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“Scrappy” Dan Shay, Acquitted Murderer

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  • “Scrappy” Dan Shay, Acquitted Murderer

    “Scrappy” Dan Shay, Acquitted Murderer

    Born: Daniel Charles Shea

    Dan Shay was born on November 8, 1876 in Springfield, Ohio. Shay found work as a horse jockey in St. Louis before entering professional ball.


    After milling in the minors for a few years, Shay finally broke into the majors with the upsurge of the American League in 1901.

    He appeared in 19 games at shortstop for Charles Somers’ Cleveland Blues at age 25, debuting on April 30. His baseball-reference stats:

    After the 1901 season, Shay joined San Francisco of the California League that would eventually place him at the forefront of arguments between organized baseball and outlaw leagues. Shay would jump between the major leagues and the outlaw California and Pacific Coast Leagues for the next decade.

    San Francisco won the league championship that season. Shay also played for San Francisco in 1902. In 1903 the fleet-footed Shay moved to the San Francisco club in the Pacific Coast League, leading the league with 83 stolen bases.

    In 1904 Shay played for three teams, one in each league. On January 31, 1904 the Washington Post noted that the St. Louis Cardinals beat out the Detroit Tigers in the bid to obtain Shay from San Francisco. He played 99 games for St. Louis that summer, mainly at shortstop.

    Initiating a continual saga, Shay bemoaned to eastern writers in October 1904 at the end of the major league season that he might not play in the following season. He was feeling ill at the time and feared an attack of consumption due to the fact that one of his sisters recently passed from the ailment.

    In truth, it was a negotiating tactic. Shay became known for his yearly holdouts and tough negotiating stance. He did so effectively using his affinity for California baseball and hesitation to leave the west coast.

    Shay also played for Portland of the Pacific Coast League and Stockton in the California League. He held out from the Cardinals in 1905 and began playing with Stockton in April, citing the fact that the California League only played on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

    By June 1905, he joined the Cardinals and played 78 games for them (39 games each at second base and shortstop). At the end of the season Shay again announced his intention to remain in California; in fact, he asked the Cardinals for his release in January 1906. Again, he played for pennant-winning Stockton club at the end of the 1905 season and sustained an injury to his little finger. The injury failed to heal necessitating its amputation. Around this time Shay had two children, Florence and Daniel Jr., with his wife at their hometown in Stockton.

    Shay then joined Stockton in 1906. The Cardinals became fed up and traded him with Spike Shannon to the John Brush’s New York Giants for Sam Mertes and Doc Marshall in July 1906. The trade was also accompanied by a deal with Cincinnati sending Cy Seymour to the Giants.

    However, Shay refused to join the Giants stating that he could make more money as captain playing once or twice a week for Stockton and tending to his tobacco shop in Slough City. Stockton again won the pennant under manager Cy Moreing.

    John McGraw was planning to conduct spring training in California in 1907, so in December 1906 he traveled to the west coast to iron out the details. He also had plans to discuss terms with Shay.

    Shay initially refused to meet with McGraw; however, the two finally met in mid-Januray and discussed baseball for several hours. McGraw left the west coast hoping that Shay would join the club for spring training in Los Angeles on March 1. Shay finally did sign in late February and met the club. He played 35 games for the Giants in the middle infield.

    The Cardinals filed charges against Shay in 1907 claiming that the ballplayer accepted $204 from the club on December 11, 1905 and had failed to repay it after joining the Giants. On May 16, 1907 the National Commission ruled that Shay had to repay the debt or be declared ineligible. Circumstances are confusing but the Giants probably paid the debt.

    In early 1908 Shay was designated for assignment to Oakland of the Class-A Pacific Coast League, now a member of organized baseball. Shay refused to sign with either New York or Oakland, claiming that neither team wanted him. Rumors also abound that he signed with fellow-Californian Frank Chance, the manager of the Cubs. Instead, Shay joined Stockton in the independent California League, stealing 49 bases for the second-half pennant winner.

    The National Commission took up Shay’s case and officially declared him a free agent on April 15, 1908. Further rumors abound over the winter of 1908 noting that Shay decided to quit baseball because of the success he was having winning money and booking bets in horse racing.

    As the Washington Post states:
    Shay…is the only baseball player ever known to have got much ahead of the racing game. Danny was so good at picking winners that he finally quit the diamond for the racecourse.
    The Post noted that in comparison Frank Chance had not done so well over the winter as a “bookie.”

    In 1909 the highly successful California League manager and promoter Cy Moring decided it was time to step up the west coast war with the Pacific Coast League. He built a new park in Oakland and took over the Oakland Invaders, directly competing with the Oakland Oaks. This left the manager’s job in Stockton to Shay.

    Shay managed the Stockton Tigers to the first-half title; however, he became tentative with the league, noticing the ill effects of the war with the PCL. Shay’s top pitcher Wish Egan, a former teammate with the St. Louis Cardinals, contacted George Tebeau in Kansas City and recommended Shay for the manager’s job with the Kansas City Blues of the American Association.

    Tebeau took a train to San Francisco and met Shay. On July 19, 1909 Shay quit the California League and joined Tebeau in the Class-A league. From this point Shay lived much of the rest of his life in Kansas City.

    Shay managed the Blues for the rest of the 1909 season and in 1910 (85-81, fifth place and 1911 (94-70, second place).

    Shay left the Blues after the 1911 season, becoming involved in an effort to help start-up John Power's new Columbian League (based in western cities). The project never got off the ground. He was slated to manage the Kansas City club. The Columbian League may have failed but Power's next effort, the Federal League, kicked off the following year.

