The writer W.P. Kinsella as soon as got here throughout a number of strains in a baseball encyclopedia and was instantly intrigued. The entry was for a baseball participant whose complete main league historical past was encompassed by the numbers “1 game, 0 at-bats.”
Kinsella went on to do in depth analysis on the participant, and ended up utilizing him as a personality in his surreal baseball novel, “Shoeless Joe,” which later begat the Kevin Costner movie “Field of Dreams.”
And that’s how the world found Archibald “Moonlight” Graham.
What Kinsella felt about Graham was akin to what I felt once I first dealt with my copy of Julie Freeman‘s card from Ars Longa’s Beginnings: The 1880s collection. Every week or so earlier, I’d been utterly unaware of Freeman’s existence, however upon studying the Ars Longa biographer’s description of the St. Louis Browns pitcher and his one-game main league profession, I obtained sucked in, a lot the similar method that Kinsella should have been drawn into Graham’s life. However whereas Kinsella used Moonlight Graham as a topic for the examination of 1’s biggest goals and the significance — or lack thereof — of realizing them, Freeman’s 1880s card led me to think about the position that timing performs in one’s life.
It’s a pleasant card; as with all of the 1880s St. Louis Browns, the uniform is crisp and dazzling white, completely complemented by maroon trim and equipment. His options are sharp, and the pose . . . properly, I can’t assist however assume that he’s working towards for an evening of darts at the native pub quite than taking over the American Affiliation’s prime hitters.
So what which means is there in a single recreation out of a serious league season? Not a lot, actually. Like Graham, who performed a few innings as a defensive substitute and simply missed an opportunity to bat, Freeman’s lone look was for a pennant-winning staff, in a meaningless recreation after the championship had been clinched. Only a few single video games in an extended schedule can actually be referred to as vital, however every one has it’s personal id, and brought by itself may give a snapshot of a staff, a league, the gamers and the period.
And for Julie Freeman, that one recreation began out like a dream come true, and ended fairly painfully.
Julius Benjamin Freeman was born Nov. 7, 1868 in . . . properly, we don’t actually know the place, precisely, however it was someplace in Missouri. Not a lot is understood about the righthander till he turned up in Fort Smith, AR, as an 18-year-old who pitched nicely in the summer time of 1887.
Though thought-about to be a tough thrower, Freeman’s most notable attribute was apparently his measurement, or fairly his lack of measurement. Contemplating that pitchers of the day weren’t the 6-foot-plus specimens that they’re in the 21st Century, Julie should have actually been small in stature to have gained that notoriety in the 19th Century. The Sporting Information referred to him as “a little bit of a lad” in one article. Even so, he appeared headed to the Kansas Metropolis Blues of the American Affiliation for the 1888 season; an article in Sporting Life that spring referred to him as a “phenomenon, about whom a great deal was said.” So somebody was paying consideration.
Kansas Metropolis ended up passing on his providers, so Freeman returned house and spent the summer time pitching for an unbiased workforce in Newton, MO. Charles Comiskey, St. Louis’ player-manager, should have been protecting tabs, as a result of he ultimately invited Freeman to work out with the Browns, and with the American Affiliation pennant wrapped up, Comiskey provided the teenager an opportunity to start out a league recreation, on Oct. 10, 1888.
The Browns had little for which to play that chilly afternoon in St. Louis. They’d wrapped up their fourth consecutive American Affiliation title every week or extra earlier; since they ended up enjoying 5 video games fewer than the runner-up Brooklyn Bridegrooms, it’s potential that the precise second of clinching might not have been simply calculated or famous. However with a wholesome lead in the standings all by means of the fall, the title was inevitable and the season rolled towards an eventual postseason assembly with Nationwide League champion New York Giants.
The opponent was the Louisville Colonels, who’d had a a lot totally different season. A couple of days later, they’d full a 48-87 report, good for seventh place. The Colonels pitcher that day was Tom “Toad” Ramsey, and had the recreation been performed in 1886 or 1887, when Ramsey gained a mixed 75 video games, which may have sparked some worry in the coronary heart of the St. Louis batters. However the Toad of 1888 was a unique animal. Maybe the heavy consuming for which he was recognized had taken its toll, or maybe it was an indifference born of pitching for a staff buried deep in the second division, however Ramsey was on his strategy to an Eight-30 report.
What little curiosity there was in the recreation centered round Freeman. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that “Comiskey put in a young semi-professional pitcher named Freeman, who pitched last season for Fort Smith. He made a good record in Arkansas and was anxious to see what he could do against an Association team.” The Louisville Courier Journal referred to Julie as a”a younger twirler from the Texas League,” and in the Chicago Tribune he was “a young Southern League pitcher.” The truth that Fort Smith competed in the Southwestern League is simply proof that it was lots harder to get such information straight in the days earlier than media guides and websites.
For 3 innings, Julie Freeman should have thought that the American Affiliation was going to be a snap. He led the Colonels, 2-Zero, pitching towards a lineup that, whereas it included Pete Browning and the splendidly named William Van Winkle “Chicken” Wolf, admittedly included greater than its share of second-stringers.
