JACOB ELLSWORTH DAUBERT
By Jim Sandoval
Escaping the Pennsylvania coal mines, which claimed the life of his brother Calvin, Jake Daubert went on to a fourteen year major league career with the Brooklyn and Cincinnati ball clubs. Frequently compared to the legendary Hal Chase, Daubert was arguably the premier National League first baseman of the Dead Ball era. A slashing, chop hitter with tremendous bat control Daubert won two batting championships while also setting a still standing National League record for sacrifices with 329 in his career.
In the reference book The Ballplayers he was referred to as "modest, polite and colorless, though a tiger about money."
Jacob Ellsworth Daubert was born April 7th, 1884 in Shamokin, PA to Jacob and Sarah (Hays) Daubert. At age eleven Jake entered the coalmines, working as a breaker boy separating slate and other impurities from the coal. There he joined his father, who was a mineworker for fifty-seven years, and brothers Irwin and Calvin. He was able to escape a life in the mines when he signed a contract with a semi-professional team in Lykens, PA. He started out as a pitcher as many ballplayers do but quickly was moved over to the first sack. He continued in semi-professional ball the following year, playing for a club in Kane, OH. In 1907 he joined a Kane, OH team that played in the Interstate League, part of organized baseball. He completed that season in the OH-PA league with Marion. 1908 saw the American League Cleveland Indians giving Daubert a trial. Being still a raw talent he was released to the Nashville club in the Southern Association for more seasoning. In 1909 he played for Toledo in the American Association and returned to the Southern Association with Memphis. In Memphis Jakes game began to blossom, hitting .314. Scout Larry Sutton of Brooklyn in the National League purchased his contract and brought him to the major leagues in 1910. Daubert was to remain in the big leagues until his death in 1924.
Daubert began his major league career with a mediocre rookie season. He then began to rise to the top of National League first basemen. Daubert in his career batted his way to a .303 lifetime average, with 10 of his seasons ending with a .300 or better average. He won 2 batting titles, hitting .350 in 1913 when he was also selected as the Chalmers Award winner, an early Most Valuable Player award. He repeated as batting champion in 1914 with a .329 average. Dauberts combination of power and speed was evidenced by his 165 lifetime triples, twice leading the league in this category. A question and answer column in the Sporting News stated that early in his career, before his legs went bad, Daubert was faster than Eddie Collins. Dauberts bat control, evidenced by his sacrifice record, reached its peak on August 15, 1914. On that day Daubert set two sacrifice records. The first was most sacrifices in a game, four, and in a doubleheader, six!
A good hitter, the best part of Dauberts game may have been his fielding ability. Frequently compared defensively to the legendary Hal Chase, Jake led the league three times in fielding percentage. The Deadball Era was a time when first baseman had to be counted on first as a fielder because of the many bunts and hit and run plays. Daubert was consistently ranked as one of, if not the top defensive first baseman in the National League. A Spalding Guide stated that Jake was a "brilliant first baseman. He is a person who has studied the demands of his position and had learned by observation how to improve his game." Dauberts abilities offensively and defensively led him to be selected the all star first baseman in Baseball Magazine in 1911 and 1913-1919. Baseball Magazine in 1913 said, "Jake Daubert is easily one of the greatest infielders baseball has ever seen. Flashing and sensational like Chase, he is, unlike Chase, never erratic, never prone to sudden error, never sulky or indifferent in his play." The magazine author admitted that Chase was the most sensational first baseman who ever lived, but in his prime doubts he was more valuable than Daubert. He concluded that Daubert is "universally popular, he is the most valuable first sacker playing the game."
Daubert was one of the most liked and respected players of his era. He was popular enough with the fans to be nominated for Alderman in Brooklyn. His popularity did not extend to the election however as he lost the vote. Jake was elected by his fellow ballplayers to the board, and later Vice Presidency of the Baseball Players Fraternity. In the latter position he replaced Ty Cobb. The Sporting News column, Caught on the Fly, on the 10th November 1910 stated: "Jake Daubert, the star first baseman of the Brooklyn National team, gave a banquet to a number of amateur base ball players of Schuykill county, former teammates at Pottsville, PA. last week and presented each souvenir baseballs of last season's National League games."
Although Daubert generally got along with everyone, he did have the occasional dispute with the owners over money. In 1918 the owners released players as the season ended early because of World War I with a gentlemans agreement to re-sign them when baseball began again. Daubert was not to be paid the rest of his contract amount for 1918 after the release. He sued Charles Ebbetts, the Brooklyn owner, claiming he was under a multi-year contract and was owed the money. The case was settled out of court but Ebbetts had the final say, trading Daubert to the Cincinnati Reds early in 1919. Daubert went on to become the captain of the Reds, helping lead them to their first World Championship later that year. This was Jakes second Series, having captained the Brooklyn club in the 1916 Series loss to the Boston Red Sox.
Throughout his career Daubert was known as a highly intelligent player. Sportswriters liked him as he could converse with them on a variety of subjects beyond the game. His intellect was indicated by his business dealings. At the end of his career it was said that he made more money outside of baseball and did not need to play the game to make a living. Daubert invested in a variety of businesses. Among them were a poolroom, cigar business, a semi-pro baseball team for which he was once arrested for ballplaying on a Sunday, ice and moving picture businesses. His biggest moneymaker was a coal washery (dredgery) in his hometown of Schuykill Haven, PA.
Unlike most players, sadly, Daubert
did not have a life after baseball. While still an active player with
the Reds he passed away on October 9, 1924. A contributing factor to
his death was a beaning he suffered early that season, one of at least
eight in his career. He suffered from headaches and had trouble sleeping
the rest of the season. In a weakened condition Daubert began to suffer
from what doctors thought was appendicitis and gallstones. On October
2nd he was operated on, even receiving blood transfusions from one of
the doctors. Daubert never recovered, passing away one week later. Years
later his son suffered the same symptoms. He was found to be suffering
from a hereditary condition involving the spleen. Modern medicine quite
possibly could have saved Jake. He left a wife, Gertrude, and two children,
son George and a daughter named Louisa.