Roger Philip Bresnahan
(The Duke Of Tralee)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 9", Weight 200 lb.
- High School Toledo Central High School
- Debut August 27, 1897
- Final Game October 3, 1915
- Born June 11, 1879 in Toledo, OH USA
- Died December 4, 1944 in Toledo, OH USA
"Roger Bresnahan was the manager of the Cubs when I joined them in 1915. The old Giant catcher from way back -- the guy who caught Mathewson and Marquard and all the rest of them, the man who invented shin guards back in 1908 or so. How about that? Hard to believe they ever caught without shin guards, isn't it? But he was the first to ever wear them. Mr. Bresnahan helped me a great deal. He more or less showed me the ropes and taught me how to catch. He was still catching then, though not too much... Except for Bresnahan, nobody paid any attention to me." - Bob O'Farrell, to Lawrence Ritter, The Glory of Their Times.
Bresnahan began his career playing for a team in Lima, Ohio, and was an eighteen-year-old pitcher for the Washington Senators in 1897, going 4-0 with a 3.95 ERA in 6 appearances. He failed to come to agreement on a salary the following season - he asked for $2,400 and the team offered $2,000 - and as a result was released. After playing with the Toledo Mud Hens for a time, he returned to the majors with the Chicago Orphans in 1900, appearing in two games as a catcher, having been converted to a position player in the meantime. He spent the next season and a half with the Baltimore Orioles in the new American League, splitting time between the outfield and behind the plate, where he spelled Wilbert Robinson and generally served as the team's leadoff hitter.
Midway through the 1902 campaign, Bresnahan, pitcher Joe McGinnity, and manager John McGraw jumped from the Orioles to the New York Giants of the National League, the club with which he would have his greatest seasons. He hit .350 and stole 34 bases with the team in 1903 and was a member of the 1905 world champs. In the 1905 World Series, he caught a record four shutouts (three by Christy Mathewson) while batting .313. At first, he played all over the field for the Giants as Frank Bowerman was the starting catcher, but he eventually displaced him.
After the 1908 season, Bresnahan was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, whom he was also given the opportunity to manage. The Cardinals gave up a lot to acquire him, their best pitcher - Bugs Raymond - and their best position player - Red Murray. It was a terrible ball club, and the Cardinals finished in the second division each of his four years at the helm, but improved in his first three years. He saw only part-time duty on the field as his playing skills were in decline. He was let go after getting into a spat with owner Helen Robison Britton; he found out that using the sort of colorful language with which he used to bait umpires was not so well received when directed at a lady from high society. He was in a protracted legal battle to recover the salary due him for the remainder of his contract and, eventually, reached a settlement that provided with about half of what he was owed: $20,000. He was then sold to the Chicago Cubs, whom he also managed in 1915, his final season as both a big league player and skipper.
Bresnahan returned to his hometown and purchased the Toledo Iron Men (later known as the Mud Hens) in 1916. He appointed himself president of the franchise until he left in 1925, and also served as manager, coach, and player. He later was a Giants coach (under skipper John McGraw) from 1925 to 1928 and a member of the Detroit Tigers staff in 1930 and 1931, being forced to put on a uniform again when the Great Depression wiped out his life's savings, which were mainly in the form of stocks. He later dabbled in politics, winning the Democratic Party nomination for a position as county commissioner, but losing the general election by a tiny margin in 1944. He would likely have run for office again, but he died of a heart attack shortly thereafter in 1944. He was one of many figures whose profile was raised in the eyes of Hall of Fame voters when they died. He received a strong vote total from the BBWAA in 1945 Hall of Fame Election, when they failed to elect anyone because there were so many qualified candidates on the ballot that none could attract enough votes to gain election. In reaction, what would later become the Veterans Committee ushered in 10 players into the Hall immediately after that failed vote, including Bresnahan, to compensate for the fact the writers had been able to elect just one player since 1939.
Bresnahan is credited with inventing shin guards and was the first catcher to use them, while he was playing for the Giants. He denied being the inventor, saying he had only adapted the shin guards that were already in use by cricket players, but he popularized them. He improved the catcher's mask by introducing padding and also developed a leather batting helmet in 1908 after he was severely injured by a beaning on a pitch by Andy Coakley.
Bresnahan was nicknamed "The Duke of Tralee" because he told people he was born in Tralee, Ireland. In reality, it was his parents who were from there, and he was born and died in Toledo, Ohio. He is the only Toledoan to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He was also the first catcher elected to Cooperstown and he was also highlighted in Heroes Behind the Mask as one of the top catchers of all-time.
In 1901, Bresnahan lost a game as a pitcher. He was the last bonafide catcher to lose a game until Jamie Burke in 2008.
His great-nephew is David Bresnahan.
- NL Bases on Balls Leader (1908)
- Won a World Series with the New York Giants in 1905
- Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1945
|St. Louis Cardinals Manager
|Chicago Cubs Manager
Year-By-Year Managerial Record
|1909||St. Louis Cardinals||National League||54-98||7th||St. Louis Cardinals|
|1910||St. Louis Cardinals||National League||63-90||7th||St. Louis Cardinals|
|1911||St. Louis Cardinals||National League||75-74||5th||St. Louis Cardinals|
|1912||St. Louis Cardinals||National League||63-90||6th||St. Louis Cardinals|
|1915||Chicago Cubs||National League||73-80||4th||Chicago Cubs|
|1916||Toledo Iron Men||American Association||76-86||6th||none|
|1917||Toledo Iron Men||American Association||57-95||8th||none|
|1918||Toledo Iron Men||American Association||23-54||8th||none||League suspended operations on July 21|
|1919||Toledo Mud Hens||American Association||37-44||7th||none||replaced Rollie Zeider (22-47) on July 15|
|1920||Toledo Mud Hens||American Association||87-78||3rd||none|
|1922||Toledo Mud Hens||American Association||0-2||--||none||replaced Fred Luderus (3-19) on May 12/|
replaced by Al Wickland (15-3) on May 26
- David L. Fleitz: "Roger Bresnahan", in Ghosts in the Gallery at Cooperstown: Sixteen Little-Known Members of the Hall of Fame, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2004, pp. 32-46. ISBN 978-0-7864-1749-0