The sport of baseball has always played a role in the culture of Perkasie, from its early history of club teams to its role as the center of baseball making in the sport’s golden era. But a decade before the Hubbert family starting producing balls here for the major leagues in the 1920s, Perkasie had its biggest baseball day.
On October 7, 1909, Perkasie’s town baseball team challenged the greatest team in Philadelphia sports history, Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics, to a game across from Menlo Park. The outcome was as predicted, but it is still an incredible story.
It’s hard for use to imagine how important baseball was in 1909 in America’s culture. Earlier in the year, the Athletics opened the first steel-and-concrete baseball stadium, the ultra-modern Shibe Park, in Philadelphia. Perkasie had a town baseball team in the 1880s and the Central News in 1887 had its own team, led by Charles Baum.
Perkasie took part in a strong regional baseball group, the North Penn League, and was coming off a good season. The Central News (and Borough residents) were outraged that three bad decisions by “Umpire Griffith” cost the team the pennant in an away game at Ambler. Its star player, South Perkasie’s Joe Eldridge, was the league’s best pitcher. For insurance, the team added the league’s best home run hitter, Jimmy Cressman, who played for Souderton’s club, for the Athletics game. Cressman was the only North Penn League player to hit a home run off a major league pitcher.
The Athletics were starting a lucrative barnstorming tour that began in Hartford two days earlier and would end in Los Angeles a month later. After their appearance in Perkasie, the Athletics were set to play the Philadelphia Giants (the Negro League powerhouse) and their top stars John Henry Lloyd and Bruce Petway in Camden.
The North Penn League played quality baseball. A week after the Perkasie-Athletics game, North Penn champion Ambler beat the Philadelphia Giants in an exhibition game.
Perkasie wasn’t as fortunate.
Connie Mack’s team had just ended a promising season. It had won 95 games to finish second in the American League. The team had an exciting core of young players who would win three of the next four World Series. The Perkasie club insisted the Athletics bring their best players up north on a trolley trip to Bucks County.
The Athletics obliged. Three Hall of Fame players made to Perkasie for the exhibition game: Eddie Collins, Chief Bender, and Eddie Plank. Team captain Harry Davis would play first base. The young Athletics outfielder prospect, Joe Jackson, wasn’t in the team’s plans.
Two accounts exist of the game, which happened at the long-gone Perkasie baseball park across from the current library and pool in town. Perkasie declared a holiday, with all businesses and schools closed early so people could watch the game, which started at 3:30 p.m.
With Plank pitching against Eldridge, the Athletics scored six runs in the first two innings. Things got worse as the Perkasie club committed 11 errors in the game. The Athletics had a 12-1 lead after five innings. Four Athletics players hit home runs, a rare feat in those days. Bender, who also pitched hit and a home run, too. The final score was 16-3.
The Philadelphia Inquirer had a reporter at the game. “The local athletes were made to look like a bunch of pint-sized Lincoln pennies,” the newspaper said. But no one cared about the final score. “To say that the country folk were mighty pleased with the Mackmen’s visit is putting it mildly.”
The Central News was blunt. “It was evident the local players had a bad case of stage fright,” it said.
Eldridge would later leave the Perkasie club to play for rival Doylestown, and then try his hand at minor league ball in the southern leagues. Returning home, he was drafted in World War I and served with honor in the famed Rainbow Division in Europe. The next year, the Athletics would win Philadelphia’s first World Series title, defeating the Chicago Cubs.