How one Batavian made it to the major leagues
The rain out of yesterday's Muckdog's game also washed away an opportunity to take in nine innings with Bill Kauffman.
Instead, we sat in the stands above the soggy field surrounded by 500 restless summer camp kids and chatted until the din of some undefinable noises from the sound system drove us away. Once we discovered a mutual affection for the Pok-A-Dot and concluded the game would not be played, we dashed over to the diner for lunch.
Having exhausted Google in requests for links to articles by Bill Kauffman, I asked him to send me some pointers to published pieces.
This morning's e-mail brings another essay about Batavia, Play Ball, in First Principles.
Kauffman delights in the quirky fates of life in America, where either by chance or odd ball persistence, people leave marks both indelible and obscure. In "Play Ball," Kauffman passes along the tale of Vince Maney, perhaps the first and perhaps the only Batavian to ever play major league baseball.
The chance of a lifetime was the result of Ty Cobb fighting with a fan, which led to a suspension, which led to Cobb's teammates refusing to take the field, which led to a team of amateurs and semi-pros filling out the roster of the Detroit Tigers for one day nearly a century ago.
The game of May 18, 1912, was a rout. Emergency Tigers pitcher Aloysius Travers, who later became a Jesuit priest, was touched for twenty-four runs on twenty-six hits in eight innings. Who needs a bullpen? Vince Maney described the game in a letter to his brother: “I played shortstop and had more fun than you can imagine. Of course it was a big defeat for us, but they paid us $15 for a couple of hours work and I was satisfied to be able to say that I had played against the world champions. I had three putouts, three assists, one error, and no hits.”
If only Bill James had been sabermetricking in 1912. For Vince also walked once and was hit by a pitch, giving him an on-base percentage of .500. Calling Billy Beane!
Maney played under an assumed name that day. He was a strikebreaker, after all—a scab of sorts, although Ty Cobb wasn’t exactly Samuel Gompers. For nigh unto one hundred years the baseball record books listed Maney as Pat Meaney, forty-one, of Philadelphia. The fictive Meany’s made-up age gave him the specious distinction of being the oldest rookie ever to debut in the majors, till forty-two-year-old Satchel Paige joined Cleveland in 1948.
I just wish I had been in the stands last August when Kauffman read a Charles Bukowski poem to the fans between innings. Perhaps he can be persuaded to reprise the performance this summer.