After that, issues fell aside. Few of the Browns have been engaging in a lot at bat. Arlie Latham was the one exception, with two hits, however he additionally made two errors at third base. In the meantime Louisville, batting in the backside of the inning as was the prerogative for the visiting staff for a lot of the 19th Century, scored 5 runs in the subsequent three innings, taking the lead for good at 5-Four in the backside of the sixth. Freeman did a very good job dealing with Louisville’s prime hitters, however light-hitting shortstop Phil Tomney had three hits.
The top got here abruptly for Freeman in the seventh. After retiring Browning, he confronted Dude Esterbrook, the mercurial infielder who had been summarily launched from Indianapolis a number of months earlier however had given the Colonels a little bit of a spark since his arrival in Louisville. He hit a tough line drive that caught Freeman on the proper hand, breaking a finger. Julie was completed for the day, changed on the mound by rightfielder Tommy McCarthy, the future Corridor of Famer. Ramsey and the Colonels completed the day with a 7-Four victory.
The correspondent for the Cincinnati Enquirer judged of Freeman that “His work showed him to be a promising youngster and with the proper support he would have won yesterday’s game.” Comiskey should have concurred, as a result of he reserved Freeman for the 1889 season and gave him ample alternative to make the membership. Freeman pitched the Browns’ exhibition opener, defeating the Missouri Athletic Membership, 14-Three, after which he continued to get work throughout the spring, principally towards newbie groups.
And that is the place timing comes into play. Freeman’s date with the photographers capturing for the Previous Decide card set little question got here in the spring, after he’d already pitched what would show to be his lone main league recreation. He’s featured in a handful of various poses. Think about the case of two different 1880s topics, Walter Bogart and Abner Boyce. Neither ever performed a serious league recreation, however every was in the operating for a spot on a serious league roster in the spring, and appeared on Previous Decide playing cards in the season that adopted. Spring coaching was probably a very good probability to get the numerous groups into a photograph studio, and you may think about the dialog: Him? Oh, that’s Walter. He may play some for us this yr at first base, so we introduced him alongside.
Bogart, whose fox-like options and somewhat disturbing sky blue, unitard-like Indianapolis uniform we see in the 1880s collection, and Boyce, pictured in a Washington uniform and settling beneath a pop fly with all the obvious grace of a water buffalo, not solely didn’t make it to the majors, however there isn’t a report of both from the minor league database on baseball-reference.com. They virtually definitely performed professionally someplace, however apparently not in a league whose data have been unearthed by the many researchers wanting into such issues.
However Julie Freeman performed in the majors . . . and one and 1 / 4 centuries later, he involves life in the 1880s collection, in that unusual pose. That’s definitely some type of immortality. When you’re a serious leaguer, you’re a serious leaguer for all times. You’ve achieved what so many people might solely fantasize about, even when for less than an hour or so one fall afternoon. It’s like being President, or Ambassador: you get to maintain the title Former Main Leaguer the remainder of your days.
As you’ve little question figured, Julie Freeman didn’t make the St. Louis roster in 1889. Positive, he was 19 years previous and had potential, however think about the remainder of the pitching employees. Employees ace Silver King, who had a 45-20 document in 1888? Twenty years previous. Nat Hudson, who was 25-10? Nineteen years previous. On Sept. 1, the Browns had purchased some pitching insurance coverage with the buy from Louisville of Elton “Ice Box” Chamberlain, who completed 11-2 for the Browns for a season report of 25-11. Chamberlain was 20. Heck, even Jim Devlin and Ed Knouff, who mixed to start out 20 video games for the ’88 Browns, have been 22 and 21, respectively. It was sort of troublesome for Julie Freeman to face out from that crowd.
After displaying up properly towards newbie competitors, Freeman was given an opportunity to pitch towards the Detroit Wolverines of the Nationwide League, on April Eight in St. Louis. He misplaced, 7-Three, strolling seven batters, and 10 days later he was bought to the Milwaukee Lotions of the Western Affiliation. Comiskey was quoted as saying that Freeman wasn’t “heavy enough” to deal with the rigors of an American Affiliation season. Someplace alongside the means, he developed arm hassle, and by no means gained a recreation in Milwaukee. He acquired 5 begins, misplaced all of them, and had a horrific WHIP of two.333.
Freeman then moved to the Pacific Northwest, catching on with a group in Port Townsend, Wash., then ending his professional profession with a season at Helena in the Montana State League. After which he returned residence and labored as a printer in St. Louis, enjoying for a semi-pro workforce sponsored by The Sporting Information. He died in 1921, the sufferer of coronary heart illness.
So Julie Freeman’s story is probably not that riveting, definitely not in comparison with that of Moonlight Graham. The story of Graham ending up in the frozen wilds of Chisholm, MN, turning into a civic chief and its main physician, as portrayed in Subject of Goals? All true.
No, it’s unlikely that anybody can be that includes Freeman’s life in a film any time quickly, with an actor the caliber of Burt Lancaster to play his half. However in one sense, he acquired the higher of Graham. You see, Julie Freeman truly obtained to bat in a serious league recreation, 3 times. And . . . he obtained certainly one of the 5 hits that Toad Ramsey allowed that day.
And a .333 common is fairly good hitting in any league . . .
The Rank and File of 19th Century Main League Baseball by David Nemec
Oct. 11, 1888 editions of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Louisville Courier Journal and the Chicago Tribune