Alta Weiss- Female Baseball Pitcher

Alta Weiss- Female Baseball Pitcher

ALTA WEISS

Born on February 9, 1890, in Berlin, Holmes County, Ohio, she was the daughter of Dr. George and Lucinda Zehnder Weiss.

In the early 1900s, four women – Lizzie Arlington, Alta Weiss, Lizzie Murphy and Josie Caruso – immersed themselves into men’s professional baseball. The news of their playing would often bring in large crowds so they were seen more as promotional gimmicks instead of serious players. In a time when gender roles were deeply ingrained in the fiber of society, these women’s abilities began to chip away at that barrier. Baseball was a man’s game until a seventeen-year-old girl in a long heavy wool shirt and baseball hat stepped up the pitcher’s mound and struck out numerous players. That girl was Alta Weiss.

She was the middle child of three girls, Alta stood out right away. At that age of two, her father once stated that she “hurled a corncob at the family cat with all the follow-through and wrist-snap of a big league pitcher.” Why did she throw it at the cat? Reportedly, she was trying to save a bird the cat had its eye on. Her father, a doctor, saw Alta’s talent and nurtured it. So what does any father do to encourage his young child to continue to enhance their talents? Create a high school. In 1905, Alta’s father established a local high school which allowed her to play on its newly created baseball team. Additionally, he transformed their barn into a gym and created “Weiss Ball Park” so that his daughter would have more opportunity to train and play.

Alta’s particular talent was pitching and she soon perfected the fastball, knuckleball, and spitball. Many were skeptical of a girl who could pitch – especially one would that could play at the same level as male players. She proved her abilities during a vacation in Vermilion, Ohio with her two sisters in the summer of 1907. Alta was playing baseball with some local boys when the town’s mayor happened upon it. Seeing her skills he went to Charles Heidloff who was the manager of the semipro Vermilion Independents. The Independents had just lost their starting pitcher. The mayor told Charles that he should have Alta join the team. Taken aback, Charles refused. The mayor wanted to prove to Charles that Alta did indeed have the skills it took to be on the semipro team and arranged a game. Alta struck out 15 men. Charles immediately signed her as the Independents’ starting pitcher.

At the age of seventeen, Alta became a member of Ohio’s Vermilion Independents. Every weekend, she would travel almost 130 miles to Vermilion to play. On September 2, 1907, she made her pitching debut in front of over 1,200 fans. Alta pitched 5 innings and gave up only 4 hits and 1 run. Hailed as the “Girl Wonder”, Alta was a fan and newspaper favorite. So much so that special trains were commissioned to run from Cleveland to Vermilion so that people could see Alta in action.

Usually, Alta would pitch the first five innings before moving to first base. It was estimated that over 13,000 fans came to watch her during her first season. When she played at Cleveland’s League Park on October 2, 1907, there was a season high audience of 3,182 and Alta led the Independents to victory against the Vacha All-Stars with a score of 7-6.

In 1908, Alta’s father bought a half interest in the team and renamed it “Weiss All-Stars.” She wore a black uniform while the male team players wore white uniforms. Alta also changed her previous uniform of long heavy shirts to bloomers. In an interview that year, she explained her change in attire: “I found out you can’t play ball in skirts. I tried. I wore a skirt over my bloomers and nearly broke my neck.” The Weiss All-Stars were based in Cleveland. She continued to draw large crowds during home games as well as away games throughout Ohio and Kentucky.


The 1908 Weiss All-Stars semipro players. Back (L-R): Roth (c), Grill (1b), Tischer (rf), Miss Irma Weiss (Alta’s sister), Meyer (lf), Murphy (c), Hobart (2b). Front: Hoffman (2b), Lehman (3b), Chas. Heidloff (mgr), Miss Alta Weiss (p), Ebner (ump), Langenhan (cf), Sonnendecker (ss). Absent: Reynolds (p), Zmich (p) and Winchester (c).

Photo Credit: Ohio Historical Society via Vermilion Views

While Alta was playing baseball, she was also following her father’s footsteps and studied medicine. She paid for school using the money she earned from playing ball. Alta graduated from the Starling-Ohio Medical School (a predecessor to the Ohio State University College of Medicine) in 1914. As with her baseball team, she was the only female in her class. Alta continued to play baseball for seventeen years until she hung up her uniform in 1922.

After leaving the pitcher’s mound, Alta practiced medicine – first in Norfolk, Ohio before settling back in Ragersville. The Vermilion, Ohio website stated that, at one point, she “owned 10 cats, drove a 1940 Buick for decades, and read no less than 3 newspapers daily.” Alta also enjoyed watching the town youngsters play ball. She passed away on February 12, 1964 (three days after her 74th birthday).

