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Their last name is one letter too long to correctly spell "parrot." but I had to include the Parrott brothers among my baseball birds. Their stories are too interesting, too amusing, and, unfortunately in the case of Jiggs Parrott (left0, above), too tragic to put aside.

Walter Edward Parrott and his older brother,
Thomas William Parrott, are credited with being the first two natives of Oregon to play major league baseball. Considering that their father, Thomas H. Parrott, was a well-respected musician who made sure all eight of his children receiving musical training, it's a bit surprising the Parrott brothers opted for careers as professional baseball players, though Thomas William, better known as "Tom," "Tacky Tom," or "Tacks," supplemented his baseball income with jobs playing the cornet. Or, perhaps, it was more accurate to say he supplemented his musical career by playing baseball.

First, the nicknames. In 1917, an unidentified sports writer attempted to explain baseball nicknames. His piece ran in several newspapers, including the Auburn (New York) Citizen on June 9. Included in the story was this:

"Restless, uneasy, erratic athletes are styled 'Tacks' or 'Jiggs' — witness Tacks Parrott and Jiggs Parrott. 'Bugs,' as in the case of Holliday, is a similar title."

I take it, then, that "Tacky" in the 19th century didn't mean "in bad taste," but rather was used the way we might say "wacky" or "weird." Tom Parrott certainly was both.

THE BROTHERS were teammates in 1890 and '91 with their hometown Portland team of the Pacific Northwest League, Jiggs playing third and second base, Tom pitching and playing the outfield. They went their separate ways in 1892, and Jiggs got hot with Minneapolis of the Western League, batting .317 in 41 games, attracting the attention of future Hall of Famer Cap Anson, first baseman and manager of the Chicago Colts (later Cubs) of the National League.

Thus Jiggs, though three years younger, beat his brother to the major leagues by one season, playing 78 games at third base with the Colts, batting .201.

From the start, Jiggs Parrott was more appreciated by Anson, than by his teammates, the fans and the press. Few players were openly criticized more than Jiggs Parrott, for his poor hitting and his lapses in the field.

Parrott played 113 games for the Cubs in 1893, batting .241, among the worst averages on the team. Meanwhile, Tom Parrott won 13 games and lost only three for Birmingham and Pensacola of the Southern Association, and was purchased by the Colts. But after pitching in four games (losing three of them, getting no decision in the fourth), Tom Parrott was dealt to Cincinnati.

MEANWHILE, Jiggs Parrott remained in Chicago, but was struggling. Though 1894 was a hitters' season — the Colts' team batting average was .313 — Parrott hit only .248. He played 126 games, almost all of them at second base. His fielding average — .933 — was about par for the league that year, but he would play only three more games in the major leagues.

Just when Jiggs Parrott came down with tuberculosis, I don't know. He may have been ill in 1895, and wasn't aware. He played 26 games that summer for Rockford (Illinois) of the Western Association, and hit very well (.351, but when Anson wanted to give Parrott another chance with Chicago, the press showed no mercy:

Oswego Daily Palladium, March 5, 1896
Anson is certainly the most obstinate of managers, whatever his virtues. Against the protests of every one else who is interested in the welfare of the Chicago club, Anson again has signed Jiggs Parrott, the most unpopular player who ever appeared in a Chicago uniform.

Parrott’s unpopularity is due to the very fact that he sticks here despite the protests of all the baseball enthusiasts. He has played miserable ball in this city, but that may have been chance. He may be, as Anson insists he is, a good player, but a man with ordinary self-respect certainly would be slow to play in a city where he has no friends except the manager of the club, and whose enemies are legion. Yet President Young has promulgated Jiggs’ signature to a Colts contract.


And this from a round-up of spring training notes:

Washington Evening Star, March 14, 1896
Jiggs Parrott plays in bad luck. While at bat Saturday, he was hit in the same place he was on Thursday. Wonder if some of the Colts have it in for Jiggs. They never liked him, that is certain.

Cap Anson was forced to admit Parrott couldn't help the team, and before the 1896 season started, he released the infielder, who spent his final two seasons in the Western League and the Western Association. He played only 16 games in 1897 because of his illness, and on April 14, 1898, Jiggs Parrott died. He was only 26 years old.

"TACKY TOM" Parrott was a far different story. When he was bought by Cincinnati in 1893, he became a valuable player for the Reds, winning 10 games, losing seven, which, including his time with the Colts and Birmingham and Pensacola of the Southern Association, gave him a 23-13 record for the year.

In 1894, the Reds finished 10th in the 12-team National League. Parrott appeared in 68 games, mostly pitching, but also filling in at every other position, except catcher. He batted .323 and hit four home runs. As a pitcher, he won 17 games, lost 19. Some of those losses were memorable.

