Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Previously Unrecorded Brewer Found: Willie LeCompte

by Dennis Pajot

Doing research for an incident between an umpire and the Milwaukee Brewers for my in progress book, I looked up the game story of the September 6, 1903, doubleheader at Athletic Park in Milwaukee.

The game story in the Milwaukee Sentinel of September 7 reads in part:

"LeCompte, a representative from Paducah, Ky, lasted eight innings, through stress of circumstances, and then he went to the bench. The company—such as it was—was too fast for the young man."
According to box scores he went 0 for 3, with no runs, no put outs, no assists, no errors. In the same day's Sentinel was written:
"Mr. LeCompte, who has been visiting friends in the city, leaves for Paducha, Ky, this morning."
I looked up the Milwaukee Journal for some information on the game and found this sentence:
"LeCompte, who during the first game had showed himself to be a wood man and not a ball player, was allowed to remain on the bench [for the second game]." Of the two other Milwaukee newspapers, the Evening Wisconsin wrote: LeCompte "proved altogether too slow for the company...[Manager] Cantillon sent LeCompte home to Paducah last night."
The Milwaukee Daily News said the young man was
"hardly fast enough. He was retired in the eighth and Dunleavy took his place."
This September 6 game was the only game LeCompte played in for the Brewers. Back at my home I looked up LeCompte at Baseball-Reference and found no entry (that has since been changed). I did find a W.O. LeCompte who played in 1904 with Clarksdale and Pine Bluff. At home I have "The All-Time Rosters of the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association 1902-1952", edited by Rex Hamann. LeCompte is not listed in his roster either.

I contacted Cliff Blau of the SABR Encyclopedia to find if W. O. LeCompte and the LeCompte of Brewer one-day fame were the same man. Cliff did not know, but rightly said he would rather error on the side of caution, and list them as two different players.

Determined to find who Mr. LeCompte might be, I looked at various internet sources for old newspapers which might have information. Knowing he was from (or at least played with Paducah, Kentucky) I started there. In the Paducah Sun coverage of 1903 I found numerous box scores and references to LeCompte as the team's shortstop. Then in two articles I found him talked of as Willie LeCompte.

Willie LeCompte was apparently a very good player. There are a number of articles about his playing abilities. In the June 17, 1903, Peducah Sun it was written:
"There can't anyone in the league touch LeCompte when it comes either to gentility or fast ball playing. He is a star fielder and a hard hitter."
The next day the newspaper commented:
"LeCompte has proven himself a thorough short stop and third baseman and his ball playing is the most admired of any man on the team except Clifford." On September 2 the Sun said of him: "Talking his average in fielding and batting he is undoubtedly the best short stop in the [Kentucky-Illinois-Tennesse] league."
Further searching found W.O. LeCompte had joined the Paducah team in April 1903, having played with the Danville college team the previous season, doing good work. The Peducah management heard of his ability and secured him early in the 1903 season, his first professional season.

One interesting incident occurred in that 1903 season which affected Willie. In June it was reported a warrant was being issued for every player who had played the previous Sunday with the Paducah and Hopkinsville baseball teams. LeCompte was among them. I did not find what happened with this incident.

On or about September 1, Willie LeCompte was sold to the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association. The September 2 Paducah Sun reported LeCompte
"has not yet gone to join the team, but is waiting on instructions. He received a telegram instructing him to join the team at once, but he wired back that it would be impossible to go into actual work on account of an injured finger, and further asking for terms. LeCompte is waiting for an answer. The deal has been closed and the draft sent ahead for the money to be paid for LeCompte's release."
Willie LeCompte's one game with the Brewers is documented above. As stated that September 6 game was a doubleheader. The Milwaukee Sentinel said in its summary of game two:
"It was a bad day for Paducha, Ky, as the second game showed. Hedges, the boy from 'way down yonder' was put on the firing line by Manager Cantillon and started out badly....[later in the game] his arm gave out and four runs came in. A single and double by the visitors in the next inning, combined with a couple of more errors, convinced Manager Cantillon, that this was no day for Kentucky, so Alonzo went to the clubhouse to talk it over with his friend LeCompte."
Alonzo Hedges had also played for the Paducah Chiefs earlier in the season and had been signed by the Brewers in late June. So perhaps this was how Cantillon found out about the young shortstop Willie LeCompte.

