by Bill Nowlin
Robert Francis “Red” Daughters appeared for the Boston Red Sox in a game against the New York Yankees on April 24, 1937, and for the next five decades could reminisce about how he’d played with Bobby Doerr, Joe Cronin, Pinky Higgins, and Doc Cramer against Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Frankie Crosetti, Red Rolfe, and Tony Lazzeri. The game was the home opener of the 1937 season.
Originally scheduled for the 23rd, Boston’s opening day was postponed due to cold. Some “big crisp flakes” of snow fell in the morning before the 3:00 P.M. game was finally called at 12:30. The minute the game was called, manager Joe Cronin had his team work out for an hour. “The Yankees didn’t even budge from the warmth of their hotel,” the Globe noted. Cronin was credited with inspiring his troops to new enthusiasm. “A year ago, you probably couldn’t see the athletes for the dust as they beat it back to their various domiciles upon hearing the news of a postponement.”
When they played the next day, the Yankees took a two-run lead off Lefty Grove in the top of the fourth. Grove yielded another run in the sixth and was lifted for pinch-hitter “Dim Dom” Dallessandro in the bottom of the sixth. Dallessandro walked and scored, one of the three runs the Red Sox scored to tie the game. In the eighth, New York took the lead again, but Boston came right back to tie it back up. The Red Sox stood a chance to win in the bottom of the ninth, but Bobby Doerr was caught off second base and the inning ended fruitlessly.
Fritz Ostermueller had blanked the Yanks in the ninth, but they got two runs off him in the top of the 10th. In the bottom of the 10th, the Red Sox started to come back. Third baseman Higgins led off with a double, then catcher Rick Ferrell walked. Red Daughters was sent in to run for Ferrell. Outfielder Buster Mills forced Higgins, pitcher Murphy firing to Red Rolfe at third. Outfielder Mel Almada drew a walk, loading the bases, and pushing our man Daughters to third. Bases loaded, one out. Eric McNair batted for Ostermueller and grounded to Crosetti at short; his throw to Lazzeri at second forced Almada. Daughters scored, and Mills advanced to third. Bobby Doerr flied to Jake Powell in left to end the game. Boston lost it, 6-5.
Daughters’ career in the majors was over. He’d never had an at-bat, but he had acquitted himself well on the basepaths, advancing a base at a time, and he experienced the thrill of scoring a run in an extra-inning Opening Day game against the Yankees.
Bob Daughters was a third baseman and center fielder. Born in Cincinnati on August 5, 1914, he moved with his family to the Boston area, where his father, Rosco, was a manager of a magazine by the time of the 1920 Census. Rosco came from Indiana of Hoosier parents. Red’s mother, Mary, was at home, an Ohio native whose mother and father came from Ireland and Scotland respectively. The family first lived in the Allston section of Boston, then moved to Watertown, a nearby suburb, for what was for Bob still a relatively early age. He grew up there, attending both Holy Cross College and Boston College. He was signed by the Red Sox on February 20, 1937, after two “brilliant” seasons at third base with Holy Cross, and starred on the gridiron, too. Red was ineligible to play a third year, however, due to an apparent shortcoming on the academic side (the Hartford Courant attributed his ineligibility to “studies.”) It was expected that he would be converted to an outfielder with the Red Sox. The Sporting News dubbed him “the best-looking rookie to come to Boston directly from college.” [The Sporting News, April 8, 1937] Daughters played well at Payne Park in Sarasota during spring training, and traveled north to Boston for the preseason City Series against the Boston Bees, in which he played briefly, and then to Philadelphia for the first game of the year, on April 20, which he watched from the bench. Trying to supplant Pinky Higgins at third base was a tall order. It just wasn’t in the cards.
After the April 24 game, Daughters was sent out in mid-May to be tutored by Specs Toporcer of the Hazleton Red Sox, and was expected to rejoin the Sox by season’s end. [The Sporting News, May 6, 1937] He split the rest of the 1937 season between Hazleton (Class A New York-Penn League), where he hit .216 in just 13 games, and then to the Rocky Mount Red Sox (Piedmont League, Class B), where he hit .260 in 117 games. He was recalled to the Red Sox in September, but saw no further action. [Christian Science Monitor, September 15 and 16, 1937] In 1938, Daughters trained again with Boston but was assigned to Rocky Mount on April 2, and ultimately to Mississippi to play for the Clarksdale Red Sox in the Class C Cotton States League. He played 20 games at first base, because of his “not too strong arm,” and batted .284. [Monitor, April 2, 1938] A little over a year after his one game in big-league ball, Daughters was released by the Red Sox on May 15, 1938. He was considered a liability for both his overall defense and weak arm. [Monitor, November 23, 1939]
Daughters played in independent league baseball for a number of years after his stint with the Red Sox, spending a fair amount of time with the Rutland Royals. He also played for Chatham in the Cape Cod League. And in November 1939, he was considered a candidate to become active in indoor baseball. At one point during his time in minor-league ball, he got a hit off Satchel Paige and family members recall that as “the biggest triumph of his life.” His only other foray into Organized Baseball came in 1942 when he got into 19 games for the Philadelphia Athletics-affiliated Wilmington Blue Rocks of the Class B Inter-State League. He hit an even .250.
Red was particularly close to Moe Berg – not something many players could say – sometime after World War II, when Berg was on the street due to alcoholism, Red brought him in to live with his family and Moe stayed for a couple of months, getting himself back together again. Coincidental or not, Red’s brother Don was active in World War II intelligence work and spent most of his life in South America after the war.
Red had served as a lieutenant in the Navy, on board ship, and worked on the side doing athletic things to keep the men’s morale up. After the war, he worked as a fabric salesman for Union Carbide and Burlington, and family members say he kept his hand in with a little scouting.
Bob’s daughter Mary Kay Daughters Brown said her father pulled out his arm or broke his collarbone during his time in Boston and he couldn’t throw well enough after that. He tried to come back, playing in the minors for a few years – and then he went off to war. He later told his brother Don, “I couldn’t swing my bat fast enough; they were just too fast for me.” He coached for some time before taking up a position as a general sales manager for a couple of companies in New York. Daughters retained an avid interest in baseball – “a fanatic his entire life,” according to his nephew Don Daughters, Jr. “He had these great connections and he’d get great seats.” Don Jr.’s daughter Emily, a litigator in Boston, brings things full circle. She herself is a fanatic Red Sox fan.
Red remained a huge baseball fan his entire life, report family members – and always a Red Sox fan. He and his wife, Kathryn, were living in Southbury, Connecticut, at the time of his death on August 22, 1988.
Interviews with Mary Kay Daughters Brown and Emily Daughters in 2002 and 2006.
In additional to the sources cited within the text, the author relied on the online SABR Encyclopedia, retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com
This biography can also be found at SABR Bio Project
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- Bob Daughters