By Bob Brail
Defiance must have been buzzing with excitement in the latter weeks of August, 1920, when word was received that George Fuhr’s son, Oscar, had become a member of the Chicago Cubs. Although no one living today remembers that time and few others today even know his name, Oscar Fuhr owns the distinction of being the only major league baseball player from the Boone-Duden Historical Society area. His career, although unremarkable in some ways, is definitely worth remembering.
Born on August 22, 1893, Fuhr lived with his family on their farm located east of Defiance near the Missouri River. For several years, Fuhr played baseball for the Defiance town team. Area towns such as Defiance, Hamburg, Augusta, Marthasville, Dutzow, Gilmor, St. Peters, O’Fallon, and Dardenne sponsored teams which played every Sunday during the season.
Oscar Fuhr’s career started at Marshalltown, Iowa, in the Central Association in 1917, when he was twenty-three. Before finally reaching the major leagues four years later, Fuhr also played with Hannibal (Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League) and Omaha (Western League).
On August 18, 1920, Fuhr’s contract was purchased by the Chicago Cubs from Omaha; he was to join the Cubs at end of the minor league season. However, Fuhr did not make his major league debut until the next season. On April 19, 1921, Fuhr pitched the final four innings of a 14-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Fuhr’s debut was not overly impressive; he gave up nine runs in the ninth inning. This game was his only appearance as a Chicago Cub.
Fuhr found himself back in the minor leagues at Kansas City (American Association). His best years in professional baseball were spent at Mobile (Southern Association) in 1922-23. In those two seasons, Fuhr pitched 607 innings, won forty-five games, and had an ERA well under 3.00. In a letter he wrote in 1967, Fuhr described the highlight of his career as winning “three games in the 1922 Dixie Series for Mobile against Ft. Worth.” Fuhr played winter ball in Cuba during the 1923-24 season for the Almendares Blues.
Around this time his contract was purchased by the Boston Red Sox, and Oscar Fuhr was a major leaguer once again. Fuhr went 3-6 for the Red Sox in 1924. He beat the Senators and the Tigers in May, and pitched a shutout against the St. Louis Browns on July 9 in second game of doubleheader, winning 5-0. Later in his life Fuhr described another proud moment of his career: “In 1924 with the Red Sox I pitched a Sunday game against Detroit. In the last of the 9th with men on 2nd and 3rd, two out and the score 4-3 in our favor I intentionally passed Fred Haney filling the bases to pitch to Ty Cobb. He popped up to third base.” Fuhr pitched less effectively as the season wore on, so he was traded to San Antionio, a minor league team, on August 17, 1924. Boston, however, repurchased his contract at the start of the next season. On July 1, 1925, Oscar Fuhr gave up a home run to Babe Ruth at Fenway Park, thus becoming another in the very long list of pitchers victimized by the Babe. Fuhr’s season must have been frustrating: he went 0-6 in 1925.
Fuhr was back in the minors once again, never to return to major leagues. He played for Mobile in 1926 and Nashville (Southern Association) in 1927-28. On December 7, 1928, he was traded by Nashville to New Orleans (Southern Association). Fuhr spent 1931-32 in Dallas (Texas League), and he split the 1933 season between Houston and Dallas. His final season as a professional ballplayer was in Toronto (International League) in 1934 at the age of forty. Fuhr pitched the season opener for Toronto at Albany, New York. He later remembered that the game was stopped in the seventh inning “while dogs chased a rabbit across the field in a snowstorm.”
Oscar Fuhr batted left and threw left. He was six feet tall, and his playing weight was 175. During his major league career, he appeared in 63 games and had a record of 6-12, with a 6.35 ERA in 176 innings pitched. His minor league statistics are much more impressive: he ended his career with 204 wins. Fuhr died on March 27, 1975, in Dallas.
By the time his professional career ended, Oscar Fuhr, a farm boy from the little town of Defiance, Missouri, had played baseball in three countries. Although his major league days were limited, Fuhr played against Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and several other players later enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Oscar Fuhr’s name may not be the best known among baseball fans, but it is certainly worth remembering.
Sources: Cracker Barrel Country (Bill Schiermeier); Cubs Journal (John Snyder) http://books.google.com; http://baseballhistory.110mb.com/GameLogs/BOS/1924.html; Letter. 8/11/1967. http://cgi.ebay.com/OSCAR-FUHR; New York Times. August 19, 1920. www.nytimes.com; The Pride of Havana: a History of Cuban Baseball (Roberto Echevarria) www.amazon.com; www.base-ballstars.com; www.baseballreference.com; www.cbssports.com/mlb; www.sulphurdell.com/Timeline.htm.