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Charlie Sweasy

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  • Charlie Sweasy

    charles james sweasy
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/s/sweasch01.shtml

    sweasy, a member of the 1869/70 cincinnati red stockings, was born on november 2, 1847 in newark, new jersey to john h. and rachel sweasy. according to the 1850 census, he had two brothers, george (b. 1835) and john h. (b. 1842), and three sisters, henrietta (b. 1833), sarah (b. 1840), and eliza (b. 1840).

    he first drew attention to himself as a ballplayer in the mid 1860's while playing as a secondbaseman for amateur teams in the newark area. in 1866 and 67, he was playing second for irvington (n.j.) in the nabbp. one of his teammates was andy leonard, another future member of the 69 red stockings. in 1868, sweasy moved to the buckeyes of cincinnati, where he played both second and third. there is a reference in his obituary in the new york times to sweasy playing for "the lancaster red stockings" and being managed there by harry wright in 68 but there is no other evidence to support this. the buckeye team also included andy leonard and dick hurley, who would join sweasy the next year on the red stockings.

    in 1869 and 70, sweasy was playing for the cincinnati red stockings. he appeared in all 57 of the red stockings victories in 69, playing second base. in 70, he appeared in 73 of 74 games, again all at second base. according to the advocate, sweasy was paid $800 in 1869. although there were a few players making more, specifically the wrights, this was the "standard rate" for reds players. in 1870, it is suggested that sweasy was involved in a salary dispute, asking for a $200 raise (a salary that would have made him the third highest paid player on the team). it's unclear whether he got his raise. however, if the account is true, this might make sweasy the first baseball player ever to hold out for more money.

    it's interesting to note that sweasy listed his occupation in the 1870 census as "ballplayer". with baseball still transitioning from a purely amateur game to a full time profession and there still being some controversy surrounding the professionalization of the game, to list one's occupation as ballplayer had to be fairly unique. it is known that sweasy was, as harry wright said in the sporting news in 1866, a hatter by trade and practiced that profession after his playing days ended. there is also a reference to his being a hatter in 1869. so while he had an "honest" profession, sweasy choose to identify himself as a professional baseball player in 1870.

    after the reds broke up following the 1870 season, sweasy lived a journeyman's life, officially playing for eight teams in seven years. while he lived the vagabond's life of a fringe player, sweasy actually captained at least three of the teams he played for: the 71 olympics of washington d.c., the 72 forest city club of cleveland, and the 75 red stockings of st. louis. while the statistical evidence shows that sweasy was not much of a player (at least in the batter's box), the panache that he earned playing with 69/70 reds usually guaranteed him not only a spot on a roster but also the field manager's job. it seems that more than one team used sweasy's "fame" to establish their own credentials.

    in 1875, when the reds of st. louis transitioned from a top local amateur team to a professional team in the na, they stocked their team with local amateur talent. every member of the st. louis reds made their professional debut in 1875-except for charlie sweasy. sweasy was the only true professional player brought in by the reds. this is in contrast to the brown stockings of st. louis who joined the na in the same year and stocked their team with the best eastern ballplayers they could buy.

    the results of this were what you would expect. the browns had a decent season, finishing fourth in the league with a record of 39-29. the reds were not competative in the na in 1875, finishing with a record of 4-15, good for tenth place. the reds, for reasons that aren't specifically clear, ceased league operations after a game on july 4, 1875. regardless of whether or not eastern teams would no longer schedule trips to st. louis to play the reds or the players refused to make a scheduled road trip or the team ran out of funds or a combination of these, the reds season was finished.

    an interesting side note to the reds season was that after the team broke up, several members of the reds, including sweasy, ended up playing out the season on various professional teams in the cincinnati area. one would have to conclude that sweasy, who had had lived and played baseball in cincinnati, played a role in getting his teammates jobs in the area, although joe blong also probably had a lot to do with it. it's also interesting to note that this minor professional circuit existed. i doubt that the cincinnati area was unique in this and that there must have been other professional "minor leagues" operating at the time.

    while sweasy's career in the major leagues ended with providence in 1878 (were he was involved in paul hines' "unassisted triple play"), he continued to play baseball with various minor northeastern teams through the 1881 season. it was reported in his obituary that he was forced to retire in 1882 "on account of rheumatism."

