Elmer Joseph Gedeon
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 167 lb.
- High School Sacramento High School
- Debut May 13, 1913
- Final Game October 3, 1920
- Born December 5, 1893 in Sacramento, CA USA
- Died May 19, 1941 in San Francisco, CA USA
Joe Gedeon was a second baseman for nine years (1912-1920) - seven in the American League (1913-1914; 1916-1920) and three in the Pacific Coast League (1912; 1914-1915) followed by several years in independent ball in California in the 1920s.
The Gedeon clan, including Joe's parents John and Teresa, emigrated from Hungary and originally settled in the Cleveland area. John and Teresa Gedeon, however, soon joined a portion of the family that decided to seek the American dream on the West Coast. Most settled in the Los Angeles area, but Joe's parents eventually ended up in Sacramento, CA where Joe was born.
He graduated from High School in Sacramento, where he gained fame athletically, especially in baseball, in 1911 at age 17 and broke into Organized Baseball in the PCL in 1912 at age 18.
Fighting for a job in the Majors
After high school Joe signed with the San Francisco Seals for $125 per month under the tutelage of manager Kid Mohler. He played for the Seals in 1912 and played 80 games in the outfield and got into 28 at second base when Mohler was sidelined with an injury. He committed 10 errors at each position.
After the 1912 campaign, Gedeon was drafted by the Philadelphia Athletics, but immediately sold to the Washington Senators. In Washington, Gedeon found his progress blocked by Ray Morgan at second base and saw little playing time in 1913. On October 4, 1913 Washington manager Clark Griffith used a then unheard-of eight pitchers in an end-of-season farce game with the Boston Red Sox, including five in the ninth inning. At age 43, he pitched one inning himself, and coach Jack Ryan, also 43, caught. On the other end of the scale, 17-year-old Merito Acosta played outfield alongside Walter Johnson in center field. Gedeon, in his only pitching appearance, retired the last two batters as Washington won, 10–9, beating Fred Anderson who went the distance. The eight pitchers set a major-league record that would not be matched until September 25, 1946 by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Making the most of his appearances in the outfield and at third base, Gedeon batted only .183 in 27 games. He did show some pop at the plate, however, blasting two triples and one of the team's 20 homers.
The next year, 1914, he played sparingly before being shipped back to the Pacific Coast League in June to gain some seasoning with the Los Angeles Angels. Prior to the 1915 season, Gedeon wrote Senators President Clark Griffith asking to be allowed to remain with Los Angeles for the year, but he didn't exactly get his wish. He did get to stay in the Pacific Coast League, but it was with the Salt Lake City Bees. The PCL offered him about the same salary as the American League but in a much more endurable climate.
Gedeon enjoyed a spectacular 1915 season with Salt Lake City. For the extended PCL season, the 21-year-old phenom played 190 games at second base, banged out 234 hits, scored 133 runs, stole 25 bases, and finished with an excellent .317 batting average (his OBP was .367 and he slugged .514). His 67 doubles set a league record, and his fielding percentage was .962, a pretty good mark for the times, especially for the first season as a full-time second sacker. He also had 11 triples, 19 home runs and 25 stolen bases in 190 Games. Overall in the minors, he had 371 hits, 185 runs, 72i doubles, 13i triples, 20i home runs and 56 Stolen Bases at .295 in 347 Games.
Gedeon, the All-Star calibre second baseman
He then signed a lucrative two-year contract with the Newark entry in the Federal League, which had just completed its second season. Shortly after Gedeon signed, however, the Federal League folded, and the New York Yankees swooped in to purchase his contract for $7,500, a considerable sum for an unproven player in those days. The Senators protested vehemently, but American League President Ban Johnson ruled against them and directed Gedeon to report to New York, where he played as a reserve in 1916 and 1917.
The New York Evening Journal noted the week of September 1, 1916 that the Yankees had pulled off a double squeeze play against the Boston Red Sox at the Polo Grounds. In that game, the batter Gedeon was retired bunting while two runners scored. They repeated the feat two weeks later, with Gedeon at the center of the action once again. The normally staid and dry New York Times, of September 15, 1916, stated "The Yankees put the game right into the bag in the seventh inning, and called the double squeeze, one of the most spectacular of all scoring plays, into use. With one out Elmer Miller singled, and dashed to third when Gedeon doubled to left field. Roxy Walters tipped the sign for the squeeze play when he came up, and Willie Mitchell, pitching for the Detroit Tigers, was of invaluable assistance when he took a half wind up, and as he started his motion the runners hit the trail. Miller was almost home by the time the ball got to the plate, and Gedeon was a few feet from third. Walters rolled a slow teaser to Pep Young, and Miller slid over the plate. His dust had only risen, it seemed, when a fresh cloud geysered into the air, hurled up as Gedeon hit the dirt and slid over the plate safely. The play was brought to the perfect ending, for Walters beat the hit out."
