The Fantastic Story of Elmer Flick

Bleacher Report Senior Writer INovember 2, 2008

Elmer Flick is a legendary baseball slugger, despite a 5'9", 168-pound build. He is built like Akinori Iwamura, yet he was a power hitter in a very deep Cleveland Indians lineup during the early 1900s.

Elmer Flick was born in rural Bedford, OH on Jan. 11, 1876. His father, Zach Taylor, was a Civil War vet and a worked as a farmer and mechanic who had a chair-making shop. Growing up, Elmer played almost every sport one could play. He boxed, wrestled, played football (was a running back and safety), but baseball was his main thing. He definitely proved it over time.

His short build earned him a spot as a catcher for Bradford High School. However, growing up, his brother was considered a better player. In 1891, the Bedford town team only had eight players and were hours away from playing a game. Elmer eagerly volunteered. However, he didn't have baseball clothes on and didn't even have shoes.

Flick played for them until he moved across Ohio to the Youngstown Puddlers in 1896. Flick made a transformation that would determine his career at Youngstown. He played right field for them, a position he'd play for 14 seasons until retiring from baseball all together.

The transformation was obviously bothering Flick. He had an .826 fielding percentage in just 31 games. He had a good arm, but he couldn't catch a truck. He did hit .438 with six home runs. Flick recalled, "My manager told me 'as an outfielder you're not so hot, but you sure can sting that ball.'" I second that thought.

Flick was moved up to the Interstate League in 1897. Flick improved to awful as an outfielder, with a .921 fielding percentage. However, he hit .386 with 10 home runs, 183 hits, and 20 triples. Phillies manager George Stallings took interest in him. The bold, sassy manager signed him for 1898.

Elmer got his shot early. He started the season as the team's backup right fielder (which was probably a good thing), but Sam Thompson got hurt, so he got his shot. He lived up to his potential, hitting .302 as a rookie! In 1899, he hit .342, with 98 runs driven in.

In 1900, he had his best year yet, with 11 homers, 110 RBI and an amazing .367 batting mark. 1900 was a year of conflict and a year of worry for the Phils. He was still a pretty abysmal right fielder. He was improving, but still bad.

Manager George Stallings ordered second basemen Nap Lajoie to go after shallow popups to right that should belong to Flick. Flick got so angry when that happened he fought Lajoie. Lajoie left with a broken thumb.

In 1901, Flick didn't disappoint. He had eight home runs, 88 RBI, and had a model average of .333. It would be his last full season for the Phillies. After jumping for Philadelphia to play for a second-year manager by the name of Connie Mack, he played 13 games and was traded to the Cleveland Bronchos.

In 1903, he did disappoint. He hit just .296 with only two home runs and a career low 51 runs batted in. The next five seasons, he played for the same team, but different name: the Cleveland Naps, named after second basemen Nap Lajoie. He wasn't as good as he was his first three seasons, but still good. He had RBI totals of 56, 64, 52, and 58. All lower than his totals in his first three seasons but still respectable. His batting averages were steady: .306, .308, .311, and .302.

His constant, all out play took a toll on his body. Like most back then, he was constantly injured. In 1908, 1909, and 1910, he hit a combined .254. After retiring from Major League Baseball in 1910, he played in the American Assocation in 1911 and 1912 before returning to Bedford. For 58 years, he raised horses, built houses and other trades.

He died on Jan. 9, 1971 of heart failure at the age of 71. In his career, he had 48 home runs, 756 RBI, and a .313 batting average. Six years after death, he was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame.