The Making of a Monarch: Dobie Moore, Casey Stengel, and the Lost Box Scores of 1919

In the 1982 edition of the Baseball Research Journal published by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), historian John Holway detailed Casey Stengel’s praise of legendary Negro Leagues shortstop Walter “Dobie” Moore:

“… Moore was one of the best shortstops that will ever live! That fella could stand up to the plate and hit right-handed, he could hit line drives out there just as far as you want to see.” – Casey Stengel

Holway also described how Stengel’s encounter with Moore and his 25th Infantry teammates in Arizona in 1919 led to the recruitment of five Negro League stars who formed the nucleus of the 1920 Kansas City Monarchs. He wrote:

He (Stengel) discovered Dobie Moore, along with Bullet Joe Rogan, Oscar "Heavy" Johnson, and several other black stars playing with the 25th Infantry team in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, in 1919 … "I first saw Moore down below Albuquerque," Casey recalled more than half a century later. "We were down near the Mexican border, and the army brought these buglers and made all the soldiers line up and march across the ball field and pick up pebbles and rocks so we could play.

"We had a big guy who pitched for St. Paul in the American Association who cheated. So before the game I went out behind home plate and I announced:… ladies and gentlemen, we're now going to have a young man that pitches this game today that throws that new, mysterious ball known as the Tequila Pitch! It's taken from the tequila plant.' And he was spitting all over the ball and everything else, you know, and cheating. So we won the game."

No box score has ever been preserved of that historic encounter. But Casey was mightily impressed with the "Black Buffaloes," as the Indians called the dark-skinned soldiers. When he got home to Kansas City he looked up J. L. Wilkinson, a white man who was forming a new club in the new Negro National league, and told him where he could find practically a whole ball team. Wilkinson promptly signed five of them – Moore, Rogan, Johnson, Lemuel Hawkins, and Bob Fagin. The famous Kansas City Monarchs were born."

In 2007, historians Gary Ashwill and David Skinner debated the veracity of Holway’s claims in the blog post: Did Casey Stengel Discover Bullet Rogan?

Skinner told Ashwill, “I respectfully disagree that there is ANY evidence that Casey scouted Rogan for Wilkinson.” Skinner added, “The Wreckers were bragged by the (Nogales) Daily Herald as the best team in the Army, but their games were little reported, maybe a mention of winning a home game vs.  a local team from Arizona or Sonora, but no game stories.”

Well, I am pleased to report that 100 years after the “historic encounter” between Stengel’s All-Stars and the 25th Infantry, those long-lost game-related articles that eluded baseball researchers for decades have surfaced. 

Thanks to GenealogyBank.com and the digitization of a now defunct newspaper in Nogales, Arizona called the Daily Morning Oasis, these newly discovered articles address many unanswered questions.

They corroborate some facts shared by Stengel, confirm some of Skinner’s contrary positions to Holway’s claims, and above all, provide further evidence to the greatness of Walter “Dobie” Moore.

FAN SUMMARY
No time to read the full-article below and just want the highlights? Here are 13 key takeaways from the newly discovered box scores and supplemental research:

1. Casey Stengel’s Kansas City All-Stars played five games against the 25th Infantry Wreckers in early November 1919. Initially, a best-of-three-games series was scheduled for November 3rd, 4th, and 5th. After the three-game series ended, two additional games were played on November 6th and 7th.

2. The Wreckers won the series, three of five games. The scores were:
  • Monday, Nov. 3, 1919 - Game 1: Wreckers 5, All-Stars 4
  • Tuesday, Nov. 4, 1919 - Game 2: All-Stars 14, Wreckers 11
  • Wednesday, Nov. 5, 1919 - Game 3: Wreckers 8, All-Stars 6
  • Thursday, Nov. 6, 1919 - Game 4: Wreckers 8, All-Stars 6
    Note: The reported outcomes of Game 3 and 4 are the same. While it's possible the scores were the same, there is also the possibility that final score of Game 4 is incorrect.
  • Friday, Nov. 7, 1919 - Game 5: All-Stars 19, Wreckers 3
3. All games were played at Fort Stephen D. Little in Nogales, AZ, and not at Fort Huachuca (in Sierra Vista, AZ) as reported by Holway. Nogales is located on the U.S.-Mexico border, 66 miles south of Tucson, and 63 miles southwest of Fort Huachuca.

