Tom Loftus was a prominent 19th century baseball man who was involved in the game for more than 25 years. A player, captain, manager, and team president, Loftus was described by Al Spink as a person who "did much to bring the game into its proper sphere" and as "one of the great builder's up of the national game".
Loftus was born in St. Louis in 1856 and first gained notice on the baseball field while playing for the 1875 St. Louis Reds. In 1876, Loftus was regarded as the best player on the Red Stockings.
Living a rather nomadic baseball life, Loftus played with a Memphis team in 1877, captained Peoria in 1878, and joined the Dubuque nine in 1879. Loftus would call Dubuque home for the rest of his life, even as his baseball career took him from city to city.
The 1879 Dubuque Rabbits were an outstanding baseball team. The nine consisted of Loftus, Charlie Comiskey, Old Hoss Radbourne, the Gleason brothers, Tom Sullivan, Billy Taylor, William Lapham, and Larry Reis. Loftus played second base as the team won the championship of the Northwest League and a victory over Cap Anson's Chicago White Stockings.
In 1882, Ted Sullivan, who had put the Dubuque team together, went to St. Louis to manage the St. Louis Browns and brought the core of his Dubuque team with him. Loftus, Comiskey, and the Gleasons all joined Sullivan on the Browns. Coming down with a serious illness, Loftus played in only six games for the Browns in 1882 and 1883.
In 1884, Loftus's health had recovered enough for him to sign with Milwaukee in the Union Association as both player and manager. However the illness had taken its toll and Loftus only played the early part of the season before retiring as player and devoting his full time to managing.
Over the next seventeen years, Loftus would manage numerous teams. In 1885, he returned to St. Louis to skipper the Whites. From 1887 to 1889, Loftus managed in Cleveland. He then managed two seasons in Cincinnati from 1890 through 1891. In 1894, Loftus was managing the Columbus Western League team and remained there until 1900 when he took the manager's job with the Chicago Orphans of the NL. In 1901, Loftus took his last baseball job, managing the Washington Senators. Staying in Washington for two seasons, Loftus also served as team president.
Retiring from the game in 1902, Loftus returned home to Dubuque to devote himself full time to his business interests, specifically the ownership and management of a hotel. He received numerous offers to return to the game but preferred to remain in Dubuque.
While no longer active in the game, Loftus was still a respected figure in baseball circles. Al Spink wrote that "(while) he was not active in the game from 1902, he was one of the counsellors of both big leagues and was regarded as one of the substantial men in baseball. His advice was sought and heeded..." Ted Sullivan would write that Loftus was twenty years ahead of his time when he was playing and remained so throughout his baseball career. Henry Chadwick regarded Loftus as one of the greatest baseball men who ever lived.
Loftus, who according to Al Spink was"one of the best fellows ever prominently identified with the game," died at his home in Dubuque on April 16, 1910.