Ira Felix Thomas

Catching memories of “The Hero of 1910”

 

Cathy King Eddie poses beside portrait of Ira Felix ThomasIt may be a century too late to step up to the plate to congratulate the Ballston Spa, NY native who returned to his hometown after helping lead the Philadelphia Athletics to triumph over the Chicago Cubs in the 1910 World Series.

But Timothy J. Hauprich will never forget the night in 2010 when he had an opportunity to do the next best thing at a 100th anniversary event honoring Ira Felix Thomas – a catcher, player and team captain who had won the confidence of baseball legend Connie Mack.

Tim Hauprich - former coach and athletic director at SCCPassionate about the great American summer sport since he began collecting baseball cards and playing Little League during the Eisenhower era, Hauprich – who subsequently earned accolades as a high school athletic director and softball coach -- says Cathy King Eddy hit a Home Run when she staged the 2010 event in a setting just a stone’s throw from the birthplace of baseball founder Abner Doubleday.

Steve Williams & Cathy King Eddy at 2010 Ira Felix Thomas banquet.Decades before her 2017 passing, Cathy had become the unofficial guardian of the legacy of her second cousin Ira. She was, muses Hauprich, justly proud that her ancestor had distinguished himself as the first player in series history to record a hit in a pinch hitting role and was heralded as The Hero of 1910 after helping to secure “Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance fame” for his team that year.

Having previously attended more than 50 baseball card shows, many of them two or three day extravaganzas in big city venues, Hauprich was intrigued upon learning of the Connecticut grandmother’s plans to host a single evening honoring a single player on a date that had previously held no significance to him.

Ira Felix ThomasNearly a decade later, however, Hauprich marvels at the impact the event had on him and others who gathered in Ballston Spa on November 10, 2010 -- exactly 100 years to the date when Ira’s relatives had hosted a gathering to celebrate the role he’d played in his team winning the World Series against the Chicago Cubs.

Since the once bustling King House Hotel at 50 West North Street where the 1910 party had taken place was history by 2010, Cathy arranged for the 100th anniversary party to take place inside of another landmark Ira had known well: The Old Chocolate Factory at the foot of Prospect Street.

Cathy King Eddy and FamilyWith husband Chuck by her side, Cathy had graciously greeted guests in The Factory Eatery & Spirits Restaurant where a complimentary buffet was offered against a backdrop of vintage photos of Ira. Guests also had an opportunity to view a rare baseball that was signed by Ira and other members of the Philadelphia Athletics as well as members of the Chicago Cubs on the occasion of the World Series game in 1910.

Cathy said her happiest childhood memories involved the Sunday afternoons when she’d accompany her now late father Frederick to visit with relatives in the village’s north end after church. The home where Cathy’s maternal grandmother Marie lived with her daughter Orilla on West North Street was in close proximity both to The King House and to the King family’s baseball diamond where Ira first stepped up to the plate as a lad.

“Inevitably the conversation would turn to baseball, and the name of Ira would come up often in conjunction with the name of Connie Mack,” Cathy said in a 2010 interview. “Over the years, I learned that Ira (who was born on January 22, 1881) had held the position of catcher as well as team captain for the 1910 national champions: The Philadelphia Athletics. I also discovered that his appears in baseball record books as the first pinch hitter to get a hit while at bat in the World Series game that pitted The Detroit Tigers against The Chicago Cubs.”

Cathy added that Ira continued his professional baseball career as a Scout and that many of his relatives – with last names that include DeCora as well as King – went on to play many a friendly baseball game in the village that The Hero of 1910 always proudly regarded as his Home Base.

Posted below are reflections penned by Timothy Hauprich after attending the 2010 event honoring Ira Felix Thomas. We at Legacies Unlimited cannot agree more with his conclusion that “in a world where success is instant and often short in time, it was so refreshing to see the timelessness of the game of baseball. Each generation has its own heroes. To see a man of character be recalled for his unassuming manner in achieving greatness on the diamond makes Ira Felix Thomas, a timeless treasure of Ballston Spa. Thank you, Cathy King Eddy, for making it possible for us to share the memory.” Also, kindly click here to read an unedited feature about Ira Felix Thomas by Maurice "Christopher Morley" as told to Ann Hauprich in April 2010.

The Hero of 1910 rides again

Reflections by Timothy J. Hauprich

Tim HauprichFlashback to the late summer of 1958 -- one year after the passing of Ira Felix Thomas.

