King Bailey

This article was written by Chris Rainey

On June 6, 1897, King Bailey of the Evansville Brewers and Pete Dowling faced each other in Central League action at Paducah, Kentucky. “The game was the finest ever witnessed. … Bailey was wholly invincible and was not once hit safe,” an Evansville paper reported. Dowling allowed only one hit in Evansville’s 1-0 win.1 Dowling would soon join the Louisville Colonels. Bailey had already been in the majors for one game in 1895, but not even a no-hitter could earn him another shot. Bailey was simply born at the wrong time. The major leagues downsized from 25 teams in 1890 to 12 in 1892. When the American League began in 1901, pushing the number to 16, Bailey was nearing the end of his career. In his prime he had the talent to be a major leaguer, but not nearly the opportunity of players just a few years older.

Linwood Clifton Bailey was born on November 22, 1869, in Tunstall Station, Virginia. He was the first of three children born to Albert and Lizzie Bailey. In the late 1870s the family moved to Cincinnati, where Albert worked as a laborer. Growing to be 6-feet and 185 pounds, Linwood took advantage of the numerous opportunities to play baseball in the city. He worked as a laborer when not playing outfield or taking the pitcher’s box.2 As a left-hander with decent speed, movement, and a sharp curve, he was in demand to play professionally. In 1891 he earned a tryout with Rockford in the Illinois-Iowa League. On May 11 he was sent in to relieve in a 17-5 loss to Ottumwa. Unimpressed, Rockford released him. Two weeks later Bailey joined Jamestown in the New York-Pennsylvania League. On May 27 he beat Elmira 10-9. On June 1 he struck out 13 against Bradford, but gave up 18 hits and lost 7-1. He followed that with another loss to first-place Bradford before he was released and returned to Cincinnati.

In 1892 Bailey found his way to Macon in the Southern Association. He debuted with a 10-strikeout performance on April 25 before 3,000 fans in Atlanta, winning 6-2. “His curves were grand,” raved a local paper, rejoicing in the team’s first victory.3 The next day Macon lost 29-5 with Bailey playing right field, dropping its record to 1-11. Bailey became the instant ace of the team, quickly earning the nickname King. Fans loved him and the newspaper echoed their sentiments, writing, “His wonderful inshoots are decidedly the most deceiving balls pitched over a Southern League plate. Bailey never loses his head and is not a grandstand player.”4 He took the mound whenever asked; in one stretch of makeup games in September he tossed three complete games in four days. In all, Bailey toiled 382 innings and recorded 43 complete games with a 22-20 record for a team that finished out of the money.

The 1893 season was a totally different experience for Bailey. The pitching distance was moved back five feet to 60 feet 6 inches and Bailey switched from Macon to New Orleans. In 1892 Macon had suffered the 10-game losing streak before Bailey’s arrival. In 1893 Macon was riding a 12-game winning streak before Bailey cooled them off with a nifty four-hitter on June 29. But the overwork the previous season had taken its toll. Bailey had lost speed and the crispness on his breaking pitch. His record stood at 3-11 when he was released despite being “a good, reliable, sober and willing twirler.”5 Bailey was not unemployed for long; Nashville picked him up and he pitched July 31 against the newly admitted Pensacola team (which had taken over the Birmingham franchise). Bailey won 10-7. He also recorded a win in his next start, 12-4 over Mobile, thanks to five double plays. He split starts against Memphis before closing out the season playing a doubleheader in right field. The Southern Association disbanded on August 14. Bailey remained in Nashville and played four exhibition games before returning to Cincinnati.

The Southern Association could not be revived for 1894 and Bailey joined the Grand Rapids Rippers in the Western League. He pitched on May 10 against Toledo and surrendered 11 runs in two innings. The performance earned a train ride back to Cincinnati. But left-handed pitchers have always been a valuable commodity, and Bailey was signed by the Staunton Hayseeds in the Virginia States League. His first of five appearances was a loss to Lynchburg on May 25. The only winning game he started was played on June 8, when he was pulled after four innings with an 11-9 edge in a game that Staunton won 22-12 over Norfolk. After he surrendered 51 runs in 38 innings, Staunton gave him his release. The Richmond Crows were below Staunton in the standings and were willing to give Bailey a try. The move paid dividends early on when Bailey defeated Staunton 24-6 on June 27. He beat the Hayseeds again on July 7 when he singled and rode home on the winning home run. The lefty finally shook free of the dead arm he had experienced and returned to top form. He won every start from August 8 through the 30th. With the Crows he piled up a 14-7 record.6

