Wednesday, January 26, 2005
January 26th, 1884
Tubby Spencer Born
"Tubby" is of course, a nickname, he was born Edward Russel Spencer a name which has an almost regal quality about it. He was listed as 5'10" and 215 pounds, although as photos taken at the time show, perhaps he was a bit larger than claimed. Either way, the nickname certainly fits.
Spencer had an interesting career, he first played for the St. Louis Browns in 1905 and served as the back-up catcher that year and the next (when the starting catcher was a name you'd know: Branch Rickey, yes that Branch Rickey) before serving as the starter in 1907 and 1908. He was traded to the Red Sox for the 1909 season but appeared in just twenty-eight games. Spencer did not play in the majors at all in 1910 but returned to appear in eleven games for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1911 after which he did not play in the majors until 1916. Spencer's five year career gap was caused by the simple fact that he was an alcoholic. According to some reports, Spencer spent the five years, arguably those that could have been the best of his career, as a hobo, riding the rails. The image seems almost romantic, and not unlike something out of Carnivàle but it was probably a miserable existence, only compounded by alcoholism.
At age thirty-two Spencer managed to get his life reasonably back on track and returned to the majors in 1916 for a nineteen game stint with the Tigers during which he hit .370, a number which probably played a large part in his returning for the following season. Spencer was the Tigers' back-up catcher for 1917 and 1918 and retired thereafter, putting an end to one of the more fascinating back-up catcher stories of all time.
January 26th, 1935
Bob Uecker Born