Philadelphia Baseball Ghosts: Ed Sixsmith – The Good Phight

For many players, Philadelphia becomes merely a second home. What we aim to do with the “Philadelphia Baseball Ghosts” series is take a look at those who are born within Philadelphia city limits before they set off on their grand baseball adventure somewhere else in the vast, horrible world.

Past entries:

William “Yank” Robinson

Harry “Socks” Seibold

John Francis “Phenomenal” Smith

Alan Strange

***

Ed Sixsmith

DOB: February 26, 1863

What was happening in Philadelphia at the time: Oh, nothing serious. On the day Sixsmith’s mortal coil first emerged, the city was proudly unveiling a new post office on Chestnut Street. How nice.

MY GOD WE’RE BEING INVADED BY OUR COUNTRYMEN.

It was something of a frantic time as the nation cracked in half. So perhaps it remains a sign of the times that a woman out there felt obligated enough to birth a child, despite the Confederate army on the march. Ed Sixsmith was born that year, however, and four months after he was, Mayor Alexander Henry told everyone to shutter their businesses, grab the nearest weapon, and get ready to fend off a horde of slave owners.

History has no record of a four-month old Ed Sixsmith sharpening a broom stick to use as a Rebel-skewer, but we can picture the image well enough on our own.

MLB career: Oh, poor, sweet Eddie Sixsmith. 0-for-2 in 2 AB; -0.1 WAR for the 1884 Philadelphia Quakers.

Bio: Born amidst the fire and smoke of Civil War and reared during the Reconstruction Era, Sixsmith’s baseball career is something of a dusty footnote on the ledger of history. He definitely made it into one game, and he did actually play minor league ball until 1888. But on one day for the Philadelphia Quakers, he made sure that his name would be mentioned centuries later by those who were documenting the cases of Philadelphia-born ballplayers for some reason.

Sixsmith was one of 12 men who caught for the Quakers that season, replacing one of them, Mike Depangher, after being called out of the stands when Depangher suffered an injury. Unfortunately, no one could save this team, no matter who crouched behind the plate with no equipment on. The team won 20 games from May to July, though occasionally they did put together some resounding victories, winning 25-5, 20-1, and 16-2; not exactly scores indicative of a team that would end the season in sixth place with a record of 39-73.

Sixsmith was the least-successful catcher of the ’84 Quakers who only appeared in one game. His colleagues in that regard included Bill Conway, who distinguished himself by appearing in an additional season of baseball later in his career (14 AB with the 1886 Orioles); and Hezekiah Allen, who distinguished himself by being the only one of the three to log a hit in 1884, going 2-for-3 the day they put him in a game (and then never did again).

But the 21-year-old who popped a squat that day long enough to record a put-out, had seen the beginning and end of his pro career in the blink of three at-bats.

Fortunately, entire careers are written outside of pro baseball, and in amateur and independent leagues, Sixsmith’s career surrounded his single game as a Quaker. He wound up catching until 1892, after which he became a street car conductor.

What it was probably like to be called out of the stands to catch in a pro baseball game:

[Quakers manager Harry Wright stands over the body of catcher Mike Depangher, who has been mangled somehow]

WRIGHT: Damn it, Mike, get up, you’re embarrassing yourself. Your family has already disowned you and the team has torn up your contract.

DEPANGHER: Please, Skip, I can’t stand up.

WRIGHT: Well what the hell am I supposed to tell these people? That the catcher is just “too injured to play?” I didn’t want to make history when I got out of bed this morning. I just wanted to come to the park, play five games in a row like we always do, and not have any of players get tired or hurt. And I’ve gotta say, Mike, you’re really ruining this for me.

DEPANGHER: [passes out]

WRIGHT: Oh, great. What a disgrace. [scans crowd] Hey, you!

ED SIXSMITH: Me?

WRIGHT: [Was actually pointing at another guy] Uh, yeah; sure. Haven’t I seen you catch somewhere before?

SIXSMITH: Well sir, I once played for the glorious Lancaster Ironsides, but have long since given up on those dreams to pursue my career as a humble street car conductor–

WRIGHT: Does anyone else feel like catching?

SIXSMITH: Catching? Well, how do ya do, I happen to have my mitt right here with me.

WRIGHT: Great, you’re in for Mike “Utter Disgrace” DePangher here. [kicks DePangher’s motionless body a few times]

SIXSMITH: Whoa now, hold on friend; you expect me to give up on conducting dreams just like that? The world of transportation is movin’ too quickly to board off and on at your leisure. Why just the other month, a man on a bicycle outraced a horse in Jumbo Park. I don’t believe you could say you’d ever seen the day where that’d be the case!

WRIGHT: [hands on hips, spits massive stream of tobacco juice]

SIXSMITH: [suddenly stands] But no! The call has come in, and I must answer it, fates be damned! Goodness, life is but a carousel on which we alone determine the length of our ride, isn’t it! Just give me a moment to prepare myself!

UMPIRE: Somebody’s gonna kill that kid. There will be actual murder today.

WRIGHT: It’s all part of the beauty of the game.

[body of Mike DePangher carted off the field in a wheelbarrow]

Further reading:

The Rank and File of 19th Century Major League Baseball by David Nemec

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