October 30, 1866|
Burmont, Lansdowne, Pennsylvania
|Died: January 13, 1903
Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania
|August 10, 1885 for the Buffalo Bisons|
Last MLB appearance
|May 9, 1889 for the Pittsburg Alleghenys|
|Earned run average||3.59|
Career highlights and awards
Peter J. Conway (October 30, 1866 – January 13, 1903) was a right-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball for five seasons with the Buffalo Bisons (1885), Kansas City Cowboys (1886), Detroit Wolverines (1886–1888), and Pittsburg Alleghenys (1889). He won two games for Detroit in the 1887 World Series and followed in 1888 with a season record of 30 wins and 14 losses. He was also the first coach of the Michigan Wolverines baseball team in 1891 and 1892.
In his five-year career, Conway had a record of 61–61 with 117 complete games and a 3.59 earned run average. He also played 44 games as an outfielder. His career batting average was .224 with nine home runs and 60 runs batted in.
Conway was born in either 1866 or 1867 in the Burmont section of Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, a southwest suburb of Philadelphia. He was the son of Irish immigrants, Francis and Grace Conway. His father was the superintendent of a guardroom. His mother came to the United States as a child in the 1850s. Conway had three brothers, Michael (born c. 1858), James (born 1859) and Frank (born c. 1864). His older brother James Conway played Major League Baseball as a pitcher for the Brooklyn Atlantics and Philadelphia Athletics in 1884 and 1885.
Conway began pitching in Major League Baseball with the Buffalo Bisons of the National League in 1885. He made his Major League debut on August 10, 1885. He pitched a six-hit complete game victory in his debut against his hometown team, the Philadelphia Phillies. The World of New York reported on Buffalo's rookie pitcher: "The Buffalo Club tried Conway, of the local Solar Tip Club, in the box today, and he proved quite a success. The six hits obtained by the Philadelphians were scattered, two being made in the first inning and one each in the second, third, fifth and sixth. In the fourth inning, Conway struck out the side, saving a man on third base."
One day after his Major League debut, Conway pitched his second complete game victory, this time against St. Louis. Conway allowed only four hits up to the eighth inning in the game. Two days later, The New York Times took note: "Conway, Buffalo's new pitcher, is handling the ball very cleverly." Later that week, The New York Times added: "Conway, Buffalo's new pitcher, is said to be a first-class man. He appears to be doing good work."
At the end of September 1885, Conway lost a game against the Brooklyn Giants at the Polo Grounds. Although Brooklyn won the game 11–2, The New York Times again praised the effort of the young Conway: "With the exception of the second inning Conway pitched a good game, and was very effective. The support given him, however, was of the worst possible character, and allowed the local men to tally unearned runs with apparent ease."
During the 1885 season, the 18-year-old rookie appeared in 27 games and pitched 26 complete games. As his debut came on August 11, his 26 complete games were thrown over a seven-week period in August and September – a remarkable average of almost four complete games per week. Conway compiled a record of 10 wins and 17 losses for a Buffalo team that finished in seventh place (next-to-last) with a 38-74 record.
Kansas City Cowboys
After the 1885 season, the Buffalo franchise folded, and Conway signed with the Kansas City Cowboys of the National League. Again, Conway played for a team that finished the year in seventh place, as the Cowboys compiled a 30–91 record. Conway appeared in 34 games for the Cowboys, 31 as a starter, and threw 30 complete games. He compiled a record of 5 wins and 15 losses.
Conway was traded late in the 1886 season to the Detroit Wolverines, where he pitched 11 complete games in 1886 with a record of 6–5. On September 2, 1886, Conway defeated the Brooklyn Giants 8–2 in a game played in Detroit. The New York Times wrote that the Giants were unable "to bat the curves of young Conway, Detroit's new pitcher," adding that Conway "handled the ball in rare style, and, with the exception of Connor, completely puzzled the batters from New York."
In his first full season in Detroit, Conway played on the 1887 Detroit Wolverines team that won the National League pennant. Conway pitched 16 complete games and led the team with a 2.90 ERA, though his record was 8–9. When he defeated his hometown Phillies at Philadelphia in late August 1887, The New York Times wrote: "Conway pitched a great game of ball for Detroit to-day, holding local players down to three actual hits and giving only three bases on balls. ... The Phillies ... were seemingly dazed by the effectiveness of Conway's pitching."
Conway had his best season in 1888. He appeared in 45 games for Detroit and pitched 43 complete games and 391 innings. He finished the season with a record of 30 wins and 14 losses, and his winning percentage (.682) was the second highest in the National League. It would be 80 years before another Detroit pitcher would win 30 games, when Denny McLain did it for the Detroit Tigers in 1968.
At the end of the 1888 season, the Detroit franchise disbanded. Conway traveled to New York in November 1888 to offer his services to other clubs at a meeting of the National League. William A. Nimick, the president of the Pittsburg Alleghenys, offered Conway a salary of $3,500 per year, but Conway refused to sign unless he was paid $4,000 per year. Conway indicated that he preferred to play for the Boston Beaneaters, where four of his Detroit teammates known as the "Big Four" (Dan Brouthers, Hardy Richardson, Jack Rowe, and Deacon White) had signed. However, Conway was told that, following the breakup of the Detroit franchise, he "had been allocated to Pittburg." After talking with Fred Dunlap, a former teammate who had played for the Alleghenies in 1888, Conway ultimately agreed to sign a two-year contract for $3,500 per year.