    after his playing days, sweasy lived a nomadic life, living in various towns in the northeast. in 1886, it's reported that he was living in new york city. in 1890, newark. in 1897, providence, rhode island. in 1900, sweasy was living by himself in a house in irvington, new jersey.

    sweasy, who died on march 30, 1908 of tuberculosis, had a reputation for being "difficult". between the salary dispute, harry wright's later descriptions of sweasy, and the numerous teams he played for, it's easy to see how this reputation developed.
    Last edited by hubkittel; 12-09-2006, 02:26 PM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by hubkittel
    charles james sweasy
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/s/sweasch01.shtml

    sweasy, a member of the 1869/70 cincinnati red stockings, was born on november 2, 1847 in newark, new jersey to john h. and rachel sweasy. according to the 1850 census, he had two brothers, george (b. 1835) and john h. (b. 1842), and three sisters, henrietta (b. 1833), sarah (b. 1840), and eliza (b. 1840).

    he first drew attention to himself as a ballplayer in the mid 1860's while playing as a secondbaseman for amateur teams in the newark area. in 1866 and 67, he was playing second for irvington (n.j.) in the nabbp. one of his teammates was andy leonard, another future member of the 69 red stockings. in 1868, sweasy moved to the buckeyes of cincinnati, where he played both second and third. there is a reference in his obituary in the new york times to sweasy playing for "the lancaster red stockings" and being managed there by harry wright in 68 but there is no other evidence to support this. the buckeye team also included andy leonard and dick hurley, who would join sweasy the next year on the red stockings.

    in 1869 and 70, sweasy was playing for the cincinnati red stockings. he appeared in all 57 of the red stockings victories in 69, playing second base. in 70, he appeared in 73 of 74 games, again all at second base. according to the advocate, sweasy was paid $800 in 1869. although there were a few players making more, specifically the wrights, this was the "standard rate" for reds players. in 1870, it is suggested that sweasy was involved in a salary dispute, asking for a $200 raise (a salary that would have made him the third highest paid player on the team). it's unclear whether he got his raise. however, if the account is true, this might make sweasy the first baseball player ever to hold out for more money.

    it's interesting to note that sweasy listed his occupation in the 1870 census as "ballplayer". with baseball still transitioning from a purely amateur game to a full time profession and there still being some controversy surrounding the professionalization of the game, to list one's occupation as ballplayer had to be fairly unique. it is known that sweasy was, as harry wright said in the sporting news in 1866, a hatter by trade and practiced that profession after his playing days ended. there is also a reference to his being a hatter in 1869. so while he had an "honest" profession, sweasy choose to identify himself as a professional baseball player in 1870.

    after the reds broke up following the 1870 season, sweasy lived a journeyman's life, officially playing for eight teams in seven years. while he lived the vagabond's life of a fringe player, sweasy actually captained at least three of the teams he played for: the 71 olympics of washington d.c., the 72 forest city club of cleveland, and the 75 red stockings of st. louis. while the statistical evidence shows that sweasy was not much of a player (at least in the batter's box), the panache that he earned playing with 69/70 reds usually guaranteed him not only a spot on a roster but also the field manager's job. it seems that more than one team used sweasy's "fame" to establish their own credentials.

    in 1875, when the reds of st. louis transitioned from a top local amateur team to a professional team in the na, they stocked their team with local amateur talent. every member of the st. louis reds made their professional debut in 1875-except for charlie sweasy. sweasy was the only true professional player brought in by the reds. this is in contrast to the brown stockings of st. louis who joined the na in the same year and stocked their team with the best eastern ballplayers they could buy.

    the results of this were what you would expect. the browns had a decent season, finishing fourth in the league with a record of 39-29. the reds were not competative in the na in 1875, finishing with a record of 4-15, good for tenth place. the reds, for reasons that aren't specifically clear, ceased league operations after a game on july 4, 1875. regardless of whether or not eastern teams would no longer schedule trips to st. louis to play the reds or the players refused to make a scheduled road trip or the team ran out of funds or a combination of these, the reds season was finished.

