future Hall of Famer Walter Johnson in his first at-bat and struck out in his second. Tragesser never played for the White Sox; he never faced Johnson; and he didn’t collect a hit until his 12th game in the majors. The author of this biography can offer no explanation. Harold Harrison (Associated Press), “Tragresser [sic] Tells of ‘Big Train’s’ Pitching,” Anderson (Indiana) Daily Bulletin, August 1, 1940: 2: 6.

32 “Sluggers’ Day in Cincinnati,” Boston Globe, September 12, 1913: 7.

33 “Baseball Notes,” Boston Globe, August 21, 1913: 6.

34 “To Join Braves Today,” Boston Globe, September 17, 1913: 6; “Braves to Get Good Start,” Boston Globe, December 3, 1913: 7.

35 “Barons Have Cinched 1914 Race,” Birmingham (Alabama) News, September 13, 1914: 12; “With the Barons in Cuba,” Birmingham News, November 9, 1914: 8.

36 Bob Pigue, “In the Hot Stove League,” Nashville (Tennessee) Banner, February 1, 1915: 7.

37 H.C. Vance, “On the Level,” Birmingham News, November 20, 1914: 10.

38 “Braves Beaten by the Castoff Cuban,” Boston Globe, June 5, 1915: 7.

39 And five ties.

40 J.C. O’Leary, “Tom Hughes Pitches No-Hit, No-Run Game,” Boston Globe, June 17, 1916: 7; “Buccaneer Bingles and Bunts,” Pittsburgh Post, June 17, 1916: 10.

41 Exactly where Allen’s knee struck Tragesser depends on the story – some say his thigh, others his hip. “Houghton and Stallings Searching for Catchers,” Boston Globe, August 1, 1916: 6; Ed McGrath, “Braves Lose and Win with Cards,” Boston Post, August 1, 1916: 13; J.C. O’Leary, “Evers Banished, Gowdy and Tragesser Injured,” Boston Globe, August 1, 1916: 7. Gowdy had been injured earlier in the game, forcing the Braves to insert 21-year-old Art Rico at catcher in his big-league debut.

42 “Braves Visit Bushes,” Pittsburgh Post, August 18, 1916: Sports, 1. Tragesser caught the entire game, won by the Braves.

43 Tragesser’s fourth and final ejection occurred on May 9, 1920.

44 “Tragesser May Be Drafted,” Boston Globe, February 1, 1918: 7; World War I draft registration card for Walter Tragesser, accessed through FamilySearch.org, March 2024. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZ2B-DML. Tragesser reportedly had been rejected from military service because of his crooked fingers, a quintessential catcher’s injury, and his draft card says he had a “bad thumb.” Also of interest is the fact that Tragesser’s draft card and military service record both shave a year off his age, listing his year of birth as 1888.

45 “Walter Tragresser [sic] Excused,” Washington (District of Columbia) Evening Star, August 23, 1917: 15.

46 James C. O’Leary, “Braves Called Off Norfolk Game,” Boston Globe, April 12, 1918: 7; “Braves Off for Cubland to Start Western Tour,” Boston Globe, May 10, 1918: 7; “Baseball Gossip,” Pittsburgh Press, May 27, 1918: 24.

47 “Tragesser Enlists in Naval Reserves,” Boston Globe, July 4, 1918: 4.

48 “Tragesser Now in Line with Braves,” Boston Globe, March 12, 1919: 13.

49 US Veterans Administration master index card for Walt Tragesser, accessed via FamilySearch.org in March 2024. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:W3B6-R2ZM.

50 “Hank Gowdy Day Set for May 24,” Boston Sunday Globe, May 11, 1919: 15; John DiFonzo, “May 24, 1919: Hank Gowdy Day at Braves Field,” SABR Games Project, accessed March 2024. https://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/may-24-1919-hank-gowdy-day-at-braves-field/. While researching this story, the author tried to determine the whereabouts of the bronze tablet as of 2024. Searches of the Boston Globe archive did not find any reference to its being moved, and members of the Boston Braves Historical Association and Boston University’s sports information department did not know. (Boston University purchased Braves Field after the Braves’ departure and significantly remodeled it into Nickerson Field, which still stands.) According to the Boston Braves Historical Association, several other plaques or tablets that hung at Braves Field are similarly unaccounted for.

51 “Braves Win, 9 to 0,” Boston Globe, July 14, 1919: 5.

52 As of March 2024, Baseball-Reference and Retrosheet both described the transaction as a sale, with price unspecified and no other players changing hands. Media reports at the time said the transaction was conducted “through the waiver process.” “Tragesser Goes to the Phillies,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 16, 1919: 15.

53 And one tie.

54 These numbers refer specifically to the number of games in which each man appeared as a catcher. Including non-catching appearances, Wheat played in 78 games, Tragesser in 62, and Withrow in 49.

