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Frederick Mitchell Walker — shown here in his University of Chicago football uniform — is on my rather long list of baseball players because Walker had an interesting career that included a few seasons as a major league pitcher. He also had a colorful nickname: "Mysterious."

That's how you'll find him identified on most websites — as "Mysterious" Walker, although in years he made news, both as an athlete and coach, from 1910 into the 1930s, he was usually referred to as Fred Walker. When "Mysterious" was mentioned, it was usually followed by "Mitchell," not Walker.

That's because the whole "Mysterious" thing came about during a bizarre period in Walker's life when he behaved like a fugitive, and for a month or so pitched under an assumed name. It was a strange thing — attempting to hide from the law while attracting attention as a pitcher. And the way he refused interviews and ducked photographers insured that his identity would soon be revealed. Because of his behavior, many folks considered the man crazy as well as mysterious.

Afterward, he maintained a very public life, and often was written about as though he were two people. On the one hand, he was former University of Chicago athlete Fred Walker, who coached football, basketball and baseball at several colleges, and pitched under his real name for all but a few weeks of his life. On the other, he was the man who, in 1910, appeared on the West Coast from out of nowhere, and, for reasons he kept secret, gave his name as"F. Mitchell," and talked his way onto the pitching staff of the San Francisco Seals, soon creating a sensation in the Pacific Coast League.

WALKER WAS NOT a particularly big man — five-foot-ten — but he prided himself on his physique and his strength. According to a story in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (September 18, 1919), "His favorite pastime while with a ball club was to lie on the ground and permit players of all sizes and weights to jump on his chest.”

Fred Walker first attracted attention in 1904, when he was 20 years old, a sophomore on the football team at the University of Chicago, under legendary coach Amos Alonzo Stagg. During Walker's three seasons, Chicago's football team won 21 games, lost two, tied one. He was a halfback, later an end, and for his first two years played alongside Hugo Bezdek, whose later coaching career resembled Walker's, but in a bigger, more successful way, earning Bezdek a spot in the College Football Coaches' Hall of Fame. Not only did Bezdek coach football at Arkansas, Oregon, and Penn State, but also the Cleveland Rams during the early years of the NFL. Bezdek also coached basketball at Oregon, and for three years was manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The college highlight for both Bezdek and Walker came in 1905 when they helped their football team upset the University of Michigan, 2-0, ending the Wolverines' undefeated streak at 55 games. This was the "point-a-minute" Michigan team coached by Fielding Yost.

But while Bezdek finished the coaching jobs he started, Walker had a habit of moving on, often within months. In this way, Walker reminds me of the true life character, Ferdinand Waldo Demara Jr., portrayed by Tony Curtis in "The Great Imposter." Walker's incredible life was possible because of the era in which he lived, when it wasn't so easy to verify a job applicant's resume. Walker was a college-educated sports gypsy who had the confidence — and ability — to back up his claims and talk himself into positions for which he probably wasn't qualified.

AFTER GRADUATING from the University of Chicago in 1907, Walker did not immediately pursue a baseball career. Instead he took at job as athletic director and football coach at the Agricultural College of Utah (now Utah State University).

Had Steve Allen's "This Could Be the Start of Something Big" been written in 1906 instead of the 1950s, it would have been an appropriate theme song for Walker. His first Utah football team won six of its seven games in 1907, and won its first four in 1908. But after one of his players died of injuries in that fourth game, the school abruptly dropped football. By the following summer Walker was back in Chicago, pitching for a semi-pro team, as he had the summer before. Reportedly he was approached by Charles Comiskey, owner of the Chicago White Sox.

I found no story about why Walker didn't sign with the White Sox. Perhaps, on closer inspection, Comiskey wasn't impressed with the man's pitching. Perhaps Comiskey would not agree to the escape clause Walker wanted in every contract — that he could quit the team at anytime, and if he did remain until the end of the season, he'd be a free agent. In that regard, Fred Walker was ahead of his time.

When 1910 rolled around, Walker wasn't in spring training with any major league team; he was in Oxford, Mississippi, coaching the Ole Miss baseball team to a fine, 11-3 season. But soon after the season ended, he was in a Cincinnati Reds uniform. Such were his powers of persuasion. On June 28, 1910, Fred Walker made his major league debut, pitching three innings for Cincinnati, giving up one earned run. He probably thought he'd passed a test, but the Reds released him after the game. This would become a familiar pattern. Walker was terrific at securing work, but terrible at keeping a job.

