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Roger Bresnahan

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Roger Bresnahan

A photo of Roger Bresnahan.

Roger Philip Bresnahan (June 11, 1879December 4, 1944), nicknamed "The Duke of Tralee" for his Irish roots,[1] was an American player in Major League Baseball who starred primarily as a catcher and a player-manager.

He introduced the use of the catcher's shin guard in 1907[2] and was selected in 1945 to the Baseball Hall of Fame. During his career and for most of his life he claimed to have been born in Tralee, Ireland but admitted the truth (Toledo, Ohio) later in life.

Born in Toledo, Ohio, he began his major league career as a pitcher, throwing a six-hit shutout on August 27, 1897. However, he eventually moved to catcher (although he could play all nine positions), and was labeled one of the best at that position by managers John McGraw and Branch Rickey. Despite taunts by other players, he experimented with head and thigh protection gear which had been introduced by some college teams, which included the first MLB batting helmet, and this led to the widespread use of more protection for catchers in the early 20th century.

Bresnahan played for the Washington Senators (1897), Chicago Orphans/Cubs (1900, 1913-15), Baltimore Orioles (1901-02), New York Giants (1902-08), St. Louis Cardinals (1909-12), and the Cubs again (1913-1915). In 1430 games, he had a batting average of .279 in 4480 at-bats. His historic role is unquestioned, but his Hall of Fame credentials have been questioned since he caught 100 or more games in a season only once (in 1908).

Bresnahan had managed the Cardinals while playing for them, and the Cubs in 1915. His overall record was 328-432.

Bresnahan died of a heart attack at his home in Toledo at age 65, and was elected to the Hall of Fame the following year; decades later, Sabermetrician Bill James said it was an honor that Bresnahan did not deserve.[3]

Bresnahan was buried in Calvary (Roman Catholic) Cemetery in Toledo, Ohio.

1911 train wreckEdit

On July 11, 1911, with the Cards only three games out of first place in early July, the team was involved in a train wreck while riding the Federal Express from Philadelphia to Boston.[4] Fourteen passengers were killed after the train derailed and plunged down an Template:Convert/LoffAoffDbSonTemplate:Convert/track/abbr/Template:Convert/track/disp/Template:Convert/track/sing embankment outside Bridgeport, Connecticut.[4] None of the Cardinals were seriously injured, due to a fortuitous pre-trip change in the location of their Pullman car that Bresnahan had requested. The Cardinals helped remove bodies and rescue the injured.[4]

Despite posting their first winning season since 1901, the Cardinals never recovered from the incident, finishing a distant fifth.

CommemorationsEdit

Bresnahan was mentioned in the poem "Lineup for Yesterday" by Ogden Nash:

Baseball Hall of Fame plaque
Battery mate of Christy Mathewson with the New York Giants, he was one of the games most natural players and might have starred at any position. The "Duke of Tralee" was one of the few major league catchers fast enough to be used as a leadoff man
Lineup for Yesterday
B is for Bresnahan
Back of the plate;
The Cubs were his love,
and McGraw his hate.
Ogden Nash, Sport magazine (January 1949)[5]


ReferencesEdit

  1. Have you heard of this Player; Nicknames and 18 from the Sporting News
  2. Suehsdorf, A. D. (1978). The Great American Baseball Scrapbook, p. 36. Random House. ISBN 0-394-50253-1.
  3. Bill James Answers All Your Baseball Questions, an April 2008 entry from the Freakonomics blog
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Tuesday, July 11th from BaseballLibrary.com
  5. Baseball Almanac. Retrieved on 2008-01-23.

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