Monday, June 26, 2017

In Memoriam: Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourne

     We know Old Hoss Radbourne was never a Cardinal, or a Brown or Perfecto for that matter, but when a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame (1939 inductee) is practically buried in your back yard, it deserves some mention. 

     Old Hoss Radbourn was born on December 11, 1854 in Rochester, New York to Charles Radbourn and Caroline (Gardner) Radbourn. According to Brian McKenna and acknowledged by the Society for American Baseball Research(SABR), Charles and Caroline moved their family to Martin, Illinois (McLean County) in 1855. Old Hoss attended school in Bloomington, IL and strengthened his arm by throwing a baseball against the side of his family's barn. 

     Radbourne played for five Major League teams over the course of twelve seasons: the Buffalo Bisons, the Providence Grays, the Boston Beaneaters, the Boston Red Stockings, and the Cincinnati Reds. During the course of his career, he amassed a record of 309 wins, 195 losses, and a 2.67 ERA. In addition, he holds the record for most wins by a pitcher in a single season (1884). There is some conflict regarding the actual number of wins that Radbourne achieved in 1884; McMillan's Baseball Almanac reports 60 wins for Radbourn in 1884, the online Baseball Almanac credits him with only 59 wins in 1884, and a sign placed at his grave site in 1940 (seen below) mentions Old Hoss accumulated 62 wins in 1884. 

     After retiring from baseball, Old Hoss returned to Bloomington, Illinois and bought a fifty-percent share in a saloon and billiard parlor that was located in the basement of the Windsor Hotel that sat at 214 W. Washington Street. 

Ashley House was re-named The Windsor Hotel in the 1880s. It burned down in 1900 and the Illinois Hotel, now named Illinois House, was built in its place. (Courtesy of the McLean County Museum of History)

     During the last few years of his life, Radbourne fell ill. He was rumored to have contracted either syphilis or tuberculosis. All indications suggest syphilis. Carrie Radbourne, Old Hoss' wife, succumbed to the illness, as did her previous husband, Charles Stanhope. In the last year of his life, Charles Radbourne lived in a state of insanity caused by his untreated illness. He passed on from this world on February 5, 1897 and was lain to rest at Evergreen Memorial Cemetery in Bloomington, Illinois. 

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