Written by Andrew Ottoson Tuesday, 10 April 2007 21:23In 1911, baseball was still America’s pastime, and a man from Marion traveled to New York to become an important part of a team that set one of the baseball’s oldest records.
Nearly a hundred years later, baseball enthusiasts David Stalker and Gabriel Schechter are working with the city of Marion to make sure that Charles Faust’s legend is not forgotten. Schechter, a baseball historian, tells Faust’s story in a biography titled “The Rube Who Saved McGraw’s Giants.”
Stalker, who is building a monument to immortalize Faust, and Schechter have contacted Marion street superintendent Marty Fredrickson about the idea of memorializing the major leaguer.
Fredrickson said, “The museum board and the city council are all very excited to have a monument, and the recreation commission is on board as well.
“We’ll be proud to have the monument put up,” he added.
The process of remembering Faust is making progress in Marion, but one thing is already certain: The man’s name has a secure place in the appendix of the annals of baseball history.
The story of just how Charles Victor “Victory” Faust “pitched” the 1911 New York Giants to the World Series is, according to Schechter, “virtually unmatched for sheer strangeness and improbability.”
More than just a charming story from baseball’s ancient past, the story tells of a hapless man who went to the ends of the earth for the sake of fulfilling his childlike dreams.
The story begins with a boy who was “a slow-witted lad at best,” incapable of running the family farm.
Born in Marion in 1880, Faust may have been the “least athletic person apart from Eddie Gaedel to play in the major leagues,” according to Schechter.
During the summer of 1911, Faust traveled to St. Louis. Inspired by a fortune-teller at the county fair, Faust introduced himself to John McGraw, manager of the New York Giants, who allowed Faust to try out.
Schechter describes the events of that day as follows:
“It was quickly apparent that Faust was not a ballplayer, so McGraw had a joke at his expense, conning him into circling the bases while the Giants infielders threw the ball away so he would slide into each base.
“He wound up at home plate covered with dust, his Sunday clothes torn and his skin raw, but the Giants won 9-0 that day, and when he showed up the next day, they let him cavort on the field again before the game.
“They won again and repeated the routine for a third day, but when they left St. Louis, McGraw gave Faust the run-around at the train station and continued on without him.”
Faust traveled to the Polo Grounds, the Giants’ home field and waited.
“(Faust) had a powerful belief in his ability to lead the Giants to the pennant,” Schechter said.
When the road trip ended and the team returned to New York, Faust was given a job, and the rest is history.
Faust stayed with the team for the rest of the season, and the Giants became a mid-summer night’s juggernaut, going 18-4 during a pivotal 22-game road trip that September.
But Faust’s employers refused to let him pitch; instead, he handled the pre-game.
“He would shag fly balls, demonstrate an array of clumsy slides, and pitch some batting practice,” Schechter writes.
“Opponents would let him strike them out with his feeble tosses. Once the game started, Faust would either station himself beyond the outfield, warming up for innings at a time to be ready in case the Giants needed him, or sit on the bench, cheering on his teammates and predicting their base hits.”
But his most important role was the invisible way he provided a counter-balance to McGraw’s intense, hard-driving personality.
Schechter also said, “What made Faust such a positive influence on the 1911-1912 Giants, the main thing was his enthusiasm and positive energy.
“Away from the ballpark, that is, in the hotels and on the trains during their last long road trip in 1911, he was (the team’s) good-natured companion and champion,” Schechter said. “Yes, he was the constant butt of practical jokes, but this also helped team morale.
“McGraw was tough on his players, and I believe having Faust on hand to laugh at and laugh with helped (the team) endure McGraw’s harshness, thereby keeping them relaxed and loose,” he added.
The 18-4 run on the road trip in September clinched the pennant, and Schechter believes Faust deserves more credit than McGraw ever gave him.
With Faust with the team to start the season, the 1912 Giants built a record of 54-11 and set a pace that even the 2001 Seattle Mariners could not match.
“Adding that to their record after Faust’s arrival in 1911, the Giants won over 80 percent of their games during his tenure with the team,” Schechter said.
“There is no purely baseball answer to account for the fact that when Faust was on hand and doing his thing late in 1911, the Giants had a record of 36-2,” Schechter said.
“That is too big a mathematical aberration to have a simple baseball explanation. So some of the reason has to be Faust, and I believe it was his good nature and his boundless energy and enthusiasm which rubbed off on them.”
Finally, late in the season, according to Schechter, McGraw relented, putting Faust in to pitch the ninth inning against Boston at the Polo Grounds.
“Bill Rariden greeted him with a long double, but he got lucky after that,” Schechter said. “Pitcher Lefty Tyler bunted Rariden over, and another long fly ball was caught, Rariden scoring.
“Then Mike Donlin, laughing along with the crowd at Faust’s weak-armed heaves, grounded out.
“In the bottom of the ninth, Faust was on deck when the last out was made; however, as John Wheeler (a sportswriter in New York at the time) put it, ‘What are three outs to Faust?’
“Boston stayed in the field and let Faust bat, putting him through the same bases-circling routine McGraw did that first day back in St. Louis, until he was tagged out just shy of home plate.
“Faust left the field triumphant; against all odds, he had indeed pitched for the Giants and led them to the National League title.”
Despite the remarkable tale, Faust was forgotten for five decades. Lawrence Ritter stumbled across the story when he interviewed Fred Snodgrass, centerfielder on the 1911 Giants.
In “The Glory of Their Times,” Snodgrass recounted the Faust story.
Schechter said, “Despite some inaccuracies, Snodgrass spun a captivating tale of this real-life Forrest Gump, who through audacity more than ability had a significant impact on the Giants.
“Since then, Faust has become a cult figure amongst baseball aficionados, deservedly so considering the incredible performance of the Giants under his influence.”
Faust died of tuberculosis in a mental hospital in Washington in 1915, but the uncompromising way he lived his dream will not soon be forgotten.