Category: Houston

H. Pazzaro Douthett

1889 mud catsIt’s a pretty well-known photo among minor league baseball historians. The 1889 Houston Mud Cats of the Texas League of Professional Baseball Clubs. The photo isn’t so popular because the Mud Cats won the Texas League Championship that year or the fact they were led by John McCloskey, the “Father of the Texas League.” It’s a classic photo because it epitomizes two eras: the earliest years of the Texas League and late 19th century professional baseball.
Three rows of ballplayers. The two back rows contain the most serious players, probably those who actually carried Houston to the championship. In the front row, we have three mustachioed laid-back gents at the dawn of the Gay ’90s. The man on the right leaning back on his elbow? Meet Homer (or Harry) Pazzaro Douthett, the captain of the 1888 Houston Babies, the team that finished fourth in the inaugural season of the Texas League. John McCloskey stripped Douthett of his captain’s status upon giving up his claim to the 1888 Austin/San Antonio franchise and relocating his interests to Houston. Founding a league had its privileges.
Pazzaro Douthett, who apparently never went by the names Homer nor Harry, was born what is now Marshall County, West Virginia, one of four of the state’s “chimney” counties separating Pennsylvania and Ohio. When Pazzaro was born in 1856, Marshall County was part of Virginia; yet, the Douthett family was anything but southern. Both of Pizarro’s parents, James and Helen Sweeney Douthett, were Pennsylvania natives, and the area of Virginia where they lived in 1860 led the effort to break away from Virginia as secession approached. A year later, the couple had moved their family back to Pennsylvania where James worked as a nailer in Pittsburgh. When war became imminent, James enlisted in the 13th Pennsylvania Militia before he ultimately enlisted in the Union Army in September of 1861, a private in the 101st Pennsylvania Infantry. He remained with his unit for 18 months and was eventually promoted to Corporal before being discharged just prior to the Battle of Gettysburg (coincidentally his wife’s hometown). Although James had completed his duty as far as the Army was concerned, his loyalty led him to reenlist in 1864. He should have stayed in Pittsburgh.
After reenlisting, James Douthett was assigned to the Union-held port city of Plymouth, North Carolina. Shortly after his arrival, the Rebel Army organized to retake the city so important to its supply lines. Over the course of the four-day battle, hundreds of Union soldiers were killed or wounded. They were the lucky ones. Hundreds more were taken prisoner and shipped to the most notorious Civil War prison camp, Andersonville. James Douthett survived the battle and was taken prisoner, but as one of the wounded, he was moved to a prisoner’s hospital in Raleigh. He never experienced the horrors of Andersonville, but he also never left the hospital where he died of his wounds. Back in Pennsylvania, Helen was left a widow with three children.
By 1870, Helen Douthett had remarried a Pittsburgh police officer, and the couple raised five children, including the three Helen brought to the marriage. Pazzaro eventually enrolled in Ohio’s University of Wooster before continuing his education at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. If such a thing existed at the time, Lafayette was a baseball powerhouse. The college fielded its first club team in 1860 and played one of the earliest intercollegiate games in 1869 when it played its nearby rival Lehigh University to a 45-45 tie. It can be assumed that Pazzaro began playing baseball during his college years.
By the time Pazzaro Douthett left college, he was already advancing in age, and in 1883 he is recorded as living with a brother in Pittsburgh, an apparently an unemployed college-educated 27-year-old man. Perhaps for lack of another job, a year later, he made his professional baseball debut with New Brighton in Pennsylvania’s Iron and Oil Association. In 1885, he appeared in only one game with Hartford of the Southern New England League, a club packed with 14 future major league ballplayers including Hall of Fame player and manager Connie Mack. With little room for him in such a potent lineup, the next season, Pazzaro moved to the Northwestern League and played the outfield in both Oshkosh and St. Paul on clubs teams with talent similar to that he left behind in Hartford. Not only was Pazzaro’s college education not particularly helpful in finding a job, his baseball skills didn’t seem to be up to snuff. He gave it another shot in 1887 with Hastings in the Western League. He saw limited action on the field, but he did make contact with John McCloskey, owner, player, and manager, of the St. Joseph, Missouri franchise. It is likely no coincidence that both McCloskey and Douthett found themselves in South Texas in the spring of 1888.
While the Babies didn’t play particularly well in under Douthett’s leadership in 1888, Pazzaro did have his best year as a professional. He appeared in 76 of Houston’s 80 games, leading the team in batting and stolen bases and all of the Texas League in doubles with 22 to his credit. In the 1889 championship season, Pazarro’s production fell sharply; in fact, he went from his team’s leading batter to its worst in just one year. Pazarro Douthett had a championship to his name but his baseball career had come to its end.
Rather than return to Pennsylvania, Pazzaro decided to remain in Houston, working several years overseeing gaming rooms before he and two partners bought out the owner. Nearly 15 years after leaving baseball, Douthett left Houston for New Orleans where he worked for a time as police office for Tulane University. But eventually, Pennsylvania called him home, and he took a job as night manager at the rked as a clerk in Pittsburgh’s Hotel Yoder. With the exception of his baseball career, Pazzaro Douthett had his most notable moment at the hotel when he and a fellow clerk were robbed at gunpoint in November of 1915. Soon, he went into sales, but in the spring of 1920, Homer Pazzaro Douthett succumbed to pneumonia at a Pittsburgh hospital.
Having never been married and with no children, the original Texas League ballplayer was buried in an unmarked grave in Uniondale Cemetery in Bellevue, Pennsylvania. While Pazzaro has been long forgotten, he continues to live on in the classic early baseball photo as a laid-back, macho, mustachioed ballplayer. For that brief moment captured on film, Pazzaro Douthett was one “cool cat,”—a cool Mud Cat, that is.