Thursday, August 28, 2014
176. Charlie "Slats" Dorman: Right Place, Right Time
Charlie Dorman is another Outsider who didn't make the final cut for my book. It's a shame, because Charlie has a great, all be it tragic, story and I had fun untangling and uncovering contemporary newspaper articles to help me write his story. I was originally drawn to Dorman by a small piece I found in a newspaper while looking up someone else (I love when that happens!). The story, from 1921, related how a failed minor league catcher was pulled from the stands during a game to fill in as a catcher. It's one of those great feel-good stories I like, although when I started to research Dorman I found his life took an unhappy turn and he was dead by 1928...
After two mediocre years in the minors, Charlie “Slats” Dorman had given up on his pro baseball dreams. But on the afternoon of July 30, 1921, the former catcher was in the right place at the right time. Dorman was sitting in the stands watching the San Francisco Seals take on the visiting Salt Lake City Bees when Salt Lake’s catcher was injured and the reserve backstop thrown out for arguing. The team had no one else left to catch, but then someone recognized Slats in the crowd. Within minutes he was suited up and behind the plate for the Bees. Not only did he errorlessly fill in, but he knocked in the winning run. When the Bees left town Slats was with them. He was back in pro ball.
Within a few months he was with the Washington Senators but before he could play a game the Chicago Cubs claimed Dorman had signed a contract with them. The matter was settled in the Cubs favor but he refused to report. Dorman then signed with the cross-town White Sox where on May 14, 1923 he went 1 for 2 in his one and only major league game.
Dorman quit pro ball just a year after his professional debut and went back to San Francisco and joined the police department. His brother had been in law enforcement as well and had been murdered by gangsters back in 1921. By October of 1928 Dorman was a detective sergeant and had just married. He was playing in a Sunday baseball game with his Elks Lodge when he shattered his kneecap during a run-down play. Infection and pneumonia set in and three weeks later on November 15, 1928 Slats Dorman was dead.
When I read the newspaper article that Dorman had died due to a baseball related injury, I of course consulted my copy of Robert Gorman and David Weeks' "Death at the Ballpark: A Comprehensive Study of Game-Related Fatalities of Players, Other Personnel and Spectators in Amateur and Professional Baseball, 1862-2007". This is the go-to guide when researching any kind of tragic happening on a baseball field and I highly recommend it. When I looked up Dorman, I found to my surprise that he wasn't in there! I then began a correspondence with author Bob Gorman and found that he'd never come across Dorman. I had exhausted my research resources and that's when Bob Gorman took up the Dorman torch. Within a few weeks he'd tracked down two Bay-Area newspaper accounts of his death and a death certificate confirming that Dorman had died as a result of his on-field injury. Although I was sorry to have to cut Dorman from my book, Gorman and Weeks are in the process of revising their book and you can expect to see and entry on ol' Charlie Dorman in their book when it comes out!