Washington Evening Star, August 25, 1894
After the game at Boston Tuesday [August 21] , pitcher “Tom” Parrott, familiarly known as “Tacks.” was suspended by the Cincinnati management for indifferent playing and sent home. Those eleven runs in the first inning of the second game caused Parrott’s punishment

It was a double-header against the strong Boston Beaneaters. Parrott started the second game, and lasted one inning. The final score: Boston 25, Cincinnati 8. Also that season, Parrott gave up three home runs in a row against St. Louis. Hitting the home runs were Frank Shugart, George “Calliope” Miller and Henry Pietz. Incredibly, Parrott won that game, 18-9.

A year later he won 11 games, lost 18, played some outfield and first base, and batted .343.

He was talented and versatile, but considered a bit of an outsider. He had other interests, especially his music. And his pitching arm had become suspect. But the St. Louis Browns were willing to take a chance on him. Well, no wonder. They were one of the worst teams in the league. Owner Chris von der Ahe decided early on that Parrott was no longer good enough to pitch, so "Tacky Tom" was put in center field.

The Browns struggled through another bad season, finishing 11th in the 12-team league, winning only 40 games, losing 90. But Parrott played well, leading the team in batting with a .291 average, hitting seven home runs, and driving in 70 runs. Both those figures were second on the Browns, behind first baseman and future Hall of Famer Roger Connor

PARROTT COULD have continued in the major leagues. Von der Ahe wasn't crazy about him, but some team would have taken him. Instead Parrott put himself on what could be described as an 11-year farewell-to-baseball tour, always looking for opportunities to spend his evenings playing his cornet with some band.

He left the majors with a .303 lifetime batting average, and spent those 11 years playing for 22 different teams in nine different leagues. And as he did, the legend of "Tacky Tom" Parrott continued to grow. Who knows if there was much truth in the stories that were told, but here are a few of them I found in old newspapers.

On November 1, 1911, several newspapers published a guest column by major league infielder Wid Conroy, who said, "The greatest play I ever heard of was the one 'Tacky Tom' Parrott made when he mistook an English sparrow for a line fly and caught it with one hand after a hard run."

Really? He caught a sparrow flying low through the outfield?

On April 8, 1906, many newspapers carried this column by Hugh S. Fullerton, who was writing about colorful baseball players.

Tacky Tom Parrott was one of the greatest characters that ever broke into the game. He could pitch some, and when he landed on the ball, he ticketed it for the fence. One day in Cincinnati, Tom caught a fast, straight one on the piccolo, and sent it into the corner of the lot for a home run.

He completed the circuit of the bases before the ball came back into the field, but instead of stopping, he started for first again, and still going at top speed, went around the bases again. The crowd was howling when he finished the second circuit, so Tom started around again.

Four times he raced around the bases, and then one of his teammates caught him and led him to the bench.

Tom was a cornet player — and a good one. When he was pitching for St. Louis one afternoon, Von der Ahe employed a female band to discourse sweet music between innings, and the plan made a hit with Tom. He would pitch the inning; then, after retiring his opponents, he would climb up the front of the stand, take his place in the band, and play a cornet solo, after which he would go out and pitch some more.

Parrott pitched in only seven games with St. Louis — two complete games and five relief appearances. It's possible, if that female band performed regularly, that Parrott could have been playing the outfield instead of pitching. Or maybe this was something that happened only once.

HERE'S ANOTHER anecdote. Jimmy Ryan was an outfielder with the Chicago Colts. He makes this story sound like it happened many years ago, but it was only 14 months earlier.

New York Evening Telegram, May 14, 1897
Tom Parrott once had a funny experience,” says Jimmy Ryan. “It was the spring he reported to St. Louis (1896) with a full beard, and it was about five inches long and tangled into a mat.

“The Browns trained at Belleville that year, and Tom pitched the first game. The game was close, and when the country team the Browns were playing came to bat in the ninth, the score was 8 to 8.

“The first batter up hit a quick high bounder, straight at Tom. He grabbed quickly at it, and caught it just against his chin, which his fingers tangled into his beard. He tried for an instant to get it out, then gave it up and started to race the batter to first base.

“The runner crossed the bag first, and kept right on, with Tom after him, and circled the bases ahead of ‘Tacky,’ who was tugging all the time, trying to get the ball out of his whiskers without dropping it.
When Von der Ahe found out what the trouble was, he made Parrott shave, and fined him $25.”

This one sounds unbelievable, BUT one of the criticisms of Tom Parrott had always been that he often seemed to forget there were eight other players on the team, so it was in character for him to chase a runner instead of digging the ball out of his beard and throwing it to a teammate.

 
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