Wednesday, December 14, 2005

December 14th, 1914

Charlie Faust Committed

Nicknamed "Victory," Charlie Faust was a mascot and good luck charm for the 1911 New York Giants. In July of 1911 Faust showed up in St. Louis and announced to manager John McGraw that a fortune teller had told him if he pitched for the Giants (in third place at the time) that year they would win the pennant. McGraw gave the man a shot (this happened all the time in the early days of baseball--not the fortune teller part--but people just showing up and being given a try-out) but it was plainly apparent that whatever the fortune teller had told Faust, he was no pitcher. Actually, he was more than that. In his hometown in Kansas, Faust had been known (in the ever sensitive language of the times) as the village idiot, one who was "feeble minded" and how exactly he made the journey to St. Louis is something of an enduring mystery.

Nonetheless, in something else that is rather an enduring mystery, McGraw decided to keep Faust around as a good-luck charm and mascot for the team. Before games Faust would "warm-up" in anticipation of pitching in that day’s game, run the bases and so on. As the Giants kept winning (prompted more than Christy Mathewson's three hundred plus innings at a 1.99 ERA than Faust's antics one suspects, but never mind) Faust's legend began to grow and his nickname was born. When the Giants were losing, Faust would be sent to the bullpen to once again warm-up. He missed some time with the team to perform vaudeville, telling stories and practicing his wind-up. With the pennant secured, McGraw actually let Faust pitch in a pair of games (he gave up one run in two innings) and take a turn at bat (he was hit by a pitch and allowed to come around and score). After the Giants were defeated in the World Series, Faust received a World Series share worth about a thousand dollars.

Faust stayed with the team for the start of the 1912 but McGraw finally tired of his antics and Faust was fired--despite he claims he had signed a two-year contract on a shirt collar. He resurfaced in 1914 in Portland, Oregon claiming he was walking from Seattle to New York to help the Giants win the pennant. He was committed there (listing his occupation as "professional ballplayer") but released shortly thereafter. He returned to Seattle where he wrote letters begging for a contract with the Giants but was ignored and confined to an institution permanently on this date, dying in 1915.

Today his story, a relatively sad one in many ways, is virtually forgotten as is Faust. But for one season, Charlie "Victory" Faust could say he was a valued--albeit a bit oddly--member of a pennant winning team. And there are certainly greater people who have accomplished far less.

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