Alta’s trailblazing role in baseball paved the way for other female players. She played her first game thirty-six years before the famed All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was created due to the mass player shortage during World War II. Alta’s skills with a baseball proved that an unexpected person can have remarkable talents.

 

Baseball History: Baseball Becomes a Business in 1869

Baseball History: Baseball Becomes a Business in 1869

 When Baseball Became a Business

   Harry Wright knew he could make money by putting a baseball team together. He was a ballplayer himself that once hit seven home runs in a game. He convinced a group of Ohio investors, in 1869, to finance the team and he was named manager. Wright was sure that he could get people to pay 25-50 cents to see a game. Afterall, they paid a dollar for the theater.

In Wright’s world, he wanted his players to be professional on the field so he paid them and then he drilled the fundamentals of the game into their head. He also desired that players remain silent on the field and act like businessmen. The team was supplied with knickers for pants as that would help their speed. The majority of the players came from New York but were relocated to Cincinnati. The team was called the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

 

Wright had standards and he told them:

 

In regard to diet, eat hearty. Roast beef rare will aid, live regularly, keep good hours and abstain from intoxicating drinks and tobacco. You must be a sure catch, good thrower, strong and accurate, a reliable batter, and a good runner, all to be brought out by steady and persevering practice.

 

 

Wright paid all the players. His younger brother, George, was the shortstop and he was paid $1400 for the season and he paid himself $1200 to be the manager. George was worth his salary as he batted .519, scored 339 runs, hit 59 home runs and made spectacular plays. The star pitcher was Asa Brainard and he had good control and strong concentration. The team went 65-0 for the 1869 season and the investors made $1.39 in profit for the season. This undefeated season got the attention of the townspeople and they took pride in their team and that secured Cincinnati as the baseball capital in the United States.

However, only one of the players came from Cincinnati as the rest of them were paid to come in from other cities such as New York. They took time off from the “real” jobs which included two hatters, two insurance salesmen, a bookkeeper and a piano maker. The following season they branch out and win their first 27 games before they travel to Brooklyn to face the Atlantics. The Red Stockings were favored 5 to 1 to win the game as 15,000 people came out to watch the contest.

Cincinnati went out to an early three-run lead but the Atlantics countered with two in the fourth and two runs in the sixth. After nine innings, the game was tied 5-5. The Atlantics were ecstatic and began to leave the field with a tie but the Red Stockings manager, Harry Wright, stated that clearly, the rules say that both teams must agree to end in a tie or it goes into extra innings. After a short discussion and possibly an argument, they decided to allow Henry Chadwick, chairman of the Rules Committee of the National Association to make the decision. He told them to continue playing.

Cincinnati didn’t want a tie or to lose and things went well for them in the eleventh inning as they scored two runs. But something happened in the bottom half as the pitcher allowed a single and then the runner reached third on a wild pitch. After a few hits they Atlantics snatched the victory and they had plenty to celebrate.

Cincinnati was devasted. The fans were devasted. So much so that they quit going to the games. Their team was not invincible. Investors withdrew their financial support. Players stopped getting paid. The team had to disband. Harry Wright understood it was a business and he took the best players and set up a new team in Boston.

A new league was formed on March 17, 1871 on the corner of 13th street and Broadway in Manhattan and amateur baseball ended and each player was given $800 to play for the nine-team league which consisted of the Boston Red Stockings, Chicago White Stockings, Philadelphia Athletics, New York Mutuals, Washington Olympics, Troy Haymakers, Fort Wayne Kekiongas, Cleveland Forest Citys, and Rockford Forest Citys. Each team was expected to set up five games against each other and the team with the most wins were the champions.

 

June book Reviews (part 1)

June book Reviews (part 1)

I have had the good fortune to hook up with three publishing companies, Sports Publishing, University of Nebraska Press, and Triumph Books, to search their catalogs and request books to read. In exchange, I give their publicist a fair and honest review of each book. To date, I have completed nearly 50 book reviews in the previous 15 months. The fruits of my labor can be found at KnupSports.

I expect to finish 6 books in June. Here are the first three books that I received as I expect to get a few more on my doorstep soon.

 

JUNE READING (part 1)

 

As a child, Anne Keene’s father, Jim Raugh, suited up as the team batboy and mascot. He got to know his baseball heroes personally, watching players hit the road on cramped, tin-can buses, dazzling factory workers, kids, and service members at dozens of games, including a war-bond exhibition with Babe Ruth at Yankee Stadium.

