Monday, November 24, 2014

Dubuc escaped wrath of Judge Landis, Part 3

(Continued from yesterday)

           Rumors abounded in the 1923 pre-season that Dubuc would not return to Syracuse. He was said to be planning to join an expansion Ottawa team in the Eastern Canada League as stockholder-manager-pitcher. Another story had him taking the helm of a Syracuse farm club at Williamsport in the newly formed New York-Pennsylvania League.
          Syracuse's new president, Philip Bartelme, quashed all the rumors, however, by affirming Dubuc's place on the Stars roster. The executive called Dubuc, "a handy man to have around, as he can pitch, play the infield or outfield in an emergency and best of all can hit when a hit is needed." Unfortunately, Dubuc's hitting fell off considerably in 1923, dropping 114 points to .237.
          Dubuc did have an excellent, though injury-shortened, record on the mound for Syracuse in 1923. He went 5-2 with a 2.81 ERA. In June he was hit on the right arm in a game with Jersey City. He played the next three games but then went to the dcotor where he learned the arm had been broken. Dubuc was out of action from June 19 through July 29, spending part of his rehabilitation time in Canada on a scouting expedition to shore up the pitching staff.
          In 1924 the prediction that Dubuc would move to Ottawa proved accurate. The Eastern Canada League added a pair of Vermont teams and reorganized as the Quebec-Ontario-Vermont League. Jean Dubuc was able to purchase his release from Syracuse by re-paying his original signing bonus and joined the league as president and manager of the Ottawa-Hull team. To escape local blue laws, the Ottawa teams had for years played their Sunday home games across the river in Hull.
          Ottawa baseball writer M.J. Moloughney predicted Dubuc, whom he desribed as a "French-Canadian" would "receive a good welcome in this city. He will pitch and play the outfield for the local aggregation, and should just about burn up the league in both departments."
          The league consisted of two teams in Montreal, the Royals and Canadiens, the Quebec Bulldogs, the Ottawa Senators, and in Vermont, the Rutland Sheiks and the Montpelier Goldfish. The U.S. teams were unable to finish out the month of July. Neither was Dubuc. He was again disabled when his thumb was broken by a pitched ball in early July. He was able to pinch-hit and play some in the outfield for the remainder of the season, but his team ended the season in last place. Dubuc's pitching record for Ottawa was 2-2 on a 4.24 ERA. He had pitched in seven games and appeared 29 times in the outfield. He hit .286 for the year. The Q-O-V season had been set to run through Sept. 14, but closed after Labor Day. The league disbanded following the 1924 season.
          Dubuc returned to semi-pro ball for 1925, managing the Manchester, N.H., team in the Boston Twilight League. The following year Manchester joined the revived New England League and Dubuc was once again back in Organized Baseball.
          The Class B league consisted of teams in Manchester and Nashua, N.H., Lewiston and Portland in Maine, and the Massachusetts cities of Lynn, Salem, Haverhill and Lawrence. Dubuc's home base was considered the class of the league. Textile Field was described as the equal of any Class B facility in baseball. Its modern concrete and steel grandstand seated 2,900 fans, while an additional 2,000+ could be accomodated in the bleachers. An electric scoreboard allowed the fans to follow every ball and strike.
          Dubuc's 1926 Blue Sox won the premiere season's pennant. He had a 2-2 record and an ERA of 4.24. If he played any other positions in the field, it was not enough to be reported in the official records. He hit .311 for the season.
          In the spring of 1927 it was announced that Dubuc had accepted the position of baseball coach at Brown University. It was expected he would return to Manchester when the college season was over. Instead, Dubuc was reported to have accepted charge of a team in the independent Blackstone Valley League.
          In the off-seasons, Dubuc maintained an active interest in pro hockey. For many years he managed the Rhode Island Reds hockey team at Providence in the American Hockey League. His team made the playoffs for 12 straight years and won five championships.
          In 1928, Dubuc received an offer to return to major league baseball, as a scout for Detroit.
          In a letter dated Jan. 11, Frank Navin made this proposition, "Am going to let Charles Moran out as our representative in the east and I am offering you the position with us as Eastern representative. The position requires that you be on the look-out for us at all times during the year and if you care to you can work actively during the months of July and August when you are through with your college duties. We paid Mr. Moran $1,200 for the season and understood that if he picked up someone that was promising and of any use to us, he would get a suitable bonus in addition to his regular salary. But he never picked up anyone of any account to us so all he got was $1,200 and his expenses. The expenses to cover the time he was traveling for us during July and August. If this kind of a proposition interests you would like to have you advise me."
