Cieradkowski: Rupe Mills, the one-man ballclub

From SABR member Gary Cieradkowski at Studio Gary C on October 14, 2019:

It was two months into the season and Newark’s Rupe Mills was leading the Federal League in batting, home runs, triples, assists, fielding percentage – even most pitching wins and strikeouts. In fact, Rupe Mills was leading the league in EVERY category because he was the ONLY player in the league that year.

See, this was 1916, and the Federal League had disbanded before the season began.

The story of how Rupe Mills became the sole survivor of the Federal League dates back a couple of years when the New Jersey native was a stand-out athlete-scholar at Notre Dame. Born October 12, 1892, Rupert Frank Mills was the only child of Frank and Mary Mills. His father was a delivery driver from a long line of pre-Revolutionary War New Jerseyan’s while Mary traced her family line to more recent German and Irish immigrants. Though his father was raised a Presbyterian, the couple decided to raise Rupert in his mother’s Catholic faith.

Rupe, as he was called, grew to be a strapping 6’ 2” (some contemporary articles put him at 2 to 3 inches taller than that), almost a giant when compared to the average 5’ 7” height of the turn-of-the-century American male. His physical presence translated well into athletics, and by the time he was a freshman at Newark’s Barringer High School he had already made a name for himself in the local sports scene. At Barringer, Mills lettered in four sports and made headlines when he broke the state’s high jump record. By the time he graduated in 1910, he had offers on the table from the Giants, Indians and Pirates.

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Originally published: October 14, 2019. Last Updated: October 14, 2019.