    an interesting side note to the reds season was that after the team broke up, several members of the reds, including sweasy, ended up playing out the season on various professional teams in the cincinnati area. one would have to conclude that sweasy, who had had lived and played baseball in cincinnati, played a role in getting his teammates jobs in the area, although joe blong also probably had a lot to do with it. it's also interesting to note that this minor professional circuit existed. i doubt that the cincinnati area was unique in this and that there must have been other professional "minor leagues" operating at the time.

    while sweasy's career in the major leagues ended with providence in 1878 (were he was involved in paul hines' "unassisted triple play"), he continued to play baseball with various minor northeastern teams through the 1881 season. it was reported in his obituary that he was forced to retire in 1882 "on account of rheumatism."

    after his playing days, sweasy lived a nomadic life, living in various towns in the northeast. in 1886, it's reported that he was living in new york city. in 1890, newark. in 1897, providence, rhode island. in 1900, sweasy was living by himself in a house in irvington, new jersey.

    sweasy, who died on march 30, 1908 of tuberculosis, had a reputation for being "difficult". between the salary dispute, harry wright's later descriptions of sweasy, and the numerous teams he played for, it's easy to see how this reputation developed.
    Thanks for giving us some of his story. I believe enumerators went into people's homes back then to take the census. It must have been interesting how they finally arrived at "ballplayer" for his profession. The players were proud to say they earned their living playing ball.
    "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
    "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by TonyK
      Thanks for giving us some of his story. I believe enumerators went into people's homes back then to take the census. It must have been interesting how they finally arrived at "ballplayer" for his profession. The players were proud to say they earned their living playing ball.
      has anybody looked into how many "ballplayers" there are in the 1870 census? that would be interesting to see. just looking at the the guys on the st. louis reds, the only other person i could find in any census data who listed his occupation as baseball player was silver flint in 1880. while most of those guys had short careers and died young, joe ellick certainly and trick mcsorley probably were playing baseball professionally in 1880 yet the census data doesn't reflect this.

      i just did a quick check of the 1880 census and searched by occupation. i found 52 entries for "baseball player". george wright, cap anson, paul hines, silver flint, honest john kelly, doc bushong, and a bunch of names i didn't recognize. i'll have to go through that whole list later when i have more time. the only entry for "professional baseball player" was buttercup dickerson (which has to be one of the greatest baseball names ever). there were no entries for "ballplayer" or "professional ballplayer".

      in 1880 we have somewhere around 100 pro ballplayers just in the national league-how many there really are nationwide, i wouldn't even try to guess. and a quick look at the census data shows only 54. so, even taking into account the incomplete nature of the data, baseball players are underrepresented. my guess on this would be that everybody has that second job and that's how they're entered in the census-laborer, plumber, teamster, hatter, whatever.

      i think that with the 1880 census, they were gathering data in both june and november. if a ballplayer was asked his occupation in november, he was working at his offseason job and that's probably what was entered. they asked them their occupation and the player says "well, i play ball but right now i'm driving a produce truck." and he gets entered as a produce huckster. that's a possibility.
      Last edited by hubkittel; 12-09-2006, 11:45 PM.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by hubkittel
        has anybody looked into how many "ballplayers" there are in the 1870 census? that would be interesting to see. just looking at the the guys on the st. louis reds, the only other person i could find in any census data who listed his occupation as baseball player was silver flint in 1880. while most of those guys had short careers and died young, joe ellick certainly and trick mcsorley probably were playing baseball professionally in 1880 yet the census data doesn't reflect this.

        i just did a quick check of the 1880 census and searched by occupation. i found 52 entries for "baseball player". george wright, cap anson, paul hines, silver flint, honest john kelly, doc bushong, and a bunch of names i didn't recognize. i'll have to go through that whole list later when i have more time. the only entry for "professional baseball player" was buttercup dickerson (which has to be one of the greatest baseball names ever). there were no entries for "ballplayer" or "professional ballplayer".

        in 1880 we have somewhere around 100 pro ballplayers just in the national league-how many there really are nationwide, i wouldn't even try to guess. and a quick look at the census data shows only 54. so, even taking into account the incomplete nature of the data, baseball players are underrepresented. my guess on this would be that everybody has that second job and that's how they're entered in the census-laborer, plumber, teamster, hatter, whatever.

        i think that with the 1880 census, they were gathering data in both june and november. if a ballplayer was asked his occupation in november, he was working at his offseason job and that's probably what was entered. they asked them their occupation and the player says "well, i play ball but right now i'm driving a produce truck." and he gets entered as a produce huckster. that's a possibility.
        Another place to look are the annual city directories from that time period. Larger cities in the Northeast must have had numerous professional ballplayers. Their real job to them may have been the one that paid them the most with some stable employment. So if they only made $400 as a ballplayer and didn't know for sure if they would find a team next year, and $600 as a factory worker then they worked in a factory.

