Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Speedy Miller -- Major Leaguer

Superbas from 1900
This has been updated. 

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 went to Cincinnati for a series. He did not pitch in that series, but did appear on July 13 as a reliever in a loss at S. Louis.

Speedy didn't stick with the Superbas, who weren't very good that year, and he pitched one more season in the minors.

Speedy showed up in 1911 pitching for Sioux City briefly before being released. He then signed with an independent team in Mitchell, SD, and wasn't too effective. The stats are not available for those teams.

In 1937, he was listed as the manager of the Tarboro Serpents of the Coastal Plains League. My later research in 2019 shows that Fred "Snake" Henry, not Fred Miller, was the manager. That's an honest mistake but it's important. Henry was a story unto himself and is known for attacking an umpire in 1939 while managing a different team.  

It does mean I can't find Speedy unless I go to Maple Grove. He'd probably throw one up around my noggin.

FIELD OF DREAMS

'SHOELESS JOE' the novel

The 1937 Tarboro team





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