January 10, 1873|
|Died: March 28, 1907
West Baden, Indiana
|Batted: Left||Threw: Left|
|April 19, 1897 for the Boston Beaneaters|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 6, 1906 for the Boston Americans|
|Career highlights and awards|
Charles Sylvester "Chick" Stahl (January 10, 1873 – March 28, 1907) was an American outfielder in Major League Baseball who was among the most feared and consistent hitters in his time. In his rookie 1897 season with the Boston Beaneaters, he batted .354, and over his first six seasons, he averaged over .300. In 1899, he had six hits in a game, and in the 1903 World Series, he hit three triples. By 1904, including his time with the Beaneaters and the Boston Americans, Stahl had been a key part of four pennant winning teams in seven seasons.
In 1906, he was named acting manager of the Americans after his friend Jimmy Collins was suspended and decided to focus on his playing, and also due to the club's ownership opting for a change following a poor season by the club. He was officially named player-manager on December 4, 1906.
Charles Sylvester “Chick” Stahl was born on January 10, 1873 in Avilla, a small town located in Allen Township, Noble County, Indiana. He was the sixth child born of Reuben Stahl and Barbara (Stadtmiller) Stahl; both of whom were devout Catholics of German descent. The family relocated in 1885 to Fort Wayne, Indiana where his father, Ruben worked as a carpenter to support the family. It is unknown how many siblings Chick truly had, but in an interview given in 1898 he told reporters that he had twenty three brothers and sisters saying “We had just enough in our family to make a couple nines; eighteen boys and half a dozen girls.”
As a boy Chick Stahl attended Catholic school and was able to hone his baseball skills while living in Fort Wayne. Chick would play every chance he got in vacant lots and abundant baseball diamonds with his brothers and sisters, as well as other neighboring children. In 1889, at 16, Chick Stahl transitioned from Brunswick, a local amateur team, to play for the Pilsner Club in the City League. Between 1889 and 1894 the left hander played both pitcher and outfield for a number of semi-professional teams in a number of states. In those years Stahl played semi-professional baseball in Paducah, KY; Decatur, IL; Kalamazoo, MI; and Battle Creek, MI. In addition to playing semi-professional baseball Chick Stahl also worked at his father’s carpentry business. Most of his family wished he would give up baseball to work more permanently at the family’s business.
Charles “Chick” Stahl signed his first professional baseball contract with Roanoke, of the Virginia League, in 1895. While playing for Roanoke, Chick made the decision to give up pitching and become a full-time outfielder for the club. In his first season he batted over .300 (.311) and lead the league in triples with 13. Chick also sharpened his defensive skills in the outfield, which combined with his impressive batting skills, attracted a lot of attention from other ball clubs. Before the start of the 1896 season, Stahl was drafted by Buffalo of the Eastern League. That season he continued to excel, recording a batting average of .340, had 34 stolen bases, 52 hits that went for extra bases, and lead the league once again with 23 triples and 130 runs scored.
As Chick Stahl’s baseball skills showcased, he caught the eye of a number of professional players especially that of Jim Collins and Sam Wise of the Boston Beaneaters, both of whom brought Stahl to the attention of their manager Frank Selee. In 1897, at 24 years old, Stahl signed with the Boston Beaneaters and was soon their starting right fielder. “Not only did he lead all rookies in 11 hitting categories, he also paced Boston with a .354 average, a mark which remains the franchise record for rookies. Stahl also topped the Beaneaters with a .499 slugging percentage, helping the Boston offense score more than 1,000 runs and capture the National League pennant. Another crown awaited Boston in 1898, and even though Stahl's average declined to .308, his fielding talents were highlighted in the sports pages. In one descriptive account, the Washington Post wrote "the soubrette fancier from Fort Wayne retrieved Tommy Leahy's fly in the eighth with the speed and celerity of a hound retrieving a jack rabbit." The Beaneaters fell from first in 1899 but the "Husky Hoosier," while hitting .351, produced career highs in hits (202), triples (19), homers (7), total bases (284), walk’s (72), on-base percentage (.426), stolen bases (33) and runs scored (122).
