Coming soon: a new look at Bolton Hill baseball great Ned Hanlon

Foxy Ned Hanlon Book CoverLong before the famous Ripkins, Eddie Murray or Frank Robinson, the toast of professional baseball in Baltimore was a man called Foxy Ned Hanlon who lived in Bolton Hill. Now Tom Delise, a longtime English teacher who lives in the neighborhood, has written a biography, Foxy Ned Hanlon: The Baseball Life of a Hall of Fame Manager, co-authored with Jay Seaborg, a retired history teacher and lifelong baseball fan in Mt. Airy.

From Tom Delise:

Hanlon’s parents immigrated to the US (Connecticut) from Ireland in the 1850s, and Ned was born in 1857. At the age of 13, he was working in a local cotton mill. He began playing baseball in the early 1870s, when the game was first becoming professional. It was different from the game we watch today players did not use gloves, the pitching distance was only 55 feet, batters could call where they wanted a pitch delivered (high or low), and of course there were no radio or TV broadcasts and ad revenue.

Hanlon was a good player for 13 years, mostly with the Detroit Wolverines of the National League. They won a championship in 1887. He also played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles (briefly). He was a leader of the Brotherhood of Players in the 1880s, the first baseball players union. He was part of an around-the-world tour arranged by Albert Spalding to promote baseball, playing in Australia, New Zealand, Ceylon, Italy and Egypt.

He was the manager of the National League Baltimore Orioles from 1892 through 1898 and won three straight pennants (1894-1896). They played at Union Park, located at the southeast corner of 25th and Barclay Streets. Some of the most famous games in nineteenth century baseball took place at that fabled ballpark. He revolutionized the way the game was played by instituting a style called “Inside Baseball” that influences the game to the present day. Because of his tactical knowledge and his ability to judge talent, he became nicknamed “Foxy Ned.”

Although he maintained his home in Baltimore, he went on to manage the Brooklyn Superbas (today called the Dodgers) and won two pennants with them. He also managed the Cincinnati Reds for two years after leaving Brooklyn. He served on the Rules Committee of the National League during his managerial career and helped shape the game. He played with and managed some of the greatest names in baseball, including Hall of Famers Wee Willie Keeler, Dan Brouthers, Joe Kelley, Hugh Jennings and Sam Thompson. He managed players who went on to become Hall of Fame managers themselves (John McGraw, Connie Mack, Miller Huggins, Wilbert Robinson) and who used his tactics. He had an immense influence on the game.

Returning home in 1908, he bought the minor league Montreal Royals, moved the team to Baltimore and named it the Orioles. This would be the team (after he sold it) that signed Babe Ruth and became one of the most successful minor league teams in baseball history.

Hanlon was a driving force behind the establishment of the Baltimore Terrapins team in a new major league, the Federal League, that lasted only two years (1914-1915). He owned the land where the stadium for that team was built the site of the Peabody Heights Brewery today.

In 1916 he was appointed to the Parks Board by Baltimore’s mayor and served on it for the rest of his life, the last three as president. He helped modernize the parks system and was instrumental in planning and building Municipal Stadium, which later became Memorial Stadium. The construction of this stadium allowed the St. Louis Browns to move to Baltimore in 1954 and become the Baltimore Orioles we have today.

Hanlon bought a home at 1401 Mt. Royal Ave. here in Bolton Hill in 1897 and lived there for over 30 years. He and his family had their own pew in Corpus Christi Church across the street. His wife died in 1935. He died in 1937, and services were held at Corpus Christi.

He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996 — one of only 23 managers so honored. He is buried at New Cathedral Cemetery a few miles west in the Irvington area. That cemetery is also the final resting place of three Hall of Famers that Hanlon managed: John McGraw, Joe Kelley, and Wilbert Robinson. No other cemetery has as many Hall of Famers.

Foxy Ned Hanlon: The Baseball Life of a Hall of Fame Manager will be released on Nov. 3, and is available for pre-order on Amazon.