After Cincinnati cut Walker loose, New York Giants manager John McGraw was impressed enough to sign him. According to a fascinating story by Gary Joseph Cieradkowski, Walker was assigned to room with pitcher "Bugs" Raymond, a notorious alcoholic. If McGraw figured college graduate Walker, a teetotaler fanatical about staying in shape, would have a positive influence on Raymond, he was mistaken. McGraw may have been unaware of Walker's biggest shortcomings — his belligerence and his temper. At 26, Walker probably was as immature as the 28-year-old Raymond.

Details are sketchy — they weren't made public at the time — but it was Walker, not Raymond, who got into trouble, and he did it before he had the chance to pitch for McGraw. Walker became involved in some unpleasant business at a Harlem hotel — reported variously as an assault on a maid, a dispute with a porter, or a rampage in which he injured a few employees and caused a lot of damage. In any event, Walker was convinced police would arrest him, so rather than face the music, he fled to the West Coast. Several days later, he was in Portland, Oregon, trying to land a job pitching for the Beavers, the local entry in the Pacific Coast League. The Portland manager turned him down, but Walker succeeded in landing a contract with the San Francisco Seals, in town for a series.

THUS BEGAN the saga of "Mysterious Mitchell." Walker would not reveal his full name to the San Francisco team, and signed his contract as "F. Mitchell," the team agreeing to stipulate he would become a free agent at the end of the season, which was well underway. "Mitchell" won his first four games, creating a stir, which intensified when he refused to be interviewed or photographed.

Auburn (NY) Citizen, October 2, 1910
Who is "Mysterious" Mitchell?

That is the question that every baseball fan on the Pacific Coast, old and young, male and female, white and black, has been asking every since a sturdy, handsome young fellow, of undeniable college education, made his advent into the ranks of Pacific Coast players, says a San Francisco writer.

About a month ago,, while the San Francisco team was playing in Portland, a mysterious stranger approached the captain of the San Francisco team, and with much show of dignity and confidence, applied for a position on his pitching staff.

"Try him out," was the instruction issued to one of the catchers. The stranger jumped into a uniform and was given a most several tryout. At its conclusion, the catcher tersely reported: "He'll do. He has everything."

Terms were agreed upon and the new man was asked where he had worked. If he told, the secret has been well guarded, for to this day the general public does not know for a certainty what his name is, where he learned the game or where he lives.

On the contract his name appears as F. Mitchell. The San Francisco team was scheduled to play in Los Angeles after its Portland engagement, therefore it was two weeks before the local fans had an opportunity of seeing him. Little was thought about him, in fact, that he had been signed was practically forgotten, until one day he was given his turn in the box in Los Angeles, pitching and batting like a fiend.

Then everybody began to ask the great question: "Who is Mitchell?"

The Los Angeles correspondents for the San Francisco papers were overwhelmed with rush orders for pictures and interviews, and when they tackled the job, the found they had bumped up against another eighth wonder — a baseball player who shunned publicity, who would not speak to the reporters and threatened photographers with violence if they attempted to take his picture.

That simply stimulated curiosity, and when the mysterious one showed on the diamond in this city for the first time, a whole flock of photographers swarmed on the field, but like their brethren in the South, they were doomed to disappointment. Mitchell was scheduled to pitch that day, but he positively refused to come out and take his place on the mound until the photographers had been driven off the field.

Several of the better equipped photographers took long-distance snaps at him, but none has been able to secure a faithful photograph.

Mitchell has been variously identified as George McQuillan, the suspended Philadelphia National League pitcher; as Bob Mitchell, who had a brief engagement with the Chicago White Sox; as Fred Mitchell, a Mississippi college pitcher, and as Fred Walker, formerly of the University of Chicago. But Michell has said nothing to indicate that any of them are correct.

And still the question is being asked: "Who is Mitchell?"

Undoubtedly he is the greatest mystery in organized baseball. "Ringers" frequently have appeared in the bushes, but rarely, if ever, in a Class A organization.

In view of Walker's reputation a few years later, it's worth mentioning that his first four wins included both ends of a double-header against Los Angeles. One of the knocks against Walker when the dust settled and he got another chance at the major leagues, in 1912, is that he tired quickly, and was seldom effective after four innings.

