My great grand uncle

Updated on January 8, 2021 in General Stuff
7 on December 31, 2020

Cy Warmoth was my great grandfather’s brother. (My mom’s mom’s dad’s brother)

I’ve long known that 100ish years ago, he played briefly in the majors.

Daughter Sarah has been on a genealogy binge, and discovered this book, which features his story.

Can’t wait for it to arrive.

Cy and the rest were from Bone Gap, Illinois. (Throw that into your google…not much of a town). The author is also formerly from Illinois, but now lives in Virginia. I’m going to contact him after I’ve read the book and swap stories.

 
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0 on January 1, 2021

Cool. He seems to be down by Douthat State park where we went camping several times when the kids were small. Let me know how it all goes.

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0 on January 6, 2021

This is kind of cool.

The thing that always struck me about his (Cy’s, that is) story is that I don’t have any recollection of ever hearing anyone talk about him. Which, all things considered, seems odd, since my grandma (mom’s mom, and Cy’s niece) was never one to be shy about sharing family lore, particularly if it involved greatness or missed opportunities for greatness.

My copy of the book just arrived, and I’ve only read a few pages. This part is really cool (from page 6, Chapter 2):

My late father-in-law, Melvin Briggs, first brought Cy to my attention back in the 1970’s. While visiting the Bone Gap Elevator that he co-owned with his father Grant in the little country town of Bone Gap, Illinois, Melvin, severely crippled by arthritis and confined to doing office work, motioned toward the front counter.

“See that man at the counter,” he said more than asked. “I have always heard that he had a brother who played in the major leagues and he struck out Babe Ruth.”

The only person “that man at the counter” could have been is my great-grandfather William Warmoth. How cool is that?

Deciding to dig in a bit, I called my Uncle Larry (my mom’s brother) just now. After a little obligatory Covid related small talk, I asked him if he ever heard of Cy Warmoth.

“Never heard of him” was the reply.

Ok, that’s weird. Did a little more probing, and realized that the name “Cy” was the problem: In the family, he was “Wallace”. No one called him Cy.

The really interesting part, and more than a little tragic, is this: There is a reason they never talked about him. In Larry’s telling, Cy/Wallace was kind of a jerk, and a drinker. He had a son, Wallace Jr (who everyone called Wally), and that’s where the tragedy comes in. In 1933* Cy was out of baseball and back in Illinois. He was playing catch with Wally, who was 12 years old at the time. In Larry’s recollection, some combination of being a little drunk and a little short tempered on Cy’s part caused him to throw the ball extremely hard at Wally. The ball got away from Wally, hit him in the head, and (as Larry put it) “he spent the rest of his life at 12 years old”. Which is to say, Cy smoked the ball at Wally and gave him permanent brain damage.

Again in Larry’s words, that made Wallace “sort of the black sheep of the family”, and while Larry knew Wallace (and Wally) and they’d get together at family functions from time to time, he was essentially ostracized.

I don’t know exactly how to describe this, but if you knew my grandmother, you’d understand how there was no possibility that that incident ever be interpreted as a “accident”. The way I look at it, at one extreme you have a drunk and angry father (with a Major League arm) maliciously firing a 100MPH pitch at a 12 year old. On the other extreme, you have a 12 yo begging his dad to show him what a real Major League pitch was like, the dad saying “no chance, son”, the kid begging some more, and so on, until the dad finally relents and throws one against his better judgement, and that’s that. But in the Warmoth way of looking at such things, there’s no room for anything other than malice. 

(Re-reading that paragraph, I still don’t think I’m on the mark. But it’s as good as you’re getting at the moment.)

(Another way of saying it is that my grandmother had a vindictive streak every bit the equal to the malicious streak she thought she saw in Wallace.)

As a matter of pure speculation, it’s hard to say if that incident was the sole cause of the family rift. My guess is it’s more like the Warmoths didn’t consider “professional baseball player” to be a respectable profession. I’d further speculate that the disrespect went both ways. Which is to say, I’m speculating that part of what got Cy into baseball was a desire to “get out of Bone Gap”, with all the cultural/social/economic implications that suggests. Something like that anyway. I expect that the accident with Wally was the last of a long line of straws, not the first.

As for the author, I found him on Facebook. He now lives in South Carolina, and has some fairly recent (December) activity, so I hope he’s active. Sent him a message. We’ll see what happens.

* I calculated the date based on Larry saying the kid was 12yo when this happened, and the fact that FindAGrave lists Wally as dying in 1965 at age 44.

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0 on January 6, 2021

Heard back from the author:

There’s a lot to the story I didn’t get. Apparently he ran off to join the cavalry when he was 15 or so. He lied about his age, enlisted and got sent out west to join in the mop up after the Indian wars. Apparently baseball was a big deal in the Army. Custer’s outfit had three teams. i guess there wasn’t much to do except chase reservation runaway’s and play baseball. So it was told to me. Then he got caught being underage and was bounced out. I don’t know what he did until he started playing baseball in Mt. Carmel.

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0 on January 6, 2021

Wow. Wonder if he was related to my in laws. All of that fits them.

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1 on January 7, 2021

Give me some names and dates and I’m sure my daughter would be delighted to run down any relationships.

on January 7, 2021

Christal’s folks were Burness and Mildred Hamilton (Tunnell) that were in Norton, VA from about 1910 to after WWII (1947?) when they relocated to the Detroit area. There are still some kin in Norton but I can’t track the web any more.

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0 on January 8, 2021

Finally got a chance to read the book last night. 

It was reasonably interesting. I can’t say I’m a fan of the approach the author took. The root of the issue is writing this as a non-fiction book, and there really isn’t that much historical record on Cy Warmoth. So Gawthorp ended up including a lot of semi-generic baseball history from the relevant times and places, then wove that into the Cy Warmoth story.

Made me think the really interesting way to do this is to write it as a work of fiction, and take some liberties filling in the blanks. Could have worked up a very cool story that way.

One detail that was extra special to me is it turns out that Cy Warmoth spent the last couple of years of his minor league career right here in Omaha. The stadium they played at is long gone, but I did find this pic on the net.

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