On January 22, 1918, Gedeon was traded to the St. Louis Browns in a blockbuster deal. The Yankees received star second baseman Del Pratt and veteran southpaw (and future Hall of Famer) Eddie Plank in exchange for Gedeon, Fritz Maisel, pitcher Nick Cullop, journeyman catcher Les Nunamaker, and a young righthander named Urban Shocker. The trade worked out well for the Browns, despite the fact that Maisel, Cullop and Nunamaker were soon gone. Gedeon settled into the Browns' regular second base job and Shocker eventually became the ace of the pitching staff. Pratt had three solid seasons with the Yankees, but the 42-year-old Plank refused to report to the Yankees and took his 326 lifetime victories into retirement.
For the 1918 season, Gedeon hit only .213 in 123 games, but led American League second basemen in assists, Total Chances per Game and Fielding Percentage. He also tied the major league one-game record for assists at second base with 11.
In 1919 he improved his batting average to .254 in 120 games and again had the highest fielding average at his position. During the 1919 World Series, he traveled back and forth between Chicago and Cincinnati with the Chicago White Sox players, enjoying the games as a spectator and placing informed bets, netting him $600-$700, associating with the players and gamblers involved in the Black Sox Scandal.
The redheaded Gedeon was a rangy, 6-foot, 167-pound, right-handed hitter with good speed and an excellent glove. From 1918, his first season with the Browns, to 1920, he raised his average almost 80 points to a solid .292. After leading the league at his position the previous two years his fielding average tailed off somewhat in 1920, but he established himself as an offensive force in the number two spot in the order. He scored 95 runs in 153 games and successfully sacrificed 48 times to tie Donie Bush for the league lead, as well as the seventh-highest single season total in major league history. In his best offensive year in MLB, he had 177 hits, 33 doubles, 6 triples, 0 home runs, 61 RBI and one stolen base at .292/.355/.366 in 153 Games.
Ninth Man Out
Gedeon was also the "Ninth Man Out" in the Black Sox Scandal. He was an old friend of White Sox Swede Risberg from their California days, and bet on the Cincinnati Reds in the 1919 World Series, placing him at a meeting with gamblers as they were discussing the plot to throw the World Series. He testified to a grand jury after the 1920 season and was dropped from the St. Louis roster. On November 3, 1921, Judge Landis banned him permanently for "having guilty knowledge" of the World Series fix. According to his obituary, he then became an "investigator for the American League".
In 1922, without Gedeon, the Browns missed the American League pennant by just one game. This would have been the first pennant in either league for the city of St. Louis. It has been suggested that but for Gedeon's gambling, the history of baseball in St Louis would have been very different. At the time of his banishment, he was only 26 years old and just reaching his prime. In noted writer F.C. Lane's book Batting, Gedeon is referred to as one of the best hit-and-run men in the game.
Banned from organized ball, Gedeon played independent West Coast baseball, causing a problem for other players who were forbidden to play in games when he appeared.
Joe appeared to be well-liked by teammates and management. St. Louis General Manager Bob Quinn was reportedly shocked by reports that Gedeon was involved in the Series fix and refused to believe them until he heard Joe's testimony. Gedeon also seems to have had a well-developed sense of humor. An often-told story involves an encounter between fireballer Walter Johnson and Gedeon, when he was with the Yankees. After a called strike by umpire Billy Evans, Gedeon asked where the pitch was. Sensing a dispute, the suspicious arbitrator asked why he wanted to know. "I never saw it. I had my eyes closed," Joe admitted sheepishly.
Despite some initial speculation about an appeal, Gedeon quickly dropped out of sight after his formal banishment - as far as baseball was concerned. He resurfaced briefly when he was arrested in Sacramento on October 7, 1924, for violating the 18th Amendment (Prohibition). In 1933, Joe was in trouble with the law again when he was nabbed in Seattle, WA with $400 in counterfeit $10 bills. He first gave his name as Joe Davis, before admitting his true identity. Otherwise, he lived in obscurity, eventually settling in Galt, CA, a small town near Sacramento, until moving to San Francisco in the late 1930's.
