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Local Sports

July 28, 2013

Hall to honor the old ball game

(Continued)

White, who was 91 when he died in 1939, amassed 2,067 hits from 1871-1890, most of those years as a bare-handed catcher. He played in the National Association, the National League and the Players League.

White’s great grandson, Jerry Watkins, will speak on his behalf Sunday.

“He caught without a glove and a mask,” Watkins said during Monday’s conference call. “I believe, I’ve been told by baseball historians, I don’t have this documented, that he was one of the first, if not the first, to use a mask in professional ball.”

Watkins added he believed in the 19th century that catchers set up about 15 feet behind the plate. He also said White was one of the first catchers who’d creep up closer to the plate to catch the ball in the air.

“My father told me that his hands were gnarled like tree branches just from having broken every bone in his hand probably numerous times from catching the ball bare-handed like that,” Watkins said. “He said he would hold his hand, you know, he was a small boy of 12 of 13 years old, he said it just felt like he was holding on to a tree branch.”

O’Day, who’ll be represented by great grandnephew Dennis McNamara, played and managed in professional baseball, in addition to umpiring. He worked as a National League umpire between 1895 and 1927.

O’Day, who died at 75 in 1935, umpired five of the first seven World Series, including the first in 1903.

“What stands out is Hank O’Day’s strong constitution,” Idelson said. “He was not well-loved. The game was running rampant during his era and he stood up for fair play. He was one of pioneers in taking control of the game.”

Following a seven-year playing career as a right-handed pitcher, O’Day umpired his first professional game in 1894. He attended a game in his hometown of Chicago as a spectator. The scheduled umpire, Thomas Lynch, missed the game because of travel problems. O’Day was recruited from the stands to work the game and became a full-time umpire the following season.

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