When I saw the photograph of the 1906 Lykens-Wiconisco baseball club, I nearly jumped in excitement.
It was on a recent trip to Williams Valley that I made a stop to visit with local historian Sally Reiner. Her knowledge about the history of Lykens, Pennsylvania is second to none; her collection of photographs unparalleled.
As our small group, including Sally, myself, my aunt, and my father, huddled around looking at images revealing the town’s history stretching back to the decades before the Civil War. My gasp got everyone’s attention.
I was looking into the eyes of the baseball club that won victory in the epic 1906 Williams Valley League pennant battle. Their star player was a 22-year-old coal miner from the Schuylkill County mining village of Llewellyn – Jake Daubert.
We’ve written about Daubert in the past, but this is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to see him in the uniform of the Lykens ballclub where he first gained the attention of professional teams. He came to the Williams Valley League as a left-handed pitcher, but threw out his arm early in the season. Instead of returning home to his family in Schuylkill County, a coach convinced him to try playing first base. The club’s previous first baseman had been struck by an errant ball during practice and so Daubert decided to give it a try. He became a star known for his defensive prowess and then for his consistent success at the plate as a hitter.
A breakout season with Lykens in 1906 helped give the team the hard-fought Williams Valley League pennant and put Daubert on the map. By season’s end in August 1906, Daubert was heading west to Kane, Pennsylvania to play on a professional team. He bounced around clubs before landing on the Charles Ebbetts’s Brooklyn “Superbas,” later known as the Dodgers, in 1910. His career in the big leagues lasted 14 years, in which Daubert played in 2 World Series matchups – against Babe Ruth’s Red Sox in 1916 and with the Cincinnati Reds in the infamous 1919 “Black Sox” World Series.
His successful baseball career came to a close with his death in 1924 from complications from an appendicitis.
Sally Reiner’s photograph of the 1906 club shows Daubert and the other players on their field between the Lykens Valley Railroad tracks and the Wiconisco Creek in Wiconisco Township. They look confident, understandable for a team of players who had found success making money from playing America’s favorite pastime. Newspaper reports from Williams Valley and surrounding areas often noted that some players in the league were making in excess of $250 for their play in the season. In their battle with their rivals in Williamstown, a mining community only three miles away, the Lykens club brought in professional players, sometimes paying them $50 for a single important game.
In the end, the season ended in a nasty fight between Williamstown and Lykens fans, and many of the players who participated in the 1906 season moved on to other clubs for the 1907 season, Daubert included.
I’ve been hunting down anything relating to this fascinating moment in the history of Williams Valley. I will never forget the moment that I saw this photograph for the first time. Thank you so much to Lykens historian Sally Reiner for her willingness to share her knowledge with myself, my family, and those with an interest in the history of this small town at the border of the Coal Region.
Featured Image: The 1906 Williams Valley League pennant winners (Courtesy of Sally Reiner)