Roger Bresnahan

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Bresnahan had a memory almost as good as [Christy] Mathweson or [Joe] McGinnity. He never had to be told twice. Once we had discovered a weak spot in the opposition and had discussed a plan for attacking it I could depend absolutely on Bresnahan to carry it out. He did not forget. His whole mind was concentrated on winning that particular game and it was rarely that he overlooked anything.

 John McGraw [14]

On Opening Day in 1907, Bresnahan began to experiment with protective gear. Though Negro league catcher Chappie Johnson wore protective gear and Nig Clarke wore similar gear in MLB in 1905, most catchers did not wear any protective equipment at that time. [15] Bresnahan practiced in shin guards that are worn in cricket during spring training, and debuted them on April 11, 1907. [16] Fans, used to seeing catchers play without protective equipment, threw snowballs on the field, and without police at the game, umpire Bill Klem called off the game, with the Giants forfeiting to the Philadelphia Phillies. The press also criticized the use of shin guards. However, other catchers began to adopt Bresnahan's idea. [17] Though Pittsburgh Pirates manager Fred Clarke protested Bresnahan's gear to the league, the protest was denied and the equipment was approved. Bresnahan caught a career-high 138 games in 1908, batting .283 and leading the NL in walks. [17] [18]

Bresnahan also developed the first batting helmet. He was hit in the head with a pitch by Andy Coakley of the Cincinnati Reds on June 18, 1907. [17] Bresnahan was unconscious, and a Catholic priest read him his last rites. [17] Bresnahan was hospitalized for ten days, during which time he developed schematics for a plastic batting helmet, though this piece of equipment did not become commonplace until the 1940s. [18] Bresnahan was also the first catcher to wear a padded facemask while catching. [17]

Managerial career

St. Louis Cardinals (1909–1912)

The Giants obtained younger and faster players in 1909; McGraw had Chief Meyers ready to succeed Bresnahan at catcher. [18] Stanley Robison of the St. Louis Cardinals became interested in hiring Bresnahan to be a player-manager. As McGraw did not want to block Bresnahan from the opportunity, the Giants traded Bresnahan to the Cardinals for Red Murray, Bugs Raymond and Admiral Schlei after the 1908 season. [19] Bresnahan led the Cardinals, who won only 49 games in 1908, to 54 wins in 1909 and 63 wins in 1910. [18] Attendance increased from 205,000 fans in 1908 to 299,000 fans in 1909, and 355,000 fans in 1910. [20]

Miller Huggins (left) and Bresnahan with the St. Louis Cardinals Roger Bresnahan, St. Louis, NL, Miller Huggins in background (baseball) (LOC).jpg
Miller Huggins (left) and Bresnahan with the St. Louis Cardinals

Grateful for the improvement at the box office, Robison signed Bresnahan to a five-year contract to manage the team for a salary of $10,000 per season ($327,000 in current dollar terms), plus ten percent of the club's profits. [6] Robison died in March 1911, and ownership of the team transferred to Helene Hathaway Britton, his niece. [6]

On July 11, 1911, with the Cardinals only three games out of first place, the team was involved in a train wreck while riding the Federal Express from Philadelphia to Boston. [21] Fourteen passengers were killed after the train derailed and plunged down an 18-foot (5.5 m) embankment outside Bridgeport, Connecticut. [21] None of the Cardinals were seriously injured, due to a fortuitous pre-trip change in the location of their Pullman car, requested by Bresnahan. The Cardinals helped remove bodies and rescue the injured. [21]

Bresnahan and Britton feuded publicly in 1912, as the Cardinals fell to sixth place in the NL. The Cardinals fired Bresnahan after the 1912 season due to various arguments Bresnahan had with Britton, including over Bresnahan's desire to sell Miller Huggins to another franchise. [22] Britton cited decreased profits as a sign that Bresnahan was uninterested in the job. [23] Huggins succeeded Bresnahan as Cardinals' manager, as she preferred Huggins' "gentlemanly" manner, as opposed to Bresnahan's rougher personality. [24] Brenahan hired an attorney to obtain the remainder of his salary. [25] He eventually settled the lawsuit against Britton for $20,000 ($631,448 in current dollar terms). [6]

Chicago Cubs (1913–1915)

Following his termination by the Cardinals, the NL declared Bresnahan a free agent. He signed a three-year contract with the Cubs, receiving $10,000 ($308,283 in current dollar terms) per season with a $25,000 signing bonus ($770,707 in current dollar terms). [6] [26] He served as player-manager for the Cubs in 1915, but was released when his batting average slipped. [6]

Later career

As the rival Federal League collapsed and the Cubs merged with the Chicago Whales of the Federal League, the Cubs decided to replace Bresnahan with Whales manager Joe Tinker. [27]