        The National Baseball Hall of Fame probably could answer the question about ballplayers in the 1870 and 1880 censuses. You could almost count all the minor leaguers in 1880 since there were not very many.

        I think these "ballplayers" had to be the first professionals in team sports in the US?
        "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
        "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."

        Comment


        • #5
          i never have a lot of luck with the city directories (although the newark city directory is my source for where sweasy was living in 1890). it seems like i can never find the directory for the year i need.

          i've never thought about it but i'd bet the farm that baseball players were the first professional athletes in the united states. as far as being the first pros in the world, i'm not too sure. i know the football association started around 1863 and they were using pro football players in the fa cup tournament around 1870. so it's possible that english footballers might be the first pro athletes. it's kind of interesting that professionalism developed on both sides of the atlantic around the same time.

          and i found more baseball players today in the 1880 census database. i searched "base ball player"-can't believe that it took me a couple of days to remember that baseball was orginally two words. so i've searched "baseball player" and "base ball player", plus the "professional" variation of both, and have found a total of 80 guys. just a quick check of some of the names at baseball reference and in the 19th cent encyclopedia shows that a lot of these guys weren't playing in the national league in 1880. 14 of the 30 that i've checked weren't in the nl in 1880 and there are no references to 7 of those guys ever playing in the major leagues. so it's turning out to be a weird little list.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by hubkittel
            i never have a lot of luck with the city directories (although the newark city directory is my source for where sweasy was living in 1890). it seems like i can never find the directory for the year i need.

            i've never thought about it but i'd bet the farm that baseball players were the first professional athletes in the united states. as far as being the first pros in the world, i'm not too sure. i know the football association started around 1863 and they were using pro football players in the fa cup tournament around 1870. so it's possible that english footballers might be the first pro athletes. it's kind of interesting that professionalism developed on both sides of the atlantic around the same time.

            and i found more baseball players today in the 1880 census database. i searched "base ball player"-can't believe that it took me a couple of days to remember that baseball was orginally two words. so i've searched "baseball player" and "base ball player", plus the "professional" variation of both, and have found a total of 80 guys. just a quick check of some of the names at baseball reference and in the 19th cent encyclopedia shows that a lot of these guys weren't playing in the national league in 1880. 14 of the 30 that i've checked weren't in the nl in 1880 and there are no references to 7 of those guys ever playing in the major leagues. so it's turning out to be a weird little list.
            When did boxers fight professionally? It must have been around the 1870's or 1880's.

            If you want to share your list with us maybe some of us may know something about a few of the players. You are going to find that there were more minor leaguers than major leaguers from 1880 on.

            What does the 19th Century Encyclopedia contain?
            "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
            "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."

            Comment


            • #7
              When did boxers fight professionally? It must have been around the 1870's or 1880's.
              i forgot about boxing. you had bareknuckle prizefighting, which isn't exactly boxing but close enough, in the 17th century. by the 1890's, you had organized professional boxing, title belts handed out and all of that.

              If you want to share your list with us maybe some of us may know something about a few of the players. You are going to find that there were more minor leaguers than major leaguers from 1880 on.
              i'll post the list once i finish going through it. i think some of the guys i can't identify are probably major leaguers playing under different names (by a stroke of luck, i've already found out who one of them was) or they're guys who played their whole careers in minor professional leagues.

              What does the 19th Century Encyclopedia contain?
              david nemec's great encyclopedia of 19th century major league baseball. it has team rosters, player registers, all the good stuff.

              Comment


              • #8
                "i'll post the list once i finish going through it. i think some of the guys i can't identify are probably major leaguers playing under different names (by a stroke of luck, i've already found out who one of them was) or they're guys who played their whole careers in minor professional leagues."