As an eight-year-old Yankee fan, I bought my first pack of Topps Baseball Cards. Sixty years ago these cards were sold at three venues in Latham, NY: The Grand Union, Barnett's Toy Store and Scully's Meat Market. Topps cards with color photos of the baseball players were sold in the Grand Union with bubble gum in packs of five or six and concealed in a colorful wrapper. Topps Cards were sold in Barnett's Toy store with the top card showing through transparent wrapper and in packs of 10. Grand Union packs were a steal at five cents and usually cost about a penny a card at other places. Scully's sold Fleers black and white photo cards and had a series of Ted Williams cards in 1959. Williams was the only significant player not included in the 1959 Topps set, although he was card #1 in 1958 Topps. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Young Timmy first played on the Circle Inn Little League Team and was later a proud member of the 1960 championship team for Feiden Philco.)

Connie Mack and Ira Felix Thomas - circa 1914November 10, 2010 – 100th anniversary of Hero of 1910’s welcome back to Ballston Spa
The memorabilia showcased at the Chocolate Factory was amazing. It included a giant panoramic photo spanning three or four feet with the World Champion Athletics standing in Shibe Park in Philadelphia. The two men in the center were Connie Mack and Ira Thomas. Several old Red Man's Chewing Tobacco cards of Ira Thomas were on display along with a picture of the November 10, 1910 gathering in the old King House, a hotel which had existed a couple blocks away from the Chocolate Factory. Cathy King Eddy, a cousin of Ira's family was the hostess of this quaint gathering of 2010. She had a baseball that had been signed by members of both 1910 World Series Teams. There was an incredible stillness in time. It really did not seem that 1910 was so long ago.

Connie Mack and Ira Felix Thomas - circa 1914Flashback to late autumn in 1977 – Two decades after Ira Felix Thomas had passed on
A local chapter of baseball collectors gathered in the basement of the Key Bank on Western Avenue in Albany, not far from the University at Albany. Most of the collectors were men who had collections primarily of cards from the 1950s and 1960s. I was able to purchase the 1958 Mickey Mantle card which I had been chasing for 19 years. Within five years the hobby had mushroomed into a much bigger venue, the Polish Community Center, and with the inclusion of women and young collectors, the hobby now included seventies cards, magazines of all decades, and occasional baseball living legends who would sign memorabilia for a cost appropriate for their celebrity status.

Ira Felix Thomas and referee - courtesy of The Morley CollectionNovember 10, 2010 – A century later on the exact same date
There was a significant photo of the young Ira Felix Thomas on an easel near the main memorabilia. After a fantastic buffet was shared by the gathering, we joined together in song to sing "Take me out to the Ball Game", "The Marine Corps Anthem" and "God Bless America". Regional jazz treasure Cole Broderick performed background piano music throughout the event and added his finest notes to accompany the singing of those gathered. Weirdly, the photo of Ira fell off the easel. Amazingly, the glass in the picture frame was unaffected by the fall to the floor. Ira had reached first base safely once again.

August of 2005 – Forty-eight years after Ira Thomas' passing
In White Plains, NY, an East Coast Baseball Card Show was held in the City Center Auditorium. I went there to catch up on odds and ends in my various collections, buy some recent card sets, and meet a legend of my youth, Rocky Colavito. Colavito had swagger before the word was popular. He would hold the bat on his back, with his arms straddled over the handle and barrel end. Once at the plate, he would point the bat at the pitcher and then re-set to hit the ball. He was one of the best home-run hitters in the American League from 1957 to 1965. The Bronx native was a Cleveland Indian and a Detroit Tiger, but always did well against my Yankees. I had all of his baseball cards. In 2005, he signed one of my cards and answered a couple of baseball questions.

Abner DoubledayNovember 10, 2010—100 years later on the exact same date
Keepsakes provided for all the guests of Cathy King Eddy. A copy of "Take Me out to the Ball Game" and "The Marine Corps Anthem.” A collage of Ira Felix Thomas' baseball career and a colorful baseball box with Cracker Jacks were among the great take home items. Abner Doubleday was also from Ballston Spa and is credited with having invented Baseball in Cooperstown. Ira Felix Thomas was a member of four American League Championship Athletics Teams: 1910-1911-1913-1914. The Athletics won the World Series in 1910-1911-1913. Ira Thomas won our hearts in 2010. He was a rare clean-cut player from the era of Ty Cobb. Ira, who did not smoke or drink, was also a player scout for the Athletics and the Yankees. He was responsible for discovering Lefty Grove for the powerhouse A's of the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Connie Mack and Ira Felix Thomas - circa 1914Late November, 2010 -- Fifty-three years after Ira Felix Thomas' passing
In a world where success is instant and often short in time, it was so refreshing to see the timelessness of the game of baseball. Each generation has its own heroes. To see a man of character be recalled for his unassuming manner in achieving greatness on the diamond makes Ira Felix Thomas, a timeless treasure of Ballston Spa. Thank you, Cathy King Eddy, for making it possible for us to share the memory.