“FENWAY'S BEST PLAYERS”
Born on October 23, 1889, in Gerry, New York, Hugh Carpenter Bedient was the second child born to Orlon Bedient and Ellen Partridge Bedient.ii According to the 1900 U.S. Census, Orlon and Ellen had two children: Emma, born in 1882, and Hugh. Ellen’s mother, Ellenor Partridge, also lived with the family. Orlon worked at a nearby butter manufacturing facility. The 6-foot, 185-pound Bedient possessed a rare, somewhat contradictory personality. To the vivid recollection of his family, he was at the same time a “soft-spoken gentleman” and a “hard-nosed competitor.”
Bedient was smitten by baseball at an early age. Ellen once complained that her son was “crazy over that pesky game of baseball.” In April 1905, he pitched his first game for Falconer High School, beating Jamestown Business College. During that same year, he pitched when Falconer beat archrival Jamestown for the first time in their history.
Beginning in 1905, Hugh began an annual sequence of pitching for his high school during the school year and then pitching for at least one semiprofessional team in the summer. Nearly every Saturday during the summer of 1905, he traveled to nearby Buffalo to pitch for the Buffalo Dry Docks. The 1905 Dry Docks caused a bit of a local stir by winning 26 games in a row. Hugh won 15 of these games, though he wasn’t known as Hugh Bedient to the public. The following year one of the Buffalo City League teams played a game in Falconer, and the Mysterious Murray’s true identity was revealed. In 1906, he won all 10 of his high-school games, striking out 160 batters. In 1907, he helped the Dry Docks win Buffalo’s 1907 City League Championship.
After high-school graduation in June of 1908, the right-hander pitched that summer for his local semipro team, the Falconer Independents. On July 25, his team played a club from Corry, Pennsylvania. This was a highly anticipated rematch between the two teams and drew enormous local interest. Tied at 1-1 after nine innings, the game continued on and on with Hugh piling up strikeouts along the way. In the top of the 23rd inning, Falconer pushed across two runs on a wild throw. Likely running on adrenaline, Bedient promptly struck out all three Corry batsmen he faced in the bottom of the inning. In 23 innings, he had allowed just six hits, walked only one batter, and struck out a jaw-dropping 42 hitters.
The 42 strikeouts in one game gave Bedient national notoriety and precipitated no fewer than 19 offers from various clubs in organized ball. Bedient later called his 42-strikeout performance one of the greatest thrills in his baseball career.
In 1910, former major-league pitcher Jesse Burkett offered Bedient $180 per month to pitch for his Fall River, Massachusetts, team in the New England League. The pitcher had a successful season at Fall River, notching a 13-9 record. Subsequently reporting on his 1910 effort, Baseball Magazine characterized Bedient as the “mainstay” of the Fall River staff and predicted that “with the proper handling [he] should develop into a star.” During the year, he came to the attention of Boston Red Sox owner John I. Taylor. Dismayed by the performance of his veteran pitchers in 1910, when Boston finished in fourth place, Taylor hoped to bring in some younger pitching talent. He invited Bedient to try out for the 1911 Red Sox during their spring training.
Unlike previous years, when the team traveled south to Hot Springs, Arkansas, for spring training, the 1911 Red Sox trained in Redondo Beach, California. The Boston Globe labeled the audacious plan to cross country for spring training “the great 8,000 mile $15,000 trip.” Bedient saw only limited action in California. At the start of the regular season, the Red Sox sold him to the Eastern League’s Providence Grays.
Obviously disappointed at not remaining in the major leagues, Hugh began his 1911 season slowly at Providence. Initially unimpressed, Providence quickly offered him back to Boston. After Boston declined the offer, Providence subsequently sold Hugh for $750 to Jersey City, another Eastern League team. Although he was now owned by Jersey City, the Jersey City team president worked out a deal with Providence that allowed Bedient to stay with the Grays until the end of 1911.
Hugh’s pitching finally began improving and he ended the season with an 8-11 record for the inept, last-place (54-98) club. By season’s end, Bedient was once again dominating opponents, as illustrated by his late-September 7-1 victory over Newark when he struck out 11 without giving up any walks. By the end of 1911, several Eastern League teams, having witnessed Bedient’s significant late-season improvement, reportedly offered Jersey City $5,000 for the again-promising right-hander.
