Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Speedy Miller -- Major Leaguer

Superbas from 1900
A somewhat memorable point occurred in the movie Field of Dreams, where Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones are seen stopping along the highway to pick up a ragtag kid.

The boy identifies himself as Archie Graham and says he's on his way into town to see if he can "play some ball."

Archie is, of course, "Moonlight" Graham.

Graham existed. In the movie, he was Burt Lancaster. In real life, he was a right fielder who played in one big-league game in 1905 before becoming a doctor.

In other baseball news a year later, Fred Miller, a big strapping lefthander from Indiana, found his way to Paducah, where he signed a professional contract to pitch in the Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee (Kitty) League.

The Kitty was the Class D minors -- if you went lower than that, you weren't a professional. The pay was probably by the game and contingent upon the crowd. They passed the hat.

Fred Miller won 17 games, lost 14, and was as wild as a March hare.

But he threw hard. A lefthander in those days who threw hard probably had a chance to make the majors.

They called him Speedy.

Fred (Speedy) Miller was born in 1886 on a farm just south of Fairfield. He died in 1953 and was buried in Maple Grove Cemetery in Brookville.

Along the way, Speedy did what no other Fairfielder ever did -- he pitched in the major leagues.

Briefly, although he stuck around a hair longer than Moonlight Graham did.

After a couple more years in the minors, Miller apparently caught the attention of a scout who signed him for Brooklyn.

In 1910, Speedy got his chance to pitch for the Superbas, which was what the team was called long before it became the Dodgers.

I'm unable to determine how Speedy found his way into the professional ranks, though it stands to reason that he played high school baseball at Brookville and was probably seen at a tryout camp in the late 1890s. He was 20 when he signed with Paducah.

Brooklyn bought his contract after 1909, where Speedy pitched with Columbia, S.C., in the "Sally" League.

At 6-feet-2 and 190 pounds, Speedy lacked none of the physical tools to make it big in the majors, although his record suggests he was a bit too wild to be reliable.

He pitched in 6 games in 1910, winning one, losing one, walking 13, striking out 2 and hitting three batters with errant pitches. His earned run average was 4.71.

He made his first appearance on July 8, 1910, against Pittsburgh in a game the Superbas won 6-5. (The following day, the Superbas traveled to Cincinnati for a series. I do not know if Speedy pitched.)

Speedy didn't stick with the Superbas, who weren't very good as a team that year, and he pitched one more season in the minors before surfacing, oddly, in a most unusual setting.

In 1937, he was listed as the manager of the Tarboro Serpents of the Coastal Plains League. The record book doesn't say what the team's record was, but some adding up of individual statistics suggests it was near .500.

Speedy was 51 years old.

He didn't manage again and I can't find any information that suggests he stayed in professional baseball.


'SHOELESS JOE' the novel

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