But for the moment, he was an iron man. However, his prima donna act was wearing thin. He was aloof from his teammates, waged war against newspapers, and insisted the team provide him transportation to and from games (presumably in horse-drawn cabs). There were reports "Mitchell" wore a mask on his way to and from the ballpark. Some writers, later recalling "Mysterious" Mitchell's days in San Francisco, even claimed he wore a mask while he pitched.

That obviously wasn't true, because a picture taken during a game by a Los Angeles Times photographer led to the mystery being solved. When the photo was seen by a Chicago reporter, he recognized "Mitchell" as Fred Walker, former pitcher for the Amos Alonzo Stagg's college baseball team. New York newspapers said that photograph also was seen by the hotel porter who tangled with Walker.

Perhaps rattled, the pitcher lost four of his last six games, ending his abbreviated season with a 6-4 record. But even after his true identity was known, the reason he used an alias was not revealed for several months. Any criminal charge that had been filed — by a maid, a porter, or hotel management — was dropped. If there were damages, they had been paid, perhaps by the New York Giants. Everything connected with the hotel incident was hushed up, and for the moment, Walker was simply regarded as eccentric, though some reporters suggested the mystery pitcher bit was a San Francisco Seals publicity stunt.

WALKER DID NOT pitch in 1911, at least, not professionally, though he occasionally got involved in the kind of nonsense that prompted him to go into hiding the year before. The following incident quickly went public:

Chicago Daily Tribune, April 25, 1911
Reno, Nv., April 24 — (Special) — Dr. A. C. Steckle, one of the most successful football coaches the University of Nevada ever had, received a broken leg in a wrestling bout with “Mysterious Mitchell” of the University of Chicago, who was with the San Francisco ball team last year.

Steckle and Fred Walker, “Mysterious Mitchell,” had a little skirmish over their respective alma maters. Dr. Steckle, who was a former Michigan University star, picked up a football and gave the Michigan yell. Walker, who was a former Chicago half back, gave the battle cry of his college and the two men clashed, Steckle getting a broken leg as a result.

Newspapers often publish the strangest things. Yes, Steckle had coached at the University of Nevada — for all of three seasons, during which his team won six games, lost nine, and tied two. His "success" was based on one game when Nevada, a school with only 80 students, upset the University of California. It's not as though the University of Nevada had a football history at the time. Dr. Steckle went to Oregon Agricultural College (Oregon State) in 1904, and stopped coaching after the 1905 season to become a physician full-time.

Anyway, this Reno "skirmish" probably involved some taunting about Chicago's victory over Michigan in 1905. (My unanswered question: What was Walker doing in Nevada?) Such incidents were not unusual for Fred Walker. Months later he was hired to coach a San Francisco basketball team, then soon fired for punching an official during the game.

Walker must have pitched somewhere during the summer of 1912, either in the minor leagues or for a semi-pro team, because near the end of the summer he was given a chance by the Cleveland team of the American League, then known as the Naps. This was in honor of Napoleon Lajoie, the team's star player, who had briefly managed the team a few years earlier. Lajoie was strictly a player in 1912, leaving the managing to Harry Davis, who gave way to Joe Birmingham, who held the job when Walker pitched one hitless, scoreless inning.

Jamaica (NY) Daily Long Island Farmer, January 11, 1913
If Joe Birmingham lives to be twice as old as he is now, he will never forget his first managerial duty. That was the release of Walker, the pitcher who had been known as "Mysterious Mitchell," and who had been signed up by Manager Harry Davis.

Mitchell or Walker was a most powerful man. He had done a strong arm act on the stage and could handle any man on the Nap team as he would a baby. He also enjoyed a peculiar disposition. Realizing these facts, Birmingham did not relish his task, especially when Walker beat him to it by saying very firmly:

"There's no doubt of my sticking, Joe, is there?"

Birmingham's nervous disappeared. He was almost brave again.

"You're fired," he said. "Go to the office and get your pay."

He wondered why Walker did not live up to his reputation and annihilate him. He is still wondering how he escaped. But it seems that Walker had been released so often that he was used to it. A week later, he bobbed up in Cincinnati and almost induced Hank O'Day to sign him. O'Day only escaped when Walker declined to sign unless he were made a free agent at the end of the year.

I don't know if Walker really had a strong arm act on the stage, though that wouldn't be out of character. Newspapers at the time had no easy way to check facts, and over the years stories about Walker contained many statements that simply weren't true. (Among them — that Walker was Dizzy Dean's first baseball coach.)

