I have had the opportunity to write biographies (long and/or short) on three late Major League Baseball players. Coincidentally, all three were pitchers. Two were Dubuque County natives.
In addition to my full book on Red Faber, I wrote condensed biographies of Faber for the book Deadball Stars of the American League and also for the Society for American Baseball Research's ambitious endeavor called Biography Project. A Hall of Famer, Faber was born on a farm outside the Dubuque County community of Cascade.
Bioproject has as its lofty goal to produce a journal-length biography of every person who ever played in the major leagues -- even just a single inning -- or who contributed significantly to the majors. The articles are posted on SABR's Internet site.
Recently, SABR posted my article on another Dubuque County farm boy, Joe Hoerner, who was born outside Dubuque in 1936. Though he did not make the Hall of Fame, Hoerner played at the highest level. One of the game's early relief specialists, Hoerner came up with Houston Colt .45s (forerunner of the Astros). Later, he appeared in two World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals (1967 and 1968) and was named to the National League All-Star team in 1970. He might be the only pitcher whose final delivery of his major league career resulted in a hit batsman and on-field fight. The incident reflected his competitive nature, but ran contrary to his off-the-field friendliness and generosity.
Hoerner's widow, Darlene, worked closely with me on the article; in addition to being an interview subject, she helped line up interviews with Dal Maxvill, his former teammate and business partner, and manager Red Schoendienst.
In between the Faber and Hoerner biographies, SABR posted my article on Jack Sutthoff, whose National League pitching career spanned the 19th and 20th centuries. One of the most interesting aspects of this piece was that I received lots of research assistance from the pitcher's son, Bob, who is well into his 90s.
The Biography Project probably will never reach its goal of batting 1.000 with biographies. However, there are hundreds posted. If find that those about lesser-known players are actually more interesting. Check them out!
Photo (c) Houston Astros