The Southern Association was restructured in 1895 and returned to action. Bailey joined the Montgomery Grays. He debuted on April 26 with a 7-2 win over New Orleans. The Grays employed a three-man pitching staff and Bailey saw plenty of action despite streaky and erratic performances. After ending June with only three wins, he turned his season around starting with a 10-6 win on the Fourth of July over Evansville. He followed that with a 9-2 record into late August, at which point he faltered again and dropped four of his last five. He made at least 34 pitching appearances with a 15-18 mark in addition to playing the outfield.7

Bailey returned to Cincinnati and late in the season (September 21) he was given a chance to show his stuff for the Reds. Three years earlier the Reds had auditioned a Southern Association pitcher named Bumpus Jones, who twirled a no-hitter on the final day of the season. Any thought of a repeat of Jones’s performance ended when leadoff hitter John O’Brien lashed a single. Called “Lem” in the Cincinnati Enquirer’s game coverage, Bailey surrendered 13 hits and 8 runs to the last-place Colonels. The Reds trailed 7-5 going into the seventh when their bats came alive against veteran Gus Weyhing. With one out the Reds pounded out seven straight hits, including a double by Bailey, and scored eight runs. They added five more in the eighth for a 19-8 lead. Umpire Hank O’Day called the game because of darkness at that point. Bailey surrendered five earned runs, but did not issue a walk, went 2-for-4 at bat, stole a base, and committed an error in four fielding chances. Despite praise from his catcher, Farmer Vaughn – “The boy may be left when inshooting balls, but he is right on strikes”8 – the performance was not enough to earn Bailey a contract and the Reds left town on their exhibition swing without him. Bailey joined the semipro Cincinnati Shamrocks for the remainder of their season. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Bailey would pitch the second game of an exhibition doubleheader for the Reds later in October. But when the day arrived, it brought with it storm clouds and Bailey’s game was canceled.

The Montgomery Grays changed their name to Senators for 1896 and welcomed back Bailey and catcher Mike Kahoe from Cincinnati. They also brought in a 20-year-old Canadian, Win Kellum, to pitch. After Bailey’s erratic 1895 season the fans were apprehensive about his future. But the lefty tandem of Kellum and Bailey gave them a tremendous summer to talk about. Bailey worked 286 innings with a 19-11 record. Kellum added 238 innings and a 21-5 record. Bailey hit .221. When the season ended, Bailey opted to earn some extra money by returning to Richmond in the Virginia States League. He posted a 2-4 record during September. The extra paychecks came in handy because Bailey returned to Montgomery and escorted Josephine C. “Jossie” Weafer to the altar. The couple planned on living in Montgomery, but when the Southern Association was unable to organize, Bailey signed on with the Evansville Brewers in the Class C Central League.

Bailey always complained that his arm was slow to loosen up in cold weather. He won Evansville’s opener over Nashville, 3-2, but hit four batters and tossed four wild pitches. Bailey had been signed “at the highest salary paid any player on the rolls,”9 and great things were expected of him. After five games he had allowed only 6 runs, but then hit a losing skid during which opponents hit him at will. The June 6 no-hitter snapped that string, but it was an anomaly. Labeled “a sore disappointment,” he was given his release on June 23. After complaining about the “weather almost continuously … (he) seemed pleased at being given his release.”10 At the time he had a record of at least 8-6.11

The timing of Bailey’s release may have pleased him, but it undoubtedly caused angst at home. Jossie was pregnant and due in a month. Within a week Bailey had come to terms with the Paris (Texas) Midlands in the Texas League. He lost his first six outings with them from June 29 through July 16. He finally got a win, 2-1 over Dallas, on July 20. The next day Jossie gave birth to the first of their seven children, Linwood.12 Bailey celebrated by taking the mound on the 22nd against Fort Worth and winning 12-3. The fans even took up a collection and presented a gift to Jossie later in the season. League statistics list Bailey with 20 games pitched along with nine outfield appearances. He hit .280 and allowed only 30 earned runs out of 104 total.13 Available box scores account for an 8-8 record. The family returned to Montgomery for the winter.

