Happy Birthday Watty!

I was looking through some old blog posts about the Minneapolis Millers 1904 season, which faithful readers will remember we last updated on… ahhhh, 13 March… 2017. (Yikes!)

Sorry about that.

But today I happened to look in old drafts file and I find this: May 5th – Watty’s Birthday.

So Happy Birthday to Watty, William H. Watkins, Skipper of the fleet young herd of Colts that are the 1904 Millers!

Watty was born in Canada, in 1858, and started playing professional ball in 1879 with the Guelph Maple Leafs, in Southwestern Ontario. 1882 finds him living and playing in Port Huron Michigan. Team name unknown. Port Huron Michigonians? In 1884 he enters the  major leagues with the Indianapolis Hoosiers of the American Association. He plays third base, and a little at second and short, and also taking over the managing, where he compiled a 4-18 mark.

on 26 August 1884 he was hit in the head by a pitch from Gus Shallix of Cincinnati, and was carried from the field, “…writhing in pain…” according to newspaper reports. After a few days at death’s doorstep, Watty comes back, and he puts himself back in the line-up on September 11th, and goes 2 for 4 that day. For more about this, see this post from 23 January 2014.

1884, though, is the last year for Watty as a player. From that point on the peripatetic Watkins is the brains behind the plays, managing or serving as business manager or president or part owner with Indianapolis, then the Detroit Wolverines, the Kansas City Cowboys, the St. Paul Apostles, the Rochester Flour Cities, the St.Louis Browns, the Sioux City Cornhuskers, Indianapolis again, the Pittsburgh Pirates, Indianapolis again, the Minneapolis Millers, Indianapolis again, Indianapolis in the Federal League, and, finally Port Huron.

Following his retirement from baseball, Watty found gainful employment in banking and business and city founding. He founded the city of Marysville, MI, and was village President. For awhile Port Huron had a baseball park called Watkins Field. But that was long ago, and is now covered by industrial parking lot:

Watty passed away in 1937 at age 79. He certainly saw a lot of baseball in his life.

Good game, Watty.

Zack Davis Wheat

Zack D.Wheat passed away on this date in 1972 at the age of 83.

A heck of a ball player. Batted left, threw right. Seems like he was initially known for his fielding skills, and developed as a hitter. Led the league in hitting only once, 1918, at .335. In both 1923 and ’24 he hit .375, and then hit .359 in 1925 at age 37. Played in the 1916 and 1920 World Series, losses to Boston and Cleveland. He finished up with 2884 hits in his major league career. Looking at the Dodgers career statistics leaders, Wheat is still tops in games played, plate appearances, hits, singles, doubles, triples, total bases,runs created, times on base, and hit-by-pitch. He’s number 3 in RBIs, behind Duke Snider and Gil Hodges. Number 2 in runs scored, behind Pee Wee Reese, and number 2 in extra base hits, behind the Duke.

Yep, one heck of a ball player. 

Wheat started playing ball in 1906 for Enterprise, and played for Wichita, Shreveport, and Mobile in the minors. In 1909 Wheat signed with the Brooklyn Superbas, and played with them and the Brooklyn Robins til 1926. He played in ’27 with the A’s, then in 1928 he played for the Minneapolis Millers in the American Association, where he hit .309 in 82 games. An injury to his heel ended his season and career.

After baseball he went back to his farm. He always went back to his farm in the off-season, and always maintained that he would happily farm if his baseball contract fell short of what he felt he deserved. He lost his farm in the Great Depression, operated a bowling alley for a bit, and then became a police officer. After almost losing his life in a car accident during a police chase in 1936, Wheat spent five months in the hospital recuperating, then moved down to Sunrise Beach, Missouri, where he opened up a hunting and fishing resort. He lived there for the rest of his days. It looks like beautiful country.

“He (Zack Wheat) was the most graceful left-handed hitter I ever saw. With the dead ball, many of his line drives were caught, but they were just shot out of a cannon almost every time up.” – Casey Stengel

 

“Zack Wheat was 165 pounds of scrap iron, rawhide, and guts.” – Buck O’Neil

 

“One of the grandest guys ever to wear a baseball uniform, one of the greatest batting teachers I have ever seen, one of the truest pals a man ever had and one of the kindliest men God ever created.” – Casey Stengel

That card up on top is a 1921 exhibits card. What a classic shot. I wonder who the photographer was?

CHS Field-trip!

Well, I always like to let the hoopla die down a little bit before I jump in.

So, even though the St. Paul Saints opened their new downtown ball park last summer, I thought best to wait till late this summer (31 August – the last home game of the season) to see them play in their still relatively brand new park.

It’s a great place to see a game! The seats are comfortable, and there’s a concourse so that you can walk all around the ballpark and get some exercise and see the game at all angles. Plus there’s a nice view of St. Paul from out in left field. I wonder what their thinking was, in having the park face away from downtown, rather than towards it, so that you’d see the skyline of St. Paul over the outfield. Just curious.

The game was not so bad. The home town boys took it on the chin, dropping the game to the Winnipeg Goldeyes, (apparently some sort of fish,) 5-0, but it was an okay game. Perhaps because it was a perfect night for a ballgame.

The Saints play in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. They’ve played just about .500 ball this year, and it doesn’t look like they’ll make the playoffs. Unfortunate, as I had such a nice time I’d like to get back there soon.

Wait till next year, I guess.