He had red hair and his ancestry was Hungarian. Gedeon preceded all of the banished Black Sox to the grave. He died May 19, 1941 at age 47 having suffered from cirrhosis of the liver and died from bronchial pneumonia at San Francisco, CA after more than two months in a San Francisco Hospital. and is buried at East Lawn Memorial Park in Sacramento where several of his high school teammates served as pallbearers. Surviving him were his ex-wife Florence, son William and sister Marie.
Brief obituaries in the New York Times and the San Francisco Examiner referred to him as an ex-ballplayer, but failed to mention his role in the scandal which cost him his career. In Joe's obituary, the Sacramento Bee provided a somewhat biased synopsis of his brief career: "Joe was never a batter of high average but he offset that by being a mighty smart batsman. Most of the time in his major league career he was second in the hitting order and was regarded as one of the best in the tricky business of the hit and run. Gedeon was a wonderful defensive player. His fielding at second base brought him the rating as one of the greatest keystone artists in the majors."
Despite Landis' banishment, the Gedeon name would resurface on a major league roster almost twenty years later when Joe's nephew and namesake Elmer John Gedeon appeared in five games for the Washington Senators (Joe's original team) in 1939. Like his uncle, Elmer's career ended prematurely under unfortunate circumstances. He was inducted into the United States Air Force before the 1941 season and became one of only four major leaguers ever to die in combat when his plane was shot down over France in 1944.
- Holds Pacific Coast League record for most Doubles, season (67), 1915
- In 1918, he tied the major league one-game record for assists at second base with 11
- Led PCL in Doubles (67), 1915.
- Participated in two double squeezes within a fortnight, 1916
- Led American League in times Hit By Pitch (8), 1918
- Led American League second basemen in Fielding Percentage (.977), 1918 as well as Assists and Total Chances per Game
- Led American League second basemen in Fielding Percentage (.975), 1919
- Led American League in Sacrifice Hits (48), 1920 (seventh highest total in MLB History)
- Eliot Asinof: Eight Men Out, Henry Holt & Company, New York, NY, 1963.
- Gary Bedingfield: "Elmer Gedeon" @ BaseballLibrary.com
- Clifford Bloodgood: "Bloom of the Morning Glory Average", Baseball Magazine, 1935.
- Harvey Frommer: Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball, Taylor Trade Publishing, Lanham, MD, 1992.
- Donald Gropman: Say It Ain't So, Joe! The True Story of Shoeless Joe Jackson Carol Publishing Group, New York, NY, 1992.
- F.C. Lane: Batting SABR Publishing, Cleveland, OH, 2001 (orginally published in 1925)
- Daniel Okrent and Steve Wulf: Baseball Anecdotes Oxford University Press (USA), New York, NY, 1999.
- Rick Swaine: "The Ninth Man Out", in The National Pastime, SABR, Number 20 (2000), pp. 87-89.
Principal sources for Joe Gedeon include newspaper obituaries (OB), government records (VA,CM,CW), Sporting Life (SL), Baseball Digest, The Sporting News (TSN), The Sports Encyclopedia:Baseball 2006 by David Neft & Richard Cohen (N&C), old Who's Who in Baseballs (none) (WW), old Baseball Registers (none) (BR), TSN's Daguerreotypes (none) (DAG), The Historical Register, The Baseball Necrology by Bill Lee (BN), Pat Doyle's Professional Ballplayer DataBase(PD), The Baseball Library (BL); various Encyclopediae including The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball by Turkin & Thompson (T&T), MacMillan Baseball Encyclopedia (Mac), Total Baseball (TB), The Bill James Historical Abstract (BJ) and The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball (LJ); Retrosheet (RS), The Baseball Chronology (BC), Baseball Page (BP), The Baseball Almanac (BA), Baseball Cube (B3), The Pacific Coast League: A Statistical History, 1903-1957 by Dennis Snelling and The New Biographical History of Baseball by Donald Dewey and Nicholas Acocella and obituaries at deadballera.com (DBE) as well as research by Reed Howard (RH), Pat Doyle (PD) and Frank Hamilton (FH).