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Hal Chase
Hal Chase 1917.jpeg
Chase with the Cincinnati Reds in 1917.
First baseman / Manager
Born: (1883-02-13)February 13, 1883
Los Gatos, California
Died: May 18, 1947(1947-05-18) (aged 64)
Colusa, California
Batted: Right Threw: Left
MLB debut
April 26, 1905, for the New York Highlanders
Last MLB appearance
September 25, 1919, for the New York Giants
MLB statistics
Batting average.291
Home runs57
Runs batted in941
Stolen bases363
Managerial record86–80
Winning %.518
As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards

Harold Homer Chase (February 13, 1883 – May 18, 1947), nicknamed "Prince Hal", was a first baseman and manager in Major League Baseball, widely viewed as the best fielder at his position. During his career, he played for the New York Highlanders (1905–1913), Chicago White Sox (1913–1914), Buffalo Blues (1914–1915), Cincinnati Reds (1916–1918), and New York Giants (1919).

No lesser figures than Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson named Chase the best first baseman ever, and contemporary reports described his glovework as outstanding. He is sometimes considered the first true star of the franchise that would eventually become the New York Yankees. In 1981, 62 years after his last major league game, baseball historians Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig included him in their book The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time.

Despite being an excellent hitter and his reputation as a peerless defensive player, Chase's legacy was tainted by a litany of corruption. He allegedly gambled on baseball games, and also engaged in suspicious play in order to throw games in which he played.

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Chase attended Santa Clara College, where he played baseball. He signed his first contract with the Los Angeles Angels of the Class-A Pacific Coast League in 1904. The New York Highlanders selected Chase from Los Angeles in the 1904 Rule 5 draft on October 4, 1904.

Chase joined the Highlanders in 1905, and held out during March 1907, threatening to sign with the outlaw California League if the Highlanders did not increase his salary.[1][2] Though he agreed to join the Highlanders in April 1907,[3] he also insisted on playing in the California League during the winter.[4] After the Highlanders fired manager Clark Griffith during the 1908 season, Chase held out and insisted he would not play for new manager Kid Elberfeld.[5] Chase loved playing in the off season in California leagues, which he did nearly every year. And nearly every year, as the major league season approached, Chase looked for a way to remain playing in California. But due to the power of the National Agreement and insufficient finances of leagues and teams in California, Chase predictably returned to his major league team in honor of his contract.[6]

Chase served as player–manager in 1910 and 1911. He signed a three-year contract with the Yankees before the 1913 season,[7] but they traded him to the Chicago White Sox for Babe Borton and Rollie Zeider on June 1, 1913. Before the 1914 season, Chase jumped from the White Sox to the Buffalo Blues of the Federal League.

When Chase defected from the White Sox to the Federal League's Buffalo Blues, White Sox owner Charles Comiskey filed an injunction to prevent Chase from playing citing a violation of the reserve clause. Chase challenged the injunction in court and won, becoming one of the only players to successfully challenge the reserve clause. The ensuing animosity between Comiskey and Chase would effectively permanently bar Chase from playing again in the American League.[8]

Following a spell in the short-lived Federal League, he went to the Reds. In 1916, Chase led the NL with a .339 batting average.[9]

On February 19, 1919, the Reds traded Chase to the New York Giants for Walter Holke and Bill Rariden.


Chase faced allegations of wrongdoing as early as 1910, when his manager, George Stallings, claimed that Chase was "laying down" in games. But Stallings was unpopular with the team, and Chase was slated to replace Stallings at the helm. Chase ultimately prevailed in the spat and became the manager of the team, at the age of 28, in 1911, a year he hit .315 with 82 RBI.

Chase was replaced as manager by Harry Wolverton, followed by Frank Chance in 1913. Chase battled injuries that impaired his play; many felt that Chase either would not or could not return to his previous form. Frank Chance stated that he worried that Chase was "laying down." Chance clarified that he was referring to the question whether Chase would put forth the effort necessary to overcome the current slump.[10]

Chance benched Chase, who was batting .212. On June 1, the Yankees announced that Chase had been traded to the Chicago White Sox for two infielders of modest abilities, Rollie Zeider and Babe Borton.[11] There have been claims of wrongdoing by Chase during this era, but none have been substantiated.[12]

Midway through the 1918 season, Chase allegedly paid pitcher Jimmy Ring $50 ($833 in current dollar terms) to throw a game against the Giants.

When the Giants went to spring training for the 1920 season, Chase was not with them. Later, it emerged that Chase had bribed Cubs outfielder Lee Magee not to hustle in certain games. When Magee confessed this to league president John Heydler behind closed doors, Heydler told Giants manager John McGraw to release Chase. Heinie Zimmerman, also implicated in bribing players, was released as well.[13] Since no American League team would sign him, Chase was effectively blackballed from the major leagues.

