A Dozen Things You Should Know About Roger Bresnahan

Roger Bresnahan in gear

1. He was born 11 June 1879 in Toledo, Ohio.

2. Graduating from High School in 1895, he joined the Ohio State League in 1896, both pitching and catching.

3. In 1897 he made it to the National League with the Washington Nationals (not the same club as today) as a pitcher. He threw a six hit shutout in his first game 27 August, went 4-0 in his pitching assignments, hit .375, asked for a raise, and was cut at the end of the season (which should help explain why Washington never won a NL pennant).

4.  He spent 1898 and 1899 in the Minors, resurfaced briefly in the National League in 1900, then jumped to the American  League’s Baltimore Orioles (now the Yankees, not the modern Orioles) where he met John J. McGraw. In 1902 he joined McGraw in jumping to the Giants in the NL.

5. Playing multiple positions, he became the Giants’ full-time catcher in 1905. As a catcher he experimented with a batting helmet, padded masks, and shin guards. The latter two became staples during his own career. There is a lot of question who invented each. Although he is sometimes given credit for inventing each, Bresnahan, as far as I can tell, never claimed to have done so.

6. In the 1905 World Series, catcher Bresnahan led off for the Giants (unusual for a catcher) and led the team with a .313 batting average. The Giants won in five games.

7. In 1906 he led the National League with an OBP of .419, again unusual for a  catcher of any era.

8. In 1908 he caught 139 games during the season. It was both his career high and an astonishing number for the era.

9. In 1909 he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals to be player-manager. During his tenure (1909-1912) he finished as high as fifth once. He got along well with Stanley Robison, Cardinals owner, but Robison died in 1911. He was replaced by his niece Helene Robinson Britton who became the first woman to own a Major League club (and who is certainly worth a post at some point). After an initial period of getting along (I resisted using “honeymoon” here for a reason), they quickly fell out. Part of the problem seems to be that Bresnahan didn’t like working for a girl (See what I mean about “honeymoon”?).

10. In 1913 he was sent to the Chicago Cubs where he was the backup catcher in both 1913 and 1914. In 1915 he was player-manager for the team. He didn’t do well as a manager, but made a lot of money.

11. He used the money to buy the Toledo Mud Hens Minor League team. He owned, managed, and occasionally played for the Mud Hens through the 1923 season.

12. He coached some for the Giants 1925-28, then for the Tigers in 1930 and 1931. Afterwards he held a series of  odd jobs that helped him get by but had nothing to do with baseball. In 1944 he ran for county commissioner. He lost the election and died of a heart attack on 4 December of the same year (I’m not about to speculate on cause/effect of politics and heart attacks at this point.). His death led to a spiking in interest about him and he was elected to the Hall of  Fame in 1945.

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2 Responses to “A Dozen Things You Should Know About Roger Bresnahan”

  1. sportsphd Says:

    Though he had zero power, he was an on-base machine. Among catchers with a minimum of 1,000 plate appearances, his .386 OBP is 8th all-time. I’ve often thought he was an odd Hall of Famer, and I still think that. But I am not so sure he was a bad pick.

  2. The Baseball Idiot Says:

    These are the kind of baseball posts I enjoy reading the most. I don’t care who’s squabbling with whom in which dugout, or didn’t perform up to a certain standard.

    More of these please.

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