During the 1889 season, Conway appeared in only three games for the Alleghenies. Though he won two of the three games, his earned run average soared to 4.91 – more than double his 1888 earned run average of 2.26. Conway appeared in his final Major League game on May 9, 1889. He was suspended without pay by the Alleghenies who claimed that he was not in condition to play. It was reported in the press that Conway had "snapped a cord in his arm," and that his "anterior detroid muscle was out of whack." The Alleghenies' suspension of Conway without pay following his injury sparked an early controversy over players' rights. In August 1889, newspaper accounts noted: "Pete Conway will be backed by the brotherhood in a suit against the Pittsburg club this fall. He was laid off without pay, but reports for duty, every day."
In September 1899, Conway was reported to be using electricity on his arm to offset the effect of the injury.
In March 1890, Conway signed with the Brooklyn franchise in the newly formed Players' League. By late June, newspapers reported that he had been with the team for two months, but had not yet appeared in a game. A reporter quipped, "If he is drawing salary he is rather an expensive ornament." By the beginning of August 1890, it was reported that "Conway has not drawn a dollar from the Brooklyn club" and that he was "at his home in Philadelphia."
In 1891, the University of Michigan hired Conway as the first coach of the Michigan Wolverines baseball team. Although Michigan had fielded a baseball team since the 1860s, the team had never engaged the services of a professional coach. H. T. Abbott, the student manager of the baseball team, attempted to hire Billy Sunday and Charlie Bennett, but both declined the offer. Conway accepted and became Michigan's "first official coach." Conway arrived in Ann Arbor at the beginning of April 1891 and remained through the end of May. The 1891 Wolverines finished with a 10–3 record, including victories over Harvard (4–3) and Cornell (8–6). Conway returned as Michigan's baseball coach in 1892. In two years as Michigan's baseball coach, Conway compiled a 22–9–1 record (.703).
Later years and family
At the time of the 1900 U.S. Census, Conway was living with his mother (Grace, born 1840 in Ireland) and three brothers in Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia located approximately a mile from where he was born. His occupation was listed as mule skinner. Conway died in 1903 at age 36 in Clifton Heights.
- Major League Baseball records list his date of birth as October 30, 1866. However, the 1900 Census lists October 1867 as his date of birth.
- Census Entry for Francis and Grace Conway, residing in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania with their two sons Michael (age 2) and James (age 1). Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Upper Darby, Delaware, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1105; Page: 715; Image: 720; Family History Library Film: 805105.
- Census record for Grace Conway, age 80, lists her year of arrival as 1852. In 1920, Grace was residing on "Edgemont Avenue" in Clifton Heights with surviving sons, Michael and Frank. Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Clifton Heights, Delaware, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1560; Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 151; Image: 708.
- Census record for Grace Conway, age 73, lists her year of immigration to the United States as 1855. In 1920, Grace was residing on South Edgemond Avenue in Clifton Heights with her surviving sons, Michael, James and Frank.
- Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Clifton Heights, Delaware, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1339; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 0130; Image: 617; FHL Number: 1375352.
- Census record for Grace Conway, age 46, widow. In 1880, she was residing in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, with her sons Michael (age 28), James (age 21), Francis (age 18) and Peter (age 13). Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Upper Darby, Delaware, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1125; Family History Film: 1255125; Page: 70A; Enumeration District: 4; Image: 0236.
- "Jim Conway". baseball-reference.com.
- "Pete Conway". baseball-reference.com.
- "At Philadelphia". The World, New York. August 11, 1885.
- "Buffalo Defeats St. Louis". The New York Times. August 13, 1885.
- "Notes of the Game". The New York Times. August 14, 1885.
- "Baseball News". The New York Times. August 17, 1885.
- "The Remnant of the Buffalo Club Defeated Once More". The New York Times. September 25, 1885.
- "1885 National League Team Statistics and Standings". baseball-reference.com.
- "1886 National League Team Statistics and Standings". baseball-reference.com.
- "Have the Giants Shrunk". The New York Times. September 3, 1855.
- "Victory for Detroit". The New York Times. August 27, 1887.
- "1887 World Series (10–5): Detroit Wolverines (79–45) over St. Louis Browns (95–40)". baseball-reference.com.
- "Conway Signs With Pittsburg". The New York Times. November 25, 1888.
- "Big Score Season". Manitoba Daily Free Press. May 24, 1889.
- Boston Daily Globe, July 2, 1889.
- Boston Daily Globe, August 4, 1889.
- The Brotherhood of Professional Base-Ball Players was baseball's first players' union.
- Boston Daily Globe, September 17, 1889.
- "News in Brief". The Daily Free Press, Easton, PA. March 24, 1890.
- "Players' League". The Omaha Republican. June 21, 1890.
- "Diamond Dust". The Herald-Despatch, Decatur, IL. August 2, 1890.
- Rich Adler (2004). Baseball at the University of Michigan. Acadia Publishing. p. 23. ISBN 0-7385-3221-5.
- The Palladium, Volume 35. University of Michigan. 1892. p. 175.
- Census listing for Grace Conway, born November 1840, in Ireland, listing 1851 as the year of immigration to the United States. She was living on Edgmount Avenue in Clifton Heights with her sons, Michael (Worker, born February 1860), James (Day Labor, born October 1862), Francis (born June 1864), and Peter (Mule Skinner, born October 1867). Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Clifton Heights, Delaware, Pennsylvania; Roll: T623_1405; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 167.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference