Prigge: The rise and fall of Milwaukee’s Happy Felsch from baseball hero to outcast

From Matthew Prigge at Milwaukee Magazine on November 6, 2018:


He was a local sandlot legend who made it big – a north-side kid who become a star on one of the mightiest Big League teams of his era. But his career would end in shame, undone by one of the biggest sporting scandals of all time.

Like most players in his era, Felsch got his start on the playgrounds. One of ten children in a working-class German family living on 26th Street, he quit school after sixth grade to go to work to help support the family. But his was also a sports-mad family, and Oscar – dubbed “Happy” by the family because of his easy-going demeanor – quickly proved himself a rare talent on the baseball field. In 1912, at age 20, Felsch had become an established semi-pro star and was offered a professional contract with a minor league club in Eau Claire. He was cut from the team after just three days and had to jump a ride home in a railroad boxcar.

But the lure of making a living playing ball was too strong for young Felsch to give up. The following season, he signed on with the Fond du Lac Molls of the Wisconsin-Illinois League and belted 18 homers in just 92 games. His powerful bat won him a job with his hometown Milwaukee Brewers, where he was the star of the 1914 team and led the American Association in home runs. That fall, he was sold to the Charles Comiskey’s Chicago White Sox.

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Originally published: November 12, 2018. Last Updated: November 12, 2018.