Posts tagged Deadball

Walking In Williamsport on the Trail of Boots Poffenberger

One way for baseball fans to bridge the chasm between the last out of the World Series and the arrival of pitchers and catchers for spring training is to delve into the history of the game – maybe read a book or take a day trip to a nearby town or landmark with a connection to the National Pastime. Austin Gisriel’s Boots Poffenberger: Hurler, Hero, Hellraiser is an excellent choice if you are looking for a book to help pass the time until baseball arrives again this Spring.

Perhaps better, however, is spending an afternoon with Austin walking  in the footsteps of Boots Poffenberger through Williamsport, Maryland, the ballplayer’s home town. Austin was kind enough to show me around Williamsport this past November, just as the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals were cleaning out their lockers and scattering for the Winter.

If you have read Austin’s book, or if you know anything about Boots Poffenberger, you know that Boots had at least two great loves, baseball and beer. So it was fitting that our Williamsport Boots Tour touched on both aspects of his life. We started on the banks of the Potomac River at the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park in Williamsport.

Williamsport, Maryland, at the confluence of the Conococheague Creek and the Potomac River

Williamsport, Maryland, at the confluence of Conococheague Creek and the Potomac River

Boots was born on July 1, 1915, According to Austin, Boots was named for his grandfather who piloted a boat  on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in and around Williamsport.

C&O Canal Lock 44, Williamsport, Maryland

C&O Canal Lock 44, Williamsport, Maryland

A rookie phenom pitcher with Detroit Tigers in 1937, Boots’s sporadic baseball career is well detailed in Austin’s book, as well as in the  SABR Baseball Biography Project article about Boots, also authored by Austin. When Boots wasn’t playing baseball (either during the off season or during those periods when he simply chose not to play, or was not allowed to play), he could be found at local establishments such as Ern’s Tavern at 35 North Conococheague Street in Williamsport. Now known as The Third Base Tavern (the “Last Stop Before Home” according to the sign), Ern’s was one of Boots’s favorite haunts.

Author Austin Gisriel In Front of Third Base Tavern, One of Boots Poffenberger's Favorite Haunts

Author Austin Gisriel In Front of Third Base Tavern, One of Boots Poffenberger’s Favorite Haunts

Boots’s legend lives large inside the Third Base Tavern. A table in the spot where Boots’s booth of choice once resided sits next to the tavern’s front window.

Where Boots Rested His Weary Legs - Third Base Tavern, Williamsport, Maryland

Spot Where Boots Rested His Weary Legs – Third Base Tavern, Williamsport, Maryland

A picture on the windowsill next to the table shows Boots in action, sitting in his booth at the Third Base Tavern.

Boots in his Booth at Erns Tavern, Now Third Base Tavern, Williamsport, Maryland

Boots in his Booth at Ern’s Tavern, Now Third Base Tavern, Williamsport, Maryland

As Austin has learned having written the book on Boots, there is no shortage of people in Williamsport who have stories to share about Boots. During the short time we visited the Third Base Tavern we met several such residents.

Continuing the baseball theme, we stop next stopped at Doubleday Hill, named after Abner Doubleday, the Union general who famously did not invent baseball (but did fire the first shot by the Union Army at Fort Sumter, South Carolina). During the Civil War, General Doublday commanded an artillery battery in Williamsport on a hill overlooking the Potomac River.

Doubleday Hill, Williamsport, Maryland

Doubleday Hill, Williamsport, Maryland

It is on that same hill, in Riverview Cemetery, that Boots is interred. Boots died in Williamsport on September 1, 1999.

The Final Resting Place of Cletus Elwood “Boots” Poffenberger

The Final Resting Place of Cletus Elwood “Boots” Poffenberger

As noted on his grave marker, Boots served in the Marines during World War II where, according to Austin, Boots spent much of the time entertaining the troops by playing baseball for the company team. Weeds covered a good portion of Boots’s plaque when we arrived, so it took a few minutes to find Boots. Austin made sure the headstone was cleared before we left.

