Billy Earle

Catcher
  • Series: Beginnings: 1880's
  • City: St. Paul
  • Team: Apostles
  • League: Western Association

William Moffat Earle (1867-1946) earned an outsized reputation in the game for a part-time catcher who never played more than 53 games in any of his 5 ML seasons. Long after his career ended, Bill Stern was spinning tales of how Billy was a victim of the superstitions of his day, pilloried for an “evil eye” that “creeped-out” his teammates. He began at the top of the profession, touring the world & photographed at the Great Pyramid with Al Spalding’s troupe, earning the moniker the Little Globetrotter. He was a good hitter and was lauded for his great potential during the 1889 world exhibition. That potential was never truly realized though, partly perhaps affected by Billy’s infatuation with the spirit world and hypnotism. His temperament was as erratic as his ML tenure, where he chronically jumped teams and fought over contracts.

  • Had he played more, a lifetime career .286 BA certainly would have earned Earle a place on the catchers’ honor roll
  • The “blacklist” insinuations are belied by Billy’s long minor league tenure and in Cuba, as player and manager

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Red Ehret

Pitcher
  • Series: Beginnings: 1880's
  • City: Louisville
  • Team: Colonels
  • League: American Association

Philip Sydney Ehret (1868-1940) made his major league debut while still only 19, in July 1888. A pitcher for six big league teams over 11 seasons through 1898, Red broke in with the Kansas City Cowboys and closed his tenure with his hometown Louisville Colonels. Overall, he achieved a 139-167 record with a 4.02 ERA. Young Ehret had a great year in 1890, winning 25 games for the Colonels with the second-best ERA in the American Association at 2.53. Only 29 when his major league career closed, Ehret returned to the minors for another six years finishing up in the Southern Association with the Memphis Egyptians for three seasons and, finally, with the Montgomery Senators in 1906 where he pitched only five innings.

  • Pitched three games, winning two, in the 1890 post-season series which ended in a tie with Brooklyn, 3-3-1 after weather curtailed a planned nine-game event
  • Led the NL in shutouts in 1893 with four
  • Red was part of what became the longest streak of a team starting a different opening-day pitcher, 13 straight years in Cincinnati from 1892-1904, a record still unmatched. He was sixth in the skein

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Dude Esterbrook

Third Base
  • Series: Beginnings: 1880's
  • City: Indianapolis
  • Team: Hoosiers (NL)
  • League: National League

Thomas John Esterbrook (1857-1901) played third and first base for seven different teams over 11 professional seasons. In 1884, Esterbrook had a terrific year, compiling a .314 batting average, with 150 hits, 29 doubles, 11 triples, 110 runs and an OPS+ of 150 for Jim Mutrie’s New York Metropolitans of the American Association. By 1889, Dude was player/manager of the Louisville Colonels during one of the most dismal seasons in MLB history (27-111, the worst record in the AA’s existence). As the losses mounted, tempers rose and Esterbrook’s attempts to fine players met with rebellion. He lost his post to “Chicken” Wolf who replaced him only to face the first true players’ strike when owner Mordecai Davidson reinstated Dude’s levies. Ironically, Esterbrook set his career mark, hitting .318 that woeful campaign, albeit in a part time role. His lifetime average in the majors was .261.

  • Esterbrook’s confrontational style, evident in his short tenure as a manager, signalled emotional trouble ahead. His life ended at the age of 43 when he jumped from a train that was transporting him to a psychiatric hospital
  • The Dude abides

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Buck Ewing

Catcher
  • Series: Beginnings: 1880's
  • City: New York
  • Team: Giants
  • League: National League
  • Hall: National Baseball Hall of Fame

William Ewing (1859-1906) was the premier catcher of the 19th century, honored for decades after his early death as even, perhaps, the greatest player of all time. A scourge at bat, Buck hit over .300 ten times. He played behind the plate with courage and style, crouching close to the hitter so as to shave precious seconds off his inerrant throws. Ewing had debuted with the remarkable Troy Trojans in 1880 and joined four future Hall-of-Famers in moving to NYC in ‘83. The sturdy catcher may have been the primary inspiration for Jim Mutrie’s “my Giants!” exclamation that led to the new identity of the Gothams. An arm injury on a raw spring day curtailed his tenure behind the plate from 1891 on. Such a magnetic figure couldn’t escape the turmoil of the Players’ League controversies and Ewing was sometimes pilloried for lax effort. Despite such caviling, Ewing left as indelible a mark on the game’s first century as anyone. Upon his induction to Cooperstown (among the first six of the “pre-modern” era), he was hailed by Connie Mack as the greatest catcher he had seen and he had seen most.

  • “Buck” was a derivative of “Buckingham,” bestowed on the budding star by an admiring scribe who wanted to add gravitas to the youngster’s reputation
  • Played all nine positions and managed 3 different teams over 7 seasons
  • Was the first catcher elected to the Hall of Fame; and the second 19th century player elected (after Cap Anson)
  • Elected to Hall of Fame: 1939

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John Ewing

Pitcher
  • Series: Beginnings: 1880's
  • City: Louisville
  • Team: Colonels
  • League: American Association

John Ewing (1863-1895) had three early cups of coffee, playing 1 game in 1883 for the St Louis Browns, 1 game in ‘84 for the “Outlaw Reds” of the Union Association, and 1 game also in ’84 for the Washington Nationals of the UA. In that game, Long John had a triple and scored– the full extent of his offense until returning to MLB four years later. Ewing finally caught on as a pitcher in 1888 with the Louisville Colonels, playing there for 2 seasons before ending his career with the 1890 Giants of the Players’ League and their NL club in ’91 where he went out with a bang, earning the NL’s ERA title with 2.27. In all, Ewing played for six ML teams in four leagues during his brief career.

  • Ewing’s brother Buck went on to a Hall of Fame career as infielder/manager
  • The brothers were teammates for two seasons and John played under Buck as manager in ‘90

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