At the turn of the twentieth century, Clarence Beaumont was a formidable leadoff batter for the Pirates, setting the table for teammates Fred Clarke and Honus Wagner.
According to The Sporting News, Clarence Beaumont “had a shock of red hair” and preferred Ginger to his given name. He won the batting title in 1902, and four times he paced the league in hits, many of them never leaving the infield.
Beaumont was not a small, pesky leadoff batter: he was a thick 5’8 and 190+ pounds with tree-trunk legs that motored their way down the first base line from the left side of the batters’ box. A Pittsburgh sportswriter once timed Ginger going down the baseline in 4.4 seconds, which was fast for that era. He was a relentless bunter, usually laying down at least one bunt per game. His proudest individual accomplishment came in 1899 when he went 6-for-6 with six infield hits. “Not one ball was hit out of the infield,” Beaumont said. “On my fourth try, the third baseman stood ten feet from the plate and I still beat out a bunt.”
Ginger was originally a catcher when he began playing the game for money in Wisconsin. He also dabbled in pitching, but his athleticism was helpful in center field, and he had a strong arm.
For seven seasons, Beaumont set the table for Honus Wagner on the Pirates. The Flying Dutchman twice led the National League in runs batted in, largely thanks to Ginger getting himself on the bags for the man he called “Hans.” With Wagner hitting behind him, Beaumont averaged 117 runs scored per 154 games.
Beaumont was discovered by Connie Mack, who was only 35 years old when he coaxed Ginger to play for his Milwaukee team in the Western League in the late 1890s. Beaumont was purchased by Pittsburgh the following year, and a few years later he was the first man to bat in the modern World Series, leading off Game One in 1903 against Boston’s Cy Young. He used the money he got for his share from the World Series to purchase a 180-acre farm in Wisconsin, and retired there in 1910 after a knee injury halted his baseball career.
He joined Boston and then finished his career with the Cubs after leaving Pittsburgh. Ginger’s final act on a baseball field as a major leaguer was as a pinch-hitter in Game Three of the 1910 World Series. He coaxed a walk and matriculated around the bases to score a run. Of course.
Beaumont batted .311 in a 12-year career, and he was arguably the NL’s best player in 1903 when he led the league in runs, hits, and total bases, all as a slap-hitting, bunting leadoff man.