[This article is copyrighted and cannot be used or published without consent of the author]
THE ASYLUM BASE BALL CLUB
Middletown’s Crack Semi-Pro Team 1888-94
By Bob Mayer
In 1888, Middletown, New York was a rural community of about 13,000. A part of Orange County, it lies along one of the main routes from New York City to the Catskill Mountains, which were becoming a major recreation area for New York residents at the end of the 19th century. The village was home to the Orange County Brewery, several foundries, a hat factory, a local bottling plant, and several popular hotels. It was also a hub for the New York & Erie Railroad, as well as the New York, Ontario & Western Railroad, and has been the home of the Orange County Fair, a popular yearly event since the early 1880’s.
For New Yorkers, 1888 may be best known as the year of the great blizzard, which dropped 3 ½ feet of snow and paralyzed the Northeast for days. For Middletown residents, 1888 was the year their village became a city, and for those local folks who recall years by happenings in baseball, it was also the year the Asylum Base Ball Club was organized.
Treatment for the mentally ill had undergone a major transformation during the first half of the 19th century. Resulting from the actions of social reformers like Dorothea Dix and others, patients were no longer being housed in jails or poorhouses. Promoters of more humane treatment believed that providing restful care in rural settings contributed to the potential cure of mental illness.
A result of these efforts led to the growth in the number of mental hospitals in the United States from 18 in 1840 to 139 by 1890. The population of hospitalized mental patients increased from 2561 to 74,000 during this period.
As early as 1838 in New England, base ball was one of the recreational activities accorded mentally ill, but physically able patients. However, the team we will be following was not comprised of patients themselves. It was initially composed of hospital employees and local residents, as the premise behind the formation of the Asylum BBC took a slightly different tack.
Like other institutions of the era, patients at the State Asylum in Middletown, enjoyed base ball as a recreational activity. But in addition, then Hospital Superintendent Selden Talcott believed that base ball could be therapeutic to all the patients, including those that were not capable of playing, but who could be devoted fans (also known as “cranks” or “fanatics”), of a highly competitive team. So on game days, not only were the patients outdoors to watch their team play, but many of those that were too ill to come outside, were brought to pavilion windows, so that they could watch, and root for, their base ball club.
The rise of the Asylum Club and its stunning success is the story of an unlikely relationship between a hospital chartered to treat the mentally ill, and a group of talented young men, some of whom would go on to careers in the major leagues, and which included Hall of Fame pitcher Jack Chesbro. It is a true story tied to America’s favorite pastime.
An Unlikely Marriage
The Asylum Base Ball Club took its name from its sponsor, the State Homeopathic Asylum for the Insane at Middletown. Homeopathic medicine was started by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann in the late 18th century. Homeopathy is a therapeutic medical science which is based upon the notion that substances able to cause certain symptoms in a healthy person can, in turn, heal those same symptoms in a sick person. By the late 1860’s, it had spread throughout America, and was being considered as a treatment for the mentally ill. New York State agreed to provide funding for the first homeopathic hospital for the insane, if the homeopathic physicians would contribute a matching amount.
After five years of fund raising, planning and construction, the State Homeopathic Asylum for the Insane at Middletown opened to patients in 1874, and became the largest homeopathic institution for the treatment of the insane in the United States.
Dr. Selden Talcott – Middletown Homeopathic Hospital Superintendent 1877-1902
Dr. Selden Haines Talcott served as the Superintendent of the State Homeopathic Hospital from April 1877 until his untimely death at age 59 in June 1902. Talcott had fought in the Civil War, graduated from Hamilton College in 1869 and from the New York Homeopathic Medical College in 1872. During his tenure, he was responsible for greatly expanding the facility, adding new buildings and exquisite gardens, and bringing on more staff. Talcott built a reputation as an innovator in the treatment of the mentally ill, wrote several books on the subject, and was lauded for his accomplishments in the states and overseas.
Talcott also held strong opinions about the value of amusements and recreation as a part of patient treatment. He made every effort to bring in a variety of cultural events and expand sports activities. During his tenure as head of the institution, the patient population grew from 228 to more than 1200, and the hospital was nearly self sufficient with its own farm, power station, laundry, trolley stop, and of course, a baseball field.