Squabbling among prospective owners in the Southern Association cast doubt on whether there would be a league in 1898. In February, newspapers in Cincinnati and Evansville claimed that Bailey had signed to play with Dallas in the Texas League. A month later the Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle reported that he would stay in the Southern Association.14 Bailey made a wise choice signing with Augusta rather than returning to Montgomery. The Senators were the first team to fold and Augusta the last, holding on long enough to secure first place over Charleston, South Carolina. Bailey made the finish possible by compiling an 8-1 record, but in the final game it was his work in the outfield that saved the day. Charleston loaded the bases in the eighth and Bailey edged toward the right field line when fellow Cincinnatian Joseph Bammert came to bat. Bammert launched a drive into the right-center gap looking like a sure triple. Off at the crack of the bat, Bailey “running at full speed … was seen to go up in the air and a moment later alighted upon terra firma, wheeled and returned the ball to second” in time for a double play.15 The catch preserved a 7-3 victory. The league closed down the next day. The Spanish-American War wreaked havoc with the minor leagues and very few were operational the entire summer. It does not appear that Bailey played with any other franchises that year.

In 1899 the Southern Association began the year with four franchises, Montgomery, Mobile, Shreveport, and New Orleans. Bailey signed with Montgomery. The franchise was shifted to Dallas in early May and a month later the league disbanded. Bailey is given credit for an 8-5 record on a team that went 18-23. He pitched in at least 14 games and saw plenty of action in the outfield, too. The New Orleans Times-Picayune mentioned that Bailey accompanied the Pelicans to New Orleans two days before the league disbanded. New Orleans owner Abner Powell had purchased the Paterson (New Jersey) Giants with the intention of moving selected players from the New Orleans franchise to the Atlantic League. It does not appear that Bailey impressed the former hurler enough to make the roster.

The Baileys welcomed their first daughter, Ruth, before the start of the 1900 season. Baseball-Reference lists Bailey with Albany, New York, but if he played there he appeared in fewer than 10 games because there is no mention of him in The Reach Baseball Guide. It is more likely that he went into business running a billiards parlor in Selma, Alabama. Over the next decade, Josephine would give birth to three more sons and two more daughters.

In 1901 the Southern Association was again resurrected and a franchise placed in Selma. The squad got off to a fast start and was in the pennant chase early, but then fell apart. An example of the team’s dysfunction came on July 29 when they committed seven errors and lost 4-0 to New Orleans. Bailey, hurling for Selma, pitched brilliantly, walking two and allowing only one hit. The lone hit was a liner to short that was muffed and the scorer gave the batter “the benefit of the doubt,” calling it a hit.16 He posted a 12-21 mark for the Class B Christians.17 Bailey hit .194 for the last-place squad. The franchise was transferred to Atlanta in 1902 and Bailey went with it. Taking the hill in the second game of the season, he beat Birmingham 7-4 and looked to be in good form, but obviously not in his prime. The Atlanta team was lacking in talent. Bailey had to play outfield when a regular was suspended by the league. On the hill he watched as his fielders made seven errors against Nashville. The Nashville American remarked that the team’s poor play made Bailey seem indifferent. Nevertheless, Bailey posted a 6-9 record before being given his release in mid-July. He was quickly added to the Nashville Volunteers roster. This move took him from a team in the middle of the pack to the front-runner. Nashville was 49-17 when Bailey joined them. Bailey combined with fellow left-handers Wee Willie Dammann and War Sanders and righty Hugh Hill to give manager Ike Fisher a powerful mound staff.

On July 22 Bailey took the hill in Memphis against old nemesis Gus Weyhing. Bailey allowed seven hits, two by Weyhing, in a 6-1 win. In a performance “reminiscent of bygone days,” neither pitcher walked a batter in the 88-minute game.18 Backed by a strong lineup, Bailey won 10 of 18 decisions with Nashville. He ended his season on a sour note against Little Rock when, despite showing “plenty of speed and curves possessed of their usual sinuosity,” he was hammered for 17 hits.19 Nashville still took the pennant by four games over Little Rock. Bailey returned to Nashville in late March of 1903 for spring training. Numerous teams passed through the city for exhibition games and Bailey pitched against Cleveland and the Boston Beaneaters. He even found time to umpire a Vanderbilt University game on April17. When the regular season opened, Bailey struggled until the weather turned hot. With his arm finally loosened up, he ran into a string of tough games, going 12 innings in a 4-4 tie and then pitching 11innings for a 4-3 win. In August, age (he was 33) and fatigue took over, forcing Bailey to ask for his release on August 15. “I have given Nashville the best I had. … I have always done my best,” he said. “I am going to my home in Selma and do not expect to do anymore work on the mound.”20

