Academic journal article Base Ball

Jimmy Callahan: He Covered All the Bases in Chicago

Academic journal article Base Ball

Jimmy Callahan: He Covered All the Bases in Chicago

Article excerpt

The list of players who performed for both the Cubs and the White Sox is more extensive than most are aware. The roll call ranges from Hall of Famers Clark Griffith, Ron Santo, and Rich "Goose" Gossage to such obscure footnotes as Vallie Eaves, Lloyd Mer- riman, and Taylor "T-Bone" Phillips. Not to mention author Jim Brosnan, prankster Jay Johnstone, and broadcaster Steve Stone. But there was only one player who starred for both teams and owned his own semi-pro club as well. His name was Jimmy Callahan.

James Joseph Callahan was born at Fitchburg, Massachusetts, on March 18, 1874, to Irish immigrants James and Margaret (Glynn) Callahan.1 In boyhood, his mother nicknamed him "Nixey" for reasons long since lost to history. He received his primary education at the local public school, where he pre- sumably practiced baseball in the playground during recess and after class. But at age 14, Jimmy lost his father and had to abandon further schooling to sup- port his mother. He first worked at a cotton mill and was later trained as a plumber's apprentice, neither of which he especially enjoyed.2

It was while employed at the cotton mill that Jimmy emerged as a talented pitcher for the company team. His next stop was the semi-professional team of Pepperell, one of the best in Massachusetts. Reportedly, he won 28 games for Pepperell in 1891.3 By 1893, Callahan was hurling for an independent professional club in New Bedford, Massachusetts.4 It was here that he caught the eye of the Philadelphia Phillies, who signed him to a contract.

Callahan's major league debut on May 12, 1894, was hardly an impressive one, as the Orioles slugged him, 8-3, at Baltimore. The right-hander appeared in eight more games that season, going 1-2 with a bloated ERA (compiled retroactively) of 9.89. His lone victory came in relief of Kid Carsey on July 9 at St. Louis, where the Phillies scored three runs in the seventh and again in the eighth to eke out an 11-10 win. Jimmy displayed some offensive skills by slapping two singles and scoring twice. He spent most of the remainder of 1894 with the Philadelphia team of the Pennsylvania State League (basically a farm team for the Phillies), where he went 10-9 and batted .320, seeing limited service in the outfield.

The Phillies apparently gave up on Callahan, as he pitched for Springfield of the Eastern League in 1895, posting a powerful 30-9 log. The following year he moved up the minor league ladder to Kansas City of the Western League, going 24-14 while playing another 32 games in the outfield, batting .314.5 During the winter of 1896-1897, Jimmy stayed in Kansas City, making his living by doing itinerant plumbing work and (mostly) putting his pocket pool skills to use at local billiard emporiums.6

It was also at this time that Callahan's contract was purchased by the Chicago Colts (Cubs), earning him a permanent promotion to the majors. On January 30, 1897, the front page of Sporting Life noted "James J. Callahan ... has a bright future before him, as he should develop into one of the crack pitchers of the League.... He has excellent speed, good command of the ball, and is cool headed at critical stages of the game. He is also a good batsman and clever base runner."7 The words would not be wasted.

Upon reporting to the Colts' spring training camp at Hot Springs, Arkansas, in March 1897, Jimmy met the aging superstar first baseman and manager Adrian "Cap" Anson. Although Anson was generally prejudiced against the Irish, he appears to have made an exception where young Callahan was concerned, as they took an immediate lik- ing to each other. With his genial, outgoing personality, Jimmy also became close friends with ace pitcher Clark Griffith and center fielder Bill Lange, the team's best hitter and basestealer.8

Callahan hurled his first game for his new team on April 26, 1897, at St. Louis, beating the Brown Stockings (Cardinals), 9-2. The Chicago Tribune colorfully observed that "The first eight men who faced Callahan died natural and easy deaths by curvature of the ball" and that from the sixth inning on "Callahan had the Browns completely at his mercy. …

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