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"Peekskill Pete" Cregan - Little Known Major Leaguer on the Fleischmann's M.A.C.

This week in Mountain Athletic Club history on April 13, 1875, Peter Cregan was born in Kingston, NY. "Peekskill" Pete reportedly joined the M.A.C. in the late 1890's when the Club's organizer, Arthur Reynolds - a distiller at The Fleischmann Co. in Peekskill - began recruiting young players from the Kingston area following a string of defeats, the last of which occurred in Oneonta, NY.

Cregan was a 5'8" middle infielder and is shown here (bottom row with legs outstretched) with other Kingston area recruits, Granville Whittaker (top row far right) and Eddie Winters (middle row, second from left). Winters is apparently giving his teammate, first baseman Orson Hitt (bottom, far left) - a Griffin Corners resident - a run for the manliest mustache on the team. Also pictured in this photo are concessions magnate Harry M Stevens (top row second from right), who is purported to have umpired the game that day. This is the only photo I know of showing the team's owner Julius Fleischmann in uniform (second row center). Sitting to his left, is younger brother and right fielder, Col. Max Fleischmann and left of Max is the Club's manager, Arthur Reynolds. The Fleischmann brothers - both young leaders in the Yeast-making empire built by their father Charles - would go on to assume ownership stakes in the Cincinnati Reds and the Philadelphia Athletics. Honus Wagner (bottom row far right) is also suspected to be in the photo. But, for more on that debate, see my earlier blog: "Will the Real Honus Please Stand Up?" (Photo Courtesy of Jane Ebberts & Robert Kelly)

Now, back to Pete...A box score from the Jersey Journal on August 28, 1899 under the headline, "The Jerseys' Waterloo," shows Cregan hitting leadoff versus the local Jersey City Jerseys. Whether they were named for dairy cows or a ballist's shirt, they were shellacked by the M.A.C. by a score of 33-3 in less than a 2 1/2 hour game. Short of two weeks later on September 9, 1899, Cregan would make his major league debut and his only appearance with the New York Giants. He would wait four years before another call up by the Reds in 1903.

Incidentally, the winning pitcher versus the Jerseys that day was Tom Colcolough (spelled as pronounced "Coakley" and not to be confused with future dead-ball star pitcher Andy Coakley). Colcolough's appearance with the M.A.C. came after having been released a month prior by the New York Giants.

Sidenote: By this time in 1899, word of the the M.A.C.'s star-power had spread throughout the Catskills such that the Club needed to travel farther and wider to find opponents. This was no issue for the fat-cat owner, Julius, who had become accustomed to treating his ballists like royalty; wining and dining them on road trips in a luxury Pullman rail car. As is the case with Colcolough, it was common for the M.A.C. to secure "ringers" from professional teams to increase their odds of winning.

Pete was also a stalwart batterymate of the middle infield on the prolific 1900 M.A.C. having played with future Reds and Cardinals second baseman, Miller Huggins (shown sitting with glove in hand, on the bottom row to Pete's right). During Huggin's Hall of Fame managerial career with the New York Yankees, Pete was invited to spend time with the Manager in New York but, being a modest man, apparently never obliged. However, he did attend Huggin's memorial service with thousands of Yankee fans upon the skipper's untimely passing in 1929. It was the same year Cregan retired from his career as a store clerk at the Fleischmanns plant. A newspaper transcript from Cregan's obituary on May 19, 1945 in the Peeskill Evening Star recalled that Cregan received a police escort through throngs of supporters at Huggin's funeral so he could pay his last respects to his old teammate.

