Back in the late 1930s, I used to observe a tall man, laboriously walking along Mechanic Street. Frank Bird’s affliction was that he was paralyzed on one side. Here was the story that I heard when I was a kid.
The old timers in town said that Mr. Bird had been a big league baseball player in his younger days. One extremely hot day he hit a home run. Immediately after scoring at home plate, he quenched his thirst with a drink of ice cold water. He went into shock and he remained partially paralyzed for the rest of his life.
So Spencer, Mass., had a major league ball player. That was something for a 10 or 11-year-old impressionable kid to be proud of.
I, more or less, forgot about Frank Bird for another 30 years. In the 1970's my sons, Todd and Keith played little league baseball, and one of teams was named “The Frank Birds” in honor of Spencer’s big time baseball player.
The baseball team was managed for many years by a very dedicated bachelor, with no children of his own by the name of Harold Rollins, who passed away about ten years ago from the effects of cancer.
After my sons finished their experience with Spencer Little League, I again did not think of the name Frank Bird again for another 30 or so years. About a month ago, I was enjoying a cup of coffee in the Spencer McDonald’s, and someone asked if I knew anything about Spencer’s baseball player of yore, the late Frank Bird.
I didn't, but resorted to “Google” and it told me quite a bit.
He was in the big leagues, not for long, but he did make it to the big time. He played for the defunct St. Louis Browns for two months in the year 1892. Frank Bird was born here in Spencer in 1859. His nickname was “Dodo Bird”.
He stood 5-feet-10 inches tall, and weighed 195 pounds. He batted right handed and caught right handed. He played for the St. Louis Browns for just two months from April to June, 1892. In the couple of months he played for the Browns he was at bat 50 times.
He scored nine runs. He produced 10 hits, which consisted of one triple, three doubles, five singles and one home run. I can’t help but wonder if the single home run that he hit for his team was the one that sent him into shock after his drink of ice cold water, and left him partially paralyzed for the rest of life.
The late Frank Bird passed away on May 20, 1948 at the age of 89. He is buried in Mary Queen of Rosary Cemetery.
Marty Civin is a freelance journalist from Spencer, MA. His recent boo, Memories, which chronicles his home town experiences from 1931 to the present is available by sending $19.95 to Memories, 26 High Street, Spencer, MA 01562. The book is also available for sale at Brookfield Orchards, North Brookfield, MA.