The Cubs paid Bresnahan for the remaining two years on his contract [28] and aided Bresnahan in purchasing the Toledo Mud Hens, then in the American Association, in 1916. [27] [29] The club had moved to Cleveland to block the Federal League from placing a team there, but returned to Toledo under Bresnahan's control. [27] Bresnahan played for the team until 1918, when he announced his retirement. [30] He played for a semi-professional team in 1919, [30] and appeared in five games for the Mud Hens in 1921. [6] Bresnahan worked to add lights to Toledo's stadium, so that they could play night games. [31]

Bresnahan sold the Mud Hens before the 1924 season. [32] McGraw then hired Bresnahan as a coach for the Giants, a position he held from 1925 through 1928. He coached for the Detroit Tigers in 1930 and 1931. [6]

Post-baseball career

During the offseasons, Bresnahan returned to Toledo. He worked as a hotel detective at the Boody House, which he later purchased. [12] Bresnahan lost much of his money in the stock market crash of 1929. He worked as a manual laborer, as a guard at the Toledo Workhouse, and as a salesman for Toledo's Buckeye Brewing Company. [6]

Bresnahan ran for sheriff of Lucas County as a member of the Democratic Party in 1932. [29] He lost, and endorsed the victorious candidate in his reelection bid two years later. [33] Bresnahan ran for county commissioner in 1944, winning the Democratic Party nomination, but losing in the general election by a few hundred votes out of 140,000 votes cast. [6] [34]

Bresnahan died of a heart attack at his home in Toledo on December 4, 1944, at the age of 65. He was survived by his wife, Gertrude, and his daughter, Marian. [35] He was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Toledo. [34]

Profile and legacy

Bresnahan tagging out a runner while Christy Mathewson and John McGraw watch in Out at Home, by Fletcher C. Ransom Out at Home print.jpg
Bresnahan tagging out a runner while Christy Mathewson and John McGraw watch in Out at Home, by Fletcher C. Ransom

In 1,446 games, he had a batting average of .279 with 26 home runs and 530 runs batted in in 4,480 at-bats. His overall managerial record was 328–432 (.432). Miller Huggins named Bresnahan the catcher on his all-time team. [36]

Bresnahan stood approximately 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m). [5] He was described as "highly strung and almost abnormally emotional" by a reporter. [7] Bill James wrote that Bresnahan "was one of those guys that if you were on his team and played hard he was as nice to you as could be, but if you got on his bad side you'd think he was the Breath of Hell." [13]

Bresnahan was known for baiting umpires. He and McGraw were often ejected from games, suspended, and on a few occasions escorted from the field by police. [13] A 1911 directive by NL president Thomas Lynch, compelling umpires to prevent catchers from antagonizing batters with verbal abuse, mentioned only Bresnahan by name. [20]

Bresnahan was elected to the Hall of Fame the year after his death. He had received 47 votes of the 226 electors in the 1936 Hall of Fame balloting, and between 43 and 67 votes each time from 1937 through 1942. [14] In the 1945 balloting, occurring one month after Bresnahan's death, he received 133 votes, still falling short of enshrinement. However, the Permanent Committee noticed the surge in votes and elected him in April 1945. [5]

Regarding his Hall of Fame induction, James has criticized the election, saying that Bresnahan "wandered in the Hall of Fame on a series of miscalculations", and regarding his election, that "the Hall of Fame had, for the first time, selected a player who clearly had no damn business being there". [34]


Bresnahan was mentioned in the 1949 poem "Line-Up for Yesterday" by Ogden Nash:

Baseball Hall of Fame plaque

Battery mate of Christy Mathewson with the New York Giants, he was one of the games most natural players and might have starred at any position. The "Duke of Tralee" was one of the few major league catchers fast enough to be used as a leadoff man

Line-Up for Yesterday

B is for Bresnahan
Back of the plate;
The Cubs were his love,
and McGraw his hate.

 Ogden Nash, Sport magazine (January 1949) [37]

