“It does not often fall to the lot of local fans to get a real championship team,” crowed the Harrisburg Telegraph as the National League Pennant winners strolled into the state capital in late August 1919.
The Cincinnati Reds stunned baseball observers in a season where they blasted through opponents on a way to a stunning 96-44 regular season record. Now, as their regular season wrapped up, they prepared to play the Klein Chocolate Company team in a warm-up game prior to their World Series Campaign against the Chicago White Sox.
Manager Pat Moran promised Central Pennsylvania baseball enthusiasts that his team’s top players would make an appearance at Island Park, as “he wants to keep his men in shape.” Among the players slated to take the field on Saturday, August 29, 1919 on City Island was the Reds’ star first-baseman Jake Daubert.
The 35-year-old Daubert had hit his way to the top of the National League while playing with Brooklyn through the 1910s before being traded to Cincinnati for the 1919 season. He hit a respectable .276 in his debut season with the Reds, helping his new club to its first pennant since 1882.
At the southern end of Pennsylvania’s Coal Region, Jake Daubert was a local hero. Raised in southwestern Schuylkill County, he spent his formative years in the depths of the region’s hard coal mines. In 1906, he starred in his first semi-professional season with the Lykens club of the Williams Valley League, helping them to a pennant over neighboring rivals at Williamstown. It was in the Williams Valley League campaign in 1906 where Daubert first began playing first base and showed himself to be a powerfully consistent batter.
Despite leaving Williams Valley after a single season, the local fans watched Daubert ascend quickly to the heights of the Major Leagues. Now, in August 1919, they had an opportunity to honor their hometown baseball star.
“The Upper End of the county will send a large delegation to give Jake Daubert, their old standby, a great welcome,” recorded the Telegraph in Harrisburg. A train loaded with newly christened Cincinatti fans came chugging down the eastern bank of the Susquehanna River from the railroad station in Lykens.
On a bright and sunny late summer afternoon, the Reds and the Klein Chocolate clubs battled it out in front of a massive crowd on City Island. Most fans came to see the visiting National League champions.
“It was ‘Cincinnati Day’ in Harrisburg,” wrote a correspondent from the city’s Evening News. “It is not often local baseball enthusiasts get a big attraction like a championship team. They had it today.” Reporters tallied the crowd at between 7,000-8,000 spectators, “who filled the grandstand and bleachers, and lined the outfield.”
While Daubert took the field for the Reds, an old rival led the Klein Chocolate team in the opposing dugout. John Brackenridge played shortstop against Daubert in the Williams Valley League during the 1906 season. His playing career over, “Brackey” began leading semi-professional teams in Central Pennsylvania.
Following a fast-paced game, the Reds came out on top 4-3. The local favorite Daubert went 0-4 at the plate, but starred defensively.
For the fans from Upper Dauphin County, this didn’t matter much. They were able to see a local star play on his championship club. Their presence was noted by local reporters.
“A big crowd came from the upper end of the county to give Jake Daubert a welcome,” a correspondent for the Evening News wrote. Following the game, the Reds continued on their tour of Pennsylvania with warm-up games in preparation for their World Series match-up against the much feared White Sox.
The game at Harrisburg on August 29, 1919 comes just on the eve of baseball’s greatest scandal. When the World Series kicked off on October 1, 1919, accusations began flying that the fix was in and the Reds were destined to win. Jake Daubert and the Reds went on to win the 1919 World Series, but the victory was forever tainted by the stain of deceit and scandal. The year’s championship match-up would forever be known for the “Black Sox Scandal.”
Featured Image: Jake Daubert in 1919, Library of Congress