After he was cut loose by Cleveland, Walker became an assistant football coach at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh. Head coach was Dr. W. L. Marks.

IN THE SPRING of 1913, Walker set out to resume his baseball career, and signed a conditional contract with the Baltimore Orioles of the International League. When manager Jack Dunn neglected to use Walker, the pitcher quit the team, and a short time later was signed by the National League Brooklyn team, officially known as the Superbas, but even then occasionally called the Dodgers in newspaper headlines. Walker appeared in only 11 games, starting eight of them, but being involved in only four decisions — one win, three losses. (Below is a photo from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of Walker in a Superbas uniform.)

His short season was made even shorter on September 4 when a line drive by New York Giant outfielder Red Murray hit Walker in his pitching hand and broke a finger,, sidelining the hurler for a several days. He was removed from the game in the third inning, with Brooklyn behind, 2-0. (The Superbas would come from behind to win.)

It's not fair to include that game in a review of Walker's performances, but it was about this time that the man who prided himself on his conditioning acquired a reputation for tiring after four innings. That reputation would seem unwarranted later in his career when he pitched in the minor leagues.

His season almost ended 10 days before the Giant game when Brooklyn released him. In announcing his release, the New York Sun (August 26, 1913) said Walker "has asked [manager Bill] Dahlen to try him further at his own expense." Sure enough, a day later Walker was back on the team, pitching five-and-two-thirds innings in relief against the Chicago Cubs, allowing only one run.

However, the pitcher was proving to be a mystery in ways that had nothing to do with his San Francisco stunt.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (August 30, 1913), had this to say, under the headline: "The Ways of Fred Walker."

"Walker puzzles a large and intelligent audience every time he goes to the front. One minute he is so wild that his name is barred at WCTU conventions, and the next he is pitching ball that Hans Wagner says is not fittin’ for regular batters to experience."

The pitcher ended the season on a high note, winning his first major league game, a two-hit, 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

In those days baseball teams often went on barnstorming tours after the season. This gave Walker another opportunity to impress his manager, Bill Dahlen, and team owner Charles Ebbets. On October, in Hartford, Walker picked up a complete game victory over Walter Johnson and the Washington Senators. For Johnson and his manager, Clark Griffith, it seems to have been simply an exhibition, meaning Johnson made a perfunctory appearance on the mound. (He played the last six innings in center field). But Walker may have thought he'd proven something by besting a second place team and a great pitcher who had just completed perhaps his finest season — with a 36-7 record.

A month later, however, Brooklyn released Walker to the Newark Indians of the International League, but the pitcher had no intention of going to Newark. He had another option — the newly formed Federal League.

Whether Walker spent the fall of 1913 as an assistant football coach at Carnegie Tech, I do not know. But when the 1914 baseball season rolled around, Walker was a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Rebels of the Federal League.

Walker won four games for the Rebels, losing 16 for the seventh place team. But as bad as they were, the Rebels weren't interested in retaining Walker's services in 1915 when they restocked their roster, and climbed to third place without him. (Not that it did much good; the Federal League was doomed.)

But in the meantime, Walker spent the fall of 1914 as an assistant football coach at Washing and Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania.

WALKER BEGAN the 1915 season with New Haven White Wings of the Colonial League, and won seven of nine decisions, prompting an offer from the Brooklyn Tip-Tops of the Federal League. (The team nickname was chosen by owner Robert Ward, who also owned the bakery that produced Tip Top bread. Newspapers of the day generally ignored team nicknames, usually referring to teams by their league affiliation. All Federal League teams were generally called the Feds.)

The Brooklyn Feds, like the Pittsburgh Feds the season before, were a seventh place team. Walker started seven games for Brooklyn, made six relief appearances, winning two games, losing four. That concluded his major league career.

Statistically, at least, 1916 was Walker's best season, albeit one he spent in the minor leagues. When the season began, Walker was with the Albany Senators of the New York State League. In June he proved he had stamina by pitching and winning both ends of a double-header against the Utica Utes, an impressive feat even if the second games of minor league double-headers were "only" seven innings long.

But Albany was in trouble, despite Walker's 15-11 record. In early August the Senators had a going-out-of-business sale, and Walker was dealt to the Utica Club, as Albany folded and was replaced by the Reading Pretzels, a Pennsylvania team in a New York league. (In 1917 the New York State League would have four teams from Pennsylvania cities.)