1906 Photo of entrance to Hospital grounds with Main Building in background. The original Ball field can be seen to the left of the road leading to the Main Building.
The Asylum’s annual reports to New York State frequently mentioned the positive impact both playing and watching the game of base ball had on patients.
As reported in the Asylum’s patient newspaper The Conglomerate, one day in 1888 Talcott witnessed a ball game on the grounds among the attendants and patients. As he sat there, he became fascinated at how the patients watching the action, were totally immersed in the game. Afterwards he called a meeting of his staff and gained support for forming a base ball club. Dr. D. H. Arthur was appointed president, and Hospital Supervisor Wilbur Cook, who had some previous baseball experience, agreed to be manager. That first year, the team played seven games winning four, losing two, and tying one. Three of these games were against the Wallkills Base Ball Club, a successful and talented local amateur team.
Manager of the Asylum Base Ball Club
By 1888 base ball had already been popular in Middletown for quite some time. The Wallkills had been organized in 1866 by many of the most prominent citizens of Middletown, and had been playing competitively against other town and barnstorming teams for more than twenty years.
Cook latched onto some of the best local players (several from the Wallkills) and others he knew from out of town teams. In short order, the team was one of the strongest around.
Talcott wanted to ensure that the games were exciting, both to the patients and to the large crowds that would assemble from the neighboring towns, so he insisted on finding the most competitive teams for the Asylums to play. He also paved the way with the Asylum Trustees to make sure his team had adequate equipment, uniforms, and when necessary, travel expenses. To help fund this cost, the public paid an admission fee of 25 cents at most home games, and a good number of season tickets were sold to ardent fans.
Talcott rarely missed a game, and he knew how to keep the fans and players motivated. It was the Doctor’s practice to award a “fiver” ($5.00 cash, not a “high five”) to any home team player who hit a home run during a game. This practice was a big favorite with the home crowd, who would often egg the players on with a chant of “go for the fiver” when a player reached third base! During the team’s heyday, this was not an insignificant cost to the good doctor.
The 1889 Asylum Base Ball Club
In 1889, the Asylum team’s first full year, the team won 11 games, lost 3 and tied 1.
The fourth player from the left is Fisher Launt. Two players to his right is John C.
Degnan, and the second player from the right is Pat McGreevy. These players were
previously on the Wallkill Base Ball Club.
The 1889 Annual Report of the Middletown State Homeopathic Asylum, recounts base ball’s benefits to the patients:
“The beneficial effect of the national game upon those whose minds have been depressed or disturbed is very marked. The patients in whom it had hitherto been impossible to arouse a healthy interest in anything, seemed to awaken and become brighter at the crack of the sharp base hit. Even demented patients were eager watchers of the game. No game has ever excited such universal interest on the part of the inmates of the asylum. Even those who were very sick would insist upon being propped up by pillows so that they could look out the windows and watch a game while it was in progress.”
The Asylum club was not only playing other teams from Orange County, but also attracting some of the fine teams from New York City, Brooklyn and New Jersey. One team that made the journey to Middletown was the Actors Amateur Athletic Association of America, better known as the 5A’s.
The 5 A’s Base Ball Team 1889
DeWolf Hopper one of the more famous of the players, was an actor and matinee idol noted for his performances in Gilbert & Sullivan operas. Over the years he had several wives, including actress Elda Furry who is best known as Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper. He is most famous however, for being the first to recite in public, on August 14, 1888, Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s poem Casey at the Bat.
Hopper was a
big NY Giants fan and friends with Tim Keefe, Buck Ewing and John
Montgomery Ward of the National League club. One evening, the actors
Anson’s Chicago White Sox and the Giants to the theatre. In his 1927 book Once A Clown, Always A Clown, Hopper reports that during the play entitled Prince Methusalem,
“I interpolated Casey in a scene in the second act....It was, I presume, the first time the poem was recited in public….On his debut Casey lifted this audience, composed largely of baseball players and fans, out of their seats. When I dropped my voice to B flat, below low C, at ‘the multitude was awed’, I remember seeing Buck Ewing’s gallant mustachios give a single nervous twitch. And as the house, after a moment of startled silence, grasped the anticlimactic denouement, it shouted its glee….They had expected, as any one does upon hearing Casey for the first time, that the mighty batsman would slam the ball out of the lot, and a lesser bard would have had him do so, and thereby written merely a good sporting-page filler.”
