Wilbur Good was a Deadball Era pitcher (5 games) and outfielder who posted pedestrian statistics (.258/.322/.342) in 749 games for six major league clubs. He left the majors as that era ended and became a feared hitter in the minors where he posted a career .335 average while playing into the 1930s. When his playing days ended, he managed independent and minor league teams for another decade. His longevity allowed him to play independent ball with his son, Wilbur, Jr., before managing the lad in Class C ball in 1936.
Wilbur David Good was born on September 28, 1885, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. He was the oldest of two children raised by David and Nancy Good. David Good was an oil field worker who moved the family to Leetsdale, north of Pittsburgh in Allegheny County, where he died in 1904. Wilbur attended the local schools and graduated from Leetsdale High School. He attended Beaver College for two years and played for their baseball team.1 In 1925 Beaver College moved across the state to the Philadelphia area and is now known as Arcadia University.
After his father’s death, Good began playing baseball for pay. He was a left-handed, sidearm twirler at the beginning of his career with the independent Johnstown, Pennsylvania, team, the Johnnies. Good would become a feared left-handed hitter in the 1920s often batting in the middle of his team’s lineup. Yet in his early years he batted in the ninth spot and found himself replaced by pinch hitters in tight games. In 1904 his early work with Johnstown was so impressive (reportedly winning every game) that the Pittsburgh Pirates gave him a tryout in July.2 They wanted to farm him out to the Springfield, Massachusetts, team, but Good refused and returned to Johnstown.3
Johnstown was a member of the independent Tri-State League in 1904-06. The circuit operated on the brink of outlawry and contract squabbles were not unusual. Good was approached by Indianapolis in the spring of 1905 but opted to stay in Pennsylvania. In July he tried out for manager Clark Griffith of the New York Highlanders and reportedly signed with orders to report after his season.4 The prospect of losing Good to a major league team created friction between Good and management in Johnstown. The Flood City ownership decided to send Good’s contract to Altoona in August.5 Good refused to play for Altoona and went to New York to join Griffith.
New York papers ran box scores of the Labor Day twin bill against Boston and noted that a new pitcher, Goode, had done well in relief in the opener. For the next decade, the last name would be found with and without the added “e.” It makes an appearance on his T-205 and T-206 baseball cards.
Labor Day was overcast and damp when the teams took the field. Jack Chesbro struggled in the opening game for New York before giving way to Bill Hogg, who was treated roughly by Boston before Griffith turned to Good. Down 9-0 when he entered the game in the seventh, Good tossed three scoreless frames, allowing just two hits in the 9-4 loss. Wilbur singled and struck out in his two at-bats against Jesse Tannehill.
Griffith’s team was worn thin and faced another doubleheader on September 7, this time in Washington. New York’s beleaguered pitching staff was abused by Charlie Hickman, who went 8-for-10 with three doubles and two triples in a pair of Washington wins. Good was penciled in as the second-game starter and “had nothing up his sleeve that was especially deceptive.”6 He was pulled after three innings down, 5-1. Hogg finished the 10-2 loss.
Good’s next appearance was another start, this time against Philadelphia and Chief Bender at home. Bender was superb; Good tried to match him but gave up runs in the fourth and fifth. He lost a chance at his first complete game when Al Orth pinch hit for him in the 3-0 loss. Good made two more relief appearances after that.
