Saturday, June 30, 2012

Phil Page killed youth in hunt accident

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

Within 24 hours after he had given a talk on hunting safety at the annual deer hunters’ banquet in Milo, Maine, former big league pitcher Phil Page was involved in the fatal shooting of a young man.

Page was in a hunting party that included National Leaguers Ken Raffensberger of the Reds, Monte Kennedy of the Giants, Carl Furillo of the Dodgers and Vern Bickford and Johnny Logan of the Braves. 
Page had recently lost his job as pitching coach of the Cincinnati Reds when Rogers Hornsby was hired as manager for the upcoming 1953 season.

Around 1948 the hunting lodges, guides and outfitters in central Maine had conceived a plan to offer free hunting accommodations to major league ballplayers on the theory that other hunters would be attracted by the celebrities during deer season.

Page had accepted the hospitality for a number of years, and in 1949 had killed a 12-point buck, one of the biggest deer taken in Maine that season. 

On November 17, 1952, Page, 47, and his guide, Carleton Bragg, 26, fired on “what looked like a deer moving in the brush.”

There was no deer in the brush, it was 18-year-old Gerald Caron, of Howlane, Me., who was cutting pulp wood with his father. The young woodsman was hit in the chest, stomach and arm. Page had fired his rifle once, Bragg had shot twice.

The shooters said they were 20-30 feet apart when they heard twigs snapping. They fired from about 150 feet, killing Caron, who was wearing a red hat and red plaid shirt. 

The shooters were arraigned in Medford, Me., on charges of negligence in the death. They were freed on $1,000 bond and slated to appear before a grand jury in March at Dover-Foxcroft, Me. In March, Page and Bragg each pled no contest in the shooting and were fined $400 apiece.

Less than two weeks later, in the midst of Maine's worst flooding in nearly a century, Bragg drowned when his canoe capsized in a swollen stream about a quarter-mile from where Caron had been killed.

Page had begun his pro baseball career in 1927-28, pitching for his native Springfield, Mass., in the Class A Eastern League. He spent parts of 1928-30 with the Detroit Tigers, splitting time with their AA farm club in the International League.

After pitching with Seattle in the Pacific Coast League in 1931-33, Page had a last major league fling with the Dodgers in 1934. He spent most of the 1934 season with Kansas City (American Association), also appearing with the Blues through 1937 and again in 1939. From 1937-38, and 1942-45 he was with the Yankees' top minor league team at Newark. 

In this picture from the Nov. 21, 1951, issue of The Sporting News,
Phil Page (left) was pictured with his hunting party in Maine.
From 1947-52 Page returned to the major leagues as a pitching coach for the Reds. He later managed the Yankees' Southern Association club in Birmingham, 1955-56. He died in 1958.

There are no "mainstream" cards of Phil Page. He appears in the Zeenut candy series of PCL players in 1932-33, and as a Reds coach in the 1949 Eureka Sportstamps set of National Leaguers.

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