Looking Back at 96

This article was written by Eugene C. Murdock

This article was published in 1976 Baseball Research Journal

“Boys,” recalled the oldest living former ballplayer, “I got the best hit I ever had off Walter Johnson. It was in the late innings of a close game, and I was on deck. Johnson wanted to walk the guy ahead of me, but the manager said ‘pitch to him; the next man (meaning me) is a better hitter’.”

“Well, Walter walked the man anyhow, and somehow he got to second base with the lead run. So now I was up there facing the fastest pitcher in baseball. I never saw the first pitch. Then I swung blind at the next one, and boys, it was the most beautiful line drive out over second base you ever saw! The run scored and we won.”

Ninety-six year old Paddy Livingston sat back in his easy chair chuckling. “And you know,” the former catcher leaned forward again, his eyes lighting up, “I threw out Ty Cobb a couple of times, too.” He discharged a large glob of tobacco juice in the well-used bucket by his side. “I had a good arm and was accurate. Yes, I had pretty good luck with Ty Cobb.”

Patrick Joseph Livingston broke into the big leagues with Cleveland in 1901, the very first year of the American League, although he only played in one game. He was out of baseball for the next four years and then returned with Wheeling in 1905. He was in and out of action until 1920, spending parts of seven years in the majors. In all, he appeared in 205 major league games, got 120 hits in 574 at bats for a lifetime mark of .209. In the minors, however, he had some good years.

Paddy’s career was bobtailed for a couple of reasons. Circumstances or bad luck played a part, but then he was basically a homebody, and the appeal of the family hearth was greater than that of mask and mitt. His abbreviated debut in 1901 illustrates the point. He had been doing pretty well with a semi-pro outfit in Kent, Ohio, in the summer of 1901, when the hard-pressed Cleveland Indians brought him up.

The Red Sox were in town and Cy Young was pitching when Livingston made his appearance. He went hitless in the first two times at bat. On his next trip up Cy struck the right-handed hitting Paddy on the left side. After the game Manager Jimmy McAleer told him that he did not think he could keep the young catcher, but he would try to arrange for his transfer to Connie Mack’s Athletics. “I went home that night and told my father what had happened. He took one look at that big black and blue bruise and said, ‘Don’t go to Philadelphia’. So I quit the game and went to work in the shipyards for a few years.”

It was not that Paddy disliked baseball; but he liked being home more. Even after he returned to action in 1905, he held out frequently because the money he was offered was not worth the inconvenience of being away from his home, wife, and children. He held out for part of the 1913 year and for the full seasons of 1915 and 1918 because he did not get the money he wanted. “I didn’t really care if I missed the whole year,” he reflected, “because that way I would be home happy with my wife and the six kids.”

Money was always in short supply in those days for Paddy, as well as for a lot of other people. In spring training players paid their own expenses, and when Livingston went south with Cincinnati in the spring of 1906 he was practically broke. When the players got off the train Manager Ned Hanlon called out, “Boys, don’t forget the porter.” As Paddy went to leave the car he asked the porter what Hanlon had given him. “Fifty cents,” was the reply.

“Well, I’ll give you fifty cents too,” he said. “Here’s a dollar bill and you can give me change.” The porter gave Livingston the same fifty cent piece Hanlon had given him, and “you know,” Paddy remarked, “it was a Canadian half-dollar and nobody would take it down there. I ran out of money and couldn’t even buy stamps to mail a letter to my wife.”

One day on the street corner Jack Harper approached Paddy, saying, “Hey, kid, why don’t you get a shave?” “I’ll give you thirty cents for the half-dollar,” said Harper. So Livingston made the trade and used the thirty cents to buy stamps to send letters to his wife. “Incidentally,” he added, “I never did get along too well with Hanlon.”

Paddy’s return to the game in 1905 almost failed because of a money dispute. During those years in the shipyards (1901-05), he caught for a sandlot team in Cleveland, and one day was spotted by a scout. Within a short time he got a letter from the Wheeling club of the Central League, asking how much money he wanted to play ball for them. He said he would like $150 per month. Wheeling wrote back that it could secure a lot of catchers for less than $150. Paddy replied briefly, “Go get ’em.” But Wheeling came through with the $150 and

Livingston had a good year catching 83 games and hitting .312.

During that 1905 season he was actually acquired by the New York Americans, but never reported because of a money mix-up. The terms of the deal referred to a salary of $800 a month and half the purchase price. But it turned out that New York would only pay $150 until Paddy had proven himself. “And you know, boys, they didn’t even send me a railway ticket! So I stayed in Wheeling.”

Cincinnati drafted Livingston at the end of the 1905 season, but he would have preferred to go to Columbus or Indianapolis or some other Double-A club because he “didn’t want to advance too fast.” He may have been right, too, because he did not do well with the Reds, and wound up with Indianapolis in 1907 and 1908. He was ready now, but circumstances prevented immediate advancement. Indianapolis’ outstanding pitcher in 1908 was Rube Marquard, and Paddy caught every game he pitched. The New York Giants bought the Rube for $11,000, the highest purchase price ever paid for a player at that, time. “The Giants wanted me too,” says Paddy, “but Indianapolis demanded the same amount for me that it got for Marquard, and the Giants wouldn’t pay it. I was held back.”

“We won the pennant at Indianapolis that season, and I got $400 a month. Then when my 1909 contract arrived, they offered me only $300. So I stayed home. After about a month of the season was gone, Connie Mack bought me. When I got up there he asked me what I thought he should pay me. I said, ‘Well, I got $400 at Indianapolis, so I think I should get $800 up here’. Connie chuckled and said, ‘I’ll give you $400’.”

In addition to Marquard the Indianapolis club had a pitcher named Louie Durham in 1908, who performed a feat perhaps unequalled in baseball history. Let out by Louisville early in the season, Durham hooked on with the Indians. He arrived in bad shape, however, and Livingston got him a place to stay and fixed him up. Under this stimulus Durham proceeded to pitch and win five double-headers, with Paddy catching them all.

The club was doing so well that the large crowds began throwing coins out on the field after victories, presumably intended for the player who had contributed most to the win. In the first game of a double-header one day Paddy got the winning hit and the coins poured forth. Well, Livingston was not interested in that kind of money and went into the dressing room to change shirts for the nightcap. In a little while Durham, the winning pitcher, came in weighted down.

“Say, Paddy,” he chirped, “you should have stayed out there, I got around $90.”

“What are you going to do with it?” Paddy asked, thinking to himself that if he had collected the coins he would have split them up among the players.

“Well, I think I’ll get everybody a tie.”

“A tie! Who the hell wants a tie?” expostulated Livingston.

As things turned out Durham kept the money. “It served him right, though,” noted Paddy. “The Giants brought him up the next year, but he couldn’t make the grade and they let him go.”

Livingston spent three years with the Athletics, 1909-1911, which included two World Series. In 1912, when Harry Davis, the A’s first-sacker, went to Cleveland to manage the Indians, he wanted Paddy to come with him. What could be better? He could play ball and be home at the same time. But things did not work out too well. “After about 30 games I got a sore arm, and went to see some “rubber” (a muscle manipulator and massager), who I thought knew his business. He ruined my arm. I don’t know what he did, but he twisted it around and wrecked it. He even wanted to cut into it, but I wouldn’t let him do that.”

“But I may have hurt my arm myself before that. I threw hard all the time, whether in practice or in the game. I would warm up by telling Eddie Collins or Jack Barry just to ‘sit on the bag’ and I would hit them. I would practice my aim by firing away with them sitting on second base. One day the old White Sox catcher Billy Sullivan was watching and he came over and spoke to me: ‘Hey, young fellow’, he said, ‘you’ve got only so many throws in that arm; you’d better be careful’. But I was young and strong and didn’t pay any attention. If I had, I might have lasted longer.”

“Nobody would help a young player out in those days. Why, when I came up with Cleveland in 1901, the other catchers wouldn’t even let me use their gloves. They were afraid for their jobs. I didn’t have a glove of my own, and McAleer finally found an old one in the clubhouse which I used. I picked up somebody’s bat and was told to put it down. Nobody ever gave us much help or encouragement. They were afraid we’d take their jobs away.”

When you were with the Athletics did not Ira Thomas, the other catcher, give you some tips?

“Ha, ha,” chortled Paddy. “No, old Ira didn’t know much more than I did. But look at Johnny Bench today. In practice he takes it easy. There was no one around to teach us that in the old days. Except for Billy Sullivan nobody ever gave me any advice. Oh, Connie Mack helped my confidence, but more in a general way.”

“The first day I played for the Athletics I had a bad game. I was in the hotel afterwards, homesick and discouraged. Connie came by and said, ‘Paddy, let’s go for a walk’. I thought he was going to fire me, but he was real nice and even praised me a little bit. You know, boys, when you’d go to bat you’d ask him what he wanted you to do. He would suggest something and then add ‘if that doesn’t work, use your own judgment; you know as much about it as I do’. Ha! Me knowing as much as Connie Mack! But you see, he was just trying to build up my confidence. But the players, they never helped us young kids much.”

Paddy’s gnarled fingers belie the fact that his career was not extensive, as far as games played are concerned. His throwing hand is bent and twisted, while the fingers appear badly dislocated. One pitcher who contributed to this state of affairs was Cy Morgan, a mainstay on the A’s staff along with Bender, Plank, and Coombs during their pennant-winning years of 1910 and 1911. Morgan was picked up on waivers from Boston in 1909, but was unable to win when Thomas was catching. One day he suggested to Mack that he put Livingston in. So Paddy went in and Morgan started winning. “But look at my fingers; that’s how they got that way.”