As the Highlanders prepared for spring training in 1906, Griffith announced that he was sending catcher Joe McCarthy and Good to Montreal in the Eastern League.7After a horrible start that saw him struggle with control and lose twice, Good was released.8 The brief stay in Montreal did have a silver lining of sorts. Because of injuries he was forced to play center field one day and had two hits. He was also used as a pinch-hitter in his brief stay north of the border.9
Good caught on with Johnstown but was released in mid-June. He returned to Altoona but was told they did not need his services, and turned to semipro ball in Vermont for more than a month. In August he returned to Jamestown where he played outfield and pitched briefly before taking an office job in Leetsdale.10
After the turbulent 1906 season, Good hoped for a better showing when he joined the Lancaster Red Roses of the now Class B Tri-State League in 1907. The team carried a seven-man pitching staff; Good started and won the second game of the season. But he was unable to shake his arm problems and “experienced great difficulty in controlling the ball.”11 He was released in mid-May and picked up by Steubenville, Ohio of the Class D POM League. His first appearance came on May 30 when he lasted only one inning against East Liverpool. 12
He made a more impressive showing against the Boston Nationals on June 4. Boston stopped off before a series in Pittsburgh because outfielder Johnny Bates was a Steubenville native and catcher Tom Needham lived there. They rested a couple of their older players but put a strong team on the diamond to back the pitching of Gus Dorner. The game went ten innings before the big leaguers won, 5-3. Good allowed seven hits and four walks, but he committed four errors that spelled his downfall. At the plate he had a single and scored, but in the third inning he tripped at third base and lost a chance to add a run.13
It is unclear if Good made other appearances with Steubenville before a trade to the Akron Champs of the Class C Ohio-Pennsylvania League (O-P) in mid-June. After only a handful of appearances with two teams, he suddenly found himself in a pennant chase. Akron used him in the outfield before giving him his first mound start on June 19 in Marion, Ohio. He tossed a three-hitter but had to be relieved in the ninth after a hit batter and a walk. Akron held on for a 5-2 win.14
Akron battled but was not able to capture the pennant, finishing in third place, two games behind Youngstown. Serving as the team’s only southpaw, the 21-year-old Good posted a 12-6 record. The results look impressive on paper, but Akron fans grew weary of his lack of control and his propensity to have a bad inning. One writer went so far as to say, “Many an Akron fan has almost collapsed with heart failure” when Good pitched.15 That remark accompanied a headline declaring that Good would be converted into an outfielder for 1908.
The conversion of Good to the outfield made sense. He had developed into a pesky hitter with excellent speed.16 He was raw when it came to judging the ball, but managers assumed that with work and experience he would learn. Good helped Akron run away with the league championship in 1908. He batted .370 to lead the league and was acquired by the Cleveland Naps as the O-P season was winding down.
Good’s bat and speed were his ticket to the majors, but his game still needed refinement. As a pitcher he was a sidearmer. Outfield throws across the body make the throws curve, and he did not have the powerful throwing arm that might be expected from a one-time pitcher. Coupled with inexperience at judging fly balls, it was questionable how “polished” he would become.17
After two pinch-hit appearances, Good got his first start in Philadelphia on August 21. His fielding deficiencies were immediately exposed when he made two errors and “seemed to have trouble with every chance that came his way.”18 The next day he slashed three hits and drove in four runs and fielded without incident. He had found a spot in the Cleveland lineup for the rest of the season.
Good put on his best performance on August 31 in Detroit. He earned praise for his fielding in left field and for his throws from the garden. Batting leadoff, he was hit by a pitch, had two hits, including a home run, stole a base, and laid down a timely sacrifice as the Naps won, 7-3.19 He was batting .371 after that explosion, and closed out the season batting .279 in 46 games (a late season 4-for-33 slump dropped his numbers).
In 1909 Good started in right field in 80 games and batted a weak .214. In December, the Naps traded him to the Athletics for Simon Nicholls. Early in spring training with the A’s a Philadelphia Inquirer writer gushed over his hitting: “Goode [sic] steps into the pitch and pastes the old pill on the pickle.”20 Manager Connie Mack was far less enthusiastic and Good was one of the first to leave camp when he was sent to Baltimore in the Eastern League.21
The Orioles finished in third place as Good led the team in triples (12) and home runs (7). His .300 batting average was the highest for an Orioles regular (300 at bats or more). In a strange baseball quirk, he was joined on the team by Nicholls, for whom he’d been traded a few months before. In September, the Boston Doves took him in the draft and he closed out the season in Beantown with a sparkling .337/.394/.488 line in 23 games.
Boston management was excited about their future with Good and sent him a 1911 contract including a raise which Good quickly signed and returned.22 He opened the season in center field for Boston. The team struggled and quickly took control of the cellar. Meanwhile the Chicago Cubs had rushed to the lead but were faced with the loss of Frank Chance to injury.
