To celebrate the end of another election cycle, I decided to merge two of my passions: cards and politics. This post will highlight players who had post-baseball careers as politicians but is by no means a definitive list. So, it’s time to toss my cap in the “fungo” circle and head out on the “hustings.”
The first player turned solon we will examine is Pittsburgh native John Tener. He pitched for Cap Anson’s Chicago White Stockings and the Players’ League Pittsburgh team from 1888-1890. After baseball, he became a business man and was eventually elected to Congress in 1908. His stint in the House of Representatives was short, due to being nominated to run as a Republican for Governor of Pennsylvania in 1910. John won the “gubernatorial nod,” but decided one chief executive job wasn’t enough.
Tener accepted the National Leagues offer to become league president in 1913. He insisted on only working part-time and not receiving a salary until his tenure as Governor ended in 1915. I’m sure this arrangement never resulted in conflicts of interest.
Once the “Big Train,” Walter Johnson, bid the diamond adieu, he took a turn at elective office. Johnson won a seat on the Montgomery County, Maryland Board of Commissioners in 1938. His effort to use this position as springboard to Congress failed when he ran as a Republican and lost in the 1940 general election.
Best known for tossing 8 2/3 innings of hitless relief in 1917 after the starter-Babe Ruth-was ejected, Ernie Shore sought to bring law and order to Forsyth County, NC after his playing day ended. Shore served as the elected Sheriff for 36 years from 1934-70.
Another “Tar Heel” who put down the “horsehide” to “glad hand” the populace was Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell. The former Cardinal and Pirate “twirler” served in the US House of Representatives from 1969-75.
The fine folks of Kentucky liked Jim Bunning’s “pitch” well enough to elected him to the House five times and the Senate twice. The Hall-of-Fame pitcher served in Congress from 1986-2010.
Bunnings teammate and fellow starting pitcher, Larry Jackson, also become a politician. Jackson was a five term Representative in the Idaho state house. He entered the Republican gubernatorial primary in 1978 but lost.
Little known infielder, Dave Edler, had a brief career with the Mariners in the early ‘80s. Dave became the Mayor of Yakima, WA-the “big” city near my home town.
Randy Bass, the man closely tied to the “Curse of Colonel Sanders,” served as a Democrat in the Oklahoma Senate from 2004 to the present. Bass was a key figure in helping the Hanshin Tigers when the Japan Series Championship in 1985.
In the aftermath of the victory, a wild celebration ensued in which the fiberglass vestige of Colonel Sanders was taken from a KFC store and tossed into the river by a Tigers fan under the influence of more than “eleven herbs and spices.” Randy’s girth resembled that of the Colonel, which is what prompted the fan to “borrow” the statue. Alas, the Tigers have failed to win another Championship for 32 years, due to the “Kentucky Fried Curse.”
We can’t have a discussion of politicians without including corruption, indictment and conviction. Former Braves pitcher Pat Jarvis was the Sheriff of De Kalb County, Georgia from 1976-95. He was convicted of taking over $200,000 in kick-backs from a jail construction contractor. Jarvis served 15 months in Federal prison for his misdeeds.
Who knows which current or recent player will enter the political arena next? Perhaps Jose Canseco will launch Senatorial campaign with a “war on drugs” focus. Brice Harper might try to woo the millennial “bro” vote. In any case, you can expect some “appeals to the base,” late rallies and high “spin” rates.
8 thoughts on “Win with Vinegar Bend!”
Well, let’s not short-change Ernie Shore. All 27 outs came with him on the mound. The guy Ruth walked was thrown out stealing. The opposing pitcher, coincidentally, was Walter Johnson.
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And he wasn’t just hit less…he was perfect.
Forgot about the pick off. Ruth was the first “opener!”
That Pat Jarvis story made me a little sad.
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Excellent content & I enjoyed all. I thank thee & your’s for all…
Appropriately enough, it was John Tener who organized the first Congressional Baseball Game, back in 1909. The game was played on and off until being ended in 1958, only to be brought back for good in 1962. It’s pleasant to imagine Democrats and Republicans getting along well enough to enjoy a simple game of baseball once a year, although, sadly, it was the shooting incident at last year’s practice that left Steve Scalise injured and generated more attention than the game had received in years.
When I was young, I could remember the Republicans sending Vinegar Bend Mizell out to pitch every year during his stint as a congressman from North Carolina. I don’t think he ever lost to the Dems. The only thing that stopped him was losing his reelection bid in the wake of Watergate . . .
One addition to your list would be Gavvy Cravath, one of the leading power hitters of the Dead Ball Era. After his career, he retired to Laguna Beach, California, and — essentially on a dare — he ran for and easily won the office of magistrate judge. He had no legal training, but was respected for his common-sense approach to the law.
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Had no idea Tener started Congressional game. Thanks for pointing that out.
Judge Cravath should have been known as “Gaveling Gavvy.😁
We SABR should comprise a list of players who entered politics.
As a political junkie myself, I am surprised at how few former professional players have pursued elective office. Another interesting baseball/politics link, America’s favorite pastimes.
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