In the summer of 1906, a young man from Pennsylvania’s Coal Region tore up the semi-professional league in the coal mining towns of Williams Valley. No one watching him play could have known how successful “Jake” would become.
Jake Daubert came to Williams Valley from his family’s home in Llewellyn, where he had been working in the anthracite mines of Schuylkill County. A skillful young ballplayer, Daubert was plucked from local amateur teams and brought in to play for Lykens in the highly competitive Williams Valley League for the 1906 season.
He excelled on first base for the Lykens team, leading them to a contested pennant in a summer of incredible, highly publicized baseball. “Baseball fever” had struck the towns of Williams Valley.
The publicity helped Daubert score a trial with teams in Western Pennsylvania, which then propelled him on to larger clubs. By the spring of 1910, Daubert found himself training with the Brooklyn Nationals (also known as the Superbas – later the Dodgers). Later in the season, Daubert became the starting first baseman and impressed with his fielding prowess and his proficiency at the plate.
This short auto-biography, written by Daubert in the late summer of 1910, details his early career:
Clever First Base Player
Jake Daubert of Brooklyn Nations, One of Season’s “Finds,” Tells of Early Start.
By Jake Daubert
You ask how I got my start. The fact is I started and slipped back so often that it is hard to tell how. I know that at first I didn’t want to start at all. I loved baseball, and played ever since I can remember. I was on the “first nine” in my hometown when I was 15 years old. But the idea of getting into the big leagues did not come to me for a long time. I was in the little Williams Valley league down in Southern Pennsylvania, and was hitting pretty well, but my arm was bad.
I was a third baseman then and never had played much except as a pitcher, and sometimes a catcher or the outfield. I got an offer to go out again when our league went up, but wanted to stay at home. I finished up the season there and saw I could hold my own with them, except that my arm was so bad I wanted to quit.
I couldn’t heave them across from third base, and besides I didn’t know much about playing the game, or how to take care of my arm. I went to the manager and told him either I would go home or go to first base. He asked me if I could play first and I said I thought I could, although I never had tried it, and that a left-handed thrower belonged there rather than at third. He must have liked my nerve, for he gave me a chance and I made good and hit well.
Then Cleveland got me and I thought I was started, but somehow they could not see me. I thought I was doing fairly well, but they chased me to Toledo, recalled me, chased me again, and finally I got discouraged and couldn’t hit and everything broke wrong, and I was sent to the Southern League.
I didn’t like the way Cleveland had treated me and I wanted to show that bunch I could play the game. I worked hard at Memphis and studied the game. I learned a whole lot and suddenly I settled down and started hitting. After that I was all right. I began correcting faults and working harder to get along and pretty soon Brooklyn grabbed me. That time I was ready and knew I was ready. I had the confidence and I knew that I could hold my own.
Daubert finished the 1910 season with a .264 batting average, a mark he would best in subsequent seasons. By 1913, Daubert led the National League in batting average, hitting .350 in a season that saw him take home the Most Valuable Player award.
This son of the Coal Region went from the semi-professional club in Lykens, Pennsylvania to the heights of the Major Leagues. He went to the World Series on two occasions – losing in 1916 with Brooklyn and claiming the championship in 1919 with Cincinnatti in the infamous “Black Sox Series.” Through his 14 year career, Daubert batted .303 with Brooklyn and Cincinatti. He was a well-respected player with a reputation for honesty and hard work.
Daubert’s career came to an abrupt end in 1924, when shortly after the conclusion of the baseball season, Daubert died unexpectedly after a brief illness. He was 40-years-old.
While largely forgotten today, Daubert remains as one of the best ballplayers produced by the Coal Region. His brief appearance on the diamonds of Williams Valley during the crazed summer of 1906 provided him with an opportunity to advance his career opportunities. He took those opportunities and escaped a life in the hard coal mines of Dauphin and Schuylkill counties.
We will be returning frequently to the baseball season of 1906 in the Williams Valley League in the coming months.
(Photo at Top: Jake Daubert in his Brooklyn uniform, Author’s Collection)