If a pitcher were to come up to the majors as a rookie and throw three shutouts in six starts near the end of the season, that player would probably get a chance the next season. Even if the pitcher was a 30-year old rookie, they would get another look. Tacks Neuer was all of those things, but he did not get another chance.
Neuer sort of came out of nowhere to make it in baseball. He made his professional debut at age-28 for the Wilkes-Barre Barons in 1905. Reportedly, Neuer had signed for the Detroit Tigers the year before, but nothing ever came of it and he ended up in Wilkes-Barre. In his first game, he threw a one-hit shutout.
The following season, Wilkes-Barre attempted to re-sign Neuer, but the pitcher wouldn’t agree. Eventually, he signed a contract, but ended up getting released before playing a game. Several teams attempted to get Neuer for the 1906 season, but he wouldn’t play a single game that year.
Despite not playing the whole previous season, the Phillies signed Neuer in 1907. However in exhibitions, Neuer was wild and erratic. That led the Phillies to sending him out to the minors and eventually releasing him.
Neuer ended up playing for the Savannah Indians of the South Atlantic League that year. He got back on track in Savannah, leading to the then-New York Highlanders acquiring him on August 23, 1907.
Just five days after joining the Highlanders, Neuer was given a start against Boston. In his major league debut, he threw a three-hit shutout. He was later awarded the win in a 10-5 victory over Boston before he shutout the Washington Senators in his third start.
The wildness that had plagued him throughout his career came back after that, and he was the losing pitcher in a 10-2 defeat. After that came a relief appearance and another loss where he struggled with control.
Neuer made his final start of the season on October 3rd against the defending world series champion White Sox. He found some success once again and shut them out, his third of the season. He finished the year with a 2.17 ERA in 54 innings. Like Wilkes-Barre had, the Highlanders found it difficult to re-sign Neuer, but they eventually did.
Instead of continuing what was successful for him in 1907, Neuer spent all of spring training experimenting with the knuckleball and trying out other pitches. Manager Clark Griffith reportedly condoned this experimentation, thinking it could make Neuer even better. It didn’t.
Neuer was so wild in exhibition games that the Highlanders couldn’t keep him on the roster and sent him to play for the Newark Indians. He became even wilder there, supposedly walking nine and hitting two batters in his first game there. He only had one good game in Newark. It just so happened that he broke the Eastern League record for strikeouts in that game. However, he also broke the record for walks in a game in another appearance.
Newark tried sending him back to the Highlanders, but they didn’t want him either. He was eventually released. The Cubs later gave him a shot, but he didn’t make the team in 1909 and once again struggled with control in the minors. He wouldn’t play in the major leagues again.
Tacks Neuer had a short but strange major league career. It was marred with wildness and supposed strange behavior off the field, which resulted in the nicknames “Tacks” and “Bugs.” Because of the way the game is played today, it seems unlikely that any pitcher will ever again throw three shutouts in seven games and then never pitch again.