I get the best emails. I'm always finding stuff in my inbox from folks who read the blog or have stumbled across it while doing a bit of research and they ask great questions. These emails are often rather challenging and it takes some time and effort to answer the questions that people bring to me. But I love a good challenge.
Week before last, I got an email from Paul Winter, who runs a nice website about St. Louis baseball. One of the questions that he asked regarded the identity of the man pictured in the Old Judge card at the top of this post. I made an educated guess, based on a reference that I had regarding the St. Louis Whites, that this was Pete Sommers. I figured that he was one of the guys that Von der Ahe signed in the 1887/1888 offseason when he was collecting talent in order to replace the players from the Browns that he had just sold and also stock his new Western Association club. But this was just a guess and I had to do a little research to run the thing down. However, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and again, and it looks like I guessed correctly.
According to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Pete Sommers signed with the Browns in early December 1887. "The first [player signed by the Browns] is Peter Sommers, a South Paw twirler. He pitched for Savanah the first part of last season, and finished the year at Columbus, O. He is not overstrong, but is considered a first-class man for one game a week."
The next mention of Sommers I have comes from the May 5, 1888 edition of The Sporting News. "St. Louis takes second place but it is not likely she will stay there long as she has such pitchers as Staley, Somers, Nyce, Sproat and Devlin." This reference shows that Sommers had not made the Browns and was, as of early May, a member of the St. Louis Whites. It also shows, to a certain extent, the relationship between the Browns and the Whites.
Sommers stay in St. Louis, however, did not last long. According to the May 14, 1888 edition of The Daily Picayune, "Peter Sommers is at large again, and it wouldn't be a bad idea to give him a trial in the box." Sporting Life (May 23, 1888) is a bit more specific about what happened. "Pete Sommers, who has just been released by St. Louis, pitched his first game for Mansfield [on May 11]..."
So we know that the Pete Sommers, who pitched with Columbus and Mansfield, had signed with the Browns and was, for a time, also with the Whites. What I don't know and what I don't have any evidence of is whether or not he ever got into a game for either club. But the information that we do have explains the Old Judge card. Also we know that he was a left-handed pitcher. This is of some significance given that his Baseball-Reference pages doesn't have that information.
I also have a reference from The Milwaukee Sentinal of a Sommers pitching for Des Moine in 1890. While I can't be certain that this is Pete Sommers, it appears likely. According to Baseball-Reference, Sommers pitched in three games for Evansville in 1890 and, given that he was active through 1897, he was probably pitching somewhere besides Evansville that season. Des Moine is as good a guess as any but the evidence is not conclusive.