Among the most knowledgeable of Pete Cregan's exploits on and off the ball field is Peekskill resident and baseball historian, Bob Mayer. Bob gave a talk at the Skene Library back on June 7, 2018 that led me to a better understanding of M.A.C. history. Bob also showed off one his most prized pieces of M.A.C. memorabilia, a silver souvenir spoon depicting the M.A.C. Grounds. Bob was also instrumental in organizing a day of vintage base ball games last September in celebration of 150 years of the founding of The Fleischmann Co. at Peekskill Stadium - just a stone's throw from Charles Point, where the Fleischmann's factories once stood and operated under several configurations of ownership as the Peeksill's largest employer from 1900 -1977. The abbreviated biography that follows, is from Bob's research on the life of "Peekskill" Pete and is reprinted here with his permission (my apologies for any redundancies above that appear in the following excerpt):

Who Remembers “Peekskill Pete” Cregan?

Perhaps no one, since Pete was born in Kingston, NY in 1875 and died in New York City in 1945. Well, Pete was a baseball player, and had brief stints in the Major Leagues with the New York Giants (1899) and Cincinnati Reds (1903). He spent most of his life in Peekskill, and worked many years for the Fleischmann Company.

In 1894 when Pete was 19, he was selected to play for the Kingston Patriarchs/Colonials in the newly formed New York State League. There had not been a Minor League in the area since the Hudson River League was active in 1886 & 1888. The Kingston team did not do particularly well in 1894, but Pete established himself as a talented player and an excellent fielder with a good baseball future.

Over the next few years, Pete played 2nd base and outfield for several Minor League clubs until being brought up by the NY Giants for strangely, only one game. Julius and Max, sons of the company founder Charles Fleischmann had established the team when the family built their summer homes at Griffin Corners. They built a professional ballfield and staffed their semi-professional team with star college and Minor league players including Honus Wagner, Miller Huggins, and Red Dooin. Pete was a family favorite, and Max brought him to Cincinnati to play for the Reds in 1903 (Max & Julius were team owners).

Blogger's Note: Sporting Life May 9, 1903 detailed Cregan's second call-up to the bigs: "Col. Max Fleischmann's return from the East with the news that he had a string on Peter Cregar [sic.], his old Mountain Athletic Club infielder, once with the New York State League, and now captain of the Peekskill team. During the tours of the Mountaineers Cregar and Colonel Max were roommates. He thinks he will make a corker. 'I didn't fall down in picking Harry White (as in Guy Harris "Doc" White") or Charley Dooin ("Red" Dooin),' said the Red secretary, 'and only missed it on Barney McFadden. I think Cregar will hold his own in any company." '

After a couple of weeks, Pete decided to move back to Peekskill and play for their Minor League team in the Hudson River League. Pete led the 3rd place Peekskill team in batting with a .396 average.

In 1904, since Peekskill did not stay in the HRL, Pete joined the strong semi-pro Hoboken team which traveled around the NY/NJ area and played many professional teams doing quite well. A few of the players on Hoboken had also put some time in the Major Leagues. In one game, Pete hit a home run against Christy Mathewson of the Giants. The following year, Pete played with Plainfield as several of the Hoboken men shifted over to that team. Pete continued to work at the Fleischmann plant in Peekskill as a stock clerk, then supervisor in their storeroom. He was a member of the Fourth Degree Assembly, of Peekskill Council, Knights of Columbus, and the Peekskill Holy Name Society.

Pete and his daughter Winifred boarded at the home of Thomas Birdsall at 215 Ringgold Street for many years. In 1917 when the Kelly Twilight Baseball League began in Peekskill, he organized and managed a team from the Fleischmanns plant, and occasionally played at 3rd base. Pete retired from what was now Standard Brands in 1929, and in the late 30’s, Pete moved to NY City to live with Winifred.

Pete Cregan was known as a quiet and unassuming gentleman and was also known as a clever and scientific hitter. “Peekskill Pete” was one of the best baseball players to tread a diamond in Peekskill.

(Sources: Cregan file at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center-National Baseball Hall of Fame, Tara Krieger, Fleischmann's @ 150: Still The One by P. Cristiaan Klieger, Bob Mayer, Brian McKenna, Charles Tiano)

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