I received an e-mail yesterday from Blake Walker, from Fairfax, Virginia. Mr. Walker is the grandson of Mysterious Walker, the old time ballplayer that I named this blog after. The reason for naming this blog in honor of Mysterious Walker is because I'm fond of old time ballplayers with colorful nicknames.
Blake alerted me of his grandfather's Wikipedia page. When I was doing some research on Mysterious Walker years ago and more recently a few months back, I couldn't find much. He was a mystery. However, his recent Wikipedia page sheds light on him. According to Wikipedia:
While playing for San Francisco in 1910, Walker identified himself as Frank Mitchell, leaving off his last name. Mystery surrounded his appearances in the Pacific Coast League. Some accounts indicate that he wore a mask while pitching for the Seals. After he won both games of a doubleheader over the Los Angeles Angels in early September 1910, allowing seven hits in the first game and six in the second, the Los Angeles Times first referred to him as "Mysterious Mitchell," reporting as follows:
"The big feature of this first double-header was the work of the iron 'busher' who heaved in both games. In the first, of ten innings, he allowed but seven hits, and in the second, of seven innings, six swats were made off him. ... Hash Mitchell, the mystery that came from nowhere to pitch four straight victories for the Seals ... Every one watched Mitchell in the hope that they might guess who he is by looking at him, and while they were gazing they saw some real spit ball pitching that was remarkable for the amount of juice he used to deceive the local batsmen."
The following week, the buzz surrounding "Mysterious Mitchell" continued to grow. Following a game in San Francisco, the press reported that Mitchell remained the focus of attention:
"Mysterious Mitchell furnished the sensation at Recreation Park once more this afternoon when 8000 wildly excited fans upset baseball tradition. ... Until after the game the twirler created as much interest and excitement as the contest itself as there was still more to follow. He was the center of a throng as he left the stand and when he went to the offices of the baseball company, several hundred people gathered to look at him and call for a speech."
On September 19, 1910, Chicago sporting writers identified Mysterious Mitchell based on a photograph published by the Los Angeles Times as Fred Walker, the former pitching star for the University of Chicago. The press reported that Walker had signed earlier in the summer with the New York Giants but "got into trouble with a chambermaid at a hotel where he stopped, who accused the young pitcher of attempted assault." Following the accusation, Walker had disappeared leaving no trace until his photograph appeared in the Los Angeles Times. For the rest of his career in baseball, Walker was known as either "Mysterious Walker" and "Mysterious Mitchell."
For years I've wondered who this Mysterious Walker was and why was he so "mysterious." Now I know.
One of the great things about baseball and it's magnificent history is that players from years gone by are brought to life again, through statistics, through stories and through pictures. Some players are well known and others are a mystery. Until the pieces fall in place and those mysterious players are rediscovered.
Meanwhile, Blake Walker asked this of me in his e-mail: "Be good using his name and be kind to his memory."