Historical Hitter

Historical Hitter June 4th: Heinie Reitz

We celebrate both Country and Player on this day.

Oh, Canada

John Thorn and Tom Heitz research notes that on June 4, 1838, the first recorded baseball game in Canada was played Near Beachville‚ Ontario‚ residents watch the first recorded game of baseball in Canada. Of course this is quite an issue for the mythical Abner Doubleday for he is credited for “inventing” baseball a year later in 1839 in Upstate New York.

The Canadian version uses five bases‚ three strikes and three outs to a side. An oblique‚ irregular foul line delineates buildings at the playing site creating an out-of-bounds area.

Heinie Reitz,

Reitz1He played for the famous 19th century Baltimore Orioles, and is the batter from yesterday. He was the starting second baseman of this championship club from 1893 to 1897, during their glory years.

He is in one way, he is the answer to an unique trivia question answer: Which starting infielder of Old Orioles the is not in the Hall of Fame? It’s Heine Reitz. Six hall of famers did come from these great O’s teams of the 1890’s can you name all of them?

It’s clear from his record; he was a exceptional player and a vital link in the team’s success. He led the league in fielding twice and in double plays and hit nearly .300, having a career .291 average. Born in Chicago, and spent is minor league career in California, he was a fine fielder and good hitter. When he died in 1914, John Gruber wrote in the Washington Evening Star “Henry P Reitz was soon accounted one of the brightest among the galaxy of luminaries. Besides being a first-class fielder, he was a safe batter and a skillful baserunner.”



Being from the windy city, he was on Cap Anson’s wish list for acquisition, but that would never happen. Sporting Life editors wrote in recapping the 1984 season that,

“…Reitz will remain on the Baltimore team until oysters roost in trees.”

1894 was his best season at the plate. He hit either .303 or .306 (baseball-reference.com vs Spalding 1895 Guide), and lead the league in triples with 31. It was a career year as this one season netted him almost half of his career total of 65 three-base hits.

As a good player on a team of numerous Hall of Famers, Reitz was typically found batting in the six hole of this powerful lineup. On this the and on this day, he hit two bases loaded triples, the first one in the third, and the second in the Seventh.  In doing so he led the mighty Orioles in victory against his home town team, and a jealous Cap Anson and his Colts, 12-4. For the record, it was not Anson’s better teams, the Cubs of 1894 finished 8 of 12 teams, a mere 34 games out.

This season was the magical for the Orioles, as they were almost invincible from the middle of August until the end of season as they won 18 in a row and went 27 – 3. And they needed to win as their pennant winning margin was a meager three games, the Giants that year finished up at a 25-7 clip, it was the Beaneaters who collapsed going 17-15 and finished third.

Despite the great season of 1894, Reitz’s career would be short and his light quickly faded, he came to the majors late, at the age of 25 and he was done in just seven seasons playing in just 35 games with the 1899 Pirates.

When he retired, he returned to California, playing in the minors in San Francisco, Los Angelos, Spokane, and Petaluma before finally hanging up the spikes in the Class D Cotton States league at the age of 41. Sadly, he became the first major league ball player to die in a car accident in Sacramento on November 9, 1914.  His career started late, burned bright for a few seasons, and then faded away in the minors. Yet on this day Henry Peter “Heinie” Reitz was the brightest star of the League with two bases loaded triples in leading his team to victory.

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