Sunday, February 24, 2019

Ches Crist, baseball player

While researching another post earlier this winter, I stumbled upon the sports page in the March 9, 1908, edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer. A headline there declares "CHES. CHRIST ARRIVES IN PHILLIES CAMP."

Who was Ches Crist? Why did he get such a big headline?

He can't be that famous, because when I attempted a Google search, I got the response: "Did you mean: cheese crust"

Indeed, Ches Crist is not famous. He never got a hit in Major League Baseball, making him Moonlight Graham-esque. But his life was still interesting, and that's what we're here for, right?

Chester Arthur "Squak" Crist, named after the 21st U.S. president, was an Ohio native who lived from 1882 to 1957. A catcher, he was invited to four spring trainings1 with the Philadelphia Phillies, 1906 through 1909. But he only "went north" with the Phillies after spring training in 1906. That was his only year in the majors, and he never got a hit. According to, he appeared in six games, and went 0-for-11 with four strikeouts. He was, however, hit by a pitch and scored one run. His 0-for-11 puts him on the list of "Most Career At-Bats Without a Hit by a Non-Pitcher." That list is headed by Larry Littleton and Mike Potter, who each went 0-for-23.

Crist had a frustating baseball career. Chris Rainey wrote an excellent article about him for the Society for American Baseball Research, and I recommend you check it out. Here's an excerpt:
"When he played for the independent Cincinnati Shamrocks, a newspaper writer raved: 'Chester Crist, recognized as one of the cleverest of young catchers ... promises to become one of the best in the country one day.' In the next few seasons Crist would suffer ankle and knee injuries, two beanings, and even a bout with typhoid that cost nearly a whole season and severely weakened him. The Jersey Journal labeled him 'the most unfortunate player in captivity' when his thumb was dislocated."
After baseball, Crist worked as a farmer, carpenter and caretaker for a hunters' club. His life reminds me a little of another catcher, Clifford Wesley "Tacks" Latimer, who I'd like to write about some day, although Jon Daly of SABR, among others, has already done a superb job on that count.

I'll close with the portion of that 1908 Inquirer article that pertains to Crist's arrival at spring training and his travel woes.
From The Inquirer Ambassador
"SAVANNAH, March 8. — Chester Crist, the wee big man from Cincinnati, dropped into camp this evening and now the Phillies are well heeled so far as catchers are concerned. Crist looks bigger than he has ever before appeared and according to Manager Murray will be a fixture on the Hibernians' roster this season at least.2 Chester, who, like Wild Bill Donovan, jumped from the ranks of the park sparrows right into the upper ten of baseball, is a protege of his fellow-townsman, Mr. Charles Dooin, came from his home in Cincinnati and reported that his delay in reporting was due to the bad service between Garry Herrman's jerkwater village and this dead town.

"He reports that he came part of the way on one of Lauie Moren's old man's flat boats, rowed part of the journey and came the remainder by rail, but with his fellow-travelers was compelled to get out and chop wood in the southern pines to furnish the locomotive with fuel."

1. According to, the Phillies have held spring training in the following locations: "Philadelphia (1901); Washington, N.C. (1902); Richmond, Va. (1903); Savannah, Ga. (1904); Augusta, Ga. (1905); Savannah, Ga. (1906-1908); Southern Pines, N.C. (1909-1910); Birmingham, Ala. (1911); Hot Springs, Ark. (1912); Southern Pines, N.C. (1913); Wilmington, N.C. (1914); St. Petersburg (1915-1918); Charlotte (1919); Birmingham, Ala. (1920); Gainesville (1921); Leesburg, Fla. (1922-1924); Bradenton (1925-1927); Winter Haven (1928-1937); Biloxi, Miss. (1938); New Braunfels, Texas (1939); Miami Beach (1940-1942); Hershey, Penn. (1943); Wilmington, Del. (1944-1945); Miami Beach (1946); Clearwater (1947-present)."
2. Hibernians must refer to the Jersey City Skeeters, an Eastern League team that had at least a partial affiliation with the Phillies during this time. But I can't find other uses of that secondary nickname.

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