top of page

Birkenmeyer Family Baseball Team

In 1906, Wappingers Falls was home to a very unique baseball team - the Birkenmeyer Brothers family baseball team. Ten siblings formed a baseball team and played up and down the Hudson Valley.

Many thanks to Maureen Briccio, who provided this photo and these articles to the Wappingers Historical Society archives. 

Editor’s note: The Birkenmeyer family resided on High Street.in the Village

 

THE BIRKENMEYER BASEBALL TEAM

 

The first family baseball team? It is quite possible they were the first because the team was formed in 1906. They were the ten Birkenmeyer brothers.

 

The Birkenmeyer brothers never made the big leagues, but they did make the news. Ten sons and two daughters were born to Adolph Birkenmeyer, a German wagon maker, and his wife Mary in Wappingers Falls, New York. When they were old enough, they decided to organize their own baseball team. The Birkenmeyer boys ranged in age from Ray (10 years old and team mascot) to Charlie (30 years old).

 

Jimmy Gleason became the team manager in 1906 and for several years played the best teams up and down the Hudson Valley from Brooklyn and Queens up to Hudson, New York.

 

It was an excellent team capable of winning most of its games against some very strong teams throughout the area. The batteries were Jack, the pitcher, and Charlie, the catcher. They were both excellent players and on certain occasions, Jack was such an outstanding pitcher that he was paid five dollars to pitch for other teams. One Sunday Jack pitched and won a game in Cold Spring. After the game, the pitcher for the other team was so impressed with Jack’s performance that he asked him to come to Flushing, Long Island the following Sunday and pitch for his team. Jack accepted the offer, went to Long Island and won the game. He received $25.00 for pitching and that was considered big money for a pitcher in those days.

 

Jack used the submarine delivery long before “Carl Mays”, former Yankee great, was ever heard of. On occasion he used the over-hand curve drop, the in-curve drop, and the out-curve drop. In modern day baseball lingo, his pitches were probably the slider that either broke down and in or down and away. The over-hand curve drop was probably the split-finger fast ball that broke down sharply.

 

“Big Dan” Brouthers, when he played and managed the Newburgh team (1906) in the old Hudson River league had Jack pitch and was the captain of the team. According to “Big Dan”, Jack was one of the best all-around players ever produced in Dutchess County. Jack and Charlie played together as a battery for 14 years and neither one ever complained of a sore arm.  The players hardly ever complained of a sore arm in those days, they just loved to play ball.

 

The rest of the Birkenmeyer team consisted of Oscar, who played 1st base. Hughie was the 2nd baseman and seldom used a baseball glove. Joe played short-stop and Adolph, who had a “cannon” for an arm, played 3rd base. On occasion when Jack needed a rest, he also pitched. In the outfield, Jim played center field and Albert was the left fielder. When needed, Albert could also catch.  The other outfielders were Ray and Vincent.

 

The team was once offered a chance to play in the Polo Grounds, home of the old New York Giants, but the game was never played because of scheduling problems.  The brothers were very disappointed but nevertheless were very proud just to have been asked to play in a famous ballpark like the Polo Grounds.

 

The Birkenmeyer team was not only quite unique but because of their baseball skills and popularity, surely placed Wappingers Falls prominently on the baseball map of that period.

OUT OF THE PAST IN OLD DUTCHESS

By Louise Tompkins

 

The Birkenmeyer Team

 

 

The other day, I had a most interesting visitor, John Birkenmeyer, who has spent many years of his life at Wappingers Falls, N.Y.

 

It turned out that he is a Yankee fan, too, and we began to talk about baseball.

 

“Mr. Birkenmeyer,” I said, “Do you think the Yankees will play in the World Series this year?”

 

“They have a good chance,” he said, his blue eyes twinkling merrily at the thought of his favorite team carrying the pennant again.

 

“They are famous for climbing up out of the cellar to win,” I reminded him.

 

“Yes,” he replied, “and this season, they have some strong teams against them.  There are the Minnesota Twins, the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox that look mighty good right now. Of course, it’s too early to make any predictions about the World Series.”

 

“Yes, you are right. Anything can happen between now and October,” I remarked. “Did you ever see Babe Ruth play?”

 

“Well, I guess I did. I saw him blast the ball right out of the ballpark in a game in Brooklyn. What a sight that was! I’ll never for it,” he said, smiling happily as he recalled that great day.

 

“If the King of Swat were playing today, do you think he could make as many home runs as he did then?” I asked.

 

“Sure he could,” Mr. Birkenmeyer said emphatically.

 

“I understand that you were quite a ball player yourself,” I said.

 

He laughed at that.

 

“Well, I don’t know about that, but I had a good time playing the game.”

 

“I’d like to hear about it,” I said, eagerly. “Where did you learn to play it?”

 

“In Wappingers Falls where I lived. My parents were Adolph and Mary Birkenmeyer and there were 12 children in the family, ten boys and two girls,” he told me.

 

“How did your father support such a jolly big family?” I asked.

 

“He was a carpenter and a wagon maker. We got along fine, and when we were old enough, we decided to organize our own baseball team.  That was in 1903. Jim Gleason was our manager, and for five years we played up and down the Hudson Valley from Brooklyn and Queens up to Hudson. We called ourselves the Birkenmeyer Team,” he said proudly.

 

“What were the names of your brothers?” I asked. 

 

“Well, there was Charlie, Joe, Hughie, Adolph, Oscar, Jimmy, Ray, Albert and John-that’s me. Charlie was the catcher, and I was the pitcher. The other boys could play any of the positions on the team. “

 

“Just think of it,” I exclaimed, “a baseball team made up of nine brothers. Never in the history of New York State have I heard of such a thing! Did you pitch spitballs?”

 

“I did not,” he said disgustedly. “I used the over-hand curve drop, in-curve drop, and the out-curve drop.”

 

“Were you a right-handed pitcher or a southpaw?” I inquired.

 

“I was a right-handed pitcher,” he said. “I usually got five dollars and the expenses for my team when I pitched a game. I remember one Sunday when I pitched a game at Cold Spring and won. The pitcher of the defeated team asked me to come to Flushing, Long Island the next Sunday and pitch that for him. I did, and I won that game, too. The pitcher gave me $25, and that was big money for a pitcher in those days. Well, goodbye, I am going to watch the Yankees play the Minnesota Twins on TV.”

 

“I hope the Yanks win!” I called after him.

bottom of page