Newspapers at the time were often notoriously wrong about statistics, but those that said Walker won 25 games that season apparently were correct, which meant Walker picked up 10 wins for Utica in August and September. He was regarded as the iron man of the Utes. On August 15, 1916, the Utica Observer reported that Walker made four starts in his first six days with the team, winning three of the games.

[NOTE: baseball-reference.com lists gives those 25 wins to Ewart "Dixie" Walker, but I believe that is a mistake. Ewart Walker, the father of the more famous "Dixie" Walker, the outfielder from the 1930s and '40s, had finished his career the previous year in Milwaukee. I've read many articles from New York State newspapers clearly identifying the Albany and Utica pitcher as Fred Walker, sometimes mentioning the "Mysterious Mitchell" incident. The confusion may stem from the fact that during the early years of his career, the second "Dixie" Walker was called by his given name, which was Fred. This caused some newspapers in the 1930s to mistakenly identify his father as Fred Walker. As if that weren't confusing enough, back in the days that the mysterious Fred Walker was pitching, there was a minor league hurler called Roy "Dixie" Walker, who was not related at all to the other "Dixies." From the 1958-61, there was a minor league pitcher named Fred "Dixie" Walker.]

IT WAS BACK to football in the fall of 1916 as Walker rejoined Amos Alonzo Stagg's staff at the University of Chicago. He remained there to assist Stagg with the school's baseball team, but only until he headed east to pitch again for Utica in the New York State League.

Although Walker had led the league in innings pitched in 1916, and worked both ends of a double-header, his reputation didn't die. Though he hadn't done that much pitching in the major leagues, which gave him national exposure, he was surprisingly well known, probably because of the San Francisco hoax. His reputation was fodder for jokes, such s the one that appeared January 18, 1917 in a syndicated sports column written by Arthur "Bugs" Baer, who mentioned a fellow who went to a championship fight, but arrived too late to see the second round knockout.

Baer followed that with, "Reminds us of the baseball fan who wanted to see Mysterious Walker pitch, but got there in the third inning."

Walker had an 11-7 record for Utica in 1917, but once again found himself on a team in financial trouble. After the Utes folded in July, Walker found employment in the Eastern League with the New Haven Murlins. (Where did minor league teams come up with these names?) He won eight games for New Haven, lost five, giving him a 19-12 record for the year. (I believe baseball-reference.com again has the wrong Walker pitching, at least, for Utica.)

Then an unexpected opportunity landed in Walker's lap, though it was not exactly a plum job. Joe Brooks, football coach at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, joined the armed forces to do his part in World War One. The job was offered to — and accepted by — the 33-year-old Walker, who soon amazed the college football world. On November 6, 1917, a King Features column by James J. Corbett (I believe it was the former heavyweight boxing champ) explained why:

"Many surprises have been furnished this season in the gridiron world, but none greater than that by the little Williams College eleven. And behind it all is the story of football’s new 'miracle man' — Fred M. Walker.

“Williams with a student enrollment of only 460 has beaten the big Cornell team and every other of its foes by its bewildering shifts and formations,” football sharps state. “And all of it is due to Walker, who flashed some forward-passing tricks that are entirely new — and marvelously effective. The man is a genius in his ability to devise and then teach his intricate maneuvers.”

Walker had 20 players on his team, only two of them returning from the 1916 squad. The average weight of his players: 157 pounds. This prompted Walker to emphasize the forward pass more than most schools at that time. The pass-oriented offense helped Williams upset Cornell, a team that outweighed Williams by an average of 24 pounds per man.

However, Corbett went overboard in his final paragraph:

"And now they’re carving a new name in the football coaches Hall of Fame — the name of Fred M. Walker, an unknown two months ago; a wonder coach today."

He would not be considered "a wonder coach" for long.

APPARENTLY, Walker's contract with Williams only covered football season. He wanted more money to return in 1918, but expected the college to turn him down. So shortly after football season, Walker agreed to coach the Dartmouth College basketball team for the 1917-18 season. Rumors immediately spread that Walker had never played basketball and knew little about the sport. In truth, he had won a varsity letter in basketball his senior year at Chicago, and had coached one season of basketball at Utah Agricultural College.

At Dartmouth he faced a situation not unlike the one that confronted him at Williams — an undersized, inexperienced squad. But the results were not similar at all. His Dartmouth team didn't win a game, and Walker was fired after his 20th defeat. (The team played its last six games without a coach, and lost them all.)