On June 10, prior to the start of their series in Chicago, the Cubs and Boston agreed on an eight-player swap that saw Good go from worst to first. The Cubs’ plan was for Good to play center field and Solly Hofman would replace the injured Chance at first base.23 Good brought a .267 average to Chicago and hovered in that area the remainder of the year. He held down the middle garden until July 15, when 20-year-old Vic Saier took over at first and Hofman returned to the outfield. Good made only four more starts after that and closed out the year batting.269 for the second-place Cubs.
In 1912 the Cubs brought Ward Miller’s left-handed bat to town and Good found himself relegated to spot duty, mostly as a pinch runner or pinch hitter. In 39 appearances he had a mere 35 at-bats. The following year Good played 49 games and batted .253.
Hank O’Day took over the manager’s job in 1914 and elevated Good to the starting lineup. Wilbur batted second and played right field in 154 games, only sitting out the September 25 game in Philadelphia. He struggled at the plate for the first month before an eight-game hitting streak in May settled his average in the .270s. He demonstrated his impact in the game of small ball by stealing a team-leading 31 bases while contributing 24 sacrifices for the fourth-place club.
Roger Bresnahan took over the leadership of the club in 1915 and elevated Good to the leadoff position. Good went on a tear at the plate in late April to raise his average to .375, and continued his strong performance until being sidelined on May 13 when he injured his shoulder diving for a ball.24 He returned to the starting lineup on June 1.
At the time of the injury Good’s slash line was .356/.409/.535. Those numbers dropped during June and by July 4 were .299/.351/.411. The Cubs suffered through a tough month of July, enduring six- and eight-game losing streaks. Good’s numbers continued to fall and by the end of the year he was .253/.307/.337.
In 1916 the Philadelphia Phillies purchased Good’s contract for the waiver price.25 He served as a back-up outfielder for Pat Moran’s runner-up squad, batting .250 in 75 games. Demoted to the Kansas City Blues in the Class AA American Association, he opened the 1917 season as leadoff hitter and center fielder. On July 10 he broke his collar bone trying to make a diving catch.26 The injury limited him to 75 games. The following year, he was back in top condition and his speed on the bases and in the field helped the Blues surge into first place. When the league ceased operation in July because of the war, he was batting .321.
Good was soon contacted by Charles Comiskey of the Chicago White Sox. He weighed the Sox offer against working in a steel mill and headed to the Windy City.27 He played center field and led off in 35 games before the season was terminated. Back-to-back three-hit games against Cleveland raised his average to .310 in August, but after that he tailed off and finished at .250 to close out his major league days.
Good had married Grundy Frances Lott on October 16, 1912, in Chicago. The couple purchased a home and small farm in Brooksville, Florida, north of Tampa in Hernando County. Grundy would accompany Wilbur in the summers and their son, Wilbur, Jr., was born in Chicago in 1915. With baseball curtailed by the war, the Goods returned to Florida and Wilbur went to work at the Tampa Dock Co. in the molding department. He was eligible for the military draft but since he owned farmland, worked in an essential job, and was married with a child, he was never called to service.28
In 1919, Good returned to Kansas City where he would play until 1924. The Deadball Era was gone, and batting averages soared in the 1920s. He posted averages of .348, .334, .349, .352, and .350 the next five seasons, leading the league in hits in three of those seasons. His finest season came in 1921 when he slammed 23 home runs and posted a .525 slugging percentage. He also added the title of manager late in the year. In 1923 he teamed with Bunny Brief to lead the Blues to the American Association championship. The pair combined for 87 doubles, 30 triples, and 40 home runs with Brief leading the circuit in runs scored and runs batted in. The title earned the team a berth in the Junior World Series against Jack Dunn’s Baltimore Orioles who had captured their fifth consecutive International League crown.
The Junior Series went the full nine games before the Blues claimed the title. Brief hit three home runs to go with a .273 average. Good struggled at the plate and hit .216. The batting star for the Blues was Walt Hammond who hit .345, but the hero for Kansas City was pitcher Ferdie Schupp. He tossed three complete games, posted a 3-0 record, and struck out 30 in 31 2/3 innings of work.29
Good was an affable sort who was well-liked. His good nature lent itself to a bevy of nicknames. As a pitcher he was “Lefty;” later in the majors he was “Goody.” The fans and writers in Kansas City adopted “Bill.” His son would become known as “Bill, Jr.” Later in his minor league managing career, the obvious “Pop” was used as a term of affection.