4. The Kansas City All-Stars were undefeated prior to playing the Wreckers (which included two victories, 4-1 and 8-3, over Rube Foster’s Chicago Giants in mid-October).

5. Dan Griner, the pitcher who defeated the Wreckers in game 2, was not an original member of Stengel’s All-Stars. Griner was a spitball pitcher from St. Paul who was visiting relatives in Tucson for the winter. When he heard about Stengel’s impending visit, he offered his services to the Tucson nine. The locals lost, but Stengel was impressed with Griner’s skills (both in hitting and pitching) and invited him to join the All-Stars for their series in Nogales.

6. Wilbur “Bullet Joe” Rogan did not participate in the three-game series. He was discharged from the military in July 1919 and was living in Kansas City at the time Stengel was barnstorming through Arizona.

7. The 1919 articles reveal that Lemuel “Lem” Hawkins was also not available to play in the series. The reason for his absence was not reported, however according to the U.S. Census completed in January 1920, he appears to have been on leave back home to Macon, GA. According to his military service records, he received an honorable discharge in June 1920.

8. Oscar “Heavy” Johnson did compete in this five-game series. He is listed as a catcher and pitcher in the post-game reports. He is also listed as living in Nogales, AZ, in January 1920 for the US Census. This is important to note because there is often confusion among historians about which “Johnson” appears in which games for the 25th Infantry. Both Oscar and William H. “Bill” Johnson platooned between catcher and the outfield. However, unlike Oscar, William Johnson is not listed as a resident of Nogales, AZ, in January 1920, suggesting that he was discharged before the historic series.

9. There is no mention of Robert Fagen in the newly discovered game recap articles, however David Skinner previously identified Fagen in a 1919 article from the Nogales Daily Herald. Also, according to the U.S. Census, Fagen was living in Nogales, AZ, in January 1920. Despite the evidence that Fagen competed against Stengel, it is worth noting that other newspaper reports from early 1920 indicated that Fagen was invited to try out with Rube Foster’s Chicago Giants, and most likely did not make the cut. All of this suggests that the Kansas City Monarchs were not Fagen’s first choice.

10. Dobie Moore is well documented as playing in the series. He performed at an MVP level, hitting 2 home runs — an inside the park home run in game 1 (the difference maker in a game decided by one run), and a grand slam in the game 2 loss.

11. To recap, Stengel is credited with scouting all five 25th Infantry Wreckers players who later joined the Monarchs, but only three (Dobie Moore,  Oscar Johnson, and Robert Fagen) are documented as participants in the five-game series of Nov. 1919.

Beyond the series:

12. During the summer of 1919, 25th Infantry players Moore, Rogan, Johnson and George Jasper joined a local, integrated border team called the Nogales Nationals that competed in Arizona and parts of Northern Mexico.

13. Supplemental research into the 25th Infantry backgrounds of Walter “Dobie” Moore and Wilbur “Bullet Joe” Rogan suggest that their baseball nicknames might be inspired by their past military roles.

***

STENGEL’S ALL-STARS VISIT ARIZONA
On October 29, 1919, the Daily Morning Oasis reported that Casey Stengel (age 29) and his Kansas City All-Stars were scheduled to visit Nogales, AZ, to play the 25th Infantry ball club. Stengel sent a telegram to John D. Easton (age 42, Caucasian), athletic director of the camp, to arrange the series. Assistant athletic director, Sergeant John G. Howard (age 37, Black), handled the pre-game arrangements.


Source: Daily Morning Oasis, Oct 29, 1919, pg. 7.

The following day the Daily Morning Oasis reported that several stars of the 25th Infantry Wreckers would not be available to play, including: Wilbur “Bullet Joe” Rogan (age 29), Allie Crafton (age 28), Fred Goliah (age 31), Charles Smith (age 29), and Lemuel Hawkins (age 24).


Source: Daily Morning Oasis, Oct 30, 1919, pg. 2

Advertisement: Stengel All-Stars vs. the 25th Infantry Wreckers 
Below is a advertisement for the initial three-game series. It’s worth noting that adjusted for inflation, a 50-cent ticket in 1919 is equal to roughly $7.00 to $8.00 in 2019. And with a start time of 2 p.m., the teams had roughly 3 hours and 35 minutes to complete the games before sunset.  


