Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hank Gehring Died 100 Years Ago Today

Hank Gehring, pitcher

Minneapolis: 1906
St. Paul: 1908-11

Today marks the 100th Anniversary of the early death of Henry “Hank” Gehring, the son of Swiss immigrants who grew up in the Dayton’s Bluff area of St. Paul, Minnesota. He died April 18, 1912 at a hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. He was only 31 years of age.

Gehring was a St. Paul community icon as a baseball professional in the late 1890s and early 1900s as he climbed the ladder of success until reaching the pinnacle as a member of the American League’s Washington Senators in 1907, the year Walter “Big Train” Johnson got his start in the big leagues with the same team. The two would most certainly have sat together on the same bench or even warmed each other up along the sidelines.

Born January 24, 1881 at St. Paul, Gehring first year in organized baseball came in 1901 at the age of 20 when he appeared with the St. Paul Saints of the Western League in four games. He finished his short stint with a record of two wins and two losses. The following season he found himself a member of the Winnipeg Maroons of the Northern League, and his career was off and running. Compiling a record of 10-8 in 18 games, Gehring helped push the Maroons to the league championship in 1902 during a shortened season.

Gehring’s first season in the American Association came after a walapaloosa year with the Wichita Jobbers of the Western Association when he posted 32 wins against only five losses (.865) in 37 games and a total of 323 innings of work. He was picked up by the Minneapolis Millers for the 1906 season when he appeared in 31 games and finished the season with a record of 12-13.

Hank’s best season in the American Association came as a member of his hometown St. Paul Saints in 1910 when he won 18 games, lost 20 in a combined 54 games. His 343 innings of work that year was among the league leaders--in fact, he ranked second behind Milwaukee stalwart Stoney McGlynn who compiled 392 innings as a pitcher for the Brewers.

The 1911 season would be Gehring’s last year pitching for his hometown Saints. He attended spring camp with the Kansas City Blues in 1912, but he never traveled with the team for exhibition games on account of his health. Finally, in mid-April of 1912, he was became so ill at his hotel room that he had to be taken to the hospital in Kansas City. He died of Bright’s disease during the early morning hours of April 12, 1912.

A pedestal containing a planter marked “Gehring” is situated on his grave plot at Forest Hill Cemetery in St. Paul where a small gathering of people will meet today to commemorate his death and reflect upon his career in baseball.

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