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The 1915 Phillies pitcher who became The Inquirer's baseball writer

During the second of Stan Baumgartner's noteworthy Philadelphia careers, his colleagues in the Baker Bowl's press box liked to toss peanuts at his head every time the Inquirer sportswriter dozed off.

Stan Baumgartner (second from left in top row) was a member of the pennant-winning Phillies in 1915.
Stan Baumgartner (second from left in top row) was a member of the pennant-winning Phillies in 1915.Read more(Bob Warrington Collection)

During the second of Stan Baumgartner's noteworthy Philadelphia careers, his colleagues in the Baker Bowl's press box liked to toss peanuts at his head every time the Inquirer sportswriter dozed off.

Once awakened, the native Texan typically produced stories that were dry, matter-of-fact accounts, the journalistic equivalent of the mediocre numbers he had posted as a pitcher for the Phillies and Athletics.

Still, 60 years after his death, Baumgartner continues to occupy a special and unique place in Phillies history, the only link between the franchise's first two pennant winners. A lefthanded pitcher on the 1915 champions, he was The Inquirer's beat writer when the Whiz Kids took the National League title in 1950.

"He's really the only one with an immediate connection to those two Phillies teams," said Phil Williams, a Philadelphian who is researching a Society of Baseball Research biography of Baumgartner.

This is the 100th anniversary of the summer when Pat Moran's 1915 Phillies surprised everyone, winning the pennant by seven games. Their memorable World Series matchup with the Red Sox marked Babe Ruth's postseason debut and, when Woodrow Wilson came to the Baker Bowl for Game 2, the first Series appearance by a president.

Pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander led the league in wins, ERA, strikeouts, innings, shutouts, and complete games. Outfielder Gavvy Cravath was first in homers, runs, RBIs, walks, total bases, on-base, and slugging percentage.

They had color as well as talent. First baseman Fred Luderus carved dolls in his spare time. Infielder Oscar Dugey injured his arm throwing pebbles at pigeons. And Alexander, a sour epileptic, could outpitch and outdrink anyone in baseball.

Yet there may have been no more intriguing Phillies story than Baumgartner. In addition to an eight-year big-league career and 28 years as a Philadelphia sportswriter, he played football for Amos Alonzo Stagg at the University of Chicago, briefly coached the University of Delaware's football team, and married Pennsylvania's first female boxing promoter.

That resumé was why Sporting News publisher J. Taylor Spink personally traveled to Baumgartner's West Mount Airy home at 2109 Homer St. for an interview in 1942.

"Writing baseball is the finest job there is," Baumgartner told Spink. "I'm on the other side of the fence now. I can appreciate the fans' point of view as well as the players' angle."

On the players' side of that fence, there had been two major highlights for a pitcher with just 26 career victories.

The first was that 1915 pennant, although, incredibly, the 90-win Phils won none of the 16 games in which Baumgartner appeared.

The second occurred nine years later during his best season, when as a Philadelphia Athletic he struck out Ruth with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth to silence a Memorial Day crowd of 50,000 at Yankee Stadium.

But mostly Baumgartner was an average pitcher for below-average teams - some so bad, he remembered, that kids outside the Baker Bowl clubhouse often spurned them.

"Youse guys are lousy," he recalled them saying. "We don't want your autographs."

By 1927, Baumgartner took a $40-a-week job as an Inquirer scribe, a position he would hold for the rest of his life. According to Jerome Holtzman's No Cheering in the Press Box, at least three other players transitioned from baseball to full-time sportswriting, although none accrued the longevity or reputation of Baumgartner, who also was the Sporting News' Philadelphia correspondent.

"He was a bang-bang writer," Williams said. "There weren't a lot of flourishes in his writing. He wasn't very analytical. He wasn't a homer or overly critical. But when he was writing in spring training or interviewing players, he provided a lot of really great intelligence and was really quite enjoyable."

Big Ten football star

Stanwood Fulton Baumgartner was born in Houston in 1894. Soon afterward, according to Williams, his father, a traveling wood salesman, moved the family to Chicago.

There Baumgartner was an athletic prodigy at Wendell Phillips High. Moving on to the nearby University of Chicago, he majored in law and starred in four sports. He led three of those teams, including Stagg's unbeaten footballers, to Big Ten (then Big Nine) titles.