Source: Daily Morning Oasis, Nov. 01, 1919, pg. 7.

Given that no other newspapers in the area provided extensive coverage of the 25th Infantry games, it’s worth learning more about the staff of the Daily Morning Oasis. The paper was owned and operated by the Bird family (Caucasian): reporter and son Allen T. Bird, Jr. (age 27); editor and father, Allen T. Bird, Sr. (age 69), and president and mother/wife, Calla Bird (age 54). 

Photos: Allen T. Bird, Jr. and Allen T. Bird, Sr.

According to the Arizona Memory Project, the Oasis launched on May 11, 1893, in Arizola, AZ, and moved to Nogales in late 1894. “Like many early papers, partisanship had its effect on the Oasis, which originally began as a Republican newspaper, but would later change to a Democratic one around 1914.” In the Oasis, Allen T. Bird, Sr. advocated for women’s suffrage for Arizona, while Calla served on a committee for women’s votes. “On October 9, 1920, the Oasis was sold to a larger association, which ceased its publication.” 

Below the masthead of the Daily Morning Oasis, the Bird’s displayed the political quote: “Equal Rights for All, Special Privileges for None.” These words illustrate “an underlying American principal held by Jeffersonian as well as Jacksonian Democrats, the idea that the government is meant to protect the common man as an equal to the elite. It is not meant to treat a privileged elite class with “special privilege.” There should be no special interests for businesses and the elite, but rather equality of all sexes, classes, races, creeds, etc.” 


Field Location -- 25th Infantry Athletic Field, Camp Stephen D. Little
Camp Little was a “military camp established in Nogales, Arizona, in November 1910 … the post was renamed on December 14, 1915, for Private Little who was killed in action during the border troubles which climaxed with the taking of Nogales, Sonora, by rebel forces of Pancho Villa on November 26, 1915. After reaching a peak strength of 12,000 in 1916, forces were gradually reduced after World War I to less than 1,000 men. The post was abandoned May 5, 1933." Source: Camp Stephen D. Little, The Historical Marker Database. 


Camp Little, 1914.


Camp Little circa 1923


 Map of Nogales, Rand McNally & Co., 1924. 

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GAME 1 – Monday, Nov. 3, 1919
Score: Wreckers 5 - All-Stars 4

Recap:

TWENTY FIFTH INFANTRY WRECKERS WON FIRST
"The sensation of the afternoon's playing was a home run by Moore of the Wreckers. With the willow the batter landed on the flying sphere just right, and it just kept climbing into the air until when it began to come down it was away over in the vicinity of Yaqui village, and before it had been recovered Moore, had made the circle of the bases, coming safe to home plate."

"One of the main features of the game was the music played by the 25th infantry band and the buglers, which seemed to give the Wreckers fresh courage and the All Stars the blues." 

Score by innings:

All Stars
Hits .......... v  0  1  0  0  1  0  0  0
Runs .......... 4  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0

25th Infantry Wreckers
Hits .......... 1  1  1  2  3  0  0  0  0
Runs .......... 0  0  0  0  2  2  0  1  0

 
Source: Daily Morning Oasis, Nov 04, 1919, pgs. 1 and 6.

Game 1 -- Players mentioned:

25th Infantry Wreckers

Kansas City All Stars
___

GAME 2 – Tuesday, Nov. 4, 1919
Score: All-Stars 14 - Wreckers 11

Recap:

"In the beginning the Wreckers made good. Swinton, first up to bat, knocked a home run and Johnson went home on Moore's ball. But after the fourth inning the fates seemed against the 25th; the game was the All Stars until the end, Griner doing some clever pitching for the All Stars. 

"... In the eighth inning the All Stars made six runs and the Wreckers scored the same, both teams doing fast work. Moore of the 25th, knocked a home run with three men on bases."

Score by innings:

All Stars
Hits ..........1  1  0  0  3  1  2  2  0
Runs .........0  1  0  0  3  1  3  6  0

25th Infantry Wreckers
Hits ..........2  0  0  4  0  1  1  2  0
Runs .........2  0  0  3  0  0  0  6  0


Source: Daily Morning Oasis, Nov 05, 1919, pg. 2.