Hopper would go on to recite this poem in all his plays for the next 40 years.
The teams split two games in 1889, and the Asylums won another from the 5A’s in 1890. In 1890, the Asylum team had a great year, winning 21 games and losing only 4. But the best was still to come.
The 1891 Asylum Base Ball Club
The team picked up some new players in 1891, who together with the old Wallkills (Degnan, McGreevy and Launt), and Chris Genegal (standing third from right) who joined in 1889, would form the core of the team for several more great years. Additions included Tommy Murray (standing second from left) from the NY Arlingtons (Wee Willie Keeler took Murray’s place at 2B on that team), John Lawlor CF standing far right, and Jack Dooley 1B sitting in front of W. Cook. This 1891 team won 13 and lost 7.
In 1892, the Asylum team beat virtually all comers. The team had wins against strong New York City teams including the Gorhams and Alphas. They also defeated the Allertons of New Jersey, and the black professional Cuban Giants. Only the NY Giants with Hall of Fame players Buck Ewing, Mickey Welch, Jim O’Rourke and Amos Rusie defeated them. The team won 22 games and lost only 2. The Giants squeaked out 2-1 and 6-5 (10 innings) wins.
The following photo shows the 1892 team. Not pictured was Tuck Turner who went on to play with the Phillies, and Alfred Lawson who won seven games for the team that year. Lawson would go on to make quite a name for himself in several fields including Aviation Transport, Economics, Education and Philosophy. A book on Lawson’s life, Lawson’s Progress by Jerry Kuntz of Ramapo Catskill Library System is currently in progress.
Middletown State Homeopathic Asylum Base Ball Team 1892
L to R Standing: F. Launt LF, H. Smith 3B, J. Dooley 1B, P. McGreevy C, C. Genegal 2B, N. McDonald P
L to R Front Row: T. Murray SS, J. Degnan RF (Capt), W.E. Cook MGR, J. Lawlor CF, E. Butts, (Sub.)
Season Record: Won 22 Lost 2 (Both losses were against the Nat’l League NY Giants)
Again in 1892, the Hospital’s Annual Report to Albany gives base ball a glowing assessment:
“After several years of experiment, our medical superintendent claims that baseball as a craze displaces other crazes and helps to relieve the mind of its troubles and delusions. There is ample evidence for this belief, and any one at all acquainted with the insane has only to attend a ball game on the asylum grounds, or go through the wards on the day of a game to feel its full force……On the day of a ball game everybody is astir. A thrill of absorbing attention of what is going on, all due to the healthy stimulus and the fascinating character of the national pastime….”
To this reader, it appears that all the homeopathic treatment and medicines were really not necessary. All it took to cure someone of their lunacy was to attend a good game of base ball!
In 1893, the team’s record dipped slightly to 19 wins and 6 losses. Still a very respectable result, but the team would peak again with the help of a new pitcher the following year.
Back in 1891, Jack Dooley, John Lawlor, and Ed Ryan of North Adams, MA. had made the move to Middletown and for several years both Dooley and Lawlor were key members of the Asylum team. In 1894 another young North Adams player, Jack Chesbro, and his boyhood friend Art Madison of neighboring Clarksburg, were invited to work as attendants at the State Homeopathic Asylum and to play on the baseball team. Chesbro had some experience, having played for the Houghtonville Nine near his home.
Jack Chesbro – date unknown Art Madison 1894
Art arrived in April, and Jack followed in May. Jack quickly became one of the favorites with the patients and one of them nicknamed him “Happy Jack” because of his pleasant disposition. Although Jack had played local ball, the caliber of players that the Asylum team faced was several notches above what he was used to, and Pat McGreevy, his new battery mate, and former player with the Wallkills, is credited with helping Jack become a better pitcher by working with him on his delivery and adding a change of pace pitch.