The Blues trained in Los Angeles in 1924 with Grundy and Bill, Jr. in attendance. Good was a player’s manager letting the men “govern themselves, more or less.”30 A Kansas City writer noted that when a team is going well, that style is praised, but when the team flounders, as was the case with the Blues in July 1924, “the manager never comes up” from the sinking ship. He went on to proclaim Good as a “grand ballplayer” who would leave town with the “good will of thousands of fans.”31 Doc Lavan took over the team, which then tumbled all the way to the cellar.
Good headed south and joined the Atlanta Crackers in the Class A Southern Association. After batting just .264 with the Blues, his batting eye returned, and he hit .357 with the Crackers. The following year he posted career highs in batting average, .379, and slugging percentage, .551. He teamed with power hitter Nick Cullop (league leader with 30 home runs) and pitcher George Pipgras to lead the Crackers to the league title. That earned them a spot in the Dixie Series against the Fort Worth Panthers (aka Cats) of the Texas League. The series opened in Atlanta with Good and Cullop batting the Crackers to a 7-2 win in the opener. The pair did little else as Fort Worth captured the series, four games to two. From box scores in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram and Atlanta Constitution, Good batted just 4-for-23 in the games.
In 1926 the Crackers lost Cullop and Pipgras but added Leo Durocher, Mule Haas, and three pitchers. It was not enough as the team slid into the second division. Good batted .301 before being sent to San Antonio of the Texas League in late August. The Bears were battling Dallas for the crown and hoped Good’s bat would lead them to the title. Wilbur hit .354 in 20 games, but San Antonio fell short, finishing second.
Good spent the next two seasons as manager of the Class B Macon Peaches in the Sally League. Now in his 40s, he topped .300 each year and led the team to a second-place finish in 1928. He returned to Atlanta to guide the Crackers in 1929 and posted a winning record but finished in the second division. From there he spent two years managing in Johnstown. In 1930 they captured the first-half title before defeating Clarksburg in the championship round. In 1931 they had a 73-54 record but missed the playoffs.
Good left the pro game for the next few years and concentrated on life in Florida. He coached Bill Jr.’s American Legion team and managed a golf course. The sunshine in Florida allowed Good to be engaged in baseball year round. In 1932 he and Bill, Jr. were members of the Brooksville town team. Good even did a little pitching for the squad.32
In 1936 Johnstown beckoned Wilbur yet again to manage the Johnnies in the Class C Middle Atlantic League. Good brought Bill, Jr. along with him. Bill played mostly shortstop and batted .319 in his debut season of pro ball. Wilbur was replaced in early August when the franchise switched from a working agreement to being an outright franchise of the Baltimore Orioles.33 Bill, Jr. would play and manage in the minors until 1949.
Wilbur returned to farming in Brooksville, working recreational jobs, and managing semipro teams. In 1940 he took the post as manager of the Class D Ocala Yearlings in the Florida State League. With the team standing 21-27 (.438) he was replaced “because of an economy rule adopted by the club.”34 The team finished the season in seventh place with a .410 winning percentage.
While Ocala could not afford a vet like Good, the Leesburg Anglers in the same league were happy to make him the skipper in late July. In 1941 the franchise gave Good a roster of eight rookies, five men with just a year in Class D, and one veteran.35 He built from there, including the addition of his son to play shortstop. No one expected the team to contend. Good molded his motley squad into a contender and took fourth place despite a 63-66 record.
Under the Shaughnessy Playoff plan, that finish was good enough to reach the playoffs against first-place St. Augustine. Good’s crew pulled off the upset by beating the Saints three games to one, setting up a finals match with the DeLand Red Hats. Led by league batting champ, 20-year-old Michael Conroy, the Anglers trounced DeLand in five games, and advanced to an inter-league series versus the champions of the Class D Georgia-Florida League, the Thomasville Lookouts. The series went seven games with the Lookouts winning the finale, 7-4.
