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Pop Up Mike - the baseball career of Mike Lynch

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This is the first chapter of the bio I wrote of my Uncle Mike -- more to come.

This is the first chapter of the bio I wrote of my Uncle Mike -- more to come.


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  • 1. Contents In the Beginning 3 Growing Up 4 First Baseball Records 6 Anaconda 13 Tacoma – 1901 23 The Show! 25 Tacoma 1902/05 33 Tacoma 1906/08 41 Seattle/Tacoma 1909/11 51 Tacoma/Victoria/Spokane 1912 – 15 69 Retirement 81 Last Words 85 Bibliography 87 Additional Pictures 89 Baseball Cards 93
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  • 3. In The Beginning… Between 1820 and 1920, almost half the population of Ireland- over four million people- migrated to the United States. The potato famine in Ireland was the main culprit, but oppressive land-ownership laws, British rule, and other factors contributed. Among the thousands who emigrated in the 1860s was a young couple, John and Mary (Cahill) Lynch, who arrived from Liverpool in 1867. They settled in Minneapolis, where John went to work as a laborer on the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad. They started to raise a family, as was duly recorded in the 1880 Minneapolis census: Mike Lynch was born on September 10th, 1875, and shows up on the census report as the 4-year-old son. Mike had two older sisters and a younger brother. 3
  • 4. Growing up The St. Paul and Pacific Railroad ran west across the northern tier of states to Tacoma, Washington. Although no definitive link can be made, it seems likely that John’s connection to railroading rubbed off on his son, because Mike shows up in the 1900 census of Anaconda, Montana, as a baggage handler on the Butte, Anaconda and Pacific Railway, a small local railway that served the copper mines in the central part of the state. He was boarding with the McCabe family in Anaconda – Mr. McCabe was the Superintendent of the railroad - and Mike’s skill at tossing bags around may have caught the attention of Jack Grim, manager of the Anaconda Calciners baseball team, because Mike ended up playing for Anaconda in 1900. The 1900 census data from Anaconda, Montana, show an interesting household – McCabe, his sister, and 4 “Roomers,” including Mike: 4
  • 5. Growing Up Above - the residence at 414 Hickory in Anaconda, where Mike lodged with the McCabe family in 1900, still stands. Below - Anaconda, 1887 – Hickory St. is just off the left side of the photo 5
  • 6. First Baseball Records Anaconda was not Mike’s first brush with baseball, however. The roster of the 1894 Minneapolis Millers of the Western League lists, under “other players,” one “lynch, rf.” This was Mike, playing right field, on his first professional team, at 19. The team was operated by John Barnes, a promoter and fitness buff who is a towering figure in the history of minor league baseball in the Midwest and Northwest. At that time, baseball was seen as an avenue of escape by many of Irish descent. The Irish were often shut out of higher paying jobs and ended up as menial laborers – Mike –High School graduation picture? especially on the canals and railroads. Baseball was a way out, and many of the early leagues were dominated by Irish players. In later years, Barnes claimed to have “discovered” Mike. This headline appeared in the February 7th, 1909, edition of the 6
  • 7. Portland Oregonian. Reporting on the results of a meeting between the managers and officials of the Northwestern League, the paper relates that at the end of the official meeting, several of the league old-timers were telling tales of their early days in baseball. Barnes is a bit off on his dates – he was in China in 1900 – but Mike did play for his Minneapolis team in 1894. The article also points out why Mike did so well in the many “scraps” he got into over the course of his career – he was a good boxer. The Millers played ball at Athletic Park, described by Stew Thornley, a Millers historian, as “a bandbox at the corner of Sixth Street and First Avenue North, behind the West Hotel in Minneapolis. Estimates are that the distances down the foul lines were barely 250 feet, creating some high home run totals even in this era of the dead ball. So small was the park that players had to frequently ‘leg out’ base hits to right field, and it wasn’t Old engraving of Athletic Park 7
