Friday, October 14, 2011

Pete Sommers

Pete Sommers

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.    


Cliff Blau said...

There were several players of the same/similar name/nickname at that time, and it is certainly confusing.

Reed Howard, one of the top experts on 19th Century minor league ball, has this fellow with Des Moines in 1890, and Columbus in 1887, but LHP Joseph A. "Pete" Sommers with Savannah (and New Orleans) in 1887. And the latter player's home was Mansfield, OH, so I'm not sure they aren't the same person, or relatives, and maybe some of their teams are assigned to the wrong person.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

I was just looking at his playing record and it has him playing at Lincoln/Des Moines (Western Association) in 1890. Don't know how I missed that.

I'm not certain that Joseph A. "Pete" Sommers is the same guy as Joseph A. Sommers, the minor leaguer who played at Savannah and NO in 1887. J.A. Pete Sommers was a c/of/1b who threw right and his minor league record doesn't match J.A. Sommers. But how many J.A. and Pete Sommers could there have been playing baseball in the 1880s and 1890s? To add to the confusion there's another entry at B-Ref for Pete Somers Sommers who played at Springfield in 1889. That's obviously the St. Louis Pete Sommers but I couldn't begin to tell why that entry exists.

But the Mansfield thing is a good lead. Interestingly, there's a Sommers (no known first name) who played with the Ludlows in 1877. Ludlow, KY, is right across the river from Cincinnati, so there may have been a bunch of baseball playing Sommers in Ohio.

The whole thing is just ridiculously confused.

David Ball said...

The Ludlow Sommer was probably the future major leaguer Joe Sommer (the usual spelling), or possibly Joe's brother Ben, who umpired briefly in the American Association in 1882 or thereabouts. They were from Covington, in northern Kentucky and right next door to Ludlow, whereas Pete Sommers was from Cleveland, diagonally across Ohio.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

I was going to send you an email, David, asking about the Ludlow Sommer(s), figuring you'd know. Obviously never got around to it but thanks for the info, although now we have even more Sommer(s) playing in the era.

I think I'm going to get some poster board and multicolored markers so I can create a big, giant chart organizing all the information about the Joseph/Pete Sommers/Sommer/Summers who were playing organized ball in the 1880s and 1890s. If I didn't have a proclivity towards enjoying problems like this, I'd throw my hands up and walk away, declaring it a muddled mess.