Old Man Tincup

I grew up in a small town, a nice place, but not a place for which I hold a lot of nostalgia. We lived on a major street in the town, but were sort of on the edge of the place. Across the street there was a big old stone house with this great rock wall you could walk on and a wrought iron front gate. At least as a kid it seemed big. When I saw it later as an teen I was stunned at how small it was. Old Man Tincup lived there.

He was gone a lot, but when he came home, usually in the fall and winter, he’d sit out on his front porch if the weather was good. There were a handful of kids in the neighborhood and we’d head over to his place if we saw him. You see, his wife made great cookies and he would tell us all these wonderful stories about when he was a big league pitcher. We sort of half believed him. I mean he talked about being at the World Series against Babe Ruth and playing with Grover Cleveland Alexander and facing Honus Wagner. Well, nobody we knew in our little town was really going to have done anything like that, but the stories were good and I’m a sucker for sugar cookies.

I moved away to a larger town and didn’t get back to the smaller every year. I saw him once or twice after I moved, but eventually lost touch with him. They tore down the house where he lived to put in part of a strip mall and the house where I grew up made way for a service station. I was fairly sure the stories were exaggerations, but they’d been fun, and I’d had a good time listening to him. Eventually I more or less forgot about him.

Then I grew up and found out he was the real deal. I got hold of a baseball encyclopedia of some kind, thumbed through it, and there he was. I remember telling my wife, “Hey, Old Man Tincup really did it.”

Ben Tincup was born in Oklahoma in 1890 (or 1893 or 1894, the sources differ). He was Cherokee and became a big league pitcher in the 19-teens. He pitched for the Phillies in 1914, 1915, and 1918, then pitched in two games in 1928 with the Cubs. He was mostly a reliever, pitching 48 games, starting 18. He won eight, lost 11, and stuck up a career ERA of 3.10. He struck out 127 men in 212 innings while walking 78. He was on the 1915 Phillies World Series team, but didn’t pitch in the series. The Phils lost in five games. I’ve always wanted it to believe it was because Old Man Tincup didn’t pitch.

He was in the minors in 1917, then again in the 1920’s. He’s supposed to have thrown a perfect game in 1917. He never mentioned it; at least not that I recall. In the 1930s he umpired and managed some in the minors, then was a Dodgers coach in 1940. For most of the 1940s and 1950s he was a scout for the Braves, Pirates, and Phillies and did some work as a pitching coach for the Phils minor leagues.  He died in 1980.

I don’t remember all his stories. Like mine I think they got better with age. He was a nice man and the only big leaguer I ever knew.

4 Responses to “Old Man Tincup”

  1. William Miller Says:

    Great Story. Reminds me of the players in “The Glory of Their Times,” still the best baseball book I’ve ever read. This is when men played baseball as a way to get out of the coalmines, or off the farms. These guys were always just a train-ride back to a very hard life, if they failed in the big leagues. Nice work, Bill

  2. verdun2 Says:

    After reading your comment, I went back and looked at Glory. Had forgotten exactly how wonderful it is.

  3. William Miller Says:

    Yes, it’s so good, it should be used in American History classes as an example of what life was like in America 80-100 years ago. Bill

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