Doc Powers

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Michael Riley Powers

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Biographical Information[edit]

Having earned his nickname because he was actually a medical doctor, Doc Powers was a catcher who began his major league career with the Louisville Colonels in 1898. When the National League contracted four teams after the 1899 season, he moved to the minor league American League in 1900, playing for the Indianapolis Hoosiers. He found himself without a team when the AL proclaimed itself a major league the following year, and got rid of some of its Western teams to move into larger cities on the east coast.

When the dust settled, he found himself the regular catcher in 1901 for manager Connie Mack, himself a former catcher, on the Philadelphia Athletics in their first season in the new major league American League. He spent most of the next eight seasons on Mack's club. In 1902, he umpired one AL game, working home plate on August 13th, while fellow player Sport McAllister of the visiting Detroit Tigers worked the bases. In the 1905 World Series, he took over for regular Ossee Schreckengost in the middle of Game 3, when the New York Giants were running wild. He started the last two games of the Series as well. He was not much of a hitter - batting a career .216 in 647 games, but he had a reputation as an outstanding defensive catcher. He was particularly good at handling lefthander Eddie Plank, a future Hall of Famer, whose pitches baffled most catchers. In 1905, he was loaned to the New York Highlanders for a couple of weeks when they needed a catcher for a while, then returned to Philadelphia later that year.

Powers was injured on Opening Day, 1909, in the first-ever Major League game played at Shibe Park. It was reported at the time that the pain began when he dove for a foul ball, or that he had contracted food poisoning, but in fact he was suffering from a serious intestinal condition called intussusception. This rare condition involves a part of the intestine sliding onto another part, creating a blockage. In his case the problem must have dated back some time, because the stoppage in blood flow had turned a section of his intestine gangrenous. Doctors performed two operations to remove damaged sections, and he seemed to be getting better after the second one, but he soon began to suffer from acute dilatation of his heart and died on April 26th. Some sources report that his was the first major league baseball death traceable directly to an on-field injury, but in fact the condition had nothing to do with baseball.

On June 30, 1910, the Athletics organized a special "Mike Powers Day" at Shibe Park to benefit his widow and children who had been left without resources, as players did not have pensions or insurance. The day included skills competitions followed by a friendly exhibition game between the A's and a team made up of stars from some of the league's other teams. 12,000 persons were in attendance, and a sum of $8,000 was raised, a very considerable amount for the time.

Powers was the best friend of Chief Sockalexis, who was his college teammate at both Notre Dame and Holy Cross. He also played football at Notre Dame.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Robert D. Warrington: "A Ballpark Opens and A Ballplayer Dies: The Converging Fates of Shibe Park and 'Doc' Powers", The Baseball Research Journal, Vol. 43, number 2, Fall 2014, pp. 7-17.

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