 

 

 

After being drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1961 out of Northwestern University, Cross went on to have a nine-year career in the NFL, appearing in two Pro Bowls. After retiring, he joined the Eagles as a coach and remained so until 1971 when a rare opportunity came along to join CBS Sports with no experience.

 

 

 

The author takes a candid and revealing look at the people and events that made Manning’s and his 2007 Giants’ success one of the greatest stories in modern sports history. Complete with exclusive interviews with NFL stars, coaches, and executives.

 

 

MORE TO COME

Best Baseball Books of 2017

It is my hope to read each of these books this year along with some new ones from 2018. I am fortunate enough to have two publishers that are sending me copies of books about tobe released. I will add them as I finish the review. Check out our book reviews are KnupSports.

 

The following books have been named as Finalists for the 2017 CASEY Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year:

 Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character * Marty Appel   MY BOOK REVIEW HERE 

Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swinging A’s * Jason Turbow

Electric October: Seven World Series Games, Six Lives, Five Minutes of Fame that Lasted Forever * Kevin Cook * Henry Holt

Lefty O’Doul: Baseball’s Forgotten Ambassador * Dennis Snelling

Leo Durocher: Baseball’s Prodigal Son * Paul Dickson

Lost Ballparks * Dennis Evanosky and Eric J. Kos

The Pride of the Yankees: Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper, and the Making of a Classic * Richard Sandomir

Smart Baseball: The Story behind the Old Stats that Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones that are Running It, and the Right Way to Think about Baseball * Keith Law * William Morrow

The Streak: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken Jr., and Baseball’s Most Historic Record * John Eisenberg

The Year of the Pitcher: Bob Gibson, Denny McLain, and the End of Baseball’s Golden Age * Sridhar Pappu


I am always looking for sports books to read. If you have any to loan or give away, I would be pleased to read it.

Thanks.

tknuppel@gmail.com

The First Real Baseball Pitcher- Jim Creighton

Born on April 15, 1841, Jim Creighton was baseball’s first real star and made his pitching debut with the Brooklyn Niagaras at age eighteen in 1859. He would join the Brooklyn Star Club that year and then join the Excelsior Club, in 1860, for “under the table inducements.” Although it is difficult to prove, he was probably the first paid player.

On June 30, 1860, the Excelsior Club boarded a train and embarked on the first great baseball tour. They started in upper New York State and on July 2 defeated the Champion Club of Albany, 24–6. On July 3 the Victory Club of Troy fell to the Excelsiors 13–7. They enjoyed a 50–19 victory against the Buffalo Niagaras on July 5. Wins in Rochester, NY and Newburgh, NY followed and the Excelsiors returned to Brooklyn on July 12 to prepare for the Atlantic Base Ball Club. On July 19, some 10,000 fans turned out to watch pitching ace Jim Creighton win easily 24–4. Afterwards they turned south in response to many invitations and played the Excelsior Club of Baltimore and won 51–6 on July 22. The trip concluded with games in Philadelphia, Maryland and Delaware, with the Excelsiors winning every game.

At the time Creighton pitched, the ball had to be delivered with a stiff-armed underhand motion. Creighton was said to be one of the first to bend the rule. He inaugurated speed pitching by adding an almost undetectable wrist snap and arm bend to his delivery. From 45 feet away he threw his rising “speedballs” and then threw slow pitches he called “dew drops” to further confuse the batter. During this time the pitcher’s job was to help the batter and not hinder him. Fielding was to decide the game and some detested his aggressive approach. On November 8, 1860, Creighton would record baseball’s first shutout. He was also an excellent hitter, scoring 47 runs in 20 games that same year. During the 1862 season, he was reportedly retired only four times.

On October 18, 1862, playing against the Union Club of Morrisania, NY, Creighton hit a home run. John Chapman, who was on-deck, heard something snap during Creighton’s swing. After Jim crossed home plate he assured Chapman that his belt had broken. Four days later the Excelsior star was dead having ruptured his spleen or bladder in the process. He had bled to death of internal injuries. Jim Creighton was 21.

Here is an article with a reprinted letter from a fan in attendance (at his last game) from the St. Louis Republican in 1887:

 “Creighton’s death occurred from the rupture of his bladder, which occurred while he was pitching for the Excelsiors against the Unions of Morrisania. I was a kid at the time, and was a spectator of the match. Creighton played out the game, although I think he changed positions and went out into the field to play during the last two or three innings. Some of my companions averred that they heard his bladder burst, but if they did they did not say anything about it at the time, and it was not generally known until the next day that the celebrated pitcher was injured.”

 

He has not been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

 

 

 

Creighton’s monument

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