Friday, July 27, 2012

George "Heavy" Wheeler

A couple of months ago, my wife had opened up an account and had some fun researching her family tree. I initially resisted the temptation to follow suit because clearly I have more hobbies than time. At some point, I gave in and installed the app on my iPad. As expected... a passionate and time consuming addiction followed as I started building my tree. Through the process, I discovered many wonderful things about my family heritage including soldiers from the Civil and Revolutionary wars plus successful business and community leaders.

For me, the best discovery in the tree was a professional baseball player named George Harrison Wheeler. Nicknamed "Heavy", he is my great-grand Uncle (translation: he is my father's grandmother's brother).

Born in 1881 outside of Terra Haute, Indiana, he played minor league baseball for eight seasons from 1907 to 1914 for clubs located in South Bend, Terra Haute, Troy (NY), Jersey City, and Indianapolis. This 1912 Imperial Tobacco C-46 is the only baseball card of him I am aware of.

He was pretty good. According to his minor league Baseball-Reference page: In 1908, he played outfield for the Central League's Terre Haute Hottentots (love that name!) and hit .303 in 119 games. In 1913, he split 113 games between the Terre Haute Terre-iers (Central League) and Indianapolis Indians (American Association) he hit .320. For his minor league career, Wheeler hit .287 in 810 minor league games.

Today is a special day... it was 102 years ago today (July 27, 1910) my great-grand uncle George "Heavy" Wheeler made his Major League debut with the Cincinnati Reds. In his 4th season of professional baseball he was sold for $1000 to the Reds by the Terra Haute Stags. On this day, against the Pirates, he pinch hit for pitcher Jack Rowan in the seventh inning. The Reds lost 8-4.

Sadly, his major league career was short lived. George only appeared in a total of 3 Major League games, each of them as a pinch-hitter. He never recorded a hit and struck out twice. He was released by the Reds following their double-header on August 3rd against the Boston Doves.

He played another 4 minor league seasons before leaving the game in 1914. He died at the young age of 36 of Pulmonary Tuberculosis.


Karyl McKenzie Wheeler said...

George Wheeler was my husband's great grandfather. My husband's name is Robert Alan Wheeler Jr. His dad's name was the Sr. and his dad was William Hosea Wheeler.

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