Author Austin Gisriel Next to Boots Poffenberger's Grave Marker, Riverview Cemetery

Author Austin Gisriel Next to Boots Poffenberger’s Grave Marker, Riverview Cemetery

The last stop on our Boots Tour took us eight miles north of Williamsport to Hagerstown, Maryland. Boots’s played many games in Hagerstown at Municipal Stadium, including his last game as a professional ballplayer in 1948, when he as a member of the Class B Interstate League  Hagerstown Owls.

Municipal Stadium, Left/Center Field Wall Facing South Cannon Avenue, Hagerstown, Maryland

Municipal Stadium sign, Left/Center Field Wall Facing South Cannon Avenue, Hagerstown, Maryland

Municipal Stadium is one of the oldest minor league ballparks still in use in the United States and currently is the home field of the South Atlantic League Hagerstowns Suns, an affiliate of the Washington Nationals. Out beyond Municipal Stadium’s center field fence  is the Stadium Grill and Tavern located at 401 South Cannon Avenue.

View of Municipal Stadium through Center Field Gates Near Parking Lot to Stadium Grill and Tavern, Hagerstown, Maryland

View of Municipal Stadium through Center Field Gates Near Parking Lot to Stadium Grill and Tavern, Hagerstown, Maryland

Although Boots played many games at Municipal Stadium, Austin could not say definitively whether Boots ever frequented the Stadium Grill and Tavern.

Stadium Grill and Tavern, With Municipal Stadium in Background, Hagerstown, Maryland

Stadium Grill and Tavern, With Municipal Stadium in Background, Hagerstown, Maryland

It seems a safe bet, however, that Boots would have stopped by the establishment from time to time given the bar’s proximity to the ballpark (the current incarnation of the Stadium Grill and Tavern dates back some 50 plus years). The exact history of the building housing the Stadium Grill and Tavern, and its use during Boots’s last few years of professional ball, is another story for another day.

The Stadium Grill and Tavern Is Casual, But with Limits, No Backward Hats!

The Stadium Grill and Tavern Is Casual, But with Limits, No Backward Hats!

Even though we could not prove a direct link between Boots and the Stadium Grill and Tavern, we nonetheless stopped there for lunch.

Interior of Stadium Grill and Tavern, Hagerstown, Maryland

Interior of Stadium Grill and Tavern, Hagerstown, Maryland

With a view from our booth of the last ballpark where Boots played professionally, it seemed a fitting place to end our Boots Tour.

A Room With A View of Hagerstown Municpal Stadium From the Stadium Grill and Tavern

A Room With A View of Hagerstown Municpal Stadium From the Stadium Grill and Tavern

If you haven’t read Austin’s book yet, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. And if you find yourself anywhere near Williamsport, Maryland, and are interested in a tour, I am almost certain Austin would be willing to show you around.

Fenton Street Holiday Market This Saturday December 20th


This Saturday December 20, 2014, I’ll be at the Fenton Street Holiday Market in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, selling and signing copies of Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel. tboltcover

I also will have on hand for sale copies of the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts 15th Anniversary Yearbook.

Stop by for some baseball talk and while you’re at it pick up some gifts for the baseball fan in your life. I hope to see you there.

Harrisburg Senators Fan Club – True Fans of the Game

This past Tuesday, March 18th, I had the pleasure of attending the monthly meeting of the Harrisburg Senators Fan Club. I was invited as guest speaker at the invitation of club president, Brian Williams, whom I had met at a Harrisburg Senators game last season.

Harrisburg Senators Past President Barry Fealtman, David Stinson, Harrisburg Senators GM Randy Whitaker, and Terry Hartzell

From L to R, Harrisburg Senators Past President Barry Fealtman, David Stinson, Harrisburg Senators GM Randy Whitaker, and Terry Hartzell

With the D.C. area having just been hit with yet another winter storm, the snow covering the country side along I-83 toward Harrisburg belied the notion that spring is just around the corner. Judging from the number of people who turned out for an evening talking baseball, this winter’s harsh weather has done little to dampen fans’ excitement about baseball’s imminent return.

The Senators Fan Club meets in a banquet room at the Sons of the American Legion, Post 143, on Market Street in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, a place well suited as a winter home for baseball fans to congregate. Harrisburg fans know their baseball, and I truly appreciated the opportunity to talk with those in attendance about baseball, lost ballparks, and my book, Deadball.

Many thanks to Barry Fealtman, the club’s past president, and Jeanne Jacobs, the club’s Vice President, who both made me feel right at home, and Randy Whitaker, General Manager of the Harrisburg Senators, for providing the necessary projector for my presentation about lost ballparks. Thanks also to fan club members who shared with me stories about their visits long ago to stadiums now vanished. Those stories, and memories they invoke, help keep the ballparks alive and seemingly still present.

I look forward to heading back up I-83 to Harrisburg this summer (the snow should have melted by then). The Senators (AA Eastern League) play at Metro Bank Ballpark, one of the most unique ballparks in the country, as it is located on City Island in the middle of the Susquehanna River. Baseball has been played on that spot for over 100 years (since 1907) and the team has done a wonderful job of incorporating that history into the fans’ game day experience.

For more about the Harrisburg Senators Fan Club, visit their website here. For more information about the team, visit their website here.

Smithsonian Friday and Fenton Street Saturday

I’m looking forward to spending Black Friday November 29th at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum outside the gift shop on the second floor (Mall Entrance). I’ll be there from noon to 3:00 pm signing copies of my book Deadball, a Metaphysical Baseball Novel. For those interested, here’s a link to the Smithsonian web site.

Saturday November 30th I will be at the Fenton Street Market in Downtown Silver Spring from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. It’s Small Business Saturday (and you can’t much smaller than my business!) so please stop by and say hello. My booth is No. 26. Here’s a map of the market area and here’s a link to Fenton Street Holiday Market web site.

Baltimore Book Festival Revisited

Baltimore Book Festival Authors Steve Bradshaw, David Stinson, and Pavarti Tyler

Thanks to those who stopped by the Baltimore Book Festival’s Authors Tent on Friday September 27th. I certainly enjoyed the opportunity to talk Deadball and baseball with you. I was fortunate also to have two outstanding table mates on either side of me who helped make the day both enjoyable and  memorable. Memphis author Steve Bradshaw brought with him copies of his books Bluff City Butcher and The Skies Roared (the first two in a trilogy), and word on the street is he pretty much sold out all his copies by the end of Saturday. Local Baltimore writer Pavarti Tyler was there selling copies of her books Two Moons of Sera – Omnibus,  Shadow on the Wall, and White Chalk (with free lollipops seemingly torn from the cover of the book). For Pav, a self-described “cross genre” author, the festival was a family affair, with her husband and two effervescent daughters helping to drive away the mid afternoon doldrums.

Me and the Berenstain Bears, the Berenstain Bears!

The festival was also a time for me to meet and mingle with some of our country’s most notable literary characters. Readers of my blog already may be aware of my encounter with Captain Underpants at a Frederick Keys Game two years ago.

Once again, I jumped at the chance to pose for pictures with the festival’s roving literary icons. Berenstain Bears Ma and Pa were there, although given how talkative they are in their books, I was surprised how quiet they were when I met them. No “gosh darn this” or “gosh darn that.” In fact, they just nodded and used their hands to communicate, no words at all.

Me and a Rather Subdued Wild Thing

The same was true for Wild Thing. He was anything but wild. No wild rumpus, nothing. Maybe it was just too early for him, or maybe he needed Max to get him going. I also had a chance to “meet” Curious George (no sign of the man in the yellow hat). He too seemed quite calm, not the least bit curious or mischievous. I’ll spare you the picture of me and the monkey.

Meeting BBF Man - A Highlight of the Festival





I also had a pleasant encounter with BBF Man, who did use words to communicate and seemed genuinely delighted to check out a copy of my book Deadball. I’ll spare you the picture of me and the man in tights as well.

The 1890’s National League Baltimore Orioles As Seen Through The Sporting Life

Union Park and the National League Baltimore Orioles of the 1890’s play a prominent role in my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel, and it is not often that I come across artifacts from the team or that era. When I do, they typically are way out of my price range. But as luck would have it, I was able to purchase at auction recently four copies of the Sporting Life that feature the 1890’s National League Baltimore Orioles on the front cover, as well as a page out of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper featuring a preview of the Orioles and the New York Giants in the Temple Cup.