Game 2 -- Players mentioned:

25th Infantry Wreckers
Kansas City All Stars
___

GAME 3 – Wednesday, Nov. 5, 1919
Score: Wreckers 8 - All-Stars 6

Recap:

25th Infantry Wreckers Take Third Game of the Series
"...The fans had given up victory to the All Stars until the fifth inning when the Wreckers woke up and played real ball.

The Wreckers lineup was changed in the second inning, when the pitcher, Johnson, was relieved by Veteran Jasper. Johnson caught for the remainder of the game, Swinton going to right field. 

Falsken pitched and Hargrove did the catching for the visiting team ... Allston and Ward made home runs in the sixth inning. Russell and Aulston made the sensational catches of the day."

Score by innings:

All Stars
Hits ..........2  5  1  1  0  0  1  0  0
Runs ........1  5  0  0  0  0  0  0  0

25th Infantry Wreckers
Hits ..........0  1  1  3  2  4  0  1  x
Runs .........0  0  0  2  2  4  0  0  x


Source: Daily Morning Oasis, Nov 06, 1919, pg. 6.

Game 3 -- Players mentioned:

25th Infantry Wreckers
Kansas City All Stars
__

GAMES 4 and 5
On November 6, 1919, an advertisement appeared in the Oasis announcing two additional games in the series. 


The details of the final two games between the Wreckers and the Kansas City All-Stars were not reported. Only the scores and vague highlights were reported on Sunday, November 9, 1919. Most likely the reference to “Grimes” in the article below is Dan Griner, the pick-up player who joined the All-Stars after a contest in Tucson. 

GAME 4 – Thursday, Nov. 6, 1919
Score: Wreckers 8 - All-Stars 6

GAME 5 – Friday, Nov. 7, 1919
Score: All-Stars 19 - Wreckers 3


 Source: Daily Morning Oasis, Nov 09, 1919, pg. 7.

_____

BACKSTORIES

ALL STARS UNDEFEATED 
The Kansas City All-Stars were undefeated prior to playing the Wreckers, which included two victories, 4-1 and 8-3, over Rube Foster’s Chicago Giants in mid-October. 


Source: The Tucson Citizen, Saturday, November 1, 1919, pg. 11.


PITCHER GRINER
Dan Griner, the pitcher who defeated the Wreckers in game 2, was not an original member of Stengel’s All-Stars. Griner was a spitball pitcher from St. Paul who was visiting relatives in Tucson for the winter. When he heard about Stengel’s impending visit, he offered his services to the local nine. Tucson lost, but Stengel was impressed with Griner’s skills (both hitting and pitching) and invited him to join the All-Stars in Nogales.

Source: Arizona Daily Star, November 2, 1919, pg. 7.

Source: Arizona Daily Star, 04 Nov 1919, pg. 8.

INTERNATIONAL BASEBALL TEAM – NOGALES
During the summer of 1919, 25th Infantry players Moore, Rogan, Johnson and Jasper all joined a local, integrated border team called the Nogales Nationals that competed in Arizona and parts of Northern Mexico.


Source: Daily Morning Oasis, Saturday, Jun 21, 1919, pg. 2.

WILKINSON & ROGAN, ALL-NATIONS 1917
According to baseball historian Phil Dixon, Rogan had already played for J.L. Wilkinson's All-Nations in April of 1917. Wilkinson already knew about Rogan. It’s in his book, “The Kansas City Monarchs, 1920-1938, Featuring Wilber "Bullet" Rogan, The Greatest Ballplayer in Cooperstown (Mariah Press, 2002). Dixon adds, "Oscar Johnson was from Atchison, Kansas and I'm sure he was no mystery to the Monarchs' owner either."

ROGAN PLAYING IN KANSAS CITY
Here's further evidence that Wilbur “Bullet Joe” Rogan did not participate in the three-game series. He was discharged from the military in July 1919 and was living in Kansas City at the time Stengel was barnstorming through Arizona.

Source: The Morning Chronicle, Manhattan, Kansas, 11 Oct 1919, pg. 4.

