Veteran players bring 1929 League 3-I pennant to Quincy | Story
World War I forced a suspension of the 1918 League Three-I (Iowa, Illinois, Indiana) season. After the war, the league was reconstituted. Several towns, including Quincy, did not return. Play resumed with six teams in 1919.
Quincy’s history with the Three-I league began in 1911. In 1913, the home nine finished top of the league. Unfortunately, a series of second division teams in the pre-war years generated little interest in organizing a team in 1919.
In January 1925, the time had come for professional baseball to return to Quincy. The Daily Journal explained that Quincy has “a park and an enviable reputation for supporting league baseball. Even semi-professional baseball doesn’t suffer from lack of support here. The Journal said, “Quincy’s court with the Three-I league is one of those waiting situations for the league to ‘pop the question,'” which it did on Jan. 26.
The effort to bring minor league baseball to Quincy was led by local businessman Bob Gunther who became the team’s president. The St. Louis Cardinal’s scout, Fred Hunter, was the team’s manager. Having a nominal affiliation with the big league Cardinals, Quincy’s team was dubbed the Red Birds.
The 1925 team finished last. The 1926 team came second to last. The 27-team was a bit better, finishing sixth out of eight teams.
In January 1928, Indianapolis, Indiana businessman James A. Perry purchased the franchise from the local Quincy Baseball Association. Perry had acquired the American Indianapolis Indians Association in 1927.
New ownership failed to breathe life into the Quincy Club. The team mustered a record 50 and 85, finishing last. Perry’s Indianapolis team, however, went 99 and 68, winning the American Conference pennant, and later, the Little World Series.
In 1929 Perry appointed Walter Holke to lead the Quincy Indians. Holke, a first baseman, played eleven seasons in the National League. His time with the New York Giants began in September 1914. From 1916 to 1918 he was with the Giants. He spent from 1919 to 1922 with the Boston Braves. In 1923, 1924 and part of the 1925 season he was with the Philadelphia Phillies. Transferred to Cincinnati during the 1925 season, he ended his career there.
At this point in baseball, most minor league teams could not afford a bench manager. Managers were usually full-time players. If they played part-time, they were infielders or reserve receivers.
Opening day saw around 2,000 fans in the Eagles Park stands. Indians owner James A. Perry had flown to Quincy for the game. No one was disappointed as the Indians beat the Evansville Hubs 11-4 with manager Holke in the second set.
In the second week of the season, the Indians added a quality veteran player. The Herald-Whig reported that “William C. (Baby Doll) Jacobson, former star outfielder in the American League, has joined the Quincy Indians. . ..” Jacobson played 11 years in the major leagues, missing the 1918 season due to military service. He played eight full years with the St. Louis Browns and compiled a lifetime batting average of .311.
May ended with Quincy in first place with a 16–11 record.
But on June 4, during warm-ups, a ball hits manager Holke in the head. He brushed it off saying he was fine, but he wasn’t. His vision was affected. Despite the beatings, Holke finished the month with a .401 league lead.
The July 1 standings had the Indians one game behind Evansville. The Herald-Whig reported: “Holke is still feeling the effects of the blow to the head from a ball thrown a few weeks ago – and the hot weather is making the problem worse.”
After losing three and a half games on pace, The Herald-Whig reported on July 18 that the Indians had shaken up the team by releasing two players and adding three. Among the additions Albert E. “Reb” Russell was the notoriety player. Russell spent nine years in the major leagues, including seven years as a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox. The Russell White Sox defeated the Holke Giants in the 1917 World Series. But, after one game in 1919, recurring arm problems forced the Sox to release Russell.
After three years in the minor leagues, “Reb” Russell was back in the big leagues, playing on the right turf for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Russell played sixty games for the 1922 Pirates, but in 1923, after 94 games, the Pirates released him.
July ended with the Indians in third place and three games behind the league-leading Hubs. August ended with “Reb” Russell hitting his fourth homer in three days, and the Indians in first place – a game against the Hubs.
The League of Three-I pennant hunt went on until the last day of the season. The Herald-Whig explained, “If the Quincy Indians can win two Springfield games this afternoon and Evansville is defeated in one of their two games at Terre Haute, the Indians will win the Three-I pennant, but if the Hubs win both games, they’ll take the flag — and if the Indians lose a game, they’ll lose the flag.
Monday’s headline said it all – “QUINCY CAPTURES THREE-I PENNANT.” The Herald-Whig summed up: “Quincy had a chance! It was a chance but, with good sports, where there is a chance there must be an effort, and there is always hope. “
While the Indians won their two games in Springfield, Evansville lost their games with Terre Haute. The Indians started the day “a mere two points out of first place”, taking the lead at the end of the day, “winning a pennant for Quincy for the first time since 1913”.
How did veterans and former major leaguers fare for the Indians in 1929? Limited to seventy-six games, Walter Holke hit .329 with 9 home runs. “Baby Doll” Jacobson played in 130 games hitting twenty rounders while hitting .304. Picked up to replace Holke at first base, “Reb” Russell played sixty-three games with a .343 clip and connected for thirteen homers.
“Baby Doll Jacobson joins the Quincy Indians on Sunday.” Herald Whig, May 6, 1929, p. 8.
Baby Doll Jacobson Stats|Baseball-Reference.com.
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“Meeting held in Chicago — Quincy not represented there.” Quincy Journal, February 21,
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Nemec, David. “Reb Russell.” American Baseball Research Society. Article online.
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“President Bob Gunther calls the conference this afternoon at 4 o’clock.” Quincy Daily Diary,
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“Quincy Captures Three-I Pennant”, Herald Whig, September 9, 1929, p.1 & 11.
“The Quincy Indians were shaken up to get them hit.” Herald Whig, July 18, 1929, p. 18.
“Quincy is proud of the team that won Pennant.” Herald Whig, September 9, 1929, p. 1.
“Quincy is Tickled Pink Over Fred Hunter, pilot of Red Birds in Three-I.” Quincy Daily Diary,
“Quincy voted in the three-I league today.” Quincy Daily Journal, January 26, 1925, p. 1.
Reb Russell Stats|Baseball-Reference.com
“The Quincy Baseball Club sale ended on Saturday.” Herald Whig, January 15, 1928, p. 13.
“Seen from the coop.” Herald Whig, July 2, 1929, p. ten.
“This and that in sports.” Herald Whig, January 20, 1929, p. 14.
“Three Eye League to have a 6-club circuit.” Herald Whig, March 21, 1919, p. 1.
“Waiting for an offer.” Quincy Daily Journal, January 23, 1925, p. 6.
“Walter Holke, former Three-I pilot, dies.” Herald Whig, October 13, 1954, p. 14.
Phil Reyburn is a retired representative of the Social Security Administration. He is the author of “Clear the Track: A History of the Eighty-ninth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, The Railroad Regiment” and co-edited “‘Jottings from Dixie:’ The Civil War Dispatches of Sergeant Major Stephen F. Fleharty, USA “
The Quincy and Adams County Historical Society preserves Governor John Wood’s mansion, the history museum on the plaza, the 1835 log cabin, livery, Lincoln Gallery exhibits and an artifact collection and documents that tell the story of who we are. This award-winning column is written by members of the Society. For more information, visit hsqac.org or email [email protected]