From A Researcher’s Notebook (1978)

This article was written by Al Kermisch

This article was published in 1978 Baseball Research Journal

  Zane Grey, the great Western novelist, played baseball in college plus several years in the minors but his younger brother, Romer, not only had a long minor league career but actually played one game in the majors. Somehow, Romer has been confused with another player and his name is not listed in any baseball encyclopedia.

Romer, who went by the nickname “Reddy” because of his flaming red hair, began playing professionally in 1895. He hit .426 for Findlay in the Inter-State League before that loop folded and later .402 in 26 games for Jackson in the Michigan State League. He earned a spring trial with the strong Cleveland National League club in 1896, but was farmed to Fort Wayne, Inter-State League, before the season opened. In 1897 he began a long stay in the Eastern League, playing with clubs in Buffalo, Toronto, Rochester, Worcester and Montreal.

After five years of steady play in the Eastern League Reddy began to slow down in 1902. He played the first part of the season with Rochester but after drawing his pay on June 30, he suddenly announced he was going on a fishing trip (probably with brother Zane) after which he was returning to his home in New York. His announcement shocked the Rochester owners, but Reddy was looking ahead to the future and wanted to complete his work in becoming a practicing dentist like his brother. Although Zane had begun to write, he still kept his dental practice going since it would be many years before he would become a literary success.

In late May 1903, Reddy had the itch to play again and Rochester traded him to Worcester, another Eastern League team. Grey got an opportunity to play in a big league game by pure chance. While Reddy was on his way to join his new team, P. H. Hurley, the president of the Worcester club, which was resting in last place, was in Boston seeking player help from Pittsburgh owner Barney Dreyfuss. He couldn’t have asked at a more inopportune time as the Pittsburgh outfit was badly crippled. The injury list included Manager Fred Clarke, who was out with a bad case of lumbago. Utility man George Merritt played left field in place of Clarke that day and fractured an ankle sliding into second base. The next day the Pirates had to use pitcher Charlie “Deacon” Phillippe in the outfield in losing to Boston.

On the morning of May 28, Dreyfuss phoned Hurley for the loan  of an outfielder for the final game of the series in Boston. Hurley selected Reddy Grey, who had just arrived in Worcester the night before and had not yet played a game for that team. Grey was in left field for the Pirates that afternoon and helped Pittsburgh beat Boston 7 to 6. He had no chances in the field, but at bat he got one hit in three tries, walked one, scored a run and drove in two runs in an eighth inning rally that sewed up the game for the Pirates. After the game the Pittsburgh team left for home and Grey went back to Worcester, making his debut with that team that afternoon. He played 13 games for Worcester and was batting .364, when he decided to return to his dental practice in New York, probably because of the poor financial condition of the club. In fact, the Eastern League voted on July 15 to transfer the team to Montreal. Later in the season, Reddy joined that team and finished the season there.

  Reddy was born Romer Carl Gray (later changed to Grey) in Zanesville, Ohio in 1875, and died at Altadena, California, on November 9, 1934.

Joe Corbett Quit Old Orioles After Great Year

To become a 20-game winner in the majors is the goal of most pitchers. Many never attain it and Milt Pappas even became a 200-game winner without ever annexing 20 games in a season. On the other hand, Joe Corbett, younger brother of heavyweight champion James J. Corbett, won 24 games in his only full major league season. He was 24 and 8 for the Old Orioles of the National League in 1897, but disenchanted with the Baltimore offer for 1898, he remained at his home in San Francisco and never pitched for the Orioles again. He eventually came back to pitch in the Pacific Coast League and in 1904 tried a comeback with the St. Louis Cardinals but did not finish the season. With a disappointing record of 5 wins and 9 losses he was released by the Cardinals at his own request on August 1, 1904.

“Gentleman Jim” Corbett was the guiding light behind Joe’s baseball career. An excellent baseball player himself, champion Jim often made personal appearances at minor league ball parks and as part of the promotion would usually play first base for the home team. In the early part of the 1895 season, 19-year-old Joe would often accompany Jim on these tours and several times played shortstop in the same infield with his famous brother. With the heavyweight champion of the world to guide him, Joe got a tryout with the Washington Senators during the latter part of 1895. Jim was also instrumental in getting Joe a trial with the champion Orioles in 1896, even guaranteeing Manager Ned Hanlon that he would pay Joe’s expenses if he didn’t make good.  Joe spent most of 1896 as an Oriole farmhand, but won three games in the short time he was with the Birds. In 1897 Joe came into his own and led the Oriole staff with his 24 victories.

The Orioles were hit with a rash of holdouts in 1898, but all finally came back to the fold except Joe Corbett. His absence caused quite a stir at first, but was quickly eased when the Orioles picked up an inexpensive replacement who became an instant success. James Hughes broke into the majors in a sensational fashion. His first game was a 2-hit 9-0 victory over Washington, and four days later he blanked the champion Boston club 8-0 on a no-hitter. Hughes was 21-11 for Baltimore in 1898, and the following year, when Hanlon and most of the Oriole stars transferred to Brooklyn, he led the pennant-winning Superbas with a superb 28-6 record. Not only was Joe Corbett forgotten, but brother Jim had lost his heavyweight title to Bob Fitzsimmons.

