A Baker’s Dozen Things You Should Know About Benny Kauff

Benny Kauff

Benny Kauff

1. Benjamin Kauff was born in Pomeroy, Ohio in 1890. Quitting school at age 11 he joined his father working in the coal mines.

2. Baseball was, for Kauff as for dozens of other players, a way out of the mines. After playing locally, he was signed by Parkersburg of the Virginia Valley League in 1910. He spent 1911 in the minors, played five games for the Highlanders (Yankees) in 1912, went back to the minors, and was picked up by the Cardinals in 1913. They sent him to Indianapolis in the minors.

3. In 1914 a third major league, the Federal League, was formed. Indianapolis was one of the cities given a team. As the ownership knew Kauff and his skill level, he was signed to play for the fledgling team.

4. Known as “The Ty Cobb of the Feds,” Kauff led the Federal League in hits, runs, doubles, stolen bases, total bases, average, slugging, and WAR in 1914. He was almost as good in 1915.

5. At the end of the 1915 season the Feds folded and he signed with the New York Giants. He did poorly in 1916, much better in 1917.

6. In 1917 he made it to the World Series as the Giants starting center fielder. He hit .160, but had two home runs, five RBIs, and four hits in a losing cause.

7. He had another good year in 1918 and fell off in 1919. By 1920 he was considered a solid, rather than great, player. He was, by this point, known as much for his fancy clothes and jewelry as for his playing ability and considered one of the flashiest dressers in the game.

8. After 55 games in 1920 he was arrested for selling a stolen car. He was already under suspicion for fixing games (there is no evidence he ever did) while playing with Hal Chase (who did fix games) on the Giants.

9. According to Kauff two of his friends stole a car, convinced him they owned it legally (apparently they showed him a forged bill of sale) and he helped them paint the car and then was involved in selling the car. He owned a car dealership and the premises were used for the detailing of the stolen car. He was arrested and charged with auto theft and selling stolen property.

10. Kauff was placed on trial, denied the charges (providing a receipt showing he was having dinner with his wife in a restaurant when the car was stolen), and was acquitted in 1921. While charges were pending Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis banned him from the Major Leagues. He played in Toronto in the International League.

11. Despite the acquittal, Landis banned Kauff from baseball in 1921. Landis didn’t like some of the information about Kauff that came out at the trial (association with thieves and gamblers) and declared he did not, despite the jury verdict, believe Kauff.

12. Kauff sued at the New York Supreme Court, but lost as the court declared it had no standing in the case. He later worked as a scout (he was banned from playing, not scouting) and as a clothing salesman (what else for the flashiest dresser in the big leagues) for the John R. Lyman company in Columbus, Ohio.

13. Benny Kauff died in Columbus, Ohio in 1961.

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4 Responses to “A Baker’s Dozen Things You Should Know About Benny Kauff”

  1. The Baseball Bloggess Says:

    That car mess sounds a bit Dykstra-esque, doesn’t it?

    And, as for that Virginia Valley League … it’s strange that something that called itself the Virginia Valley League had no teams from Virginia in it. What’s up with that? I looked it up and saw the name lasted just that one season — 1910. Then, someone smartly changed the name to the Mountain States League.

    Although today there IS a Valley League in Virginia — a college summer baseball league made up of 11 teams. All, appropriately, located in Virginia.

    TFTMS. That’s my Verdun2-only shorthand for: ‘Thanks for teaching me stuff”. 🙂

  2. Steve Myers Says:

    his habit for auto theft makes me want to see a life about his movie or reverse that, a movie about his life.

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