Bailey was off the mound, but not out of baseball. He umpired in the South Atlantic League before selling his business and moving to Macon. He became the Southern district manager for the National Casualty Insurance Company of Chicago.21 His reputation in the South as an excellent baseball man and a good role model led to his hiring as Mercer University baseball coach in 1908. His coaching career got off to an exciting start when Mercer defeated Georgia Tech (coached by John Heisman) 8-0 in late March. The Mercer students had a massive celebration on campus after the win. After a strong start, the team finished short of the Southern championship, but did feature an All-Southern first baseman in Dag Mallory. Blessed with many returnees in 1909, Mercer took on all comers, starting with Auburn and closing two months later with Georgia Tech. But the team fell short of expectations with a losing record. The low finish did not dampen enthusiasm on campus in 1910. Fifty candidates showed up for spring practice. Mercer was in first place in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association until late May, when the team dropped series to Georgia Tech and Auburn.

Bailey left the collegiate ranks and intended to concentrate on the insurance business. The owners of the Gadsden Steelmakers in the new Southeastern League persuaded him to try managing in 1911. Hired in mid-March, Bailey put together a strong roster led by outfielder Tommy Long, who would lead the league in batting, homers, runs, and hits.22 When former teammate and Cincinnatian Mike Kahoe came scouting for the Washington Senators, Bailey made sure he went home with the rights to Long. He also used his connections to get Macon in the South Atlantic League to assign one of his former Mercer players to Gadsden. The Steelmakers fought a season-long battle with Anniston. Gadsden gained first place in mid-August but faltered down the stretch to finish 3½ games back. Bailey left the game behind after that season. He died on November 19, 1917, in the Macon Hospital from blood poisoning. He was buried in Riverside Cemetery. His obituary noted that “he had an amiable disposition and scores of close friends in the city.”23

 

Sources

Heffron, Joe and Jack. The Local Boys (Birmingham, Alabama: Clerisy Press, 2014).

Atlanta Constitution

Cincinnati Post

Cleveland Leader

Fort Worth Morning Register

Galveston Daily News

Maysville (Kentucky) Evening Bulletin

Montgomery Advertiser

San Antonio Light

The Sporting News

 

Notes

1 Evansville (Indiana) Courier and Press, June 7, 1897: 3.

2 Keeping track of Bailey is an interesting task. In census reports he appears as Clifton L., Leonard, Lin C.; in city directories he is Linwood C.; and in game stories he is called Lemuel, Lem, Len,Leonard, Lin, and, of course, King.

3 Macon Telegraph, April 26, 1892: 6.

4 Macon Telegraph, June 28, 1892: 6.

5 New Orleans Item, July 28, 1893: 4.

6 As pieced together from box scores and line scores in the Roanoke Times, Richmond Dispatch, and Richmond Times.

7 As assembled from Sporting Life.

8 Cincinnati Enquirer, September 22, 1895: 2.

9 Evansville Courier and Press, June 24,1897: 1.

10 Ibid.

11 Pieced together from box scores.

12 As with Bailey himself, there seems to be some difference in the name of the son. Some sources list Linwood, others Leonard. I have chosen Linwood because that is how it appears on many family trees posted on ancestry.com.

13 Dallas Morning News, September 27, 1897: 3.

14 Augusta Chronicle, March 2, 1898: 5.

15 Augusta Chronicle, May 22, 1898: 6.

16 New Orleans Times-Picayune, July 30, 1901: 9.

17 The 12-21 mark is questionable. The Reach Guide lists the team with a 37-78 record. It lists five pitchers appearing solely for Selma and their aggregate record is 43-66.

18 Nashville American, July 23, 1902: 6.

19 Nashville American, September 7, 1902: 6.

20 Nashville American, August 16, 1903: 6.

21 Macon Telegraph, November 20, 1917: 8.

22 Lloyd Johnson and Miles Wolff, eds., Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, First Edition (Durham, North Carolina: Baseball America, Inc., 1993).

23 Macon Telegraph, November 20, 1917: 8.