|Right fielder / Pitcher|
September 2, 1848|
|Died: April 3, 1921
|May 20, 1871, for the Philadelphia Athletics|
|Last MLB appearance|
|August 19, 1876, for the Louisville Grays|
|Runs batted in||165|
George A. Bechtel (September 2, 1848 – April 3, 1921?) was an American right fielder and pitcher in professional baseball's early history who became one of the leading players of his era. He played in all five seasons of baseball's first all-professional league, the National Association, and later played in the first season of baseball's first major league, the National League, when the Association folded. He later became the first player in Major League history to be suspended for life for intentionally losing games for money.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Bechtel began his professional career in 1871 for the Philadelphia Athletics, when they joined the new National Association. Bechtel had played for the Athletics in 1870, and stayed with the team during its transformation from the previous version of the National Association. He batted .351 that season while playing in 20 of the team's 28 games, as the Athletics won the season's championship. Bechtel had also played for a couple of other Philadelphia teams during his amateur career before 1870. He was formerly of the Philadelphias in 1867, and the Keystones in both 1868 and 1869.
The following season, he signed with the New York Mutuals, who had offered him a higher salary in 1872, and batted .302 and scored 64 runs in the team's 54-game schedule. After just one season in New York, Bechtel moved back to Philadelphia, playing the next two seasons for the Philadelphia White Stockings with mixed success at the plate, batting .244 in 1873 and .278 in 1874. When the 1875 season began, he again moved, this time to the Philadelphia Centennials, and was their pitcher in all 14 games that the club played.
On May 26, 1875, after a 2–12 start, Bechtel and fellow Centennial Bill Craver were sold to the Philadelphia Athletics for $1,500. This is the first known sale of ballplayers from one team to another in baseball history. It is theorized that sale was actually an enticement for the Centennials to fold, which they did.
Rumors surrounded Bechtel's play ever since the late 1860s, indicating that he was a very good fielder, one of the better fielders of the day, but his play at times became sloppy. Henry Chadwick once stated regarding his play: "At the commencement of the season, Bechtel's play in left field was equal to any player, but, as the season wore on, he grew careless, and from other causes unnecessary to mention, he played poorly."
On May 20, 1876, in a game against the Mutuals, he made three of the team's nine errors, all three in crucial game situations. After the game, he became a "much suspected man" by the press and his team alike, so the team suspended him for crooked play.
On June 10, Bechtel wired teammate Jim Devlin a message stating "We can make $500 if you lose the game today. Tell John (manager Jack Chapman) and let me know at once. BECHTEL." Devlin wired him back explaining that he was not that kind of player, and presented the telegram to the team's management. Louisville immediately suspended him from the team. Bechtel was picked up by the Mutuals and played in a couple of games for them before the end of the season. The National League followed the lead of the Grays and suspended Bechtel before the 1877 season, and despite attempts for re-instatement, he was denied. Devlin himself was also banned for life the following season when he and a couple of teammates were paid for losing games. At this time, it is unknown when and where Bechtel died, but Peter Morris, a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, claims that he most likely died in Philadelphia on April 3, 1921.
- "George Bechtel: Baseball Historian Biography". baseballhistorian.com. Retrieved 2008-04-22.
- "George Bechtel's Stats". retrosheet.org. Retrieved 2008-04-22.
- "Banished From Baseball". 1919blacksox.com. Retrieved 2008-04-22.
- "1870 Baseball Season: Rosters of the 1870 Professional Teams". By Patrick Mondout. Retrieved 2008-04-22.[permanent dead link]
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- When Johnny Came Sliding Home: The Post-Civil War Baseball Boom, 1865–1870, pgs. 258–260. By William J. Ryczek. McFarland. 1998. ISBN 978-0-7864-0514-5. Retrieved 2008-04-22.
- "1875 Philadelphia Centennials season". retrosheet.org. Retrieved 2008-04-22.
- "David Ball, "The Bechtel-Craver Trade and the Origins of Baseball's Sales System."". mcfarlandbaseball.com. Retrieved 2008-04-22.
- Ginsburg (2004). The Fix Is in: A History of Baseball Gambling and Game Fixing Scandals. p. 41.
- Ginsburg (2004). The Fix Is in: A History of Baseball Gambling and Game Fixing Scandals. pp. 41–42.
- Ginsburg (2004). The Fix Is in: A History of Baseball Gambling and Game Fixing Scandals. p. 42.
- "On The Brink". petermorrisbooks.com. Archived from the original on 2008-12-02. Retrieved 2008-04-22.