Baseball's Con Man: The Story Of Hal Chase

Bleacher Report Senior Writer IOctober 28, 2008

Hal Chase is the con man of baseball. He was involved in innumerable incidents throughout his playing career from 1905 to 1919.

Harold Homer Chase was born on February 13, 1883 in Los Gatos, California. Chase was actually a guy with a nice personality, but there was a time along the way in which he learned crooked ways.

Chase was a great first basemen for Santa Clara University in 1903 and played for Los Angeles of the PCL in 1904. Later that year, he signed with the New York Highlanders for a whopping total of $2,700.

He looked very uncommon for a player. He was a redhead with blue eyes. Sporting Life called him "the biggest drawing card in sports". He also quickly became a quick pain in the neck.

In 1908, Hal refused to sign until getting $4,000. He was so demanding, he threatened to jump to the Outlaw League if he didn't get what he wanted. He was such a brat, he earned the nickname "Prince Hal".

In 1910, manager George Stallings accused him of throwing games, which he most likely was. When Stallings brought the subject up, Hal got so defensive, he cussed out Stallings. However, he was later named Giants manager. His managing "skills" led the Giants to sixth place finish.

Chase was a very good hitter, with a .291 career average. Chase was very inconsistent at the plate. He'd hit .257 one year and .323 the next. Why is this? Betting. You bet it, he bet it, we all bet it.

Chase could've been one of the greatest hitters ever had he not bet. His best season RBI-wise was a season in which he had 89 runs knocked in. For the bat he had, that's a very suspicious number.

He was very good at throwing games, unfortunately for the Giants. When playing first, he would always dive a second too late or dive for one just out of reach, making it look realistic.

"I wasn't satisfied with what the club owners paid me. Like others, I had to have a bet on the side and we used to bet with the other team and the gamblers who sat in the boxes. It was easy to get a bet. Sometimes collections were hard to make. Players would pass out IOUs and often be in debt for their entire salaries. That wasn't a healthy condition. Once the evil started there was no stopping it, and club owners were not strong enough to cope with the evil." That's his explanation to betting.

Chase said this about why he wasn't inducted: "You note that I am not in the Hall of Fame. Some of the old-timers said I was one of the greatest fielding first baseman of all time. When I die, movie magnates will make no picture like Pride of the Yankees, which honored that great player, Lou Gehrig. I guess that's the answer, isn't it? Gehrig had a good name; one of the best a man could have. I am an outcast, and I haven't a good name. I'm the loser, just like all gamblers are. I lived to make great plays. What did I gain? Nothing. Everything was lost because I raised hell after hours. I was a wise guy, a know-it-all, I guess."

After Frank Chance traded him to the White Sox, the first basemen found himself in the Federal League in July. Of course, Chase got their just in time for the league to fold. His career was pretty much over then.

But just because his career was over, didn't mean his con man ways were over. In 1920, while managing in the minors, he bribed a pitcher to lose to the Los Angeles Angels. He also bribed an umpire.

Chase spent the rest of his life drifting between Arizona and his native California, working numerous low-paying jobs. Later in life, he expressed considerable remorse for betting on baseball. He died in a Colusa hospital at the age of 64.

Chase along with the .291 batting average had 57 home runs and 941 RBI. It is a crying shame he's not in the Hall of Fame, and it all lies on his shoulders.