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Johnny Mostil, A Troubling Time

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  • Johnny Mostil, A Troubling Time

    Johnny Mostil, A Troubling Time

    Johnny Mostil, born in 1896, grew up in Chicago and played semi-pro ball locally. He was invited to spring training in 1918 with the hometown White Sox and landed a job briefly with the club when Eddie Collins joined the Marines. After that he was converted to the outfield and farmed to Milwaukee of the American Association for two seasons. After his fourth spring with the White Sox, Mostil finally stuck in 1921, replacing banned Black Sox Happy Felsch in centerfield.

    Sometime around 1920 Mostil moved to Whiting, Indiana (probably around the death of his father in 1921 – his WWI registration card in 1917 notes his home in Chicago and his passport application in 1924 notes his home in Whiting). Whiting sits about twenty miles from Chicago. There, he met a young woman named Margaret E. Carroll, born in 1902 to Hammond, Indiana residents Dennis R. and Sarah M. Carroll. The couple started dating in 1924 became close enough to begin discussions of marriage in 1926.

    Entering spring training in 1927, Mostil was agitated and in pain. He was suffering from a dental ailment and from neuritis, an inflammation of nerves which cause pain and atrophy of muscles, in his left shoulder. Both being the case, he was uncomfortable and his mood was off. (It should be noted that in some sportswriters’ accounts it is evident that Mostil was a habitual complainer about health issues. The flippant nature in which reporters noted his ailments suggest that they deemed him a hypochondriac.)

    Mostil arrived in Shreveport, Louisiana in early March 1927 for spring training. One of his first stops was to the trainer for help with his facial issue. On March 7 he took part in his first workout of the year. To kick things off, he was nailed in the chest with a ball during batting practice. (Reporters snickered that Mostil would now have more ammo for his health complaints.) That night, he had Ray Schalk contact the hotel manager to call for a doctor. After the exam, the doctor commented to Schalk that Mostil was “…in bad shape.” X-rays were also taken of his mouth.

    The next day rain cancelled practice. Mostil hung around the hotel, Hotel Youree, and took an afternoon nap (He roomed with teammate Bill Barrett.) After the nap, he went to the room of Red and Irene Faber and had a conversation (Supposedly, it was a pleasant conversation.) Mostil ended up at the room of Pat Prouty, a fan and White Sox benefactor. Prouty was not present in the room, so Mostil let himself in.

    At about 5:30 p.m. Prouty returned to his room. After a few minutes, he opened the bathroom door and found Mostil lying on the floor (or perhaps in the tub). Mostil and the bathroom were covered in blood. A pocket knife and a razor were at his side. Schalk, Willie Kamm, Barrett and other ballplayers soon gathered in and around the room. They administered first aid as best as they could and called for an ambulance.

    Mostil had sliced (over a dozen times) his left wrist, throat, chest and ankles and had stabbed himself above the heart in an attempt to commit suicide. He was taken to Schumpert Hospital and administered the last rites of the Catholic faith. The newspaper headlines the next day held little hope for a recovery.

    Mostil’s family in Indiana (where he lived with his mother Barbara and brother Ed) was dumbfounded. He had just left for spring training and they apparently couldn’t understand what made him distraught; though, he had the recurring neuritis.

    Mostil recovered though the doctors gave him little hope of recovering the full use of his hands after he sliced the tendons leading to the second and third fingers on his left hand. Luckily, Mostil was righthanded.

    Mostil left the hospital on March 28, vowing to return to baseball by the middle of May. He returned home to Whiting. His fingers were healing nicely and he was developing a fuller range of movement, giving him hope that he could soon grip a bat. Mostil also went to a resort in Southern Wisconsin (probably at the behest and expense of Charles Comiskey) to rehab.

    On May 20 Mostil was placed on the voluntarily retired list. He continued to work out but was set back after dipping his healing wrist in scalding water. Mostil was eventually activated on the roster on September 1, appearing as a pinch runner on the 2nd.

    On July 2, 1927 two Shreveport doctors, J.E. Slicer and E.L. Sanderson, filed $6,000 worth of lawsuits claiming that neither Mostil or the White Sox had paid the hospital bills.


    The reasons for Mostil’s actions are unclear (and naturally include a great deal of speculation).

    1) Medical – already discussed

    2) Financial – Some have suggested that Mostil’s contract squabbles with the club may have been weighing on him. It is true that he returned his contract unsigned twice over the winter, but he eventually signed for $12,000. It is unlikely that this prompted any sizable stress which could lead to the events of March 8.

    3) Irene Faber – The press made much out of the fact that Mostil visited the Fabers’ hotel room on that afternoon, suggesting that Mostil and Irene were having an affair. Wild speculation and rumors even suggested that Red Faber threatened Mostil’s life. However, none of this was even substantiated.

    Irene Faber was a constant around the ball club. She attended nearly every game and traveled with the White Sox. This doesn’t mean though that anything inappropriate happened. In fact, Red Faber never displayed any public distaste for Mostil. In actualyity, he remembered Mostil fondly to reporters later in life and complimented his skills on the diamond. Faber’s biographer Brian Cooper also found no family members who were aware of any inappropriate behavior. The Fabers themselves remained married until Irene’s death in 1943.

    4) Bill Barrett – It is suggested by Cooper that the real reason for Mostil’s actions was the supposed affair between his girlfriend Margaret Carroll, age 25 in 1927, and teammate Bill Barrett (Carroll was not at spring training). However, Cooper doesn’t relate one instance or comment relating to any relationship between Carroll and Barrett prior to the suicide attempt.

    It is true that Barrett and Carroll ended up together. They were married in 1929 and remained so until Barrett’s death in 1951(They had one son, Richard in 1938). Others have stated that Carroll broke up with Mostil as a result of the suicide fallout and then fell in with Barrett.

    The Barrett marriage though in and of itself suggests a complicate affair. It happened either of two ways. The first is that they began seeing each other seriously prior to spring training 1927 which would then be in all likelihood the reason for the suicide attempt. Or secondly, a troubled Mostil attempted and nearly committed suicide and then Carroll left him shortly thereafter for teammate Bill Barrett. Either way, the Barrett and Carroll relationship must have caused more than a few glances by teammates.

    Mostil and Barrett would remain teammates until 1929. Interestingly, they would both be gone from the club within the same week. On May 19 Mostil fractured his right ankle tripping over home plate. The injury would end his major league career. Four days later on May 23, Barrett was traded to Boston (near his Cambridge home) for Doug Taitt. Also, it is interesting to note that Barrett and Carroll were married around this time (Mostil was never married).

    Whichever reason for Mostil’s depression, it is a safe bet that it had something to do with baseball and the White Sox. The coincidence of the event occurring so soon after arriving at camp is telling.
    Last edited by Brian McKenna; 05-14-2008, 11:37 AM.

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