Jake Daubert: A miner in the majors
So at age 22, Jake Daubert became a professional baseball player.
Daubert reached the Major Leagues in 1910, signing a $2000 contract with Brooklyn. The first thing he did was tell his dad to put down his sledgehammer and retire; fifty-seven years in the mines was more than enough (his mother had died when Jake was young).
Daubert hit .307 with Brooklyn in 1911 and played superior defense at first base, drawing comparisons with Hal Chase. But for Daubert, baseball remained an uncertain career. Always unassuming and straight-forward, he was quick to dismiss his own accomplishments:
I cannot claim that I have really earned my success. I am not trying to say, of course, that success is anything unusual, but to me it seems great compared with what I hoped to do when I was a coal miner. It is so much better than anything I supposed possible for me that I cannot believe it is merely the result of my own efforts. True, I have worked hard at all times and have always played my best. But I consider myself a very lucky man.
He stands in a shed, wearing a heavy, woolen shirt, buttoned up to his neck and thick work overalls, stained from coal and dirt. Snow still sticks to his black boots, laced up halfway to his knees. He holds an iron rod over a fire. An anvil, shiny from years of wear, sits in the foreground. Handwritten on the back of the photograph is “Jake Daubert at Coal Washery.”
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His first season in Cincinnati, Daubert was appointed team captain and led the Reds to their first World Series Championship, though most baseball fans know more about the losers of that Series, the 1919 Chicago White Sox, than the winners.
He never recovered from the surgery, passing away on Oct. 9, 1924. Jake Daubert died with family and teammates by his bed, thereby avoiding his greatest fear:
It was only yesterday that I thought I would always be a coal miner. I never expected to be anything else . . . . It doesn’t seem right that I should be so fortunate . . . . I can’t help feeling it will all slip away from me some day and that I shall finish my life where I started: in the coal mines.
Larry Brunt is the Museum’s digital strategy intern in the Class of 2016 Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development