The Cleveland Indians are in the World Series for the first time since 1997 and are looking for their first pennant victory since 1948.
As we suit up in our Tribe gear, don’t overlook Wellington’s deep connections to the game of baseball. The village was home to two of the Major Leagues’ earliest players — Jack Wadsworth and Topsy Hartsel.
“Topsy, he was a huge player. Jack Wadsworth, not so much,” said Wellington historian and Spirit of ‘76 Museum vice president Scott Markel, who owns a sizable collection of artifacts related to both men.
Wadsworth was born in 1867 in Wellington and played for the Dukes (it’s unclear what they were called at the time, though). At 22 years old, he made his big league debut in 1890 for the Cleveland Spiders but struggled to help the team win.
During his career, Wadsworth pitched 367 2/3 innings with a 6.85 ERA, winning six games and losing 38. Many still consider him the worst pitcher to ever play. When he left for the Baltimore Orioles in 1891, the Spiders signed future hall-of-fame pitcher Cy Young as Wadsworth’s replacement.
After two more years with the Louisville Colonels, Wadsworth retired from baseball. He ran a Wellington restaurant and was known for his skill as a marksman and hunter, training hundreds of bird dogs.
There were plenty of Wadsworths in our area, giving their name to Peck-Wadsworth Road. Jack’s brother married into the Howk family and later donated the land for Howk Park in front of Wellington town hall, according to publisher Tom Hutson, who as a huge fan of the game has extensively researched Wadsworth and Hartsel.
Wadsworth died in 1941 in Elyria and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington.
Tully Fred Hartsel, nicknamed Topsy after a character from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” was widely considered the “most effective leadoff batter of the Deadball Era,” according to the Society for American Baseball Research.
He was born in 1874 in Polk, Ashland County, and moved to Wellington at age 12, where he attended school. A middle infielder, Hartsel was so good at the game that he played varsity ball here while in eighth grade.
In 1895 he played semi-professional baseball in New London and moved around the following year, playing for several northwestern Ohio teams. His professional career started in 1897 in Iowa and he played the same year for an independent club in Lima, Ohio.
During his career, Hartsel appeared on the rosters of many teams leading up to the formation of the American League. Most notably, he won four pennants with the Philadelphia Athletics.
Hartsel played for the Cubs before being traded to the Athletics, where in the World Series he played against — and helped defeat — his former Chicago teammates in 1910.
Now the Cubs are chasing the pennant for the first time since 1945 (the year they lost in four games), further connecting Hartsel and his Wellington roots to modern events.
Hartsel remained a fan for life, famously listening to the World Series from his deathbed in 1944.
Markel said the attention the Greater Cleveland area continues to enjoy in its big year of sports success is long overdue.
“It’s a big time in history,” he said. “I guess it’s not a first in my lifetime for the Indians to be playing this well, but it seems like it. Those teams in the 90s seem like such a long time ago now. I was able to take my kids to one of the playoff games for those 90s teams.”
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @EditorHawk on Twitter. Jonathan Delozier also contributed to this report.
Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise This team portrait of the Wellington Blue Stars, a minor league team, from approximately 1890 is part of the collection at Wellington’s Spirit of ‘76 Museum. Wadsworth is standing on the far left in the middle row, and Hartsel is sitting on the far right in the front row.