Friday, October 19, 2007

For The Benefit Of Mr. Sullivan

Al Spink, in The National Game, tells a sad tale about Tom Sullivan, a catcher for the Reds in the late 1870's and early 1880's. Sullivan was a "genial, kindly lad without an enemy in the world" and, according to Spink, one of the best catchers St. Louis ever produced.

One cold winter night after his playing days were over, Sullivan was walking from the Kerry Patch neighborhood to the St. Louis Poor House to visit a friend. During the course of the journey, Sullivan's hands were frostbitten and, a few days later, doctors were forced to amputate them. "Thus," wrote Spink, "the lad who was one of the first to catch the speediest delivery close to the bat and who was rated for his skill as a receiver, thrower, and batsman was left a hopeless cripple and his scores of friends in the 'Patch' always referred to him as 'Poor Tom.'"

While Spink doesn't give a date for Sullivan's accident, it's likely that it happened sometime in the winter of 1885/6. This assumption is based on the fact that on May 8, 1886, a benefit game was held for Sullivan. The game, which according to the Sporting News was played before an "immense crowd", was a contest between the Peach Pies and a team of St. Louis baseball veterans. Playing for the vets were some of Sullivan's old teammates on the Reds, including John Magner, Pidge Morgan, and Packy Dillon. The benefit raised over $900 for Sullivan, including $560 in gate receipts, $89 sent by other teams, and $20 sent by Harry Wright.

Tom Sullivan passed away in 1909.

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