The Success and Tragedy of the Deadball Era's Greatest First Baseman
Jake Daubert could have followed the path of two of his brothers and died as a young coal miner. Instead he died as an active baseball player. Baseball provided an escape from the dangerous coal mines of Pennsylvania, but it couldn’t save him from an undiagnosed genetic condition that cut short his life as one of the best players of the Deadball Era. Jake died in 1924 after a 15-year career during which he had a lifetime .303 batting average, set a National League record for career sacrifices that still stands, won a most valuable player award, was a two-time batting champion, and won two NL titles and the 1919 World Series championship with the Cincinnati Reds over the infamous Chicago Black Sox.
After his wife convinced him to follow his baseball dream, Jake became baseball’s premier first baseman in an era that produced some of the all-time greats, including Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, and Zack Wheat, all Hall-of-Famers. Despite Jake’s stellar career, he didn’t join them in the Hall of Fame, perhaps because of his conflicts with team owners and his active union role as a defender of players’ rights.
Time has relegated Jake to baseball obscurity, but 100 years ago, he was a star known as much for his clean living, intelligence, and integrity as he was for his batting and defensive skills.
A Stone's Throw from a Coal Mine to the Hall of Fame
Stan Coveleski was born in the Coal Region town of Shamokin, Pa., in 1889, the eighth child of Polish immigrants, and went to work as a breaker boy when he was 12. But he escaped the 12-hour work days in the mines by throwing stones at a can tied to a tree—his own crash course in how to pitch a baseball. Years later, he was one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball. In a season marked by personal and team tragedy—the death of his wife and the death of teammate Ray Chapman, who is the only MLB player to die as a result of being hit by a pitched ball—Covey pitched three complete-game victories in the Cleveland Indians’ 1920 World Series championship. Covey, one of 17 pitchers allowed to throw a spitball after it was outlawed before the 1921 season, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.
Enjoy this compelling story about the most famous son from my hometown of Shamokin.
Available at Sunbury Press and Amazon
A Path Out of Poverty
Harry Joseph Deitz was born into a life that had little hope and offered few opportunities. He was the youngest of six children in a family that was struggling to survive on a coal miner’s income in the late 1920s. Then the Great Depression arrived, and they sank deeper into poverty. When it seemed things couldn’t get worse, his father was seriously injured in a mine accident, leaving his mother to support the family by scrubbing floors and doing laundry and other domestic work.
One by one, Harry’s brothers and sister quit school to help support the family. He did also, twice, but both times he went back and became the only member of his family to graduate from high school.
On April 6, 1946, he met a young beauty, and it was love at first sight. But because of his embarrassment over his shabby clothes, lack of spending money, and limited prospects in life, he quit school for the second time and joined the Army, where he learned a photography skill that set him on a path to a successful newspaper career.
Life never was easy for him, but he refused to fail. His unforgettable childhood struggles instilled in him a determination to climb out of poverty, and he worked passionately and tirelessly to make sure his own family never experienced the life he knew as a child.
Available at Sunbury Press and Amazon
A Story of Love and Devotion
For six years, I was the primary caregiver for my wife as she battled diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cirrhosis, dementia, and breast cancer. It was a journey of mixed emotions—not wanting to lose her, yet many times not knowing how I could continue to care for her. It was the most difficult thing I experienced in my life. It also was the greatest thing I ever did.
This is my story of love and devotion for her, much of which was recorded in a journal I kept for four years. It’s a book that will provide perspective and encouragement for anyone who is a caregiver or advocate for a loved one. It is not intended as a medical guide or advice. It is simply an account of my personal experience. The challenges of every caregiver are unique, but this book may help others to understand situations that are similar to what I faced. Mainly, it will help them to know they are not alone.
Available at Amazon and Masthof Press
Harry J. Deitz Jr. worked in the newspaper business for 45 years as a photographer, sportswriter, sports editor, design editor, and editor before he retired in 2018 after 10 years as editor-in-chief of the Reading Eagle, Reading, Pa.
In his weekly “Editor’s Notebook” column, he wrote extensively about his family – parents, grandparents, three children and especially six grandchildren – and shared his personal story of his six years as the primary caregiver for his late wife during her battle with Parkinson’s disease and cancer.
In his spare time, he hiked the entire Pennsylvania section of the Appalachian Trail and read every book by novelist Ken Follett.
Harry is a native of Shamokin, Pa., where he followed his father into newspaper work.