The Leslie’s newspaper page is extraordinary for it’s pictorial history of early baseball star including Orioles Hall of Famers Dan Brouthers, Hughie Jennings, Wilbert Robinson, Willie Keeler, John McGraw, Ned Hanlon, plus several New York Giants who appear in the team photo including John Ward, Amos Rusie, and Roger Connor.

1894 Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper

The Orioles won the National League pennant in 1894, the first year of a dynasty that would last almost until the team’s demise at the end of the century. The Orioles won three consecutive pennants from 1894-1896. This is reflected in the October 3, 1896, Sporting Life below depicting a Baltimore Oriole player standing next to Uncle Sam on top of the world with the inscription “the world is mine.”

October 3, 1896 Sporting Life

The 1897 season saw a turn of fortune for the Orioles, who lost the pennant to the Boston Beaneaters by two games that year (they came in second behind the Boston Beaneaters in 1898 as well). The May 18, 1897, Sporting Life foreshadows the Orioles fall from the top of the world that season, with a depiction of Uncle Sam presenting a Baltimore baseball player a letter that reads, “Uncle Sam – Some of the other clubs want the pennant this year. Respectfully yours: Uncle Nick.” The caption at the bottom of the page states: “Uncle Sam – Well son, what are you going to do about it.”

May 18, 1897 Sporting Life

The 1899 season would be the last for the National League Baltimore Orioles. The July 15, 1899, Sporting Life depicts Orioles Player/Manager John McGraw, who is said in the caption to be “The brilliant player and capable manager of Baltimore.” Although McGraw would remain in Baltimore as player/manager of the American League Orioles in their inaugural 1901 season and part of the 1902 season, McGraw would move to New York to manage the Giants towards the end of the 1902 season. It was in New York where McGraw achieved his most notable fame, where he is recognized as one of the greatest managers of all time.

July 15, 1899 Sporting Life Featuring John McGraw

On February 24, 1900, when the Sporting Life below was issued, Willie Keeler was still identified as an outfielder for Baltimore, however, by then he had been playing for the Brooklyn Superbas since 1899, alongside fellow former Orioles Joe Kelley, Aleck Smith, and Hughie Jennings. Additional former Orioles Harry Howell, Frank Kitson, Joe McGinnity, Jerry Nops, Gene DeMontreville, and Jimmy Sheckard joined Brooklyn after the 1899 season.

February 24, 1900 Sporting Life Featuring Willie Keeler

Of course it helped that the former owner of the National League Baltimore franchise, Harry Von Der Horst, also owned the Brooklyn franchise, back in the days of syndicate baseball. The Superbas would win the pennant in 1899 and 1900 thanks in part to the contribution of the old Orioles, including former Orioles Manager Ned Hanlon who joined the Superbas at the helm in 1899.

Damp But Not Dampened – Fun at the Gaithersburg Book Festival

Tent of Exhibiting Authors - Gaithersburg Book Festival

The weather wasn’t great, but that did not keep people from turning out in record numbers (18,000 strong)  for the fourth annual Gaithersburg Book Festival on Saturday May 18th. I was one of many authors who inhabited the “Hall of Exhibiting Authors.” Okay, it was actually the “Tent of Exhibiting Authors.” But I’m not complaining. Everyone was in good spirits because the rain held off, giving us a chance to chat up festival goers in hopes of selling a book or two.

My spot in the tent (space HA-32, to be exact) was directly across from the  Gertrude Stein Pavilion. What an honor to be so close to literary greatness. Unfortunately, Ms. Stein was a no show, as was Rachel Carson who failed to appear at the pavilion named in her honor. I did have a chance to mingle with still living, future literary greats, however, including Nadia Kim (Reflection, Love Curse) who was selling books at the table to my left, and Raven A. Nuckols (Had The Queen Lived: An Alternative History of Anne Boleyn) who shared a table to my right.  Although Ms. Stein and Ms. Carson may not have made it, Jimmie Walker of Good Times fame spent a considerable amount of time at Nadia’s table, which she shared with author John Debellis (Stand Up Guys:  A Generation of Laughs). Mr. Walker was at the festival selling copies of his book Dyn-O-Mite!: Good Times, Bad Times, Our Times, and graciously took time to talk to everyone who sought him out.