ROGAN DISCHARGED BEFORE STENGEL SERIES

 
Source: Honolulu Star-Bulletin, October 22, 1919, pg. 12

ROGAN SICK, IN MILITARY HOSPITAL DURING SERIES
Source: Daily Morning Oasis, Dec 07, 1919, pg. 3.

_____

RECAP OF 25TH INFANTRY PLAYERS IN 1919 SERIES

Players Living in Nogales, AZ, in January 1920 
  • Clyde Aulston
  • Robert Fagen
  • Moses Herring
  • George Jasper
  • Oscar Johnson
  • Walter Moore
  • David Philips
  • Branch Lee Russell
  • Norman Swinton
  • Thomas Ward
  • Walter C. White
Players NOT Living in Nogales, AZ, in January 1920 
  • Fred Goliah
  • Lemuel Hawkins
  • William H. Johnson (GA)
  • Wilbur Rogan
Source: 1920 U.S. Census

_____

ROGAN RETURNS TO AZ IN APRIL 1920?


Source: Daily Morning Oasis, April 23, 1920, pg. 4.

1920 25TH INFANTRY DEFEATS UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA, 15-5
Source: University of Arizona yearbook, 1920.

_____

MILITARY INSPIRATIONS FOR NICKNAMES?

Possible origin of “Dobie”
Walter Moore was a member of the 25th Infantry division. According to Army Reserve Magazine, “Doughboy” is a derivative of “Dobie”, which means "infantryman." The 1993 article states: From "Adobe" (mud), then "Dobie"--the idea being infantrymen are the soldiers who have to march in the mud; hence the expressions used in the 1860's and early 1870's in referring to infantrymen as "Dobie crushers," Dobie makers," and "Mud crushers." 

Source: At Ease - Doughboy, Army Reserve Magazine, Fall 1993, Vol. 39, pg. 24.


Possible origin of “Bullet Joe”
Wilbur Rogan and the rest of the 25th infantry were reassigned from Honolulu, Hawaii to Nogales, Arizona in March 1917. According to records in the U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, Rogan’s military unit was: “Pvt 1cl, MG Co, 25th Inf”. Per the United States Army Training Manual (1925 edition), “MG” is an abbreviation for “Machine gun”. Thus, Wilbur was a Private, First Class, in the Machine Gun Company. He shot bullets. 


Source: Photographic postcard of Charles Wilbur Rogan with his unit in the Philippines (Oct 1913), Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.


Bob "Bulls-eye" Fagen?
There are no reports of Robert Fagen ever being called "Bulls-eye," but had his reputation as sharpshooter reached the ball field, the nickname would have been well deserved. 

Source: Daily Morning Oasis, May 16, 1919, pg. 5.


FAGEN & AUSLTON TRYOUT WITH RUBE FOSTER'S AMERICAN GIANTS
Contrary to reports that Robert Fagen joined the Kansas City Monarchs immediately after leaving the 25th Infantry in Arizona, the Chicago Defender reported in March 1920 that he and Aulston participated in Rube Foster's American Giants tryout in Chicago. 

Source: Chicago Defender, Mar 20, 1920, p.9, col.5 



Above Images: Custom baseball cards, 25th Infantry Wreckers vs. Stengel's All-Stars "Conlon Collection Tribute" of Dobie Moore, Robert Fagen, Bullet Rogan, and Casey Stengel. 25th Infantry photos courtesy of the Fort Huachuca Museum.


Photo: 25th Infantry Wreckers Display at the Fort Huachuca Museum, Fort Huachuca, Arizona, Spring Break 2013.
_____

The 1919 series between the 25th Infantry Wreckers and Stengel's All-Stars is just one of several stories to be shared at the Arizona's Negro Leagues Baseball Centennial Celebration on February 29, 2020. See below for early event details (time subject to change).



Nikkei Baseball and Support for the JACL Apology to the Tule Lake Resisters

I recently attended the 50th national convention of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) in Salt Lake City, Utah, and served as a voting delegate representing the JACL Arizona chapter. I voted for Resolution #3, the formal apology from the JACL for the Tule Lake resisters. Here is a link to the historic resolution #3 that passed during the convention:


And below is the baseball-related statement I prepared to share during the debate. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to share it. Instead, I felt a greater sense of urgency to use my time at the microphone to counter the argument delivered by Secretary Norman Mineta, who encouraged to delegation to vote against the resolution. He was against the formal apology because he felt it dishonored those Japanese Americans who served in the armed forces during WWII. While I respect Mineta, I disagreed with his position (I would later learn that so did the majority of voting delegates in the room.)

Photo: Norman Mineta at the Japanese American National Museum. Mineta is the former U.S. transportation secretary who played a key leadership role for the Bush Administration on 9/11/2001. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

**

In addition to my role with the JACL, I also serve on the board of directors for the Nisei Baseball Research Project, a non-profit organization founded to preserve the history of Japanese American baseball. We teach the lessons of war-time incarceration through the prism of our national pastime.

In that spirit, I want to share a few words that shine a different light on those incarcerated at Tule Lake. I think it is important to share for the official convention record, and for the youth members here today, who may not know these stories.

Kenichi Zenimura, the man now recognized as "The Father of Japanese American Baseball," built a beautiful ball field at Gila River, AZ, and he formed leagues that gave everyone behind barbed wire a sense of hope and normalcy.

Unfortunately, their lives and leagues were disrupted when the loyalty questionnaire was issued in late 1943.

Among the players was Guadalupe YMBA first baseman James Tomooka, who answered no on the questionnaire so that he could stay with his aging and ill Issei parents, who were denied the right to become U.S. citizens.

Photo: 1943 Guadalupe YMBA team photo (signed by James "Step" Tomooka).

And Guadalupe YMBA shortstop Masao Iriyama, answered no on the questionnaire because his brother was still living in Japan, and the last thing his mother wanted was for her two boys to meet up on the field of battle.

Before the No-No players were sent to Tule Lake in September 1943, coach Zenimura organized a best-of-three games series between the Yes-Yes and the No-No ballplayers. The Yes-Yes's won the first game 5-4; the No-No's won the second game 7-5. The Gila News Courier reported that Zenimura canceled the third game, saying: “All in all, the novel classic ended seemingly just right – being called with one win apiece.”

Image: Line scores of the Yes-Yes vs. No-No series, Gila River, September 1943.

There were no hard feelings between these two groups. They were friends who knew that they were put in an unfortunate situation, and that each family had to do what was best for them at the time.

At Tule Lake, these young ball players would cross-paths with others who would have future major league connections, like the father of sansei Don Wakamatsu, the first Asian-American manager in MLB history; and the great-grandparents of gossei Christian Yelich, the MVP outfielder with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Photo: Sansei Don Wakamatsu, Texas Rangers, bench coach

Photo: Nikkei ballplayers Keston Hiura and Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers

And in writing the biography of Zenimura, I interviewed many ball players from Tule Lake. I was especially touched by Mas Iriyama's story, who said, "Sadly, the same day I told my mother that I won the (1944) Tule Lake batting championship, I had to tell her that my brother’s plane was shot down over Tokyo.” When he told the story at age 90, it still brought tears to his eyes.

Photo: Masuo Iriyama, 1944 Tule Lake Batting Champion

So, through my relationships with these ballplayers, I learned that the majority of those at Tule Lake were not "anti-American" or "pro-Japan" ... they were "pro-family" and "pro-love".

And so that is why I am in favor of Resolution 3, and encourage you to support it as well.

In closing, I recall the wisdom of my friend and mentor in the Arizona JACL, the late Mas Inoshita, who "advocated for harmony between all individuals, and firmly believed that bitterness over the past was detrimental to taking steps toward the future."

My hope is that a vote in favor of Resolution 3 will be a positive step toward the future for the entire JACL community.

Thank you,

Bill Staples, Jr.
JACL Arizona, Delegate

**

Kerouac’s Big League Blues

Image: Custom 1939 Play Ball baseball card, Jack Kerouac.

