A request from Peggy Johnston, curator at the Wissahickon Valley Historical Society.
It's the World Series season, and I thought it's appropriate to post about a baseball player who played for the St. Louis Cardinals in the Major Leagues.
Charlie Gelbert (1906-1967) was born on January 26th in Scranton, PA to College Football Hall of Famer Charles Gelbert (1871-1936). His father was born in Hawley, Pennsylvania until he relocated to Scranton, and studied veterinary medicine at the University of Pennsylvania while playing football and baseball.
Fun Fact #1: His real name was "Magnus Ott Gelbert," but he decided to use his father's name instead.
After his marriage, his father moved his family from Scranton to Pittsburg, then from Altoona to Ambler where Charlie started playing baseball.
Charley graduated from Ambler High School in 1923, then went on to attend Lebanon Valley College where he played football, basketball, and baseball.
Career with the St. Louis Cardinals
Charlie was 23 years old when he was signed to play with the St. Louis Cardinals. During Charley's first season with the Cardinals as a shortstop, the team fell to 4th place, but the team rebounded while Charley improved his batting average to .304, scored 92 times, and drove in 72 runs. All in his second season with the team.
It was during that year Charley and the Cardinals entered in the World Series against the Philadelphia Athletes, who were considered "Philadelphia's Most Successful Sports Franchise".
In 1931, Charley continued to improve his record when he and Cardinals entered in the World Series, again, with the same team who defeated them last year.
"He set records for shortstops in a seven game series by accepting 42 chances, including six double plays, without an error as the underdog Cardinals denied the mighty Athletes their third straight championship."
- Rick Swaine, 63.
Fun Fact #2: In 1932, he accidentally shot himself in the leg while hunting rabbits.
After the incident, doctors gave Charley a chance to walk without amputating his foot.
The Cardinals tried to replace him, but no one could be as great as Charley. But after two years of not being with the team, Charley returned during the team's spring training in 1935.
He performed very well with his injured foot, and had a .292 in 62 games he played as a utility infielder. With his strong performance, he earned the "Most Courageous Athlete" in the country by the Philadelphia Sport Writer's Association.
During off-seasons, he coached at the Gettysburg College. After retiring, he coached at the Lafayette College, earning more than 300 victories in 21 seasons.
Below is a glass and negative slide of Charley Gelbert at the Cardinals-Phillies game. Cataloged by Peggy Johnston, curator at the Wissahickon Valley Historical Society.
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"Charlie Gelbert." Baseball Reference. Accessed April 1, 2021. https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/g/gelbech01.shtml.
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Logic, Jack. "GELBERT WAS FIRM, AGGRESSIVE COACH." The Morning Call. Last moodier June 21, 1992. https://www.mcall.com/news/mc-xpm-1992-06-21-2850509-story.html.
Scheinin, Richard. Field of Screams: The Dark Underside of America's National Pastime. (1994): 1951.
Swaine, Rick. Baseball's Comeback Player: Forty Major Leaguers Who Fell and Rose Again. (Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2014): 79-83.
Swaine, Rick. Beating the Breaks: Major League Ballplayers Who Overcame Disabilities. (Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2004): 62-68.
"Wissahickon Valley Public Library's Ambler Gazette Collection." POWER Library: Pennsylvania's Electronic Library. Accessed April 1, 2021. http://digitalcollections.powerlibrary.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/wivp-gazett.