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Erased on triple play, southeast Kansas native Pete Kilduff becomes part of ...

It all started with a question duri
/ Source: The Morning Sun

It all started with a question during a conversation with a relative. "Joe Mishmash, my cousin, was an avid baseball fan," said Pittsburg resident Bob Mishmash. "He said 'Have you ever heard of this player named Pete Kilduff?' Joe's wife is related (through marriage) to Pete's wife.

"Joe told me about him. He was born in Weir City and lived in Chicopee. Joe and his brothers went to Chicago to see him play. He said he played in the World Series and was part of the only unassisted triple play in World Series history.

"I couldn't believe all this. Then Joe pulled out this ballcard he had since he was a teenager and asked me if I would like to have it."

That 1921 Pete Kilduff card certainly whetted the appetite.

Today, after approximately 30 years of research, Bob Mishmash has become the local historian about Kilduff, who played in the major leagues from 1917 to 1921 as well as sandlot baseball all around southeast Kansas.

"I want to get his name out there ... make people aware of him," Mishmash said. "There's more to him than being involved in the triple play.

"I know it's not Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb, but he did play (major league baseball) and he played on sandlots all over from Scammon to Frontenac to Girard to Pittsburg. His family lived in Chicopee and Pittsburg, and every time you go to the mall, you pass the mausoleum right on Broadway (in Highland Park Cemetery)."

HEAD:Kilduff cards

Mishmash, a retired pressman from Perfection Forms, a printing operation in Girard, has gathered numerous newspaper articles about Kilduff, the result of hours and hours of microfilm viewing in many libraries. He's been able to obtain a few ballcards, postcards and pictures, and he has a copy of Kilduff's baptism certificate.

"I'll go to baseball card shows looking for one card," he said. "When I say 'Pete Kilduff,' most of the dealers say who? And then I'll say 'Brooklyn Robins' ... a lot of the young dealers have not heard of them. A lot of the older dealers are familiar with the Robins. In the Midwest it's hard to find anything about the Brooklyn Robins.'

"Almost all of the cards I have of him are with the Robins. They used the same photograph in 1921 and 1922. He wasn't playing in 1922 but they still had a card for him (as part of an 80-card set).''

There is a Pete Kilduff signature bat in Pittsburg, the property of Bob Rinker, Mishmash's long-time friend. Rinker's mother, Louise Rinker, took care of Pete Kilduff's brother, Frank, and Frank later gave the bat to Bob Rinker.

"The only other bat I've seen with Pete Kilduff on it is at Louisville Slugger," Mishmash said. "I've never seen any other Pete Kilduff memorabilia."

HEAD:Road to the majors

Kilduff, born April 4, 1892, was living at Chicopee and was a bookkeeper for the U.S. Census of 1910. He played for a team in Girard as well as the Kandy Kids of Frontenac and the Pittsburg Pirates, managed by Nonie Baker.

His minor league career began in 1914 with Oklahoma City, and he led the Western League with 27 home runs in 1915. He played at Omaha in 1916, and following that season, the New York Giants reportedly paid $6,000 for his release.

In the first month of the 1917 season, Kilduff stepped in at second base for the Giants after Charley Herzog injured his spine in a fall at Pennsylvania Station in Philadelphia. According to the New York Times, "Herzog noticed a piece of chewing gum on the marble floor of the station and kicked at it. His feet slipped from under him and he fell heavily."

On that same day, April 25, Kilduff hit a home run off Grover Cleveland Alexander as the Giants beat the Phillies 9-8.

It wasn't the first time Kilduff had seen "Alexander the Great" pitch. On Oct. 29, 1916, two teams of baseball stars played a game at Miners Park in Joplin, Mo. Walter Johnson and Alexander were the two pitchers - both reportedly were paid $500 for the game - and other players included Casey Stengel, Max Carey and Zack and Mack Wheat. Johnson's team won 3-2 before a crowd of 1,500.

Minus the two Hall of Fame pitchers, those same major leaguers played a game in Pittsburg the previous day and spent the night at the Leland Hotel, located at Sixth and Broadway.

Kilduff spent less than three months with the Giants before he was traded to the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs made the World Series in 1918, but during that time, Kilduff was near the end of six months active service in the Navy.

