So who was this guy and how did he earn the nickname that has me more curious than a sloth of bears circling a trash bin?
As I was preparing this mornings Blog Kiosk I came across a Dodger birthday of a former Brooklyn ballplayer that I had never heard of... But I should of, 'cause with the kind of nickname he bears this lad should be a part of Dodger lore.
His name is Fred Mitchell Walker, and he is more interestingly known as either "Mysterious Mitchell" or "Mysterious Walker."
As the story goes, Fred showed up one day pitching for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League towards the tail end of the 1910 season. At the time he gave his name as only Fred Mitchell -- striking out his real last name of Walker. But that's not the most mysterious thing about him. From what I understand, he refused all interview request, did not pose for photographs, and according to one report (link here) pitched with a mask on.
Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to find any more period sources for the mask, but I did discover that he caused quite a stir while pitching for the Seals. In 1910 he got into eleven games, won six of them, lost four and recorded a very respectable 2.68 ERA. He even started and won both ends of a double-header against the Los Angeles Angels. Per an LA Times story at the time:
"Hash Mitchell, the mystery that came from nowhere to pitch four straight victories for the Seals ... Every one watched Mitchell in the hope that they might guess who he is by looking at him, and while they were gazing they saw some real spit ball pitching that was remarkable for the amount of juice he used to deceive the local batsmen."He was a mystery and I suppose it became obvious to the fans and the press that he was hiding something. Soon, they would all find out the truth.
Later that year reporters in Chicago identified the Seals pitcher as Fred Mitchell Walker. He had been a former star athlete at the University of Chicago, and got into some trouble earlier in the year while in New York. According to reports, Walker had signed with the New York Giants but fled due to an accusation that he assaulted a chambermaid at a hotel. Per Max at Cards that Never Were:
Before Walker ever got a chance to pitch for the Giants, there was a drinking bout and a violent altercation at the hotel room where Walker and (Giants roommate Bugs) Raymond were staying. A young chambermaid at the hotel claimed Walker had assaulted her. When she screamed for help, the elevator man came running, and was severely beaten up by Walker, who fled the scene.In other words, he was headed to the Majors, was accused of assault, skipped town, and popped up across the country in San Francisco to pitch under a false name.
Wow! That's crazy. BTW, charges were eventually dropped against him.
Walker would eventually pitched for the Brooklyn Superbas in 1913 and was underwhelming. Per a Pittsburgh Press story on August 13, 1913:
Fred Walker, otherwise known as 'Mysterious Mitchell,' who is pitching for Brooklyn, appears to be a perfectly good topnotcher for about four innings. After that—well, he hasn't won any laurels as a stayer."Fred Mitchell "Mysterious" Walker would go on to pitch for five different Major League clubs (including the Brooklyn Tip-Tops) and have a long coaching career with at least ten different universities, but it's the mystery about his nickname that fascinates. Who was he really? Was he just a lad who got caught up in a bad situation, and made one bad mistake after another before getting caught? Or was something else at work here? His job history appears erratic (bouncing around like he did isn't normal) and the circumstances of his nickname point to something much darker. Heck, I'm starting to fell like he might be the perfect base character for a Baseball-horror-thriller. If only I had the chops to write such a thing.
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