Chick Stahl spent the majority of his off-seasons with his family in Fort Wayne, IN, but in the spring of 1900 took a job coaching Notre Dame’s college baseball team. Stahl lead the team to a 15-2 record. In 1901 a new American League team settled in Boston, the Boston American’s, and quickly signed Stahl’s best friend and teammate, Jimmy Collins, as the team’s player-manager. Collins soon signed Stahl to the American’s, as well as other Catholic players to avoid any religious tension between teammates. In his 1902 season, Stahl recorded a .323 batting average and 92 run’s scored, helping the team to a third place finish. An injured leg affected his 1903 season restricting him to only 77 games. The American’s easily won the pennant that year and in the World Series, Stahl was the only Boston player to hit .300. In the 1904 season Stahl helped the American’s win their second consecutive pennant and led the league with 19 triples. The American’s began to struggle in 1905 and Stahl finished the season with his lowest professional batting average of .258. In the 1906 season Stahl was able increase his average to .286 and what would become his final at bat Stahl homered off Tom Hughes.
In August 1906 Chick Stahl became acting player-manager of the Americans as his longtime friend and teammate, Jim Collins, was suspended as manager, but continued to play for the club. In November Stahl married Julia Harmon and at request of the owner, and approval of Collins, accepted the position of the American’s manager for the upcoming 1907 season. During spring training of 1907 Stahl resigned as manager but agreed to stay on until a replacement could be found. Three days later on March 28, 1907 Charles “Chick” Stahl committed suicide by drinking four ounces of carbolic acid. The reason for Stahl’s suicide remains a mystery to this day; however there are a number of theories that have come up as to the reasoning for Stahl’s death. One theory is that he was asked to release his longtime friend Jim Collins and the pressure proved too much for Stahl to handle. Another theory is that Stahl was a womanizer and had contracted gonorrhea through his sexual affairs, in turn giving it to his new bride which was something he could not endure. Some suggest he was being blackmailed by a woman he had an affair with and got pregnant. Others say Stahl had been struggling with depression for many years and the stress of the new management position finally drove him to suicide. Although these and many other theories have arisen, we may never know the truth as to why Chick Stahl found no other solution other than to take his own life.
Stahl committed suicide during the 1907 spring training in West Baden, Indiana, by drinking four ounces of carbolic acid. The reasoning behind Stahl's suicide has remained a mystery for over a century. He was known as a carefree, fun-loving man and had many love affairs going on throughout the country. He mentioned suicide days before in Louisville, Ky., prompting some teammates to take the carbolic acid from him. His final words to some of teammates were "Boys, I just couldn't help it. It drove me to it." What "it" exactly was remains a mystery. A 1908 newspaper article claims that he was despondent because he had been tasked with discharging his friend Collins from the team.
Cy Young reluctantly took over as manager to start the 1907 season, but he was replaced six games into the season. Collins was traded to Philadelphia in June 1907. Stahl's widow mysteriously died a year and a half later. Just prior to her death, Julia Stahl was seen walking in a poor area of Boston while lavishly dressed. However, no bystanders seem to have seen the events of the last moments of her life.
Chick Stahl was not related to Jake Stahl, despite contemporary baseball sources listing them as brothers.
- List of Major League Baseball leaders in career stolen bases
- List of Major League Baseball players with 100 triples
- List of Major League Baseball triples champions
- List of Major League Baseball player–managers
- “Chick Stahl, Talent and Tragedy”
- Chick Stahl at the SABR Bio Project, by Dennis Auger, retrieved November 25, 2013
- ""Chick" Stahl A Suicide; Late Boston Manager Takes Carbolic Acid At West Baden". The New York Times. March 29, 1907. p. 11.
- "Widow of "Chick" Stahl Dies a Mysterious Death in Boston". The Pittsburg Press. 16 November 1908. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
- Bill Ferber (2007) A Game of Baseball: The Orioles, The Beaneaters and The Battle For The 1897 Pennant, University of Nebraska Press, ISBN 978-0-8032-1136-0, pg. 251
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- The Deadball Era
|Boston Red Sox Manager