Cieradkowski: Mysterious Mitchell of the Pacific Coast League

From SABR member Gary Cieradkowski Jr. at The Infinite Baseball Card Set on January 8, 2015:

The race for the 1910 Pacific Coast League pennant was tight. Going into the last week of August Portland, Oakland and San Francisco were virtually neck and neck. Clearly, each team could use a little something extra that would put them over the top and keep them in first place. On the last day of August, fate walked into Portland’s Vaughn Street Park.

A big, athletic-looking fellow presented himself to Portland’s manager Judge McCredie as a professional pitcher. When the man refused to elaborate on his previous experience McCredie blew him off. He then walked across the ballpark and entered the visiting San Francisco Seals clubhouse. Whatever he said to Seals captain Kid Mohler must have peaked his interest because he was soon ushered into a private office to talk with manager Danny Long. The man stated that he was a professional pitcher and wanted to play for the Seals. It was quickly evident that this was not going to be an ordinary contract negotiation. When pressed on his credentials, the man stated that his name and previous occupation wasn’t anyone’s business. As long as he made good on the mound he need not reveal anything about himself. This was all very irregular, but whatever he revealed to Long and Mohler it must have been impressive. A contract was quickly drawn up for an unheard of $100 a week plus an undisclosed bonus if he won 76% or more of his decisions. Along with the extravagant salary the pitcher was exempt from playing on Sundays and Long and Mohler agreed to keep the man’s identity a secret. 

When the door finally opened, the press was told only that the Seals had signed a right handed pitcher named Fred Mitchell. No details about the pitcher’s past record were given and sportswriters and fans alike figured this new guy was just some kid from the bush leagues – extra bullpen fodder to give the San Francisco starters some much needed rest. The Seals were on an extended road trip and headed to Southern California for a two week series against the Vernon Tigers and Los Angeles Angels. With the ink on his contract still wet, the club started Mitchell the very next afternoon against Vernon. The new-comer pitched 5 innings before leaving the game with a 6-2 lead and the victory. Six days later he faced the Tigers again and this time went the full nine, earning another win. It was after this second victory that people began to ask the question: 

Who the heck was this guy?

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Originally published: January 15, 2015. Last Updated: January 15, 2015.