See also

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In-line citations
  1. Suehsdorf, A. D. (1978). The Great American Baseball Scrapbook. Random House. p. 36. ISBN   0-394-50253-1.
  2. Appel, Marty (Winter 2011–2012). "A Second Look at Hall of Famer Roger Bresnahan. Memories and Dreams". National Baseball Hall of Fame Official Magazine. 33 (6): 39. A pair of his shin guards is ... part of the Hall of Fame's collection . ...
  3. His Hall of Fame plaque states, in part: "He was one of the game's most natural players and might have starred at any position. [He] was one of the few major league catchers fast enough to be used as a leadoff man." Appel, Marty. A Second Look at Hall of Famer Roger Bresnahan. Memories and Dreams (Vol. 33, No. 6; Winter 2011[-2012], p. 39). National Baseball Hall of Fame official magazine.
  4. Fleitz, David L. (2004). "Roger Bresnahan". Ghosts in the Gallery at Cooperstown: Sixteen Forgotten Members of the Hall of Fame. Morgan & Company. pp. 32–46. ISBN   0-7864-1749-8.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Fleitz, Ghosts in the Gallery at Cooperstown, p. 33
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Thomas, Joan M. "Roger Bresnahan". Society for American Baseball Research . Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  7. 1 2 3 Fleitz, David L. (2009). The Irish in baseball: an early history. McFarland. p. 136. ISBN   978-0786434190 . Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Fleitz, Ghosts in the Gallery at Cooperstown, p. 34
  9. "War that Crippled National League: Ban Johnson's Campaign Swept Star Players Out of the Old Organization" (PDF). The New York Times. December 7, 1913. Retrieved March 23, 2012.
  10. Dewey, Donald; Acocella, Nicholas (2005). Total Ballclubs: The Ultimate Book of Baseball Teams. Sportclassic Books. p. 37. ISBN   1-894963-37-7.
  11. "Dan McGann a Suicide – Giants' Former Captain Shoots Him- self in a Hotel at Louisville". The New York Times. December 14, 1910. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
  12. 1 2 3 Fleitz, Ghosts in the Gallery at Cooperstown, p. 35
  13. 1 2 3 4 Fleitz, Ghosts in the Gallery at Cooperstown, p. 36
  14. 1 2 Fleitz, Ghosts in the Gallery at Cooperstown, p. 32
  15. James, Bill (1995). Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame. Simon and Schuster. pp. 41–42. ISBN   0-684-80088-8.
  16. Fleitz, Ghosts in the Gallery at Cooperstown, pp. 37–38
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 Fleitz, Ghosts in the Gallery at Cooperstown, p. 38
  18. 1 2 3 4 Fleitz, Ghosts in the Gallery at Cooperstown, p. 39
  19. "Bresnahan's Ambition – Hopes to Reconstruct Cardinals Into a Championship Club". The New York Times. December 15, 1908. p. 7. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
  20. 1 2 Fleitz, Ghosts in the Gallery at Cooperstown, p. 40
  21. 1 2 3 Tuesday, July 11 from
  22. "Roger Bresnahan Out as Manager; Officials of St. Louis Nationals Dismiss Leader of Team – Suit May Follow" (PDF). The New York Times . October 22, 1912. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  23. "Roger Didn't Try Hard.; Woman Owner of St. Louis Club Gives Reason for Dropping Bresnahan" (PDF). The New York Times. November 26, 1912. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  24. Koppett, Leonard (2000). The Man in the Dugout: Baseball's Top Managers and How They Got That Way. Temple University Press. p. 84. ISBN   1-56639-745-6 . Retrieved April 16, 2012.
  25. "Interest Settles on N.L. Meeting". The Milwaukee Sentinel. December 8, 1912. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  26. "Bresnahan to Sign Chicago Contract – Cardinals' Former Manager Agrees Upon Terms with Cubs for Three Years". The New York Times. January 7, 1913. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
  27. 1 2 3 "Baseball Magnates Still Chasing the Elusive Bird of Peace at Gotham Confab". Youngstown Vindicator. December 18, 1915. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
  28. "Weeghman is Now Formal Owner". The Day . January 21, 1916. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
  29. 1 2 "Roger Bresnahan Runs For Sheriff: Former Mud Hens Owner Enters Democratic Lists". The Toledo News-Bee . January 23, 1932. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
  30. 1 2 "Bresnahan Drops Again". St. Joseph News-Press. July 11, 1919. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
  31. "Roger Says Twilight Ball For Toledo". The Milwaukee Journal. June 22, 1919. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
  32. "J.D. O'Brien Buys Toledo Ball Club – Former Secretary of Giants Obtains Controlling Interest From Roger Bresnahan". The New York Times. January 21, 1924. Retrieved April 3, 2012.(subscription required)
  33. "Five Former Foes Backing O'Reilly". The Toledo News-Bee. June 8, 1934. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
  34. 1 2 3 Fleitz, Ghosts in the Gallery at Cooperstown, p. 44
  35. "Gertrude Bresnahan, Widow of Baseball Star, Catcher Roger Bresnahan". Toledo Blade. January 20, 1968. p. 11. Retrieved June 19, 2012.
  36. "Miller Huggins Selects All-Time Baseball Club". The Pittsburgh Press. February 5, 1929. p. 19. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  37. "Baseball Almanac" . Retrieved January 23, 2008.
Roger Bresnahan
Roger Bresnahan, St. Louis, NL (baseball) (LOC).jpg
Catcher / Outfielder / Manager
Born:(1879-06-11)June 11, 1879
Toledo, Ohio, U.S.
Died: December 4, 1944(1944-12-04) (aged 65)
Toledo, Ohio, U.S.
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
August 27, 1897, for the Washington Senators
Last MLB appearance
October 3, 1915, for the Chicago Cubs