Jacob Hartmeyer Misses His Chance at the Majors

On June 18, 1888 the Pittsburgh Alleghenys headed to Zanesville, Ohio to play two exhibition games against the Zanesville Kickapoos of the Tri-State League. The Alleghenys were struggling at the time with a 14-26 record, losers of six straight. They were also on their way west to play the Chicago White Stockings, a strong team that finished in second place that season, so things likely weren’t going to get better right away. The two games in Zanesville didn’t exactly help things along either.

In game one of the exhibition series, the Kickapoos defeated Pittsburgh by an 8-2 score. Some of the embarrassment of losing to a minor league team was wiped away by the fact that Zanesville had Walter “Mother” Watson in the pitcher’s box. He pitched in the majors in 1887, so he wasn’t exactly an easy target for a Major League team. The losing pitcher was Hall of Famer James “Pud” Galvin, who is pictured in the small photo for this article on the main page (I couldn’t find a photo of our main subject here).

I came across this series while researching Bill Farmer, who played just two games for the 1888 Alleghenys, despite spending three months with the team. He ended up seeing more playing time during this exhibition series than during regular season games. His debut was shortened to seven innings due to darkness and his second game was as an injury replacement in the sixth inning, so he put in a total of 11 innings. He played all 18 innings during the exhibition games.

While reading about Farmer, I found an interesting note about the second game. The Alleghenys were going to use a local pitcher named Jacob Hartmeyer to pitch for them in the second game. He played for Zanesville in 1888, though his name wasn’t mentioned much prior to this game, as the team used Watson and Ad Gumbert as their pitchers. Gumbert would end up pitching for the Pirates in 1893-94. Hartmeyer pitched a game in late April that he lost 11-10, so that may have had something to do with the other two seeing the pitching time. He was a sought after pitcher at the end of the 1887 season according to his manager, who said that he had several inquiries, so it’s no surprise that the Alleghenys wanted to take a look at him, especially since they were struggling at the time.

This would have been a huge moment for Hartmeyer, who could have won a spot with the team with a decent showing against his teammates. His shot at the majors was not meant to be though. While warming up for the game, he injured his arm and couldn’t pitch. Just to add a little insult to his unfortunate turn of events, he was then asked to umpire the game. Ed Morris took the ball for the Alleghenys and shut down the Kickapoos, salvaging a victory.

For Jacob Hartmeyer, that turned out to be his only shot at the majors. He was back in action by early August, so the injury wasn’t too severe. He pitched for Zanesville into the 1889 season and even had a 13-strikeout game. He appears to have last played pro ball in 1890 according to his Baseball-Reference page. A quick search of his name showed that he was a well-respected citizen of Zanesville, who was also a championship shooter. He was apparently 30-31 years old during the Pittsburgh series, depending on his birthday. His obituary from October of 1915 lists him as being 59 years old.

Hartmeyer didn’t just have bad luck on the field, it also followed him in life. Among the other headlines during his time was an accident in 1904, where he and someone else were thrown from a buggy after their pony was scared by something. Hartmeyer was kicked by the animal, suffering severe bruising from both the kick and fall. He was also shot in the face and chest while hunting in 1909, and his obituary said that “he was an invalid during the last two and a half years of his life”.

It seems that bad injuries were a big part of his life, yet he also had a pretty good life all things considered according to what I was able find. There’s no certainty that a good showing would have gained him a spot with the Alleghenys, but getting hurt during an opportunity to impress a struggling team had to be a bit disheartening and leave him questioning whether or not he would have earned a big league chance.