Instructions: 1) Listen to Jack Kerouac read American haikus to sample his voice and Zoot Sim's accompanying jazz riffs; then 2) Read the poem below with those sounds/flavors in your mind. Optional: Enjoy with your favorite beer, wine or spirit. 
__________


Kerouac’s Big League Blues

by Bill Staples, Jr. and John Kenney* 

Lowell high school
spring 1939
on the eve of a new
baseball campaign
coach Walter Foye
frantically searches
for a standout star

There is one potential ace
who ought to stand up
under our predictions
right here
        and now

He’s Jack Kerouac

A splendid sprinting product of Mike Haggerty’s
a husky football product of Tom Keady’s
a right kid
a product of a loving home
     God bless Leo and Gabrielle
fanatically interested
in their baby boy’s athletic career

The kid strikes me
with the same sort of
hope and dreams
the Florida sportswriters
conjured around
Red Sox rookie
Ted Williams
        just weeks ago

He’s Jack Kerouac

He has everything
all the goods
but has yet to be tested
Can he swing the ole hickory
under fire in a ballgame
like he does in practice?

This much is certain
this much we know
he will be out there
trying to give it
     heart, grit, guts, sweat, smarts
but only time will tell
the world the honest truth

I think the kid bids fair to be
a sensation of the season
unless the injury bugaboo
throttles down
his great promise
or some other reason

Lookout!
mark my words
the kid from Lowell
is a ballplayer
who bears watching

He can stand all this ballyhoo
rates as much as any thumper who
ever gave promise
to a hopeful ball club

He has all the stuff
I’m a believer
he has the temperament
and attitude
       of a big leaguer

He’s Jack Kerouac


*Inspired by, and based on, sportswriter John Kenney’s 1939 pre-season review of Kerouac’s potential as a baseball player. Proving once again, that there is no such thing as "a sure thing" in the unpredictable sport of baseball. 
_________

Here is a clip of Kenney's original editorial:


And here's the text for easier reading:

“Lowell high is on the eve of a new baseball campaign … What Lowell high needs, as much as quick seasoning this year, is a standout star—and there is a potential ace that ought to stand up under our predictions right here and now. He’s Jack Kerouac, who is a sprinting product of Mike Haggerty’s, a husky football product of Tom Keady’s and a right kid who is a product of a home that is almost fanatically interested in his athletic career. Kerouac strikes this correspondent with the same sort of hope and dreams the Florida writers conjured around the Red Sox Ted Williams. He has everything, excepting one important factor that has yet to be tested—can he hit under fire as he does against all the pitchers thrown at him in practice?

Kerouac bears watching. He can stand this ballyhoo which he rates as much as a any rookie that ever gave promise to his team. He has the temperament and attitude of a big leaguer, and one other judge whose name must be kept under the blanket because of his connection with the school has gone so far as to say that Kerouac has all the stuff of Lawrence’s remembered Ralph Hewitt. Kerouac will be out there trying to give it; that much is certain. The kid bids fair to be a sensation of the season unless the injury bugaboo throttles down the great promise he is showing.”

Source: The Lookout, by John F. Kenney, The Lowell Sun, April 25, 1939, pg. 11.


Ted Williams, 1939

Image: 1939 Play Ball baseball card, Ted Williams.
Source: Cardboardconnection.com

At the time The Lowell Sun published this reference to Ted Williams (April 25, 1939), the future Hall of Famer had played in only five career major league games. How did he do in those five games?  

G 5, AB 24, H 9, HR 1, BA .375, OBP .375, OPS 1.042


Jack Kerouac, 1939
It goes without saying, Kerouac was no Ted Williams. In fact, there is little evidence to show that he was a star player for the Lowell High School baseball team in 1939. In the box score below from an April 29 game, Jack was not a starter, and came up empty in his one at-bat. On the plus side, he did record a defensive assist in the outfield. 

Source: Lowell 9, Revere 6, Boston Herald, April 30, 1939, pg. 68.

There are just a handful of box scores that feature Jack scattered throughout The Lowell Sun archive, and they add nothing new to the story. Kerouac might have had the speed, a glove and an arm, but he lacked the ability to consistently hit the ball.  

And by the end of the season, when Lowell High in the hunt for the city championship, Kerouac was no longer a member of the team. See 1939 team photo below: 

Source: City Sweep for Lowell Seen, The Lowell Sun, June 3, 1939, pg. 9.

Why was he no longer a member of the team? No reason was ever stated in the press, so we are left to speculate. 

Just weeks before making the cut for the baseball team, Kerouac was celebrated as the top performer for the Lowell High track team (five days before his 17th birthday too, on March 12). 

Source: Kerouac Leading Track Performer, The Lowell Sun,
March 7, 1939, pg. 13.

