Today’s post goes out to “the baseball enthusiasts of the community [who] are looking forward to a summer of excellent sport.” That’s how the Washington Post described Rockville’s sports fans in a March 7, 1909 article at the start of the baseball season. On Rockville’s team was second baseman Russell Brewer; here is his glove.

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This is a left-handed fielder’s glove, made by the A.J. Reach Co. of Philadelphia. A one-inch strap, or webbing, connects the thumb and forefinger, likely dating it to around 1910. The well-worn leather looks gray, but it was originally white; this glove clearly saw a lot of game use.  It was donated by Mr. Brewer’s daughter, Virginia Brewer Cobey.

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The use of gloves in the outfield wasn’t original to the first years of the game; needing a padded glove was viewed as pretty wimpy. (According to this article in the Smithsonian Magazine, one of the first players to wear a glove tried – and failed – to find one that would be invisible to fans.) By the 1880s gloves were accepted equipment, however, and soon inventors and manufacturers were coming up with new and improved gloves (more padding, deeper webbing…) In our 1890s-1900s team photos from Rockville, many fielder’s gloves and catcher’s mitts can be seen.

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The owner of this glove, William Russell Brewer (1880-1941), was born in Rockville to John and Virginia Russell Brewer. He attended the Rockville Academy, and by late 1900 had started his career as a bank clerk at the Montgomery County National Bank, a few blocks from his home. In 1910 he married Maude Stalnaker; they stayed in Rockville until 1921, when he resigned his post as cashier at the Montgomery County bank to take a vice-president position with Liberty Trust Company in Cumberland, Md. In the 1930 and 1940 Cumberland censuses, he’s described as a bank president.

But bankers need hobbies just like the rest of us, and “R. Brewer, 2nd base” can be found in newspaper reports of Rockville games from spring 1900 – when, as a Rockville Academy student, he served as “secretary and treasurer” of the school team – through the 1911 season.  In 1901, the Post described the (probably just out of school) team as “considerably elated” over beating the Maryland Agricultural College team; they basically sent out a call for other teams to ‘come and play.’  Throughout the decade they played against other local towns, as well as the U.S. Marine Barracks team, the St. Elizabeth’s Hospital team, a team from Woodward & Lothrop’s department store, and others. This circa 1905 photo, below, shows the Rockville team in uniform; your man Russell Brewer is either the gentleman in front at the far right, or the player behind him.

Circa 1905.  Donated by Virginia Brewer Cobey, who identified her father; other players currently unidentified.

Circa 1905. Donated by Virginia Brewer Cobey, who identified her father; other players currently unidentified… although: your devoted blogger has become so involved in the lives of deceased Montgomery County residents that she recognizes at least one, maybe three people in the photo. Eddie Dawson is in the back row second from left, and I swear his brothers Harry (in the straw boater?) and Somervell (back row second from right?) are here as well.

Mr. Brewer’s teammates remain fairly steady throughout the 1900-1911 era; it reads as if the Academy team stayed pretty tight after graduation, replacing an equally steady 1890s team sometimes known as the Rockville Athletics. On September 5, 1909, the Post reported,

The Rockville Athletics, who so well represented Rockville on the diamond ten or twelve years ago, and the present Rockville team played at the fair grounds this afternoon and the youngsters got the verdict by the score of 7 to 2. . . . The game was a splendid one, and the old fellows showed that there is a whole lot of baseball still in them.

Russell Brewer played 2nd base for the “present team” in this game, along with his brothers Nicholas, George, and John (and, since we’re tracking Dawsons, Eddie and Somervell; Harry was featured on the 1890s teams, but he didn’t play in 1909).

Who doesn’t enjoy an old baseball team photo? So here are a few more for you: two views of the Athletics*, from 1893 (top) and 1896 (bottom), and Rockville’s African American team, circa 1900. (Donors, and player names when known, can be found in the captions.)

1893 team. Donated by Mrs. W.S. Nicholson.  Players: Wardlaw Mason, James Kelchner, W. Frank Rabbitt, Eugene Harriss, Upton B. Dawson, Roger Shaw, Sol Rabbitt, Somerville "Weegie" Bean, Carey Kingdon, W. Brooke Edmonston, Leonard Nicholson, Charles "Sibby" Jones, Harry Dawson.  Bat boy, in the center: Mannie (last name unknown). At left in the background is George Meads.

1893 team. Donated by Mrs. W.S. Nicholson. Players: Wardlaw Mason, James Kelchner, W. Frank Rabbitt, Eugene Harriss, Upton B. Dawson, Roger Shaw, Sol Rabbitt, Somerville “Weegie” Bean, Carey Kingdon, W. Brooke Edmonston, Leonard Nicholson, Charles “Sibby” Jones, Harry Dawson. Bat boy, in the center: Mannie (last name unknown). At left in the background is George Meads.

"Amateur Champions of the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia, 1895-96," taken 1896 at the fair grounds. Donated by Mrs. W.S. Nicholson. Players: Eugene Harriss, Charles Jones, [Harry] Dawson, Roger Shaw, Leonard Nicholson, Sol Rabbitt, Mr. Beard, Carey Kingdon, Mr. Hall, Mr. Claggett, Mr. Eagle, James Kelchner, Byron Kingdon.

“Amateur Champions of the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia, 1895-96,” taken 1896 at the fair grounds. Donated by Mrs. W.S. Nicholson. Players: Eugene Harriss, Charles Jones, [Harry] Dawson, Roger Shaw, Leonard Nicholson, Sol Rabbitt, Mr. Beard, Carey Kingdon, Mr. Hall, Mr. Claggett, Mr. Eagle, James Kelchner, Byron Kingdon. (There’s lots of player overlap between 1893 and 1896… but they have new uniforms.)

Circa 1900.  Donated by Rosie Wood; players currently unidentified.

Circa 1900. Donated by Rosie Wood; players currently unidentified.

There are even more photos (not only of Rockville!) in our library, along with more information on both white and African American players, playing fields, and game statistics – plus lots of scope for additional research on our local teams. If today’s post whetted your appetite, sports fans, then come on in!

 

*Presuming the “R.A.” on the uniform stands for Rockville Athletics, not Rockville Academy.

 

 

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