In early January 1912, Boston announced several major changes to its ownership and management structure, including a new team president, Jimmy McAleer, and a new player-manager-owner, Garland “Jake” Stahl. One of the first things the new management did was review the status of all the players under contract with the Red Sox. As Boston was well-stocked with young position players and Smoky Joe Wood’s 23 wins in 1911 had marked him as the ace of the 1912 Boston pitching staff, McAleer and Stahl focused their review on finding additional pitchers to augment the talented Wood. Much to their surprise, they noticed that Boston had let Bedient go. According to the Boston Globe, the Red Sox immediately sent Jersey City 10 players for Bedient. Calling him “high-priced,” the Globe estimated the total value of the players sent to Jersey City at $10,000.
With a new $1,800-a-year Boston contract, Bedient began his rookie season in the major leagues as a reliever. His first appearance was on April 26 in an important early game against the defending champion Philadelphia Athletics. Relieving Eddie Cicotte in the sixth inning with the Red Sox trailing 6-3, Bedient held the Athletics scoreless the rest of the game. With the score 6-4, Boston first baseman Hugh Bradley hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning to win it, 7-6. This surprising turn of events visibly upset the Athletics.
On May 4, Bedient got his first opportunity to start a major-league game; he faced the Washington Senators. It was hardly auspicious, as Hugh lasted only two innings in an 8-7 loss.ix Later in May, however, he pitched his first complete-game victory, leading Boston to another come-from-behind win, 4-3 over the 1911 champion Athletics. Bedient yielded just six hits, striking out three and walking three.
By early September, the Red Sox had all but run away with the American League pennant, and Bedient was hailed as one of the main reasons for the club’s stunning success. The Boston Post, in a feature article about him, called Bedient “one of the most dependable” pitchers on the club, saying he had “been one of the big factors in Boston’s wonderful success.” Bedient finished the 1912 regular season with a 20-9 record in 231 innings, with a 2.92 ERA. He beat every AL team at least once, doing the most damage against Philadelphia (five wins) and St. Louis (four wins).
The 1912 World Series featured the Red Sox against John McGraw’s New York Giants. Bedient made his World Series debut in Game Two. As the game entered the 11th inning tied at 6-6, Stahl used him in relief. He began unfortunately, hitting the first batter he faced, right fielder Fred Snodgrass. After a strikeout, as darkness enveloped Fenway Park, the Giants went for the win. Snodgrass attempted to steal second but Boston catcher Bill Carrigan gunned him down. Larry Doyle struck out but Bedient walked the next hitter, Beals Becker. Becker attempted to steal second only to have Carrigan again throw the runner out, this time ending the inning. Christy Mathewson quickly retired the Red Sox in order in their half of the 11th inning. As it was now too dark to continue, the umpires halted play. The game ended in a 6-6 tie. More importantly for Bedient, he had received his baptism in postseason play.
Bedient started in Game Five at Boston, against Mathewson. For Bedient, facing Mathewson was a special thrill as the Giants ace was one of Hugh’s boyhood baseball heroes. The game was played before a record-breaking Columbus Day crowd of 34,683. As the game began in a misty fog, the Giants immediately decided to test the rookie’s nerve by taking his first few offerings. Bedient promptly walked the first hitter, Josh Devore, on four pitches. Showing uncommon coolness for a rookie, Bedient pulled himself together by employing a tactic he had used successfully during the regular season. He began working very deliberately to each hitter. Before each pitch, he would hitch his belt, pull down his cap, landscape the pitcher’s mound, or simply do a thorough examination of the baseball. After the second batter popped out, a double play ended the inning. Quickly changing tactics, the Giants then attempted to rattle Bedient with a barrage of “mouth music.” Bedient remained unfazed. Mixing his fastball with an occasional slow one, he allowed no Giant to reach base via a walk after the third inning. Consistently throwing first-pitch strikes, he induced the Giants to hit eight infield popouts and eight fly outs. The only Giant run came in the seventh as a result of a Boston error. Bedient went on to a 2-1, complete-game victory, allowing only three hits. Mathewson also pitched a brilliant game, walking no one. Delirious Red Sox fans stormed the field as the game ended and Bedient had to be escorted to safety.