According to the Lowell Sun, Kerouac was splitting his time between the baseball and track teams in the spring of 1939. On May 17, they reported, "Kerouac and Kulis are currently with the Lowell High baseball squad, but as the Foyemen are not playing Friday afternoon, it is almost a certainty that they will don track dogs that particular afternoon." Kerouac competed in the 100 yard dash, 120 yard high hurdles, the 220 low hurdles, and the three mile relay. 

Source: Haggerty Musters Full Squad for Championship today, The Lowell Sun, May 17, 1939, pg. 13.

In addition to school baseball and track, Kerouac also competed with the St. Louis Cercle club of the Lowell Twilight League. In this news clip, he shows some promise as a ballplayer in the lead-off spot of the lineup. 

Source: All Twi Teams in Action, The Lowell Sun, May 6, 1939, pg. 43.

In late May, Kerouac went out for the American Legion baseball team:

Source: Legion Squad Cut to 34, The Lowell Sun, May 20, 1939, pg. 12.

And it appears that he played the final baseball game of his career on July 25, 1939, as a member of the Dracut Dodgers (suggesting he did not make the final cut for the American Legion team). In a 15-2 loss to Kimballs, Kerouac saw action late in the game, when the coach inserted him in left field, fifth in the lineup. He did not get a hit in his one at-bat.

Source: The Lowell Sun, July 26, pg. 10.

In late August 1939, Kerouac put his baseball playing days behind him and reported to the Horace-Mann prep school in New York City. He later transferred to Columbia University—where he eventually dropped out to find his voice as a writer. 

Source: Jack Kerouac Goes to Horace Mann, The Lowell Sun, August 30, 1939, pg. 29.

As far as I can tell, Kerouac went the entire season without a hit (one could say, 0-for-1939). Whereas, Red Sox Ted Williams finished his rookie season with 185 of them. How did Ted do his rookie year? Here are Ted's impressive stats for his first major league season: 

G 149, AB 565, H 185, HR 31, BA .327, OBP .435, OPS 1.043.


Unlike Kerouac, Ted Williams did not experience the "Big League Blues." He went on to play 19 seasons and earn the unofficial title of "The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived." Ted was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962 (which, by the way, held it's first Induction Ceremony in 1939.)

Kerouac would go on to achieve literary fame as the "Father of the Beat Generation." He authored several American classics, such as: On the Road, The Subterraneans, The Dharma Bums, Big Sur, Desolation Angels, and his book of poetry, Mexico City Blues. Years later, it was revealed that he cut his teeth as a writer—and expanded his imagination—by developing his own fantasy baseball league. So, it appears that his love for baseball continued long after his final at-bat in 1939. 
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The Beats, Dharma Bums, & Baseball
During my freshman year of college (fall 1988) I took a course in American Poetry, and there I was first introduced to Beat writers Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder. Snyder was my introduction to Zen Buddhism. Kerouac was never mentioned in the class, and it would take another three years for me to discover his writings. As an athlete-artist myself, I found his life and work fascinating, inspiring, and highly influential.

That said, I'll wrap up this post with a personal, Kerouac-inspired sports story. In the summer of 1998, I organized, managed and played with a softball team in the City of Tempe recreation league called "The Dharma Bums." The team name was inspired by my favorite Kerouac book (published in 1958).

Little did I know at that time (I do now that I've seen his stats), but apparently our play on the field was also an homage to Kerouac's ability as a ball player. We showed a lot of promise, we had a lot of fun, but we weren't very good. We finished our season with a perfect record: 0 wins and 16 losses. Kerouac once said, "Accept loss forever." I guess the 1998 Dharma Bums would have made him proud.

Below is the only documentation I have of the 1998 Dharma Bums' existence. I am posting it here for posterity.  



And for those of you who are familiar with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), yes, the League Supervisor back in 1998, Rodney Johnson, is the same person who founded the SABR Arizona Flame Delhi Chapter—now known as the AZ-Hemond-Delhi Chapter. Small world, indeed.

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Image: Kerouac holding the above track article from the 1939 Lowell Sun, 1962.
Source: Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation, and America,
by Dennis McNally.


Image: Autograph of Jack Kerouac, outfielder,
1939 Lowell High School varsity baseball team.