55 Doc Silva, “Breezes from the Bushes,” Reading (Pennsylvania) Times, June 4, 1937: 27.

56 He was hit by a thrown ball. “Major League Clubs on Journeys North,” Pittsburgh Press, April 5, 1920: Sports, 1.

57 Tragesser’s minor-league home-run totals do not indicate that he was a power threat. As of May 2024, Baseball-Reference credited him with one home run in 53 games with Zanesville in 1912; three in 99 games with Birmingham in 1914; none in 53 games with Jersey City in 1915; one in 66 games with Buffalo in 1921; and one in 71 games with Reading in 1922.

58 Ray Miller, “Braves Field,” SABR Biography Project, accessed April 2024. https://sabr.org/bioproj/park/braves-field-boston/.

59 Steve Steinberg, “The Spitball and the End of the Deadball Era,” The National Pastime, Vol. 23 (2003). https://sabr.org/journal/article/the-spitball-and-the-end-of-the-deadball-era/.

60 Tragesser’s Phillies teammate Cy Williams led the NL with 15 home runs. The other three players who also hit six homers that year, tied with Tragesser, were Boston’s Ray Powell and the New York Giants’ George Burns and Ross Youngs.

61 “Big Leaguers and Local Sox at Park Here,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, October 7, 1920: 14; “League Stars Defeat Locals in a Good Game,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, October 8, 1920: 8.

62 Davis, “Say, Whatever Became of Walter Tragesser?”

63 John W. Moran Jr., “Braves Look 100 Percent Better,” Macon (Georgia) News, March 29, 1915: 5. Bruggy, born in 1891, was four years younger than Tragesser.

64 Don Riley, “Barons Solve Rube Parnham,” Baltimore Sun, July 5, 1922: 14; “Colts Would Buy Brown; They Offer a Big Sum for Bender’s Pitching Ace,” Reading News-Times, July 20, 1922: 10.

65 News items about Tragesser give several different names for his employer, including Northern Indiana Gas and Light, the Public Service Company of Indiana, Indiana Gas and Water, and Indiana Gas. Research on Newspapers.com in March 2024 indicated that this was the same organization under several corporate names. Tragesser’s newspaper obituary, “Ex-Major Leaguer Dies Here,” also characterized his post-baseball employment as having been with a single company.

66 “Parties,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, October 4, 1923: 5.

67 “All-Commercial Teams,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, September 18, 1923: 13.

68 Norman O. Neiburger, “Tragesser’s Homer, With One On, Defeats Monon 6 to 5,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, August 30, 1923: 9.

69 A 1928 news article said Tragesser had been an assistant coach for three years: “Gold and Black Baseball Team Faces 20 Games,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, February 11, 1928: 13. The last reference the author found to Tragesser coaching at Purdue was in 1931; an article the following year put his coaching in the past tense. “Purdue Battery Candidates Out,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, February 4, 1931: 10; “Gov. Leslie to Speak at Grade School Banquet,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, May 21, 1932: 8.

70 “Garage Attendant Overcome by Gas While in Bath Tub,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, January 30, 1933: 15; “Divorcee Tries Suicide by Gas,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, October 28, 1932: 1.

71 1930 (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X4BG-SJ7), 1940 (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V1B7-FVC), and 1950 (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:6XLX-7GNP) US Census listings for Walter Tragesser and family, accessed March 2024 via FamilySearch.org. One sample of the help-wanted ad can be seen in the Lafayette Journal and Courier, October 4, 1947: 8.

72 “Ex-Major Leaguer Dies Here.”

73 Davis, “Say, Whatever Became of Walter Tragesser?” Tragesser’s clip file at the Baseball Hall of Fame includes correspondence indicating that baseball historian and collector Jack Smalling sent him a questionnaire in 1971 which might have elicited further personal insight. Unfortunately, Tragesser had died by then, and the questionnaire was returned by Herbert L. Murphy, the executor of Tragesser’s estate.

74 “Mrs. Mary T. Broeder,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, November 7, 1939: 10.

75 “Harry L. Tragesser,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, March 16, 1960: 4.

76 “Miss Mary Tragesser,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, August 18, 1970: 5.

77 US Census listings for Walter Tragesser, cited above, consistently described him as single. His death certificate, using information provided by a friend, described him as “never married.”

78 “Miss Clara B. Tragesser,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, June 13, 1970: 5.

79 “Ambulances Take Three to Hospitals,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, November 27, 1970: 30.

80 “Ex-Major Leaguer Dies Here.” His death certificate lists factors contributing to his death as arteriosclerotic heart disease, congestive heart failure, and gastrointestinal bleeding.

81 “Tragesser, Walter J.,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, December 15, 1970: 6.

Full Name

Walter Joseph Tragesser


June 14, 1887 at Lafayette, IN (USA)


December 14, 1970 at Lafayette, IN (USA)

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