Altrock & Rohe - Fleischmann Adds More Hometown Talent
With September drawing to a close in our 125th anniversary season, it's time to highlight two former M.A.C.'s, George "Whitey" Rohe and Nick Altrock, a pair of Cincinnati ballists born this month in 1874 and 1876 respectively.
In 1900, first-term 28 year old Mayor of Cincinnati, Julius Fleischmann purchased a team of hometown Cincinnati talent from the John A Spinney Sporting Goods Manufacturing Company and sent them to the Catskills to beef up the roster on his Mountain Athletic Club. Among the stars on Spinney's Specials were Miller Huggins (HOF '46), Red Dooin, Barney McFadden, Charlie Werner, and Fred Valdois. Also included in the package was infielder, George "Whitey" Rohe. Late in the season, the M.A.C. would add a young lefty named Nick Altrock, also of Cincy. Both Rohe and Altrock, along with Guy Harris "Doc" White would emerge as keys to the Chicago White Sox defeat of the heavily-favored Cubs in six games in the 1906 World Series - the first to feature two teams from the same city.
George "Whitey" Rohe As reported in "9 Players You May Not Know From The 1900s But Should", "George Rohe did not have a very long or a very successful career in the major leagues, but made a major contribution to early World Series play. As the White Sox "hitless wonders" prepared to take on the 1906 Chicago Cubs, one of the greatest teams in history, Rohe was not expected to play. The weather in Chicago that fall was bitterly cold and George Davis caught a cold. The White Sox adapted for the first game moving Les Tannehill, their regular third baseman, to Shortstop and played George Rohe at third base. Not known as a powerful hitter Rohe tied for the team lead in hitting in the Series at .333. He not only led the team in hitting, he had timely hits. In Game One with the score tied at 0 in the 5th, Rohe tripled down the left field line. The next batter hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher. Rohe didn't hesitate. He ran on contact. Three Finger Brown, the Cubs pitcher, fielded the ball as Rohe tore down the line. The ball beat Rohe to the plate as Rohe slid. Johnny Kling, the Cubs Catcher, dropped the ball and Rohe scored the first run of the series. The Chi-Sox would win the game 2-1. Game 3 was tied at 0 in the 6th with the bases loaded when Rohe stepped up. There were two outs and with the light hitting Rohe at the plate the Cubs may have relaxed a bit. It was a poor decision. Rohe ripped another pitch into the gap. There were runners flying everywhere as the Cubs tracked the ball down. The ball was thrown back into the infield and Rohe was held at third base but only after three runs had scored giving the White Sox all the runs they would need. Of the four wins in the series for the White Sox two of them came courtesy of George Rohe."
Rohe's time with Fleischmann's M.A.C. was primarily spent in the hot corner with an infield of "Peekskill" Pete Cregan and/or Fred Valdois at shortstop and Miller Huggins (aka Proctor) at second.
Nick Altrock - The Southpaw Clown
Altrock has perhaps the richest story of all the former M.A.C. players. Born September 17, 1876, the son of a Cincinnati shoemaker, Altrock was signed by Barney Dreyfuss (HOF, '08) in 1898 by the Louisville Colonels after going 17-3 in his first season of organized ball in Grand Rapids. The next few seasons, Altrock bounced around clubs in Binghamton and Oswego in the New York State League and Syracuse and Toronto in the Eastern League. According to a mention of Mike Altrock (must be Nick) in the Sporting Life on 12/1/1900, apparently he joined the M.A.C. later in the season (after losing 26 games for Syracuse in 1900), but perhaps the news was a little late getting to press as I suspect the M.A.C. Grounds were covered in snow by then. Unfortunately, no photo of Altrock with the M.A.C. has yet surfaced.
According to Peter M. Gordon's SABR Biography of Altrock, following a 28-14 season with Milwaukee of the American Association, Altrock broke into the bigs with the Boston Americans at the tail end of the 1902 season and was traded in 1903 to the Chicago White Sox where he posted a 4-3 record and 2.15 ERA solidifying himself in the rotation. Over his next three seasons with Chicago, he displayed brilliant control and was among the best left-handed pitchers in all of baseball. From 1904-1906, Altrock won 63 games and lost 39. In the 1906 World Series, Altrock scattered four hits and bested Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown (HOF, '49) 2-1 in a spot start to win Game One and set the tone for the series. He was also an excellent fielding pitcher and still holds the MLB record for most chances by a pitcher (13) in a game. However, his aversion to off-season training and conditioning in favor of drinking and partying had cut his career short and by 1909 he was done as a major league pitcher.
Following his release by Kansas City of the American Association in 1912 for his on-field antics such as knocking himself out while coaching third base, Altrock was picked up as a "coaching clown" to entertain fans of Clark Griffth's (HOF, '46) Washington Senators.
It was Altrock's second-career in baseball as a vaudevillian clown that catapulted him into the baseball limelight. Gordon's bio of Altrock states, "With a big wide nose spread out to his cheeks and two jug handles for ears, his face looked like an iron had flattened it." His comedy routines, often in combination with another former Senators pitcher Al Schacht (see the ending to my 8/9/20 blog: "Al Schacht - The Clown Prince of Baseball"), were so popular that the duo was taking in salaries much higher than most players did in the 1920's.
The Senator's ownership would often let Altrock in the lineup for a game toward the tail end of the season, and in 1924, at age 48, he became the oldest player to hit a triple in a major league game - a record that still stands. His last appearance with the Sens came in 1933 - making him the third oldest player to appear in a major league game at the age of 57. He stayed with the Senators until 1957 making him one of only a few players to have appeared in five decades. Altrock passed away at the age of 88 on January 20, 1965 and was laid to rest at Vine Street Hill Cemetery in Cincinnati.
Author's Note: The search is on for any additional materials illustrating Altrock's time with the M.A.C. in 1900 or 1901. Please email me through the contact page of this website if you can help.
- Peter M. Gordon's SABR BioProject: https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/nick-altrock/
- "9 Players You May Not Know From the 1900's But Should" - September 1, 2013: https://baseballeras.blogspot.com/2013/01/9playersyoumaynotknowfromthe1900sbutshould.html
- Harry Grayson, "Altrock Wasn't Always a Clown; Was A Great Pitcher" - Sarasota Herald-Tribune, June 20, 1943.
- Sporting Life - December 1, 1900; October 14, 1905. - "Nick Altrock's First Start" - July 27, 2016: https://baseballhistorydaily.com/2016/07/27/nick-altrocks-first-start/
- Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/billyvalencia/baseball/
- John Thorn