John Van Buskirk Hatfield
- Bats Unknown, Throws Unknown
- Height 5' 10", Weight 165 lb.
- Debut May 18, 1871
- Final Game May 5, 1876
- Born July 20, 1847 in Hoboken, NJ USA
- Died February 20, 1909 in Long Island City, NY USA
John Hatfield was a star in early baseball and became a rarity in the 1870s as a player who stayed with one team.
He had played for the amateur New York Mutuals prior to coming to Cincinnati to play with the 1868 Cincinnati Red Stockings. Since he was not from Cincinnati, there is speculation that he was an under-the-table professional. He played left field, and during that year set a record for the longest throw. He was not on the 1869 Red Stockings.
In 1871, when the National Association formed, he was back with the New York Mutuals, this time an openly professional team. While the era from 1871-1875 was full of teams folding and players moving around, Hatfield was with the Mutuals all five years (although he played in only one game in 1875). The Mutuals never won the pennant, but they sometimes contended.
His 1871 year wasn't very strong, but in 1872 he hit .319 on a team that hit .276. In 1872 and in 1873 he was player-manager for part of each season. In 1873 he hit .306, but the team average moved up to .281. The following year, 1874, he hit .226, which was lowest among the regulars.
When the National League was formed in 1876, Hatfield played in one single game with the now-National League Mutuals. He umpired a total of 8 games, 6 in the National Association in 1872 and 1873 and 2 in the National League in 1876.
Many years after Hatfield left the majors, his brother Gil Hatfield broke in, at age 30 in 1885. Gil Hatfield was to play 8 seasons in the period from 1885 to 1895.
Sporting Life of February 27, 1909 carried his obituary. It stated that while John was famous as "one of the greatest base ball players of the day", he was even more famous for holding the long distance throw record, something he set in 1872 and which had not been surpassed as of 1909.