Walker presented his side of the story in the Philadelphia Inquirer (March 10, 1918), citing the inexperience of his team, and mentioning that his freshman basketball team at Dartmouth was undefeated.

While this was happening, it was reported that Walker had been signed for the 1918 baseball season by the St. Louis Cardinals. He was 34 years old, old for a major league comeback, but with the United States involved in a war, several players had joined the Army or taken defense-related jobs. However, he never pitched a league game for the Cardinals; instead he finally joined the Newark team of the International League. Soon a familiar story emerged:

Syracuse Journal, June 6, 1918
Newark, June 5 — Newark beat Binghamton 3-1 here and after the game pitcher Fred Walker beat up umpire O’Brien, knocking him to the ground with a right smash to the nose, drawing blood, and then punching him while he was on the ground. Walker did not hit the umpire until O’Brien struck him in the head with his mask. Walker was put out of the game in the ninth for throwing his glove in the air. Bill Fischer was chased from the field in the sixth for kicking on a decision at first.

Mind you, Walker was the winning pitcher that day. Imagine what he might have done to the umpire if he'd lost the game. According to baseball-reference.com, which this time has the correct pitch, Walker left the Newark team and pitched for awhile with Binghamton. His International League record in 1918: eight wins, nine losses, and one knock out.

On July 8, 1918, several New York State newspapers reported: "Mysterious Fred Walker is back in the company with which he made good last year, having signed with Pat Donovan’s Syracuse Stars."

It may be true that Walker joined the Syracuse team of the International League — I found several clippings that claimed Walker had pitched for Syracuse at some time  — but baseball-reference.com lists a Leo Walker going 2-6 for the Stars that season. If that Walker actually was mysterious Fred, then his record for the season was 10-15. Knowing Fred Walker's luck, it probably was him playing for Syracuse, because that team also folded before the summer was over, giving way to the Hamilton, Ontario, Tigers.

IF YOU'RE LOOKING for a man to guide recruits at a United States Naval Training Station, why not select one who has a history of punching sports officials? That's what Walter Camp did in September, 1918. (I assumed this was the Walter Camp, called "The Father of American Football," the man who named the first All-American football team.)

Camp was chairman of the athletic division of the Navy Department Commission on Training Camp Activities, and he appointed Fred Walker as athletic director at the Naval Training Station in Newport Rhode Island. He coached a football team at the Naval Training Station, playing a short schedule against other training station teams and a few colleges, including Annapolis. (Navy, under Hall of Fame Coach Gil Dobie, beat Walker's Newport team, 47-7.)

By the end of the football season, Walker was no longer needed at the training camp. He became the athletic director at Rhode Island State College, not far from Newport. (It's now the University of Rhode Island.) He coached the basketball team, and had much better luck with this bunch than he had at Dartmouth, as his Rhode Island team won seven of eight games. (Because of World War One's travel restrictions, all sport schedules were shortened. Some colleges even temporarily suspended their intercollegiate teams.)

Harkening back to what I said about "This Could Be the Start of Something Big," consider this newspaper item:

Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger, February 7, 1919
If coach Fred Walker has his way, every student in Rhode Island College will be engaged in some form of athletic activity in the course of the next few days. And it will be voluntary participation.

At the present time there are about 160 students enrolled at Kingston, and of this number, no less than 151 have agreed to take up some branch of athletics.

A very ambitious program is being planned by the new director of athletics, with basketball, track work, boxing and regular gymnastic exercises his specialties. The recent victory scored by the basketball team over Brown’s quintet has resulted in increasing the interest in athletics at Kingston, and things will be humming at the end of another fortnight.


Walker stuck around Rhode Island only long enough to coach the baseball team in the spring. I found nothing to indicate he did any minor league pitching that summer, but in September he moved temporarily to Long Island, to become the football coach at New York State Agricultural College (now the University of New York at Farmingdale).

WALKER WAS FLATTERED by a comparison with Jim Thorpe on September 18, 1919 in a Brooklyn Daily Eagle story about the man's next job. Walker was tasked with developing the school's first football team that would play other colleges. Previously, the school had only competed against high school teams.

Of Walker, the newspaper said:

“He is one of the best all-around athletes who ever played professional baseball. Possibly, with the exception of Jim Thorpe, no man has been seen on a major diamond who is better at all forms of athletic pastimes . . . Walker is a giant in strength and is exceedingly proud of the fact that from being a sickly child, he has built himself up into one of the best examples of physical manhood ever seen in the United States. Athletics is a hobby with Walker,, and he is past master of all games, as well as being an exceedingly clever gymnast.