With the Series tied, 3 games to 3, Bedient was again matched against Mathewson, who had yet to win a game in this Series. As the game began, chilly weather and a strong northwesterly wind greeted the Boston crowd of 17,034. Many fans wrapped themselves in woolen blankets to stay warm. Buoyed by their convincing victories over the Red Sox in the previous two games, the Giants appeared confident, emerging from their dressing room singing. Again the Giants began the game attempting to disrupt Bedient’s concentration. But much to their frustration, he again slowed the game down. Bedient ignored their antics and went to work.
The Giants scored a run in the third inning, as Josh Devore led off with a walk and eventually scored on Red Murray’s double to center. Tris Speaker barely missed making a spectacular catch as Murray’s ball bounced off his fingertips. In the fifth, Bedient was the beneficiary of one of the most spectacular catches in World Series history. Larry Doyle, the National League’s Most Valuable Player that year, hit a shot deep into right-center. Off with the crack of the bat, Boston right fielder Harry Hooper turned his back and sprinted full speed toward the fence in right-center. At the last moment, as he was about to tumble over the short fence, Hooper reached over his head and caught the ball with his bare hand. His momentum carried him over the fence, off the field, and into the crowd. He emerged with the ball stuck in his hand. The attending umpires declared it a legal catch, although the Giants protested that Hooper had left the playing field when he made the play. Speaker and a number of other players who were there later described the catch as the greatest they had ever seen. When Bedient left for a pinch hitter in the seventh, Boston was trailing 1-0. In one of the greatest games in Red Sox history, Boston rallied to win in extra innings, 3-2.
Bedient’s outstanding performance in Game Eight drew an avalanche of high praise from baseball’s best, including Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, and Larry Doyle. Despite this overwhelming praise, Bedient remained grounded. At the wild victory celebration the next day at Fanueil Hall, Boston Mayor John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald introduced Bedient to the madly cheering throng and asked him to speak. Hugh simply rose, bowed slightly to the crowd, and then sat down again.
It was the richest World Series in baseball history up to then; each Boston player received a winner’s share of $4,024.68, more than doubling Bedient’s 1912 season salary of $1,800. When asked by the Boston American how he planned to spend the money, Bedient said he would use part of the money to buy a new home, put part of it in the bank, and use the rest for tuition at one of the law colleges.
Upon returning home to Falconer, New York, Bedient received a hero’s welcome. Nearly 25,000 people met his train at the local railroad station. Laudatory speeches and songs of praise were heaped upon him as a local boy who had become a national hero. At the end of one of the celebrations, an overwhelmed Bedient rose to thank the gathering and said simply, “We have had a pleasant time since coming home and we thank you all for the interest you have shown. That is all I can say.” He then sat down to a five-minute standing ovation.
Rewarded by Boston with a two-year contract with a 40 percent salary increase, Bedient began the 1913 season with high hopes. Unfortunately, the 1912 Boston success could not be extended to 1913, as the Red Sox experienced both key injuries (Wood) and internal turmoil (manager Stahl was fired in midseason). The Red Sox dropped to fourth place with a 79-71 record. Bedient went 15-14 but finished with a 2.78 ERA, his career best in the major leagues, in 259 innings. He also had five saves, which ranked third in the 1913 American League.
In 1914, the Red Sox rebounded, finishing second with a 91-62 record. Bedient, however, had his worst year in Boston, falling to 8-12 with a 3.60 ERA in 177 innings. His difficulties may have been linked to the emergence of the new rival Federal League.
The new league began operation in 1914 and put a franchise in Buffalo. Bedient had an unexpected opportunity to play the game he loved in the area he loved. It was a combination that enticed many National and American League players to move to the new league. Buffalo representatives reportedly approached Bedient during the 1914 season. At the end of the year, Boston released him and he joined Buffalo.
When the Federal League folded after 1915, Bedient was “despondent.” Not only had he lost his team and his league, but the team he left behind, Boston, won the 1915 world championship.
After baseball, Hugh returned to his beloved western New York, where he worked and continued pitching as a semipro, primarily with the Jamestown Spiders. As his speed waned, he relied more on trickery.
His son, also named Hugh, pitched in college for the University of Alabama. The Bedient family suffered a major blow in 1940 when young Hugh, a second lieutenant serving in the Air Reserve Corps of the United States Army, died along with 10 other young Army flyers when their two bombers locked wings and crashed during a training drill.
Never straying far from his beloved home in Falconer, New York, Bedient died in nearby Jamestown, New York, of arterial sclerosis on July 21, 1965. He is buried in Falconer, in Levant Cemetery.