Mike Griffin Began Major Career With Home Run

Pitcher Bill Duggleby of the Philadelphia Phillies hit a home run with the bases loaded on his first time at bat in the majors on April 21, 1898. For many years his name has led the list of players who homered their initial time up. In recent research, however, I discovered a player who hit a home run in his first time at bat 11 years before Duggleby.  He was Mike Griffin of the Baltimore Orioles of the American Association. He made his debut in the opening game of the season at Baltimore on April 16, 1887. Griffin hit his home run in the first inning, scoring Chris Fulmer ahead of him. He came close to making it two home runs in a row. In the fourth inning he knocked one over the corner of the left field fence but it was good only for a ground-rule double. Griffin was out on a pop fly in the fifth inning but hit another double in the eighth frame. His slugging led the Orioles to an 8-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Pinch-Hitter Walter Johnson in 1928

Walter Johnson, after ending his major league career in 1927, became manager of the Newark club of the International League the next year. He made a token appearance on the mound as he was honored by the Newark fans on Walter Johnson Day on June 23, 1928. A crowd of 16,000 cheered as Walter ascended the pitching peak in a slight drizzle. He walked the first batter on the Buffalo team, Maurice Archdeacon, pitching three balls, a strike and another ball. He then turned the pitching chores over to Hal Goldsmith and the Bears beat the Bisons 5-4.   Baseball fans assume that that was the extent of Johnson’s minor league play.

However, he remained on the active list and pinch hit in six games, connecting once for a .183 average. Johnson made his final appearance at Baltimore on September 16. He batted for pitcher Carl Fischer in the ninth inning and grounded out to third baseman Danny Clark, the Orioles winning 7-1 behind Stu Bolen.

Only One Major League Game for Sam Edmonston

Sam Edmonston, 95, now listed as the oldest living ex-major leaguer, played only one game in the majors, in 1907, although the baseball encyclopedias credit him with three games for Washington in 1906. The 1906 record actually belongs to Bob Edmondson, who also played in 26 games for the Senators in 1908.

From 1901 through 1903, Sam Edmonston and his brother, Preston, were football stars at Georgetown University. Sam was also on the rowing team but did not go out for the baseball team. He made a good reputation on the Washington sandlots, however, and in 1906 signed to pitch for Cumberland in the independent Pennsylvania, Ohio and Maryland League. He pitched well for that club and in 1907 was signed by Washington. He pitched in one game for the Senators, working relief against Eddie Plank of the Athletics on June 24, and was sent to Minneapolis in the American Association. After one game there he was shipped to Des Moines in the Western League. He lost his first game and then won six games in a row before being recalled by Minneapolis. In 1908, “Big Sam” signed with Baltimore in the Eastern League. He lost his only start for the Orioles and was sent to Worcester of the New England League and then to Wilmington in the Tri-State League. He never made it back to the majors, but on the strength of that brief pitching chore on June 24, 1907, he became 70 years later the oldest living former major league player.

Home Runs At Fenway Park — 1927 and 1977

During the season of 1977 a total of 219 home runs were hit in 80 games at Fenway Park, Boston-124 for the Red Sox and 95 for the visiting clubs. It is interesting to compare the number of home runs hit at Fenway Park in 1977 to the total hit there 50 years before-in 1927, the year that Babe Ruth hit his 60 home runs. Only 34 home runs were hit in 77 games at Fenway Park in 1927. The Red Sox were able to hit only five home runs in their own park. Of the other 29 home runs, the New York Yankees hit 14 in 11 games and only two Yanks shared them-eight for Ruth and six for Lou Gehrig. The other 15 circuit blows were shared by five clubs-Detroit six, Philadelphia four, St. Louis and Cleveland two each, Chicago one, with Washington the only club to go homerless in Fenway Park in 1927.

Most Inside-The-Park Homers in One Game

When Ed Delahanty hit four home runs for the Phillies at Chicago on July 13, 1896, two of the drives were inside-the-park. There seems to be some confusion as to the number of inside-the-park homers because Ernie Lanigan, the noted historian, had written in his Baseball Cyclopedia many years ago that all of Delehanty’s home runs were inside-the-park. Lanigan possibly based his conclusions on the Sporting News’ report of the game which stated that all of the drives were clean home runs. But clean home runs didn’t necessarily mean inside-the-park for in the old days balls which bounded into the stands, rolled under the fence, etc., were still considered home runs. There are enough detailed reports of the July 13 game available to indicate that only two of the Delahanty home runs were inside-the-park.

There was one player in the old days who did hit three inside-the-park home runs in one major league game. On July 12, 1897, Tom McCreery of the Louisville club hit home runs in the third, sixth and ninth innings of a game against Philadelphia at Louisville. Each home run was a line drive between center and right field and just rolled. All were hit off pitcher John Taylor.