“Walker has been a professional baseball player, a star college football player, a track athlete of prominence. ... He played football on the team of the University of Chicago, an institution he also represent on the track and field. While at college, Walker was able to chin the bar 21 times, put the shot 43 feet, throw the discus 125 feet, do 21 feet, 6 inches in the broad jump, clear 6 feet in the high jump, and run the quarter close to 50 seconds.” (He was timed in the 440-yard run in 56 seconds.)

"Walker always had one great peculiarity. He was a roving soul who just could not stay in one place.”

In the summer of 1920, he pitched for at least two semi-professional teams in Brooklyn — the Bushwicks and St. Agatha's. At 36, Walker was now called "King of the Semi-Pros," though the star pitcher of the Bushwicks went by the name of Jimmy Speers. This young man from South Norwalk, Connecticut, was a Cornell University graduate, whose real name was Arthur "Ole" Olsen. Why he used an alias wasn't explained. He chose to remain with the semi-pro team over signing a contract with the Washington Senators, because the major league team had already ticketed him for a minor league team in Omaha. (A year later he played for the Syracuse Stars of the International League, won 14 games and lost 14 games. In 1922 he pitched for the Detroit Tigers, posting a 7-6 record. But he already was 27 years old. He won just one more game in the majors before spending the rest of his professional career in the minor leagues.)

AS FOR WALKER, he went back to the University of Chicago in the fall of 1920 as an assistant football coach on Amos Alonzo Stagg's staff. In February, 1921, he signed a three-year contract at Depauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, as athletic director and coach of its football, basketball and baseball teams. On October 1, 1921, Walker found himself coaching against Knute Rockne and Notre Dame. The Irish won, 57-10.

Walker coached only one year at Depauw. His football team's record was 4-3 and his baseball team went 4-8. He did vindicate himself as a basketball coach, however, with his team posting a 17-3 record.

In the years ahead he would coach basketball and baseball at Michigan Agricultural College (Michigan State); football and basketball at Drury College in Springfield, Missouri; basketball at Loyola of New Orleans and the University of Texas, and be athletic director and coach football, basketball and baseball at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. Highlight likely was the 1928-29 basketball season at Texas when his team had an 18-2 record.

Walker resigned from Wheaton in June, 1940, and settled in Oak Park, Illinois, employed in the investment business. He died of a heart attack in February, 1958, a month before what would have been his 74th birthday. Somewhere along the line Walker married Maud Olson and they had three sons — Blake, Paul and David. Blake and Paul attended Yale University and were outstanding players on the school's football team, Blake at quarterback, Paul at end, where he was an All-American and drafted by the NFL New York Giants. He played one season.

A 1951 article by James Storey, posted on a Harvard University website, thecrimson.com, said Fred Walker was partly responsible for Yale's good football teams in the 1940s, into the '50s. Wrote Storey:

"Sixty-seven-year-old Fred M. Walker, who has combined coaching with a Chicago brokerage business for the last 35 years has "sent" more than 40 varsity athletes from the Chicago area to New Haven since 1941. Walker, 1905 blocking back for the University of Chicago, told the Crimson yesterday, "I wouldn't recruit. The thing you have to do in the West is to persuade men that Yale is a man's school."

He has been a singularly successful salesman, especially with his sons. Blake Walker, Yale '43, was first-string quarterback, and All-American end Paul Walker captained the '44 eleven.

Other stars that Walker "persuaded" to go to Yale included Jim Fuchs world champion shot-putter, 1950 football captain Brad Quackenbush and lettermen Jack Lohnes, Jim Rowe, and Bob Parcella.

"I've sent boys there from all over the country," Walker says, "and I don't get a nickel for it, either."

"You don't need money, if a boy wants to go to a good school, I'll talk to him, but if he wants a soft berth and money, I won't have anything to do with him," Walker declared. He pays for his expenses himself, sometimes running up as much as $200 worth of phone bills a month. He surveys over 1,000 high and prep school players annually, giving dinners and talks. Last year he supplemented his persuasive program with a booklet about Yale."

One reason he did it, said Walker, is the good kids "shouldn't be allowed to get into commercialized football."

A mysterious man, indeed. I wonder what he'd say about college football today?

 
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