Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Oliver Wendell Tebeau

Patsy Tebeau, described by Al Spink as "the champion first baseman," was a St. Louis native who played in the National League from 1887 to 1900 for Chicago, Cleveland, and St. Louis.

In The National Game, Spink wrote the following:

Tebeau learned to play ball in North St. Louis.

There was a large family of Tebeau's and they all loved the game, loved it so well that two of the boys, Oliver and George became famous in its annals.

They learned to play on the prairie near the old Water Tower on Grand Avenue.

"Pat" Tebeau, the name Oliver was best known by, and his brother George, were the star players of the Peach Pie team of North St. Louis and later were the brightest on the Shamrock nine, which held forth in the same neighborhood.

Pat's first professional work was with the St. Joe team of the Western League in the early eighties and then he came into the limelight as the captain, manager and first baseman of the Cleveland League team.

It was Tom Loftus, then manager of the Clevelands, that saw in "Pat" Tebeau the sort of spirit needed to make a good commander, and when Loftus gave up the reins he put them in the hands of "Pat." That they were well handled goes without saying.

Tebeau was not only a fine first baseman, but a hitter of the first flight.

Tim Hurst, who was an umpire in the League in the 1890's and managed the Browns in 1898, told the following story about Tebeau:

I have been asked to tell of the hardest decision that I ever made...The most important, I think, occurred several years ago during a game between Cleveland and Baltimore at Cleveland.

It was the ninth inning, and the score was tied. Childs was on second base for Cleveland, with but one out, and Pat Tebeau was at the bat. Hoffer was pitching for Baltimore and Robinson was catching. Hoffer was using a dinky outcurve that broke some distance from the plate and Tebeau was having great trouble in meeting squarely. On several occasions he walked out of the box to hit the ball and I had repeatedly warned him about it.

Finally when Childs reached second, Tebeau saw an outcurve coming and ran ten feet out of the box to hit it. He met the ball squarely before it "broke" and drove it to the center-field fence for two bases. Childs easily scored, making the game 3 to 2 in favor of Cleveland. The crowd was whooping and yelling over the victory.

Robinson ran up to me and called my attention to the fact that Tebeau had run out of the batter's box. I knew he was right, and during the tumult I called Tebeau out and sent Childs back to second. The crowd was absolutely stunned.

Tebeau came running in from second with tears in his eyes. "You didn't call me out for that?" inquired Patsy.

"Sure, I did. You know that you stepped out of the box, and you are only getting what is coming to you."

"Well, I might have stepped out a few feet," he wailed. "But you ought not to give a decision like that in the presence of this home crowd."

That tied up the game and it went along until the twelfth inning, when Baltimore won. You can imagine that I was a very popular guy in Cleveland that night.

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