Friday, February 27, 2009

He Will Be Remembered As Long As The National Game Has An Existence

Philadelphia, May 29.-Mr. Thomas Miller, change catcher of the St. Louis Base Ball Club, died at the residence of his parents, in this city, this afternoon. His associates grieve deeply at his loss, and the engagements of the club have been canceled until after his interment. The game with the Athletics to-morrow is therefore off...

Philadelphia, May 29.-Headquarters St. Louis B.B.C.-Tom Miller died this afternoon at 5 o'clock. S.M. Graffen, Manager

The above telegram will be read with profound regret by every lover of base ball in the country. Miller, by his unobtrusive and gentlemanly demeanor in private, and his skill on the ball field, had endeared himself to all, and the announcement of his death is all the more painful from its suddenness. Tommy was a natural ball player. As a catcher he had no superior in the profession, and his throwing to bases was superb. Were it not for his weakness at the bat, Clapp would never have superseded him. He was an especial favorite with the Directors of the St. Louis club, who admired him for his honesty, and the faithful way in which all his duties were performed. The brilliant manner in which the plucky little fellow supported Bradley last season is a matter of record. The success of the Browns last year was due in a great measure to Miller's catching. He will be remembered as long as the National game has an existence for his skill and will never be forgotten by the thousands who were honored by his friendship.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 30, 1876


Richard Hershberger said...

As it happens, Tommy Miller is a particular interest of mine. Some day I really have to finish the Bio Project piece on him. Prior to playing for St. Louis he was with the Eastons in 1873 and 1874, the Olympics of Philadelphia in 1872, and the Marions and the Experts of Philadelphia in 1871. He was signed as a utility infielder for St. Louis for 1876 but didn't play in a championship game that season.

He by all accounts was an excellent fielder, but he couldn't hit major league pitching. Even in those days a batting average below the Mendoza line was unacceptable for a starter.

He timed his death well. He fell ill while the St. Louis team was in Brooklyn, so they put him on a train to Philadelphia, where his brother lived. He lingered a few days, and by the time he died the Browns were in Philly to play the Athletics. This gave everyone the opportunity for a big baseball funeral: the first really good one since Creighton's death. So a good time was had by all.

Of course he is virtually forgotten today, even while the national game has an existence. He is mainly remembered for being at the center of one of those signing controversies endemic to the NA. He signed with St. Louis, but the contract was technically flawed. Bob Ferguson came to recruit him for Hartford, spotted the error in the contract, and more or less bullied Miller into signing with him. The St. Louis agent then got to him, and he signed again with the Browns. Whackiness all around. It went to the judiciary committee at the NA convention in Philadelphia, but then Hartford signed a local amateur and the point was moot. Hartford had only wanted him as a change catcher all along.

So this should be enough to keep Miller in the history books, except that the Davy Force case happened at the same time, and gets all the attention. Some guys just can't catch a break.

My ongoing mystery with Miller is the origin of his nickname "Reddy".

Jeffrey Kittel said...

Thanks for the information, Richard. I have this vague sense that you and I have talked about Miller before. Something about the Eastons and his signing with the Brown Stockings rings familiar.

I'd like to say that I picked the post headline because of my highly developed sense of irony but it's not true. The irony of the headline completely went over my head. I just picked it because I'm the worst headline writer of all time. Hunter Thompson one time said that he had an innate skill for writing headlines (and leads) but, sadly, it's not a skill that I have.