The 1894 Season – Jack’s Year in the Box
Jack’s pitching debut with the Asylum on May 17, 1894 had strong local press coverage, including an article in The Conglomerate. The Conglomerate was the hospital’s world renowned newspaper compiled and published solely by the patients since 1890. In the report of Jack’s first outing, the paper included this analysis:
“Cheseborough, the nineteen year-old phenom from North Adams, made his debut. The Waldens made but five hits off his delivery. He has good speed and curves. The game was not a fair test of how much “head” the lad has, but he is young and if (he) doesn’t go out with the “boys” too much, will improve. If he can learn to sandwich speed with curves and get a “slow delivery” (change-up) we expect to see him win his spurs with the strong teams.”
Jack also had three hits in his first game.
With such a fine start, the Asylum team members and their fans, both in the hospital, and throughout the Middletown area, had high hopes. The second game of the season pitted the Asylums against the New York Gorhams on May 26th. The Gorhams were a black professional team that had split four games with the Asylums in prior meetings in 1891 and 1892. Fans and the press anticipated a hotly contested game. The Gorhams had very little success facing the new Asylum pitcher, Happy Jack, who had eight strikeouts. While the Asylum bats were hot, the New York team could only muster five hits and lost to the home team 13 to 2. The fans were happy with the win, but somewhat let down by the runaway game. Madison, Lawlor, and Dooley had extra base hits for the victors.
In the next two games the Asylums faced off against the Brightons and the Murray Hills. Both teams came up by train from New York City and met defeat. The game against the Brightons was a crowd pleaser with the Asylums winning 6 to 4, but the Murray Hills could not mount any attack against Chesbro’s speed and curves, and were shut out 14 to 0.
On June 6th, the Asylums defeated the New Brunswick (New Jersey) A. A. 15 to 5 as once again Chesbro kept the game in control and struck out eight. John Farrell (another former Wallkill player), who usually substituted for the Asylums, had to play with the visitors who were short a player. Charlie Tierney had a double and triple, and Captain “Jack” Degnan added another two base hit.
On June 18th the formidable Cuban Giants came to the Hospital Grounds for the first of five scheduled games with the Asylum team. The Giants had first come to Middletown in 1887 to play the Wallkills and defeated them three times that year. Since 1890, the Asylums had won five of nine games played against the Giants. This would be their first meeting with Happy Jack. The Cubans had field leader and team comedian Clarence Williams behind the plate, and possibly the best black player of the era
Frank Grant who was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2006. Jack was in good form and pitched a fine game limiting the Cubans to just seven hits while striking out six. Unfortunately, some sloppy fielding in the first inning led to 5 unearned runs. The Asylum team fought back, with Genegal and Dooley leading the attack, but the lead held and the final score was Cuban Giants 6, Asylums 5.
The next day, the Asylums returned to their winning ways with a narrow 8 to 7 victory against the Hudson River State Hospital team of Poughkeepsie. On June 25th the Hempsteads from Long Island came to town. Chesbro again showed his mettle and held the Hempsteads to three hits en route to a 4 to 1 win.
On the 28th the Asylums lost to the Flushings from New York City by the score of 8 to 5. Chesbro did not pitch this game. For this game, the Asylums had borrowed Coogan from the Paterson (NJ) team to pitch. The Asylum manager wanted Jack well rested for a big game against the Waldens, who were fast becoming arch rivals. Unfortunately, this strategy didn’t work out as planned, as the Walden team knocked Chesbro out of the box in the fifth inning of their game at Walden on the 29th. The final score was 12 to 1 and the Walden papers had a field day in their reporting of the game. Was the Walden Citizen somewhat biased?
“The great and only Asylums prostrated by the Walden Cutlers; 12 to 1”
“Sock it to them.” “They did.” “Well! Well! Well!” “Walden annihilated
the great and only Asylums of Middletown last Friday on the Walden grounds.”
Needless to say, the Middletown press, particularly the editor of the Conglomerate, was upset with the “ecstasies” of the Citizen’s writer, and was anxious for revenge.
The papers didn’t have much to say about two games against the Madison Athletic Club on July 4th. The key word was “rotten.” It seems the local papers and fans were not keen on blow-out games regardless of which team won. They wanted close games, although they always wanted the Asylums to come out on top. On July 6th the Asylums went to New Jersey to play the Orange Athletic Club. Over the years, this team had fairly good success against the hospital team, but this was not one of their better days. The Asylum boys had an easy time of it with an 18 to 4 win. Chesbro gave up only four hits while striking out a season high of 13. The heavy hitting came from Chris Genegal with a double, triple and three singles, and from Charlie Tierney with three doubles and a single.
One of the more interesting teams played during the season was the Minneconji Indians team. On July 9th the Asylums faced a fearsome group of players with this line-up:
Running Antelope C
Killing Horse P
Two Belly 1B
Man Who Sleeps 2B
Shooting Star 3B
Running Fast SS
Buffalo That Bellows RF
Frisking Elk CF
Bounding Pony RF
Bull Head Captain
This team of Native Americans was managed by the theatrical trio of Miaco, Ball and Blum, who promoted the barnstorming team all over the country. The team played rather well, although the Asylums triumphed 20 to 10. As expected from the era, the papers had some fun with the players’ names: “the Man Who Sleeps woke up suddenly and made a two-bagger…”, “Running Antelope ambled to first….”
On July 16th the Cuban Giants returned to Middletown for their second game against the Asylums. Behind Genegal’s home run and two triples, the Asylum team evened the series with a 6 to 3 win. Happy Jack pitched a scorcher. According to one of the game reports Chesbro “had Rusie speed.” (Referring to NY Giants Hall of Fame pitcher Amos Rusie)
On July 21st, the Asylums came from behind in the late innings to defeat the Ironsides 13 to 5, but most of the players were looking past Ironsides to the Walden rematch coming up the following week. While waiting for the big game, the attendants and the patients had some fun with their annual intra hospital base ball game. This game pitted the residents of Pavilion 2 (including Chesbro and Genegal) against the residents of the Annexes (including Madison and Lawlor). Everybody at the hospital looked forward to the game. Chesbro of course, was not allowed to pitch, so he was assigned to cover 2nd base. The game was scheduled for seven innings, and it was neck and neck for six. As darkness fell, Captain Genegal took his men off the field with the score 12 to 11, and the umpire wisely decided to call it a tie game.
With the fun over, the Asylums prepared for victory in the upcoming game against Walden. The rematch was held on Friday July 27th on the hospital grounds, and the Asylum nine prevailed. Chesbro mixed his curves with his fastballs masterfully, and he was the key to the game as Walden was able to get only 4 hits. With the Asylum hitters finding the sweet spots, the outcome was never in doubt. Madison in particular had a fine day with a home run and triple. Revenge was sweet with a score of 15 to 1. The Walden Citizen would not be crowing about this game!
The game on August 1st was against another solid semi-pro club from Cooperstown, NY. The Asylum hitters were able to garner twelve hits, but none were for extra bases, and they weren’t bunched enough to generate maximum runs. Chesbro was not as sharp as usual, and the boys were defeated 10 to 7.
Another exciting game with the Cuban Giants came down on August 6th. Once again the Asylum team was successful, picking up the win 14 to 8. In one of the highlights, a young African-American lad from Middletown named “Jamsie” Miller, played with the Cubans and had a perfect day going 4 for 4 against Chesbro. The following year at age 19, Miller would get an offer to play for the New York Gorhams, another professional African-American team. But even with Miller’s play, the Asylums had now taken a two game to one lead in their 1894 series.
In baseball you can go from the highs to the lows overnight. The Asylums performing at their best and trouncing the Waldens on July 27th was the high point. The low point came on August 11th with a thorough beating by the Orange Athletic Club 27 to 5. But, the Asylums continued to show that they were resilient, as they bounced right back with an exciting win over Brighton A. C. on August 13th. It looked like the Asylums had a sure win with a lead of 6 to 2 after eight innings when the Brightons went to work and scored 4 runs to even it up after nine. This was one of those games that kept the fans glued to their seats. In the 10th and 11th innings neither team could score. In the top of the 12th, both Madison and Lawlor got their fourth hits of the day, and Charlie Tierney topped it off with a three run homer, putting the Asylum up 11 to 6. That’s how the game ended. Chesbro had given up thirteen hits in twelve innings and struck out nine. The team record was now 16 wins and 5 losses.
