January 25 – Happy Birthday Les Nunamaker

We had to go way back to the beginning of the second decade of the last century to find a Beantown Baseball Birthday Celebrant for today’s date. His name is Les Nunamaker and he was Boston’s back up catcher from his rookie season of 1911 until he was purchased from the Red Sox by the New York Yankees in May of the 1914 season. During his time with Boston, he caught behind perhaps the best defensive catcher of his era, a rough and tumble little guy named Bill Carrigan. Nunamaker caught a total of 124 games during his three plus seasons in Boston. He also was no slouch behind the plate defensively and he took over as the Yankees’ primary receiver the instant he arrived in the Big Apple.

He set a record that first season with New York that can never be broken, when he threw out three runners attempting to steal second base all in the same inning. Not a great hitter, Nunamaker was a big burly guy who was fearless behind the plate. He remained with the Yankees for four years until Miller Huggins took over for Bill Donovan as Yankee skipper after the 1917 season. Huggins included Nunamaker in a package of five players that he traded to the Browns for future Hall of Fame hurler Eddie Plank and Del Pratt, in January of 1918.

After one season in St Louis, Nunamaker was traded to the Indians where he became best buddy with and a regular fishing and hunting partner of the great Tris Speaker. He was also involved in a whacky moment off the field during the 1920 season. One morning he awoke in his hotel bedroom to find a wad of bills wrapped up under his pillow. Since this was just one season after the Black Sox scandal, Nunamaker immediately turned over the cash to then baseball commissioner, Ban Johnson. When the wad was unrolled it was found to consist of sixteen Confederate one dollar bills. Nunamaker played until 1922 and then became a coach and manager in the minor leagues. He passed away in his native Nebraska in 1938 at the very young age of 49-years-old.

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