There is another connection between the 1903 Brewers and Paducah. The Evening Wisconsin of September 3 reported first baseman Conner [sic] who also had played with Paducah, would stay with the club. Baseball-Reference and Rex Hamann both show Edward Conners had played 14 games with the 1903 Brewers and hit .166. The newspaper said Conner [sic] was a cousin of the famous Roger Conner. [If the player's name was Conners or Conner, or if he was a relative of Roger is for another research day! Box scores in the Paducah Sun show a Conners playing first base with the Chiefs.]

To round out the story, earlier I wrote that at Baseball-Reference there is a W. O. LeCompte who played for Clarksdale and Pine Bluff in 1904. Showing this is the same LeCompte who played for the Brewers in 1903, I found this in the Paducah Sun of June 27, 1904:
"LeCompte, shortstop for the locals but sold to Milwaukee was tried by Pine Bluff in the Cotton State but did not suit and he is in the Delta League."
[Clarksdale, Mississippi, was in the 1904 Delta League. Clarksdale won the Delta League pennant with a 69 and 30 record.]

So we now know the two LeCompte's of 1903 and 1904 at Baseball-Reference are the same player. (Baseball-Reference has changed their entry, and hopefully by the time you are reading this Cliff Blau has corrected this to one person in the SABR Encyclopedia).

Now, who was Willie LeCompte? Here I cannot be 100 percent certain, but I think I perhaps found him. A search at Family found a William Ovid Lecompte born in Pleasureville, Kentucky, on December 3, 1880. He died October 13, 1940. His parents were Isaac Newton Lecompte and the former Martha Jane Hill, married in Hills Spring, Shelby County, Kentucky, on January 18, 1872. The only census I could find Willie LeCompte in, was the 1900 census, where he was listed as single, working as a day laborer. In the World War I Draft registrations I found William Ovid LeCompte. He registered in Nashville, Tennessee, with an address of 61 Watauga. LeCompte gave his occupation as salesman with the Remington Arms Company.

I looked for obituaries from 1940 for him, but came up empty. There is no way I can now say for certain this is the same man who played ball with the Brewers, but William O. LeCompte born in Kentucky, being 22 years old in 1903, would fit the bill.

Perhaps the entire mystery of Mr. LeCompte is not solved, but some of it is.

My friends, this is the joy of research. A lot of hours at a personal computer and more sifting through microfilm and ancestry sites at the public library to solve a minor mystery of a guy who played in one minor league game 107 years ago in my home town. And do you know what? It is definitely all worth it.

Dennis Pajot

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Little Help Needed

I'm cross-posting this with my Packers uniform blog, The Wearing of the Green and Gold, knowing that there is likely some overlap between fans of the Pack and the Brews.

Living in New York, it's tough to watch complete Packer games. And until the NFL makes them available on iTunes, I have to rely on the kindness of Wisconsinites and/or people with a dish.

I've lost my source for high-def copies of the games and am having a hard time finding a new one. If there's anyone out there who can send me DVDs, I'd appreciate it. I would of course reimburse you for all costs.

If you're able to help, please drop me a line. And thanks!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Perfessor, Big as Life

This 1944 photo of Brewers skipper Casey Stengel is up for auction at MEARS:

This photo, taken by Milwaukee's Grand Photo Studio, was used by the Brews in photo cards sold at the park during the 1944 season. The 3 1/2 x 5 1/2 inch cards had printed autographs and were sold for 25 cents a set through the mail and at the Borchert Field concession stands.

This particular copy of the photo has been altered for print, its background removed with correction fluid, the 1940s version of Photoshop. This is fairly common on surviving photos from the period.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Congratulations Again, Dennis! contributor Dennis Pajot was in Atlanta last month for the national convention of The Society for American Baseball Research, where he received this year's Sporting News-SABR Baseball Research Award, which recognizes "outstanding baseball research published in the previous calendar year."

Here he is (right), being presented with his award by Steve Gietschier from Florissant, Mo:

Bravo, Dennis. We continue to be deeply honored to have your work on this site, and look forward to your upcoming book.