A pitcher with a cross-body delivery, he debuted with the Phillies in 1914, compiling a 2-2 record in 15 games. He earned $500 a month, a salary his father negotiated.

Moran, who became Phils manager in 1915, was always wary of young pitchers. Baumgartner pitched in just 16 games for the NL champions, all losses, but had a respectable ERA (2.42) in 481/3 innings. He also appeared in two other Phillies defeats - as a pinch-hitter and a pinch-runner.

In the five-game World Series, which Boston won, Moran never called on him.

"He was a young kid, he wasn't proven, and Moran was cautious," Williams said.

Baumgartner was demoted to Providence in 1916, returning to pitch the season finale. Out of baseball in 1917, he was playing semipro ball in Chester when Delaware hired him to replace football coach William McAvoy. The Blue Hens went 2-5 in his only season.

"It made sense for Delaware," Williams said. "He was an alumnus of an elite Midwestern program. Stagg's Chicago teams were among the best in the nation. And he had experience, having coached Chicago's Hyde Park High."

During World War I, Baumgartner worked and played for Bethlehem Steel, employment that earned him a military deferment. The Phillies recalled him in 1921 and he was a combined 4-7 over two seasons.

Striking out Ruth

Baumgartner's best years came with the A's, for whom he pitched from 1924 to 1926. In his first American League season, he won 13 games, the most memorable on May 30 in New York.

Trailing, 5-4, the Yankees had loaded the bases against him with two outs and Ruth at bat.

"Frank Bruggy, who was catching, walked out to the mound," Baumgartner told Spink. "[He told me,] 'You're going to throw him three curveballs, one in the dirt, one a foot outside, and one three feet outside.' "

He did, Ruth missed all three and, although the A's were in last place, teammates carried Baumgartner off the field.

"The memory of that one strikeout," he said, "overshadows all the heartache, lean years, razzing by fans."

Baumgartner retired and went to the work for The Inquirer in February 1927, two years after the newspaper occupied its new tower headquarters at Broad and Callowhill Streets.

"He'd studied law at Chicago. Even though that was 100 years ago, it's clear he wasn't a stupid man," Williams said.

Throughout the 1930s, Baumgartner covered a variety of sports, from wrestling to hockey to Temple football. In 1940, when James Isaminger, the paper's main baseball writer, suffered a stroke, Baumgartner began covering the Phillies and A's regularly.

By the end of that decade, he was full-time on the Phillies. If Baumgartner sometimes wrote wearily, the '50 season seemed to revive him. When the Phils clinched the pennant with a final-day victory in Brooklyn, the front-page story, beneath a banner headline on the Korean War, was his.

"Dick Sisler's mighty blast into the left-field stands with two on base and one out in the 10th inning today carried the Fightin' Phillies to their first National League championship in 35 years," wrote the man who had witnessed both.

It was the kind of information-packed lead that readers came to expect from him.

"I found a letter from an Inquirer reader who said he really liked Stan because he gave him all the information he needed in the first two or three paragraphs," Williams noted.

Baumgartner's name resurfaced decades later when baseball stats guru Bill James identified him as one of his era's big drinkers. Williams said he had uncovered no evidence to substantiate that.

"The only thing was in the 1970s, when the Phillies got good again, [legendary columnist] Red Smith reminisced about the Baker Bowl. He wrote how sportswriters there used to pass time throwing peanuts at the 'drowsy head of Stan Baumgartner,' " Williams said. "That suggests somebody who may have passed out. But that's not enough for me to say something about his drinking."

Baumgartner divorced his first wife, the boxing promoter. He married again in 1938 and had three daughters. In 1954 he received a diagnosis of rectal cancer. On Oct. 4, 1955, during the World Series, he died.

That day, Brooklyn's Johnny Podres was shutting out New York in Game 7 when those in Yankee Stadium's press box were told of their former colleague's passing.

The busy work space went still as dozens of sportswriters, some of whom had seen Baumgartner pitch or maybe tossed peanuts at him, stood in respectful silence.

"A big-league pitcher and a baseball writer," Williams said. "Not many can say they were both."