Thursday, August 21, 2014

Photos evoke minor league time travel

The other day I grabbed my box camera, stepped into my Wayback Machine, set the dial for 1920, hopped in a Model T Ford and drove out to catch a ball game in Chickasha, Oklahoma between the Chicks and Ft. Smith.

Actually that's just the feeling I get when I look at a group of four photos that I dug out of one of my old files. They appear to be fan's snapshots of members of the Chicks in the Class D Western Association. I'm guessing the pictures were taken at the Chickasha ballpark, but they might have been shot at any of the circuit's other venues around Oklahoma, Arkansas and Illinois.

I bought the pix about 10 years ago, planning to do a feature in SCD. Now I'll share them with you.

To me the most interesting photo is that of Mose Poolaw. 

Edward Moses Poolaw wasn't too long out of the World War I U.S. Army when he played with Chickasha. It appears to have been his first engagement in Organized Baseball, though in 1917, while a student at the U.S. Indian Industrial Training School at Lawrence, Kans., he had played professionally with the Nebraska Indians barnstorming team.

Poolaw was a full-blooded Kiowa, born on the Anadarko Agency in southwestern Oklahoma in 1894.

He played his entire career in the Western Association between 1920-26, starting as an infielder-outfielder then switching to pitching. He played for Chickasha in 1920-21, when the league was designated Class D. When the circuit earned a Class C rank for 1922, Poolow was with Joplin. He joined Bartlesville/Ardmore for 1924. In 1925 he was with Independence. He finished his pro playing days with McAllister in 1926.

Poolaw wasn't a bad Class C pitcher. He had a four-year record of 55-43 from 1921-45, winning 20 in 1924.

Poking around the internet, it appears Poolaw may have gone into some sort of religious work and his name is found associated with a Kiowa-English Christian song book. He died in 1969.

The other single-player photo in the group is of Chickasha catcher-manager Lester Hayes, identified as "Drap" on the picture. The vintage automobiles parked behind the grandstand give the photo a great period look.

Hayes had a 12-year minor league career as player and/or manager between 1911-30. He'd gotten his start in pro ball in my neck of the woods, at Green Bay and Appleton in the Wisconsin-Illinois League. He was with the Chicks in 1920-21.

The only man on the 1920 Chicks with major league experience is one of the three outfielders photographed together, Ned Pettigrew . . . he'd had two games with Buffalo in the Federal League in 1914.

He played 16 seasons (1905-21) in Class A-D leagues all over the West, then managed three more years (1922-23, 1937).

In this photo he's shown with Vic Ruedy, who led the 1920 Chicks with a .287 batting average. Ruedy was a 10-year minor league veteran who played in the lower minors all over the country between Twin Falls, Idaho and Manchester, N.H. between 1920-29.

The third outfielder is identified in the photo as Eddie Neusal. The minor league data base shows only a "Musel" on the 1920 Chicks roster, and that being his only O.B. engagement. They also have a separate listing for a "Neusal" playing with Jacksonville in 1917. I'm going to guess the unknown photographer got it right.

The fourth photo is a group shot of Chicks pitchers. According to the identification on back they are (presumably left to right) Lefty Lewis, Dan Payne, Lou Kraft and Lefty Miller. Given the common nature of the pitchers' surnames, and the paucity of records for teams in the low minors in the early 1920s, it's not possible to trace the careers of the Chickasha pitchers. I can't even tell if Lefty Miller is the "E. Miller" or "Fred Miller" who were both pitchers on the 1920 team.

Great old professional baseball photos like these have always appealed to both the minor league fan and baseball researcher in me. Perhaps you enjoyed them, as well.

Now that I've gotten these pictures into "print," I'm offering the original photos now on eBay. Search the auction listings under 1920 Chickasha.

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