Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cortes Maxwell

Corty Maxwell, who was born on November 17, 1851 in Alexandria, Missouri, is best remembered for having umpired three NA games in 1875. Maxwell was an amateur baseball player in St. Louis, where he grew up, and at Yale, where he graduated in 1877. The picture above is of the 1874 Yale baseball club and Maxwell is in the back row, second from the right. Maxwell had a long and prominent career as a newspaperman, most notably in Keokuk, Iowa. He died on December 19, 1925 and is buried in Keokuk.

That brief outline of his life really doesn't do justice to Cortes Maxwell. He was obviously an outstanding athlete, playing baseball with the Nationals in St. Louis and at Yale while also running track and field. Maxwell was prominent enough in the St. Louis baseball community to be chosen to umpire games for the Brown Stockings, although, according to press reports, he wasn't particularly good at it. He had a law degree from Yale but spent his life in the newspaper business, publishing newspapers in Warsaw, Illinois, and in Keokuk.

The things that interest me the most about Maxwell are the small details of his life. He was described as a "society beau" and you could follow the courting of his future wife and the arrangements for their wedding in the papers. In 1899, he introduced William Jennings Bryan at a political rally. I love stuff like that. While he may not have been the most important figure in baseball history, there's enough details about his life to create a three-dimensional portrait of the man.

Two notes: I want to thank Steve Smith for bringing Maxwell to my attention and I need to note that the above photo comes from the Yale University Manuscript and Archives Digital Image Database.

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