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Yankees History: The fake-named outfielder

Depending on where you look, some box scores from the 1907 season may appear to show two different people playing the same spot.

New York Highlanders Play at Hilltop Park 1907 Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images

If you go to Baseball Reference and look through some box score from some old 1907 New York Highlanders’ games, you will come across the name Rudy Baerwald.

Baerwald was an outfielder who played in 17 late season games for the then-Highlanders in 1907 and then never appeared in the major leagues again. He didn’t do anything especially notable and would be sold to a minor league team the next season and would play a further 10 years in the minors.

However, there is something strange about Baerwald. If you go to, say, the New York Times articles about the game he appeared in, you won’t find him listed in those box scores. Instead, you will find someone listed as “Jack Bell” listed as playing the positions Baerwald played and hitting in the same spot in the order that he did. That’s not a mistake and is actually just part of one of the stranger cases in Yankees history.

Rudy Baerwald was born in 1881 in Wisconsin and began playing in a local league in 1901. By 1905, he caught on with the Joplin Miners of the Western Association. During that year, the team’s manager was hired away, and the 24-year Baerwald was given the reigns.

After that season, there were rumors that Baerwald was set to be sold to a Pacific Coast League team, but that never came to fruition. The 1906 season would be a tough year for him in general, as he briefly left the team and the managerial post to spend time with his brother, who had been hospitalized with malaria. All of that probably played a part in what happened next.

Going into the 1907 season, Baerwald was not thrilled with the contract that had been offered to him by the Joplin Miners. The up-and-comer decided not to accept the deal and seemingly left baseball.

Meanwhile, out in Butte, Montana, the Butte Miners of the Northwest League discovered and signed a new player by the name of Jack Bell. You might be able to figure out where this is going. Bell was Rudy Baerwald. After the dispute with Joplin, he decided to jump and attempted to play under a different name. However, the gambit was figured out and Butte eventually had to officially purchase Bell/Baerwald from Joplin.

Something else happened after the move to Butte, which was that “Bell” put in an excellent season. His .320 batting average got him on the radar and that August, the Highlanders purchased him.

When negotiating his new contract, “Bell” attempted to return to Rudy Baerwald after the wording on it called him Jack Bell. However, Highlanders manager Clark Griffith kept with it, saying Bell “was a good baseball name” and would be easier for reporters. So, if you look at the accounts from that time, you will see Jack Bell listed as playing for New York and Rudy Baerwald never to be found.

He played 17 games for the 1907 Highlanders, and went to camp the next season before being assigned to Newark of the Eastern League for 1908. Later that season, the Highlanders sold his rights to the Memphis Turtles of the Southern Association, where Baerwald would play most of the rest of his career, never appearing in the major leagues again.

He would return to his real name for the rest of his career, and places like Baseball Reference have corrected the record to show his proper names in the box scores of the games he played in.

Normally in a post like this, I would say here “this is something that could only happen in 1907.” However, pitcher Roberto Hernández — a 2010 All-Star who most notably played with Cleveland — did play a large part of his career under the name Fausto Carmona after doing identity fraud to obtain a visa.

While that did happen semi-recently, I feel confidently in saying, it’s unlikely that we’ll see anything like this soon.


New York Times