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Hal Chase

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Harold Homer Chase
(Prince Hal)

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[edit] Biographical Information

". . . one of the greatest first basemen in baseball history . . ." - from Chase's New York Times obituary in 1947

Hal Chase was a long-time first baseman in the deadball era who was a good hitter, a top-notch fielder, and someone who probably had a psychopathic personality. He was the subject of a long and classic article by Bill James, who showed off his writing style at its best in the article. Chase seemed to be able to charm many people into just about anything, and often did. Although most pictures of him show him scowling, he must have been quite different in private. Many people think of him as the personification of evil in baseball, although he was a far more complex individual than that.

[edit] Playing Career

HalChase2.jpg

Chase played 15 years in the major leagues, mostly for the New York Highlanders in the American League, but he won a batting title in the National League with the Cincinnati Reds in 1916. He also led the Federal League in home runs in 1915.

He briefly managed the Highlanders in 1910 and 1911.

His image was that of the preeminent defensive first baseman of his time, in an era when there were many bunts and squib hits that a first baseman had to be quick to get and handle. He was very aggressive about charging in to pick up bunts.

[edit] Charges of Bribes, Bets, and Throwing Games

Chase was accused by manager George Stallings of throwing a game in 1910. He was formally charged by manager Christy Mathewson in 1917 with throwing games and was suspended. He was charged by Lee Magee with bribing him to lose games in 1918. He was suspended by the New York Giants for allegedly throwing games during 1919. He was alleged by Rube Benton to have won $40,000 betting on the 1919 World Series. He was banned from Pacific Coast League parks in 1920 for trying to bribe an umpire.

[edit] Life Before and After Major League Baseball

Chase was born in Los Gatos, California, in what is now Silicon Valley. His father ran a sawmill. Chase played ball at Santa Clara University in San Jose, CA (in spite of having dropped out of high school in 10th grade) as an extremely quick left-handed second baseman, and also played semi-pro ball and other minor league ball in California. He played for the Pacific Coast League as well.

In 1925, after his time in major league baseball, he tried to start a league in Mexico, where he had a café. Ban Johnson knew the president of Mexico, and had Chase deported back to the USA. Chase sold cars in California and Arizona, tended bar, and drank a lot. For a while he mined gold. And he ran a pool hall. He apparently was mostly a drifter, living with his wife in tourist camps. He played in a softball game in 1939, apparently his last baseball game.

He died in 1947. Casey Stengel and Lefty O'Doul attended his funeral.

It appears that he was interviewed many times in the period 1920-47. He was often vilified in articles that appeared in the press, and yet he was usually also remembered as "The Prince".

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • NL Batting Average Leader (1916)
  • NL At-Bats Leader (1917)
  • NL Hits Leader (1916)
  • FL Home Runs Leader (1915)


Preceded by
George Stallings
New York Yankees Manager
1910-1911
Succeeded by
Harry Wolverton

[edit] Year-By-Year Managerial Record

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1910 New York Highlanders American League 10-4 2nd New York Highlanders replaced George Stallings (78-59) on September 21
1911 New York Highlanders American League 76-76 6th New York Highlanders

[edit] Further Reading

  • Martin D. Kohout: "Saint Matty and the Prince of Darkness: The strange and awful bond between Christy Mathewson and Hal Chase", in The National Pastime, SABR, Number 20 (2000), pp. 124-131.
  • Martin Donell Kohout: Hal Chase: The Defiant Life and Turbulent Times of Baseball's Biggest Crook, 2002.

[edit] Related Sites

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