Jack pitched another fine game and the Asylums had an easy time of it against the Genesees of Utica on August 16th. The game was played at Jack Sherwood’s Island Park in Livingston Manor, and the bats were alive as the Asylums buried the Genesees 31 to 5.
The team had some time off until the 27th, when the Cuban Giants came back for the fourth game of their scheduled five game series. Once again, the Asylum team took control and made it three straight wins against the African-American professionals. Chesbro did not have his best stuff that day, but still indicated to the newspaper that he was “very pleased” with the 14 to 8 win. Tierney was the hitting star with five singles. Miller, the local lad, played with the Cubans and had another good game.
On the 3rd of September, the Flushings returned to Middletown. They had defeated the Asylums 8 to 5 back in June, but this time the home team prevailed by the score of 17 to 4 as Happy Jack’s curves kept the Flushing hitters at bay.
When the Asylums faced off against Poughkeepsie’s Hudson River State Hospital team on September 12th expectations ran high. Fans were looking forward to another close game like the previous one when the Asylums squeaked out a one run victory. The Poughkeepsie team had even added a couple of Eastern League pitchers (including Ed Daily - a former major leaguer) for the game and the crowd anticipated the best game of the year. The game proved to be much different as “the first three innings were like a Gatling gun, so quickly did the bats crack the ball.” By that time, the lead was 11 to 0 in favor of the Asylums. Chesbro starred again as he held a strong team to only three base hits with his combination of speed and slow curves. Art Madison and Chris Genegal led the team with four hits each, and Pat McGreevy had three before the game was called at the end of seven innings so the Poughkeepsie boys could catch their train home. The game went to the Asylum team 16 to 2.
The Asylum team traveled back to New Jersey for the third and deciding game of the season with the Orange Athletic Club. A crowd of 2000 attended the Orange Oval on Grove Street. Chesbro split the game on the mound with Kelly, and both battled some wildness and gave up seven bases on balls. This proved to be the deciding factor in the game as O.A.C. triumphed by a 9 to 6 score. Kudos went to Charlie Tierney for his home run.
Two days later, the Cubans returned for their last game of the year in Middletown. This was one of the most exciting games of the year. The lead seesawed throughout the game. By the ninth inning, the Asylums were ahead 9 to 7. Another victory for the locals was not in the cards however, as the Giants had a great finish and scored three times with consecutive hits by Clarence Williams, Frank Grant, Andrew Jackson and Oscar Jackson to pull out the win. Chris Genegal’s home run was reported as “the longest hit made this year. It sailed over the advertising sheets like an eagle on its rise to a nest in the mountain fastnesses.” Art Madison had four singles and a double. Chesbro only allowed the Cubans seven hits. Although Jamsie Miller did not play this game, he did join the Cuban X Giants for their 1896 season.
Manager Cook tried to schedule a season ending game with Brooklyn of the National League, but the game could not be arranged. The season finale took place nearly a month later on October 12th against the Asylums’ biggest rival, the Waldens. The Asylums had won games of 15 to 2 and 15 to 1, while the Waldens had won one game by the score of 12 to 1. In the cliffhanger final game, Chesbro pitched masterfully and the Asylums won 3 to 2. Again, the hitting star was Madison with three singles and a two-bagger. The final 1894 record stood at 21 wins, 7 losses.
The 1894 season was by all accounts a great success. The Asylum team now had a record of 111 wins and 31 losses for a winning percentage of .782, a standout record that was simultaneously the Asylums’ high-point and the beginning of the team’s decline. The quality of the players was just too good to maintain the status quo, and by the spring of 1895, Jack Chesbro, Jack Dooley, Chris Genegal, John Lawlor, Art Madison, Pat McGreevy, Herman Smith, and Charlie Tierney all left to play with professional Minor League clubs. Over the next few years the team was rebuilt and continued to play an important role in Middletown’s baseball history for many years.