          Dubuc was interested in the scouting job and it paid big dividends for the Tigers when Dubuc landed Hank Greenberg from under the noses of the New York Yankees. According to what was supposed to have been a humorous account published in 1935, Yankees scout Paul Krichell "had Greenberg all sewed up and set for signing with the Yanks after having eaten Yiddish food at the Greenberg house for over a year to get in the family's good graces.
          "Then in stepped Jean Dubuc, Detroit scout, who called at Hank's house, bringing along his own ham sandwich, and signed up Hank right under the very shadow of the Yankee Stadium."
          The account continued, "Whenever Hank hits a home run Krichell has chills and fever, high blood pressure, water on both knees and a recurrence of the Slobodka Halitosis, which is a rare form, superinduced by eating fetulte miltz, gedumfte brust, gehachte laber and other Yiddish dishes. From that day to this, Paul gets mal de mer every time he gazes upon the corpse of a herring."
          In fact, Dubuc apparently got Greenberg the old-fashioned way -- by offering him more money. According to Greenberg's 1989 biography, The Story of My Life, Dubuc paid him a $6,000 signing bonus with the promise of $3,000 additional when he reported to the Tigers. Just out of high school, Dubuc got Greenberg a spot on the East Douglas, Mass., team in the Blackstone Valley League. "I think he found me the job because he wanted to hide me away from the other scouts in the New York area," Greenberg said.
          Under the terms of the contract signed with Dubuc and the Tigers, Greenberg was allowed to attend N.Y.U., but he quit school after one term to report to Detroit, pick-up his bonus and begin his Hall of Fame slugging career.
          Dubuc's brother Arthur purchased the Nashua, N.H., team in the New England League in 1929, though Jean apparently did not get involved, except perhaps as an investor.
          In spring training 1930, Dubuc put on the Detroit uniform once again, as pitching coach for manager Bucky Harris. Ironically, another of the Tigers coaches that season was Roger Bresnahan. Dubuc remained with Detroit as a coach through the 1931 season.
          In 1934 he was reported back in minor league ball as part-owner and manager of the New Bedford team in the Northeastern League. He returned to Brown University as baseball coach for another three-year term in the mid-1930s, according to an obituary.
          About the same time Dubuc became a salesman for the Braden-Sutphin Ink Co., a position he held for 20 years prior to retiring on the company's farm at Ft. Myers, Fla.
          In December of 1955, Dubuc -- already suffering from heart disease -- had a stroke from which he only partially recovered. His wife died in March, 1956.
          Later that year, a friend of Dubuc's wrote a letter which was published in Joe Barnea's "Barnstorming" column in the Manchester Union Leader, reporting on Dubuc's condition and soliciting letters and cards from well-wishers. While Dubuc was apparently financially sound, the stroke had left him unable to speak or write. "So you see," his friend wrote, "he is cut off from the world in so many ways and if you could drop a hint to his buddies that he'd appreciate hearing from them, you'd be doing him a real favor. He is gradually recovering his strength," the report continued, "and he is now able to get around without a great deal of difficulty. He reads the papers, watches television and the movies and, of course, is interested in baseball, as it was such a part of his life. He was able to watch the World Series games on television and was really excited about the perfect game pitched by Don Larsen of the Yankees."
          Dubuc himself was apparently the type of man who thought of others in times of ill health. The National Baseball Library has a letter from his 1918 Red Sox teammate Babe Ruth to Dubuc, dated Feb. 5, 1947, when the Bambino was dying of cancer. It reads, "Thanks so much for your kind wishes and most amusing get well card. I did not know I had so many thoughtful and sincere friends, and believe me it's messages like yours that have done so much to cheer me up during these long hours here at the hospital."
          Following three years of ill health, Dubuc died on Aug. 28, 1958, at the age of 70. He was interred in the Ft. Myers Memorial Gardens.
          Whether by luck or design, Dubuc was able to evade the wrath of baseball officialdom during the witchhunt that followed the Black Sox scandal. Available evidence indicates Dubuc engaged in activities that were no more than commonplace among the players of his era. Because Landis and his posse made only a token attempt to remove from the game all persons who had "guilty knowledge" of the fix, it was fortunate that Jean Dubuc was able to return and contribute to Organized Baseball. Others, no more culpable that Dubuc were not so fortunate.

Between 1910-1919, Dubuc appeared in all three series of
Coupon cigarettes tobacco cards (T213). He was always
pictured in the Cincinnati road uniform. In 1910 Type 1
His team designation is Cincinnati. In Type 2, 1914-16
his team is shown Detroit. In 1919 Type 3 his team
designation is "N.Y. Nat."

(Editor's note: Another account of the life and career of Jean Dubuc can be found in the SABR BioProject, authored by Tom Simon and Guy Waterman. It can be found at )

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