                For the 1880 census you could also try "Umpire" or "Base Ball Umpire" to see what turns up. Unlike modern times, there were plenty of career minor leaguers back then with 15 to 24 years in the bush leagues.
                "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
                "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."

                Comment


                • #9
                  i didn't get any hits in the 1880 census database for umpire, baseball umpire, or base ball umpire which is interesting. i guess the umps didn't consider it a real job.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by hubkittel
                    i didn't get any hits in the 1880 census database for umpire, baseball umpire, or base ball umpire which is interesting. i guess the umps didn't consider it a real job.
                    At that time they probably didn't make a livable wage off of baseball for them to consider it a career.

                    It was the AA in 1882 who made strides by paying their umps $140/month and given $3/day expense money.

                    In 1878 the NL was paying $5/game. In 1883 they hired four umps at $1,000/season of which only one finished the year out.

                    A top ump of the era was John Gaffney who made $2,500 plus expenses in 1888.
                    Last edited by Brian McKenna; 12-13-2006, 07:10 AM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by hubkittel
                      i didn't get any hits in the 1880 census database for umpire, baseball umpire, or base ball umpire which is interesting. i guess the umps didn't consider it a real job.
                      Either that or they didn't want angry cranks to come calling at their door and complaining their umpiring cost them a lot of money on a bet!

                      bk: I wonder how much the minor league umps got paid in 1880?
                      "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
                      "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by TonyK View Post

                        Thanks for giving us some of his story. I believe enumerators went into people's homes back then to take the census. It must have been interesting how they finally arrived at "ballplayer" for his profession. The players were proud to say they earned their living playing ball.
                        Charlie Sweasy was second on the Red Stockings team in home runs in 1869 with 30. Only George Wright had more with 49. In 1870, Sweasy led the Red Stockings in home runs with 18.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Wright didn't continue to hit HR's in the N.A. I wonder how many HR's on the Red Stockings tour were due to playing on fields without fences and/or how many were inside the park home runs?
                          "No matter how great you were once upon a time — the years go by, and men forget,” - W. A. Phelon in Baseball Magazine in 1915. “Ross Barnes, forty years ago, was as great as Cobb or Wagner ever dared to be. Had scores been kept then as now, he would have seemed incomparably marvelous.”

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by bluesky5 View Post
                            Wright didn't continue to hit HR's in the N.A. I wonder how many HR's on the Red Stockings tour were due to playing on fields without fences and/or how many were inside the park home runs?
                            My guess would be that the pre-NA home runs included "little league" home runs, where it was actually a single and a couple of errors, or even 3 errors where the batter came all the way around. They probably did not distinguish errors at that time and if a batter hit the ball and came all the way around before the next batter was up- they called it a "home run."

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by SavoyBG View Post

                              My guess would be that the pre-NA home runs included "little league" home runs, where it was actually a single and a couple of errors, or even 3 errors where the batter came all the way around. They probably did not distinguish errors at that time and if a batter hit the ball and came all the way around before the next batter was up- they called it a "home run."
                              Some of that is most likely true but from accounts that I have read a lot of errors were recorded in pre-NA era. I have to look it up but I believe it may have been in the Redleg Journal that early in the 1870 campaign, George Wright had some sort of major injury that reduced his power. He suffered another injury in early 1871 (after a couple of games) that caused him to miss nearly half of the season. Ross Barnes had been moved to ss in his absence.

                              The Red Stockings actually played their home games in an enclosed park during the 1869-1870 season but the foul lines were estimated at 400 feet. I had read some accounts where he had hit the ball over the fences in some ball fields but I would say most of his home runs were inside-the-park or beyond the outfielders. I am sure some were awarded as home runs ignoring some miscues in the field as he was considered a fan favorite in the day. By 1869, his reputation was by many if not the best base ball player, one of the best.

                              I imagine that the smaller towns that the Red Stockings had visited on their tours of 1869-70 were probably advertised with George Wright's name listed first.

                              Another thought is that most of the Red Stockings statistics were recorded by Harry Wright so they were most likely more accurate than local officials may have kept. He had very accurate game accounts of every game the team played. I have seen some of the box scores but not all.

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