Friday, April 01, 2016

Steve Toole - A Dodger Before they Joined the National League

I though I'd end the week with another short biography on a former Dodger who is certainly unknown to you.  Featured above is an 1887 Old Judge tobacco card of an former Grays/Dodgers hurler named Stephen "Steve" John Toole.  It was recently for sale at Bagger's Auctions, and closed at $220.00. 

Born in New Orleans but reared in Pittsburgh, Steve Toole did as most lads were wont to do.  He played games with the neighborhood kids and worked a job folding newspapers in order to contribute to the family coffers.  Always the civic minded chap, he longed to cast his first vote and get involved in the community.  He once said (via an 1904 article in The Pittsburgh Press),
"I thought I could do a lot for my friends if I ever had the chance, and because I hoped that I could do something to better the conditions of my neighbors and the part of town in which I lived."
Soon enough he would fulfill that desire, but before getting into the wild world of politics he played some professional Base Ball.  At the age of 27, Steve Toole would come to Brooklyn.
"Yes. I played with the Brooklyn's when they were in the American Association, before they were in the National league. I was a left-handed pitcher. It used to be the greatest pleasure I had in life to come here and beat the Pittsburgh boys in their own town."
As a ballplayer, Steve Toole didn't exactly light them up. He was more of an back-of-the-rotation pitcher, and when the team joined the more established National League he became the odd-man out when they upgraded the rotation.  Nevertheless, he continued to pitched professionally for a few more years, and finally hanged them up in 1890 at the age of 31.  For Brooklyn, Steve pitched two seasons (1886-1887), went 20-16 with 298 innings pitched and completed 33 of 36 games started.

BTW, Toole was once involved in an play that may have directly lead to the infield fly rule. As a member of the American Association Brooklyn Gladiators in 1890 he was standing on second base when an infielder decided to let a popup drop.  With the bases loaded and the runners understandably confused, three outs were easily recorded for a triple play.  Per the triple play index at SABR:
After hearing the protests of the Brooklyn club that only the batter should have been declared out (per league instructions to the umpires), Umpire Barnum declared the side out saying that he never heard of any instructions.
Now back at home in Pittsburgh after a short Base Ball career, Steve Toole got into public service and made quite a name for himself.  He was a county commissioner, police magistrate and became an Alderman in the First Ward of Pittsburgh. 
Stephen John Toole holds the record of never having accepted a bribe. Steadfastly and persistently he has refused to sell out to grafters, franchise grabbers and keepers of dives or saloons.  The man with no vices and no fads. Stephen John Toole neither smokes, chews, drinks, gambles nor swears. When he told me this, verifying what others had said of him. I thought, "What a lonesome, dull life the man must lead!" Because about all the men I know do some of these things, and many of them do them all and then some. The "Czar of the First ward" told me the reason that he did none of these things, and his reason was that he had found out that he could do very well without them.
Steve John Toole passed away at the age of 59 from complications from a stroke in March of 1919. 

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