"The Giants made the World Series in 1917, but Pete had been traded to the Cubs," Mishmash said. "Then the Cubs made the World Series, but Pete is out on a ship (the Hiawatha)."

In the middle of the 1919 season, the Cubs traded Kilduff to the Brooklyn Robins, named in honor of their manager, Wilbert Robinson. It wasn't until 1932 that Brooklyn's team officially became the Dodgers.

HEAD:Triple play

In 1920, Kilduff got to play in the World Series. Brooklyn and the Cleveland Indians split the first four games, and the Indians took a 7-0 lead in the fifth game on two milestone homers. Elmer Smith's bases-loaded shot in the first inning off Burleigh Grimes was the first grand slam in Series history, and Jim Bagby hit the first World Series homer by a pitcher in the fourth inning.

Kilduff started the Robins' fifth inning with a single, and Otto Miller singled. With relief pitcher Clarence Mitchell, who had been used as a pinch hitter and outfielder during the season, at the plate, the stage was set for Indians second baseman Bill Wambsganns to make what The Sporting News has rated as the greatest baseball feat.

According to the New York Times story, "Uncle Robbie had evidently wigwagged a sign from the bench for a hit and run play. ... Mitchell connected solidly and jammed a tearing liner over second base. Wamby was quite a distance from second, but he leaped over toward the cushion and with a mighty jump speared the ball with one hand. Kilduff was on his way to third base and Miller was almost within reach of second.

"Wamby's noodle began to operate faster than it ever did before. He hopped over to second base and touched the bag, retiring Kilduff, who was far down the alley toward third base. Then Wamby turned and saw Otto Miller standing there like a wooden Indian. Otto was evidently so surprised that he was glued to the ground, and Wamby just waltzed over and touched him for the third out."

Incidentally, Mitchell later hit into a double play, meaning he accounted for five outs in his two at-bats.

HEAD:Back to the minors

Kilduff played one more season for the Robins, finishing his five-year career with a .270 batting average. In 280 games with the Robins, he hit .281.

He wound up back in the minor leagues, playing for the San Francisco Seals from 1922-26, Shreveport (La.) in 1927-28 and Alexandria (La.) in 1929. The Seals won Pacific Coast League championships in 1922, 1923 and 1925.

Kilduff was scheduled to be the manager in Alexandria in 1930, but he died on Valentine's Day at Mt. Carmel Hospital following an operation for appendicitis.

"He was sick in 1923 with appendicitis, according to the Pittsburg Headlight," Mishmash said. "I guess he had been sick until his death."

His wife, the former Elizabeth McManus, died on Dec. 8, 1924, at age 26.

They were married on Christmas Day, 1920, and had one daughter, Virginia Ann.

Each year on Memorial Day, Mishmash puts an American flag beside the Kilduff mausoleum.

HEAD:Help wanted

Mishmash's work is not complete.

"I cannot find information about him the two years he was with Shreveport," he said. "I'd like to share this. I'm open to critics. If mistakes have been made, I'd like to correct them. I know baseball fans are critical of stats, a wrong date. If anybody could help me or could fill in the gaps, I'd appreciate it."

Mishmash has lived in Pittsburg most of his life. His brother, Carl, was a postman in Pittsburg for 34 years. A younger brother, Sammy, played two years of minor league baseball after being signed by New York Yankees scout Don Gutteridge.

As an 18-year-old, Bob Mishmash was the winning pitcher when Pittsburg American Legion Post 64 won the state championship in 1970. He also was the pitcher when the Los Angeles Dodgers came to town for a tryout for a prospect named Bill Russell.

"He hit about 10 home runs over the left-field wall," Mishmash recalled. "He hit some towering home runs off me that day, but I sure smile when I look over at JayCee Ballpark from my house and see the left-field wall."

Mishmash's baseball career ended when he was 19 and umpiring a J.L. Hutchinson Little League game.

"Mike Watt (St. Mary's-Colgan baseball coach) was pitching and Craig Crespino (Girard football coach) was the batter," he recalled. "A foul ball hit my shoulder where there was no protection and injured my rotator cuff. That was the first time I ever umpired, and it was the last time I umpired."