“You see, Cy was a right-hander who threw a spitter, and the ball broke down and away; I’d stop it with my bare hand most of the time. The gloves we had them were finger-gloves and weren’t big enough to stop a spitter. If I couldn’t reach the ball I’d throw my whole body in front of the pitch to block it. I could throw myself from here to there (marking out a distance of six feet or so). I never had any passed balls.”

Livingston, born in Cleveland on January 14, 1880, lives all by himself in a small, modest home, neatly maintained, in a deteriorating neighborhood on Cleveland’s near west side. His wife, whom he married in 1902, died some years ago, but he has six sons, some of whom are retired from their own jobs, living near by. They take turns telephoning at least once a day to make sure their father is all right, and visit the old house regularly. Paddy – short, cheerful, and an unreconstructed tobacco-chewer – has an excellent memory and expresses himself very well. He carries on an extensive correspondence, using the kitchen table as his writing desk. He receives numerous requests for autographs and has a big supply of thumbnail pictures of himself when with the championship Athletics to send out.

Several framed pictures decorate the dining room, one of Paddy’s favorites being a photograph of the 1911 American League All-Star team, which played Cleveland for the benefit of Addie Joss’ widow. Joss died earlier in the year, cutting short a brilliant career. Livingston played for the All-Stars along with big names like Cobb, Crawford, Speaker, Collins, Baker, Chase, Bobby Wallace, Johnson, and Joe Wood. Young, Lajoie, and Joe Jackson played for the Indians.

Livingston recalls that Joss was a real fastball pitcher, and one day “he nearly killed me. He had a sweeping backswing on his delivery, boys, and you could hardly see the pitch coming. This time he hit me on the left forehead. I turned away just as the ball cracked into me or I would’ve been killed. I was stunned a bit, but I didn’t want to show I was hurt so I ran on down to first base. George Stovall, the first baseman, came over, looked at me, then bent down and rubbed the calves of my legs.”

“‘You clown you’, I told him; ‘get hit in the head and you rub me legs’. ‘Aw you can’t hurt wood, Paddy’, is what he said to me, the big clown.”

Did pitchers throw at hitters?

“No, I don’t think so. There were one or two I can think of who might have, but most of them didn’t. Somebody once asked Walter Johnson why he didn’t throw at hitters once in awhile, because if he did they’d never hit him. Not that they hit him much anyhow. But Walter is supposed to have answered ‘the day I have to throw at a hitter, that’s the day I quit baseball’,”

Following his good year at Indianapolis in 1914 – after having been sent down by Cleveland the year before – Paddy held out for more money in 1915, and wound up spending the season at home. Indianapolis then sold him to Sioux City of the Western League where he spent the 1916 season, catching over 100 games and hitting an even .300. This impressed Branch Rickey and the Cardinals sufficiently for them to acquire him as a catcher-coach for 1917. Here, however, circumstances again worked against Livingston. He caught seven games, most of which the Cardinals won, but it seemed that Milwaukee had a pitcher the Redbirds were hot after, so Livingston was traded to the Brewers to assume managerial duties.

Paddy did not want to go to Milwaukee, however, and went home to Cleveland instead. This brought Rickey and the Milwaukee owner to the Livingston house. “You owe it to your family, Mr. Livingston,” Rickey almost threatened, “to go to Milwaukee.”

“I know I owe it to my family,” Paddy replied, “but you’ve got what you want, now I’d like to get what I want.”

Well, he went to Milwaukee in 1917 as player-manager anyhow, and had a fairly good year. But he was not satisfied with his salary. In mid-season, when the Brewers were in Kansas City, the owner of the Sioux City Club for whom he had played the year before met Livingston. “He asked me what my salary was and I was ashamed to tell him, but I did. He told me he’d double it if I would come back to Sioux City in 1918 and manage the team. I thanked him and said we should get together after the season.” Again circumstances intervened. The owner died that winter and there was no further word from Sioux City.

Meanwhile Milwaukee sent its 1918 contract to Livingston, which he found unacceptable. The Brewer management persisted, and a message arrived inquiring “is the baseball bee buzzing in your bonnet? If so, how would you like to come and manage?”

Paddy replied: “Yes, the baseball bee is buzzing in my bonnet, but not to go to work for the likes of you.” So he stayed home in 1918. The following year, 1919, was Livingston’s last in baseball. He returned to Philadelphia to become a bullpen catcher for Connie Mack’s Athletics. He appeared in no games.

After the 1919 season, Paddy got a job with the Bridge Department for the city of Cleveland, and was “tickled to death” to have it. “My baseball days were about over – I was 40 – and I could be with my family. I stayed with the Bridge Department for 43 years until I was 83, retiring in 1963, 13 years beyond the normal retirement age of 70.”

The oldest living ballplayer, a warm and generous gentleman, has lived more than the full life. That Rutherford B. Hayes was President when he was born, is sufficient testimony to show that it has been a very long life. But those who can boast two successful careers, a happy home, a fine family, and a treasure of satisfying memories, have exploited those long years to the limit of their riches and rewards. Paddy Livingston is among them. And you know, boys, he hit Johnson and threw out Cobb!