Many thanks to Nadia for including me in her blog Secret Tips To Writing Novels and Sylvia Carignan of the Gazette Newspapers for mentioning me in her article about the festival. Thanks also to Steve Quinn (the publisher at Huntington Park) for stopping by, and author Paul Dickson for the shout out during the Baseball and Society discussion.

Gaithersburg Book Festival This Weekend

The Gaithersburg Book Festival celebrates its fourth year this Saturday, May 18th. I will be in the “Hall of Exhibiting Authors Tent A”  (space HA-32, to be exact) across from the Politics and Prose tent, where I  hopefully will be selling and signing many copies of my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel. This is my second year attending the festival.

Held on the Gaithersburg City Hall Grounds in Old Town Gaithersburg, the festival runs from 10 am to 6 pm. The festival attracts  many nationally known authors, and many nationally unknown authors like yours truly, and has grown each year since its inception in 2010, becoming one of the nation’s top literary events. If you love books, you really should plan to attend the Gaithersburg Book Festival this Saturday. And if you do, please stop by and say “hello,” or at least wave as you walk by.

Save The Date – April 6 – I’ll Be At The Smithsonian With Paul Dickson

Looking for a post baseball season opener fix? On Saturday April 6, 2013, I’ll be at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History from noon until 2:00 pm signing copies of Deadball, a Metaphysical Baseball Novel. I’ll be appearing with author Paul Dickson who will be signing copies of his Casey Award winning book Bill Veeck, Baseball’s Greatest Maverick.

The American History Museum is located at 1300 Constitution Avenue, N.W. DC 20004. We’ll be just outside the Mall Museum Store on the 2nd floor. Here’s a link to the event, Hope to see you there.



Touring the Lost Ballparks of Baltimore With Author Burt Solomon

Burt Solomon and Terry Hartzell Touring the Former Site of Union Park

As a die-hard Baltimore Orioles fan and amateur  historian, one of my all-time favorite books is Burt Solomon’s Where They Ain’t, The Fabled Life and Untimely Death of the Original Baltimore Orioles, the Team That Gave Birth to Modern Baseball, ranking right up there with James Bready’s Baseball in Baltimore, The First Hundred Years. Thanks to Terry Hartzell, a fan of both Burt’s book and my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel, I had the opportunity to take both Burt and Terry on one of my Lost Ballparks of Baltimore Tours. Our first stop was the former site of Union Park at the corner of East 25th Street and Guilford Avenue, followed by a walking tour up Barclay Street to East 29th Street and the former site of American League Park, which is now a McDonald’s.

Burt Solomon and David Stinson Standing in Front of Memorial Stadium's Former Infield, Now a Youth Baseball Park Courtesy of the Ripken Foundation.

Next we walked across East 29th Street to the former site of Terrapin Park/old Oriole Park, where we confirmed that the 16 original row houses that sat behind what was once right-center field all remain at the site. After walking back to the car, we drove less than a mile from Union Park to the former site of Memorial Stadium, where pieces of brick and concrete from the stadium still can be found amongst the dirt, exposed by the weather.

After bidding adieu to Burt, Terry and I continued on to New Cathedral Cemetery, where four Hall of Fame Orioles are interred (John McGraw, Joe Kelley, Ned Hanlon, and Wilbert Robinson). Our final stop for the day was the former site of St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, where a young Babe Ruth was raised as a ward of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.  The historic baseball site includes the field where Babe Ruth learned to play the game, a building from St. Mary’s dating back to Ruth’s time at the school (the former Industrial Arts Building), and the former St. Mary’s Chapel, which was converted into a school building prior to Cardinal Gibbons High School arriving there in 1962.

I hope to conduct another Lost Ballparks of Baltimore Tour some time this spring. If you are interested in coming along, just send me a comment to this post.


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