A Stones Throw
By Mike Cooney
A Baseball Quiz: Who was the oldest position player
(non-pitcher) to start a major league baseball game?
The Answer: In 2005 forty seven year old Julio
Franco started games at first base for the Atlanta
Impressed? Good – but that isn’t what, or who, this
column is about.
Second question: Who was the second oldest position
player to start a major league baseball game?
Need a hint? He played many games with and against
Vevay town baseball teams. He played town ball for
Osgood, Versailles and Cedar Creek and he played games
next to the Patriot Jail.
He was born and raised in Osgood – actually in the
country, but Osgood is the “big town”. He played in towns like
Columbus, Ohio, Indianapolis,
Springfield, Illinois and in Toledo, Ohio.
And he played in both the minor and major leagues.
He played for the New York Giants, the St. Louis
Browns, and the Boston Red Sox.
The Cincinnati Reds tried to trade for him but the
New York Giants wouldn’t let him go.
Need more hints?
He is probably best known as one of the better major
league baseball players to join the rebel Federal
League in 1914. The starting catcher for the St.
Louis Terriers, Grover Hartley was instrumental in
recruiting other major league players to the league.
Hartley played in 569 major league games during 14
He was a catcher who started games at first base,
second base, third base, shortstop and center field.
He was a coach and later owned a minor league
baseball team and is still fondly remembered as a
minor league manager.
He was combative, competitive and Grover
the second oldest non-pitcher to ever start a major
league baseball game.
But he wasn’t the first major league baseball
player from Osgood Indiana.
The first was Tex Pruiett, a pitcher for the 1907
Americans and the1908 Red Sox. Pruiett had a record of 4
wins and 18 losses. Not much to brag about. But he
was a major league pitcher and he was from Osgood,
Which got me thinking. Who was the first player from
Switzerland County to play in the major leagues? Who
was the last?
Both questions have easy answers. Even though in the
early 1900’s Vevay had a town baseball team that
played the best teams around including the
Cincinnati Reds - there has never been a player from
Switzerland County who has made the big leagues.
There have been players from Lawrenceburg (George
Boehler – 1912-1926), Moores Hill (Walt Justice –
1905), and three from Madison (Dutch Distel – 1918;
Larry Ray – 1982; and Tommy Thevenow – 1924-1938).
There were three more from Aurora, including Kirtley
Baker who played 10 years from 1890 to 1899. Others
from Aurora were Red Downey – 1909 and Bill Brandt
1941 – 1943.
But never a player from Vevay. Or from Patriot. Or
East Enterprise. Or even Quarcus Grove.
There used to be a town baseball team in each of
these towns and they were good. Players came from
surrounding counties to play for and against the
towns of Vevay and Patriot. The players and teams were good
and area teams were
good enough to develop ten major league baseball
Unfortunately most were developed in the early
1900’s nearly one hundred years ago.
Back in the early 1900’s you could always find a
town team baseball game to watch. Some teams had 10
or 11 players while others had as many as 30 players.
Some had regular players others had “ringers”
they all played baseball.
When was the last town
team baseball game played in Switzerland County, Ripley County or Dearborn County? Isn’t it
a little sad that we start our children playing
“tee-ball” at 4 years old? Then we go to coach’s
pitch, then little league but then comes burnout.
At the time when our young men and women should be
honing their baseball skills they are home watching
Texas “Hold-um” poker on television.
They burnout before it’s time for town team
baseball. (Of course there aren’t any town team
baseball teams to play for anyway.)
It seems strange that when we didn’t organize our
children to play baseball, they organized
themselves. When we didn’t force our children to
play they just played for fun.
When we didn’t have “little league mothers and
fathers” pushing and goading, demanding and
prodding, and yes, supporting and encouraging, we
had kids staying out past dark playing baseball not
just “hanging around.”
Kids could pick their teams and each day was a
different team. They could find older baseball
players to look up to. They knew they could play
with their heroes if they were good enough and
their heroes would help them. Sometimes they might
even be invited to play with the local town team
when one of its regular players didn’t show up.
They didn’t have baseball bat bags with three kinds
of bats. They didn’t have baseball shoes and
tee-shirt uniforms. They didn’t have schedules and
practices that didn’t count.
But they did have heart and they did have fun. They played baseball through their teens, into their
twenties and often times for decades beyond. They
represented their town and themselves.
Today it seems when little league is done so is
Kind of sad isn’t it?
Oh – I forgot to tell you – Grover Hartley from
Osgood, Indiana was a coach for the 1934 St. Louis
Cardinals when he made an “emergency” start at
catcher at the age of 46. – Mike Cooney
|© Copyright 2005 - 2006. Osgood