    Over the next few years, Shay backed away from the game. During this time (in 1914), a tragic car accident killed his wife. His two children can be found in the 1920 U.S. Census – Florence living in San Francisco with an uncle and aunt and Daniel living in Kansas City with relatives.

    Shay returned to baseball in June 1915, replacing Bill Armour as manager of the Kansas City Blues. The club finished in fifth place, 19 games out. He also managed them to a fifth-place finish in 1916.

    After the 1916 season, Shay became manager of the Milwaukee Brewers of the Class-AA American Association. He also filed suit against the Blues for $125 in back pay.


    On May 3, 1917 the Brewers played the Indianapolis Indians in Indiana, losing 3-1. This brought their record to 7 and 8. After the game, Shay persuaded the team’s business manager to hold the club over an extra night in Indianapolis even though the series was over.

    Shay then went to a tavern and had a few (though an unspecified amount) drinks. At approximately 6:30 in the evening he asked the tavern’s owner to take him to a “beauty parlor” to get a “manicure.” The 40-year-old Shay was introduced to the shop’s owner Gertrude Anderson, approximately 25 years old, who was later described as wearing a dark silk dress and a black fur with ermine trimming.

    Shay requested a “manicure” from Anderson and the pair left to get dinner. They went to the Hotel English, the team’s hotel.

    At the hotel’s restaurant Shay and Anderson were seated by 30-year-old black busboy Clarence Euell. Anderson later claimed that Euell, “…walked away some distance, stood looking at me and smiled.”

    Shay had two more drinks, later described as Bronx cocktails. He then hailed another busboy and complained that the sugar bowl on the table was near empty. The busboy ignored Shay, which caused some apparently ignorant comments from Shay.

    Euell then brought two sugar bowls and placed them on the table. Shay called him a “Smarty” and muttered something else under his breath. Euell then responded, “Mister, I don’t like that remark you made to me.”

    Shay said, “What do you mean you don’t like that remark?” Euell walked away but Shay called him back. With the remark, “I’ll show you now what I mean by that remark,” Shay stood up, pulled a revolver and shot Euell in the stomach.

    Euell wrestled him to the ground, stepped on his neck and beat his head against the ground several times.

    Anderson fled, not to be discovered until two days later. Shay retired to his hotel room. Euell was taken to the hospital where he died an hour later.

    Shay was arrested in his room and held without bail on a charge of second-degree murder. The arresting officers noted that Shay appeared intoxicated. He was indicted on May 11 in Indianapolis.

    Brewers’ president Al Timmie supported Shay, sending the team lawyer to defend him. American Association president Tom Hickey announced that the league would establish a defense fund. Columbus manager Joe Tinker led the drive to secure funds and a top lawyer for Shay.

    A week after the incident Timmie replaced Shay, who would spend more than six months in jail awaiting trial.

    After a nine-day trial, Shay was acquitted for self-defense on November 22.

    At his trial Shay claimed self-defense. Both he and Anderson claimed that Euell was both rude and aggressive. Shay claimed that Euell punched him and threatened to kill him before the gun was pulled. Shay also denied any intoxication. Hotel employees refuted all such descriptions of the incident. The fact that Shay was white and Euell was black surely factored into the verdict.

    Local papers declared the verdict a miscarriage of justice:

    Shay, of course, had no right to carry a revolver. That fact itself was a violation of the law. But having it, he had no right to use it unless he had good reason to believe that his life was in danger. The only testimony that even tends to sustain that theory was his own.

    Shay lived out his life in Kansas City and never remarried. He would not manage again. Shay’s WWI registration card shows him working as a deputy in the county surveyor’s office and residing at 426 West 35th Street. For some reason, he listed his daughter Florence (in California) as his closest relative despite the fact that his son lived in Kansas City.

    Shay was hired by Milwaukee Brewers’ owner Fred Borchet in 1923 to do some part-time scouting.

    In late 1926 or early 1927 Shay suffered a stroke and some paralysis. On December 1, 1927 he was found dead in his Kansas City hotel room from a self-inflicted gunshot at age 51. The revolver lay on the floor near his body. Shay lived alone.

    He was buried at Mount St. Mary Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri.

    Picture of Shay:
    The story of a murder at Indianapolis' English Hotel opens the December 2007 issue of the Indiana Magazine of History. David Jones tells the "unusual case" of professional baseball player Dan Shay, who in a drunken rage, killed African American waiter Clarence Euell at the hotel's café in May 1917. Shay's acquittal after a lengthy jury trial, Jones concludes, reveals more about Progressive Era Indianapolis's conflicted racial and moral climate than about Shay's actual guilt or innocence.

    David Jones’ story:
    Last edited by Brian McKenna; 02-09-2008, 12:43 PM.

  • #2
    Fascinating story full of stereotypes Negro's and Drunken Irishmen, Shay should have been convicted murder. I know it's sounds callous but his committing suicide seems karmic justice for this evil act.

    Indiana Magazine's quick audio overview (2 mins)

    David Jones produced an article in 2007 in the Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 103, Issue 4, pp 349-378 entitled An Unusual Case: Dan Shay, Clarence Euell, Gertrude Anderson, and the Limits of Hoosier Progressivism.

    Other articles

    The Sad Days of Danny Shay By Judy Deeter

    Brian's Sabr Bio of Danny

    Minors League Brewers

    Historic Indianapolis Crimes: Murder and Mystery in the Circle City


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