Norman Arthur "Kid" Elberfeld (April 13, 1875 - January 13, 1944), nicknamed "The Tabasco Kid,"[1] was a shortstop in Major League Baseball for the Philadelphia Phillies (1898), Cincinnati Reds (1899), Detroit Tigers (1901-1903), New York Highlanders (1903-1909), Washington Senators (1910-1911), and Brooklyn Robins (1914). Elberfled also managed the New York Highlanders for the last half of the 1908 season.

Elberfeld was given the nickname "The Tabasco Kid" because of his fiery temper. Elberfeld was known for his ferocious verbal, and sometimes physical, assaults on umpires. On one occasion, while in the minors, Elberfeld threw a lump of mud into the umpire's open mouth.[2] Later in his career, Elberfeld assaulted umpire Silk O'Loughlin and had to be forcibly removed by police; Elberfeld was suspended for just 8 games.[3] Although records were not kept, it was said that Elberfeld was thrown out of more games than any other player of his era.

Aside from his temper, Elberfeld became known as one of the best shortstops in the early years of the 20th Century. He was known as a tough competitor who challenged baserunners to slash him out of their way. They sometimes did precisely that. On May 1, 1908, Elberfeld was severely spiked in the foot by Bob Ganley‚ essentially ending his season. Elberfeld batted only 56 times in 1908. During Ty Cobb's rookie season, he had a basepath meeting with the Tabasco Kid. Cobb slid head first into second base, only to have Elberfeld dig his knee into the back of Cobb's neck, grinding his face in the dirt. According to a Cobb biographer, that was the last time Cobb slid headfirst into a base.[4] Shortly before his death, Elberfeld was quoted as saying "Ty found out my feet were harder than his head. Then he started coming in spikes first. I had to protect myself."[5] Elberfeld's legs were badly scarred from years of highly flying spikes, and he reportedly poured raw whisky into spike wounds to cauterize them.[6]

Further showing his toughness as a ballplayer, Elberfeld was not afraid of being hit by a pitch. He led the American League in being hit by a pitch in 1903 and 1911 and was among the league leaders in the category nine times. In 1911, he was hit by a pitch 25 times, setting an American League record that was not broken until 1986 when Don Baylor was hit by a pitch 35 times. In his career, Elberfeld was hit by a pitch 165 times -- 13th most in the history of Major League Baseball.

Despite 458 errors at the shortstop position, Elberfeld had great range in his early years. In 1901, Elberfeld made 332 putouts and had a range factor rating of 6.14 -- 87 points higher than the league average for shortstops. He also had a career best 459 assists at shortstop the following season with the Tigers. He once collected 12 assists in a single game in 1901. As injuries and age slowed him down, Elberfeld's range was more limited later in his career.

Early yearsEdit

Elberfeld broke into organized baseball in 1892 in Clarkson, Tennessee.[7] He was so highly regarded as a prospect that a scout for the Philadelphia Phillies recommended signing him over another shortstop prospect, Honus Wagner.[5] Elberfeld played only 14 games for the Phillies in 1898 before being sent to the Detroit Tigers, then a minor league team in the Western Conference. A year later, Elberfeld was purchased from Detroit by the Cincinnati Reds. Elberfeld lasted only 41 games in Cincinnati.

The Detroit Tigers: 1900-1903Edit

Prior to the 1900 season, the Reds sent Elberfeld back to Detroit, then still part of the Western League. Elberfeld remained with Detroit when they joined the newly formed American League in 1901. He was the Tigers' starting shortstop during their first two seasons as a Major League team. In the team's debut, on April 25, 1901, the Tigers committed 7 errors, including 3 by Elberfeld. Later in the season, Elberfeld had 12 assists in a game on September 2, 1901.[3] Elberfeld went on to bat .308 (with 76 RBIs and a .397 On Base Percentage) in the Tigers' inaugural season, becoming the Tigers' first team batting leader and its first .300 hitter.

In 1902, Elberfeld's batting average dropped to .260, but he started the 1903 season on a hitting tear. In June 1903, with Elberfeld hitting .341 for the Tigers, he was traded to the New York Highlanders for Herman Long and Ernie Courtney. Despite his hot hitting, Elberfeld had fallen out of favor in Detroit after being suspended for abusing an umpire. Tiger manager Ed Barrow accused Elberfeld of deliberately throwing games to get himself traded.[3]

The New York Highlanders: 1903-1909Edit

Elbefeld was with the Highlanders from 1903-1909. During that time, he broke the .300 mark only once, batting. 306 in 1906. Nevertheless, he was considered an integral part of the Highlanders teams, contributing in many small ways. For example, on May 20, 1907, Elberfeld stole home twice in the same game, the first American League player to accomplish that feat.

In late June 1908, New York manager Clark Griffith resigned, and Elberfeld took over as the manager. The Highlanders finished the 1908 season, Elberfeld's only season as a Major League manager, in last place having gone 27-71 (a .276 winning percentage) under Elberfeld.

Washington Senators and Brooklyn Robins: 1910-1914Edit

In December 1909, Elberfeld was sold to the Washington Senators for $5,000. He played two seasons for the Senators before being released. He signed with Montgomery in the Southern League where he befriended a young Casey Stengel. According to Stengel biographer, Maury Allen, in his 1979 book, "'You Could Look It Up: The Life of Casey Stengel'," Elberfeld was generous with his time and his wisdom. The grizzled veteran and the 22-year old youngster sat together on trains, roomed together in hotels, dined together in restaurants, shared thoughts on the bench, and talked for hours about baseball. On September 15,1912, Stengel was called up to Brooklyn. Elberfeld threw a farewell party for Stengel, ordering him to buy a new suit ("You gotta dress like a big leaguer before they believe you are one," Elberfeld said) for $22.00, and a new suitcase for $17.50. After a long night of drinking, Elberfeld walked with Stengel to the train station, and advised Stengel: "Keep your ears open and your mouth shut up there." While good advice for most players, Stengel didn't follow it and became known as much for his mouth as his baseball talent.

Elberfeld returned briefly to the Major Leagues in 1914, where he played with the Brooklyn Robins.

Minor league manager and life after baseball on Signal MountainEdit

Elberfeld remained active in major and minor league baseball for 30 years. From 1915-1917, Elberfeld managed the Chattanooga Lookouts, then went on to the Little Rock Travelers, where he managed for several years, winning a pennant in 1920.[7]

Early in his baseball career, Elberfeld bought an apple orchard on Signal Mountain, near Chattanooga. Elberfeld built his home and raised a family of five girls and a boy on Signal Mountain. His girls formed a basketball team that played as "The Elberfeld Girls" and appeared on many Southern programs for several years. Elberfeld lived at his Signal Mountain home until his death in 1944.


External linksEdit

Preceded by:
Clark Griffith
Manager of the New York Highlanders
Succeeded by:
George Stallings
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