The story of Red Hoff

Lawrence PinbackOur current auction includes this very small (about an inch and a half across) pinback, featuring a photo of the 1912 Lawrence  “champions” team. But the image on the pinback is very, very small.  Small enough to make it difficult to see any facial features, much less recognize any players, but not small enough to keep us from wondering what we could learn about the team?

A quick search uncovered the information that the Lawrence Barristers of the New England League, a AA-class league that would reorganize in 1916 and become the Eastern League, won the championship in 1912.  But the image on the pinback is very, very small.  Small enough to make it difficult to see any facial features, much less recognize any players, but not small enough to keep us from wondering what we could learn about the team?  Who were the Lawrence Barristers?

1912 Lawrence Barristers (photo not included in auction)
1912 Lawrence Barristers (photo not included in auction)

We quickly discovered that the Barristers were managed by Louis Pieper to a 76-47 record and the league championship.  And then we found a larger-format version of the photo on the pinback, which enabled us to identify the actual players.  By doing so, we could determine that Swede Carlstrom, who played two games with the 1911 Red Sox, is in the back row, second from left.  Ray Keating, who went 31-51 with a 3.29 ERA in a 7-year career with the Yankees and Braves is in the back row, far left.  Alex Pearson, who had a 3-8 lifetime record with a 3.85 ERA in two seasons with St. Louis and Cleveland, is in the middle row, third from right.  And Red Hoff, who pitched 11 games for the Yankees and Browns between 1911 and 15, is in the front row, second from left.

In looking at Hoff’s career numbers, something interesting caught our eye: he lived to be 107.

Turns out that at the time of his death, Hoff was the longest-lived professional athlete, ever.  When he passed away in 1998, he was the last surviving player from the deadball era.  He lived longer than anyone else who ever played major league baseball.

He made his major league debut at Hilltop Park for the New York Highlanders toward the end of the 1911 season, and struck out Ty Cobb in his second big league game.  His career as a journeyman pitcher was brought to an end with the start of World War I.  In 1993 he dedicated a plaque in a garden at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, the site of Hilltop Park.  He died 87 years after his major league debut.

T207 Chester "Red" Hoff (not in this auction)
T207 Chester “Red” Hoff (not in this auction)

To our knowledge, there is just one card of Hoff – his T207 Brown Background (pictured here, but not featured in this auction).  Memorabilia related to Hoff is very scarce.  And yet he holds a record that every ballplayer would love – the record for the longest life.

This Lawrence Barristers pinback is exactly the kind of item we love here at LOTG – a fascinating piece that documents an obscure team, that with a little bit of research uncovers a fascinating story.

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