Good closed out his professional managing career in 1942 with the Tallahassee Capitals in the Georgia-Florida League. With two games left in the season, they were in fourth place and poised for the playoffs, but lost the last two games on the road to drop to sixth. The players were praised for their hard work and “Skipper Good has shown he is still a master baseball hand.”36
The Goods stayed close to home after that enjoying the Florida sunshine. Wilbur would occasionally get together with fellow retired major leaguers. Grundy passed away in 1957, ending their marriage at 45 years. She lived to see the birth of her granddaughter, fortunately. Wilbur passed away on December 30, 1963. The couple are buried side-by-side in the Brooksville Cemetery.
Statistics unless otherwise noted come from Baseball Reference and the first edition of Johnson and Wolff’s Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball.
This biography was reviewed by William Lamb and Norman Macht. It was fact checked by Kevin Larkin.
1 “Beaver Team’s First Practice,” Pittsburg Weekly Gazette, March 30, 1904: 9.
2 “Long Looked for Event Happens,” Altoona (Pennsylvania) Times, July 16, 1904: 1.
3 “Briefs,” Altoona Mirror, July 22, 1904: 1.
4 “Notes of the Game,” Altoona Mirror, July 20, 1905: 1.
5 “Johnstown Releases Good,” Altoona Tribune, August 12, 1905: 1.
6 “Got Money’s Worth at Our Ballyard” Washington Times, September 8, 1905: 10.
7 “Highlanders Go South March 5,” Evening World (New York), February 21, 1906: 7.
8 “Eastern League Pitchers,” The Gazette (Montreal), October 8, 1906: 4.
9 Game stories in the Gazette from April 17 through May 7.
10 “Base Ball Flashes,” Altoona Tribune, August 25, 1906: 3.
11 “Good and Buckley Released; Durham Signed,” (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) New Era, May 22, 1907: 7.
12 “Sporting,” Steubenville (Ohio) Herald Star, May 31, 1907: 10.
13 “Sporting,” Herald Star, June 5, 1907: 11.
14 “Goode’s Goods,” Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal, June 20, 1907: 5.
15 “Will Develop Wilbur Goode as Outfielder,” Akron Beacon Journal, September 10, 1907: 5.
16 A note in the Herald Star of December 7, 1907 named him the best base-stealing pitcher in the league.
17 “Here’s Goode, Naps New Player,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 30, 1908: 15.
18 “Hit is Lacking, Naps Lose Game,” Plain Dealer, August 22, 1908: 8.
19 Harry Neily, “Naps Hammer the Ball Again,” Plain Dealer, September 1, 1908: 8.
20 “Coal Field Recruit Is Cleaning Up on the Breadline and Cleveland Trader Looks Like Real Swatter-Houser in Limelight,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 10, 1910: 11.
21 “First Game of Season Due Today Between Athletics and Phillies,” Inquirer, April 1, 1910: 10.
22 T. H. Murnane, “Eddie Cicotte Again in Line,” Boston Globe, January 20, 1911: 6.
23 “Boston-Chicago Trade,” Boston Globe, June 11, 1911: 17.
24 (Chicago) Day Book, May 14, 1915: 30.
25 “Wilbur Good Will Play with Phillies,” New Era, February 7, 1916: 1.
26 “American Association,” St. Joseph (Missouri) Gazette, July 11, 1917: 8.
27 “Wilbur Good May Play with White Sox Team,” Chicago Tribune, July 26, 1918: 9.
28 “War Will Not Kill Professional Baseball, Wilbur Good Believes,” Tampa Times, October 29, 1918: 9.
29 Bob Bailey, History of the Junior World Series (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2004), 67-71.
30 “Sporting Comment,” Kansas City Star, July 11, 1924: 18.
31 “Sporting Comment.”
32 Tampa Tribune, August 8, 1932: 8, and Altoona Tribune, January 1, 1932: 8.
33 “Day’s Sporting News and Views,” (Hazleton, Pennsylvania) Plain Speaker, August 6, 1936: 14.
34 “Wilbur Good Released as Ocala Pilot,” Tampa Tribune, June 1, 1940: 13.
35 Peter Schaal, “Thomasville to Play Leesburg Here This Afternoon,” Tallahassee Democrat, September 21, 1941: 8.
36 “Waycross Bears Allow Tallahassee Capitals Only One Hit in 3 to 0 Shutout,” Tallahassee Democrat, September 3, 1942: 6.