The Ball Maker and the Telegrapher

Excelsior of Brooklyn 1860 team photo

Excelsior of Brooklyn 1860 team photo

Continuing on with my brief looks at the men who composed the 1860 Excelsiors, I’ve found the information available is getting sketchier and sketchier. Up to this point I’ve looked at five men as individuals. To do that now would make this post very short. So I’m going to combine two players here in one biographic post (with a short note at the end about another).

The Ball Maker

In the picture above John Campbell Whiting is the second man from the left. He has on a bow tie and stands just to the right of Jim Creighton, the man holding the ball. Whiting was born in either 1841 or 1842 in Erie County, New York. He was one of five brothers who ended up playing baseball in the 1850s and 1860s (with older brother Charles appearing to be the best). By 1858 John Whiting was playing ball with the local team, the Niagaras. He was the third baseman and one of the three best players on the team (Creighton and George Flanly, addressed below, were the others). The Stars, a Brooklyn team grabbed all of them and brought them to the New York metropolitan area, where they all three jumped to the Excelsiors almost immediately. Whiting played third with the Excelsiors and participated in the big “playoff” game with the Atlantic in 1860. He retired in 1861 (when he was roughly 20) and began manufacturing baseballs. He was, seemingly, successful but the American Civil War got in the way. By 1862 he can be found in the 31st New York Infantry and in June of 1863 made Lieutenant. After the war he remained in New York and became an investment broker (I don’t know if he still made baseballs as a side enterprise or not). Apparently he was pretty good at it because he moved (according to the 1880 census) to a pretty expensive neighborhood. He was visiting his daughter in Lanesboro, Massachusetts when he died on 26 September 1929. As far as I can tell, he was the last of the Excelsiors.

The Telegrapher

The man on the far right of the picture above is George H. Flanly. He was the normal center fielder for the Excelsiors in 1860. He was born in either 1833 or 1834 and by age 14 was considered one of the best ball players around. By the late 1850s he’s moved into the lineup of the Niagaras (of Buffalo, NY) and become reasonably famous for his fielding skills. In 1858 he moved to Brooklyn and hooked up with the Excelsiors. There is some evidence that both he and Creighton were being paid to play ball, which, if true, makes him the first man paid for his glove (although there were no gloves in 1859) rather than his bat. He hung on in baseball as late as 1869 when he is found playing for the Mutuals (of New York, not Brooklyn). For at least a while in 1866 he can be found umpiring games. Whether he was paid to play or not, it wasn’t enough to keep him from being required to hold another job. In 1858 he joined the Brooklyn police force as a member of their Telegraph section. He remained with the Brooklyn Police Telegraph Department into 1884. By 1872 he was Superintendent of the Department and when he retired in 1884 he received a yearly pension of $1000, a large sum in the era. I have been unable to find out when he died.

I’m now down to two men on the 1860 Excelsiors that I haven’t told you about. One of them is Thomas Reynolds. He’s the man on the far left of the picture above. He played shortstop for the team and that, other than an 1887 article that states he died “years ago”, is all I can find about him. That leaves one man to explore, which I’ll do later. I also want to make some general observations about the players at that time.



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5 Responses to “The Ball Maker and the Telegrapher”

  1. glen715 Says:

    Heh. Small world. About Whiting, I live in Brooklyn, and I used to live near Lanesboro, Mass. I also worked in Lanesboro, vacuuming the carpets at Filene’s Department Store in the mall up there. I think that Filene’s is now closed.

    Also, I was bummed out when the Brooklyn Excelsiors moved to L.A. in 1957. Wait, I think I’ve got my facts wrong.

    Seriously, another fine piece of good writing based on fine research, V.


  2. Precious Sanders Says:

    Considering how big baseball got because of the war, I bet the baseball-making enterprise probably exploded when it was all over. Would be a shame if Whiting missed out on that.

  3. Allan G. Smorra Says:

    I am really enjoying your series on these men. Each installment is a well-written piece of detective work.

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