In 1905, Hospital Supervisor Wilbur Cook got the old Asylum team players together at the Hospital Grounds for a reunion game against the black professional Cuban X Giants team. He even got “Happy Jack” Chesbro, who was then with the New York Highlanders in the American League, to pitch the game. But……… that’s a story for another time.
APPENDIX - PLAYER LIST:
Edward Butts 1894
Edward Butts grew up in Yonkers, N. Y. He worked at the State Hospital from 1892-1900 then joined the Middletown Police. He made additional appearances on the Asylum Indoor baseball team in 1902 and 1906. His son Edward Jr. also worked at the hospital in the early 1900s. Ed Sr. passed away in 1909 at age 42.
John Lawlor’s parents emigrated from Canada when John was very young, and settled in North Adams, MA. John worked at the Asylum from 1891-1909. He spent 23 years in the minor leagues as player and manager, primarily in the Eastern and NY State Leagues. He also managed Richmond in the Virginia League and later managed Middletown’s entry into the NY/NJ League in 1913. John was known as the “gloveless wonder” as he was one of the last players not to use a glove in the field. He was named manager of the Asylum baseball team in 1922, but unfortunately, died one month into the season.
Chris Genegal 1892
Chris Genegal worked at the hospital from 1889-1901. After 4 years in the Minors, including two league championships with Canandaigua of the New York State League, he continued (as did Lawlor) to play with the Asylum team. Chris was a great power hitter, and also played with the Middletown Athletic Club, who defeated both the Brooklyn Dodgers and the NY Giants in 1908. He made appearances in games as late as 1911 when he was 47 years old. Chris remained in the area and died at age 82 in 1947.
John Degnan 1892
John Degnan was Captain of the Wallkill BBC 1882-89 and Captain of the Asylum BBC 1889-1896. By 1894, the newspapers were already referring to John as “The Old Man”, although in this case, the term “old man” was used as a term of respect and honor, such as would be used in reference to the head of a company. John was a very popular man in town, an accomplished singer, and in 1888 was the local Tax Collector, owned a Plumbing Company and eventually would also become the Commissioner of Public Safety for the City of Middletown in 1911. John died in 1927 and is buried at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Middletown.
Fisher “Fish” Launt 1905
Fisher Launt was one of the Wallkills who became an initial member of the Asylum BBC. He played with the Asylums 1889-95. Launt, a conductor on the O & W Railroad, was a consummate batter with excellent bat control, great speed, and power. He kept an apartment in Middletown but lived in Sidney, N.Y. “Fish” was also the team spark plug and jokester, most noted for his wild style of base coaching, which was a popular treat for the spectators and a terror for the opposition. . Launt is seen here wearing his son Fred’s jersey (Lafayette College class of ’02). He’s buried in Walton, N.Y.
“Pat” McGreevy 1889
Patrick McGreevy was another player from the Wallkill BBC. Pat played with the Asylum team 1888-96. He worked for the local Saw Factory as foreman of their rolling mill before the plant shut down. Pat is best known for working with Jack Chesbro and helping to make him a better pitcher by improving his delivery and adding a change-up to his pitch selection. He and Chesbro went to the Albany/Johnstown team together in 1895. Back in Middletown, he ran the Spellman House bar and rooming house for a year before succumbing to illness in 1899.
“Tuck” Turner 1894
Turner played with the Asylum team 1892/3. He made the majors with Philadelphia in 1893 and batted .416 in 1894. Tuck and Shoeless Joe Jackson are the only two players with a .380 batting average through their first 800 at bats. Tuck played in the majors and minors through 1905 then returned to his home on Staten Island and became a boat builder. His lifelong friends included major leaguers “Brewery Jack” Taylor and Thomas “Dude” Esterbrook.
Jack Chesbro and Art Madison only worked at the Asylum in 1894, but both eventually made it to the Major Leagues. Art would play briefly with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1895 and the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1899. He also played in the Minor Leagues from 1895 – 1906. Art was instrumental in getting Chesbro a tryout with the Pirates, and Jack also made the team in 1899. Chesbro stayed in the majors thru 1908, and briefly in 1909, and established himself as one of the best pitchers in the Deadball Era. He was voted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1946.
Jack’s Hall of Fame Plaque in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Return to table of contents