Out of organized baseball

Rumors of his being the middleman between the players and the gamblers in the Black Sox Scandal have never been confirmed. A Chicago grand jury indicted him for his role in the scandal, but California refused extradition because of an incorrectly issued arrest warrant.[14]

In 1920, while playing for the minor Mission League, he allegedly attempted to bribe Spider Baum, a pitcher for the Salt Lake Bees of the Pacific Coast League, to lose a game to the Los Angeles Angels. It turned out to be one of the last games he played in organized baseball. In the aftermath of the Black Sox Scandal, newly appointed Commissioner of Baseball Kenesaw Mountain Landis declared no player who threw a game or promised to throw a game would ever be allowed in baseball—effectively ending any realistic chance of Chase returning to the majors.

For a time, Chase was player-manager of an outlaw team in Douglas, Arizona that included Buck Weaver, Chick Gandil and Lefty Williams. It was part of a league run by S.L.A. Marshall, who later said that Chase admitted to throwing a game. A few months later, he tore both Achilles tendons in a car accident. He later drifted to Mexico, where in 1925 he began making plans to organize a professional league. When American League president Ban Johnson got word of it, however, he pressured Mexican authorities to deport Chase.

Despite his unsavory past, Chase received a certain amount of National Baseball Hall of Fame support early in its history. During the inaugural Hall of Fame balloting of 1936, Chase garnered 11 votes and was named on 4.9% of the ballots. This total was more votes than 18 future Hall of Famers including such greats as Connie Mack, Rube Marquard, Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, Charlie Gehringer, and John McGraw as well as the banned Shoeless Joe Jackson.[15] In 1937, he received 18 votes (9%) which was more than 32 future Hall of Famers.[16] Chase was dropped from the ballot following the 1937 vote.[17] He never received the 75 percent support required for enshrinement, largely due to an informal agreement among the Hall of Fame voters that those deemed to have been banned from baseball should be ineligible for consideration.

Chase spent the rest of his life drifting between Arizona and his native California, working numerous low-paying jobs. Later in life, he expressed considerable remorse for betting on baseball. He lived with his sister in Williams, California and died in a Colusa, California hospital at the age of 64.[9][18]

Chase defensively

In his day, Hal Chase was almost universally considered one of the best fielders in the game — not just at first base, but at any position, even compared to catchers and middle infielders. In his Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James quotes a poem entitled "You Can't Escape 'Em":

Sometimes a raw recruit in spring is not a pitching find;

He has not Walter Johnson's wing, nor Matty's wonderous mind.

He does not act like Harold Chase upon the fielding job,

But you may find in such a case, he hits like Tyrus Cobb.

Douglas Dewey and Nicholas Acocella's book on Chase, The Black Prince Of Baseball, talks about Chase's defensive abilities at length. He apparently made many spectacular plays that burnished his reputation as a glove wizard, but also committed 402 errors at first in just ten seasons, making his career fielding average only .980, four points below average for the period (since Chase was known to throw games, it's impossible to know how many of these misplays were intentional).

A more recent work by Bill James, Win Shares, suggested Chase was only a C-grade defensive player at first base. According to analyst Sean Smith of, Chase was below average defensively, costing his teams 65 runs versus an average first baseman.[19]

See also


  • Ginsburg, Daniel E. The Fix Is In: A History of Baseball Gambling and Game Fixing Scandals. inMcFarland and Co., 1995, 317 pages. ISBN 0-7864-1920-2. Contains a chapter dedicated to Chase and his various scandals.
  • Goode, Christopher California Baseball:  From the Pioneers to the Glory Years. Lulu Press, 2009, 390 pages. ISBN 978-0-557-08760-0
  • Pietrusza, David. Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series. Basic Books, 2011, 528 pages. ISBN 978-0-465-02938-9.
In-line citations
  1. ^ The Pittsburgh Press via Google News Archive Search
  2. ^ The Meriden Daily Journal via Google News Archive Search
  3. ^ The Meriden Daily Journal via Google News Archive Search
  4. ^ The Toledo News-Bee via Google News Archive Search
  5. ^ The Day via Google News Archive Search
  6. ^ Goode, Christopher. California Baseball, From the Pioneers to the Glory Years. Lulu Press.
  7. ^ The Gazette Times via Google News Archive Search
  8. ^ Goode, Christopher. California Baseball, From the Pioneers to the Glory Years. Lulu Press.
  9. ^ a b Ottawa Citizen via Google News Archive Search
  10. ^ Goode, Christopher. California Baseball, From the Pioneers to the Glory Years. Lulu Press.
  11. ^ "Yankees' 1913 Season Was Sunk by a Rogue Captain". The New York Times. February 24, 2013. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  12. ^ Goode, Christopher. California Baseball, From the Pioneers to the Glory Years. Lulu Press.
  13. ^ Robert C. Hoie (2013). "The Hal Chase Case". Society for American Baseball Research.
  14. ^ Paul C. Weiler et al., Sports and the Law: Text, Cases and Problems 134 (4th ed. 2011).
  15. ^ "1936 Hall of Fame Voting". Retrieved 2013-05-20.
  16. ^ "1937 Hall of Fame Voting". Retrieved 2013-05-20.
  17. ^ "1938 Hall of Fame Voting". Retrieved 2013-05-20.
  18. ^ Meriden Record via Google News Archive Search
  19. ^ "Hal Chase Statistics and History". Retrieved 2013-05-20.

External links

This page was last edited on 9 June 2019, at 02:15
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