  • 8. uncommon for a runner to be thrown out at first base on an apparent single to right.” According to Thornley, although the Millers had a potent offense (no doubt helped by Athletic Park) and were good at putting runs on the board, (averaging 10.5 runs per game overall and 12.7 runs per game in home games), the team’s pitchers and fielders were even more talented when it came to giving up runs. Five times during the season, the Millers allowed more than 30 runs in a game. On August 30th, 1894, at Athletic Park, Minneapolis lost to Indianapolis by a score of 33-23. Mike got involved, hitting a home run in a game lost by the Millers to Grand Rapids on September 4th, 18-4. Good pitchers were apparently a rare commodity, in an era during which a foul ball didn’t count as a strike. Mike joined the team late in the season and wasn’t a regular player. Here’s another view of Athletic Park 8
  • 9. More history of Mike’s early career comes in the form of an article in The Anaconda Standard on June 6th, 1906. Commenting on the arrival of the Tacoma team for a series of games against Butte, the paper describes how manager Lynch would be traveling to Anaconda to visit old friends, including Harry O’Gorman, secretary of the local baseball association, who claims to have “made a pitcher of Lynch back in St. Paul” while he was managing a minor league team there. That must have been after Mike played for John Barnes in Minneapolis, maybe 1895 or so. The Fort Wayne (Indiana) Daily News ran an article in March 1911, reminiscing about the beginnings of baseball in that town. In 1896, a businessman named Stanley Robison established a team in Fort Wayne. Robison was the owner of the Cleveland club of the National League and wanted a place to let some of his young players get experience, so he sent them to Fort Wayne. His third baseman for that season was listed as Mike Lynch. Was it our Mike Lynch? It’s possible – Mike would have been 21 at the time, with some experience under his belt in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Lynch’s next “verified” appearance is in the 1900 Anaconda census, as a railroad baggage man, a job he may have had in order to play baseball. It was common practice for local businessmen to employ a town’s ballplayers, and in this case, not only did Mike A Montana minor league club at the work for the railroad, he turn of the last century 9
  • 10. was living with the superintendent and his family. Maybe Barnes got him the job or recommended him to Jack Grim. Baseball was much more loosely organized back then. There was no consistent structure of major leagues, minor leagues, farm teams, or developmental leagues as there is now. Teams, and whole leagues, opened and closed on almost a daily basis. Teams moved and leagues merged, fell apart and re-constituted themselves with regularity. Pay was low – a couple hundred dollars a month if you were good - and the seasons were long – and 200 or more games were not uncommon. A group of businessmen might start a team, or a league, on short notice, with visions of making it “big,” only to fold up the tents overnight, move to another city, or disappear entirely. Player contracts were bought and sold almost as commodities, if an owner perceived there was financial benefit in doing so. There was a lot of gambling on the games – players were sometimes showered with coins after a particularly good play. Teams could be re-made overnight if there was money to be made on the betting. Jim Price writes in “You Want Stars, Titles, Nicknames? Tacoma’s Got ’Em”: “Owners catered to their hard-core male fans, permitting rough play, rough talk and attacks on umpires. Many players were drunkards and more than a few were illiterate.” In this setting Mike really began his career as a professional ballplayer. The Montana State League that Mike played for in 1900 was brand new that year. It appears, however, that Mike was playing in Anaconda for at least part of 1898 and most of 1899. Several newspaper articles list Mike Lynch on the semi-pro Anaconda team those two years. When the State league was organized in 1900 and played a regular 10 Photo
  • 11. schedule, the newspaper reports make it possible to trace Mike’s path with certainty from that point on. Unfortunately, none of the articles refer back to the previous years, so it can’t be said definitely that the Mike Lynch on the 1899 Anaconda semi-pro team is the same one on the 1900 team – but it seems likely. So here’s the progression as nearly as it can be laid out – 1894 – with the Minneapolis Millers 1895 – St. Paul team (maybe) 1896 – Ft. Wayne, Indiana (maybe) 1897 --? 1898/99 – Anaconda, Montana (probably) 1900 – Anaconda, Montana – definitely Now the story picks up in Anaconda, as reported on the pages of the Anaconda Standard. 11
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